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J Theor Biol. 2008 May 7;252(1):131-44. doi: 10.1016/j.jtbi.2008.01.027. Epub 2008 Feb 7.

Mutual interaction in network motifs robustly sharpens gene expression in developmental processes.

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Department of Basic Science, University of Tokyo, 3-8-1 Komaba, Meguro-ku, Tokyo 153-8902, Japan.


The gene regulatory network of a developmental process contains many mutually repressive interactions between two genes. They are often regulated by or regulate an additional factor, which constitute prominent network motifs, called regulated and regulating mutual loops. Our database analysis on the gene regulatory network for Drosophila melanogaster indicates that those with mutual repression are working specifically for the segmentation process. To clarify their biological roles, we mathematically study the response of the regulated mutual loop with mutual repression to input stimuli. We show that the mutual repression increases the response sensitivity without affecting the threshold input level to activate the target gene expression, as long as the network output is unique for a given input level. This high sensitivity of the motif can contribute to sharpening the spatial domain pattern without changing its position, assuring a robust developmental process. We also study transient dynamics that shows shift of domain boundary, agreeing with experimental observations. Importance of mutual repression is addressed by comparing with other types of regulations.

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