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Nat Phys. 2007;3(1):63-69.

Classes of complex networks defined by role-to-role connectivity profiles.

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Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering and Northwestern Institute on Complex Systems (NICO), Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 60208, USA.


In physical, biological, technological and social systems, interactions between units give rise to intricate networks. These-typically non-trivial-structures, in turn, critically affect the dynamics and properties of the system. The focus of most current research on complex networks is, still, on global network properties. A caveat of this approach is that the relevance of global properties hinges on the premise that networks are homogeneous, whereas most real-world networks have a markedly modular structure. Here, we report that networks with different functions, including the Internet, metabolic, air transportation and protein interaction networks, have distinct patterns of connections among nodes with different roles, and that, as a consequence, complex networks can be classified into two distinct functional classes on the basis of their link type frequency. Importantly, we demonstrate that these structural features cannot be captured by means of often studied global properties.

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