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J Phys Condens Matter. 2011 Apr 20;23(15):153102. doi: 10.1088/0953-8984/23/15/153102. Epub 2011 Apr 1.

Information transmission in genetic regulatory networks: a review.

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Institute of Science and Technology Austria, Am Campus 1, A-3400 Klosterneuburg, Austria.


Genetic regulatory networks enable cells to respond to changes in internal and external conditions by dynamically coordinating their gene expression profiles. Our ability to make quantitative measurements in these biochemical circuits has deepened our understanding of what kinds of computations genetic regulatory networks can perform, and with what reliability. These advances have motivated researchers to look for connections between the architecture and function of genetic regulatory networks. Transmitting information between a network's inputs and outputs has been proposed as one such possible measure of function, relevant in certain biological contexts. Here we summarize recent developments in the application of information theory to gene regulatory networks. We first review basic concepts in information theory necessary for understanding recent work. We then discuss the functional complexity of gene regulation, which arises from the molecular nature of the regulatory interactions. We end by reviewing some experiments that support the view that genetic networks responsible for early development of multicellular organisms might be maximizing transmitted 'positional information'.

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