Structure and evolution of transcriptional regulatory networks

Curr Opin Struct Biol. 2004 Jun;14(3):283-91. doi: 10.1016/


The regulatory interactions between transcription factors and their target genes can be conceptualised as a directed graph. At a global level, these regulatory networks display a scale-free topology, indicating the presence of regulatory hubs. At a local level, substructures such as motifs and modules can be discerned in these networks. Despite the general organisational similarity of networks across the phylogenetic spectrum, there are interesting qualitative differences among the network components, such as the transcription factors. Although the DNA-binding domains of the transcription factors encoded by a given organism are drawn from a small set of ancient conserved superfamilies, their relative abundance often shows dramatic variation among different phylogenetic groups. Large portions of these networks appear to have evolved through extensive duplication of transcription factors and targets, often with inheritance of regulatory interactions from the ancestral gene. Interactions are conserved to varying degrees among genomes. Insights from the structure and evolution of these networks can be translated into predictions and used for engineering of the regulatory networks of different organisms.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Motifs
  • Animals
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Gene Expression Regulation*
  • Humans
  • Signal Transduction
  • Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism
  • Transcription, Genetic*


  • Transcription Factors