Elementary network reconstruction: a framework for the analysis of regulatory networks in biological systems

J Theor Biol. 2010 Apr 21;263(4):499-509. doi: 10.1016/j.jtbi.2009.12.007. Epub 2009 Dec 22.


Complexity of regulatory networks arises from the high degree of interaction between network components such as DNA, RNA, proteins, and metabolites. We have developed a modeling tool, elementary network reconstruction (ENR), to characterize these networks. ENR is a knowledge-driven, steady state, deterministic, quantitative modeling approach based on linear perturbation theory. In ENR we demonstrate a novel means of expressing control mechanisms by way of dimensionless steady state gains relating input and output variables, which are purely in terms of species abundances (extensive variables). As a result of systematic enumeration of network species in nxn matrix, the two properties of linear perturbation are manifested in graphical representations: transitive property is evident in a special L-shape structure, and additive property is evident in multiple L-shape structures arriving at the same matrix cell. Upon imposing mechanistic (lowest-level) gains, network self-assembly through transitive and additive properties results in elucidation of inherent topology and explicit cataloging of higher level gains, which in turn can be used to predict perturbation results. Application of ENR to the regulatory network behind carbon catabolite repression in Escherichia coli is presented. Through incorporation of known molecular mechanisms governing transient and permanent repressions, the ENR model correctly predicts several key features of this regulatory network, including a 50% downshift in intracellular cAMP level upon exposure to glucose. Since functional genomics studies are mainly concerned with redistribution of species abundances in perturbed systems, ENR could be exploited in the system-level analysis of biological systems.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Carbon / metabolism
  • Computational Biology / methods
  • Cyclic AMP / metabolism
  • Escherichia coli / genetics*
  • Escherichia coli / metabolism
  • Escherichia coli Proteins / genetics
  • Escherichia coli Proteins / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial
  • Gene Regulatory Networks*
  • Genomics
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Models, Biological
  • Models, Genetic
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Protein Interaction Mapping


  • Escherichia coli Proteins
  • Carbon
  • Cyclic AMP
  • Glucose