Noise and robustness in prokaryotic regulatory networks

Annu Rev Microbiol. 2010;64:257-75. doi: 10.1146/annurev.micro.091208.073229.


Robustness is the quality of any relational object (biological or otherwise) to maintain its components, its structure, and its function despite both external changes and endogenous fluctuations. Live systems are surprisingly robust, as they are able to not only preserve their physicochemical architecture in the face of variable nutritional and environmental conditions, but also tolerate stochastic variability in the concentrations of their components, fix errors resulting from hazardous events, and make virtually perfect copies of themselves. These qualities have started to be comprehended in full only since the application of network theory formalisms to regulatory phenomena. This review addresses the distinct role of network architecture (topology, logic) and biochemical/kinetic parameters in the materialization of various archetypical robust gene expression circuits in prokaryotes. Some take-home lessons for the construction of artificial regulatory networks (one of the trademarks of synthetic biology) are to be derived from such state of affairs.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological
  • Archaea / physiology*
  • Bacterial Physiological Phenomena*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Archaeal*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial*
  • Prokaryotic Cells / physiology*
  • Stress, Physiological