On a fundamental structure of gene networks in living cells

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012 Mar 20;109(12):4702-7. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1200790109. Epub 2012 Mar 5.


Computers are organized into hardware and software. Using a theoretical approach to identify patterns in gene expression in a variety of species, organs, and cell types, we found that biological systems similarly are comprised of a relatively unchanging hardware-like gene pattern. Orthogonal patterns of software-like transcripts vary greatly, even among tumors of the same type from different individuals. Two distinguishable classes could be identified within the hardware-like component: those transcripts that are highly expressed and stable and an adaptable subset with lower expression that respond to external stimuli. Importantly, we demonstrate that this structure is conserved across organisms. Deletions of transcripts from the highly stable core are predicted to result in cell mortality. The approach provides a conceptual thermodynamic-like framework for the analysis of gene-expression levels and networks and their variations in diseased cells.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Computers
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Gene Regulatory Networks*
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Models, Biological
  • Models, Genetic*
  • Models, Statistical
  • Software
  • Systems Biology
  • Thermodynamics
  • Transcription, Genetic