Drivers of structural features in gene regulatory networks: From biophysical constraints to biological function

Phys Life Rev. 2016 Jul;17:124-58. doi: 10.1016/j.plrev.2016.06.002. Epub 2016 Jun 23.


Living cells can maintain their internal states, react to changing environments, grow, differentiate, divide, etc. All these processes are tightly controlled by what can be called a regulatory program. The logic of the underlying control can sometimes be guessed at by examining the network of influences amongst genetic components. Some associated gene regulatory networks have been studied in prokaryotes and eukaryotes, unveiling various structural features ranging from broad distributions of out-degrees to recurrent "motifs", that is small subgraphs having a specific pattern of interactions. To understand what factors may be driving such structuring, a number of groups have introduced frameworks to model the dynamics of gene regulatory networks. In that context, we review here such in silico approaches and show how selection for phenotypes, i.e., network function, can shape network structure.

Keywords: Genetic regulation; Graph motif; Network function; Network structure.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biophysics*
  • Gene Expression Regulation*
  • Gene Regulatory Networks*
  • Humans
  • Phenotype
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism*


  • Transcription Factors