Journal Article

Quantitative analysis of robustness and fragility in biological networks based on feedback dynamics

Yung-Keun Kwon and Kwang-Hyun Cho

in Bioinformatics

Volume 24, issue 7, pages 987-994
Published in print April 2008 | ISSN: 1367-4803
Published online February 2008 | e-ISSN: 1460-2059 | DOI:
Quantitative analysis of robustness and fragility in biological networks based on feedback dynamics

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Motivation: It has been widely reported that biological networks are robust against perturbations such as mutations. On the contrary, it has also been known that biological networks are often fragile against unexpected mutations. There is a growing interest in these intriguing observations and the underlying design principle that causes such robust but fragile characteristics of biological networks. For relatively small networks, a feedback loop has been considered as an important motif for realizing the robustness. It is still, however, not clear how a number of coupled feedback loops actually affect the robustness of large complex biological networks. In particular, the relationship between fragility and feedback loops has not yet been investigated till now.

Results: Through extensive computational experiments, we found that networks with a larger number of positive feedback loops and a smaller number of negative feedback loops are likely to be more robust against perturbations. Moreover, we found that the nodes of a robust network subject to perturbations are mostly involved with a smaller number of feedback loops compared with the other nodes not usually subject to perturbations. This topological characteristic eventually makes the robust network fragile against unexpected mutations at the nodes not previously exposed to perturbations.


Supplementary information: Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.

Journal Article.  5182 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Bioinformatics and Computational Biology

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