Statistical mechanics of scale-free gene expression networks
Department of Physics, 226 Physics Building, University of Arkansas - Fayetteville, AR 72701, USA
Received: 30 August 2012
Accepted: 22 November 2012
The gene co-expression networks of many organisms including bacteria, mice and man exhibit scale-free distribution. This heterogeneous distribution of connections decreases the vulnerability of the network to random attacks and thus may confer the genetic replication machinery an intrinsic resilience to such attacks, triggered by changing environmental conditions that the organism may be subject to during evolution. This resilience to random attacks comes at an energetic cost, however, reflected by the lower entropy of the scale-free distribution compared to the more homogenous, random network. In this study we found that the cell cycle-regulated gene expression pattern of the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae obeys a power-law distribution with an exponent α = 2.1 and an entropy of 1.58. The latter is very close to the maximal value of 1.65 obtained from linear optimization of the entropy function under the constraint of a constant cost function, determined by the average degree connectivity 〈k〉. We further show that the yeast's gene expression network can achieve scale-free distribution in a process that does not involve growth but rather via re-wiring of the connections between nodes of an ordered network. Our results support the idea of an evolutionary selection, which acts at the level of the protein sequence, and is compatible with the notion of greater biological importance of highly connected nodes in the protein interaction network. Our constrained re-wiring model provides a theoretical framework for a putative thermodynamically driven evolutionary selection process.
PACS: 87.10.Ca – Analytical theories / 87.14.gk – DNA / 87.16.A- – Theory, modeling, and simulations
© EPLA, 2012