The mathematics of biological regulatory networks

Reka Albert (September 20, 2012)

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Interaction between gene products forms the basis of essential biological processes like signal transduction, cell metabolism or embryonic development. The variety of interactions between genes, proteins and molecules are well captured by network (graph) representations. Experimental advances in the last decade helped uncover the structure of many molecular-to-cellular level networks, such as protein interaction or metabolic networks. For other types of interaction and regulation inference methods based on indirect measurements have been used to considerable success. These advances mark the first steps toward a major goal of contemporary biology: to map out, understand and model in quantifiable terms the topological and dynamic properties of the various networks that control the behavior of the cell.

This talk will sample recent progress in two directions: intracellular network discovery and integration of different types of regulation (e.g. integration of metabolic and transcriptional networks), and connecting intra-cellular network structure, network dynamics and cellular behavior. A significant trust of the current research is to reveal or predict the topological or dynamic changes in the network responsible for abnormal behavior. This line of research will strenghten in time, and can be a fertile ground for mathematical biologists interested in adapting graph theory or nonlinear dynamical systems theory to biological systems.