Wes Cain
Speed versus robustness in feed-forward biochemical reaction networks

Many of the functional substructures of metabolic and signaling pathway networks are "feed-forward" in the sense that they can be rendered schematically as cycle-free directed graphs. Glycolysis (conversion of sugars into energy) and apoptosis (programmed cell death) provide prime examples of such networks. Using differential equations to model the dynamics of feed-forward networks, we find that topologically non-isomorphic structures of the same "size" can yield approximately identical dynamical behavior. Among networks with similar dynamics, does evolution prefer certain structures over others and, if so, why? The preliminary data that we shall present indicate that nature places a premium on robustness as opposed to efficiency.

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