Signal Transduction

Cell as Corporation

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Science  03 Dec 2010:
Vol. 330, Issue 6009, pp. 1291
DOI: 10.1126/science.330.6009.1291-c
CREDIT: ISTOCKPHOTO.COM

Systems biology provides insight into the complex regulatory networks within a cell, with the hope that such analysis will yield insight into how biological control systems work and how they may be modified for therapeutic benefit. Some network models suggest that the extent of connectivity of a transcriptional regulator indicates the essentiality of that protein in that system. Bhardwaj et al. propose an alternative view. They organized transcription factors in yeast or bacteria in a pyramidal hierarchy and then used information regarding the effects of the various factors on cell fitness to determine that the importance of a transcription factor is more related to its placement in the hierarchy than to its total direct connectivity to target genes. Thus, proteins at the top of the hierarchy exerted the greatest influence over cell fitness. The relative ease of testing network perturbations in biological systems suggests that this type of analysis may also be useful in understanding similar corporate, government, or social networks, where one cannot so easily intervene.

Sci. Signal. 3, ra79 (2010).

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