Predicting perturbation patterns from the topology of biological networks

Complexity Digest

High-throughput technologies, offering unprecedented wealth of quantitative data underlying the makeup of living systems, are changing biology. Notably, the systematic mapping of the relationships between biochemical entities has fueled the rapid development of network biology, offering a suitable framework to describe disease phenotypes and predict potential drug targets. Yet, our ability to develop accurate dynamical models remains limited, due in part to the limited knowledge of the kinetic parameters underlying these interactions. Here, we explore the degree to which we can make reasonably accurate predictions in the absence of the kinetic parameters. We find that simple dynamically agnostic models are sufficient to recover the strength and sign of the biochemical perturbation patterns observed in 87 biological models for which the underlying kinetics is known. Surprisingly, a simple distance-based model achieves 65% accuracy. We show that this predictive power is robust to topological and kinetic parameters perturbations, and we identify key…

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