DOI: 1010.0934Oct 5, 2010Paper

Genotype networks, innovation, and robustness in sulfur metabolism

João F. Matias Rodrigues, Andreas Wagner


Metabolic networks are complex systems that comprise hundreds of chemical reactions which synthesize biomass molecules from chemicals in an organism's environment. The metabolic network of any one organism is encoded by a metabolic genotype, defined by a set of enzyme-coding genes whose products catalyze the network's reactions. Each metabolic genotype has a metabolic phenotype, such as the ability to synthesize biomass on a spectrum of different sources of chemical elements and energy. We here focus on sulfur metabolism, which is attractive to study the evolution of metabolic networks, because it involves many fewer reactions than carbon metabolism. Specifically, we study properties of the space of all possible metabolic genotypes, and analyze properties of random metabolic genotypes that are viable on different numbers of sulfur sources. We show that metabolic genotypes with the same phenotype form large connected genotype networks that extend far through metabolic genotype space. How far they reach through this space is a linear function of the number of super-essential reactions in such networks, the number of reactions that occur in all networks with the same phenotype. We show that different neighborhoods of any genotyp...Continue Reading

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