Canalization reduces the nonlinearity of regulation in biological networks

Claus Kadelka, David Murrugarra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Biological networks, such as gene regulatory networks, possess desirable properties. They are more robust and controllable than random networks. This motivates the search for structural and dynamical features that evolution has incorporated into biological networks. A recent meta-analysis of published, expert-curated Boolean biological network models has revealed several such features, often referred to as design principles. Among others, the biological networks are enriched for certain recurring network motifs, the dynamic update rules are more redundant, more biased, and more canalizing than expected, and the dynamics of biological networks are better approximable by linear and lower-order approximations than those of comparable random networks. Since most of these features are interrelated, it is paramount to disentangle cause and effect, that is, to understand which features evolution actively selects for, and thus truly constitute evolutionary design principles. Here, we compare published Boolean biological network models with different ensembles of null models and show that the abundance of canalization in biological networks can almost completely explain their recently postulated high approximability. Moreover, an analysis of random N–K Kauffman models reveals a strong dependence of approximability on the dynamical robustness of a network.

Original languageEnglish
Article number67
Journalnpj Systems Biology and Applications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2024.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Modeling and Simulation
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • Drug Discovery
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Applied Mathematics


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