TBI 02-pks-003 Networks in Molecular Evolution


Networks in Molecular Evolution

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Peter Schuster, Peter F. Stadler

Networks are a common theme at all levels of molecular evolution: Networks of metastable states and their connecting saddle points determine structure and folding kinetics of biopolymers. Neutral networks in sequence space explain the evolvability of both nucleic acids and polypeptides by linking Darwinian selection with neutral drift. Interacting replicators, be they simple molecules or highly complex mammals, form intricate ecological networks that are crucial for their survival. Chemical reactions are collected in extensive metabolic networks by means of specific enzymes; both the enzymes and the chemical reaction network that they govern undergoes evolutionary changes. Networks of gene regulation, protein-protein interaction, and cell signaling form the physico-chemical basis for morphogenesis and development. The nervous systems of higher animals form another distinct level of network architecture. We are beginning to understand the structure and function of each of the individual levels in some detail. Yet, their interplay largely remains still in the dark.

Keywords: conformational diversity, metabolic networks, molecular evolution, neutral networks, sequence space.

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