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Open Access Research article

Comparative analysis of the transcription-factor gene regulatory networks of E. coli and S. cerevisiae

Lev Guzmán-Vargas1* and Moisés Santillán23

Author Affiliations

1 Unidad Profesional Interdisciplinaria en Ingeniería y Tecnologías Avanzadas, Instituto Politécnico Nacional, Av. IPN No. 2580, L. Ticomán, México D.F. 07340, México

2 Centro de Investigación y Estudios Avanzados del IPN, Unidad Monterrey, Av. Cerro de las Mitras No. 2565, Col. Obispado, 064060, Monterrey, Nuevo León, México

3 Centre for Nonlinear Dynamics in Physiology and Medicine, McGill University, McIntyre Medical Sciences Building, 655 Promenade Sir William Osler, H3G1Y6 Montreal QC, Canada

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BMC Systems Biology 2008, 2:13  doi:10.1186/1752-0509-2-13

Published: 31 January 2008



The regulatory interactions between transcription factors (TF) and regulated genes (RG) in a species genome can be lumped together in a single directed graph. The TF's and RG's conform the nodes of this graph, while links are drawn whenever a transcription factor regulates a gene's expression. Projections onto TF nodes can be constructed by linking every two nodes regulating a common gene. Similarly, projections onto RG nodes can be made by linking every two regulated genes sharing at least one common regulator. Recent studies of the connectivity pattern in the transcription-factor regulatory network of many organisms have revealed some interesting properties. However, the differences between TF and RG nodes have not been widely explored.


After analysing the RG and TF projections of the transcription-factor gene regulatory networks of Escherichia coli and Saccharomyces cerevisiae, we found several common characteristic as well as some noticeable differences. To better understand these differences, we compared the properties of the E. coli and S. cerevisiae RG- and TF-projected networks with those of the corresponding projections built from randomized versions of the original bipartite networks. These last results indicate that the observed differences are mostly due to the very different ratios of TF to RG counts of the E. coli and S. cerevisiae bipartite networks, rather than to their having different connectivity patterns.


Since E. coli is a prokaryotic organism while S. cerevisiae is eukaryotic, there are important differences between them concerning processing of mRNA before translation, DNA packing, amount of junk DNA, and gene regulation. From the results in this paper we conclude that the most important effect such differences have had on the development of the corresponding transcription-factor gene regulatory networks is their very different ratios of TF to RG numbers. This ratio is more than three times larger in S. cerevisiae than in E. coli. Our calculations reveal that, both species' gene regulatory networks have very similar connectivity patterns, despite their very different TF to RG ratios. An this, to our consideration, indicates that the structure of both networks is optimal from an evolutionary viewpoint.