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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Hierarchical coordination of periodic genes in the cell cycle of Saccharomyces cerevisiae

Frank Emmert-Streib1* and Matthias Dehmer23

Author Affiliations

1 Computational Biology and Machine Learning, Center for Cancer Research and Cell Biology, School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences, Queen's University Belfast, 97 Lisburn Road, Belfast, BT9 7BL, UK

2 Institute of Discrete Mathematics and Geometry, Vienna University of Technology, Wiedner Hauptstrasse 8-10, A-1040 Vienna, Austria

3 Institute for Bioinformatics and Translational Research, UMIT, Eduard Wallnoefer Zentrum 1, 6060, A-Hall in Tyrol, Austria

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BMC Systems Biology 2009, 3:76  doi:10.1186/1752-0509-3-76

Published: 20 July 2009



Gene networks are a representation of molecular interactions among genes or products thereof and, hence, are forming causal networks. Despite intense studies during the last years most investigations focus so far on inferential methods to reconstruct gene networks from experimental data or on their structural properties, e.g., degree distributions. Their structural analysis to gain functional insights into organizational principles of, e.g., pathways remains so far under appreciated.


In the present paper we analyze cell cycle regulated genes in S. cerevisiae. Our analysis is based on the transcriptional regulatory network, representing causal interactions and not just associations or correlations between genes, and a list of known periodic genes. No further data are used. Partitioning the transcriptional regulatory network according to a graph theoretical property leads to a hierarchy in the network and, hence, in the information flow allowing to identify two groups of periodic genes. This reveals a novel conceptual interpretation of the working mechanism of the cell cycle and the genes regulated by this pathway.


Aside from the obtained results for the cell cycle of yeast our approach could be exemplary for the analysis of general pathways by exploiting the rich causal structure of inferred and/or curated gene networks including protein or signaling networks.