Propagation of genetic variation in gene regulatory networks
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionPhysica D : Non-linear Phenomena. 2013, 256-257 7-20. 10.1016/j.physd.2013.04.002
A future quantitative genetics theory should link genetic variation to phenotypic variation in a causally cohesive way based on how genes actually work and interact. We provide a theoretical framework for predicting and understanding the manifestation of genetic variation in haploid and diploid regulatory networks with arbitrary feedback structures and intra-locus and inter-locus functional dependencies. Using results from network and graph theory, we define propagation functions describing how genetic variation in a locus is propagated through the network, and show how their derivatives are related to the network’s feedback structure. Similarly, feedback functions describe the effect of genotypic variation of a locus on itself, either directly or mediated by the network. A simple sign rule relates the sign of the derivative of the feedback function of any locus to the feedback loops involving that particular locus. We show that the sign of the phenotypically manifested interaction between alleles at a diploid locus is equal to the sign of the dominant feedback loop involving that particular locus, in accordance with recent results for a single locus system. Our results provide tools by which one can use observable equilibrium concentrations of gene products to disclose structural properties of the network architecture. Our work is a step towards a theory capable of explaining the pleiotropy and epistasis features of genetic variation in complex regulatory networks as functions of regulatory anatomy and functional location of the genetic variation.