Decomposing biological systems into reusable modules reveals characteristic module size distributions

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  • One of the widely recognized features of biological systems is their modularity. The modules that comprise biological systems are said to be redeployed and combined across several conditions. In this work, we analyze to what extent are these modules indeed reusable as compared to randomized versions of a system. We develop a notion of modular decompositions of systems that allows for modules to overlap while maximizing the number of times a module is reused across several conditions. Different biological systems present modules whose reusability ranges from the condition specific to the constitutive, although their average reusability is not always higher than random equivalents of the system. These decompositions reveal a distinct distribution of module sizes in real biological systems. This distribution stems, in part, from the peculiar usage pattern of the elements of biological systems, and constitutes a new angle to study the evolution of modularity.

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Author:Victor Mireles, Tim Conrad
Document Type:Article
Year of first publication:2016