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Reusable building blocks in biological systems

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  • One of the most widely recognized features of biological systems is their modularity. The modules that constitute biological systems are said to be redeployed and combined across several conditions, thus acting as building blocks. In this work, we analyse to what extent are these building blocks reusable as compared with those found in randomized versions of a system. We develop a notion of decompositions of systems into phenotypic building blocks, which allows them to overlap while maximizing the number of times a building block is reused across several conditions. Different biological systems present building blocks whose reusability ranges from single use (e.g. condition specific) to constitutive, although their average reusability is not always higher than random equivalents of the system. These decompositions reveal a distinct distribution of building block 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 ConradORCiD
Document Type:Article
Parent Title (English):Journal of the Royal Society Interface
First Page:1
Last Page:10
Year of first publication:2018
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