Signal propagation in small-world biological networks with weak noise

Dawei Hong, Shushuang Man

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


An emerging notion in systems biology is that biological networks have evolved to function well while their components behave stochastically. Thus, the dynamics in a biological network consist of two parts, deterministic and stochastic. A fundamental question is to find a quantitative relation between the two parts. We term such a relation as a deterministic-stochastic principle (DSP) and propose a model for a DSP with regard to signal propagation in biological networks. In this model, (i) the dynamics in a biological network is supposed to be captured by a stochastic differential equation which has been a standard approach in modeling systems with internal noise; (ii) the internal noise of a biological network is weak as is apparent in experimental observations; and (iii) a biological network is organized as small-world as suggested by recent studies. We introduce the concept of a signaling sample path. Using this concept we relate the structure of a biological network to its dynamics. The network structure characterizes the deterministic part of the dynamics, which in turn ensures a probability for a signal to propagate. The weakness of the internal noise characterizes the stochastic part of the dynamics. Analysis of the proposed model yields a quantitative description as follows: In a small-world biological network with weak internal noise, the signaling pathways (induced by the network structure) for a signal may ensure a probability near 0 for the signal propagation. Despite such a small probability, a correct response to the signal will still occur with a probability close to 1 provided that this signal propagation can take a certain amount of time. Computer simulations are performed to illustrate this result. We also discuss how a recent study on the reconstruction of a transcription network in Saccharomyces cerevisiae has tested the proposed model against real data.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)370-380
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Theoretical Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 21 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Statistics and Probability
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • Applied Mathematics


  • Measure concentration
  • Signal propagation
  • Small-world network
  • Stochastic differential equation
  • Weak internal noise


Dive into the research topics of 'Signal propagation in small-world biological networks with weak noise'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this