Complexity

Developmental motifs reveal complex structure in cell lineages

Journal Article

Abstract

Many natural and technological systems are complex, with organizational structures that exhibit characteristic patterns but defy concise description. One effective approach to analyzing such systems is in terms of repeated topological motifs. Here, we extend the motif concept to characterize the dynamic behavior of complex systems by introducing developmental motifs, which capture patterns of system growth. As a proof of concept, we use developmental motifs to analyze the developmental cell lineage of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, revealing a new perspective on its complex structure. We use a family of computational models to explore how biases arising from the dynamics of the developmental gene network, as well as spatial and temporal constraints acting on development, contribute to this complex organization. © 2010 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Complexity 16: 48‐57, 2011

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