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JOURNAL of THEORETICAL BIOLOGY – Monte Carlo Simulation of a Simple Gene Network Yields New Evolutionary Insights

By Daniel Cloud, Ph.D. with M. Andrecut and Stuart A. Kauffman

Monte Carlo simulations of a genetic toggle switch show that its behavior can be more complex than analytic models would suggest. We show here that as a result of the interplay between frequent and infrequent reaction events, such a switch can have more stable states than an analytic model would predict, and that the number and character of these states depend to a large extent on the propensity of transcription factors to bind to and dissociate from promoters. The effects of gene duplications differ even more; in analytic models, these seem to result in the disappearance of bi-stability and thus a loss of the switching function, but a Monte Carlo simulation shows that they can result in the appearance of new stable states without the loss of old ones, and thus in an increase of the complexity of the switch's behavior which may facilitate the evolution of new cellular functions. These differences are of interest with respect to the evolution of gene networks, particularly in clonal lines of cancer cells, where the duplication of active genes is an extremely common event, and often seems to result in the appearance of viable new cellular phenotypes.

Click here to read the entire article "Monte Carlo Simulation of a Simple Gene Network Yields New Evolutionary Insights" in the Journal of Theoretical Biology