Bulletin of Mathematical Biology

, Volume 52, Issue 3, pp 335–348 | Cite as

The cellular computer DNA: Program or data

  • Henri Atlan
  • Moshe Koppel


The classical metaphor of the genetic program written in the DNA nucleotidic sequences is reconsidered. Recent works on algorithmic complexity and logical properties of computer programs and data are used to question the explanatory value of that metaphor. Structural properties of strings are looked for which would be necessary to apply to DNA sequences if the metaphor is to be taken literally. The notion of sophistication is used to quantify meaningful complexity and to distinguish it from classical computational complexity. In this context, the distinction between program and data becomes relevant and an alternative metaphor of DNA as data to a parallel computing network embedded in the global geometrical and biochemical structure of the cell is discussed. An intermediate picture of an evolving network emerges as the most likely where the output of the cellular computing network can produce, at a different time scale, changes in the structure of the network itself by means of changes in the DNA activity patterns.


Genetic Program Metaphor Binary String Input String Cellular Machinery 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Society for Mathematical Biology 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • Henri Atlan
    • 1
  • Moshe Koppel
    • 2
  1. 1.Dept of BiophysicsHadassah Medical CenterJerusalemIsrael
  2. 2.Dept of MathematicsBar-Ilan UniversityRamat GanIsrael

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