Bulletin of Mathematical Biology

, Volume 57, Issue 2, pp 247–276 | Cite as

Dynamical behaviour of biological regulatory networks—I. Biological role of feedback loops and practical use of the concept of the loop-characteristic state

  • René Thomas
  • Denis Thieffry
  • Marcelle Kaufman


In the field of biological regulation, models dictated by expreimental work are usually complex networks comprising intertwined feedback loops. In this paper the biological roles of individual positive loops (multistationarity, differentiation) and negative loops (homeostasis, with or without oscillations, buffering of gene dosage effect) are discussed. The relationship between feedback loops and steady states is then clarified, and the problem: “How can one conveniently disentangle complex networks?” is then considered. Initiated long ago, logical descriptions have been generalized from various viewpoints; these developments are briefly discussed. The recent concept of the loop-characteristic state, defined as the logical state located at the level of the thresholds involved in the loop, together with its application, are then presented. Biological applications are also discussed.


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Copyright information

© Society for Mathematical Biology Printed in Great Britain 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • René Thomas
    • 1
  • Denis Thieffry
    • 1
  • Marcelle Kaufman
    • 2
  1. 1.Laboratoire de GénétiqueUniversité Libre de BruxellesRhode Saint GenèseBelgium
  2. 2.Service de Chimie-PhysiqueUniversité Libre de BruxellesBruxellesBelgium

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