Theory in Biosciences

, Volume 126, Issue 1, pp 15–21 | Cite as

Spectral plots and the representation and interpretation of biological data

  • Anirban BanerjeeEmail author
  • Jürgen Jost
Original Paper


It is basic question in biology and other fields to identify the characteristic properties that on one hand are shared by structures from a particular realm, like gene regulation, protein–protein interaction or neural networks or foodwebs, and that on the other hand distinguish them from other structures. We introduce and apply a general method, based on the spectrum of the normalized graph Laplacian, that yields representations, the spectral plots, that allow us to find and visualize such properties systematically. We present such visualizations for a wide range of biological networks and compare them with those for networks derived from theoretical schemes. The differences that we find are quite striking and suggest that the search for universal properties of biological networks should be complemented by an understanding of more specific features of biological organization principles at different scales.


Biological network  Laplacian spectrum Graph spectrum Spectral plot Metabolic network Transcription network Protein–protein interaction network Neuronal network Foodweb 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Max Planck Institute for Mathematics in the SciencesLeipzigGermany

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