What is systems biology? From genes to function and back

  • Hans V. WesterhoffEmail author
  • Jan-Hendrik S. Hofmeyr
Part of the Topics in Current Genetics book series (TCG, volume 13)


The essence of the grand contributions of physiology and molecular biology to biology is discussed in relation to what may be needed to understand living systems. Unanswered is the link between function and molecular behaviour, and emergence of function from the nonlinear interactions, respectively. Systems biology should focus on properties that emerge in nonlinear interactions from the molecular level up, which are crucial for biological function. Pre-genomics approaches such as Metabolic and Hierarchical Control Analysis have already contributed concepts and conclusions to systems biology. Their combination with the genome-wide analyses should now lead to substantial progress in the understanding of life. An aspect of biology at odds with traditional physics and chemistry is the circular causation that occurs in all living systems. By analyzing this phenomenon quantitatively, systems biology can already deal with certain types of circular causation by dissection.


Symmetry Breaking System Biology Control Coefficient Macroscopic State Metabolic Control Analysis 
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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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Molecular Cell Biology and Swammerdam Institute for Life Sciences, BioCentrum Amsterdam, De Boelelaan 1087, NL-1081 HV Amsterdam, EU 
  2. 2.Dept. of Biochemistry, University of Stellenbosch, Private Bag X1, Matieland 7602, StellenboschSouth Africa

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