Developmental motifs reveal complex structure in cell lineages

Many natural and technological systems are complex, with organisational structures that exhibit characteristic patterns, but defy concise description. One effective approach to analysing such systems is in terms of repeated topological motifs. Here, we extend the motif concept to characterise the dynamic behaviour of complex systems by introducing developmental motifs, which capture patterns of system growth. As a proof of concept, we use developmental motifs to analyse the developmental cell lineage of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, revealing a new perspective on its complex structure. We use a family of computational models to explore how biases arising from the dynamics of the developmental gene network, as well as spatial and temporal constraints acting on development, contribute to this complex organisation.

Geard, N. L., Bullock, S., Lohaus, R., Azevedo, R. B. R., Wiles, J. (2011) Developmental motifs reveal complex structure in cell lineages. Complexity 16, 48-57.

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