After the major achievements of the DNA sequencing projects, an equally important challenge now is to uncover the functional relationships among genes (i.e. gene networks). It has become increasingly clear that computational algorithms are crucial for extracting meaningful information from the massive amount of data generated by high-throughput genome-wide technologies. Here, we summarise how systems identification algorithms, originating from physics and control theory, have been adapted for use in biology. We also explain how experimental perturbations combined with genome-wide measurements are being used to uncover gene networks. Perturbation techniques could pave the way for identifying gene networks in more complex settings such as multifactorial diseases and for improving the efficacy of drug evaluation.
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