Introduction to Artificial Gene Regulatory Networks

Organizers: Sylvain Cussat-Blanc, Wolfgang Banzhaf

Gene regulatory networks are a central mechanism in the regulation of gene expression in all living organisms’ cells. Their function is well understood today: they are based on the production of proteins enhanced or inhibited by other proteins and signaling molecules from the inside and/or the outside of the cells. This produces complex dynamics through which cells from the same organism, with the exact same DNA, can form very different cell types (through cell differentiation) and have very different behaviors according to their types and positions. This tutorial will first introduce the biology of these networks, from the genetic aspect to the dynamics of gene regulation. Then, biologically plausible models will be presented to highlight the complexity of dynamics gene regulatory networks can produce. Using that model, we will show how computational models can be designed so that a genetic algorithm can optimize the network efficiently. We will present a set of applications in which artificial gene regulatory networks are plugged into diverse virtual agents (artificial cells in an artificial embryogenesis context, direct connection to the sensors and effectors or high-level behavior regulation in others). Demonstrations, showing the results obtained with this system, will be presented as well.