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What is the difference between the terms genetic network and genetic architecture? I've heard both in a variety of contexts used by different people, so I am interested in what people think they mean, other than what is described in Wikipedia:

Genetic architecture refers to the underlying genetic basis of a phenotypic trait

Genetic regulatory network (GRN) is a collection of DNA segments in a cell which interact with each other indirectly and with other substances in the cell, thereby governing the rates at which genes in the network are transcribed into mRNA.

EDIT: so what I take from the answers so far is that a genetic network is the molecular wiring of all the interacting loci, whereas genetic architecture describes the phenotypic consequence(s) one would be able to see from that network. Then, trying to bring the two definitions together, if we would assume we knew all the molecular details of a genetic network, we would only need to add the other factors in the model, such as environmental perturbations, to end up with the description of the genetic architecture, right?

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2 Answers 2

You can think of a genetic network as a network of interacting genes, turning each other on and off based on complex relationships and external stimuli. A genetic network is typically characterized in terms of graph theory--connectivity, density, etc.

The term genetic architecture, on the other hand, typically refers to a trait or phenotype and the characteristics of the gene(s) that contribute to that phenotype (this is what the Wikipedia article means by genotype-phenotype mapping). Characterization of a phenotype's genetic architecture involves describing how the phenotype(s) is/are related to the genotype(s). For example, for a particular trait or set of traits, is there a one-to-one relationship between gene and trait? Or do multiple genes contribute to a single trait? Or are multiple traits affected by changes in a single gene? The relevant terminology is discussed briefly in the Wikipedia article: polygeny, pleiotropy, etc.

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Ok so what I take from your answers is that a genetic network is the molecular wiring of all the interacting loci, whereas genetic architecture is the phenotypic consequence(s) one would be able to see from that network. Then, trying to bring the two definitions together, if we would assume we knew all the molecular details of a genetic network, we would only need to add the other factors in the model, such as environmental perturbations, to end up with the description of the genetic architecture, right? –  149781-32509185 May 15 '12 at 14:32
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@130490868091234 You can characterize the genetic architecture without knowing much about the details of the molecular wiring. But yes, understanding how the molecular details of genetic networks influence important observable traits is one of the grand challenges of integrative systems biology. –  Daniel Standage May 15 '12 at 14:49

As I understand it "gene network" refers to functional 'pathways' that a gene is involved in. For instance there is an extensive gene network around the p53 tumour suppressor - many different gene-products regulate and are regulated by p53, which make up this particular network. These interactions are often visualized using flow-chart-like diagrams, with the stimuli at the top, and the 'outcome' of the network of interactions at the bottom.

Genetic architecture refers to the actual structure of the gene itself. For instance, the coding sequence length, the intron:exon ratio, the 5' and 3' UTR lengths, are all traits relating to genetic architecture.

You have presumably already read the Wiki pages so I've given you my take on the meanings, as I understand them in a general manner - this may well differ from others.

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I think you may have confused the term genetic architecture with gene structure. –  Daniel Standage May 15 '12 at 13:17
    
Determining gene structure is one of the primary goals of genome annotation. See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genome_project#Genome_annotation. This description of gene annotation is a bit narrow, but it gets the basic idea across. –  Daniel Standage May 15 '12 at 15:18
    
@DanielStandage thanks for the correction! –  Luke May 15 '12 at 18:49

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