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Friedel, Caroline C.; Zimmer, Ralf: Influence of degree correlations on network structure and stability in protein-protein interaction networks. In: BMC Bioinformatics 2007, 8:297




Background: The existence of negative correlations between degrees of interacting proteins is being discussed since such negative degree correlations were found for the large-scale yeast protein-protein interaction (PPI) network of Ito et al. More recent studies observed no such negative correlations for high-confidence interaction sets. In this article, we analyzed a range of experimentally derived interaction networks to understand the role and prevalence of degree correlations in PPI networks. We investigated how degree correlations influence the structure of networks and their tolerance against perturbations such as the targeted deletion of hubs. Results: For each PPI network, we simulated uncorrelated, positively and negatively correlated reference networks. Here, a simple model was developed which can create different types of degree correlations in a network without changing the degree distribution. Differences in static properties associated with degree correlations were compared by analyzing the network characteristics of the original PPI and reference networks. Dynamics were compared by simulating the effect of a selective deletion of hubs in all networks. Conclusion: Considerable differences between the network types were found for the number of components in the original networks. Negatively correlated networks are fragmented into significantly less components than observed for positively correlated networks. On the other hand, the selective deletion of hubs showed an increased structural tolerance to these deletions for the positively correlated networks. This results in a lower rate of interaction loss in these networks compared to the negatively correlated networks and a decreased disintegration rate. Interestingly, real PPI networks are most similar to the randomly correlated references with respect to all properties analyzed. Thus, although structural properties of networks can be modified considerably by degree correlations, biological PPI networks do not actually seem to make use of this possibility.