Cite as:

S. Huang, G. Eichler, Y. Bar-Yam, and D. E. Ingber, Cell Fates as High-Dimensional Attractor States of a Complex Gene Regulatory Network, Physical Review Letters 94, 128701 (2005).


Cells in multicellular organisms switch between distinct cell fates, such as proliferation or differentiation into specialized cell types. Genome-wide gene regulatory networks govern this behavior. Theoretical studies of complex networks suggest that they can exhibit ordered (stable) dynamics, raising the possibility that cell fates may represent high-dimensional attractor states. We used gene expression profiling to show that trajectories of neutrophil differentiation converge to a common state from different directions of a 2773-dimensional gene expression state space, providing the first experimental evidence for a high-dimensional stable attractor that represents a distinct cellular phenotype.