State feedback control design for Boolean networks

Rongjie Liu, Chunjiang Qian, Shuqian Liu, Yu Fang Jin*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Background: Driving Boolean networks to desired states is of paramount significance toward our ultimate goal of controlling the progression of biological pathways and regulatory networks. Despite recent computational development of controllability of general complex networks and structural controllability of Boolean networks, there is still a lack of bridging the mathematical condition on controllability to real boolean operations in a network. Further, no realtime control strategy has been proposed to drive a Boolean network. Results: In this study, we applied semi-tensor product to represent boolean functions in a network and explored controllability of a boolean network based on the transition matrix and time transition diagram. We determined the necessary and sufficient condition for a controllable Boolean network and mapped this requirement in transition matrix to real boolean functions and structure property of a network. An efficient tool is offered to assess controllability of an arbitrary Boolean network and to determine all reachable and non-reachable states. We found six simplest forms of controllable 2-node Boolean networks and explored the consistency of transition matrices while extending these six forms to controllable networks with more nodes. Importantly, we proposed the first state feedback control strategy to drive the network based on the status of all nodes in the network. Finally, we applied our reachability condition to the major switch of P53 pathway to predict the progression of the pathway and validate the prediction with published experimental results. Conclusions: This control strategy allowed us to apply realtime control to drive Boolean networks, which could not be achieved by the current control strategy for Boolean networks. Our results enabled a more comprehensive understanding of the evolution of Boolean networks and might be extended to output feedback control design.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number70
JournalBMC systems biology
StatePublished - Aug 26 2016


  • Boolean network
  • Controllability
  • State feedback control

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Structural Biology
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Molecular Biology
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Applied Mathematics


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