Frank, S. A. 2019. Evolutionary design of regulatory control. I. A robust control theory analysis of tradeoffs. Journal of Theoretical Biology 463:121-137.
The evolutionary design of regulatory control balances various tradeoffs in performance. Fast reaction to environmental change tends to favor plastic responsiveness at the expense of greater sensitivity to perturbations that degrade homeostatic control. Greater homeostatic stability against unpredictable disturbances tends to reduce performance in tracking environmental change. This article applies the classic principles of engineering control theory to the evolutionary design of regulatory systems. The engineering theory clarifies the conceptual aspects of evolutionary tradeoffs and provides analytic methods for developing specific predictions. On the conceptual side, this article clarifies the meanings of integral control, feedback , and design , concepts that have been discussed in a confusing way within the biological literature. On the analytic side, this article presents extensive methods and examples to study error-correcting feedback, which is perhaps the single greatest principle of design in both human-engineered and naturally designed systems. The broad framework and associated software code provide a comprehensive how-to guide for making models that focus on functional aspects of regulatory control and for making comparative predictions about regulatory design in response to various kinds of environmental challenge. The second article in this series analyzes how alternative regulatory designs influence the relative levels of genetic variability, stochasticity of trait expression, and heritability of disease.