Inputs to molecular pathways that are the backbone of cellular activity drive the cell to certain outcomes and phenotypes. Here, we investigated proteins that topologically controlled different human pathways represented as independent molecular interaction networks, suggesting that a minority of proteins control a high number of pathways and vice versa. Transcending different topological levels, proteins that controlled a large number of pathways also controlled a network of interactions when all pathways were combined. Furthermore, control proteins that were robust when interactions were rewired or inverted also increasingly controlled an increasing number of pathways. As for functional characteristics, such control proteins were enriched with regulatory and signaling genes, disease genes and drug targets. Focusing on evolutionary characteristics, proteins that controlled different pathways had a penchant to be evolutionarily conserved as equal counterparts in other organisms, indicating the fundamental role that control analysis of pathways plays for our understanding of regulation, disease and evolution.
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