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The best known genes of microbes, mice and men are those that specify enzymes. Wild type, mutant and heterozygote for variants of such genes differ in the catalytic activity at the step in the enzyme network specified by the gene in question. The effect on the respective phenotypes of such changes in catalytic activity, however, is not defined by the enzyme change as estimated by in vitro determination of the activities obtained from the extracts of the three types. In vivo enzymes do not act in isolation, but are kinetically linked to other enzymes via their substrates and products. These interactions modify the effect of enzyme variation on the phenotype, depending on the nature and quantity of the other enzymes present. An output of such a system, say a flux, is therefore a systemic property, and its response to variation at one locus must be measured in the whole system. This response is best described by the sensitivity coefficient, Z, which is defined by the fractional change in flux over the fractional change in enzyme activity.

  • Received September 3, 1980.