Catalan, P; Wagner, A; Manrubia, S; Cuesta, JA

Robustness and evolvability are the main properties that account for the stability and accessibility of phenotypes. They have been studied in a number of computational genotype-phenotype maps. In this paper, we study a metabolic genotype-phenotype map defined in toyLIFE, a multilevel computational model that represents a simplified cellular biology. toyLIFE includes several levels of phenotypic expression, from proteins to regulatory networks to metabolism. Our results show that toyLIFE shares many similarities with other seemingly unrelated computational genotype-phenotype maps. Thus, toyLIFE shows a high degeneracy in the mapping from genotypes to phenotypes, as well as a highly skewed distribution of phenotypic abundances. The neutral networks associated with abundant phenotypes are highly navigable, and common phenotypes are close to each other in genotype space. All of these properties are remarkable, as toyLIFE is built on a version of the HP protein-folding model that is neither robust nor evolvable: phenotypes cannot be mutually accessed through point mutations. In addition, both robustness and evolvability increase with the number of genes in a genotype. Therefore, our results suggest that adding levels of complexity to the mapping of genotypes to phenotypes and increasing genome size enhances both these properties.