We define a subclass of chemical reaction networks called post-translational modification systems. Important biological examples of such systems include MAPK cascades and two-component systems which are well-studied experimentally as well as theoretically. The steady states of such a system are solutions to a system of polynomial equations. Even for small systems the task of finding the solutions is daunting. We develop a mathematical framework based on the notion of a cut (a particular subset of species in the system), which provides a linear elimination procedure to reduce the number of variables in the system to a set of core variables. The steady states are parameterized algebraically by the core variables, and graphical conditions for when steady states with positive core variables imply positivity of all variables are given. Further, minimal cuts are the connected components of the species graph and provide conservation laws. A criterion for when a (maximal) set of independent conservation laws can be derived from cuts is given.
Journal of Mathematical Biology, 2013, Vol 66, Issue 1-2, p. 281-310