Testing subgraphs in directed graphs

Noga Alon, Asaf Shapira

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Let H be a fixed directed graph on h vertices, let G be a directed graph on n vertices and suppose that at least εn2 edges have to be deleted from it to make it H-free. We show that in this case G contains at least f(ε, H)nh copies of H. This is proved by establishing a directed version of Szemerédi's regularity lemma, and implies that for every H there is a one-sided error property tester whose query complexity is bounded by a function of ε only for testing the property PH of being H-free. As is common with applications of the undirected regularity lemma, here too the function 1/f(ε, H) is an extremely fast growing function in ε. We therefore further prove the following precise characterization of all the digraphs H, for which f(ε, H) has a polynomial dependency on ε: a homomorphism φ: V(H) → V(K), from a digraph H to K, is a function that satisfies (u, v) ∈ E(H) ⇒ (φ(u), φ(v)) ∈ E(K). The core of a digraph H is the smallest subgraph K of H, for which there is a homomorphism from H to K. We show that for a connected H, f(ε, H) has a polynomial dependency on 1/ε, if and only if the core of H is either an oriented tree or a directed cycle of length 2. This implies that there is a one sided error property tester for testing H-freeness, whose query complexity is polynomial in 1/ε if and only if H is of the above two types. We further show that the same characterization applies for two-sided error property testers as well. A special case of this result settles an open problem raised by the first author in [1]. It turns out that if PH has a polynomial query complexity, then there is a two-sided ε-tester for PH that samples only O(1/ε) vertices, whereas any one-sided tester for PH makes at least (1/ε)Ω(d) queries, where d is the average degree of H. We show that the complexity of deciding if for a given directed graph H, PH has a polynomial query complexity, is NP-complete, marking an interesting distinction from the case of undirected graphs. For some special cases of directed graphs H, we describe very efficient one-sided error property-testers for testing PH. As a consequence we conclude that when H is an undirected bipartite graph, we can give a one-sided error property tester with query complexity O((1/ε)h/2), improving the previously known upper bound of O((1/ε)h2). The proofs combine combinatorial, graph theoretic and probabilistic arguments with results from additive number theory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)700-709
Number of pages10
JournalConference Proceedings of the Annual ACM Symposium on Theory of Computing
StatePublished - 2003
Externally publishedYes
Event35th Annual ACM Symposium on Theory of Computing - San Diego, CA, United States
Duration: Jun 9 2003Jun 11 2003

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Software


  • Directed Graphs
  • Property Testing
  • Regularity Lemma


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