Is the maximum number of induced circuits in a simple directed graph known?

I tried the family of graphs suggested by David and the number of induced cycles is seems to be exactly

$3^{n/3} + \frac{n}{3}$

*tested up to n=51 (for each n multiple of 3).


1 Answer 1


I don't know what's already known but the obvious bounds are that it is at most $\binom{n}{n/2}$ (Sperner's theorem) and at least $3^{n/3}$ (for $n$ a multiple of three that is at least 9: form a cycle of three-vertex sets and add all edges between vertices in consecutive triples). These bounds hold both for the directed and undirected cases.

The $3^{n/3}$ bound turns out to be the right one, to within a polynomial factor at least, for both the directed and undirected cases. To see this, choose a starting vertex in one of $n$ ways (or a starting edge in the undirected case), and then greedily choose the remaining vertices of the cycle one by one. At each step where you have $k$ choices (the remaining neighbors of the most recently chosen vertex), each choice eliminates all those $k$ vertices from the remaining subproblem, because they can no longer be part of any induced cycle extending what you've already chosen. So, if you define $C(i)$ to be the maximum number of extensions that you could still make, given that you have $i$ remaining vertices, then this number obeys the recurrence $C(i)\le\max_{k\le i} kC(i-k)$. The maximum value of $k$ in this recurrence is given for $k=3$, giving $C(i)\le 3^{i/3}$.

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for the answer. Just one thing still confuses me "add all edges between vertices in consecutive triples" : wouldn't this just end up making very short (2-node induced cycles) in directed graphs? Then the maximum number of induced cycles would just be (n/3) + 9*((n/3)-1)? That is (n/3) 3-cycles and 9 2-cycles between vertices of each consecutive triplets. I am sure I have missed something. $\endgroup$
    – stardust
    May 17, 2016 at 8:42
  • $\begingroup$ Add the edges only in one direction. $\endgroup$ May 17, 2016 at 17:34

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