Polynomially Bounding the Number of Minimal Separators in Graphs: Reductions, Sufficient Conditions, and a Dichotomy Theorem

  • Martin Milanič
  • Nevena Pivač


A graph class is said to be tame if graphs in the class have a polynomially bounded number of minimal separators. Tame graph classes have good algorithmic properties, which follow, for example, from an algorithmic metatheorem of Fomin, Todinca, and Villanger from 2015. We show that a hereditary graph class $\mathcal{G}$ is tame if and only if the subclass consisting of graphs in $\mathcal{G}$ without clique cutsets is tame. This result and Ramsey's theorem lead to several types of sufficient conditions for a graph class to be tame. In particular, we show that any hereditary class of graphs of bounded clique cover number that excludes some complete prism is tame, where a complete prism is the Cartesian product of a complete graph with a $K_2$. We apply these results, combined with constructions of graphs with exponentially many minimal separators, to develop a dichotomy theorem separating tame from non-tame graph classes within the family of graph classes defined by sets of forbidden induced subgraphs with at most four vertices.

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