Complex signaling cascades involve many interlocked positive and negative feedback loops which have inherent delays. Modeling these complex cascades often requires a large number of variables and parameters. Delay differential equation models have been helpful in describing inherent time lags and also in reducing the number of governing equations. However the consequences of model reduction via delay differential equations have not been fully explored. In this paper we systematically examine the effect of delays in a complex network of phosphorylation-dephosphorylation cycles (described by Gonze and Goldbeter, J Theor Biol 210, (2001) 167-186), which commonly occur in many biochemical pathways. By introducing delays in the positive and negative regulatory interactions, we show that a delay differential model can indeed reduce the number of cycles actually required to describe the phosphorylation-dephosphorylation pathway. In addition, we find some of the unique properties of the network and a quantitative measure of the minimum number of delay variables required to model the network. These results can be extended for modeling complex signalling cascades. (c) 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.