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      Reconstruction of large-scale regulatory networks based on perturbation graphs and transitive reduction: improved methods and their evaluation

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          Abstract

          Background

          The data-driven inference of intracellular networks is one of the key challenges of computational and systems biology. As suggested by recent works, a simple yet effective approach for reconstructing regulatory networks comprises the following two steps. First, the observed effects induced by directed perturbations are collected in a signed and directed perturbation graph (PG). In a second step, Transitive Reduction (TR) is used to identify and eliminate those edges in the PG that can be explained by paths and are therefore likely to reflect indirect effects.

          Results

          In this work we introduce novel variants for PG generation and TR, leading to significantly improved performances. The key modifications concern: (i) use of novel statistical criteria for deriving a high-quality PG from experimental data; (ii) the application of local TR which allows only short paths to explain (and remove) a given edge; and (iii) a novel strategy to rank the edges with respect to their confidence. To compare the new methods with existing ones we not only apply them to a recent DREAM network inference challenge but also to a novel and unprecedented synthetic compendium consisting of 30 5000-gene networks simulated with varying biological and measurement error variances resulting in a total of 270 datasets. The benchmarks clearly demonstrate the superior reconstruction performance of the novel PG and TR variants compared to existing approaches. Moreover, the benchmark enabled us to draw some general conclusions. For example, it turns out that local TR restricted to paths with a length of only two is often sufficient or even favorable. We also demonstrate that considering edge weights is highly beneficial for TR whereas consideration of edge signs is of minor importance. We explain these observations from a graph-theoretical perspective and discuss the consequences with respect to a greatly reduced computational demand to conduct TR. Finally, as a realistic application scenario, we use our framework for inferring gene interactions in yeast based on a library of gene expression data measured in mutants with single knockouts of transcription factors. The reconstructed network shows a significant enrichment of known interactions, especially within the 100 most confident (and for experimental validation most relevant) edges.

          Conclusions

          This paper presents several major achievements. The novel methods introduced herein can be seen as state of the art for inference techniques relying on perturbation graphs and transitive reduction. Another key result of the study is the generation of a new and unprecedented large-scale in silico benchmark dataset accounting for different noise levels and providing a solid basis for unbiased testing of network inference methodologies. Finally, applying our approach to Saccharomyces cerevisiae suggested several new gene interactions with high confidence awaiting experimental validation.

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          Most cited references 35

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          The DNA-encoded nucleosome organization of a eukaryotic genome.

          Nucleosome organization is critical for gene regulation. In living cells this organization is determined by multiple factors, including the action of chromatin remodellers, competition with site-specific DNA-binding proteins, and the DNA sequence preferences of the nucleosomes themselves. However, it has been difficult to estimate the relative importance of each of these mechanisms in vivo, because in vivo nucleosome maps reflect the combined action of all influencing factors. Here we determine the importance of nucleosome DNA sequence preferences experimentally by measuring the genome-wide occupancy of nucleosomes assembled on purified yeast genomic DNA. The resulting map, in which nucleosome occupancy is governed only by the intrinsic sequence preferences of nucleosomes, is similar to in vivo nucleosome maps generated in three different growth conditions. In vitro, nucleosome depletion is evident at many transcription factor binding sites and around gene start and end sites, indicating that nucleosome depletion at these sites in vivo is partly encoded in the genome. We confirm these results with a micrococcal nuclease-independent experiment that measures the relative affinity of nucleosomes for approximately 40,000 double-stranded 150-base-pair oligonucleotides. Using our in vitro data, we devise a computational model of nucleosome sequence preferences that is significantly correlated with in vivo nucleosome occupancy in Caenorhabditis elegans. Our results indicate that the intrinsic DNA sequence preferences of nucleosomes have a central role in determining the organization of nucleosomes in vivo.
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            Genomic analysis of regulatory network dynamics reveals large topological changes.

            Network analysis has been applied widely, providing a unifying language to describe disparate systems ranging from social interactions to power grids. It has recently been used in molecular biology, but so far the resulting networks have only been analysed statically. Here we present the dynamics of a biological network on a genomic scale, by integrating transcriptional regulatory information and gene-expression data for multiple conditions in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. We develop an approach for the statistical analysis of network dynamics, called SANDY, combining well-known global topological measures, local motifs and newly derived statistics. We uncover large changes in underlying network architecture that are unexpected given current viewpoints and random simulations. In response to diverse stimuli, transcription factors alter their interactions to varying degrees, thereby rewiring the network. A few transcription factors serve as permanent hubs, but most act transiently only during certain conditions. By studying sub-network structures, we show that environmental responses facilitate fast signal propagation (for example, with short regulatory cascades), whereas the cell cycle and sporulation direct temporal progression through multiple stages (for example, with highly inter-connected transcription factors). Indeed, to drive the latter processes forward, phase-specific transcription factors inter-regulate serially, and ubiquitously active transcription factors layer above them in a two-tiered hierarchy. We anticipate that many of the concepts presented here--particularly the large-scale topological changes and hub transience--will apply to other biological networks, including complex sub-systems in higher eukaryotes.
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              Genetic reconstruction of a functional transcriptional regulatory network.

              Although global analyses of transcription factor binding provide one view of potential transcriptional regulatory networks, regulation also occurs at levels distinct from transcription factor binding. Here, we use a genetic approach to identify targets of transcription factors in yeast and reconstruct a functional regulatory network. First, we profiled transcriptional responses in S. cerevisiae strains with individual deletions of 263 transcription factors. Then we used directed-weighted graph modeling and regulatory epistasis analysis to identify indirect regulatory relationships between these transcription factors, and from this we reconstructed a functional transcriptional regulatory network. The enrichment of promoter motifs and Gene Ontology annotations provide insight into the biological functions of the transcription factors.
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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                Journal
                BMC Syst Biol
                BMC Syst Biol
                BMC Systems Biology
                BioMed Central
                1752-0509
                2013
                8 August 2013
                : 7
                : 73
                Affiliations
                [1 ]Center for Advanced Studies, Research and Development (CRS4) Bioinformatica, Pula, Italy
                [2 ]Max Planck Institute for Dynamics of Complex Technical Systems, Magdeburg, Germany
                [3 ]Leibniz Institute for Farm Animal Biology, Dummerstorf, Germany
                Article
                1752-0509-7-73
                10.1186/1752-0509-7-73
                4231426
                23924435
                Copyright © 2013 Pinna et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

                This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

                Categories
                Methodology Article

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