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Statistical Applications in Genetics and Molecular Biology

Editor-in-Chief: Stumpf, Michael P.H.

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Fitting Boolean Networks from Steady State Perturbation Data

Anthony Almudevar1 / Matthew N. McCall2 / Helene McMurray3 / Hartmut Land4

1University of Rochester

2University of Rochester

3University of Rochester

4University of Rochester

Citation Information: Statistical Applications in Genetics and Molecular Biology. Volume 10, Issue 1, Pages 1–40, ISSN (Online) 1544-6115, DOI: 10.2202/1544-6115.1727, October 2011

Publication History

Published Online:
2011-10-05

Gene perturbation experiments are commonly used for the reconstruction of gene regulatory networks. Typical experimental methodology imposes persistent changes on the network. The resulting data must therefore be interpreted as a steady state from an altered gene regulatory network, rather than a direct observation of the original network. In this article an implicit modeling methodology is proposed in which the unperturbed network of interest is scored by first modeling the persistent perturbation, then predicting the steady state, which may then be compared to the observed data. This results in a many-to-one inverse problem, so a computational Bayesian approach is used to assess model uncertainty.

The methodology is first demonstrated on a number of synthetic networks. It is shown that the Bayesian approach correctly assigns high posterior probability to the network structure and steady state behavior. Further, it is demonstrated that where uncertainty of model features is indicated, the uncertainty may be accurately resolved with further perturbation experiments. The methodology is then applied to the modeling of a gene regulatory network using perturbation data from nine genes which have been shown to respond synergistically to known oncogenic mutations. A hypothetical model emerges which conforms to reported regulatory properties of these genes. Furthermore, the Bayesian methodology is shown to be consistent in the sense that multiple randomized applications of the fitting algorithm converge to an approximately common posterior density on the space of models. Such consistency is generally not feasible for algorithms which report only single models. We conclude that fully Bayesian methods, coupled with models which accurately account for experimental constraints, are a suitable tool for the inference of gene regulatory networks, in terms of accuracy, estimation of model uncertainty, and experimental design.

Keywords: boolean network; gene perturbation; Bayesian modeling

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