An important and challenging problem in systems biology is the inference of gene regulatory networks from short non-stationary time series of transcriptional profiles. A popular approach that has been widely applied to this end is based on dynamic Bayesian networks (DBNs), although traditional homogeneous DBNs fail to model the non-stationarity and time-varying nature of the gene regulatory processes. Various authors have therefore recently proposed combining DBNs with multiple changepoint processes to obtain time varying dynamic Bayesian networks (TV-DBNs). However, TV-DBNs are not without problems. Gene expression time series are typically short, which leaves the model over-flexible, leading to over-fitting or inflated inference uncertainty. In the present paper, we introduce a Bayesian regularization scheme that addresses this difficulty. Our approach is based on the rationale that changes in gene regulatory processes appear gradually during an organism's life cycle or in response to a changing environment, and we have integrated this notion in the prior distribution of the TV-DBN parameters. We have extensively tested our regularized TV-DBN model on synthetic data, in which we have simulated short non-homogeneous time series produced from a system subject to gradual change. We have then applied our method to real-world gene expression time series, measured during the life cycle of Drosophila melanogaster, under artificially generated constant light condition in Arabidopsis thaliana, and from a synthetically designed strain of Saccharomyces cerevisiae exposed to a changing environment.
©2012 Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co. KG, Berlin/Boston