BMRF-MI: integrative identification of protein interaction network by modeling the gene dependency
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Background Identification of protein interaction network is a very important step for understanding the molecular mechanisms in cancer. Several methods have been developed to integrate protein-protein interaction (PPI) data with gene expression data for network identification. However, they often fail to model the dependency between genes in the network, which makes many important genes, especially the upstream genes, unidentified. It is necessary to develop a method to improve the network identification performance by incorporating the dependency between genes. Results We proposed an approach for identifying protein interaction network by incorporating mutual information (MI) into a Markov random field (MRF) based framework to model the dependency between genes. MI is widely used in information theory to measure the uncertainty between random variables. Different from traditional Pearson correlation test, MI is capable of capturing both linear and non-linear relationship between random variables. Among all the existing MI estimators, we choose to use k-nearest neighbor MI (kNN-MI) estimator which is proved to have minimum bias. The estimated MI is integrated with an MRF framework to model the gene dependency in the context of network. The maximum a posterior (MAP) estimation is applied on the MRF-based model to estimate the network score. In order to reduce the computational complexity of finding the optimal network, a probabilistic searching algorithm is implemented. We further increase the robustness and reproducibility of the results by applying a non-parametric bootstrapping method to measure the confidence level of the identified genes. To evaluate the performance of the proposed method, we test the method on simulation data under different conditions. The experimental results show an improved accuracy in terms of subnetwork identification compared to existing methods. Furthermore, we applied our method onto real breast cancer patient data; the identified protein interaction network shows a close association with the recurrence of breast cancer, which is supported by functional annotation. We also show that the identified subnetworks can be used to predict the recurrence status of cancer patients by survival analysis. Conclusions We have developed an integrated approach for protein interaction network identification, which combines Markov random field framework and mutual information to model the gene dependency in PPI network. Improvements in subnetwork identification have been demonstrated with simulation datasets compared to existing methods. We then apply our method onto breast cancer patient data to identify recurrence related subnetworks. The experiment results show that the identified genes are enriched in the pathway and functional categories relevant to progression and recurrence of breast cancer. Finally, the survival analysis based on identified subnetworks achieves a good result of classifying the recurrence status of cancer patients.