Identification of regulatory modules in genome scale transcription regulatory networks

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Background In gene regulatory networks, transcription factors often function as co-regulators to synergistically induce or inhibit expression of their target genes. However, most existing module-finding algorithms can only identify densely connected genes but not co-regulators in regulatory networks.

Methods We have developed a new computational method, CoReg, to identify transcription co-regulators in large-scale regulatory networks. CoReg calculates gene similarities based on number of common neighbors of any two genes. Using simulated and real networks, we compared the performance of different similarity indices and existing module-finding algorithms and we found CoReg outperforms other published methods in identifying co-regulatory genes. We applied CoReg to a large-scale network of Arabidopsis with more than 2.8 million edges and we analyzed more than 2,300 published gene expression profiles to charaterize co-expression patterns of gene moduled identified by CoReg.

Results We identified three types of modules in the Arabidopsis network: regulator modules, target modules and intermediate modules. Regulator modules include genes with more than 90% edges as out-going edges; Target modules include genes with more than 90% edges as incoming edges. Other modules are classified as intermediate modules. We found that genes in target modules tend to be highly co-expressed under abiotic stress conditions, suggesting this network struture is robust against perturbation.

Conclusions Our analysis shows that the CoReg is an accurate method in identifying co-regulatory genes in large-scale networks. We provide CoReg as an R package, which can be applied in finding co-regulators in any organisms with genome-scale regulatory network data.




BMC Systems Biology. 2017 Dec 15;11(1):140