in sillico network reconstruction (using expression data)
In my last post I commented on a paper that tried to find the best mathematical model for a cellular pathway. In that paper they used information on known and predicted protein interactions. This time I want to mention a paper, published in Nature Mol. Systems Biology, that attempts to reconstruct gene regulatory networks from gene expression data and Chip-chip data.
The authors were interested in determining how/when transcription factors regulate their target genes over time. One novelty introduced in this work was the focus on bifurcation events in gene expression. They tried to look for cases where a groups of genes clearly bifurcated into two groups at a particular time point. Combining these patterns of bifurcation with experimental binding data for transcription factors they tried to predict what transcription factors regulate these group of genes. There is a simple example shown in figure 1, reproduced below.
In this toy example there is a bifurcation event at 1 h and another at the 2h time point. All of the genes are assigned to a gene expression path. In this case, the red genes are those that are very likely to show a down regulation in between the 1st and 2nd hour and stay at the same level of expression from then on. Once the genes have been assigned it is possible to search for transcription factors that are significantly associate to each gene expression path. For example in this case, TF A is strongly associated to the pink trajectory. This means that many of the genes in the pink group have a known binding site for TF A in their promoter region.
To test their approach, the authors studied the amino-acid starvation in S. cerevisiae. In figure 2 they summarize the reconstructed dynamic map. The result is the association of TFs to groups of genes and the changes in expression of these genes over time during amino acid starvation.
One interesting finding from this map was that Ino4 activates a group of genes related to lipid metabolism starting at the 2h time point. Since Ino4 binding sites had only been profiled by Chip-chip in YPD media and not in a.a. starvation, this is a novel result obtained using their method.
To further test the significance of their observation they performed Chip-chip assays of Ino4 in amino acid starvation. They confirmed that Ino4 binds many more promoters during amino acid starvation as compared to synthetic complete glucose media. Out of 207 genes bound by Ino4 (specifically during AA starvation) 34 were also among the genes assigned to the Ino4 gene path obtained from their approach.
This results confirmed the usefulness of this computational approach to reconstruct gene regulatory networks from gene expression data and TF binding site information.
The authors then go on to study the regulation of other conditions.
For anyone curious enough about the method, this was done using Hidden Markov Models (see here for available primer on HMMs).