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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Transcriptional regulatory network refinement and quantification through kinetic modeling, gene expression microarray data and information theory

Abdallah Sayyed-Ahmad12, Kagan Tuncay1 and Peter J Ortoleva1*

Author Affiliations

1 Center for Cell and Virus Theory, Department of Chemistry, Indiana University, Bloomington IN 47405, USA

2 Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science, University of Minnesota, 421 Washington Ave SE, Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA

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BMC Bioinformatics 2007, 8:20  doi:10.1186/1471-2105-8-20

Published: 23 January 2007



Gene expression microarray and other multiplex data hold promise for addressing the challenges of cellular complexity, refined diagnoses and the discovery of well-targeted treatments. A new approach to the construction and quantification of transcriptional regulatory networks (TRNs) is presented that integrates gene expression microarray data and cell modeling through information theory. Given a partial TRN and time series data, a probability density is constructed that is a functional of the time course of transcription factor (TF) thermodynamic activities at the site of gene control, and is a function of mRNA degradation and transcription rate coefficients, and equilibrium constants for TF/gene binding.


Our approach yields more physicochemical information that compliments the results of network structure delineation methods, and thereby can serve as an element of a comprehensive TRN discovery/quantification system. The most probable TF time courses and values of the aforementioned parameters are obtained by maximizing the probability obtained through entropy maximization. Observed time delays between mRNA expression and activity are accounted for implicitly since the time course of the activity of a TF is coupled by probability functional maximization, and is not assumed to be proportional to expression level of the mRNA type that translates into the TF. This allows one to investigate post-translational and TF activation mechanisms of gene regulation. Accuracy and robustness of the method are evaluated. A kinetic formulation is used to facilitate the analysis of phenomena with a strongly dynamical character while a physically-motivated regularization of the TF time course is found to overcome difficulties due to omnipresent noise and data sparsity that plague other methods of gene expression data analysis. An application to Escherichia coli is presented.


Multiplex time series data can be used for the construction of the network of cellular processes and the calibration of the associated physicochemical parameters. We have demonstrated these concepts in the context of gene regulation understood through the analysis of gene expression microarray time series data. Casting the approach in a probabilistic framework has allowed us to address the uncertainties in gene expression microarray data. Our approach was found to be robust to error in the gene expression microarray data and mistakes in a proposed TRN.