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Open Access Methodology article

Accelerated search for biomolecular network models to interpret high-throughput experimental data

Suman Datta and Bahrad A Sokhansanj*

Author Affiliations

School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems, Drexel University, 3141 Chestnut St., Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA

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BMC Bioinformatics 2007, 8:258  doi:10.1186/1471-2105-8-258

Published: 18 July 2007

Abstract

Background

The functions of human cells are carried out by biomolecular networks, which include proteins, genes, and regulatory sites within DNA that encode and control protein expression. Models of biomolecular network structure and dynamics can be inferred from high-throughput measurements of gene and protein expression. We build on our previously developed fuzzy logic method for bridging quantitative and qualitative biological data to address the challenges of noisy, low resolution high-throughput measurements, i.e., from gene expression microarrays. We employ an evolutionary search algorithm to accelerate the search for hypothetical fuzzy biomolecular network models consistent with a biological data set. We also develop a method to estimate the probability of a potential network model fitting a set of data by chance. The resulting metric provides an estimate of both model quality and dataset quality, identifying data that are too noisy to identify meaningful correlations between the measured variables.

Results

Optimal parameters for the evolutionary search were identified based on artificial data, and the algorithm showed scalable and consistent performance for as many as 150 variables. The method was tested on previously published human cell cycle gene expression microarray data sets. The evolutionary search method was found to converge to the results of exhaustive search. The randomized evolutionary search was able to converge on a set of similar best-fitting network models on different training data sets after 30 generations running 30 models per generation. Consistent results were found regardless of which of the published data sets were used to train or verify the quantitative predictions of the best-fitting models for cell cycle gene dynamics.

Conclusion

Our results demonstrate the capability of scalable evolutionary search for fuzzy network models to address the problem of inferring models based on complex, noisy biomolecular data sets. This approach yields multiple alternative models that are consistent with the data, yielding a constrained set of hypotheses that can be used to optimally design subsequent experiments.