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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Inferring genetic interactions via a nonlinear model and an optimization algorithm

Chung-Ming Chen1, Chih Lee2, Cheng-Long Chuang1, Chia-Chang Wang2 and Grace S Shieh2*

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of Biomedical Engineering, National Taiwan University, No 1, Sec 4, Roosevelt Road, Taipei, 106, Taiwan

2 Institute of Statistical Science, Academia Sinica, No 128, Sec 2, Academia Road, Taipei 115, Taiwan

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BMC Systems Biology 2010, 4:16  doi:10.1186/1752-0509-4-16

Published: 26 February 2010



Biochemical pathways are gradually becoming recognized as central to complex human diseases and recently genetic/transcriptional interactions have been shown to be able to predict partial pathways. With the abundant information made available by microarray gene expression data (MGED), nonlinear modeling of these interactions is now feasible. Two of the latest advances in nonlinear modeling used sigmoid models to depict transcriptional interaction of a transcription factor (TF) for a target gene, but do not model cooperative or competitive interactions of several TFs for a target.


An S-shape model and an optimization algorithm (GASA) were developed to infer genetic interactions/transcriptional regulation of several genes simultaneously using MGED. GASA consists of a genetic algorithm (GA) and a simulated annealing (SA) algorithm, which is enhanced by a steepest gradient descent algorithm to avoid being trapped in local minimum. Using simulated data with various degrees of noise, we studied how GASA with two model selection criteria and two search spaces performed. Furthermore, GASA was shown to outperform network component analysis, the time series network inference algorithm (TSNI), GA with regular GA (GAGA) and GA with regular SA. Two applications are demonstrated. First, GASA is applied to infer a subnetwork of human T-cell apoptosis. Several of the predicted interactions are supported by the literature. Second, GASA was applied to infer the transcriptional factors of 34 cell cycle regulated targets in S. cerevisiae, and GASA performed better than one of the latest advances in nonlinear modeling, GAGA and TSNI. Moreover, GASA is able to predict multiple transcription factors for certain targets, and these results coincide with experiments confirmed data in YEASTRACT.


GASA is shown to infer both genetic interactions and transcriptional regulatory interactions well. In particular, GASA seems able to characterize the nonlinear mechanism of transcriptional regulatory interactions (TIs) in yeast, and may be applied to infer TIs in other organisms. The predicted genetic interactions of a subnetwork of human T-cell apoptosis coincide with existing partial pathways, suggesting the potential of GASA on inferring biochemical pathways.