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This article is part of the supplement: 22nd International Conference on Genome Informatics: Systems Biology

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Constructing a gene semantic similarity network for the inference of disease genes

Rui Jiang1*, Mingxin Gan2 and Peng He1

Author affiliations

1 MOE Key Laboratory of Bioinformatics and Bioinformatics Division, TNLIST/Department of Automation, Tsinghua University, Beijing 100084, China

2 School of Economics and Management, University of Science and Technology Beijing, Beijing 100083, China

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Citation and License

BMC Systems Biology 2011, 5(Suppl 2):S2  doi:10.1186/1752-0509-5-S2-S2

Published: 14 December 2011



The inference of genes that are truly associated with inherited human diseases from a set of candidates resulting from genetic linkage studies has been one of the most challenging tasks in human genetics. Although several computational approaches have been proposed to prioritize candidate genes relying on protein-protein interaction (PPI) networks, these methods can usually cover less than half of known human genes.


We propose to rely on the biological process domain of the gene ontology to construct a gene semantic similarity network and then use the network to infer disease genes. We show that the constructed network covers about 50% more genes than a typical PPI network. By analyzing the gene semantic similarity network with the PPI network, we show that gene pairs tend to have higher semantic similarity scores if the corresponding proteins are closer to each other in the PPI network. By analyzing the gene semantic similarity network with a phenotype similarity network, we show that semantic similarity scores of genes associated with similar diseases are significantly different from those of genes selected at random, and that genes with higher semantic similarity scores tend to be associated with diseases with higher phenotype similarity scores. We further use the gene semantic similarity network with a random walk with restart model to infer disease genes. Through a series of large-scale leave-one-out cross-validation experiments, we show that the gene semantic similarity network can achieve not only higher coverage but also higher accuracy than the PPI network in the inference of disease genes.