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Open Access Methodology article

Integrating Bayesian variable selection with Modular Response Analysis to infer biochemical network topology

Tapesh Santra1*, Walter Kolch123 and Boris N Kholodenko12

Author Affiliations

1 Systems Biology Ireland, Conway Institute of Biomolecular & Biomedical Research, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland

2 Conway Institute of Biomolecular & Biomedical Research, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland

3 School of Medicine and Medical Science, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland

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BMC Systems Biology 2013, 7:57  doi:10.1186/1752-0509-7-57

Published: 6 July 2013

Abstract

Background

Recent advancements in genetics and proteomics have led to the acquisition of large quantitative data sets. However, the use of these data to reverse engineer biochemical networks has remained a challenging problem. Many methods have been proposed to infer biochemical network topologies from different types of biological data. Here, we focus on unraveling network topologies from steady state responses of biochemical networks to successive experimental perturbations.

Results

We propose a computational algorithm which combines a deterministic network inference method termed Modular Response Analysis (MRA) and a statistical model selection algorithm called Bayesian Variable Selection, to infer functional interactions in cellular signaling pathways and gene regulatory networks. It can be used to identify interactions among individual molecules involved in a biochemical pathway or reveal how different functional modules of a biological network interact with each other to exchange information. In cases where not all network components are known, our method reveals functional interactions which are not direct but correspond to the interaction routes through unknown elements. Using computer simulated perturbation responses of signaling pathways and gene regulatory networks from the DREAM challenge, we demonstrate that the proposed method is robust against noise and scalable to large networks. We also show that our method can infer network topologies using incomplete perturbation datasets. Consequently, we have used this algorithm to explore the ERBB regulated G1/S transition pathway in certain breast cancer cells to understand the molecular mechanisms which cause these cells to become drug resistant. The algorithm successfully inferred many well characterized interactions of this pathway by analyzing experimentally obtained perturbation data. Additionally, it identified some molecular interactions which promote drug resistance in breast cancer cells.

Conclusions

The proposed algorithm provides a robust, scalable and cost effective solution for inferring network topologies from biological data. It can potentially be applied to explore novel pathways which play important roles in life threatening disease like cancer.

Keywords:
Network inference; Bayesian statistics; Modular Response Analysis; Signaling pathways.