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Open Access Research article

A fast approach to global alignment of protein-protein interaction networks

Giorgos Kollias13, Madan Sathe2, Shahin Mohammadi13 and Ananth Grama13

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Computer Science, Purdue University, 305 N. University Street, West Lafayette, IN 47907, USA

2 Department of Mathematics and Computer Science, University of Basel, Klingelbergstrasse 50, 4056 Basel, Switzerland

3 Center for Science of Information, West Lafayette, IN 47907, USA

BMC Research Notes 2013, 6:35  doi:10.1186/1756-0500-6-35

Published: 31 January 2013

Abstract

Background

Global network alignment has been proposed as an effective tool for computing functional orthology. Commonly used global alignment techniques such as IsoRank rely on a two-step process: the first step is an iterative diffusion-based approach for assigning similarity scores to all possible node pairs (matchings); the second step applies a maximum-weight bipartite matching algorithm to this similarity score matrix to identify orthologous node pairs. While demonstrably successful in identifying orthologies beyond those based on sequences, this two-step process is computationally expensive. Recent work on computation of node-pair similarity matrices has demonstrated that the computational cost of the first step can be significantly reduced. The use of these accelerated methods renders the bipartite matching step as the dominant computational cost. This motivates a critical assessment of the tradeoffs of computational cost and solution quality (matching quality, topological matches, and biological significance) associated with the bipartite matching step. In this paper we utilize the state-of-the-art core diffusion-based step in IsoRank for similarity matrix computation, and couple it with two heuristic bipartite matching algorithms – a matrix-based greedy approach, and a tunable, adaptive, auction-based matching algorithm developed by us. We then compare our implementations against the performance and quality characteristics of the solution produced by the reference IsoRank binary, which also implements an optimal matching algorithm.

Results

Using heuristic matching algorithms in the IsoRank pipeline exhibits dramatic speedup improvements; typically ×30 times faster for the total alignment process in most cases of interest. More surprisingly, these improvements in compute times are typically accompanied by better or comparable topological and biological quality for the network alignments generated. These measures are quantified by the number of conserved edges in the alignment graph, the percentage of enriched components, and the total number of covered Gene Ontology (GO) terms.

Conclusions

We have demonstrated significant reductions in global network alignment computation times by coupling heuristic bipartite matching methods with the similarity scoring step of the IsoRank procedure. Our heuristic matching techniques maintain comparable – if not better – quality in resulting alignments. A consequence of our work is that network-alignment based orthologies can be computed within minutes (as compared to hours) on typical protein interaction networks, enabling a more comprehensive tuning of alignment parameters for refined orthologies.