From System-Wide Differential Gene Expression to Perturbed Regulatory Factors: A Combinatorial ApproachReport as inadecuate

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High-throughput experiments such as microarrays and deep sequencing provide large scale information on the pattern of gene expression, which undergoes extensive remodeling as the cell dynamically responds to varying environmental cues or has its function disrupted under pathological conditions. An important initial step in the systematic analysis and interpretation of genome-scale expression alteration involves identification of a set of perturbed transcriptional regulators whose differential activity can provide a proximate hypothesis to account for these transcriptomic changes. In the present work, we propose an unbiased and logically natural approach to transcription factor enrichment. It involves overlaying a list of experimentally determined differentially expressed genes on a background regulatory network coming from e.g. literature curation or computational motif scanning, and identifying that subset of regulators whose aggregated target set best discriminates between the altered and the unaffected genes. In other words, our methodology entails testing of all possible regulatory subnetworks, rather than just the target sets of individual regulators as is followed in most standard approaches. We have proposed an iterative search method to efficiently find such a combination, and benchmarked it on E. coli microarray and regulatory network data available in the public domain. Comparative analysis carried out on artificially generated differential expression profiles, as well as empirical factor overexpression data for M. tuberculosis, shows that our methodology provides marked improvement in accuracy of regulatory inference relative to the standard method that involves evaluating factor enrichment in an individual manner.

Author: Gaurang Mahajan , Shekhar C. Mande



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