Functional Module Analysis for Gene Coexpression Networks with Network Integration

Network has been a general tool for studying the complex interactions between different genes, proteins and other small molecules. Module as a fundamental property of many biological networks has been widely studied and many computational methods have been proposed to identify the modules in an individual network. However, in many cases a single network is insufficient for module analysis due to the noise in the data or the tuning of parameters when building the biological network. The availability of a large amount of biological networks makes network integration study possible. By integrating such networks, more informative modules for some specific disease can be derived from the networks constructed from different tissues, and consistent factors for different diseases can be inferred. In this paper, we have developed an effective method for module identification from multiple networks under different conditions. The problem is formulated as an optimization model, which combines the module identification in each individual network and alignment of the modules from different networks together.

An approximation algorithm based on eigenvector computation is proposed. Our method outperforms the existing methods, especially when the underlying modules in multiple networks are different in simulation studies.We also applied our method to two groups of gene coexpression networks for humans, which include one for three different cancers, and one for three tissues from the morbidly obese patients. We identified 13 modules with 3 complete subgraphs, and 11 modules with 2 complete subgraphs, respectively. The modules were validated through Gene Ontology enrichment and KEGG pathway enrichment analysis. We also showed that the main functions of most modules for the corresponding disease have been addressed by other researchers, which may provide the theoretical basis for further studying the modules experimentally.

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