A novel method for generation of signature networks as biomarkers from complex high throughput data

Toxicol Lett. 2005 Jul 28;158(1):20-9. doi: 10.1016/j.toxlet.2005.02.004.


Traditionally, gene signatures are statistically deduced from large gene expression and proteomics datasets and have been applied as an experimental molecular diagnostic technique that is sensitive to experimental design and statistical treatment. We have developed and applied the approach of "signature networks" which overcomes some of the drawbacks of clustering methods. We have demonstrated signature network assembly, functional analysis and logical operations on the networks that can be generated. In addition, we have used this technique in a proof of concept study to compare the effect of differential drug treatment using 4-hydroxytamoxifen and estrogen on the MCF-7 breast cancer cell line from a previously published study. We have shown that the two compounds can be differentiated by the networks of interacting genes. Both networks consist of a core module of genes including c-Fos as part of c-Fos/c-Jun heterodimer and c-Myc which is clearly visible. Using algorithms in our MetaCore software we are able to subtract the 4-hydroxytamoxifen and estrogen networks to further understand differences between these two treatments and show that the estrogen network is assembled around the core with other modules essential for all phases of the cell cycle. For example, Cyclin D1 is present in networks for the estrogen treated cells from two separate studies. These signature networks represent an approach to identify biomarkers and a general approach for discovering new relationships in complex high throughput toxicology data.

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms*
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology
  • Biomarkers*
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Computational Biology / methods*
  • Estrogens / pharmacology
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Profiling / methods*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Neural Networks, Computer*
  • Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis
  • Software Design
  • Tamoxifen / analogs & derivatives
  • Tamoxifen / pharmacology


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Biomarkers
  • Estrogens
  • Tamoxifen
  • afimoxifene