C-GRAAL: common-neighbors-based global GRAph ALignment of biological networks

Integr Biol (Camb). 2012 Jul;4(7):734-43. doi: 10.1039/c2ib00140c. Epub 2012 Jan 10.


Networks are an invaluable framework for modeling biological systems. Analyzing protein-protein interaction (PPI) networks can provide insight into underlying cellular processes. It is expected that comparison and alignment of biological networks will have a similar impact on our understanding of evolution, biological function, and disease as did sequence comparison and alignment. Here, we introduce a novel pairwise global alignment algorithm called Common-neighbors based GRAph ALigner (C-GRAAL) that uses heuristics for maximizing the number of aligned edges between two networks and is based solely on network topology. As such, it can be applied to any type of network, such as social, transportation, or electrical networks. We apply C-GRAAL to align PPI networks of eukaryotic and prokaryotic species, as well as inter-species PPI networks, and we demonstrate that the resulting alignments expose large connected and functionally topologically aligned regions. We use the resulting alignments to transfer biological knowledge across species, successfully validating many of the predictions. Moreover, we show that C-GRAAL can be used to align human-pathogen inter-species PPI networks and that it can identify patterns of pathogen interactions with host proteins solely from network topology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Computational Biology / methods*
  • Computer Graphics
  • Databases, Protein
  • Escherichia coli / metabolism
  • Fungal Proteins / chemistry
  • Humans
  • Protein Interaction Mapping / methods*
  • Sequence Alignment
  • Software*
  • Species Specificity
  • Systems Biology
  • Two-Hybrid System Techniques


  • Fungal Proteins