Background: As numerous experimental factors drive the acquisition, identification, and interpretation of protein-protein interactions (PPIs), aggregated assemblies of human PPI data invariably contain experiment-dependent noise. Ascertaining the reliability of PPIs collected from these diverse studies and scoring them to infer high-confidence networks is a non-trivial task. Moreover, a large number of PPIs share the same number of reported occurrences, making it impossible to distinguish the reliability of these PPIs and rank-order them. For example, for the data analyzed here, we found that the majority (>83%) of currently available human PPIs have been reported only once.
Results: In this work, we proposed an unsupervised statistical approach to score a set of diverse, experimentally identified PPIs from nine primary databases to create subsets of high-confidence human PPI networks. We evaluated this ranking method by comparing it with other methods and assessing their ability to retrieve protein associations from a number of diverse and independent reference sets. These reference sets contain known biological data that are either directly or indirectly linked to interactions between proteins. We quantified the average effect of using ranked protein interaction data to retrieve this information and showed that, when compared to randomly ranked interaction data sets, the proposed method created a larger enrichment (~134%) than either ranking based on the hypergeometric test (~109%) or occurrence ranking (~46%).
Conclusions: From our evaluations, it was clear that ranked interactions were always of value because higher-ranked PPIs had a higher likelihood of retrieving high-confidence experimental data. Reducing the noise inherent in aggregated experimental PPIs via our ranking scheme further increased the accuracy and enrichment of PPIs derived from a number of biologically relevant data sets. These results suggest that using our high-confidence protein interactions at different levels of confidence will help clarify the topological and biological properties associated with human protein networks.