Inferring Differential Networks by Integrating Gene Expression Data With Additional Knowledge

Front Genet. 2021 Nov 11;12:760155. doi: 10.3389/fgene.2021.760155. eCollection 2021.


Evidences increasingly indicate the involvement of gene network rewiring in disease development and cell differentiation. With the accumulation of high-throughput gene expression data, it is now possible to infer the changes of gene networks between two different states or cell types via computational approaches. However, the distribution diversity of multi-platform gene expression data and the sparseness and high noise rate of single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq) data raise new challenges for existing differential network estimation methods. Furthermore, most existing methods are purely rely on gene expression data, and ignore the additional information provided by various existing biological knowledge. In this study, to address these challenges, we propose a general framework, named weighted joint sparse penalized D-trace model (WJSDM), to infer differential gene networks by integrating multi-platform gene expression data and multiple prior biological knowledge. Firstly, a non-paranormal graphical model is employed to tackle gene expression data with missing values. Then we propose a weighted group bridge penalty to integrate multi-platform gene expression data and various existing biological knowledge. Experiment results on synthetic data demonstrate the effectiveness of our method in inferring differential networks. We apply our method to the gene expression data of ovarian cancer and the scRNA-seq data of circulating tumor cells of prostate cancer, and infer the differential network associated with platinum resistance of ovarian cancer and anti-androgen resistance of prostate cancer. By analyzing the estimated differential networks, we find some important biological insights about the mechanisms underlying platinum resistance of ovarian cancer and anti-androgen resistance of prostate cancer.

Keywords: differential network analysis; gene regulatory network; graphical model; prior information; single-cell RNA sequencing.