Although many methods have been proposed to reconstruct gene regulatory network, most of them, when applied in the sample-based data, can not reveal the gene regulatory relations underlying the phenotypic change (e.g. normal versus cancer). In this paper, we adopt phenotype as a variable when constructing the gene regulatory network, while former researches either neglected it or only used it to select the differentially expressed genes as the inputs to construct the gene regulatory network. To be specific, we integrate phenotype information with gene expression data to identify the gene dependency pairs by using the method of conditional mutual information. A gene dependency pair (A,B) means that the influence of gene A on the phenotype depends on gene B. All identified gene dependency pairs constitute a directed network underlying the phenotype, namely gene dependency network. By this way, we have constructed gene dependency network of breast cancer from gene expression data along with two different phenotype states (metastasis and non-metastasis). Moreover, we have found the network scale free, indicating that its hub genes with high out-degrees may play critical roles in the network. After functional investigation, these hub genes are found to be biologically significant and specially related to breast cancer, which suggests that our gene dependency network is meaningful. The validity has also been justified by literature investigation. From the network, we have selected 43 discriminative hubs as signature to build the classification model for distinguishing the distant metastasis risks of breast cancer patients, and the result outperforms those classification models with published signatures. In conclusion, we have proposed a promising way to construct the gene regulatory network by using sample-based data, which has been shown to be effective and accurate in uncovering the hidden mechanism of the biological process and identifying the gene signature for phenotypic change.
Zhou, X., & Liu, J. (2014). Inferring gene dependency network specific to phenotypic alteration based on gene expression data and clinical information of breast cancer. PLoS ONE, 9(3). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0092023