Cross-species network and transcript transfer. (English) Zbl 1339.92003

München: Univ. München, Fakultät für Mathematik, Informatik und Statistik (Diss.). xiv, 141 p. (2016).
Summary: Metabolic processes, signal transduction, gene regulation, as well as gene and protein expression are largely controlled by biological networks. High-throughput experiments allow the measurement of a wide range of cellular states and interactions. However, networks are often not known in detail for specific biological systems and conditions. Gene and protein annotations are often transferred from model organisms to the species of interest. Therefore, the question arises whether biological networks can be transferred between species or whether they are specific for individual contexts. In this thesis, the following aspects are investigated: (i) the conservation and (ii) the cross-species transfer of eukaryotic protein-interaction and gene regulatory (transcription factor-target) networks, as well as (iii) the conservation of alternatively spliced variants.
In the simplest case, interactions can be transferred between species, based solely on the sequence similarity of the orthologous genes. However, such a transfer often results either in the transfer of only a few interactions (medium/high sequence similarity threshold) or in the transfer of many speculative interactions (low sequence similarity threshold). Thus, advanced network transfer approaches also consider the annotations of orthologous genes involved in the interaction transfer, as well as features derived from the network structure, in order to enable a reliable interaction transfer, even between phylogenetically very distant species. In this work, such an approach for the transfer of protein interactions is presented (COIN).
COIN uses a sophisticated machine-learning model in order to label transferred interactions as either correctly transferred (conserved) or as incorrectly transferred (not conserved). The comparison and the cross-species transfer of regulatory networks is more difficult than the transfer of protein interaction networks, as a huge fraction of the known regulations is only described in the (not machine-readable) scientific literature. In addition, compared to protein interactions, only a few conserved regulations are known, and regulatory elements appear to be strongly context-specific. In this work, the cross-species analysis of regulatory interaction networks is enabled with software tools and databases for global (ConReg) and thousands of context-specific (CroCo) regulatory interactions that are derived and integrated from the scientific literature, binding site predictions and experimental data. Genes and their protein products are the main players in biological networks. However, to date, the aspect is neglected that a gene can encode different proteins. These alternative proteins can differ strongly from each other with respect to their molecular structure, function and their role in networks. The identification of conserved and species-specific splice variants and the integration of variants in network models will allow a more complete cross-species transfer and comparison of biological networks. With ISAR we support the cross-species transfer and comparison of alternative variants by introducing a gene-structure aware (i.e., exon-intron structure aware) multiple sequence alignment approach for variants from orthologous and paralogous genes.
The methods presented here and the appropriate databases allow the cross-species transfer of biological networks, the comparison of thousands of context-specific networks, and the cross-species comparison of alternatively spliced variants. Thus, they can be used as a starting point for the understanding of regulatory and signaling mechanisms in many biological systems.


92-02 Research exposition (monographs, survey articles) pertaining to biology
92C42 Systems biology, networks
92D10 Genetics and epigenetics
92D20 Protein sequences, DNA sequences
68T05 Learning and adaptive systems in artificial intelligence
92B20 Neural networks for/in biological studies, artificial life and related topics
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