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Modeling Stress-Induced Regulatory Cascades with Artificial Neural Networks

Authors: Maria E. Manioudaki, Panayiota Poirazi


Yeast cells live in a constantly changing environment that requires the continuous adaptation of their genomic program in order to sustain their homeostasis, survive and proliferate. Due to the advancement of high throughput technologies, there is currently a large amount of data such as gene expression, gene deletion and protein-protein interactions for S. Cerevisiae under various environmental conditions. Mining these datasets requires efficient computational methods capable of integrating different types of data, identifying inter-relations between different components and inferring functional groups or 'modules' that shape intracellular processes. This study uses computational methods to delineate some of the mechanisms used by yeast cells to respond to environmental changes. The GRAM algorithm is first used to integrate gene expression data and ChIP-chip data in order to find modules of coexpressed and co-regulated genes as well as the transcription factors (TFs) that regulate these modules. Since transcription factors are themselves transcriptionally regulated, a three-layer regulatory cascade consisting of the TF-regulators, the TFs and the regulated modules is subsequently considered. This three-layer cascade is then modeled quantitatively using artificial neural networks (ANNs) where the input layer corresponds to the expression of the up-stream transcription factors (TF-regulators) and the output layer corresponds to the expression of genes within each module. This work shows that (a) the expression of at least 33 genes over time and for different stress conditions is well predicted by the expression of the top layer transcription factors, including cases in which the effect of up-stream regulators is shifted in time and (b) identifies at least 6 novel regulatory interactions that were not previously associated with stress-induced changes in gene expression. These findings suggest that the combination of gene expression and protein-DNA interaction data with artificial neural networks can successfully model biological pathways and capture quantitative dependencies between distant regulators and downstream genes.

Keywords: gene modules, artificial neural networks, yeast, stress

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