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Logo of nihpaAbout Author manuscriptsSubmit a manuscriptNIH Public Access; Author Manuscript; Accepted for publication in peer reviewed journal;
Nat Methods. Author manuscript; available in PMC Feb 1, 2013.
Published in final edited form as:
PMCID: PMC3512113

Wisdom of crowds for robust gene network inference


Reconstructing gene regulatory networks from high-throughput data is a long-standing problem. Through the DREAM project (Dialogue on Reverse Engineering Assessment and Methods), we performed a comprehensive blind assessment of over thirty network inference methods on Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, and in silico microarray data. We characterize performance, data requirements, and inherent biases of different inference approaches offering guidelines for both algorithm application and development. We observe that no single inference method performs optimally across all datasets. In contrast, integration of predictions from multiple inference methods shows robust and high performance across diverse datasets. Thereby, we construct high-confidence networks for E. coli and S. aureus, each comprising ~1700 transcriptional interactions at an estimated precision of 50%. We experimentally test 53 novel interactions in E. coli, of which 23 were supported (43%). Our results establish community-based methods as a powerful and robust tool for the inference of transcriptional gene regulatory networks.


“The wisdom of crowds,” refers to the phenomenon in which the collective knowledge of a community is greater than the knowledge of any individual1. Based on this concept, we developed a community approach to address one of the long-standing challenges in molecular and computational biology, which is to uncover and model gene regulatory networks. Genome-scale inference of transcriptional gene regulation has become possible with the advent of high-throughput technologies such as microarrays and RNA sequencing, as they provide snapshots of the transcriptome under many tested experimental conditions. From these data, the challenge is to computationally predict direct regulatory interactions between a transcription factor and its target genes; the aggregate of all predicted interactions comprise the gene regulatory network. A wide range of network inference methods have been developed to address this challenge, from those exclusive to gene expression data2,3 to methods that integrate multiple classes of data47. These approaches have been successfully used to address many biological problems811, yet when applied to the same data, they can generate quite disparate sets of predicted interactions2,3.

Understanding the advantages and limitations of different network inference methods is critical for their effective application in a given biological context. The DREAM project has been established as a framework to enable such an assessment through standardized performance metrics and common benchmarks12 (www.the-dream-project.org). DREAM is organized around annual challenges, whereby the community of network inference experts is solicited to run their algorithms on benchmark datasets, participating teams submit their solutions to the challenge, and the submissions are evaluated1214.

Here, we present the results for the transcriptional network inference challenge from DREAM5, the fifth annual set of DREAM systems biology challenges. The community of network inference experts was invited to infer genome-scale transcriptional regulatory networks from gene expression microarray datasets for a prokaryotic model organism (E. coli), a eukaryotic model organism (S. cerevisiae), a human pathogen (S. aureus), as well as an in silico benchmark (Fig. 1).

Figure 1
The DREAM5 network inference challenge

The predictions made from this challenge enable the first comprehensive characterization of network inference methods across different species and datasets, providing insights into method performance, data requirements, and inherent biases. We find that the performance of inference methods varies strongly, with a different method performing best in each setting. Taking advantage of variation, we integrate predictions across inference methods and demonstrate that the resulting community-based consensus networks are robust across species and datasets, achieving by far the best overall performance. Finally, we construct high-confidence consensus networks for E. coli and S. aureus, and experimentally test novel regulatory interactions in E. coli.

We make all benchmark datasets and team predictions, along with the integrated community predictions available as a public resource (Supplementary Data 1–5). In addition, we provide a web interface through the GenePattern genomic analysis platform15 (GP-DREAM, http://dream.broadinstitute.org), which allows researchers to apply top performing inference methods and construct consensus networks.


Network inference methods

Based on the DREAM5 challenge (Supplementary Notes 1–3), we compared 35 individual methods for inference of gene regulatory networks: 29 submitted by participants and an additional 6 commonly used “off-the-shelf” tools (Table 1). Based on descriptions provided by participants, the methods were classified into six categories: Regression, Mutual information, Correlation, Bayesian networks, Meta (methods that combine several different approaches), and Other (methods that do not belong to any of the previous categories) (Table 1).

Table 1
Network inference methods.

Performance of network inference methods

We used three gold standards for performance evaluation: experimentally validated interactions from a curated database (RegulonDB16) for E. coli; a high-confidence set of interactions supported by genome-wide transcription factor binding data17 (ChIP-chip) and evolutionarily conserved binding motifs18 for S. cerevisiae; and the known network for the in silico dataset (Methods). Performance on S. aureus was evaluated separately (see below) as there currently does not exist a sufficiently large set of experimentally validated interactions.

We assessed method performance for the E. coli, S. cerevisiae, and in silico datasets using the area under the precision-recall (AUPR) and receiver operating characteristic (AUROC) curves14, and an overall score that summarizes the performance across the three networks (Methods and Supplementary Note 4). Figure 2a shows the overall score and the performance on each network for all applied inference methods. On average, regulatory interactions were recovered much more reliably for the in silico and E. coli datasets compared to S. cerevisiae.

Figure 2
Evaluation of network inference methods

Interestingly, well-established “off-the-shelf” inference methods, such as CLR11 and ARACNE9 (Mutual Information 1 and 3), were significantly outperformed by several teams. The two teams with the best overall score used novel inference approaches based on random forests19 and ANOVA20 (Other 1 and 2), respectively (Table 1). However, when considering the performance on individual networks, these two inference methods only performed best for E. coli. Two regression methods achieved the best AUPR for the in silico benchmark (Regression 1 and 2) and two meta predictors for S. cerevisiae (Meta 1 and 5).

There was also strong variation of performance within each category of inference methods (Fig. 2a). For example, the overall scores obtained by regression methods range from the third best of the challenge, down to the fourth lowest. A similar spread in performance can be observed for other categories. We conclude that there is no superior category of inference methods and that performance depends largely on the specific implementation of each individual method. For example, several inference methods used the same sparse linear regression approach (lasso21), but exhibited large variation in performance because they implemented different data resampling strategies (Table 1 and Fig. 2a).

Complementarity of different inference methods

To examine the observed variation in performance, we analyzed complementary advantages and limitations of the different methods. As a first step, we explored the predicted interactions of all assessed methods by principal component analysis (Methods). The top principal components reveal four clusters of inference methods, which coincide with the major categories of inference approaches (Fig. 2b). Even though the prediction accuracy of methods from the same category varied strongly (Fig. 2a), PCA revealed they have an intrinsic bias to predict similar interactions.

We next analyzed how method-specific biases influenced the recovery of different connectivity patterns (network motifs), which revealed characteristic trends for different method categories (Fig. 2c). For example, feed-forward loops were most reliably recovered by mutual information and correlation-based methods, whereas sparse regression and Bayesian network methods performed worse at this task. The reason for this is the latter approaches preferentially select regulators that independently contribute to the expression of target genes. However, the assumption of independence is violated for genes regulated by mutually dependent transcription factors, as in the case of feed-forward loops. Indeed, linear cascades were more accurately predicted by regression and Bayesian network methods. This shows that current methods trade performance on cascades for performance on feed-forward loops (or vice versa).

For a subset of the transcription factors contained in the gold standards, knockout or overexpression experiments were supplied to DREAM5 participants, and a number of inference methods explicitly used this information. Consequently, these methods recovered target genes of deleted transcription factors more reliably than the inference methods that did not leverage this information (Fig. 2c). Explicit use of such knockouts also helped methods to more reliably draw the direction of edges between transcription factors. These observations suggest that measurements of transcription factor knockouts can be very informative for network reconstruction. In particular, this is the case for the E. coli dataset, which contained the largest number of such experiments (see Methods). To further explore the information content of different experiments, we employed a machine learning framework22 to systematically analyze the information gain from microarrays grouped according to the type of experimental perturbation (knockouts, drug perturbations, environmental perturbations, and time series; Supplementary Note 5). We found that experimental conditions independent of transcription factor knockout and overexpression also provide information, though at a reduced level.

Community networks outperform individual inference methods

Network inference methods have complementary advantages and limitations under different contexts, which suggests that combining the results of multiple inference methods could be a good strategy for improving predictions. We therefore integrated the predictions of all participating teams to construct community networks by re-scoring interactions according to their average rank across all methods (Supplementary Note 6). The integrated community network ranks 1st for in silico, 3rd for E. coli, and 6th for S. cerevisiae out of the 35 applied inference methods, which shows that the community network is consistently as good or better than the top individual methods (Fig. 2a). Thus, it has by far the best performance reflected in the overall score. We stress that, even though top-performing methods for a given network are competitive with the integrated community method, the performance of individual methods does not generalize across networks. Given the biological variation between organisms and the experimental variation between gene expression datasets, it is difficult to determine beforehand which methods will perform optimally for reconstructing an unknown regulatory network. In contrast, the community approach performs robustly across diverse datasets.

We next analyzed how the number of integrated methods affects the performance of community predictions by examining randomly sampled combinations of individual methods. On average, community methods perform better than individual inference methods even when integrating small sets of individual predictions, e.g., just five teams (Fig. 3a). Performance increases further with the number of integrated methods. For instance, given twenty inference methods, their integration ranks first or second 98% of the cases (Fig. 3b). We also found that the performance of the community network can be improved by increasing the diversity of the underlying inference methods. Consensus predictions from teams utilizing similar methodologies were outperformed by consensus predictions from diverse methodologies (Fig. 3c).

Figure 3
Analysis of community networks vs. individual inference methods

A key feature in taking a community network approach is robustness to the inclusion of a limited subset (up to ~20%) of poorly performing inference methods (Fig. 3d). Poor predictors essentially contributed noise, but this did not affect the performance of the community approach as a whole. This finding is crucial because the performance of individual methods when inferring regulatory networks for poorly studied organisms is not known a priori and is hard to evaluate empirically — even top performers on a benchmark network (e.g. E. coli) have varied performance when inferring a new, unknown network (e.g. S. aureus). On the other hand, adding good performers substantially increased the performance of the community approach (Fig. 3d), which highlights the importance of developing high quality individual inference methods.

E. coli and S. aureus community networks

To gain insights into transcriptional gene regulation for two bacteria, E. coli and S. aureus, we constructed networks for both organisms by integrating the predictions of all teams using the average rank method. Figure 4 shows the community networks for both organisms at a cutoff of 1,688 edges, which corresponds to an estimated precision of 50% for the E. coli network based on the gold standard of experimentally validated interactions from RegulonDB (Methods). At this cutoff, 50% of the de novo predicted regulatory edges were recovered known interactions; the remaining 50% may be false positives or newly discovered true interactions.

Figure 4
E. coli and S. aureus community networks

The precision of the S. aureus network cannot be measured accurately because there are comparatively few experimentally supported interactions available. Nevertheless, we confirmed the robustness of the consensus predictions by evaluating the network using the largely computationally-derived interactions from the RegPrecise database23 (Supplementary Note 7).

We found that the E. coli and S. aureus networks both have a modular structure24; that is, they comprise clusters of genes that are more densely connected amongst themselves than with other parts of the network. After identifying these modules24, we tested them for enrichment of Gene Ontology terms (Supplementary Note 7). Network modules are strongly enriched for very specific biological processes. This allowed us to assign unique functions to most of the identified modules in both networks (Fig. 4 and Supplementary Data 6). As a specific example of an enriched module, 27 genes in S. aureus are highly enriched for pathogenic genes (Fig. 4b). These include exotoxins (set7, set8, set11, set14), genes responsible for biofilm formation (tcaR) and antibiotic metabolism (tetR), as well as a cell surface protein (fnb). The remaining 20 genes of this module are uncharacterized, but the predicted connections suggest their role in pathogenesis. This example illustrates how the inferred networks generate specific hypotheses regarding both the regulation and function of uncharacterized genes, enabling targeted validation efforts.

Experimental support of novel interactions

In addition to validation against known interactions from the RegulonDB gold standard, we experimentally tested a subset of novel predictions from the E. coli community network described above. We selected 5 transcription factors (rhaR, cueR, purR, mprA, and gadE), and then individually tested each of the 53 corresponding target gene predictions (Supplementary Note 8). Using qPCR, we measured the expression of each predicted target gene in the absence and presence of a chemical inducer known to activate the corresponding transcription factor (rhamnose for rhaR, copper sulfate for cueR, adenine for purR, carbonyl cyanide m-chlorophenylhydrazone for mprA, and hydrogen chloride for gadE). To control for possible indirect transcriptional responses, we also measured target gene expression in transcription factor deletion strains, again in the absence and presence of the chemical inducer. Putative targets were considered confirmed if they showed (1) strong response to the inducer of the respective transcription factor in the wild type and (2) no response to the inducer in the transcription factor deletion strain. We observed a clear difference between the two responses (>1.8 fold) for 23 novel targets out of 53 tested (Fig. 4c); this corresponds to a precision of ~40% for novel interactions, which is in line with our estimate of ~50% precision based on known interactions from RegulonDB. We note that these data support a direct regulatory effect of the tested transcription factor on the target gene, but chromatin immunoprecipitation experiments would be required to determine physical binding.

We observe a large variation in experimental validation among individual transcription factors (Fig. 4c). For purR, a key regulator in purine nucleotide metabolism, 10 of the 12 predicted target genes were experimentally supported. Nucleotide metabolism is a fundamental biological process that is affected across multiple conditions, thus purR regulation is well sampled across the E. coli dataset. However, in the case of rhaR, a key regulator in L-rhamnose degradation, none of the novel target gene predictions showed signs of regulation. L-rhamnose degradation is a specialized process that is only activated in the presence of L-rhamnose, and there were no conditions in the E. coli dataset where L-rhamnose degradation was explicitly tested. In the instance of cueR, a transcriptional regulator activated in the presence of copper, 4 out of 7 novel target gene predictions were confirmed. As with rhaR, there were no conditions in the dataset that explicitly tested copper regulation, yet unlike rhaR, network inference methods were able to identify true positive cueR regulatory interactions. These results suggest that while the overall precision for the network is high, the reliability of predictions for individual transcription factors can vary. When constructing a compendium of microarrays for global network inference, biases towards oversampling a narrow set of experimental conditions should thus be avoided.


The DREAM project provides a unique framework where network inference methods from a community of experts are collected and impartially assessed on benchmark datasets. The collection of 35 inference methods assessed here itself constitutes a unique resource, as it spans all commonly used approaches in the field. In addition, the collection includes novel approaches (including the two best individual team performers of the challenge), representing a snapshot of the latest developments in the field.

Our analyses revealed specific advantages and limitations of different inference approaches (see Supplementary Note 9 and the full description of approaches in Supplementary Note 10). Sparse linear regression methods performed well, but only when data resampling strategies such as bootstrapping were used (the best performing regression methods all used data resampling, while the worst performing methods did not). Sparsity constraints employed by these methods effectively increased performance for cascade motifs, at the cost of missing interactions in feed-forward loops, fan-in, and fan-out motifs. Bayesian network methods exhibited below-average performance in this challenge, likely because they use heuristic searches, which are often too costly for systematic data resampling and may be better suited for smaller networks. Information theoretic methods performed better than correlation-based methods, but the two approaches had similar biases in predicting regulatory relationships. Compared to regression and Bayesian network methods, they perform better on feed-forward loops, fan-ins, and fan-outs (the more densely connected parts of the network), but have an increased rate of false positives for cascades. Meta predictors performed more robustly across datasets than other categories of methods, however, they could not match the robustness and performance of the community predictions, likely because they combine methods that do not provide sufficient diversity. Among all categories, methods that made explicit use of direct transcription factor perturbations (knockout or overexpression) greatly improved prediction accuracy for downstream targets (albeit at an increased false positive rate for cascades). For improving individual inference approaches we suggest the following: (1) optimally exploit direct transcription factor perturbations; (2) employ strategies to avoid over-fitting, such as data resampling; (3) develop more effective approaches to distinguish direct from indirect regulation (feed-forward loops vs. cascades).

Overall, methods performed well for the in silico and prokaryotic (E. coli) datasets; however, inferring gene regulatory networks from the eukaryotic (S. cerevisiae) dataset proved to be a greater challenge. A fundamental assumption of network inference algorithms is that mRNA levels of transcription factors and their targets tend to be correlated — we found that this is true for E. coli, but not for S. cerevisiae (Supplementary Note 5). While the lower coverage of S. cerevisiae gold standards may also play a role (E. coli has the best-known regulatory network of any free-living organism16), the poor correlation at the mRNA level in S. cerevisiae is likely due to the increased regulatory complexity and prevalence of post-transcriptional regulation in eukaryotes, suggesting that accurate inference of eukaryotic regulatory networks requires additional inputs, such as promoter sequences, transcription factor binding, and chromatin modification datasets7.

Individual studies that introduce a novel inference method naturally tend to focus on its advantages in a particular application, which can paint an over-optimistic picture of performance13. While previous studies have explored strengths and weaknesses of inference approaches2,3, the present assessment further shows that method performance is not robust across species and varies greatly even in the same category of inference methods (Table 1). This implies that performance is more related to the details of implementation, rather than the choice of the underlying methodology.

In network inference, variation in performance presents a problem, but at the same time offers a solution. By integrating the predictions from individual methods into community networks, we show that advantages of different methods complement each other, while limitations tend to be cancelled out. Instead of relying on a single inference method with uncertain performance on a previously unseen network, integrating predictions across inference methods becomes the best strategy. We note that not all of the 29 methods are required for enhanced performance. By considering complementary methods, we have shown that performance can be significantly improved with as few as three methods (Fig. 3c).

Ensemble-based methods have a storied past, with applications ranging from economics1 to machine learning25. In systems biology, robust models are often constructed from ensembles of instances (e.g., different parameterizations or model structures) that are derived from experimental data via a single approach2630, such as Monte Carlo sampling. In contrast, we formed consensus predictions from a large array of heterogeneous inference approaches. These “meta predictors” have been successful in other machine learning competitions31,32. We have observed from previous DREAM challenges anecdotal evidence that community predictions can rank amongst the top performers13, but we did not previously attempt a systematic study of prediction integration for network inference. Here we established, through rigorous assessments and experimentally derived datasets, the performance robustness of prediction integration for transcriptional gene network inference.

The shortcomings of individual methods revealed in our assessment present many opportunities for improving these methods. We also expect further improvements in performance from advanced community approaches that: (i) actively leverage the method-specific advantages with regard to the datasets and networks of interest; (ii) optimize diversity in the ensemble, e.g., by weighting methods so as to balance the contribution of different method categories or PCA clusters; and (iii) employ more sophisticated voting schemes to negotiate consensus networks. To help spur developments in these areas, we provide the GP-DREAM web platform for the community to develop and apply network inference and consensus methods (http://dream.broadinstitute.org). We will continue to expand this free toolkit with top performing methods from the DREAM challenges, as well as other methods contributed by the community.


Expression data and gold standards

The design of the DREAM5 network inference challenge is outlined in Figure 1 (full description in Supplementary Note 1). Affymetrix gene expression datasets were compiled for E. coli, S. aureus, and S. cerevisiae from the Gene Expression Omnibus (GEO) database50. Microarray datasets were uniformly normalized using Robust Multichip Averaging (RMA)51. Each dataset queries the underlying regulatory network in hundreds of different conditions, ranging from time courses to gene, drug, and environmental perturbations. Note that the number of measurements of transcription factor specific perturbations varies among the datasets (S. aureus: 0/161, E. coli: 67/806 and yeast: 3/537). The fourth dataset is an in silico counterpart to the E. coli dataset, generated using GeneNetWeaver52,53 (version 4.0). The structure of the in silico network corresponds to the E. coli transcriptional regulatory network from RegulonDB16 (10% random edges were added, resulting in 3,940 interactions). In addition to the gene expression data, we provide a list of putative transcription factors for each dataset and a number of descriptive features for each microarray experiment (e.g., the target of a gene deletion, or the time point of a time-series experiment). It is important to note that the identity of the organisms from which the data was generated was unknown to the participants. This was achieved by encrypting certain aspects of the data, and by anonymizing gene names.

Participants were presented the challenge to infer direct regulatory interactions between transcription factors and target genes from the given gene expression datasets. The submission format was a ranked list of predicted regulatory relationships for each network3.

The gold standard set of known transcriptional interactions for E. coli was obtained from RegulonDB16. We only included well-established interactions annotated with “strong evidence” according to RegulonDB evidence classification (2,066 interactions). For S. cerevisiae, we considered several alternative gold standards derived from orthogonal datasets, namely ChIP binding data and evolutionary conserved transcription factor binding motifs18, as well as systematic transcription factor deletions54 (Supplementary Note 3). For the results reported in the main text, we used the most stringent gold standard, which includes only interactions that have both strong evidence of binding and conservation18.

All data and scripts are available in Supplementary Data 1 and at the DREAM website: http://wiki.c2b2.columbia.edu/dream/index.php/D5c4. The original microarray datasets are also publically available at the Many Microbe Microarrays Database55 (M3D, http://m3d.bu.edu/dream).

Performance metrics

A detailed description of all performance metrics is given in Supplementary Note 4. Briefly, transcription factor-target predictions were evaluated as a binary classification task. The gold-standard networks represent the true positive interactions; the remaining pairs are considered negatives. Only the top 100,000 edge predictions were accepted. Pairs of nodes not part of the submitted list were considered to appear randomly ordered at the end of the list. Performance was assessed using the area under the ROC curve (AUROC) and the area under the precision vs. recall curve (AUPR)14. Note that predictions for genes that are not part of the gold standard, i.e., for which no experimentally supported interactions exist, were ignored in this evaluation.

AUROC and AUPR were separately transformed into p-values by simulating a null distribution for 25,000 random networks. Random edge lists were constructed by sampling edges from the submitted edge lists of the participants and assigning these edges random ranks between 1 and 100,000. The histogram of randomly obtained AUROC and AUPR values was fit using stretched exponentials to extrapolate the distribution to values beyond the immediate range of the histogram14. To compute an overall score that summarizes the performance over the three networks with available gold standards (E. coli, S. cerevisiae and in silico), we used the same metric as in the previous two editions of the challenge3,14, which is defined as the mean of the (log-transformed) network specific p-values:


Clustering of inference approaches by principal component analysis (PCA)

We constructed a prediction matrix P, where rows correspond to edges (transcription factor-target pairs) and columns to inference methods. The element pi,j of this matrix is thus the rank assigned to edge i by inference method j. We only considered edges that figured in the top 100,000 predicted edges of at least three inference methods, yielding 1,175,525 interactions across the four datasets. Note that knowledge of a gold standard network is not required for the PCA, thus the S. aureus predictions were included in this analysis. The dimensionality of the combined prediction matrix (including the predictions for all four datasets) was reduced by PCA using SVDLIBC with standard parameters (http://tedlab.mit.edu/~dr/SVDLIBC). Results are consistent when performing PCA for each of the four datasets separately (Supplementary Note 4).

Network motif analysis

The goal of the network motif analysis is to evaluate, for a given network inference method, whether some types of edges of motifs are systematically predicted less (or more) reliably than expected3. We considered the six motif types illustrated in Figure 2. For each type of motif m, we identified all instances in the gold standard network and determined the average rank rm assigned to its edges by the inference method. We further determined the average rank assigned to all edges that are not part of this motif type. The prediction bias is given by the difference rm.– rm See Supplementary Note 4 for details.

Experimental materials and design

Novel predictions were selected from the E. coli community network with greater than 50% predicted precision. Transcription factors with at least 8 novel predictions were selected, including rhaR, cueR, purR, mprA, and gadE (note that the dataset supplied to the DREAM5 participants did not contain any knockout measurement for these transcription factors). Primers were designed for all novel target gene predictions after accounting for operon structure and at least 1 known target of the transcription factor was included as a positive control. A total of 53 predictions and 6 positive controls were tested.

For each transcription factor, a knockout strain was generated from the background E. coli strain BW25113. Each transcription factor was induced by a different stimulus: rhamnose for rhaR, copper sulfate for cueR, adenine for purR, carbonyl cyanide m-chlorophenylhydrazone for mprA, and HCl for gadE. Four experimental conditions were used for each transcription factor: background strain without inducer (WT(−)), background strain with inducer (WT(+)), deletion strain without inducer (Δ(−)), and deletion strain with inducer (Δ(+)). Three biological replicates were generated for all experimental conditions. Cultures were grown in LB media or minimal media (Supplementary Note 8), and incubation was performed in darkened shakers (300 RPM) at 37°C. PCR primers were designed for all target genes. Target genes were quantified through qPCR using LightCycler 480 SYBR Green I Master Kit (Roche Applied Science). True positive interactions were expected to meet two criteria: (1) a strong response to the TF inducer in wild type, and (2) no or weak response to the TF inducer in the TF-deletion strain. Target gene interactions were considered to have “strong support” if the ratio of criteria 1 to criteria 2, (WT(+)/WT(−)) / (Δ(+)/Δ(−)), was greater than two and “weak support” if the ratio was greater than 1.8 (Supplementary Data 7).

Supplementary Material


We thank all challenge participants for their invaluable contribution. We thank R. Norel and J. Saez Rodriguez who participated in different aspects of the organization and scoring of DREAM5. We also thank P. Carr, M. Reich, J. Mesirov, and the rest of the GenePattern team for providing software and support. This work was in part funded by the National Institutes of Health National Centers for Biomedical Computing Roadmap Initiative (U54CA121852), Howard Hughes Medical Institute, National Institutes of Health Director’s Pioneer Award DPI OD003644, and a fellowship from the Swiss National Science Foundation to D.M. Challenge participants acknowledge: Grants no. ANR-07-BLAN-0311-03 and ANR-09-BLAN-0051-04 from the French National Research Agency (A.-C.H., P.V.-L., F.M., J.-P.V.); the Interuniversity Attraction Poles Programme (IAP P6/25 BIOMAGNET), initiated by the Belgian State, Science Policy Office, the French Community of Belgium (ARC Biomod), and the European Network of Excellence PASCAL2 (V.A.H.-T., A.I., L.W., Y.S., P.G.); V.A.H.-T. is recipient of a fellowship from the Fonds pour la formation à la Recherche dans l’Industrie et dans l’Agriculture (F.R.I.A., Belgium); Y.S. is a postdoctoral fellow of the Fonds voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek -Vlaanderen (FWO, Belgium); P.G. is Research Associate of the Fonds National de la Recherche Scientifique (FNRS, Belgium); the European Community’s 7th Framework Program, grant no. HEALTH-F4-2007-200767 for the APO-SYS program, and a doctoral fellowship from the Edmond J. Safra Bioinformatics Program at Tel Aviv University (G.K., R.S.); the Irish Research Council for Science Engineering and Technology for financial support under the EMBARK scheme, and the Irish Centre for High-End Computing for provision of computational facilities and technical support (A. Sîrbu, H.J.R., M.C.); the US National Cancer Institute grant no. U54CA132383 and US National Science Foundation grant no. HRD-0420407 (Z.O., Y.Z., H.W., M.S.); and the Sardinian Regional Authorities (A.F., A.P., N.S., V.L.).

The DREAM5 consortium

Andrej Aderhold1,2, Kyle R. Allison3, Richard Bonneau4,5,6, Diogo M. Camacho3, Yukun Chen7, James J. Collins3, Francesca Cordero8, 9, James C. Costello3, Martin Crane10, Frank Dondelinger1, 11, Mathias Drton12, Roberto Esposito8, Rina Foygel12, Alberto de la Fuente13, Jan Gertheiss14, Pierre Geurts15, 16, Alex Greenfield5, Marco Grzegorczyk17, Anne-Claire Haury18, 19, 20, Benjamin Holmes21, 22, Torsten Hothorn14, Dirk Husmeier1, Vân Anh Huynh-Thu15, 16, Alexandre Irrthum15, 16, Manolis Kellis21,22, Guy Karlebach23, Robert Küffner24, Sophie Lèbre25, Vincenzo De Leo13, 26, Aviv Madar4, Subramani Mani7, Daniel Marbach21, 22, Fantine Mordelet18, 19, 20, 27, Harry Ostrer28, Zhengyu Ouyang29, Ravi Pandya30, Tobias Petri24, Andrea Pinna13, Christopher S. Poultney4, Robert J. Prill31, Serena Rezny12, Heather J. Ruskin10, Yvan Saeys32, 33, Ron Shamir23, Alina Sîrbu10, Mingzhou Song29, Nicola Soranzo13, Alexander Statnikov34, Gustavo Stolovitzky31, Nicci Vega3, Paola Vera-Licona18, 19, 20, Jean-Philippe Vert18, 19, 20, Alessia Visconti8, Haizhou Wang29, Louis Wehenkel15, 16, Lukas Windhager24, Yang Zhang29, and Ralf Zimmer24


1Biomathematics and Statistics Scotland, Edinburgh & Aberdeen, UK

2School of Biology, University of St Andrews, UK

3Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Department of Biomedical Engineering, and Center for BioDynamics, Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.

4Department of Biology, Center for Genomics & Systems Biology, New York University, New York, NY, USA

5Computational Biology Program, New York University Sackler School of Medicine, New York, NY, USA

6Computer Science Department, Courant institute of Mathematical Sciences, New York University, New York, NY, USA

7Department of Biomedical Informatics, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN, USA

8Department of Computer Science, Corso Svizzera 185, 10149, Torino, Italy

9Department of Clinical and Biological Sciences, Regione Gonzole 10, Orbassano, Italy

10Centre for Scientific Computing and Complex Systems Modelling, School of Computing, Dublin City University, Ireland

11School of Informatics, University of Edinburgh, UK

12University of Chicago, Department of Statistics, Chicago, IL, USA

13CRS4 Bioinformatica, Parco Tecnologico della Sardegna, Edificio 3, Loc. Piscina Manna, 09010 Pula (CA), Italy

14Ludwig-Maximilians University, Department of Statistics, Ludwigstr. 33, 80539 Munich, Germany

15Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Systems and Modeling, University of Liège, Belgium

16GIGA-Research, Bioinformatics and Modeling, University of Liège, Belgium

17Department of Statistics, TU Dortmund University, Germany

18Mines ParisTech, CBIO, 35 rue Saint-Honoré, Fontainebleau, F-77300, France

19Institut Curie, Paris, F-75248, France

20INSERM, U900, Paris, F-75248, France

21Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.

22 Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.

23 The Blavatnik School of Computer Science, Tel Aviv University, Israel

24 Ludwig-Maximilians University, Department of Informatics, Amalienstr. 17, 80333 Munich, Germany

25 LSIIT, UMR UdS-CNRS 7005, Illkirch Université de Strasbourg, France

26 Linkalab, Complex Systems Computational Laboratory, 09100 Cagliari (CA), Italy

27 CREST, INSEE, Malakoff, F-92240, France

28Human Genetics Program, Department of Pediatrics, New York University Langone Medical Center, New York, NY, USA

29 Department of Computer Science, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, NM, USA

30 Microsoft Research, 1 Microsoft Way, Redmond, WA, USA

31 IBM T. J. Watson Research Center, Yorktown Heights, New York, USA.

32 Department of Plant Systems Biology, VIB, Gent, Belgium

33 Department of Plant Biotechnology and Bioinformatics, Ghent University, Gent, Belgium

34 Center for Health Informatics and Bioinformatics, New York University, New York, NY, USA

Author contributions

D.M., J.C.C., D.M.C., R.J.P., M.K., J.J.C., and G.S. conceived the challenge; R.J.P. and G.S. performed team scoring; N.V. and K.R.A. performed experimental validation; D.M., J.C.C., R.K., R.J.P., and G.S. performed research; D.M., J.C.C., R.K., N.V., R.J.P., K.R.A., M.K., J.J.C., and G.S. analyzed results; D.M., J.C.C., R.K., M.K., J.J.C., and G.S. wrote the paper; and challenge participants performed network inference and provided method descriptions.


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