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Bioinformatics. 2003 Nov 22;19(17):2271-82.

Sensitivity and specificity of inferring genetic regulatory interactions from microarray experiments with dynamic Bayesian networks.

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  • Biomathematics and Statistics Scotland, JCMB, The King's Buildings, Edinburgh, EH9 3JZ, UK. dirk@bioss.ac.uk



Bayesian networks have been applied to infer genetic regulatory interactions from microarray gene expression data. This inference problem is particularly hard in that interactions between hundreds of genes have to be learned from very small data sets, typically containing only a few dozen time points during a cell cycle. Most previous studies have assessed the inference results on real gene expression data by comparing predicted genetic regulatory interactions with those known from the biological literature. This approach is controversial due to the absence of known gold standards, which renders the estimation of the sensitivity and specificity, that is, the true and (complementary) false detection rate, unreliable and difficult. The objective of the present study is to test the viability of the Bayesian network paradigm in a realistic simulation study. First, gene expression data are simulated from a realistic biological network involving DNAs, mRNAs, inactive protein monomers and active protein dimers. Then, interaction networks are inferred from these data in a reverse engineering approach, using Bayesian networks and Bayesian learning with Markov chain Monte Carlo.


The simulation results are presented as receiver operator characteristics curves. This allows estimating the proportion of spurious gene interactions incurred for a specified target proportion of recovered true interactions. The findings demonstrate how the network inference performance varies with the training set size, the degree of inadequacy of prior assumptions, the experimental sampling strategy and the inclusion of further, sequence-based information.


The programs and data used in the present study are available from http://www.bioss.sari.ac.uk/~dirk/Supplements

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