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BMC Syst Biol. 2009 Mar 11;3:32. doi: 10.1186/1752-0509-3-32.

Topological and organizational properties of the products of house-keeping and tissue-specific genes in protein-protein interaction networks.

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Institute of Biomedical Informatics, National Yang-Ming University, Taipei, Taiwan.



Human cells of various tissue types differ greatly in morphology despite having the same set of genetic information. Some genes are expressed in all cell types to perform house-keeping functions, while some are selectively expressed to perform tissue-specific functions. In this study, we wished to elucidate how proteins encoded by human house-keeping genes and tissue-specific genes are organized in human protein-protein interaction networks. We constructed protein-protein interaction networks for different tissue types using two gene expression datasets and one protein-protein interaction database. We then calculated three network indices of topological importance, the degree, closeness, and betweenness centralities, to measure the network position of proteins encoded by house-keeping and tissue-specific genes, and quantified their local connectivity structure.


Compared to a random selection of proteins, house-keeping gene-encoded proteins tended to have a greater number of directly interacting neighbors and occupy network positions in several shortest paths of interaction between protein pairs, whereas tissue-specific gene-encoded proteins did not. In addition, house-keeping gene-encoded proteins tended to connect with other house-keeping gene-encoded proteins in all tissue types, whereas tissue-specific gene-encoded proteins also tended to connect with other tissue-specific gene-encoded proteins, but only in approximately half of the tissue types examined.


Our analysis showed that house-keeping gene-encoded proteins tend to occupy important network positions, while those encoded by tissue-specific genes do not. The biological implications of our findings were discussed and we proposed a hypothesis regarding how cells organize their protein tools in protein-protein interaction networks. Our results led us to speculate that house-keeping gene-encoded proteins might form a core in human protein-protein interaction networks, while clusters of tissue-specific gene-encoded proteins are attached to the core at more peripheral positions of the networks.

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