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Comput Biol Chem. 2011 Jun;35(3):121-5. doi: 10.1016/j.compbiolchem.2011.04.005.

Do cancer proteins really interact strongly in the human protein-protein interaction network?

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Department of Biomedical Informatics, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville, TN 37232, USA.


Protein-protein interaction (PPI) network analysis has been widely applied in the investigation of the mechanisms of diseases, especially cancer. Recent studies revealed that cancer proteins tend to interact more strongly than other categories of proteins, even essential proteins, in the human interactome. However, it remains unclear whether this observation was introduced by the bias towards more cancer studies in humans. Here, we examined this important issue by uniquely comparing network characteristics of cancer proteins with three other sets of proteins in four organisms, three of which (fly, worm, and yeast) whose interactomes are essentially not biased towards cancer or other diseases. We confirmed that cancer proteins had stronger connectivity, shorter distance, and larger betweenness centrality than non-cancer disease proteins, essential proteins, and control proteins. Our statistical evaluation indicated that such observations were overall unlikely attributed to random events. Considering the large size and high quality of the PPI data in the four organisms, the conclusion that cancer proteins interact strongly in the PPI networks is reliable and robust. This conclusion suggests that perturbation of cancer proteins might cause major changes of cellular systems and result in abnormal cell function leading to cancer.


Cancer genes; Cancer proteins; Global network characteristics; Network topology; Protein interaction network; Protein-protein interactions

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