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PLoS One. 2012;7(1):e28713. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0028713. Epub 2012 Jan 9.

Investigating meta-approaches for reconstructing gene networks in a mammalian cellular context.

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Department of Computer Science, Faculty of Computer Science & Information Technology, University Putra Malaysia, Malaysia, Selangor, Malaysia.


The output of state-of-the-art reverse-engineering methods for biological networks is often based on the fitting of a mathematical model to the data. Typically, different datasets do not give single consistent network predictions but rather an ensemble of inconsistent networks inferred under the same reverse-engineering method that are only consistent with the specific experimentally measured data. Here, we focus on an alternative approach for combining the information contained within such an ensemble of inconsistent gene networks called meta-analysis, to make more accurate predictions and to estimate the reliability of these predictions. We review two existing meta-analysis approaches; the Fisher transformation combined coefficient test (FTCCT) and Fisher's inverse combined probability test (FICPT); and compare their performance with five well-known methods, ARACNe, Context Likelihood or Relatedness network (CLR), Maximum Relevance Minimum Redundancy (MRNET), Relevance Network (RN) and Bayesian Network (BN). We conducted in-depth numerical ensemble simulations and demonstrated for biological expression data that the meta-analysis approaches consistently outperformed the best gene regulatory network inference (GRNI) methods in the literature. Furthermore, the meta-analysis approaches have a low computational complexity. We conclude that the meta-analysis approaches are a powerful tool for integrating different datasets to give more accurate and reliable predictions for biological networks.

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