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Sci Rep. 2015 Apr 28;5:9634. doi: 10.1038/srep09634.

Discerning mechanistically rewired biological pathways by cumulative interaction heterogeneity statistics.

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Department of Computer Science, New Mexico State University, NM 88003, Las Cruces, USA.
Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, New Mexico State University, NM 88003, Las Cruces, USA.


Changes in response of a biological pathway could be a consequence of either pathway rewiring, changed input, or a combination of both. Most pathway analysis methods are not designed for mechanistic rewiring such as regulatory element variations. This limits our understanding of biological pathway evolution. Here we present a Q-method to discern whether changed pathway response is caused by mechanistic rewiring of pathways due to evolution. The main innovation is a cumulative pathway interaction heterogeneity statistic accounting for rewiring-specific effects on the rate of change of each molecular variable across conditions. The Q-method remarkably outperformed differential-correlation based approaches on data from diverse biological processes. Strikingly, it also worked well in differentiating rewired chaotic systems, whose dynamics are notoriously difficult to predict. Applying the Q-method on transcriptome data of four yeasts, we show that pathway interaction heterogeneity for known metabolic and signaling pathways is indeed a predictor of interspecies genetic rewiring due to unbalanced TATA box-containing genes among the yeasts. The demonstrated effectiveness of the Q-method paves the way to understanding network evolution at the resolution of functional biological pathways.

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