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BMC Syst Biol. 2017 Nov 22;11(1):110. doi: 10.1186/s12918-017-0495-0.

Graph-theoretical comparison of normal and tumor networks in identifying BRCA genes.

Author information

Clinical Bioinformatics Research Area, Fundación Progreso y Salud, Hospital Virgen del Rocío, Sevilla, Spain.
Computer Engineering, Antalya Bilim University, Antalya, Turkey.



Identification of driver genes related to certain types of cancer is an important research topic. Several systems biology approaches have been suggested, in particular for the identification of breast cancer (BRCA) related genes. Such approaches usually rely on differential gene expression and/or mutational landscape data. In some cases interaction network data is also integrated to identify cancer-related modules computationally.


We provide a framework for the comparative graph-theoretical analysis of networks integrating the relevant gene expression, mutations, and potein-protein interaction network data. The comparisons involve a graph-theoretical analysis of normal and tumor network pairs across all instances of a given set of breast cancer samples. The network measures under consideration are based on appropriate formulations of various centrality measures: betweenness, clustering coefficients, degree centrality, random walk distances, graph-theoretical distances, and Jaccard index centrality.


Among all the studied centrality-based graph-theoretical properties, we show that a betweenness-based measure differentiates BRCA genes across all normal versus tumor network pairs, than the rest of the popular centrality-based measures. The AUROC and AUPR values of the gene lists ordered with respect to the measures under study as compared to NCBI BioSystems pathway and the COSMIC database of cancer genes are the largest with the betweenness-based differentiation, followed by the measure based on degree centrality. In order to test the robustness of the suggested measures in prioritizing cancer genes, we further tested the two most promising measures, those based on betweenness and degree centralities, on randomly rewired networks. We show that both measures are quite resilient to noise in the input interaction network. We also compared the same measures against a state-of-the-art alternative disease gene prioritization method, MUFFFINN. We show that both our graph-theoretical measures outperform MUFFINN prioritizations in terms of ROC and precions/recall analysis. Finally, we filter the ordered list of the best measure, the betweenness-based differentiation, via a maximum-weight independent set formulation and investigate the top 50 genes in regards to literature verification. We show that almost all genes in the list are verified by the breast cancer literature and three genes are presented as novel genes that may potentialy be BRCA-related but missing in literature.


BRCA; Interactome; Network centrality

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