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J Cell Biochem. 2019 Jan;120(1):405-416. doi: 10.1002/jcb.27395. Epub 2018 Aug 20.

Identification of synthetic lethality based on a functional network by using machine learning algorithms.

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School of Life Sciences, Shanghai University, Shanghai, China.
Department of Radiology, Columbia University Medical Center, New York.
Institute of Health Sciences, Shanghai Institutes for Biological Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Shanghai, China.
College of Information Engineering, Shanghai Maritime University, Shanghai, China.


Synthetic lethality is the synthesis of mutations leading to cell death. Tumor-specific synthetic lethality has been targeted in research to improve cancer therapy. With the advances of techniques in molecular biology, such as RNAi and CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing, efforts have been made to systematically identify synthetic lethal interactions, especially for frequently mutated genes in cancers. However, elucidating the mechanism of synthetic lethality remains a challenge because of the complexity of its influencing conditions. In this study, we proposed a new computational method to identify critical functional features that can accurately predict synthetic lethal interactions. This method incorporates several machine learning algorithms and encodes protein-coding genes by an enrichment system derived from gene ontology terms and Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes pathways to represent their functional features. We built a random forest-based prediction engine by using 2120 selected features and obtained a Matthews correlation coefficient of 0.532. We examined the top 15 features and found that most of them have potential roles in synthetic lethality according to previous studies. These results demonstrate the ability of our proposed method to predict synthetic lethal interactions and provide a basis for further characterization of these particular genetic combinations.


maximum relevance and minimum redundancy (mRMR); random forest (RF); synthetic lethality


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