A Novel Calibration Step in Gene Co-Expression Network Construction

Niloofar Aghaieabiane, Ioannis Koutis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


High-throughput technologies such as DNA microarrays and RNA-sequencing are used to measure the expression levels of large numbers of genes simultaneously. To support the extraction of biological knowledge, individual gene expression levels are transformed to Gene Co-expression Networks (GCNs). In a GCN, nodes correspond to genes, and the weight of the connection between two nodes is a measure of similarity in the expression behavior of the two genes. In general, GCN construction and analysis includes three steps; 1) calculating a similarity value for each pair of genes 2) using these similarity values to construct a fully connected weighted network 3) finding clusters of genes in the network, commonly called modules. The specific implementation of these three steps can significantly impact the final output and the downstream biological analysis. GCN construction is a well-studied topic. Existing algorithms rely on relatively simple statistical and mathematical tools to implement these steps. Currently, software package WGCNA appears to be the most widely accepted standard. We hypothesize that the raw features provided by sequencing data can be leveraged to extract modules of higher quality. A novel preprocessing step of the gene expression data set is introduced that in effect calibrates the expression levels of individual genes, before computing pairwise similarities. Further, the similarity is computed as an inner-product of positive vectors. In experiments, this provides a significant improvement over WGCNA, as measured by aggregate p-values of the gene ontology term enrichment of the computed modules.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number704817
JournalFrontiers in Bioinformatics
StatePublished - 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry
  • Biotechnology
  • Computational Mathematics
  • Statistics and Probability
  • Structural Biology


  • Clustering
  • Gene Ontology
  • Gene co-expression networks
  • Similarity function
  • Topological Overlap Measure


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