Prior knowledge driven Granger causality analysis on gene regulatory network discovery

Shun Yao, Shinjae Yoo, Dantong Yu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Background: Our study focuses on discovering gene regulatory networks from time series gene expression data using the Granger causality (GC) model. However, the number of available time points (T) usually is much smaller than the number of target genes (n) in biological datasets. The widely applied pairwise GC model (PGC) and other regularization strategies can lead to a significant number of false identifications when n>>T. Results: In this study, we proposed a new method, viz., CGC-2SPR (CGC using two-step prior Ridge regularization) to resolve the problem by incorporating prior biological knowledge about a target gene data set. In our simulation experiments, the propose new methodology CGC-2SPR showed significant performance improvement in terms of accuracy over other widely used GC modeling (PGC, Ridge and Lasso) and MI-based (MRNET and ARACNE) methods. In addition, we applied CGC-2SPR to a real biological dataset, i.e., the yeast metabolic cycle, and discovered more true positive edges with CGC-2SPR than with the other existing methods. Conclusions: In our research, we noticed a " 1+1>2" effect when we combined prior knowledge and gene expression data to discover regulatory networks. Based on causality networks, we made a functional prediction that the Abm1 gene (its functions previously were unknown) might be related to the yeast's responses to different levels of glucose. Our research improves causality modeling by combining heterogeneous knowledge, which is well aligned with the future direction in system biology. Furthermore, we proposed a method of Monte Carlo significance estimation (MCSE) to calculate the edge significances which provide statistical meanings to the discovered causality networks. All of our data and source codes will be available under the link .

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number273
JournalBMC Bioinformatics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Aug 28 2015
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Structural Biology
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Applied Mathematics


  • Gene expression data
  • Gene regulatory networks
  • Granger causality
  • Time series


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