Characterizing building blocks of resource constrained biological networks.

Research paper by Yuanfang Y Ren, Ahmet A Ay, Alin A Dobra, Tamer T Kahveci

Indexed on: 28 Feb '20Published on: 21 Jun '19Published in: BMC Bioinformatics


Identification of motifs-recurrent and statistically significant patterns-in biological networks is the key to understand the design principles, and to infer governing mechanisms of biological systems. This, however, is a computationally challenging task. This task is further complicated as biological interactions depend on limited resources, i.e., a reaction takes place if the reactant molecule concentrations are above a certain threshold level. This biochemical property implies that network edges can participate in a limited number of motifs simultaneously. Existing motif counting methods ignore this problem. This simplification often leads to inaccurate motif counts (over- or under-estimates), and thus, wrong biological interpretations. In this paper, we develop a novel motif counting algorithm, Partially Overlapping MOtif Counting (POMOC), that considers capacity levels for all interactions in counting motifs. Our experiments on real and synthetic networks demonstrate that motif count using the POMOC method significantly differs from the existing motif counting approaches, and our method extends to large-scale biological networks in practical time. Our results also show that our method makes it possible to characterize the impact of different stress factors on cell's organization of network. In this regard, analysis of a S. cerevisiae transcriptional regulatory network using our method shows that oxidative stress is more disruptive to organization and abundance of motifs in this network than mutations of individual genes. Our analysis also suggests that by focusing on the edges that lead to variation in motif counts, our method can be used to find important genes, and to reveal subtle topological and functional differences of the biological networks under different cell states.