- Open Access
CMIP: a software package capable of reconstructing genome-wide regulatory networks using gene expression data
- Guangyong Zheng†1Email author,
- Yaochen Xu†1, 2,
- Xiujun Zhang3,
- Zhi-Ping Liu3,
- Zhuo Wang4,
- Luonan Chen3Email author and
- Xin-Guang Zhu1Email author
© The Author(s). 2016
- Published: 23 December 2016
A gene regulatory network (GRN) represents interactions of genes inside a cell or tissue, in which vertexes and edges stand for genes and their regulatory interactions respectively. Reconstruction of gene regulatory networks, in particular, genome-scale networks, is essential for comparative exploration of different species and mechanistic investigation of biological processes. Currently, most of network inference methods are computationally intensive, which are usually effective for small-scale tasks (e.g., networks with a few hundred genes), but are difficult to construct GRNs at genome-scale.
Here, we present a software package for gene regulatory network reconstruction at a genomic level, in which gene interaction is measured by the conditional mutual information measurement using a parallel computing framework (so the package is named CMIP). The package is a greatly improved implementation of our previous PCA-CMI algorithm. In CMIP, we provide not only an automatic threshold determination method but also an effective parallel computing framework for network inference. Performance tests on benchmark datasets show that the accuracy of CMIP is comparable to most current network inference methods. Moreover, running tests on synthetic datasets demonstrate that CMIP can handle large datasets especially genome-wide datasets within an acceptable time period. In addition, successful application on a real genomic dataset confirms its practical applicability of the package.
This new software package provides a powerful tool for genomic network reconstruction to biological community. The software can be accessed at http://www.picb.ac.cn/CMIP/.
- Gene regulatory network
- Parallel computing
In the post-genome era, an important task of molecular biology is to reconstruct gene regulatory networks (GRNs), which represent interactions between genes inside a cell or tissue. A GRN provides molecular interactions and regulatory effects of components involved in a biological process, and hence provides insights into the molecular mechanism of the process [1, 2]. In detail, GRNs can be used to interpret biological processes through studying topological structure information of sub-networks related to these processes, where genes facilitate specific biological functions together [3, 4]. GRNs can help annotate genes clustered in modules and motifs since genes in the same module or motif have similar functions [5, 6]. GRNs can be utilized to identify dynamical network biomarkers (DNB) at the critical states of biological processes if stage-wise data are available, which help biologists understand mechanism of biological process better [7, 8]. Therefore, reconstruction of GRNs can not only support investigating roles of genes and components involved in a biological process, but also help study how a process is developed and maintained.
In the last decade, many algorithms have been developed to infer GRNs based on reverse-engineering methods, such as Bayesian network [9–11], Boolean network [12, 13], linear and non-linear regression [14–18], differential equation [19, 20], information-theoretic approaches [21–26], probabilistic phylogeny network , part mutual information network , and probabilistic graphical models [29–32]. In 2011, we proposed a GRN inference algorithm, named PCA-CMI, which can distinguish direct interactions of gene pairs from indirect ones based on the conditional mutual information (CMI) measurement [33–35]. However, two limitations of the algorithm hinder its wide application. One is that an appropriate threshold should be assigned to the method for direct interactions judgment in advance, which is difficult for users since the threshold is hard to select before GRN reconstruction. The other is that the method is time-costly especially for genomic network reconstruction, which is a common restriction of most current GRN inferring methods.
In this report, we describe a new software package CMIP, which implements the PCA-CMI algorithm with the goal of enable biologists to build genomic networks easily. The CMIP package incorporates a threshold determination method and a parallel computing process for network inference. The threshold determination method can choose an appropriate cutoff on-the-fly for gene interaction judgment. Computing procedure of the CMI measurement is optimized to make the algorithm robust, in which parallel computing strategies are applied to accelerate calculation process. This paper describes the algorithm details, program implementation, prediction performance, and practical application of the CMIP package.
Workflow of the CMIP package
Correlation calculation of the CMIP algorithm
Threshold determination of gene interaction
Parallelization of the CMIP programs
In CMIP, parallel strategies were applied to speed up computing process of correlation. In practice, a CPU and a GPU version program of CMIP algorithm were developed so that users could utilize them in different computational environment. The CPU version program is implemented based on the OpenMP framework , where loop calculation is accelerated with the multi-threads technology. In detail, the total computing task of correlation is first calculated based on gene numbers, and then computing tasks is partitioned equally to each CPU node. While the GPU version program is implemented based on the CUDA framework , where serial and parallel computing tasks are undertaken by CPU and GPU cores respectively. In detail, a production-consumption strategy is used in the GPU version program, in which gene expression data used by correlation calculation is first processed by the CPU cores (production); then pre-processed data is delivered to GPU cores for correlation calculation (consumption) using a parallel mode; finally, the results are transferred from GPU to CPU cores for aggregation.
Evaluation of network inference methods
Efficiency of the threshold determination method
Effectiveness of threshold determination method under different criteria
Offset less than 5%
Offset less than 10%
Offset less than 20%
Parameter selection of the CMIP software
Performance evaluation of the CMIP package on benchmark datasets
Scores of various network inference methods on benchmark datasets
Application of the CMIP package on real biological datasets
We further applied the CMIP software on real transcriptome data to check its practical applicability. The CMIP software was first used to build GRNs of pineapple leaves. In detail, a GRN of leaf base and a GRN of leaf tip were constructed based on genome-scale expression data. Totally, 15,483 genes (201,537 interactions) and 13,543 genes (188,391 interactions) were included in the base and tip GRNs respectively. Analysis of the node degree distribution suggested that both the tip and the base network showed small-world properties. Then, we extracted genes linked to metabolic enzymes of Crassulacean Acid Metabolism (CAM) in the base and tip networks. After that, genes linked to metabolic enzymes in the tip network but missed in the base network were identified as potential recruited regulators of CAM photosynthesis. Subsequently experimental study showed that regulators identified from network comparison do play important roles in photosynthesis differentiation . This application of CMIP software on real dataset shows its effectiveness and efficiency for genomic GRNs reconstruction.
Effectiveness of parallel computing framework of CMIP programs
Running time of different network inference programs
Running time of the CMIP programs in pineapple GRNs reconstruction
Leaf base network
Leaf tip network
Usage of the CMIP package
In this study, we provide a new software package for network inference, which can reconstruct genomic GRNs within a short time period. The software package has a number of novel features compared with other GRN inference methods. First, CMIP can detect direct gene interactions from indirect ones with a high accuracy based on the CMI measurement. Results of performance evaluation on benchmark datasets show that precision and accuracy of the CMIP algorithms are comparable to most currently used methods. Secondly, an automatic threshold determination method is incorporated into the CMIP algorithm, so users do not need specify a predefined cutoff for gene interaction judgment and an appropriate threshold can be provided on-the-fly. Numerical experiments confirm the efficiency of the threshold determination method. Last but not least, the OpenMP and CUDA framework are applied in the software to speed up computing process of the CMIP algorithms, which enables the software to build GRNs with less running time. With this feature, the software is suitable to reconstruct genomic GRNs. The area of CMIP that needs future development is that it can’t provide directionality to edges of gene regulatory networks, which is a common limitation of many current methods, such as CLR  and minet . This limitation can be resolved by a two-steps routine. First, using the CMIP software to build a gene regulatory network as background model, then giving directionality to edges of the network according to results of biochemical perturbation experiments, or predicting directionality for edges of the network based on time series expression data .
We thank the anonymous reviewers for their constructive suggestion that help improve quality of the manuscript.
About this supplement
This article has been published as part of BMC Bioinformatics Volume 17 Supplement 17, 2016: Proceedings of the 27th International Conference on Genome Informatics: bioinformatics. The full contents of the supplement are available online at http://bmcbioinformatics.biomedcentral.com/articles/supplements/volume-17-supplement-17.
This study was supported by the Shanghai Municipal Natural Science Foundation [grant number 14ZR1446700], SA-SIBS Scholarship Program, National 863 Program Green Super Rice [grant number 2014AA101601], National Basic Research and Development Plan of China [grant number: 2015CB150104], CAS Strategic Research Project [grant number XDA08020301], and the National Natural Science Foundation of China [grant numbers 91529303, 91439103, 61134013, 81471047]. Publication costs for this study were funded by foundation mentioned above.
Availability of data and material
The datasets analyzed during the current study are available in the DREAM3 repository http://dreamchallenges.org/project-list/dream3-2008/.
GYZ, LNC, XJZ, ZPL, ZW, and XGZ conceived and designed the experiments. GYZ and YCX performed the experiments and analyzed the data. GYZ, LNC and XGZ wrote the paper. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.
The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
Consent for publication
Ethics approval and consent to participate
Open AccessThis article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver (http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.
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