Main content area

A new method for constructing tumor specific gene co-expression networks based on samples with tumor purity heterogeneity

Petralia, Francesca, Wang, Li, Peng, Jie, Yan, Arthur, Zhu, Jun, Wang, Pei
Bioinformatics 2018 v.34 no.13 pp. i528
animal ovaries, bioinformatics, genes, models, neoplasm cells, ovarian neoplasms, protein synthesis, stromal cells
Tumor tissue samples often contain an unknown fraction of stromal cells. This problem is widely known as tumor purity heterogeneity (TPH) was recently recognized as a severe issue in omics studies. Specifically, if TPH is ignored when inferring co-expression networks, edges are likely to be estimated among genes with mean shift between non-tumor- and tumor cells rather than among gene pairs interacting with each other in tumor cells. To address this issue, we propose Tumor Specific Net (TSNet), a new method which constructs tumor-cell specific gene/protein co-expression networks based on gene/protein expression profiles of tumor tissues. TSNet treats the observed expression profile as a mixture of expressions from different cell types and explicitly models tumor purity percentage in each tumor sample. Using extensive synthetic data experiments, we demonstrate that TSNet outperforms a standard graphical model which does not account for TPH. We then apply TSNet to estimate tumor specific gene co-expression networks based on TCGA ovarian cancer RNAseq data. We identify novel co-expression modules and hub structure specific to tumor cells. R codes can be found at Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.