Although knowledge of biological pathways is essential for interpreting results from computational biology studies, the growing number of pathway databases complicates efforts to efficiently perform pathway analysis due to high redundancies among pathways from different databases, and inconsistencies in how pathways are created and named. We introduce the PAthway Communities (PAC) framework, which reconciles pathways from different databases and reduces pathway redundancy by revealing informative groups with distinct biological functions. Uniquely applying the Louvain community detection algorithm to a network of 4847 pathways from KEGG, REACTOME and Gene Ontology databases, we identify 35 distinct and automatically annotated communities of pathways and show that they are consistent with expert-curated pathway categories. Further, we demonstrate that our pathway community network can be queried with new gene sets to provide biological context in terms of related pathways and communities. Our approach, combined with an interpretable web tool we provide, will help computational biologists more efficiently contextualize and interpret their biological findings.
A common way to integrate and analyze large amounts of biological “omic” data is through pathway reconstruction: using condition-specific omic data to create a subnetwork of a generic background network that represents some process or cellular state. A challenge in pathway reconstruction is that adjusting pathway reconstruction algorithms’ parameters produces pathways with drastically different topological properties and biological interpretations. Due to the exploratory nature of pathway reconstruction, there is no ground truth for direct evaluation, so parameter tuning methods typically used in statistics and machine learning are inapplicable. We developed the pathway parameter advising algorithm to tune pathway reconstruction algorithms to minimize biologically implausible predictions. We leverage background knowledge in pathway databases to select pathways whose high-level structure resembles that of manually curated biological pathways. At the core of this method is a graphlet decomposition metric, which measures topological similarity to curated biological pathways. In order to evaluate pathway parameter advising, we compare its performance in avoiding implausible networks and reconstructing pathways from the NetPath database with other parameter selection methods across four pathway reconstruction algorithms. We also demonstrate how pathway parameter advising can guide reconstruction of an influenza host factor network. Pathway parameter advising is method agnostic; it more »
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