In silico modelling for refining gene regulatory network inference

Sammanfattning: Gene regulation is at the centre of all cellular functions, regulating the cell's healthy and pathological responses. The interconnected system of regulatory interactions is known as the gene regulatory network (GRN), where genes influence each other to maintain strict and robust control. Today a large number of methods exist for inferring GRNs, which necessitates benchmarking to determine which method is most suitable for a specific goal. Paper I presents such a benchmark focusing on the effect of using known perturbations to infer GRNs. A further challenge when studying GRNs is that experimental data contains high levels of noise and that artefacts may be introduced by the experiment itself. The LSCON method was developed in paper II to reduce the effect of one such artefact that can occur if the expression of a gene shows no or minimal change across most or all experiments.  With few fully determined biological GRNs available, it is problematic to use these to evaluate an inference method's correctness. Instead, the GRN field relies on simulated data, using a known GRN and generating the corresponding data. When simulating GRNs, capturing the topological properties of the biological GRN is vital. The FFLatt algorithm was developed in paper III to create scale-free, feed-forward loop motif-enriched GRNs, capturing two of the most prominent topological features in biological GRNs.  Once a high-quality GRN is obtained, the next step is to simulate gene expression data corresponding to the GRN. In paper IV, building on the FFLatt method, an open-source Python simulation tool called GeneSNAKE was developed to generate expression data for benchmarking purposes. GeneSNAKE allows the user to control a wide range of network and data properties and improves on previous tools by featuring a variety of perturbation schemes along with the ability to control noise and modify the perturbation strength.