A topology-based score for pathway enrichment.
Investigators require intuitive tools to rationalize complex datasets generated by transcriptional profiling experiments. Pathway analysis methods, in which differentially expressed genes are mapped to databases of reference pathways to facilitate assessment of relative enrichment, lead investigators more effectively to biologically testable hypotheses. However, once a set of differentially expressed genes is isolated, pathway analysis approaches tend to ignore rich gene expression information and, moreover, do not exploit relationships between transcripts. In this article, we report the development of a new method in which both pathway topology and the magnitude of gene expression changes inform the scoring system, thereby providing a powerful filter in the enrichment of biologically relevant information. When four sample datasets were evaluated with this method, literature mining confirmed that those pathways germane to the physiological process under investigation were highlighted by our method relative to z-score overrepresentation calculations. Moreover, non-relevant processes were downgraded using the method described herein. The inclusion of expression and topological data in the calculation of a pathway regulation score (PRS) facilitated discrimination of key processes in real biological datasets. Specifically, by combining fold-change data for those transcripts exceeding a significance threshold, and by taking into account the potential for altered gene expression to impact upon downstream transcription, one may readily identify those pathways most relevant to pathophysiological processes.