Multi-Edge Gene Set Networks Reveal Novel Insights into Global Relationships between Biological Themes
Curated gene sets from databases such as KEGG Pathway and Gene Ontology are often used to systematically organize lists of genes or proteins derived from high-throughput data. However, the information content inherent to some relationships between the interrogated gene sets, such as pathway crosstalk, is often underutilized. A gene set network, where nodes representing individual gene sets such as KEGG pathways are connected to indicate a functional dependency, is well suited to visualize and analyze global gene set relationships. Here we introduce a novel gene set network construction algorithm that integrates gene lists derived from high-throughput experiments with curated gene sets to construct co-enrichment gene set networks. Along with previously described co-membership and linkage algorithms, we apply the co-enrichment algorithm to eight gene set collections to construct integrated multi-evidence gene set networks with multiple edge types connecting gene sets. We demonstrate the utility of approach through examples of novel gene set networks such as the chromosome map co-differential expression gene set network. A total of twenty-four gene set networks are exposed via a web tool called MetaNet, where context-specific multi-edge gene set networks are constructed from enriched gene sets within user-defined gene lists. MetaNet is freely available at http://blaispathways.dfci.harvard.edu/metanet/.