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Inductive Inference of Gene Regulatory Network Using Supervised and Semi-supervised Graph Neural Networks

By Juexin Wang, Anjun Ma, Qin Ma, Dong Xu, Trupti Joshi

Posted 28 Sep 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.09.27.315382

Discovering gene regulatory relationships and reconstructing gene regulatory networks (GRN) based on gene expression data is a classical, long-standing computational challenge in bioinformatics. Computationally inferring a possible regulatory relationship between two genes can be formulated as a link prediction problem between two nodes in a graph. Graph neural network (GNN) provides an opportunity to construct GRN by integrating topological neighbor propagation through the whole gene network. We propose an end-to-end gene regulatory graph neural network (GRGNN) approach to reconstruct GRNs from scratch utilizing the gene expression data, in both a supervised and a semi-supervised framework. To get better inductive generalization capability, GRN inference is formulated as a graph classification problem, to distinguish whether a subgraph centered at two nodes contains the link between the two nodes. A linked pair between a transcription factor (TF) and a target gene, and their neighbors are labeled as a positive subgraph, while an unlinked TF and target gene pair and their neighbors are labeled as a negative subgraph. A GNN model is constructed with node features from both explicit gene expression and graph embedding. We demonstrate a noisy starting graph structure built from partial information, such as Pearson’s correlation coefficient and mutual information can help guide the GRN inference through an appropriate ensemble technique. Furthermore, a semi-supervised scheme is implemented to increase the quality of the classifier. When compared with established methods, GRGNN achieved state-of-the-art performance on the DREAM5 GRN inference benchmarks. GRGNN is publicly available at <https://github.com/juexinwang/GRGNN>. Highlights 1. We present a novel formulation of graph classification in inferring gene regulatory relationships from gene expression and graph embedding. 2. Our method leverages a powerful framework, gene regulatory graph neural network (GRGNN), which is flexible and powerful to ensemble statistical powers from a number of heuristic skeletons. 3. Our results show GRGRNN outperforms previous supervised and unsupervised methods inductively on benchmarks. 4. GRGNN can be interpreted and explained following the biological network motif hypothesis in gene regulatory networks. ### Competing Interest Statement The authors have declared no competing interest.

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