Gene regulation is frequently altered in diseases in unique and often patient-specific ways. Hence, personalized strategies have been proposed to infer patient-specific gene-regulatory networks. However, existing methods do not focus on disease-specific dysregulation or lack assessments of statistical significance. Moreover, they do not account for clinically important confounders such as age, sex or treatment history.
To overcome these shortcomings, we present DysRegNet, a novel method for inferring patient-specific regulatory alterations (dysregulations) from gene expression profiles. We compared DysRegNet to state-of-the-art methods and demonstrated that DysRegNet produces more interpretable and biologically meaningful networks. Independent information on promoter methylation and single nucleotide variants further corroborate our results. We apply DysRegNet to eleven TCGA cancer types and illustrate how the inferred networks can be used for down-stream analysis. We show that unique as well as cancer-type-specific dysregulation patterns exist and highlight immune-related mechanisms that are not obvious when focusing on individual genes rather than their interactions.
DysRegNet is available as a Python package (https://github.com/biomedbigdata/DysRegNet_package) and analysis results for eleven TCGA cancer types are further available through an interactive web interface (https://exbio.wzw.tum.de/dysregnet).