NBIA: a network-based integrative analysis framework – applied to pathway analysis


With the explosion of high-throughput data, effective integrative analyses are needed to decipher the knowledge accumulated in biological databases. Existing meta-analysis approaches in systems biology often focus on hypothesis testing and neglect real expression changes, i.e. effect sizes, across independent studies. In addition, most integrative tools completely ignore the topological order of gene regulatory networks that hold key characteristics in understanding biological processes. Here we introduce a novel meta-analysis framework, Network-Based Integrative Analysis (NBIA), that transforms the challenging meta-analysis problem into a set of standard pathway analysis problems that have been solved efficiently. NBIA utilizes techniques from classical and modern meta-analysis, as well as a network-based analysis, in order to identify patterns of genes and networks that are consistently impacted across multiple studies. We assess the performance of NBIA by comparing it with nine meta-analysis approaches: Impact Analysis, GSA, and GSEA combined with classical meta-analysis methods (Fisher’s and the additive method), plus the three MetaPath approaches that employ multiple datasets. The 10 approaches have been tested on 1,737 samples from 27 expression datasets related to Alzheimer’s disease, acute myeloid leukemia (AML), and influenza. For all of the three diseases, NBIA consistently identifies biological pathways relevant to the underlying diseases while the other 9 methods fail to capture the key phenomena. The identified AML signature is also validated on a completely independent cohort of 167 AML patients. In this independent cohort, the proposed signature identifies two groups of patients that have significantly different survival profiles (Cox p-value $2 × 10^{-6}$).The NBIA framework will be included in the next release of BLMA Bioconductor package (http://bioconductor.org/packages/release/bioc/html/BLMA.html).

Scientific Reports

Supplemental file 1

Tin Nguyen
Associate Professor