TopicNet: a framework for measuring transcriptional regulatory network change

Shaoke Lou, Tianxiao Li, Xiangmeng Kong, Jing Zhang, Jason Liu, Donghoon Lee, Mark Gerstein.
Bioinformatics. 2020 July 13; 
Next generation sequencing data highlights comprehensive and dynamic changes in the human gene regulatory network. Moreover, changes in regulatory network connectivity (network “rewiring”) manifest different regulatory programs in multiple cellular states. However, due to the dense and noisy nature of the connectivity in regulatory networks, directly comparing the gains and losses of targets of key TFs is not that informative. Thus, here, we seek a abstracted lower-dimensional representation to understand the main features of network change. In particular, we propose a method called TopicNet that applies latent Dirichlet allocation (LDA) to extract meaningful functional topics for a collection of genes regulated by a TF. We then define a rewiring score to quantify the large-scale changes in the regulatory network in terms of topic change for a TF. Using this framework, we can pinpoint particular TFs that change greatly in network connectivity between different cellular states. This is particularly relevant in oncogenesis. Also, incorporating gene-expression data, we define a topic activity score that gives the degree that a topic is active in a particular cellular state. Furthermore, we show how activity differences can highlight differential survival in certain cancers.