Analysis of Gene Interaction Graphs as Prior Knowledge for Machine Learning Models

Gene interaction graphs aim to capture various relationships between genes and can represent decades of biology research. When trying to make predictions from genomic data, those graphs could be used to overcome the curse of dimensionality by making machine learning models sparser and more consistent with biological common knowledge. In this work, we focus on assessing how well those graphs capture dependencies seen in gene expression data to evaluate the adequacy of the prior knowledge provided by those graphs. We propose a condition graphs should satisfy to provide good prior knowledge and test it using `Single Gene Inference' tasks. We also compare with randomly generated graphs, aiming to measure the true benefit of using biologically relevant graphs in this context, and validate our findings with five clinical tasks. We find some graphs capture relevant dependencies for most genes while being very sparse. Our analysis with random graphs finds that dependencies can be captured almost as well at random which suggests that, in terms of gene expression levels, the relevant information about the state of the cell is spread across many genes.

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