Functional protein representations from biological networks enable diverse cross-species inference

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Jason Fan, Anthony Cannistra, Inbar Fried, Tim Lim, Thomas Schaffner, Mark Crovella, Benjamin Hescott, Mark D M Leiserson, Functional protein representations from biological networks enable diverse cross-species inference, Nucleic Acids Research, Volume 47, Issue 9, 21 May 2019, Page e51,


Transferring knowledge between species is key for many biological applications, but is complicated by divergent and convergent evolution. Many current approaches for this problem leverage sequence and interaction network data to transfer knowledge across species, exemplified by network alignment methods. While these techniques do well, they are limited in scope, creating metrics to address one specific problem or task. We take a different approach by creating an environment where multiple knowledge transfer tasks can be performed using the same protein representations. Specifically, our kernel-based method, MUNK, integrates sequence and network structure to create functional protein representations, embedding proteins from different species in the same vector space. First we show proteins in different species that are close in MUNKspace are functionally similar. Next,we use these representations to share knowledge of synthetic lethal interactions between species. Importantly, we find that the results using MUNK-representations are at least as accurate as existing algorithms for these tasks. Finally, we generalize the notion of a phenolog (‘orthologous phenotype’) to use functionally similar proteins (i.e. those with similar representations). We demonstrate the utility of this broadened notion by using it to identify known phenologs and novel non-obvious ones supported by current research.


Partial funding for Open Access provided by the UMD Libraries' Open Access Publishing Fund.