Section: New Results
WASABI: a dynamic iterative framework for gene regulatory network inference
Background Inference of gene regulatory networks from gene expression data has been a long-standing and notoriously difficult task in systems biology. Recently, single-cell transcriptomic data have been massively used for gene regulatory network inference, with both successes and limitations. In the work , we propose an iterative algorithm called WASABI, dedicated to inferring a causal dynamical network from time-stamped single-cell data, which tackles some of the limitations associated with current approaches. We first introduce the concept of waves, which posits that the information provided by an external stimulus will affect genes one-by-one through a cascade, like waves spreading through a network. This concept allows us to infer the network one gene at a time, after genes have been ordered regarding their time of regulation. We then demonstrate the ability of WASABI to correctly infer small networks, which have been simulated in silico using a mechanistic model consisting of coupled piecewise-deterministic Markov processes for the proper description of gene expression at the single-cell level. We finally apply WASABI on in vitro generated data on an avian model of erythroid differentiation. The structure of the resulting gene regulatory network sheds a new light on the molecular mechanisms controlling this process. In particular, we find no evidence for hub genes and a much more distributed network structure than expected. Interestingly, we find that a majority of genes are under the direct control of the differentiation-inducing stimulus. Conclusions Together, these results demonstrate WASABI versatility and ability to tackle some general gene regulatory networks inference issues. It is our hope that WASABI will prove useful in helping biologists to fully exploit the power of time-stamped single-cell data.