Inferring gene function and network organization in Drosophila signaling by combined analysis of pleiotropy and epistasis.

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G3 (Bethesda) 2013 May 20; 3(5):807-14.




High-throughput genetic interaction screens have enabled functional genomics on a network scale. Groups of cofunctional genes commonly exhibit similar interaction patterns across a large network, leading to novel functional inferences for a minority of previously uncharacterized genes within a group. However, such analyses are often unsuited to cases with a few relevant gene variants or sparse annotation. Here we describe an alternative analysis of cell growth signaling using a computational strategy that integrates patterns of pleiotropy and epistasis to infer how gene knockdowns enhance or suppress the effects of other knockdowns. We analyzed the interaction network for RNAi knockdowns of a set of 93 incompletely annotated genes in a Drosophila melanogaster model of cellular signaling. We inferred novel functional relationships between genes by modeling genetic interactions in terms of knockdown-to-knockdown influences. The method simultaneously analyzes the effects of partially pleiotropic genes on multiple quantitative phenotypes to infer a consistent model of each genetic interaction. From these models we proposed novel candidate Ras inhibitors and their Ras signaling interaction partners, and each of these hypotheses can be inferred independent of network-wide patterns. At the same time, the network-scale interaction patterns consistently mapped pathway organization. The analysis therefore assigns functional relevance to individual genetic interactions while also revealing global genetic architecture. G3 (Bethesda) 2013 May 20; 3(5):807-14.