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CONTROL OF STATIONARY BEHAVIOR IN PROBABILISTIC BOOLEAN NETWORKS BY MEANS OF STRUCTURAL INT


Journal of Biological Systems, Vol. 10, No. 4 (2002) 431–445 c World Scienti?c Publishing Company

CONTROL OF STATIONARY BEHAVIOR IN PROBABILISTIC BOOLEAN NETWORKS BY MEANS OF STRUCTURAL INTERVENTION

ILYA SHMULEVICH? , EDWARD R. DOUGHERTY? and WEI ZHANG? Genomics Laboratory, The University of Texas, M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas, USA ? Department of Electrical Engineering, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas, USA Received 18 March 2002 Revised 30 May 2002 Probabilistic Boolean Networks (PBNs) were recently introduced as models of gene regulatory networks. The dynamical behavior of PBNs, which are probabilistic generalizations of Boolean networks, can be studied using Markov chain theory. In particular, the steady-state or long-run behavior of PBNs may re?ect the phenotype or functional state of the cell. Approaches to alter the steady-state behavior in a speci?c prescribed manner, in cases of aberrant cellular states, such as tumorigenesis, would be highly bene?cial. This paper develops a methodology for altering the steady-state probabilities of certain states or sets of states with minimal modi?cations to the underlying rule-based structure. This approach is framed as an optimization problem that we propose to solve using genetic algorithms, which are well suited for capturing the underlying structure of PBNs and are able to locate the optimal solution in a highly e?cient manner. Several computer simulation experiments support the proposed methodology. Keywords: Genetic network; Markov chain; genetic algorithm.
? Cancer

1. Introduction It is becoming widely recognized that the study and modeling of genetic regulatory networks carries tremendous potential for gaining a deep understanding of biological processes and ergo, for developing e?ective therapeutic intervention in human diseases such as cancer. This inevitably entails using computational and formal methods in order to understand general principles governing the system under study and to make useful predictions about system behavior in the presence of known conditions. Recently, a new class of models, called Probabilistic Boolean Networks (PBNs), was introduced as a model of gene regulatory networks [12]. This model class incorporates rule-based dependencies between genes, allows the systematic study of global network dynamics, is able to cope with uncertainty, and permits the quanti?cation of the relative in?uence and sensitivity of genes in their interactions with other genes. The dynamics of these networks can be studied in the
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probabilistic context of Markov chains. They also exhibit an important connection with Bayesian Networks — another model class that has been recently used to model gene expression data. PBNs represent an interface between the absolute determinism of Boolean networks and the probabilistic nature of Bayesian networks, in that they incorporate rule-based uncertainty. This compromise is important because rule-based dependencies between genes are biologically meaningful, while mechanisms for handling uncertainty are conceptually and empirically necessary. The dynamical properties of PBNs were further studied in [13], which considers the general question of the potential e?ect of individual genes on the global dynamical network behavior, both from the view of random gene perturbation as well as intervention in order to elicit desired network behavior. Namely, it develops a model for random gene perturbations and an explicit formula for the transition probabilities. This result provides a building block for performing simulations and deriving other results concerning network dynamics. For example, the problem of (gene) intervention has been addressed via the development of several computational tools based on ?rst-passage times in Markov chains. The consequence is a methodology for ?nding the best gene with which to intervene in order to most likely achieve desirable network behavior. In addition, the e?ect of gene perturbations on long-run network behavior has been assessed by providing a bound on the steady-state probabilities in terms of the probability of perturbation. This result demonstrates that states of the network that are more “easily reachable” from other states are more stable in the presence of gene perturbations. Such states are hypothesized to correspond to cellular functional states — a view that is in accord with existing ?ndings [5, 6]. The type of intervention described in [13] — one that allows us to intervene with the value of a gene — can be useful for modulating the dynamics of the network, but it is not able to alter its underlying structure. Accordingly, the stationary distribution remains unchanged. However, a disbalance between certain sets of states, which is characteristic of neoplasia in view of gene regulatory networks, can be caused by mutations of the “wiring” of certain genes, thus permanently altering the state-transition structure and, consequently, the long-run behavior of the network [5]. Therefore, it is prudent to develop a methodology for altering the steady-state probabilities of certain states or sets of states with minimal modi?cations to the rule-based structure. The motivation is that these states may represent di?erent phenotypes or cellular functional states, such as cell invasion and quiescence, and we would like to decrease the probability that the whole network will end up in an undesirable set of states and increase the probability that it will end up in a desirable set of states. The mechanism by which we accomplish this consists of altering some Boolean functions (predictors) in the PBN. An additional goal is to alter as few functions as possible. Such alterations to the rules of regulation may be possible by the introduction of a factor or drug that alters the extant behavior. Let us give an example.

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We know that women can age much faster after menopause. In developed countries, estrogen is often taken by women after menopause to alter this trend. However, the dose of estrogen is important because an overdose may increase the probabilities of developing breast and ovarian cancers. Although the mechanism is not clear yet, it is conceivable that this phenomenon has its gene regulation basis. Estrogen binds its receptors, the complex gets transported into the nucleus to bind the enhancer element (a short stretch of regulatory DNA sequence) on the target genes, and functions as transcriptional factors a?ecting genes such as the preproenkephalin (PENK) gene [14]. Interestingly, there are several di?erent estrogen receptors that compete with each other for binding estrogen as well as for coactivator, which is also required for e?cient transcriptional regulation by estrogen [16]. It can be envisioned that estrogen binds one receptor better than another and that these complexes bind DNA and coactivator with opposite e?ciency. That is, complex C1 binds DNA better than complex C2, but complex C2 binds the coactivator better than complex C1. Thus, under low estrogen conditions, when there is not much competition for DNA binding, there would be su?cient binding of C2 to DNA so as to turn on the downstream target gene. However, when estrogen is present at high concentration, both complexes exist at very high levels and complex C2, taking up most of the coactivator away from C1, would have little chance to bind to DNA. Consequently, the better DNA binding complex (C1) would not have the necessary coactivator to activate the target gene. If the target gene plays a role in tumor suppression, for instance, this could explain why high levels of estrogen have a tumorigenic e?ect. Thus, by changing the concentration of estrogen, one is able to alter the rule determining the value of a gene (e.g., PENK) in terms of the levels of estrogen receptor complexes C1 and C2. For example, under a low estrogen condition, assuming Boolean values for all genes, PENK can be expressed as PENK = C1 ∨ C2, where the symbol ∨ means logical OR. That is, the presence of at least one complex (C1 or C2) would be su?cient to turn on PENK. However, under a high estrogen condition, in view of the above squelching e?ect, PENK = C1 ⊕ C2, where the symbol ⊕ means exclusive OR. That is, when either C1 or C2 are individually present, with no competition from the other, PENK is turned on, but when both C1 and C2 are present together, PENK becomes turned o?. The ability to alter such rules would provide a means of at least partially controlling the steady-state behavior of the network. In this paper, we develop formal methods and algorithms for addressing such problems. In Sec. 2, we brie?y review the background material for Probabilistic Boolean Networks. Section 3 formalizes the problem described above in terms of an optimization problem. Finally, Sec. 4 describes a solution to this problem via genetic algorithms. We have performed several computer simulation experiments to assess the e?ciency of the proposed methodology.

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2. De?nitions and Background Material We will give the basic de?nitions and notations for PBNs and refer the reader to [12] for more details and examples. A PBN G(V, F ) is de?ned by a set of binary-valued (i) (i) nodes V = {x1 , . . . , xn } and a list F = (F1 , . . . , Fn ) of sets Fi = {f1 , . . . , fl(i) } of Boolean functions. Each node xi ∈ {0, 1} represents the state (expression) of gene i, where xi = 1 means that gene i is expressed and xi = 0 means it is not expressed. The set Fi represents the possible rules of regulatory interactions for gene xi . That (i) is, each fj : {0, 1}n → {0, 1} is a possible Boolean function determining the value of gene xi in terms of some other genes and l(i) is the number of possible functions (i) for gene xi . We will also refer to the functions fj as predictors. Thus, any given gene transforms its inputs (regulatory factors that bind to it) into an output, which is the state or expression of the gene itself. All genes (nodes) are updated synchronously in accordance with the functions assigned to them and this process is then repeated. At any given time step, one of the predictors for gene xi is selected randomly from the set Fi , according to a prede?ned probability distribution, discussed below. A realization of the PBN at a given instant of time is determined by a vector of Boolean functions. If there are N possible realizations, then there are N vector (1) (2) (n) functions, f 1 , f2 , . . . , fN of the form fk = (fk1 , fk2 , . . . , fkn ), for k = 1, 2, . . . , N , 1 ≤ ki ≤ l(i) and where fki ∈ Fi (i = 1, . . . , n). In other words, the vector function (also called multiple-output function) fk : {0, 1}n → {0, 1}n acts as a transition function (mapping) representing a possible realization of the entire PBN. Thus, given the values of all genes (x1 , . . . , xn ), fk (x1 , . . . , xn ) = (x1 , . . . , xn ) gives us the state of the genes after one step of the network given by the realization fk . If the predictor for each gene is chosen independently of other predictors, then N = (i) n typically has many i=1 l(i). It should be noted that each predictor function fj ?ctitious variables. That is, although the domain of each predictor is {0, 1}n, there are only a few input genes that actually regulate gene xi at any given time, implying that each predictor is a simple one. The biological and practical justi?cations for probabilistically choosing one of several simple predictors for each gene are discussed in [12]. Let f = (f (1) , . . . , f (n) ) be a random vector taking values in F1 × · · · × Fn . That is, f can take on all possible realizations of the PBN. Then, the probability that (i) predictor fj is used to predict gene i (1 ≤ j ≤ l(i)) is equal to cj = Pr{f (i) = fj } =
(i) (i) k:fk =fj i

(i)

(i)

(i)

Pr{f = f k } .

(1)

An approach for obtaining the probabilities cj from gene expression data, using the coe?cient of determination [1, 10, 11] and in turn for using these probabilities to compute the probability that a particular network realization is selected, is discussed in [12]. It was also shown that the dynamics of PBNs can be modeled by Markov chains, consisting of 2n states.

(i)

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Further, an extension to the PBN model permitting so-called gene perturbations was proposed in [13], allowing any out of n possible genes to get perturbed with probability p, independently of other genes. In the Boolean setting, this is represented by a ?ip of value from 1 to 0 or vice versa and directly corresponds to the bit-?ipping mutation operator in NK Landscapes [8, 9] as well as in genetic algorithms and evolutionary computing [2]. This situation is modeled as follows. Suppose that at every step of the network, we have a realization of a so-called random perturbation vector γ ∈ {0, 1}n. If the ith component of γ is equal to 1, then the ith gene is ?ipped, otherwise it is not. In general, γ need not be independent and identically distributed (i.i.d.), but we will assume this for now on for simplicity. Thus, we will suppose that Pr{γi = 1} = E[γi ] = p for all i = 1, . . . , n. Let x = (x1 , . . . , xn ) be the state of the network (i.e., values of all the genes) at some given time. Then, the next state x is given by x = x⊕γ, fk (x1 , . . . , xn ) , with probability 1 ? (1 ? p)n with probability (1 ? p)n , (2)

where ⊕ is component-wise addition modulo 2 and fk (x1 , . . . , xn ), k = 1, 2, . . . , N , is the transition function representing a possible realization of the entire PBN. The state transition matrix of the Markov chain can be expressed in terms of the Boolean functions and the probabilities of di?erent network realizations, which are given in (i) terms of cj in (1) [13]. The availability of the state transition matrix, in turn, allows us to compute the stationary probabilities π(x) of all states x ∈ {0, 1}n. For large networks, computing the stationary probabilities via the transition matrix is impractical and Monte Carlo techniques can be used. It is relatively straightforward to show that for p > 0, the Markov chain corresponding to the PBN is ergodic [13]. Consequently, this fact simpli?es the analysis of long-term behavior of the network.

3. Problem Setting Consider two sets of states A, B ? {0, 1}n. As mentioned above, each state x ∈ {0, 1}n has a positive stationary probability π(x). Thus, we can de?ne π(A) = x∈A π(x) and π(B) similarly. Suppose that we are interested in altering the stationary probabilities of these two sets of states in such a way that the stationary probability of A is decreased and the stationary probability of B is increased by 0 < λ < 1.a As already mentioned above, these two states may represent two di?erent cellular functional states or phenotypes. In order to achieve this, suppose (i ) (i ) we alter function fj0 0 by replacing it with a new function gj00 . The probability cj00 corresponding to gj00 must remain the same as for fj0 0 , since
a We

(i )

(i )

(i )

l(i) (i) j=1 cj

= 1.

could have also stated the problem in a more general manner, where instead of decreasing the stationary probability of A by λ and increasing that of B by λ, we would have speci?ed the desired stationary probabilities of A and B separately, under the obvious constraint that their sum be less than or equal to 1. Indeed, this is what we will do in the simulation section.

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Table 1. Truth tables of the predictors for the PBN in our example. The selection probabilities of each predictor are shown on the bottom row. x1 x2 x3 000 001 010 011 100 101 110 111 cj
(i)

f1

(1)

f2

(1)

f1

(2)

f1

(3)

f2

(3)

0 1 1 1 0 1 1 1 0.6

0 1 1 0 0 1 1 1 0.4

0 1 1 0 1 1 0 1 1

0 0 0 1 0 1 1 1 0.5

0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0.5

Thus, we have a new PBN whose stationary distribution we can denote by ?. Let ?(A) and ?(B) be the stationary probabilities of sets A and B under the altered PBN model. We can then pose the following optimization problem: (i) Given sets A and B, predictor functions fj together with their selection probabilities cj , i = 1, . . . , n, j = 1, . . . , l(i), and λ ∈ (0, 1), select an i0 , j0 , and a function gj00 to replace fj0 0 such that ε(π(A) ? λ, ?(A)) and ε(π(B) + λ, ?(B))
(i) (i ) (i ) (i)

(3)

(4)

are minimumb among all i, j, gj . Here, ε(a, b) represents some chosen error function, such as the absolute error (i.e., ε(a, b) = |a ? b|). An additional constraint can (i ) (i ) be that gj00 has no more essential variables than fj0 0 . In this scenario, we are only allowing the alteration of one predictor function. More generally, we can preselect a number of predictor functions that we are willing to alter. Let us illustrate these ideas with a small concrete example. We will use the same example as Example 1 in [12]. For convenience, we show the truth tables of the predictors and their selection probabilities in Table 1. Assuming no perturbations (p = 0), the state transition diagram is shown in Fig. 1. As can be seen from this ?gure, two states, namely (000) and (111) are absorbing states. Let us hypothesize, for the sake of this example, that (111) corresponds to cell invasion (and rapid proliferation) and state (000) corresponds to quiescence. Let us ?x a probability of perturbation p = 0.01. Then, a simple analysis based on the probability transition matrix reveals that the stationary probabilities of states (000) and (111) are 0.0752 and 0.7310, respectively. Thus, in the long run, the network will be in quiescence only 7% of the time and will be in proliferation 73%
b Since

we want both (3) and (4) to be minimum, we can construct a single objective function that incorporates both. For example, the sum of the two functions would be an obvious choice.

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1 001
?

110 1 010
¤ ? ?

P2+P4 000
¤ ? ? ? ?

1

P3

1 100

P1+P3 P2+P4

111 1

011
?

P1

101

Fig. 1.

State transition diagram (probability of perturbations is equal to zero).

of the time. Now, suppose we wish to alter this imbalance and require for the two stationary probabilities to be approximately 0.4 for both (000) and (111). The other 6 states will then be visited only 20% of the time. In the framework of the above optimization problem, A = {(111)}, B = {(000)}, π(A) = 0.7310, π(B) = 0.0752, ?(A) = ?(B) = 0.4, and λ = 0.3279. Finally, suppose we are allowed to change only one predictor function. In the truth tables shown in Table 1, this corresponds (i) to changing only one of the columns, while keeping the selection probabilities cj unchanged. Thus, there are 5 possible columns (predictors) and 256 possibilities for each. For the purposes of this example, we have generated each of the 5 × 256 = 1280 possible alterations. For each, we have computed and plotted the stationary probabilities ?(000) and ?(111), shown in Fig. 2. The optimal values of ?(000) and ?(111) for the error function ε(a, b) = |a ? b| are indicated by an arrow. The objective function to be minimized is |?(000) ? 0.4| + |?(111) ? 0.4| , (5)

which corresponds to the sum of the two objective functions in (3) and (4). The colors of the circles represent which predictor was altered. For example, the color (1) red denotes that predictor f1 was altered. (1) In this example, the optimal predictor is the one that alters f2 for gene 1 (column 2 in the truth tables) and the truth table of the optimal predictor is (00010101)T . This predictor achieves the stationary probabilities ?(000) = 0.4068 and ?(111) = 0.4128, which are quite close to the desired probabilities. The structure of the plot in Fig. 2 reveals an interesting phenomenon: the two stationary probabilities exhibit regularities, forming clusters of points arranged in a linear fashion, with di?erent directions. In fact, this phenomenon has been observed in numerous

?

?

?

?

P4

P2

P1+P3

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1 f(1) 1 (1) f2 (2) f1 f(3) 1 (3) f2

0.9

0.8

0.7

0.6 ?(111)

0.5

0.4 optimal

0.3

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0.1

0

0

0.1

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0.5 ?(000)

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0.9

1

Fig. 2. Each circle represents one of the 1280 possible alterations to the predictors. The x-axis is ?(000) and the y-axis is ?(111). The optimal choice is shown with an arrow, as it comes closest to 0.4 for both stationary probabilities. The colors of the circles represent the predictor that is altered (see legend).

examples. As another example, Fig. 3 shows a 3-D scatter plot, corresponding to stationary probabilities of three di?erent states, for a randomly generated PBN with 3 genes and 3 predictors per gene (a total of 9 predictors). As in Fig. 2, each circle represents the stationary probabilities after one of the predictors has been altered and the color of each circle represents which of the predictors got altered. It is apparent, at least qualitatively, that the alterations of di?erent predictors tend to occupy di?erent parts of the space, implying that for a given predictor, there is a certain “range of action” that can be achieved by manipulating it. These facts, in turn, seem to suggest that a brute-force search for the optimal predictor alteration may very well be avoided. That is, a number of search directions should be followed simultaneously and the more promising ones should be explored further. Such a strategy is the hallmark of genetic algorithms (GAs), which have been successfully used in many optimization problems [2]. We turn to this next.

4. Solution via Genetic Algorithms GAs, ?rst pioneered by John Holland [4], are abstractions of biological evolution. In a GA, a population of chromosomes, which are represented as binary vectors (cf.,

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0.22 0.2 0.18 0.16 0.14 0.12 0.1 0.08 0.06 0.04 0.25 0.2 0.15 0.15 0.1 0.05 0.05 0.1 0.2 0.25

Fig. 3. Stationary probabilities of three di?erent states, for a random PBN with 3 genes and 3 predictors per gene. Each circle represents the stationary probabilities after an alteration of one of the predictors. The color represents which of the predictors is altered.

truth tables of our gene predictors), moves to a new population of chromosomes using “natural selection” strategies, such as crossover and mutation. Some chromosomes are “selected” and allowed to reproduce and the more “?t” chromosomes produce more o?spring. “Recombination” is achieved via the crossover operator, which exchanges parts of two chromosomes. Mutation can randomly change some of the locations or “alleles” (genes) in the chromosome and is very much like the perturbation in our Probabilistic Boolean Networks. Chromosomes are used to encode possible solutions to an optimization problem. At each stage in a search for a solution, the choice of the possible chromosomes depends on the results of the previous stage of the search. That is, if the “parents” represent promising solutions in di?erent regions of the search space, then their “o?spring”, produced by recombination, are likely to be promising solutions as well. The quality of a solution (chromosome) is represented by its ?tness, which in the case of an optimization problem, is the value of the objective function, such as in (5), at that proposed solution. The general operation of a GA can be described as follows. First, an initial population of chromosomes (encoded as binary vectors of a certain length) is generated and the ?tness of each chromosome is calculated. Then, a pair of parent chromosomes is selected such that more ?t chromosomes are more likely to be selected. With a certain probability, the two parents are recombined via the crossover

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operator at a random point (locus) in the chromosomes, producing two o?spring. If the parents are not recombined, then their o?spring are identical copies of the parents. Finally, the o?spring are mutated at each locus with a certain mutation probability. This process is repeated until the number of o?spring is equal to the number of parents and the old population is replaced by the new population, forming a new “generation”. GAs typically make no assumptions about the characteristics of the problem, such as continuity or di?erentiability, and are well-suited for multi-modal function optimization as they are much less likely to get stuck in local optima. Thus, they are quite promising for ?nding good solutions to the problem described in Sec. 3. Let us return to the example we considered above. A candidate solution essentially consists of two parts: the choice of the predictor to be altered (here, we have a total of N = 5 choices) and the truth table of the new, altered predictor. The former can be coded with log2 N bits and the latter with 2k bits, where k is the maximum number of input variables over all predictors. In the above example, N = 5 and k = 3, so each candidate solution (chromosome) would be encoded with log2 5 + 23 = 11 bits. One minor inconvenience is the fact that 3 bits is more than we need to code the choice of the predictor (5 possibilities). Thus, the mapping between the length-3 binary strings and the integers 1, . . . , 5 should be as uniform as possible so as to avoid certain predictors being chosen more often than others. This means that several di?erent length-3 binary strings will code for the same integer. Of course, if N is a power of 2, this problem does not exist. By applying a GA to this example, using the above encoding scheme and a (1) ?tness function given in (5), we obtained the correct result (f2 = (00010101)T ) typically after about 300 ?tness function evaluations. Thus, only 300/1280 ≈ 23% of the work is performed, compared to the brute-force approach, even for such a small example. This is no small gain, considering that every ?tness function evaluation entails recomputing the entire state-transition matrix and then ?nding its left eigenvector to obtain the stationary probabilities. When the numbers of genes and predictors per gene get large, the advantages of GAs should become dramatically more apparent. For example, in [7], GAs were used to design two-dimensional cellular automata for a density classi?cation task. In that work, the search space consisted of 2512 states — a hyper-astronomical number that is not even remotely enumerable. Yet, the GA was able to ?nd good solutions in a reasonable amount of time. Let us illustrate the approach with some more computer experiments. 4.1. Computer experiments One of our goals is to assess the e?ciency of the GAs for the problem of determining the optimal predictor, in terms of controlling the stationary probabilities of certain states. We measure the e?ciency by counting the number of ?tness function evaluations performed until the GA ?nds the correct predictor and dividing that number by the total number of possible predictor alterations. We note that many times,

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there are several optimal solutions. For example, it is possible that two di?erent predictors (truth tables) for the same gene, or even for di?erent genes, can produce the same value of the objective function (i.e., the same stationary probabilities). Any of these optimal solutions is considered to be the correct one. As a ?rst experiment, we constructed PBNs consisting of n = 4 genes, l(i) = 2 (i = 1, . . . , 4) predictors for each gene, and k = 2 input variables per predictor. We also observed the dependence of the e?ciency on the probability of perturbation p. Thus, we have varied p between 10?4 and 10?1 in a logarithmically spaced manner. In total, 10 values of p were used. For each value of p, we constructed 100 randomly generated PBNs with the above parameters. For each PBN, we ?rst found the optimal predictor alterations using a brute-force enumeration. Then, we applied the GA and recorded the number of ?tness function evaluations necessary to obtain the optimal solution. The objective function was similar to the one in Eq. (5), except that the stationary probabilities of (0000) and (1111) were desired to be as small as possible (i.e., close to zero). In other words, the function to be minimized was ?(0000) + ?(1111). The results are shown in Fig. 4. The horizontal axis shows the di?erent values of p. The vertical axis shows the number of evaluations necessary for the GA to

200

Number of evaluations

150

100

50

0 0.0001 0.0002 0.0005 0.0010 0.0022 p 0.0046 0.0100 0.0215 0.0464 0.1000

Fig. 4. A box and whisker plot showing the results of the computer experiment. The probability of perturbation logarithmically ranged between p = 0.0001 and p = 0.1. For each value of p, 100 random PBNs with 4 genes, 2 predictors for each gene, and 2 input variables per predictor, were produced. The vertical axis shows the number of ?tness function evaluations necessary for the GA to obtain the optimal solution. The dotted line shows the mean number of evaluations.

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obtain the optimal solution. The box and whisker plots have the usual meaning: they show the lower quartile, median, and upper quartile, and the whiskers extend to 1.5 times the inter-quartile range (IQR). The symbols “+” indicate those values that are beyond the ends of the whiskers. Finally, the dotted line shows the mean number of evaluations, for each value of p. On the average, the GA ?nds the optimal solution in much fewer steps than is required by brute-force enumeration. For example, for p = 0.0001, the median number of evaluations is 29, whereas the total number of possibilities is 128 — a 23% e?ciency. At the same time, we see cases where the GA obviously failed. For example, for p = 0.0001, there are three cases which required more than 128 evaluations to obtain the optimal solution — in those cases, the GA was worse than a brute-force enumeration. Because the GA is a stochastic search method, such cases will always exist. The real advantage of GAs comes from the fact that they perform quite well most of the time. We also see that the number of necessary evaluations tends to increase somewhat as a function of p. This can be seen from the medians as well as the means. One possible explanation of this phenomenon is that as p is increased, the underlying “structure” of the PBN becomes e?aced and it is this very structure that the GA replies upon to quickly locate the optimum. Indeed, if we increase p to the unrealistically high value of p = 0.5, meaning that every gene gets determined by a fair coin ?ip, we would expect the GA to amount to nothing more than a random search. Finally, we also observe an increased IQR, with increasing p. Using the same reasoning as above, the ability of the GA to locate the optimal solution becomes compromised due to increased prevalence of randomness in the data. Let us illustrate our approach with another simple example. Consider a PBN with n = 5 genes. We will use only one predictor per gene and will allow each predictor to have a full set of 5 input variables. Thus, the PBN is, in fact, a deterministic Boolean network. Since there are 5 predictors and each predictor has a truth table containing 32 bits, there are 232 × 5 ≈ 21 billion possible alterations. Clearly, even for this simple example, doing a full combinatorial search for the optimal alteration would be highly impractical. Having generated a random PBN, with a perturbation probability of p = 0.001, we can compute its stationary distribution vector, which is shown in Fig. 5(a). As can be seen, this particular PBN has a probability of almost 1 of being in state (11010) (26 in decimal), in the long run. The only reason this probability is not exactly equal to 1 is because of perturbations (each gene gets ?ipped one in a thousand times). The network can ?nd itself occasionally in other states, which consequently have very small, but non-zero stationary probabilities.c Since this network is just a deterministic Boolean network, the state (11010) is called an attractor or ?xed point [9, 15]. Since there is only one such attractor, all the other states constitute its basin of attraction. Now, suppose that we would like to change the network, by changing only one rule (predictor), such that state (11101) (29 in
c In

fact, we can say that limp→0 π(11010) = 1 and limp→0 π(x) = 0 for all x = (11010).

Control of Stationary Behavior in Probabilistic Boolean Networks
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0.2

0

0

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20

30

40

0

0

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30

40

(a)

(b)

Fig. 5. (a) The stationary distribution vector for a Boolean network with 5 genes and p = 0.001. The only attractor is state (11010). (b) The stationary distribution vector after only one predictor is changed such that (11101) becomes the new attractor.

decimal) becomes the new and only attractor. Now, although we know that this is possible in advance, because of the way we have designed the network, the real test is to see whether the GA is able to determine the correct predictor. As an objective function, we used the Euclidean (L2 ) norm between the solution and the length 32 unit vector that has a 1 in position 29. The GA ?nds the correct gene and determines the 32-bit truth table for its predictor after about 200 evaluations of the objective function. This is quite remarkable considering that there are over 21 billion possibilities. The resulting stationary distribution vector is shown in Fig. 5(b). 5. Concluding Remarks We have developed a formalism for controlling long-run behavior of Probabilistic Boolean Networks. The formalism is, in fact, quite generic in the sense that any objective function, using any number of states and any number of possible predictors to be modi?ed can be speci?ed. Section 4.1 contains an example specifying the desired stationary probabilities for two particular states and another example specifying the stationary behavior for all states. The control of long-run behavior is accomplished by structural manipulation of the underlying rules of the network. In view of genetic regulatory networks, it is advisable to minimize this type of structural manipulation as much as possible, which translates into limiting the number of gene predictors that can be simultaneously modi?ed or altered. Clearly, this seems to work against the goals of the optimization — the fewer choices we have (at any one particular time), the less power we have to alter the long-run behavior of the network. Thus, it may be the case that, given the constraints on the number of predictors that can be simultaneously altered, some solutions may not be feasible. However, in practice, we would only be interested in approximate solutions. For

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example, if we wish to make the stationary probability of a certain (undesirable) state be zero, we would be content if it was simply close to zero. Thus, many “nearly optimal” solutions may exist. Genetic algorithms indeed do not always guarantee a global optimum, but may ?nd many good sub-optimal solutions, as they explore a number of promising regions of the search space. In addition, we may wish to only allow the use of predictors belonging to a certain class of Boolean functions, such as canalizing functions or functions with a limited number of input variables. We can even insist that the new, altered predictor must have the same input variables as the predictor it is replacing. It is quite straightforward to incorporate such constraints during the GA optimization stage. Finally, for larger networks, parallel implementations of genetic algorithms can signi?cantly improve the performance [3]. In such algorithms, a number of sub-populations evolve in parallel and some highly ?t individuals can migrate between sub-populations. This carries additional bene?t in that migrants from other sub-populations, which have evolved independently, help maintain genetic diversity. Perhaps not surprisingly, genetic algorithms, themselves inspired by biological evolution, hold great promise for tackling challenging problems in biology.

References
[1] Dougherty E. R., Kim S. and Chen Y., Coe?cient of determination in nonlinear signal processing, Signal Processing, 80(10) (2000) pp. 2219–2235. [2] Goldberg D., Genetic Algorithms in Search, Optimization, and Machine Learning (Addison-Wesley, Reading, MA, 1989). [3] Gorges-Schleuter M., Explicit parallelism of genetic algorithms through population structures. In Parallel Problem Solving from Nature (Springer Verlag, 1991) pp. 150–159. [4] Holland J. H., Adaptation in Natural and Arti?cial Systems (University of Michigan Press, 1975; Second edition: MIT Press, 1992.) [5] Huang S., Gene expression pro?ling, genetic networks, and cellular states: An integrating concept for tumorigenesis and drug discovery, Journal of Molecular Medicine 77 (1999) pp. 469–480. [6] Huang S. and Ingber D. E., Regulation of cell cycle and gene activity patterns by cell shape: Evidence for attractors in real regulatory networks and the selective mode of cellular control, InterJournal Genetics (2000), MS: 238, http://www.interjournal.org. [7] Jim?nez-Morales F., Crutch?eld J. P. and Mitchell M., Evolving two-dimensional e cellular automata to perform density classi?cation: A report on work in progress, Parallel Computing 27(5) (2001) pp. 571–585. [8] Kau?man S. A. and Levin S., Towards a general theory of adaptive walks on rugged landscapes, Journal of Theoretical Biology 128 (1987) pp. 11–45. [9] Kau?man S. A., The Origins of Order: Self-Organization and Selection in Evolution (Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1993). [10] Kim S., Dougherty E. R., Chen Y., Sivakumar K., Meltzer P., Trent J. M. and Bittner M., Multivariate measurement of gene expression relationships, Genomics 67 (2000) pp. 201–209. [11] Kim S., Dougherty E. R., Bittner M. L., Chen Y., Sivakumar K., Meltzer P. and Trent J. M., General nonlinear framework for the analysis of gene interac-

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