The capacity of an organism to respond to its environment is facilitated by the environmentally induced alteration of gene and protein expression, i.e. expression plasticity. The reconstruction of gene regulatory networks based on expression plasticity can gain not only new insights into the causality of transcriptional and cellular processes but also the complex regulatory mechanisms that underlie biological function and adaptation. We describe an approach for network inference by integrating expression plasticity into Shannon's mutual information. Beyond Pearson correlation, mutual information can capture non-linear dependencies and topology sparseness. The approach measures the network of dependencies of genes expressed in different environments, allowing the environment-induced plasticity of gene dependencies to be tested in unprecedented details. The approach is also able to characterize the extent to which the same genes trigger different amounts of expression in response to environmental changes. We demonstrated the usefulness of this approach through analysing gene expression data from a rabbit vein graft study that includes two distinct blood flow environments. The proposed approach provides a powerful tool for the modelling and analysis of dynamic regulatory networks using gene expression data from distinct environments.
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