RCFGL: Rapid Condition adaptive Fused Graphical Lasso and application to modeling brain region co-expression networks

Souvik Seal, Qunhua Li, Elle Butler Basner, Laura M. Saba, Katerina Kechris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Inferring gene co-expression networks is a useful process for understanding gene regulation and pathway activity. The networks are usually undirected graphs where genes are represented as nodes and an edge represents a significant co-expression relationship. When expression data of multiple (p) genes in multiple (K) conditions (e.g., treatments, tissues, strains) are available, joint estimation of networks harnessing shared information across them can significantly increase the power of analysis. In addition, examining condition-specific patterns of co-expression can provide insights into the underlying cellular processes activated in a particular condition. Condition adaptive fused graphical lasso (CFGL) is an existing method that incorporates condition specificity in a fused graphical lasso (FGL) model for estimating multiple co-expression networks. However, with computational complexity of O(p2K log K), the current implementation of CFGL is prohibitively slow even for a moderate number of genes and can only be used for a maximum of three conditions. In this paper, we propose a faster alternative of CFGL named rapid condition adaptive fused graphical lasso (RCFGL). In RCFGL, we incorporate the condition specificity into another popular model for joint network estimation, known as fused multiple graphical lasso (FMGL). We use a more efficient algorithm in the iterative steps compared to CFGL, enabling faster computation with complexity of O(p2K) and making it easily generalizable for more than three conditions. We also present a novel screening rule to determine if the full network estimation problem can be broken down into estimation of smaller disjoint sub-networks, thereby reducing the complexity further. We demonstrate the computational advantage and superior performance of our method compared to two non-condition adaptive methods, FGL and FMGL, and one condition adaptive method, CFGL in both simulation study and real data analysis. We used RCFGL to jointly estimate the gene co-expression networks in different brain regions (conditions) using a cohort of heterogeneous stock rats. We also provide an accommodating C and Python based package that implements RCFGL.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1010758
JournalPLoS computational biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Ecology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Computational Theory and Mathematics


Dive into the research topics of 'RCFGL: Rapid Condition adaptive Fused Graphical Lasso and application to modeling brain region co-expression networks'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this