Cell-type-specific predictive network yields novel insights into mouse embryonic stem cell self-renewal and cell fate

Karen G Dowell, Allen K Simons, Zack Z Wang, Kyuson Yun, Matthew A Hibbs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Self-renewal, the ability of a stem cell to divide repeatedly while maintaining an undifferentiated state, is a defining characteristic of all stem cells. Here, we clarify the molecular foundations of mouse embryonic stem cell (mESC) self-renewal by applying a proven Bayesian network machine learning approach to integrate high-throughput data for protein function discovery. By focusing on a single stem-cell system, at a specific developmental stage, within the context of well-defined biological processes known to be active in that cell type, we produce a consensus predictive network that reflects biological reality more closely than those made by prior efforts using more generalized, context-independent methods. In addition, we show how machine learning efforts may be misled if the tissue specific role of mammalian proteins is not defined in the training set and circumscribed in the evidential data. For this study, we assembled an extensive compendium of mESC data: ∼2.2 million data points, collected from 60 different studies, under 992 conditions. We then integrated these data into a consensus mESC functional relationship network focused on biological processes associated with embryonic stem cell self-renewal and cell fate determination. Computational evaluations, literature validation, and analyses of predicted functional linkages show that our results are highly accurate and biologically relevant. Our mESC network predicts many novel players involved in self-renewal and serves as the foundation for future pluripotent stem cell studies. This network can be used by stem cell researchers (at http://StemSight.org) to explore hypotheses about gene function in the context of self-renewal and to prioritize genes of interest for experimental validation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e56810
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2013


  • Animals
  • Bayes Theorem
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Computational Biology
  • Embryonic Stem Cells
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
  • Gene Regulatory Networks
  • Mice
  • Open Reading Frames
  • Protein Interaction Maps
  • Proteome
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't


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