Assembling Disease Networks From Causal Interaction Resources

Gianni Cesareni, Francesca Sacco, Livia Perfetto

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The development of high-throughput high-content technologies and the increased ease in their application in clinical settings has raised the expectation of an important impact of these technologies on diagnosis and personalized therapy. Patient genomic and expression profiles yield lists of genes that are mutated or whose expression is modulated in specific disease conditions. The challenge remains of extracting from these lists functional information that may help to shed light on the mechanisms that are perturbed in the disease, thus setting a rational framework that may help clinical decisions. Network approaches are playing an increasing role in the organization and interpretation of patients' data. Biological networks are generated by connecting genes or gene products according to experimental evidence that demonstrates their interactions. Till recently most approaches have relied on networks based on physical interactions between proteins. Such networks miss an important piece of information as they lack details on the functional consequences of the interactions. Over the past few years, a number of resources have started collecting causal information of the type protein A activates/inactivates protein B, in a structured format. This information may be represented as signed directed graphs where physiological and pathological signaling can be conveniently inspected. In this review we will (i) present and compare these resources and discuss the different scope in comparison with pathway resources; (ii) compare resources that explicitly capture causality in terms of data content and proteome coverage (iii) review how causal-graphs can be used to extract disease-specific Boolean networks.

Original languageEnglish
Article number694468
JournalFrontiers in Genetics
Publication statusPublished - Jun 11 2021


  • causal interactions
  • causality resources
  • logic modeling
  • network medicine
  • prior knowledge network

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)


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