M. Fan, H. Kuwahara, X. Wang, S. Wang, X. Gao
Briefings in Bioinformatics, (in press), (2015)
Parameter estimation, Gene circuits, Comparative study, Thermodynamic-based modeling
Parameter estimation is a challenging computational problem in the reverse engineering of biological systems. Because advances in biotechnology have facilitated wide availability of time-series gene expression data, systematic parameter estimation of gene circuit models from such time-series mRNA data has become an important method for quantitatively dissecting the regulation of gene expression. By focusing on the modeling of gene circuits, we examine here the performance of three types of state-of-the-art parameter estimation methods: population-based methods, online methods and model-decomposition-based methods. Our results show that certain population-based methods are able to generate high-quality parameter solutions. The performance of these methods, however, is heavily dependent on the size of the parameter search space, and their computational requirements substantially increase as the size of the search space increases. In comparison, online methods and model decomposition-based methods are computationally faster alternatives and are less dependent on the size of the search space. Among other things, our results show that a hybrid approach that augments computationally fast methods with local search as a subsequent refinement procedure can substantially increase the quality of their parameter estimates to the level on par with the best solution obtained from the population-based methods while maintaining high computational speed. These suggest that such hybrid methods can be a promising alternative to the more commonly used population-based methods for parameter estimation of gene circuit models when limited prior knowledge about the underlying regulatory mechanisms makes the size of the parameter search space vastly large.