Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Biological data, such as molecular abundance measurements and protein
sequences, harbor complex hidden structure that reflects its underlying
biological mechanisms. For example, high-throughput abundance measurements
provide a snapshot the global state of a living cell, while homologous
protein sequences encode the residue-level logic of the proteins' function
and provide a snapshot of the evolutionary trajectory of the protein family.
In this work I describe algorithmic approaches and analysis software I
developed for uncovering hidden structure in both kinds of data.
Clustering is an unsurpervised machine learning technique commonly used
to map the structure of data collected in high-throughput experiments,
such as quantification of gene expression by DNA microarrays or
short-read sequencing. Clustering algorithms always yield a partitioning
of the data, but relying on a single partitioning solution can lead to
spurious conclusions. In particular, noise in the data can cause objects
to fall into the same cluster by chance rather than due to meaningful
association. In the first part of this thesis I demonstrate approaches to
clustering data robustly in the presence of noise and apply robust clustering
to analyze the transcriptional response to injury in a neuron cell.
In the second part of this thesis I describe identifying hidden specificity
determining residues (SDPs) from alignments of protein sequences descended
through gene duplication from a common ancestor (paralogs) and apply the
approach to identify numerous putative SDPs in bacterial transcription
factors in the LacI family. Finally, I describe and demonstrate a new
algorithm for reconstructing the history of duplications by which paralogs
descended from their common ancestor. This algorithm addresses the
complexity of such reconstruction due to indeterminate or erroneous
homology assignments made by sequence alignment algorithms and to the
vast prevalence of divergence through speciation over divergence through
gene duplication in protein evolution.
Chair and Committee
Kristen M. Naegle
Barak A. Cohen, Justin C. Fay, James J. Havranek, Gary D. Stormo,
Sloutsky, Roman, "Robust Algorithms for Detecting Hidden Structure in Biological Data" (2017). Arts & Sciences Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 1215.