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Friedel, Caroline C. and Zimmer, Ralf (2006): Inferring topology from clustering coefficients in protein-protein interaction networks. In: BMC Bioinformatics 7:519 [PDF, 424kB]


Background: Although protein-protein interaction networks determined with high-throughput methods are incomplete, they are commonly used to infer the topology of the complete interactome. These partial networks often show a scale-free behavior with only a few proteins having many and the majority having only a few connections. Recently, the possibility was suggested that this scale-free nature may not actually reflect the topology of the complete interactome but could also be due to the error proneness and incompleteness of large-scale experiments. Results: In this paper, we investigate the effect of limited sampling on average clustering coefficients and how this can help to more confidently exclude possible topology models for the complete interactome. Both analytical and simulation results for different network topologies indicate that partial sampling alone lowers the clustering coefficient of all networks tremendously. Furthermore, we extend the original sampling model by also including spurious interactions via a preferential attachment process. Simulations of this extended model show that the effect of wrong interactions on clustering coefficients depends strongly on the skewness of the original topology and on the degree of randomness of clustering coefficients in the corresponding networks. Conclusion: Our findings suggest that the complete interactome is either highly skewed such as e.g. in scale-free networks or is at least highly clustered. Although the correct topology of the interactome may not be inferred beyond any reasonable doubt from the interaction networks available, a number of topologies can nevertheless be excluded with high confidence.

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