Comparison of module detection algorithms in protein networks and investigation of the biological meaning of predicted modules

Shailesh Tripathi, Salissou Moutari, Matthias Dehmer, Frank Emmert-Streib

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


Background: It is generally acknowledged that a functional understanding of a biological system can only be obtained by an understanding of the collective of molecular interactions in form of biological networks. Protein networks are one particular network type of special importance, because proteins form the functional base units of every biological cell. On a mesoscopic level of protein networks, modules are of significant importance because these building blocks may be the next elementary functional level above individual proteins allowing to gain insight into fundamental organizational principles of biological cells. Results: In this paper, we provide a comparative analysis of five popular and four novel module detection algorithms. We study these module prediction methods for simulated benchmark networks as well as 10 biological protein interaction networks (PINs). A particular focus of our analysis is placed on the biological meaning of the predicted modules by utilizing the Gene Ontology (GO) database as gold standard for the definition of biological processes. Furthermore, we investigate the robustness of the results by perturbing the PINs simulating in this way our incomplete knowledge of protein networks. Conclusions: Overall, our study reveals that there is a large heterogeneity among the different module prediction algorithms if one zooms-in the biological level of biological processes in the form of GO terms and all methods are severely affected by a slight perturbation of the networks. However, we also find pathways that are enriched in multiple modules, which could provide important information about the hierarchical organization of the system.

Original languageEnglish
Article number129
Pages (from-to)129
JournalBMC Bioinformatics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 18 Mar 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Biological processes
  • Module detection algorithms
  • Protein networks
  • Algorithms
  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Eukaryota/metabolism
  • Gene Ontology
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Protein Interaction Mapping


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