Pathway Graphical Lasso
Keywords:structure learning, graphical models, computational biology, model decomposition
Graphical models provide a rich framework for summarizing the dependencies among variables. The graphical lasso approach attempts to learn the structure of a Gaussian graphical model (GGM) by maximizing the log likelihood of the data, subject to an l1 penalty on the elements of the inverse covariance matrix. Most algorithms for solving the graphical lasso problem do not scale to a very large number of variables. Furthermore, the learned network structure is hard to interpret. To overcome these challenges, we propose a novel GGM structure learning method that exploits the fact that for many real-world problems we have prior knowledge that certain edges are unlikely to be present. For example, in gene regulatory networks, a pair of genes that does not participate together in any of the cellular processes, typically referred to as pathways, is less likely to be connected. In computer vision applications in which each variable corresponds to a pixel, each variable is likely to be connected to the nearby variables. In this paper, we propose the pathway graphical lasso, which learns the structure of a GGM subject to pathway-based constraints. In order to solve this problem, we decompose the network into smaller parts, and use a message-passing algorithm in order to communicate among the subnetworks. Our algorithm has orders of magnitude improvement in run time compared to the state-of-the-art optimization methods for the graphical lasso problem that were modified to handle pathway-based constraints.