Incorporating biological prior knowledge for Bayesian learning via maximal knowledge-driven information priors Academic Article uri icon


  • BACKGROUND: Phenotypic classification is problematic because small samples are ubiquitous; and, for these, use of prior knowledge is critical. If knowledge concerning the feature-label distribution - for instance, genetic pathways - is available, then it can be used in learning. Optimal Bayesian classification provides optimal classification under model uncertainty. It differs from classical Bayesian methods in which a classification model is assumed and prior distributions are placed on model parameters. With optimal Bayesian classification, uncertainty is treated directly on the feature-label distribution, which assures full utilization of prior knowledge and is guaranteed to outperform classical methods. RESULTS: The salient problem confronting optimal Bayesian classification is prior construction. In this paper, we propose a new prior construction methodology based on a general framework of constraints in the form of conditional probability statements. We call this prior the maximal knowledge-driven information prior (MKDIP). The new constraint framework is more flexible than our previous methods as it naturally handles the potential inconsistency in archived regulatory relationships and conditioning can be augmented by other knowledge, such as population statistics. We also extend the application of prior construction to a multinomial mixture model when labels are unknown, which often occurs in practice. The performance of the proposed methods is examined on two important pathway families, the mammalian cell-cycle and a set of p53-related pathways, and also on a publicly available gene expression dataset of non-small cell lung cancer when combined with the existing prior knowledge on relevant signaling pathways. CONCLUSION: The new proposed general prior construction framework extends the prior construction methodology to a more flexible framework that results in better inference when proper prior knowledge exists. Moreover, the extension of optimal Bayesian classification to multinomial mixtures where data sets are both small and unlabeled, enables superior classifier design using small, unstructured data sets. We have demonstrated the effectiveness of our approach using pathway information and available knowledge of gene regulating functions; however, the underlying theory can be applied to a wide variety of knowledge types, and other applications when there are small samples.

altmetric score

  • 4.25

author list (cited authors)

  • Boluki, S., Esfahani, M. S., Qian, X., & Dougherty, E. R.

citation count

  • 25

publication date

  • December 2017