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In genomic studies, to investigate how the structure of a genetic network differs between two experiment conditions is a very interesting but challenging problem, especially in high-dimensional setting. Existing literatures mostly focus on differential network modelling for continuous data. However, in real application, we may encounter discrete data or mixed data, which urges us to propose a unified differential network modelling for various data types.


We propose a unified latent Gaussian copula differential network model which provides deeper understanding of the unknown mechanism than that among the observed variables. Adaptive rank-based estimation approaches are proposed with the assumption that the true differential network is sparse. The adaptive estimation approaches do not require precision matrices to be sparse, and thus can allow the individual networks to contain hub nodes. Theoretical analysis shows that the proposed methods achieve the same parametric convergence rate for both the difference of the precision matrices estimation and differential structure recovery, which means that the extra modeling flexibility comes at almost no cost of statistical efficiency. Besides theoretical analysis, thorough numerical simulations are conducted to compare the empirical performance of the proposed methods with some other state-of-the-art methods. The result shows that the proposed methods work quite well for various data types. The proposed method is then applied on gene expression data associated with lung cancer to illustrate its empirical usefulness.


The proposed latent variable differential network models allows for various data-types and thus are more flexible, which also provide deeper understanding of the unknown mechanism than that among the observed variables. Theoretical analysis, numerical simulation and real application all demonstrate the great advantages of the latent differential network modelling and thus are highly recommended.


This article was originally published in BMC Informatics, available at DOI: 10.1186/s12859-018-2461-2.

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (



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