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1.  Dynamics of hepatic gene expression profile in a rat cecal ligation and puncture model 
The Journal of Surgical Research  2011;176(2):583-600.
Sepsis remains a major clinical challenge in intensive care units. The difficulty in developing new and more effective treatments for sepsis exemplifies our incomplete understanding of the underlying pathophysiology of it. One of the more widely used rodent models for studying polymicrobial sepsis is cecal ligation and puncture (CLP). While a number of CLP studies investigated the ensuing systemic inflammatory response, they usually focus on a single time point post CLP and therefore fail to describe the dynamics of the response. Furthermore, previous studies mostly use surgery without infection (herein referred to as Sham CLP, SCLP) as a control for the CLP model, however SCLP represents an aseptic injurious event that also stimulates a systemic inflammatory response. Thus, there is a need to better understand the dynamics and expression patterns of both injury- and sepsis- induced gene expression alterations to identify potential regulatory targets. In this direction, we characterized the response of the liver within the first 24 h in a rat model of SCLP and CLP using a time series of microarray gene expression data.
Rats were randomly divided into three groups, sham, SCLP and CLP. Rats in SCLP group are subjected to laparotomy, cecal ligation and puncture while those in CLP group are subjected to the similar procedures without cecal ligation and puncture. Animals were saline resuscitated and sacrificed at defined time points (0, 2, 4, 8, 16, and 24 h). Liver tissues were explanted and analyzed for their gene expression profiles using microarray technology. Unoperated animals (Sham) serve as negative controls. After identifying differentially expressed probesets between sham and SCLP or CLP conditions over time, the concatenated data sets corresponding to these differentially expressed probesets in sham and SCLP or CLP groups were combined and analyzed using a “consensus clustering” approach. Promoters of genes that share common characteristics were extracted, and compared with gene batteries comprised of co expressed genes in order to identify putatative transcription factors which could be responsible for the co regulation of those genes.
The SCLP/CLP genes whose expression patterns significantly changed compared to sham over time were identified, clustered, and finally analyzed for pathway enrichment. Our results indicate that both CLP and SCLP triggered the activation of a pro-inflammatory response, enhanced synthesis of acute-phase proteins, increased metabolism and tissue damage markers. Genes triggered by CLP which can be directly linked to bacteria removal functions were absent in SCLP injury. In addition, genes relevant to oxidative stress induced damage were unique to CLP injury, which may be due to the increased severity of CLP injury vs. SCLP injury. Pathway enrichment identified pathways with similar functionality but different dynamics in the two injury models, indicating that the functions controlled by those pathways are under the influence of different transcription factors and regulatory mechanisms. Putatively identified transcription factors, notably including CREB, NF-KB and STAT, were obtained through analysis of the promoter regions in the SCLP/CLP genes. Our results show that while transcription factors such as NF-KB, HOMF, and GATA were common in both injuries for the IL-6 signaling pathway, there were many other transcription factors associated with that pathway which were unique to CLP, including FKHD, HESF and IRFF. There were 17 transcription factors that were identified as important in at least 2 pathways in the CLP injury, but only 7 transcription factors with that property in the SCLP injury. This also supports the hypothesis of unique regulatory modules that govern the pathways present in both the CLP and SCLP response.
By using microarrays to assess multiple genes in a high throughput manner, we demonstrate that an inflammatory response involving different dynamics and different genes is triggered by SCLP and CLP. From our analysis of the CLP data, the key characteristics of sepsis are a pro inflammatory response which drives hypermetabolism, immune cell activation, and damage from oxidative stress. This contrasts with SCLP, which triggers a modified inflammatory response leading to no immune cell activation, decreased detoxification potential, and hyper metabolism. Many of the identified transcription factors that drive the CLP-induced response are not found in the SCLP group, suggesting that SCLP and CLP induce different types of inflammatory responses via different regulatory pathways.
PMCID: PMC3368040  PMID: 22381171
sepsis; trauma; gene expression; transcription factor; microarray; inflammation; liver
2.  Tissue-Specific Gene Expression and Regulation in Liver and Muscle Following Chronic Corticosteroid Administration 
Although corticosteroids (CSs) affect gene expression in multiple tissues, the array of genes that are regulated by these catabolic steroids is diverse, highly tissue specific, and depends on their functions in the tissue. Liver has many important functions in performing and regulating diverse metabolic processes. Muscle, in addition to its mechanical role, is critical in maintaining systemic energy homeostasis and accounts for about 80% of insulin-directed glucose disposal. Consequently, a better understanding of CS pharmacogenomic effects in these tissues would provide valuable information regarding the tissue-specificity of transcriptional dynamics, and would provide insights into the underlying molecular mechanisms of action for both beneficial and detrimental effects.
We performed an integrated analysis of transcriptional data from liver and muscle in response to methylprednisolone (MPL) infusion, which included clustering and functional annotation of clustered gene groups, promoter extraction and putative transcription factor (TF) identification, and finally, regulatory closeness (RC) identification.
This analysis allowed the identification of critical transcriptional responses and CS-responsive functions in liver and muscle during chronic MPL administration, the prediction of putative transcriptional regulators relevant to transcriptional responses of CS-affected genes which are also potential secondary bio-signals altering expression levels of target-genes, and the exploration of the tissue-specificity and biological significance of gene expression patterns, CS-responsive functions, and transcriptional regulation.
The analysis provided an integrated description of the genomic and functional effects of chronic MPL infusion in liver and muscle.
PMCID: PMC3956809  PMID: 24653645
liver; muscle; glucocorticoids; corticosteroids; gene expression; gene regulation; promoter analysis
3.  Genome-wide transcriptional plasticity underlies cellular adaptation to novel challenge 
By recruiting the essential HIS3 gene to the GAL regulatory system and switching to a repressing glucose medium, we confronted yeast cells with a novel challenge they had not encountered before along their history in evolution.Adaptation to this challenge involved a global transcriptional response of a sizeable fraction of the genome, which relaxed on the time scale of the population adaptation, of order of 10 generations.For a large fraction of the responding genes there is no simple biological interpretation, connecting them to the specific cellular demands imposed by the novel challenge.Strikingly, repeating the experiment did not reproduce similar transcription patterns neither in the transient phase nor in the adapted state in glucose.These results suggest that physiological selection operates on the new metabolic configurations generated by the non-specific large scale transcriptional response to eventually stabilize an adaptive state.
Cells adjust their transcriptional state to accommodate environmental and genetic perturbations. Some common perturbations, such as changes in nutrient composition, elicit well-characterized transcriptional responses that can be understood by simple engineering-like design principles as satisfying specific demands imposed by the perturbation. However, cells also have the ability to adapt to novel and unforeseen challenges. This ability is central in realizing the evolvability potential of cells as they respond to dramatic genetic or environmental changes along evolution. Little is known about the mechanisms underlying such adaptations to novel challenges; in particular, the role of the transcriptional regulatory network in such adaptations has not been characterized. Genome-wide measurements have revealed that, in many cases, perturbations lead to a global transcriptional response involving a sizeable fraction of the genome (Gasch et al, 2000; Jelinsky et al, 2000; Causton et al, 2001; Ideker et al, 2001; Lai et al, 2005). Such global behavior suggests that general collective properties of the genetic network, rather than specific pre-designed pathways, determine an important part of the transcriptional response. It is not known however what fraction of genes within such massive transcriptional responses is essential to the specific cellular demands. It is also unknown whether the non-pre-designed part of the response can have a functional role in adaptation to novel challenges.
To study these questions, we confronted yeast cells with a novel challenge they had not encountered before along their history in evolution. A strain of the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae was engineered to recruit the gene HIS3, an essential enzyme from the histidine biosynthesis pathway (Hinnebusch, 1992), to the GAL regulatory system, responsible for galactose utilization (Stolovicki et al, 2006). The GAL system is known to be strongly repressed when the cells are exposed to glucose. Therefore, upon switching to a medium containing glucose and lacking histidine, the GAL system and with it HIS3 are highly repressed immediately following the switch and the cells encounter a severe challenge. We have recently shown that a cell population carrying this rewired genome can adapt to grow competitively in a chemostat in a medium containing pure glucose (Stolovicki et al, 2006). This adaptation occurred on a timescale of ∼10 generations; applying a stronger environmental pressure in the form of a competitive inhibitor to HIS3 (3AT) resulted in a similar adaptation albeit with a longer timescale. Figure 1 shows the dynamics of the population's cell density (blue lines, measured by OD) following a medium switch from galactose to glucose in the chemostat without (A) and with (B) 3AT. The experiments revealed that adaptation occurs on physiological timescales (much shorter than required by spontaneous random mutations), but the mechanisms underlying this adaptation have remained unclear (Stolovicki et al, 2006).
Yeast cells had not encountered recruitment of HIS3 to the GAL system along their evolutionary history, and their genome could not possibly have been selected to specifically address glucose repression of HIS3. This experiment, therefore, provides a unique opportunity to characterize the spontaneous transcriptional response during adaptation to a novel challenge and to assess the functional role of the regulatory system in this adaptation. We used DNA microarrays to measure the genome-wide expression levels at time points along the adaptation process, with and without 3AT. These measurements revealed that a sizeable fraction of the genome responded by induction or repression to the switch into glucose. Superimposed on the OD traces, Figure 1 shows the results of a clustering analysis of the expression of genes as measured by the arrays along time in the experiments. This analysis revealed two dominant clusters, each containing hundreds of genes in each experiment, which responded to the medium switch to glucose by a strong transient induction or repression followed by relaxation to steady state on the timescale of the adaptation process, ∼ 10 generations. The two clusters in each experiment show similar but opposite dynamics.
A detailed analysis of the gene content in the two clusters revealed that only a small portion of the response was induced by a change in carbon source (15% overlap between the corresponding clusters in the two experiments, with and without 3AT). Moreover, it revealed a very low overlap with the universal stress response observed for a wide range of environmental stresses (Gasch et al, 2000; Causton et al, 2001) and with the typical response to amino-acid starvation (Natarajan et al, 2001). Additionally, all known specific responses to stress in the literature are characterized by transient induction or repression with relaxation to steady state within a generation time (Gasch et al, 2000; Koerkamp et al, 2002; Wu et al, 2004), whereas in our experiments relaxation of the transcriptional response occurs over many generations. Taken together, these results show that the transcriptional response observed here is neither a metabolic response to the change in carbon source nor is it a standard response to stress or amino-acid starvation. This raises the possibility that it is a spontaneous collective response that is largely composed of genes that do not have a specific function. This possibility was tested directly by repeating the experiment with different populations and comparing their responses. This procedure revealed reproducible adaptation dynamics and steady states in terms of population density, but showed significantly different transcriptional transient responses and steady states for the two repeated experiments. Thus, a significant portion of the genes that changed their expression during the adaptation process do not have a well-defined and reproducible function in the challenging environment.
The application of a stronger environmental pressure in the form of 3AT had a dramatic effect on the global characteristics of the transcriptional response: it induced a markedly higher correlation among the hundreds of responding genes. Figure 3A compares the array data in color code for the two experiments. It is seen that the emergent pattern of transcription exhibits a higher degree of order by the introduction of high external pressure. Observation of the transcriptional patterns for specific metabolic pathways illustrates the different contributions to the correlated dynamics (Figure 3B–D). A general energetic module such as glycolysis exhibited similar patterns of induction and relaxation in experiments with and without 3AT (Figure 3B). However, in general, we found that more than one-third of the known metabolic modules (30 out of 88 modules described in KEGG) exhibited high expression correlation among their genes when the environmental pressure was high but not when it was low. As an example, Figure 3C shows the histidine biosynthesis pathway and Figure 3D the purine pathway. Note the highly ordered trajectories in the lower panels (with 3AT) compared to the disordered ones in the upper panels (no 3AT). This order extends also between genes belonging to different and even distant metabolic modules. It indicates that a global transcriptional regulatory mechanism is in operation, rather than a local specific one. Surprisingly, genes belonging to the same metabolic pathway exhibited simultaneous positively and negatively correlated dynamics. Thus, an important conclusion of this work is that the global transcriptional response to a novel challenge cannot be explained by a simple cellular or metabolic logic. This is to be expected if the response had not been specifically selected in evolution and was not pre-designed for the challenge.
Our data clearly reveal that the massive transcriptional response underlies the adaptation process to a novel challenge. The novelty of the challenge presented to the cells excludes the possibility that this response has been specifically selected toward this challenge. Thus, transcriptional regulation has dynamic properties resulting in a general massive nonspecific response to a novel perturbation. Such a response in turn allows for metabolic rearrangements, which by feeding back on transcription lead to adaptation of the cells to the unforeseen situation. The drastic change in the expression state of the cell opens multiple new metabolic pathways. Physiological selection works then on these multiple metabolic pathways to stabilize an adaptive state that causes relaxation of the perturbed expression pattern. This scenario, involving the creation of a library of possibilities and physiological selection over this library, is compatible with our understanding of a broad class of biological systems, placing the cellular metabolic/regulatory networks on the same footing as the neural or the immune systems (Gerhart and Kirschner, 1997).
Cells adjust their transcriptional state to accommodate environmental and genetic perturbations. An open question is to what extent transcriptional response to perturbations has been specifically selected along evolution. To test the possibility that transcriptional reprogramming does not need to be ‘pre-designed' to lead to an adaptive metabolic state on physiological timescales, we confronted yeast cells with a novel challenge they had not previously encountered. We rewired the genome by recruiting an essential gene, HIS3, from the histidine biosynthesis pathway to a foreign regulatory system, the GAL network responsible for galactose utilization. Switching medium to glucose in a chemostat caused repression of the essential gene and presented the cells with a severe challenge to which they adapted over approximately 10 generations. Using genome-wide expression arrays, we show here that a global transcriptional reprogramming (>1200 genes) underlies the adaptation. A large fraction of the responding genes is nonreproducible in repeated experiments. These results show that a nonspecific transcriptional response reflecting the natural plasticity of the regulatory network supports adaptation of cells to novel challenges.
PMCID: PMC1865588  PMID: 17453047
adaptation; cellular metabolism; expression arrays; plasticity; transcriptional response
4.  Incorporating Motif Analysis into Gene Co-expression Networks Reveals Novel Modular Expression Pattern and New Signaling Pathways 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(10):e1003840.
Understanding of gene regulatory networks requires discovery of expression modules within gene co-expression networks and identification of promoter motifs and corresponding transcription factors that regulate their expression. A commonly used method for this purpose is a top-down approach based on clustering the network into a range of densely connected segments, treating these segments as expression modules, and extracting promoter motifs from these modules. Here, we describe a novel bottom-up approach to identify gene expression modules driven by known cis-regulatory motifs in the gene promoters. For a specific motif, genes in the co-expression network are ranked according to their probability of belonging to an expression module regulated by that motif. The ranking is conducted via motif enrichment or motif position bias analysis. Our results indicate that motif position bias analysis is an effective tool for genome-wide motif analysis. Sub-networks containing the top ranked genes are extracted and analyzed for inherent gene expression modules. This approach identified novel expression modules for the G-box, W-box, site II, and MYB motifs from an Arabidopsis thaliana gene co-expression network based on the graphical Gaussian model. The novel expression modules include those involved in house-keeping functions, primary and secondary metabolism, and abiotic and biotic stress responses. In addition to confirmation of previously described modules, we identified modules that include new signaling pathways. To associate transcription factors that regulate genes in these co-expression modules, we developed a novel reporter system. Using this approach, we evaluated MYB transcription factor-promoter interactions within MYB motif modules.
Author Summary
Gene co-expression networks unite genes with similar expression patterns. From these networks, gene co-expression modules can be identified. A specific family of transcription factor(s) may regulate the genes within a co-expression module. Thus, module identification is important to decipher the gene regulatory network. Previously, module identification relied on clustering the gene network into gene clusters that were then treated as modules. This represents a top-down approach. Here, we introduce a reverse approach aiming at identifying gene co-expression modules regulated by known promoter motifs. For a given promoter motif, we calculated the probability of each gene within the network to belong to a module regulated by that motif via motif enrichment analysis or motif position bias analysis. A sub-network containing the genes with a high probability of belonging to a motif driven module was then extracted from the gene co-expression network. From this sub-network, the modular structure can be identified via visual inspection. Our bottom-up approach recovered many known and novel modules for the G-box, MYB, W-box and site II elements motif, whose expression may be regulated by the transcription factors that bind to these motifs. Additionally, we developed a rapid transcription factor-promoter interaction screening system to validate predicted interactions.
PMCID: PMC3789834  PMID: 24098147
5.  Mathematical Modeling of Corticosteroid Pharmacogenomics in Rat Muscle following Acute and Chronic Methylprednisolone Dosing 
Molecular pharmaceutics  2008;5(2):328-339.
The pharmacogenomic effects of a corticosteroid (CS) were assessed in rat skeletal muscle using microarrays. Adrenalectomized (ADX) rats were treated with methylprednisolone (MPL) by either 50 mg/kg intravenous injection or 7-day 0.3 mg/kg/h infusion through subcutaneously implanted pumps. RNAs extracted from individual rat muscles were hybridized to Affymetrix Rat Genome Genechips. Data mining yielded 653 and 2316 CS-responsive probe sets following MPL bolus and infusion treatments. Of these, 196 genes were controlled by MPL under both dosing conditions. Cluster analysis revealed that 124 probe sets exhibited three typical expression dynamic profiles following acute dosing. Cluster A consisted of up-regulated probe sets which were grouped into five subclusters each exhibiting unique temporal patterns during the infusion. Cluster B comprised down-regulated probe sets which were divided into two subclusters with distinct dynamics during the infusion. Cluster C probe sets exhibited delayed down-regulation under both bolus and infusion conditions. Among those, 104 probe sets were further grouped into subclusters based on their profiles following chronic MPL dosing. Several mathematical models were proposed and adequately captured the temporal patterns for each subcluster. Multiple types of dosing regimens are needed to resolve common determinants of gene regulation as chronic exposure results in unexpected differences in gene expression compared to acute dosing. Pharmacokinetic/pharmacodynamic (PK/PD) modeling provides a quantitative tool for elucidating the complexities of CS pharmacogenomics in skeletal muscle.
PMCID: PMC4196382  PMID: 18271548
Microarray studies; pharmacokinetics; pharmacodynamics; mathematical models; computational biology
6.  Gene arrays and temporal patterns of drug response: corticosteroid effects on rat liver 
It was hypothesized that expression profiling using gene arrays can be used to distinguish temporal patterns of changes in gene expression in response to a drug in vivo, and that these patterns can be used to identify groups of genes regulated by common mechanisms. A corticosteroid, methylprednisolone (MPL), was administered intravenously to a group of 47 rats (Rattus rattus) that were sacrificed at 17 timepoints over 72 h after MPL administration. Plasma drug concentrations and hepatic glucocorticoid receptors were measured from each animal. In addition, RNAs prepared from individual livers were used to query Affymetrix genechips for mRNA expression patterns. Statistical analyses using Affymetrix and GeneSpring software were applied to the results. Cluster analysis revealed six major temporal patterns containing 196 corticosteroid-responsive probe sets representing 153 different genes. Four clusters showed increased expression with differences in lag-time, onset rate, and/or duration of transcriptional effect. A fifth cluster showed rapid reduction persisting for 18 h. The final cluster identified showed decreased expression followed by an extended period of increased expression. These results lend new insights into the diverse hepatic genes involved in the physiologic, therapeutic, and adverse effects of corticosteroids and suggest that a limited array of control processes account for the dynamics of their pharmacogenomic effects.
PMCID: PMC4207265  PMID: 12928814
Corticosteroids; Glucocorticoids; Expression profiling; Cluster analysis
7.  Identification of gene co-regulatory modules and associated cis-elements involved in degenerative heart disease 
BMC Medical Genomics  2009;2:31.
Cardiomyopathies, degenerative diseases of cardiac muscle, are among the leading causes of death in the developed world. Microarray studies of cardiomyopathies have identified up to several hundred genes that significantly alter their expression patterns as the disease progresses. However, the regulatory mechanisms driving these changes, in particular the networks of transcription factors involved, remain poorly understood. Our goals are (A) to identify modules of co-regulated genes that undergo similar changes in expression in various types of cardiomyopathies, and (B) to reveal the specific pattern of transcription factor binding sites, cis-elements, in the proximal promoter region of genes comprising such modules.
We analyzed 149 microarray samples from human hypertrophic and dilated cardiomyopathies of various etiologies. Hierarchical clustering and Gene Ontology annotations were applied to identify modules enriched in genes with highly correlated expression and a similar physiological function. To discover motifs that may underly changes in expression, we used the promoter regions for genes in three of the most interesting modules as input to motif discovery algorithms. The resulting motifs were used to construct a probabilistic model predictive of changes in expression across different cardiomyopathies.
We found that three modules with the highest degree of functional enrichment contain genes involved in myocardial contraction (n = 9), energy generation (n = 20), or protein translation (n = 20). Using motif discovery tools revealed that genes in the contractile module were found to contain a TATA-box followed by a CACC-box, and are depleted in other GC-rich motifs; whereas genes in the translation module contain a pyrimidine-rich initiator, Elk-1, SP-1, and a novel motif with a GCGC core. Using a naïve Bayes classifier revealed that patterns of motifs are statistically predictive of expression patterns, with odds ratios of 2.7 (contractile), 1.9 (energy generation), and 5.5 (protein translation).
We identified patterns comprised of putative cis-regulatory motifs enriched in the upstream promoter sequence of genes that undergo similar changes in expression secondary to cardiomyopathies of various etiologies. Our analysis is a first step towards understanding transcription factor networks that are active in regulating gene expression during degenerative heart disease.
PMCID: PMC2700136  PMID: 19476647
8.  Microarray Analysis of Mercury-Induced Changes in Gene Expression in Human Liver Carcinoma (HepG2) Cells: Importance in Immune Responses 
Mercury is widely distributed in the biosphere, and its toxic effects have been associated with human death and several ailments that include cardiovascular diseases, anemia, kidney and liver damage, developmental abnormalities, neurobehavioral disorders, autoimmune diseases, and cancers in experimental animals. At the cellular level, mercury has been shown to interact with sulphydryl groups of proteins and enzymes, to damage DNA, and to modulate cell cycle progression and/or apoptosis. However, the underlying molecular mechanisms of mercury toxicity remain to be elucidated. Our laboratory has demonstrated that mercury exposure induces cytotoxicity and apoptosis, modulates cell cycle, and transcriptionally activates specific stress genes in human liver carcinoma cells. The liver is one of the few organs capable of regeneration from injury. Dormant genes in the liver are therefore capable of reactivation. In this research, we hypothesize that mercury-induced hepatotoxicity is associated with the modulation of specific gene expressions in liver cells that can lead to several disease states involving immune system dysfunctions. In testing this hypothesis, we used an Affymetrix oligonucleotide microarray with probe sets complementary to more than 20,000 genes to determine whether patterns of gene expressions differ between controls and mercury (1–3μg/mL) treated cells. There was a clear separation in gene expression profiles between controls and mercury-treated cells. Hierarchical cluster analysis identified 2,211 target genes that were affected. One hundred and thirty-eight of these genes were up-regulated, among which forty three were significantly over-expressed (p = 0.001) with greater than a two-fold change, and ninety five genes were moderately over-expressed with an increase of more than one fold (p = 0.004). Two thousand and twenty-three genes were down-regulated with only forty five of them reaching a statistically significant decline at p = 0.05 according to the Welch’s ANOVA/Welch’s t-test. Further analyses of affected genes identified genes located on all human chromosomes except chromosome 22 with higher than normal effects on genes found on chromosomes 1–14, 17–20 (sex-determining region Y)-box18SRY, 21 (splicing factor, arginine/serine-rich 15 and ATP-binding), and X (including BCL6-co-repressor). These genes are categorized as control and regulatory genes for metabolic pathways involving the cell cycle (cyclin-dependent kinases), apoptosis, cytokine expression, Na+/K+ ATPase, stress responses, G-protein signal transduction, transcription factors, DNA repair as well as metal-regulatory transcription factor 1, MTF1 HGNC, chondroitin sulfate proteoglycan 5 (neuroglycan C), ATP-binding cassette, sub-family G (WHITE), cytochrome b-561 family protein, CDC-like kinase 1 (CLK1 HGNC) (protein tyrosine kinase STY), Na+/H+ exchanger regulatory factor (NHERF HGNC), potassium voltage-gated channel subfamily H member 2 (KCNH2), putative MAPK activating protein (PM20, PM21), ras homolog gene family, polymerase (DNA directed), δ regulatory subunit (50kDa), leptin receptor involved in hematopoietin/interferon-class (D200-domain) cytokine receptor activity and thymidine kinase 2, mitochondrial TK2 HGNC and related genes. Significant alterations in these specific genes provide new directions for deeper mechanistic investigations that would lead to a better understanding of the molecular basis of mercury-induced toxicity and human diseases that may result from disturbances in the immune system.
PMCID: PMC3807506  PMID: 16823088
Mercury; oligonucleotide microarray; gene expression profile; HepG2 cells; immune responses
9.  The Molecular Phenotype of Endocapillary Proliferation: Novel Therapeutic Targets for IgA Nephropathy 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(8):e103413.
IgA nephropathy (IgAN) is a clinically and pathologically heterogeneous disease. Endocapillary proliferation is associated with higher risk of progressive disease, and clinical studies suggest that corticosteroids mitigate this risk. However, corticosteroids are associated with protean cellular effects and significant toxicity. Furthermore the precise mechanism by which they modulate kidney injury in IgAN is not well delineated. To better understand molecular pathways involved in the development of endocapillary proliferation and to identify novel specific therapeutic targets, we evaluated the glomerular transcriptome of microdissected kidney biopsies from 22 patients with IgAN. Endocapillary proliferation was defined according to the Oxford scoring system independently by 3 nephropathologists. We analyzed mRNA expression using microarrays and identified transcripts differentially expressed in patients with endocapillary proliferation compared to IgAN without endocapillary lesions. Next, we employed both transcription factor analysis and in silico drug screening and confirmed that the endocapillary proliferation transcriptome is significantly enriched with pathways that can be impacted by corticosteroids. With this approach we also identified novel therapeutic targets and bioactive small molecules that may be considered for therapeutic trials for the treatment of IgAN, including resveratrol and hydroquinine. In summary, we have defined the distinct molecular profile of a pathologic phenotype associated with progressive renal insufficiency in IgAN. Exploration of the pathways associated with endocapillary proliferation confirms a molecular basis for the clinical effectiveness of corticosteroids in this subgroup of IgAN, and elucidates new therapeutic strategies for IgAN.
PMCID: PMC4136785  PMID: 25133636
10.  Network motif-based identification of transcription factor-target gene relationships by integrating multi-source biological data 
BMC Bioinformatics  2008;9:203.
Integrating data from multiple global assays and curated databases is essential to understand the spatio-temporal interactions within cells. Different experiments measure cellular processes at various widths and depths, while databases contain biological information based on established facts or published data. Integrating these complementary datasets helps infer a mutually consistent transcriptional regulatory network (TRN) with strong similarity to the structure of the underlying genetic regulatory modules. Decomposing the TRN into a small set of recurring regulatory patterns, called network motifs (NM), facilitates the inference. Identifying NMs defined by specific transcription factors (TF) establishes the framework structure of a TRN and allows the inference of TF-target gene relationship. This paper introduces a computational framework for utilizing data from multiple sources to infer TF-target gene relationships on the basis of NMs. The data include time course gene expression profiles, genome-wide location analysis data, binding sequence data, and gene ontology (GO) information.
The proposed computational framework was tested using gene expression data associated with cell cycle progression in yeast. Among 800 cell cycle related genes, 85 were identified as candidate TFs and classified into four previously defined NMs. The NMs for a subset of TFs are obtained from literature. Support vector machine (SVM) classifiers were used to estimate NMs for the remaining TFs. The potential downstream target genes for the TFs were clustered into 34 biologically significant groups. The relationships between TFs and potential target gene clusters were examined by training recurrent neural networks whose topologies mimic the NMs to which the TFs are classified. The identified relationships between TFs and gene clusters were evaluated using the following biological validation and statistical analyses: (1) Gene set enrichment analysis (GSEA) to evaluate the clustering results; (2) Leave-one-out cross-validation (LOOCV) to ensure that the SVM classifiers assign TFs to NM categories with high confidence; (3) Binding site enrichment analysis (BSEA) to determine enrichment of the gene clusters for the cognate binding sites of their predicted TFs; (4) Comparison with previously reported results in the literatures to confirm the inferred regulations.
The major contribution of this study is the development of a computational framework to assist the inference of TRN by integrating heterogeneous data from multiple sources and by decomposing a TRN into NM-based modules. The inference capability of the proposed framework is verified statistically (e.g., LOOCV) and biologically (e.g., GSEA, BSEA, and literature validation). The proposed framework is useful for inferring small NM-based modules of TF-target gene relationships that can serve as a basis for generating new testable hypotheses.
PMCID: PMC2386822  PMID: 18426580
11.  Elucidating the Altered Transcriptional Programs in Breast Cancer using Independent Component Analysis 
PLoS Computational Biology  2007;3(8):e161.
The quantity of mRNA transcripts in a cell is determined by a complex interplay of cooperative and counteracting biological processes. Independent Component Analysis (ICA) is one of a few number of unsupervised algorithms that have been applied to microarray gene expression data in an attempt to understand phenotype differences in terms of changes in the activation/inhibition patterns of biological pathways. While the ICA model has been shown to outperform other linear representations of the data such as Principal Components Analysis (PCA), a validation using explicit pathway and regulatory element information has not yet been performed. We apply a range of popular ICA algorithms to six of the largest microarray cancer datasets and use pathway-knowledge and regulatory-element databases for validation. We show that ICA outperforms PCA and clustering-based methods in that ICA components map closer to known cancer-related pathways, regulatory modules, and cancer phenotypes. Furthermore, we identify cancer signalling and oncogenic pathways and regulatory modules that play a prominent role in breast cancer and relate the differential activation patterns of these to breast cancer phenotypes. Importantly, we find novel associations linking immune response and epithelial–mesenchymal transition pathways with estrogen receptor status and histological grade, respectively. In addition, we find associations linking the activity levels of biological pathways and transcription factors (NF1 and NFAT) with clinical outcome in breast cancer. ICA provides a framework for a more biologically relevant interpretation of genomewide transcriptomic data. Adopting ICA as the analysis tool of choice will help understand the phenotype–pathway relationship and thus help elucidate the molecular taxonomy of heterogeneous cancers and of other complex genetic diseases.
Author Summary
The amount of a given transcript or protein in a cell is determined by a balance of expression and repression in a complex network of biological processes. This delicate balance is compromised in complex genetic diseases such as cancer by alterations in the activation patterns of functionally important biological processes known as pathways. Over the last years, a large number of microarray experiments profiling the expression levels of more than 20,000 human genes in hundreds of tumor samples have shown that most cancer types are heterogeneous diseases, each characterized by many different expression subtypes. The biological and clinical goal is to explain the observed tumor and clinical heterogeneity in terms of specific patterns of altered pathways. The bioinformatic challenge is therefore to devise mathematical tools that explicitly attempt to infer these altered pathways. To this end, we applied a signal processing tool in a meta-analysis of breast cancer, encompassing more than 800 tumor specimens derived from four different patient cohorts, and showed that this algorithm significantly outperforms popular standard bioinformatics tools in identifying altered pathways underlying breast cancer. These results show that the same tool could be applied to other complex human genetic diseases to better elucidate the underlying altered pathways.
PMCID: PMC1950343  PMID: 17708679
12.  microRNA-122 as a regulator of mitochondrial metabolic gene network in hepatocellular carcinoma 
A moderate loss of miR-122 function correlates with up-regulation of seed-matched genes and down-regulation of mitochondrially localized genes in both human hepatocellular carcinoma and in normal mice treated with anti-miR-122 antagomir.Putative direct targets up-regulated with loss of miR-122 and secondary targets down-regulated with loss of miR-122 are conserved between human beings and mice and are rapidly regulated in vitro in response to miR-122 over- and under-expression.Loss of miR-122 secondary target expression in either tumorous or adjacent non-tumorous tissue predicts poor survival of heptatocellular carcinoma patients.
Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is one of the most aggressive human malignancies, common in Asia, Africa, and in areas with endemic infections of hepatitis-B or -C viruses (HBV or HCV) (But et al, 2008). Globally, the 5-year survival rate of HCC is <5% and about 600 000 HCC patients die each year. The high mortality associated with this disease is mainly attributed to the failure to diagnose HCC patients at an early stage and a lack of effective therapies for patients with advanced stage HCC. Understanding the relationships between phenotypic and molecular changes in HCC is, therefore, of paramount importance for the development of improved HCC diagnosis and treatment methods.
In this study, we examined mRNA and microRNA (miRNA)-expression profiles of tumor and adjacent non-tumor liver tissue from HCC patients. The patient population was selected from a region of endemic HBV infection, and HBV infection appears to contribute to the etiology of HCC in these patients. A total of 96 HCC patients were included in the study, of which about 88% tested positive for HBV antigen; patients testing positive for HCV antigen were excluded. Among the 220 miRNAs profiled, miR-122 was the most highly expressed miRNA in liver, and its expression was decreased almost two-fold in HCC tissue relative to adjacent non-tumor tissue, confirming earlier observations (Lagos-Quintana et al, 2002; Kutay et al, 2006; Budhu et al, 2008).
Over 1000 transcripts were correlated and over 1000 transcripts were anti-correlated with miR-122 expression. Consistent with the idea that transcripts anti-correlated with miR-122 are potential miR-122 targets, the most highly anti-correlated transcripts were highly enriched for the presence of the miR-122 central seed hexamer, CACTCC, in the 3′UTR. Although the complete set of negatively correlated genes was enriched for cell-cycle genes, the subset of seed-matched genes had no significant KEGG Pathway annotation, suggesting that miR-122 is unlikely to directly regulate the cell cycle in these patients. In contrast, transcripts positively correlated with miR-122 were not enriched for 3′UTR seed matches to miR-122. Interestingly, these 1042 transcripts were enriched for genes coding for mitochondrially localized proteins and for metabolic functions.
To analyze the impact of loss of miR-122 in vivo, silencing of miR-122 was performed by antisense inhibition (anti-miR-122) in wild-type mice (Figure 3). As with the genes negatively correlated with miR-122 in HCC patients, no significant biological annotation was associated with the seed-matched genes up-regulated by anti-miR-122 in mouse livers. The most significantly enriched biological annotation for anti-miR-122 down-regulated genes, as for positively correlated genes in HCC, was mitochondrial localization; the down-regulated mitochondrial genes were enriched for metabolic functions. Putative direct and downstream targets with orthologs on both the human and mouse microarrays showed significant overlap for regulations in the same direction. These overlaps defined sets of putative miR-122 primary and secondary targets. The results were further extended in the analysis of a separate dataset from 180 HCC, 40 cirrhotic, and 6 normal liver tissue samples (Figure 4), showing anti-correlation of proposed primary and secondary targets in non-healthy tissues.
To validate the direct correlation between miR-122 and some of the primary and secondary targets, we determined the expression of putative targets after transfection of miR-122 mimetic into PLC/PRF/5 HCC cells, including the putative direct targets SMARCD1 and MAP3K3 (MEKK3), a target described in the literature, CAT-1 (SLC7A1), and three putative secondary targets, PPARGC1A (PGC-1α) and succinate dehydrogenase subunits A and B. As expected, the putative direct targets showed reduced expression, whereas the putative secondary target genes showed increased expression in cells over-expressing miR-122 (Figure 4).
Functional classification of genes using the total ancestry method (Yu et al, 2007) identified PPARGC1A (PGC-1α) as the most connected secondary target. PPARGC1A has been proposed to function as a master regulator of mitochondrial biogenesis (Ventura-Clapier et al, 2008), suggesting that loss of PPARGC1A expression may contribute to the loss of mitochondrial gene expression correlated with loss of miR-122 expression. To further validate the link of miR-122 and PGC-1α protein, we transfected PLC/PRF/5 cells with miR-122-expression vector, and observed an increase in PGC-1α protein levels. Importantly, transfection of both miR-122 mimetic and miR-122-expression vector significantly reduced the lactate content of PLC/PRF/5 cells, whereas anti-miR-122 treatment increased lactate production. Together, the data support the function of miR-122 in mitochondrial metabolic functions.
Patient survival was not directly associated with miR-122-expression levels. However, miR-122 secondary targets were expressed at significantly higher levels in both tumor and adjacent non-tumor tissues among survivors as compared with deceased patients, providing supporting evidence for the potential relevance of loss of miR-122 function in HCC patient morbidity and mortality.
Overall, our findings reveal potentially new biological functions for miR-122 in liver physiology. We observed decreased expression of miR-122, a liver-specific miRNA, in HBV-associated HCC, and loss of miR-122 seemed to correlate with the decrease of mitochondrion-related metabolic pathway gene expression in HCC and in non-tumor liver tissues, a result that is consistent with the outcome of treatment of mice with anti-miR-122 and is of prognostic significance for HCC patients. Further investigation will be conducted to dissect the regulatory function of miR-122 on mitochondrial metabolism in HCC and to test whether increasing miR-122 expression can improve mitochondrial function in liver and perhaps in liver tumor tissues. Moreover, these results support the idea that primary targets of a given miRNA may be distributed over a variety of functional categories while resulting in a coordinated secondary response, potentially through synergistic action (Linsley et al, 2007).
Tumorigenesis involves multistep genetic alterations. To elucidate the microRNA (miRNA)–gene interaction network in carcinogenesis, we examined their genome-wide expression profiles in 96 pairs of tumor/non-tumor tissues from hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Comprehensive analysis of the coordinate expression of miRNAs and mRNAs reveals that miR-122 is under-expressed in HCC and that increased expression of miR-122 seed-matched genes leads to a loss of mitochondrial metabolic function. Furthermore, the miR-122 secondary targets, which decrease in expression, are good prognostic markers for HCC. Transcriptome profiling data from additional 180 HCC and 40 liver cirrhotic patients in the same cohort were used to confirm the anti-correlation of miR-122 primary and secondary target gene sets. The HCC findings can be recapitulated in mouse liver by silencing miR-122 with antagomir treatment followed by gene-expression microarray analysis. In vitro miR-122 data further provided a direct link between induction of miR-122-controlled genes and impairment of mitochondrial metabolism. In conclusion, miR-122 regulates mitochondrial metabolism and its loss may be detrimental to sustaining critical liver function and contribute to morbidity and mortality of liver cancer patients.
PMCID: PMC2950084  PMID: 20739924
hepatocellular carcinoma; microarray; miR-122; mitochondrial; survival
13.  A Predictive Model of the Oxygen and Heme Regulatory Network in Yeast 
PLoS Computational Biology  2008;4(11):e1000224.
Deciphering gene regulatory mechanisms through the analysis of high-throughput expression data is a challenging computational problem. Previous computational studies have used large expression datasets in order to resolve fine patterns of coexpression, producing clusters or modules of potentially coregulated genes. These methods typically examine promoter sequence information, such as DNA motifs or transcription factor occupancy data, in a separate step after clustering. We needed an alternative and more integrative approach to study the oxygen regulatory network in Saccharomyces cerevisiae using a small dataset of perturbation experiments. Mechanisms of oxygen sensing and regulation underlie many physiological and pathological processes, and only a handful of oxygen regulators have been identified in previous studies. We used a new machine learning algorithm called MEDUSA to uncover detailed information about the oxygen regulatory network using genome-wide expression changes in response to perturbations in the levels of oxygen, heme, Hap1, and Co2+. MEDUSA integrates mRNA expression, promoter sequence, and ChIP-chip occupancy data to learn a model that accurately predicts the differential expression of target genes in held-out data. We used a novel margin-based score to extract significant condition-specific regulators and assemble a global map of the oxygen sensing and regulatory network. This network includes both known oxygen and heme regulators, such as Hap1, Mga2, Hap4, and Upc2, as well as many new candidate regulators. MEDUSA also identified many DNA motifs that are consistent with previous experimentally identified transcription factor binding sites. Because MEDUSA's regulatory program associates regulators to target genes through their promoter sequences, we directly tested the predicted regulators for OLE1, a gene specifically induced under hypoxia, by experimental analysis of the activity of its promoter. In each case, deletion of the candidate regulator resulted in the predicted effect on promoter activity, confirming that several novel regulators identified by MEDUSA are indeed involved in oxygen regulation. MEDUSA can reveal important information from a small dataset and generate testable hypotheses for further experimental analysis. Supplemental data are included.
Author Summary
The cell uses complex regulatory networks to modulate the expression of genes in response to changes in cellular and environmental conditions. The transcript level of a gene is directly affected by the binding of transcriptional regulators to DNA motifs in its promoter sequence. Therefore, both expression levels of transcription factors and other regulatory proteins as well as sequence information in the promoters contribute to transcriptional gene regulation. In this study, we describe a new computational strategy for learning gene regulatory programs from gene expression data based on the MEDUSA algorithm. We learn a model that predicts differential expression of target genes from the expression levels of regulators, the presence of DNA motifs in promoter sequences, and binding data for transcription factors. Unlike many previous approaches, we do not assume that genes are regulated in clusters, and we learn DNA motifs de novo from promoter sequences as an integrated part of our algorithm. We use MEDUSA to produce a global map of the yeast oxygen and heme regulatory network. To demonstrate that MEDUSA can reveal detailed information about regulatory mechanisms, we perform biochemical experiments to confirm the predicted regulators for an important hypoxia gene.
PMCID: PMC2573020  PMID: 19008939
14.  Gene Expression Changes Associated with Resistance to Intravenous Corticosteroid Therapy in Children with Severe Ulcerative Colitis 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(9):e13085.
Background and Aims
Microarray analysis of RNA expression allows gross examination of pathways operative in inflammation. We aimed to determine whether genes expressed in whole blood early following initiation of intravenous corticosteroid treatment can be associated with response.
From a prospectively accrued cohort of 128 pediatric patients hospitalized for intravenous corticosteroid treatment of severe UC, we selected for analysis 20 corticosteroid responsive (hospital discharge or PUCAI ≤45 by day 5) and 20 corticosteroid resistant patients (need for second line medical therapy or colectomy, or PUCAI >45 by day 5). Total RNA was extracted from blood samples collected on day 3 of intravenous corticosteroid therapy. The eluted transcriptomes were quantified on Affymetrix Human Gene 1.0 ST arrays. The data was analysed by the local-pooled error method for discovery of differential gene expression and false discovery rate correction was applied to adjust for multiple comparisons.
A total of 41 genes differentially expressed between responders and non-responders were detected with statistical significance. Two of these genes, CEACAM1 and MMP8, possibly inhibited by methylprednisolone through IL8, were both found to be over-expressed in non-responsive patients. ABCC4 (MRP4) as a member of the multi-drug resistance superfamily was a novel candidate gene for corticosteroid resistance. The expression pattern of a cluster of 10 genes selected from the 41 significant hits were able to classify the patients with 80% sensitivity and 80% specificity.
Elevated expression of several genes involved in inflammatory pathways was associated with resistance to intravenous corticosteroid therapy early in the course of treatment. Gene expression profiles may be useful to classify resistance to intravenous corticosteroids in children with severe UC and assist with clinical management decisions.
PMCID: PMC2948001  PMID: 20941359
15.  Adult porcine genome-wide DNA methylation patterns support pigs as a biomedical model 
BMC Genomics  2015;16:743.
Pigs (Sus scrofa) provide relevant biomedical models to dissect complex diseases due to their anatomical, genetic, and physiological similarities with humans. Aberrant DNA methylation has been linked to many of these diseases and is associated with gene expression; however, the functional similarities and differences between porcine and human DNA methylation patterns are largely unknown.
DNA and RNA was isolated from eight tissue samples (fat, heart, kidney, liver, lung, lymph node, muscle, and spleen) from the adult female Duroc utilized for the pig genome sequencing project. Reduced representation bisulfite sequencing (RRBS) and RNA-seq were performed on an Illumina HiSeq2000. RRBS reads were aligned using BSseeker2, and only sites with a minimum depth of 10 reads were used for methylation analysis. RNA-seq reads were aligned using Tophat, and expression analysis was performed using Cufflinks. In addition, SNP calling was performed using GATK for targeted control and whole genome sequencing reads for CpG site validation and allelic expression analysis, respectively.
Analysis on the influence of DNA variation in methylation calling revealed a reduced effectiveness of WGS datasets in covering CpG rich regions, as well as the usefulness of a targeted control library for SNP detection. Analysis of over 500,000 CpG sites demonstrated genome wide methylation patterns similar to those observed in humans, including reduced methylation within CpG islands and at transcription start sites (TSS), X chromosome inactivation, and anticorrelation of TSS CpG methylation with gene expression. In addition, a positive correlation between TSS CpG density and expression, and a negative correlation between TSS TpG density and expression were demonstrated. Low but non-random non-CpG methylation (<1%) was also detected in all non-neuronal somatic tissues, with differences in tissue clustering observed based on CpG and non-CpG methylation patterns. Finally, allele specific expression analysis revealed enrichment of genes involved in metabolic and regulatory processes. 
These results provide transcriptional and DNA methylation datasets for the biomedical community that are directly relatable to current genomic resources. In addition, the correlation between TSS CpG density and expression suggests increased mutation rates at CpG sites play a significant role in adaptive evolution by reducing CpG density at TSS over time, resulting in higher methylation levels in these regions and more permanent changes to lower gene expression. This is proposed to occur predominantly through deamination of 5-methylcytosine to thymidine, resulting in the replacement of CpG with TpG sites in these regions, as indicated by the increased TSS TpG density observed in non-expressed genes, resulting in a negative correlation between expression and TSS TpG density.
This study provides baseline methylation and gene transcription profiles for a healthy adult pig, reports similar patterns to those observed in humans, and supports future porcine studies related to human disease and development. Additionally, the observed reduced CpG and increased TpG density at TSS of lowly expressed genes suggests DNA methylation plays a significant role in adaptive evolution through more permanent changes to lower gene expression.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12864-015-1938-x) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4594891  PMID: 26438392
DNA methylation; Pigs; RNA-seq; Biomedical research; Adaptive evolution
16.  In silico discovery of transcription regulatory elements in Plasmodium falciparum 
BMC Genomics  2008;9:70.
With the sequence of the Plasmodium falciparum genome and several global mRNA and protein life cycle expression profiling projects now completed, elucidating the underlying networks of transcriptional control important for the progression of the parasite life cycle is highly pertinent to the development of new anti-malarials. To date, relatively little is known regarding the specific mechanisms the parasite employs to regulate gene expression at the mRNA level, with studies of the P. falciparum genome sequence having revealed few cis-regulatory elements and associated transcription factors. Although it is possible the parasite may evoke mechanisms of transcriptional control drastically different from those used by other eukaryotic organisms, the extreme AT-rich nature of P. falciparum intergenic regions (~90% AT) presents significant challenges to in silico cis-regulatory element discovery.
We have developed an algorithm called Gene Enrichment Motif Searching (GEMS) that uses a hypergeometric-based scoring function and a position-weight matrix optimization routine to identify with high-confidence regulatory elements in the nucleotide-biased and repeat sequence-rich P. falciparum genome. When applied to promoter regions of genes contained within 21 co-expression gene clusters generated from P. falciparum life cycle microarray data using the semi-supervised clustering algorithm Ontology-based Pattern Identification, GEMS identified 34 putative cis-regulatory elements associated with a variety of parasite processes including sexual development, cell invasion, antigenic variation and protein biosynthesis. Among these candidates were novel motifs, as well as many of the elements for which biological experimental evidence already exists in the Plasmodium literature. To provide evidence for the biological relevance of a cell invasion-related element predicted by GEMS, reporter gene and electrophoretic mobility shift assays were conducted.
This GEMS analysis demonstrates that in silico regulatory element discovery can be successfully applied to challenging repeat-sequence-rich, base-biased genomes such as that of P. falciparum. The fact that regulatory elements were predicted from a diverse range of functional gene clusters supports the hypothesis that cis-regulatory elements play a role in the transcriptional control of many P. falciparum biological processes. The putative regulatory elements described represent promising candidates for future biological investigation into the underlying transcriptional control mechanisms of gene regulation in malaria parasites.
PMCID: PMC2268928  PMID: 18257930
17.  VTCdb: a gene co-expression database for the crop species Vitis vinifera (grapevine) 
BMC Genomics  2013;14:882.
Gene expression datasets in model plants such as Arabidopsis have contributed to our understanding of gene function and how a single underlying biological process can be governed by a diverse network of genes. The accumulation of publicly available microarray data encompassing a wide range of biological and environmental conditions has enabled the development of additional capabilities including gene co-expression analysis (GCA). GCA is based on the understanding that genes encoding proteins involved in similar and/or related biological processes may exhibit comparable expression patterns over a range of experimental conditions, developmental stages and tissues. We present an open access database for the investigation of gene co-expression networks within the cultivated grapevine, Vitis vinifera.
The new gene co-expression database, VTCdb (, offers an online platform for transcriptional regulatory inference in the cultivated grapevine. Using condition-independent and condition-dependent approaches, grapevine co-expression networks were constructed using the latest publicly available microarray datasets from diverse experimental series, utilising the Affymetrix Vitis vinifera GeneChip (16 K) and the NimbleGen Grape Whole-genome microarray chip (29 K), thus making it possible to profile approximately 29,000 genes (95% of the predicted grapevine transcriptome). Applications available with the online platform include the use of gene names, probesets, modules or biological processes to query the co-expression networks, with the option to choose between Affymetrix or Nimblegen datasets and between multiple co-expression measures. Alternatively, the user can browse existing network modules using interactive network visualisation and analysis via CytoscapeWeb. To demonstrate the utility of the database, we present examples from three fundamental biological processes (berry development, photosynthesis and flavonoid biosynthesis) whereby the recovered sub-networks reconfirm established plant gene functions and also identify novel associations.
Together, we present valuable insights into grapevine transcriptional regulation by developing network models applicable to researchers in their prioritisation of gene candidates, for on-going study of biological processes related to grapevine development, metabolism and stress responses.
PMCID: PMC3904201  PMID: 24341535
18.  Quantitative Analysis of the Drosophila Segmentation Regulatory Network Using Pattern Generating Potentials 
PLoS Biology  2010;8(8):e1000456.
A new computational method uses gene expression databases and transcription factor binding specificities to describe regulatory elements in the Drosophila A/P patterning network in unprecedented detail.
Cis-regulatory modules that drive precise spatial-temporal patterns of gene expression are central to the process of metazoan development. We describe a new computational strategy to annotate genomic sequences based on their “pattern generating potential” and to produce quantitative descriptions of transcriptional regulatory networks at the level of individual protein-module interactions. We use this approach to convert the qualitative understanding of interactions that regulate Drosophila segmentation into a network model in which a confidence value is associated with each transcription factor-module interaction. Sequence information from multiple Drosophila species is integrated with transcription factor binding specificities to determine conserved binding site frequencies across the genome. These binding site profiles are combined with transcription factor expression information to create a model to predict module activity patterns. This model is used to scan genomic sequences for the potential to generate all or part of the expression pattern of a nearby gene, obtained from available gene expression databases. Interactions between individual transcription factors and modules are inferred by a statistical method to quantify a factor's contribution to the module's pattern generating potential. We use these pattern generating potentials to systematically describe the location and function of known and novel cis-regulatory modules in the segmentation network, identifying many examples of modules predicted to have overlapping expression activities. Surprisingly, conserved transcription factor binding site frequencies were as effective as experimental measurements of occupancy in predicting module expression patterns or factor-module interactions. Thus, unlike previous module prediction methods, this method predicts not only the location of modules but also their spatial activity pattern and the factors that directly determine this pattern. As databases of transcription factor specificities and in vivo gene expression patterns grow, analysis of pattern generating potentials provides a general method to decode transcriptional regulatory sequences and networks.
Author Summary
The developmental program specifying segmentation along the anterior-posterior axis of the Drosophila embryo is one of the best studied examples of transcriptional regulatory networks. Previous work has identified the location and function of dozens of DNA segments called cis-regulatory “modules” that regulate several genes in precise spatial patterns in the early embryo. In many cases, transcription factors that interact with such modules have also been identified. We present a novel computational framework that turns a qualitative and fragmented understanding of modules and factor-module interactions into a quantitative, systems-level view. The formalism utilizes experimentally characterized binding specificities of transcription factors and gene expression patterns to describe how multiple transcription factors (working as activators or repressors) act together in a module to determine its regulatory activity. This formalism can explain the expression patterns of known modules, infer factor-module interactions and quantify the potential of an arbitrary DNA segment to drive a gene's expression. We have also employed databases of gene expression patterns to find novel modules of the regulatory network. As databases of binding motifs and gene expression patterns grow, this new approach provides a general method to decode transcriptional regulatory sequences and networks.
PMCID: PMC2923081  PMID: 20808951
19.  A synthetic library of RNA control modules for predictable tuning of gene expression in yeast 
The authors describe a library of synthetic RNA control elements that provide programmable post-transcriptional regulation of gene expression in yeast. This toolkit is then used to study endogenous regulation of the ergosterol biosynthetic pathway.
Rnt1p hairpins can act as effective posttranscriptional gene regulatory elements in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae.Modification of the cleavage efficiency box (CEB) region of an Rnt1p hairpin can modulate Rnt1p cleavage rates, and thus the resulting gene regulatory activities of the hairpin control elements.A library of Rnt1p hairpins can act as a set of synthetic control modules that provide predictable tuning of gene expression over a wide range of expression levels.The Rnt1p-based control elements can be combined with any promoter to support titration of regulatory strategies encoded in transcriptional regulators, including feedback control around endogenous proteins.
The design of complex biological systems encoding desired functions require the development of genetic tools for the precise control of protein levels in cells (Elowitz and Leibler, 2000; Gardner et al, 2000; Basu et al, 2004). For example, in the design of engineered metabolic networks, the tuning of enzyme levels is often critical for overcoming metabolic burden (Jones et al, 2000; Jin et al, 2003), the accumulation of toxic intermediates (Zhu et al, 2001; Pfleger et al, 2006) and detrimental consequences associated with the redirection of cellular resources from native pathways (Alper et al, 2005b; Paradise et al, 2008). Various examples of libraries of genetic control modules have been described that have been generated through the randomization of well-characterized gene expression control elements (Basu et al, 2004; Pfleger et al, 2006; Anderson et al, 2007). However, most of these studies have been conducted in Escherichia coli such that there is a lack of similar tools for other cellular chassis.
The budding yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, is a relevant organism in industrial processes, including biosynthesis and biomanufacturing strategies (Ostergaard et al, 2000; Szczebara et al, 2003; Nguyen et al, 2004; Veen and Lang, 2004; Ro et al, 2006; Hawkins and Smolke, 2008). The majority of existing methods for tuning gene expression in yeast are through transcriptional control mechanisms in the form of inducible and constitutive promoter systems (Hawkins and Smolke, 2006; Nevoigt et al, 2006; Nevoigt et al, 2007). RNA-based control modules based on posttranscriptional mechanisms may offer an advantage in that they can be coupled to any promoter of choice, providing for enhanced control strategies and finer resolution tuning of protein expression levels. Although posttranscriptional control elements, such as internal ribosome entry sites and AU-rich elements, have been applied to regulate heterologous gene expression in yeast (Vasudevan and Peltz, 2001; Zhou et al, 2001; Lautz et al, 2010), these control elements have exhibited substantial variability in activity and have not been engineered as synthetic libraries exhibiting a wide range of predictable gene regulatory activities.
RNase III enzymes are a class of enzymes that cleave double-stranded RNA. The S. cerevisiae RNase III enzyme, Rnt1p, exhibits a number of unique features that allow it to recognize very specific RNA hairpin substrates that harbor a consensus AGNN tetraloop sequence. Despite extensive characterization of this enzyme and its demonstrated role in processing non-coding RNA and mRNA, neither natural nor synthetic Rnt1p substrates have been used to control gene expression levels in yeast. Therefore, we developed a genetic control system based on directed Rnt1p processing of a target transcript. Specifically, Rnt1p hairpins were immediately flanked by a clamp sequence (that insulates the hairpin structure from surrounding sequences) and placed downstream of a gene of interest, where they direct cleavage and thus inactivate the transcript, resulting in rapid transcript degradation. We validated this Rnt1p-based control system with two Rnt1p hairpins based on previous in vitro studies and demonstrated that Rnt1p hairpins can act as gene control modules in yeast.
Previous in vitro studies had identified three key regions in Rnt1p hairpins: the cleavage efficiency box (CEB), the binding stability box and the initial binding and positioning box (Lamontagne et al, 2003). The CEB region affects the processing of the hairpin stem by Rnt1p, such that nucleotide (nt) modifications in this region are expected to specifically modulate the cleavage rate. We created an Rnt1p hairpin library by randomizing the CEB region (12 nt). This library was placed downstream of a fluorescent reporter protein and a cell-based screening assay was used to identify functional members of the library that resulted in lowered fluorescence levels. The functional Rnt1p hairpin library comprises 16 unique sequences that span a large gene regulatory range—from 8 to 85% (Figure 3A)—and are fairly evenly distributed across this range. The negative controls for each sequence (constructed by mutating the required consensus tetraloop sequence) demonstrated that the majority of gene knockdown observed from each hairpin is due to Rnt1p processing (Figure 3B). A correlation analysis on the transcript and protein levels for each library hairpin construct indicated a strong positive correlation and a strong preservation of rank order between the two in vivo regulatory measurements (Figure 3C). Characterization of the hairpin library in a different genetic context supported the broader utility of these control modules for providing predictable gene control.
We applied the Rnt1p control modules to titrating a key enzyme component of the endogenous ergosterol biosynthesis network—the ERG9 genetic target. Squalene synthase, encoded by the ERG9 gene, is responsible for catalyzing the conversion of two molecules of farnesyl pyrophosphate to squalene, the first precursor in the ergosterol biosynthetic pathway in S. cerevisiae (Poulter and Rilling, 1981; Figure 6A). We integrated several members of the Rnt1p hairpin library downstream of the native ERG9 gene to cover the regulatory range of the library (Figure 6B). A strong positive correlation and preservation of rank order was observed between the ERG9 transcript levels and their yEGFP3 counterparts (Figure 6C). However, ERG9 expression levels did not fall below ∼40%, regardless of the Rnt1p hairpin strength, indicating that a previously identified endogenous feedback mechanism associated with the native ERG9 promoter acts to maintain ERG9 expression levels at that threshold value. In addition, most strains exhibited high relative ergosterol levels and growth rates, except for two strains harboring synthetic Rnt1p hairpins that resulted in the lowest expression levels, which exhibited a significant reduction in the amount of ergosterol produced and growth rate (Figure 6D and E). Our studies indicate that the endogenous feedback mechanism can be acting to increase ERG9 expression levels to the desired set point in the slow-growing strains, but the perturbations introduced in these strains may result in other impacts on the pathway that inhibit the endogenous control systems from restoring cellular growth to wild-type rates. These studies support the unique ability of the synthetic Rnt1p hairpin library to systematically titrate pathway enzyme levels by introducing precise perturbations around major control points while maintaining native cellular control strategies acting through transcriptional mechanisms.
Advances in synthetic biology have resulted in the development of genetic tools that support the design of complex biological systems encoding desired functions. The majority of efforts have focused on the development of regulatory tools in bacteria, whereas fewer tools exist for the tuning of expression levels in eukaryotic organisms. Here, we describe a novel class of RNA-based control modules that provide predictable tuning of expression levels in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. A library of synthetic control modules that act through posttranscriptional RNase cleavage mechanisms was generated through an in vivo screen, in which structural engineering methods were applied to enhance the insulation and modularity of the resulting components. This new class of control elements can be combined with any promoter to support titration of regulatory strategies encoded in transcriptional regulators and thus more sophisticated control schemes. We applied these synthetic controllers to the systematic titration of flux through the ergosterol biosynthesis pathway, providing insight into endogenous control strategies and highlighting the utility of this control module library for manipulating and probing biological systems.
PMCID: PMC3094065  PMID: 21364573
gene expression control; metabolic flux control; RNA controller; Rnt1p hairpin; synthetic biology
20.  Transcription Factors Bind Thousands of Active and Inactive Regions in the Drosophila Blastoderm  
PLoS Biology  2008;6(2):e27.
Identifying the genomic regions bound by sequence-specific regulatory factors is central both to deciphering the complex DNA cis-regulatory code that controls transcription in metazoans and to determining the range of genes that shape animal morphogenesis. We used whole-genome tiling arrays to map sequences bound in Drosophila melanogaster embryos by the six maternal and gap transcription factors that initiate anterior–posterior patterning. We find that these sequence-specific DNA binding proteins bind with quantitatively different specificities to highly overlapping sets of several thousand genomic regions in blastoderm embryos. Specific high- and moderate-affinity in vitro recognition sequences for each factor are enriched in bound regions. This enrichment, however, is not sufficient to explain the pattern of binding in vivo and varies in a context-dependent manner, demonstrating that higher-order rules must govern targeting of transcription factors. The more highly bound regions include all of the over 40 well-characterized enhancers known to respond to these factors as well as several hundred putative new cis-regulatory modules clustered near developmental regulators and other genes with patterned expression at this stage of embryogenesis. The new targets include most of the microRNAs (miRNAs) transcribed in the blastoderm, as well as all major zygotically transcribed dorsal–ventral patterning genes, whose expression we show to be quantitatively modulated by anterior–posterior factors. In addition to these highly bound regions, there are several thousand regions that are reproducibly bound at lower levels. However, these poorly bound regions are, collectively, far more distant from genes transcribed in the blastoderm than highly bound regions; are preferentially found in protein-coding sequences; and are less conserved than highly bound regions. Together these observations suggest that many of these poorly bound regions are not involved in early-embryonic transcriptional regulation, and a significant proportion may be nonfunctional. Surprisingly, for five of the six factors, their recognition sites are not unambiguously more constrained evolutionarily than the immediate flanking DNA, even in more highly bound and presumably functional regions, indicating that comparative DNA sequence analysis is limited in its ability to identify functional transcription factor targets.
Author Summary
One of the largest classes of regulatory proteins in animals, sequence-specific DNA binding transcription factors determine in which cells genes will be expressed and so control the development of an animal from a single cell to a morphologically complex adult. Understanding how this process is coordinated depends on knowing the number and types of genes that each transcription factor binds and regulates. Using immunoprecipitation of in vivo crosslinked chromatin coupled with DNA microarray hybridization (ChIP/chip), we have determined the genomic binding sites in early embryos of six transcription factors that play a crucial role in early development of the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster. We find that these proteins bind to several thousand genomic regions that lie close to approximately half the protein coding genes. Although this is a much larger number of genes than these factors are generally thought to regulate, we go on to show that whereas the more highly bound genes generally look to be functional targets, many of the genes bound at lower levels do not appear to be regulated by these factors. Our conclusions differ from those of other groups who have not distinguished between different levels of DNA binding in vivo using similar assays and who have generally assumed that all detected binding is functional.
ChIP/chip analysis indicates that sequence-specific transcription factors bind to overlapping sets of thousands of genomic regions in Drosophila embryos, but most regions are bound at low levels and many may not be functional targets of these factors.
PMCID: PMC2235902  PMID: 18271625
21.  EDISA: extracting biclusters from multiple time-series of gene expression profiles 
BMC Bioinformatics  2007;8:334.
Cells dynamically adapt their gene expression patterns in response to various stimuli. This response is orchestrated into a number of gene expression modules consisting of co-regulated genes. A growing pool of publicly available microarray datasets allows the identification of modules by monitoring expression changes over time. These time-series datasets can be searched for gene expression modules by one of the many clustering methods published to date. For an integrative analysis, several time-series datasets can be joined into a three-dimensional gene-condition-time dataset, to which standard clustering or biclustering methods are, however, not applicable. We thus devise a probabilistic clustering algorithm for gene-condition-time datasets.
In this work, we present the EDISA (Extended Dimension Iterative Signature Algorithm), a novel probabilistic clustering approach for 3D gene-condition-time datasets. Based on mathematical definitions of gene expression modules, the EDISA samples initial modules from the dataset which are then refined by removing genes and conditions until they comply with the module definition. A subsequent extension step ensures gene and condition maximality. We applied the algorithm to a synthetic dataset and were able to successfully recover the implanted modules over a range of background noise intensities. Analysis of microarray datasets has lead us to define three biologically relevant module types: 1) We found modules with independent response profiles to be the most prevalent ones. These modules comprise genes which are co-regulated under several conditions, yet with a different response pattern under each condition. 2) Coherent modules with similar responses under all conditions occurred frequently, too, and were often contained within these modules. 3) A third module type, which covers a response specific to a single condition was also detected, but rarely. All of these modules are essentially different types of biclusters.
We successfully applied the EDISA to different 3D datasets. While previous studies were mostly aimed at detecting coherent modules only, our results show that coherent responses are often part of a more general module type with independent response profiles under different conditions. Our approach thus allows for a more comprehensive view of the gene expression response. After subsequent analysis of the resulting modules, the EDISA helped to shed light on the global organization of transcriptional control. An implementation of the algorithm is available at
PMCID: PMC2063505  PMID: 17850657
22.  Dissection of a QTL Hotspot on Mouse Distal Chromosome 1 that Modulates Neurobehavioral Phenotypes and Gene Expression 
PLoS Genetics  2008;4(11):e1000260.
A remarkably diverse set of traits maps to a region on mouse distal chromosome 1 (Chr 1) that corresponds to human Chr 1q21–q23. This region is highly enriched in quantitative trait loci (QTLs) that control neural and behavioral phenotypes, including motor behavior, escape latency, emotionality, seizure susceptibility (Szs1), and responses to ethanol, caffeine, pentobarbital, and haloperidol. This region also controls the expression of a remarkably large number of genes, including genes that are associated with some of the classical traits that map to distal Chr 1 (e.g., seizure susceptibility). Here, we ask whether this QTL-rich region on Chr 1 (Qrr1) consists of a single master locus or a mixture of linked, but functionally unrelated, QTLs. To answer this question and to evaluate candidate genes, we generated and analyzed several gene expression, haplotype, and sequence datasets. We exploited six complementary mouse crosses, and combed through 18 expression datasets to determine class membership of genes modulated by Qrr1. Qrr1 can be broadly divided into a proximal part (Qrr1p) and a distal part (Qrr1d), each associated with the expression of distinct subsets of genes. Qrr1d controls RNA metabolism and protein synthesis, including the expression of ∼20 aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases. Qrr1d contains a tRNA cluster, and this is a functionally pertinent candidate for the tRNA synthetases. Rgs7 and Fmn2 are other strong candidates in Qrr1d. FMN2 protein has pronounced expression in neurons, including in the dendrites, and deletion of Fmn2 had a strong effect on the expression of few genes modulated by Qrr1d. Our analysis revealed a highly complex gene expression regulatory interval in Qrr1, composed of multiple loci modulating the expression of functionally cognate sets of genes.
Author Summary
A major goal of genetics is to understand how variation in DNA sequence gives rise to differences among individuals that influence traits such as disease risk. This is challenging. Most traits are the result of a complex interplay of genetic and environmental factors. One of the first steps in the path from DNA to these complex traits is the production of mRNA molecules. Understanding how sequence differences modulate expression of different RNAs is fundamental to understanding the molecular origins of complex traits. Here, we combine classic gene mapping methods with microarray technology to characterize and quantify RNA levels in different crosses of mice. We focused on a hotspot on chromosome 1 that controls the expression of a large number of different types of RNAs in the brain. This hotspot also controls many disease traits, including anxiety levels, and vulnerability to seizure in mice and humans. We show that this hotspot is made up of several distinct functional regions, one of which has an unusually strong and selective effect on aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases and other genes involved in protein translation.
PMCID: PMC2577893  PMID: 19008955
23.  Systematic image-driven analysis of the spatial Drosophila embryonic expression landscape 
We created innovative virtual representation for our large scale Drosophila insitu expression dataset. We aligned an elliptically shaped mesh comprised of small triangular regions to the outline of each embryo. Each triangle defines a unique location in the embryo and comparing corresponding triangles allows easy identification of similar expression patterns.The virtual representation was used to organize the expression landscape at stage 4-6. We identified regions with similar expression in the embryo and clustered genes with similar expression patterns.We created algorithms to mine the dataset for adjacent non-overlapping patterns and anti-correlated patterns. We were able to mine the dataset to identify co-expressed and putative interacting genes.Using co-expression we were able to assign putative functions to unknown genes.
Analyzing both temporal and spatial gene expression is essential for understanding development and regulatory networks of multicellular organisms. Interacting genes are commonly expressed in overlapping or adjacent domains. Thus, gene expression patterns can be used to assign putative gene functions and mined to infer candidates for networks.
We have generated a systematic two-dimensional mRNA expression atlas profiling embryonic development of Drosophila melanogaster (Tomancak et al, 2002, 2007). To date, we have collected over 70 000 images for over 6000 genes. To explore spatial relationships between gene expression patterns, we used a novel computational image-processing approach by converting expression patterns from the images into virtual representations (Figure 1). Using a custom-designed automated pipeline, for each image, we segmented and aligned the outline of the embryo to an elliptically shaped mesh, comprised of 311 small triangular regions each defining a unique location within the embryo. By comparing corresponding triangles, we produced a distance score to identify similar patterns. We generated those triangulated images (TIs) for our entire data set at all developmental stages and demonstrated that this representation can be used as for objective computationally defined description for expression in in situ hybridization images from various sources, including images from the literature.
We used the TIs to conduct a comprehensive analysis of the expression landscape. To this end, we created a novel approach to temporally sort and compact TIs to a non-redundant data set suitable for further computational processing. Although generally applicable for all developmental stages, for this study, we focused on developmental stages 4–6. For this stage range, we reduced the initial set of about 5800 TIs to 553 TIs containing 364 genes. Using this filtered data set, to discover how expression subdivides the embryo into regions, we clustered areas with similar expression and demonstrated that expression patterns divide the early embryo into distinct spatial regions resembling a fate map (Figure 3). To discover the range of unique expression patterns, we used affinity propagation clustering (Frey and Dueck, 2007) to group TIs with similar patterns and identified 39 clusters each representing a distinct pattern class. We integrated the remaining genes into the 39 clusters and studied the distribution of expression patterns and the relationships between the clusters.
The clustered expression patterns were used to identify putative positive and negative regulatory interactions. The similar TIs in each cluster not only grouped already known genes with related functions, but previously undescribed genes. A comparative analysis identified subtle differences between the genes within each expression cluster. To investigate these differences, we developed a novel Markov Random Field (MRF) segmentation algorithm to extract patterns. We then extended the MRF algorithm to detect shared expression boundaries, generate similarity measurements, and discriminate even faint/uncertain patterns between two TIs. This enabled us to identify more subtle partial expression pattern overlaps and adjacent non-overlapping patterns. For example, by conducting this analysis on the cluster containing the gene snail, we identified the previously known huckebein, which restricts snail expression (Reuter and Leptin, 1994), and zfh1, which interacts with tinman (Broihier et al, 1998; Su et al, 1999).
By studying the functions of known genes, we assigned putative developmental roles to each of the 39 clusters. Of the 1800 genes investigated, only half of them had previously assigned functions.
Representing expression patterns with geometric meshes facilitates the analysis of a complex process involving thousands of genes. This approach is complementary to the cellular resolution 3D atlas for the Drosophila embryo (Fowlkes et al, 2008). Our method can be used as a rapid, fully automated, high-throughput approach to obtain a map of co-expression, which will serve to select specific genes for detailed multiplex in-situ hybridization and confocal analysis for a fine-grain atlas. Our data are similar to the data in the literature, and research groups studying reporter constructs, mutant animals, or orthologs can easily produce in situ hybridizations. TIs can be readily created and provide representations that are both comparable to each other and our data set. We have demonstrated that our approach can be used for predicting relationships in regulatory and developmental pathways.
Discovery of temporal and spatial patterns of gene expression is essential for understanding the regulatory networks and development in multicellular organisms. We analyzed the images from our large-scale spatial expression data set of early Drosophila embryonic development and present a comprehensive computational image analysis of the expression landscape. For this study, we created an innovative virtual representation of embryonic expression patterns using an elliptically shaped mesh grid that allows us to make quantitative comparisons of gene expression using a common frame of reference. Demonstrating the power of our approach, we used gene co-expression to identify distinct expression domains in the early embryo; the result is surprisingly similar to the fate map determined using laser ablation. We also used a clustering strategy to find genes with similar patterns and developed new analysis tools to detect variation within consensus patterns, adjacent non-overlapping patterns, and anti-correlated patterns. Of the 1800 genes investigated, only half had previously assigned functions. The known genes suggest developmental roles for the clusters, and identification of related patterns predicts requirements for co-occurring biological functions.
PMCID: PMC2824522  PMID: 20087342
biological function; embryo; gene expression; in situ hybridization; Markov Random Field
24.  Discovery of Core Biotic Stress Responsive Genes in Arabidopsis by Weighted Gene Co-Expression Network Analysis 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(3):e0118731.
Intricate signal networks and transcriptional regulators translate the recognition of pathogens into defense responses. In this study, we carried out a gene co-expression analysis of all currently publicly available microarray data, which were generated in experiments that studied the interaction of the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana with microbial pathogens. This work was conducted to identify (i) modules of functionally related co-expressed genes that are differentially expressed in response to multiple biotic stresses, and (ii) hub genes that may function as core regulators of disease responses. Using Weighted Gene Co-expression Network Analysis (WGCNA) we constructed an undirected network leveraging a rich curated expression dataset comprising 272 microarrays that involved microbial infections of Arabidopsis plants with a wide array of fungal and bacterial pathogens with biotrophic, hemibiotrophic, and necrotrophic lifestyles. WGCNA produced a network with scale-free and small-world properties composed of 205 distinct clusters of co-expressed genes. Modules of functionally related co-expressed genes that are differentially regulated in response to multiple pathogens were identified by integrating differential gene expression testing with functional enrichment analyses of gene ontology terms, known disease associated genes, transcriptional regulators, and cis-regulatory elements. The significance of functional enrichments was validated by comparisons with randomly generated networks. Network topology was then analyzed to identify intra- and inter-modular gene hubs. Based on high connectivity, and centrality in meta-modules that are clearly enriched in defense responses, we propose a list of 66 target genes for reverse genetic experiments to further dissect the Arabidopsis immune system. Our results show that statistical-based data trimming prior to network analysis allows the integration of expression datasets generated by different groups, under different experimental conditions and biological systems, into a functionally meaningful co-expression network.
PMCID: PMC4346582  PMID: 25730421
25.  Corticosteroids Are Associated with Repression of Adaptive Immunity Gene Programs in Pediatric Septic Shock 
Rationale: Corticosteroids are prescribed commonly for patients with septic shock, but their use remains controversial and concerns remain regarding side effects.
Objectives: To determine the effect of adjunctive corticosteroids on the genomic response of pediatric septic shock.
Methods: We retrospectively analyzed an existing transcriptomic database of pediatric septic shock. Subjects receiving any formulation of systemic corticosteroids at the time of blood draw for microarray analysis were classified in the septic shock corticosteroid group. We compared normal control subjects (n = 52), a septic shock no corticosteroid group (n = 110), and a septic shock corticosteroid group (n = 70) using analysis of variance. Genes differentially regulated between the no corticosteroid group and the corticosteroid group were analyzed using Ingenuity Pathway Analysis.
Measurements and Main Results: The two study groups did not differ with respect to illness severity, organ failure burden, mortality, or mortality risk. There were 319 gene probes differentially regulated between the no corticosteroid group and the corticosteroid group. These genes corresponded predominately to adaptive immunity–related signaling pathways, and were down-regulated relative to control subjects. Notably, the degree of down-regulation was significantly greater in the corticosteroid group, compared with the no corticosteroid group. A similar pattern was observed for genes corresponding to the glucocorticoid receptor signaling pathway.
Conclusions: Administration of corticosteroids in pediatric septic shock is associated with additional repression of genes corresponding to adaptive immunity. These data should be taken into account when considering the benefit to risk ratio of adjunctive corticosteroids for septic shock.
PMCID: PMC4098101  PMID: 24650276
sepsis; corticosteroids; adaptive immunity; gene expression; microarray

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