Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a major global health problem. The etiology of COPD has been associated with apoptosis, oxidative stress, and inflammation. However, understanding of the molecular interactions that modulate COPD pathogenesis remains only partly resolved. We conducted an exploratory study on COPD etiology to identify the key molecular participants. We used information-theoretic algorithms including Context Likelihood of Relatedness (CLR), Algorithm for the Reconstruction of Accurate Cellular Networks (ARACNE), and Inferelator. We captured direct functional associations among genes, given a compendium of gene expression profiles of human lung epithelial cells. A set of genes differentially expressed in COPD, as reported in a previous study were superposed with the resulting transcriptional regulatory networks. After factoring in the properties of the networks, an established COPD susceptibility locus and domain-domain interactions involving protein products of genes in the generated networks, several molecular candidates were predicted to be involved in the etiology of COPD. These include COL4A3, CFLAR, GULP1, PDCD1, CASP10, PAX3, BOK, HSPD1, PITX2, and PML. Furthermore, T-box (TBX) genes and cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor 2A (CDKN2A), which are in a direct transcriptional regulatory relationship, emerged as preeminent participants in the etiology of COPD by means of senescence. Contrary to observations in neoplasms, our study reveals that the expression of genes and proteins in the lung samples from patients with COPD indicate an increased tendency towards cellular senescence. The expression of the anti-senescence mediators TBX transcription factors, chromatin modifiers histone deacetylases, and sirtuins was suppressed; while the expression of TBX-regulated cellular senescence markers such as CDKN2A, CDKN1A, and CAV1 was elevated in the peripheral lung tissue samples from patients with COPD. The critical balance between senescence and anti-senescence factors is disrupted towards senescence in COPD lungs.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD is among the most lethal of respiratory diseases. While this disease has been well characterized, more studies are needed to learn the interaction of macromolecules involved in the progression towards illness. We explored possible interactions involved in the disease process using a compendium of gene expression data from frontline cells of the respiratory airways of the lung. The gene expression data were generated under a variety of experimental conditions. Application of computational schemes, which robustly detect enduring patterns, among sections of the genes represented across the varying experimental perturbations, revealed important regulatory relationships. When gene expression data from lungs of patients with COPD were factored into these networks of regulatory relationships, certain highly connected nodes (hubs) representing differentially expressed genes emerged. Notably included are members of the T-box (TBX) family of genes and CDKN2A, which regulate cellular aging. These findings were confirmed in studies using lung samples from COPD patients. Novel genes linked to TBX and CDKN2A include COL4A3, CFLAR, GULP1, PDCD1, CASP10, PAX3, BOK, HSPD1, PITX2, and PML, which were thus predicted to be involved in the disease process. The balance between senescence and anti-senescence factors is disrupted towards senescence in COPD lungs.