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1.  Population Differences in Transcript-Regulator Expression Quantitative Trait Loci 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(3):e34286.
Gene expression quantitative trait loci (eQTL) are useful for identifying single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) associated with diseases. At times, a genetic variant may be associated with a master regulator involved in the manifestation of a disease. The downstream target genes of the master regulator are typically co-expressed and share biological function. Therefore, it is practical to screen for eQTLs by identifying SNPs associated with the targets of a transcript-regulator (TR). We used a multivariate regression with the gene expression of known targets of TRs and SNPs to identify TReQTLs in European (CEU) and African (YRI) HapMap populations. A nominal p-value of <1×10−6 revealed 234 SNPs in CEU and 154 in YRI as TReQTLs. These represent 36 independent (tag) SNPs in CEU and 39 in YRI affecting the downstream targets of 25 and 36 TRs respectively. At a false discovery rate (FDR) = 45%, one cis-acting tag SNP (within 1 kb of a gene) in each population was identified as a TReQTL. In CEU, the SNP (rs16858621) in Pcnxl2 was found to be associated with the genes regulated by CREM whereas in YRI, the SNP (rs16909324) was linked to the targets of miRNA hsa-miR-125a. To infer the pathways that regulate expression, we ranked TReQTLs by connectivity within the structure of biological process subtrees. One TReQTL SNP (rs3790904) in CEU maps to Lphn2 and is associated (nominal p-value = 8.1×10−7) with the targets of the X-linked breast cancer suppressor Foxp3. The structure of the biological process subtree and a gene interaction network of the TReQTL revealed that tumor necrosis factor, NF-kappaB and variants in G-protein coupled receptors signaling may play a central role as communicators in Foxp3 functional regulation. The potential pleiotropic effect of the Foxp3 TReQTLs was gleaned from integrating mRNA-Seq data and SNP-set enrichment into the analysis.
PMCID: PMC3313997  PMID: 22479588
2.  The Stem Cell Discovery Engine: an integrated repository and analysis system for cancer stem cell comparisons 
Nucleic Acids Research  2011;40(Database issue):D984-D991.
Mounting evidence suggests that malignant tumors are initiated and maintained by a subpopulation of cancerous cells with biological properties similar to those of normal stem cells. However, descriptions of stem-like gene and pathway signatures in cancers are inconsistent across experimental systems. Driven by a need to improve our understanding of molecular processes that are common and unique across cancer stem cells (CSCs), we have developed the Stem Cell Discovery Engine (SCDE)—an online database of curated CSC experiments coupled to the Galaxy analytical framework. The SCDE allows users to consistently describe, share and compare CSC data at the gene and pathway level. Our initial focus has been on carefully curating tissue and cancer stem cell-related experiments from blood, intestine and brain to create a high quality resource containing 53 public studies and 1098 assays. The experimental information is captured and stored in the multi-omics Investigation/Study/Assay (ISA-Tab) format and can be queried in the data repository. A linked Galaxy framework provides a comprehensive, flexible environment populated with novel tools for gene list comparisons against molecular signatures in GeneSigDB and MSigDB, curated experiments in the SCDE and pathways in WikiPathways. The SCDE is available at
PMCID: PMC3245064  PMID: 22121217
3.  Impact on Disease Development, Genomic Location and Biological Function of Copy Number Alterations in Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(8):e22961.
Lung cancer, of which more than 80% is non-small cell, is the leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States. Copy number alterations (CNAs) in lung cancer have been shown to be positionally clustered in certain genomic regions. However, it remains unclear whether genes with copy number changes are functionally clustered. Using a dense single nucleotide polymorphism array, we performed genome-wide copy number analyses of a large collection of non-small cell lung tumors (n = 301). We proposed a formal statistical test for CNAs between different groups (e.g., non-involved lung vs. tumors, early vs. late stage tumors). We also customized the gene set enrichment analysis (GSEA) algorithm to investigate the overrepresentation of genes with CNAs in predefined biological pathways and gene sets (i.e., functional clustering). We found that CNAs events increase substantially from germline, early stage to late stage tumor. In addition to genomic position, CNAs tend to occur away from the gene locations, especially in germline, non-involved tissue and early stage tumors. Such tendency decreases from germline to early stage and then to late stage tumors, suggesting a relaxation of selection during tumor progression. Furthermore, genes with CNAs in non-small cell lung tumors were enriched in certain gene sets and biological pathways that play crucial roles in oncogenesis and cancer progression, demonstrating the functional aspect of CNAs in the context of biological pathways that were overlooked previously. We conclude that CNAs increase with disease progression and CNAs are both positionally and functionally clustered. The potential functional capabilities acquired via CNAs may be sufficient for normal cells to transform into malignant cells.
PMCID: PMC3149069  PMID: 21829676

Results 1-3 (3)