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1.  Silver Nanowire Exposure Results in Internalization and Toxicity to Daphnia Magna 
ACS nano  2013;7(12):10681-10694.
Nanowires (NWs), high-aspect-ratio nanomaterials, are increasingly used in technological materials and consumer products and may have toxicological characteristics distinct from nanoparticles. We carried out a comprehensive evaluation of the physico-chemical stability of four silver nanowires (AgNWs) of two sizes and coatings and their toxicity to Daphnia magna. Inorganic aluminum-doped silica coatings were less effective than organic poly(vinyl pyrrolidone) coatings at preventing silver oxidation or Ag+ release and underwent a significant morphological transformation within one-hour following addition to low ionic strength Daphnia growth media. All AgNWs were highly toxic to D. magna but less toxic than ionic silver. Toxicity varied as a function of AgNW dimension, coating and solution chemistry. Ag+ release in the media could not account for observed AgNW toxicity. Single-particle inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (spICPMS) distinguished and quantified dissolved and nanoparticulate silver in microliter-scale volumes of Daphnia magna hemolymph with a limit of detection of approximately 10 ppb. The silver levels within the hemolymph of Daphnia exposed to both Ag+ and AgNW met or exceeded the initial concentration in the growth medium, indicating effective accumulation during filter feeding. Silver-rich particles were the predominant form of silver in hemolymph following exposure to both AgNWs and Ag+. Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) imaging of dried hemolymph found both AgNWs and silver precipitates that were not present in the AgNW stock or the growth medium. Both organic and inorganic coatings on the AgNW were transformed during ingestion or absorption. Pathway, gene ontology and clustering analyses of gene expression response indicated effects of AgNWs distinct from ionic silver on Daphnia magna.
PMCID: PMC3912856  PMID: 24099093
Silver; nanowire; ecotoxicology; Daphnia magna; acute toxicity; transcriptomics; single-particle inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry
2.  Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease heterogeneity: challenges for health risk assessment, stratification and management 
Journal of Translational Medicine  2014;12(Suppl 2):S3.
Background and hypothesis
Heterogeneity in clinical manifestations and disease progression in Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) lead to consequences for patient health risk assessment, stratification and management. Implicit with the classical "spill over" hypothesis is that COPD heterogeneity is driven by the pulmonary events of the disease. Alternatively, we hypothesized that COPD heterogeneities result from the interplay of mechanisms governing three conceptually different phenomena: 1) pulmonary disease, 2) systemic effects of COPD and 3) co-morbidity clustering, each of them with their own dynamics.
Objective and method
To explore the potential of a systems analysis of COPD heterogeneity focused on skeletal muscle dysfunction and on co-morbidity clustering aiming at generating predictive modeling with impact on patient management. To this end, strategies combining deterministic modeling and network medicine analyses of the Biobridge dataset were used to investigate the mechanisms of skeletal muscle dysfunction. An independent data driven analysis of co-morbidity clustering examining associated genes and pathways was performed using a large dataset (ICD9-CM data from Medicare, 13 million people). Finally, a targeted network analysis using the outcomes of the two approaches (skeletal muscle dysfunction and co-morbidity clustering) explored shared pathways between these phenomena.
(1) Evidence of abnormal regulation of skeletal muscle bioenergetics and skeletal muscle remodeling showing a significant association with nitroso-redox disequilibrium was observed in COPD; (2) COPD patients presented higher risk for co-morbidity clustering than non-COPD patients increasing with ageing; and, (3) the on-going targeted network analyses suggests shared pathways between skeletal muscle dysfunction and co-morbidity clustering.
The results indicate the high potential of a systems approach to address COPD heterogeneity. Significant knowledge gaps were identified that are relevant to shape strategies aiming at fostering 4P Medicine for patients with COPD.
PMCID: PMC4255905  PMID: 25472887
Chronic diseases; COPD; Disease heterogeneity; Integrated Care; Predictive Medicine; Redox disequilibrium; Systems Medicine; VO2max
3.  Systems Medicine: from molecular features and models to the clinic in COPD 
Journal of Translational Medicine  2014;12(Suppl 2):S4.
Background and hypothesis
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) patients are characterized by heterogeneous clinical manifestations and patterns of disease progression. Two major factors that can be used to identify COPD subtypes are muscle dysfunction/wasting and co-morbidity patterns. We hypothesized that COPD heterogeneity is in part the result of complex interactions between several genes and pathways. We explored the possibility of using a Systems Medicine approach to identify such pathways, as well as to generate predictive computational models that may be used in clinic practice.
Objective and method
Our overarching goal is to generate clinically applicable predictive models that characterize COPD heterogeneity through a Systems Medicine approach. To this end we have developed a general framework, consisting of three steps/objectives: (1) feature identification, (2) model generation and statistical validation, and (3) application and validation of the predictive models in the clinical scenario. We used muscle dysfunction and co-morbidity as test cases for this framework.
In the study of muscle wasting we identified relevant features (genes) by a network analysis and generated predictive models that integrate mechanistic and probabilistic models. This allowed us to characterize muscle wasting as a general de-regulation of pathway interactions. In the co-morbidity analysis we identified relevant features (genes/pathways) by the integration of gene-disease and disease-disease associations. We further present a detailed characterization of co-morbidities in COPD patients that was implemented into a predictive model. In both use cases we were able to achieve predictive modeling but we also identified several key challenges, the most pressing being the validation and implementation into actual clinical practice.
The results confirm the potential of the Systems Medicine approach to study complex diseases and generate clinically relevant predictive models. Our study also highlights important obstacles and bottlenecks for such approaches (e.g. data availability and normalization of frameworks among others) and suggests specific proposals to overcome them.
PMCID: PMC4255907  PMID: 25471042
Chronic diseases; COPD; Disease heterogeneity; Systems Medicine; Predictive Modeling; Co-morbidity
4.  The COPD Knowledge Base: enabling data analysis and computational simulation in translational COPD research 
Journal of Translational Medicine  2014;12(Suppl 2):S6.
Previously we generated a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) specific knowledge base ( from clinical and experimental data, text-mining results and public databases. This knowledge base allowed the retrieval of specific molecular networks together with integrated clinical and experimental data.
The COPDKB has now been extended to integrate over 40 public data sources on functional interaction (e.g. signal transduction, transcriptional regulation, protein-protein interaction, gene-disease association). In addition we integrated COPD-specific expression and co-morbidity networks connecting over 6 000 genes/proteins with physiological parameters and disease states. Three mathematical models describing different aspects of systemic effects of COPD were connected to clinical and experimental data. We have completely redesigned the technical architecture of the user interface and now provide html and web browser-based access and form-based searches. A network search enables the use of interconnecting information and the generation of disease-specific sub-networks from general knowledge. Integration with the Synergy-COPD Simulation Environment enables multi-scale integrated simulation of individual computational models while integration with a Clinical Decision Support System allows delivery into clinical practice.
The COPD Knowledge Base is the only publicly available knowledge resource dedicated to COPD and combining genetic information with molecular, physiological and clinical data as well as mathematical modelling. Its integrated analysis functions provide overviews about clinical trends and connections while its semantically mapped content enables complex analysis approaches. We plan to further extend the COPDKB by offering it as a repository to publish and semantically integrate data from relevant clinical trials. The COPDKB is freely available after registration at
PMCID: PMC4255911  PMID: 25471253
5.  A systems biology approach reveals a link between systemic cytokines and skeletal muscle energy metabolism in a rodent smoking model and human COPD 
Genome Medicine  2014;6(8):59.
A relatively large percentage of patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) develop systemic co-morbidities that affect prognosis, among which muscle wasting is particularly debilitating. Despite significant research effort, the pathophysiology of this important extrapulmonary manifestation is still unclear. A key question that remains unanswered is to what extent systemic inflammatory mediators might play a role in this pathology.
Cigarette smoke (CS) is the main risk factor for developing COPD and therefore animal models chronically exposed to CS have been proposed for mechanistic studies and biomarker discovery. Although mice have been successfully used as a pre-clinical in vivo model to study the pulmonary effects of acute and chronic CS exposure, data suggest that they may be inadequate models for studying the effects of CS on peripheral muscle function. In contrast, recent findings indicate that the guinea pig model (Cavia porcellus) may better mimic muscle wasting.
We have used a systems biology approach to compare the transcriptional profile of hindlimb skeletal muscles from a Guinea pig rodent model exposed to CS and/or chronic hypoxia to COPD patients with muscle wasting.
We show that guinea pigs exposed to long-term CS accurately reflect most of the transcriptional changes observed in dysfunctional limb muscle of severe COPD patients when compared to matched controls. Using network inference, we could then show that the expression profile in whole lung of genes encoding for soluble inflammatory mediators is informative of the molecular state of skeletal muscles in the guinea pig smoking model. Finally, we show that CXCL10 and CXCL9, two of the candidate systemic cytokines identified using this pre-clinical model, are indeed detected at significantly higher levels in serum of COPD patients, and that their serum protein level is inversely correlated with the expression of aerobic energy metabolism genes in skeletal muscle.
We conclude that CXCL10 and CXCL9 are promising candidate inflammatory signals linked to the regulation of central metabolism genes in skeletal muscles. On a methodological level, our work also shows that a system level analysis of animal models of diseases can be very effective to generate clinically relevant hypothesis.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13073-014-0059-5) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4165371  PMID: 25228925
6.  Germinal center B cells govern their own fate via antibody feedback 
High-affinity antibodies reenter germinal centers (GCs) and limit antigen access, thus causing sustained directional evolution in GCs toward higher-affinity antibody production.
Affinity maturation of B cells in germinal centers (GCs) is a process of evolution, involving random mutation of immunoglobulin genes followed by natural selection by T cells. Only B cells that have acquired antigen are able to interact with T cells. Antigen acquisition is dependent on the interaction of B cells with immune complexes inside GCs. It is not clear how efficient selection of B cells is maintained while their affinity matures. Here we show that the B cells’ own secreted products, antibodies, regulate GC selection by limiting antigen access. By manipulating the GC response with monoclonal antibodies of defined affinities, we show that antibodies in GCs are in affinity-dependent equilibrium with antibodies produced outside and that restriction of antigen access influences B cell selection, seen as variations in apoptosis, plasma cell output, T cell interaction, and antibody affinity. Feedback through antibodies produced by GC-derived plasma cells can explain how GCs maintain an adequate directional selection pressure over a large range of affinities throughout the course of an immune response, accelerating the emergence of B cells of highest affinities. Furthermore, this mechanism may explain how spatially separated GCs communicate and how the GC reaction terminates.
PMCID: PMC3600904  PMID: 23420879
7.  Gene Expression Networks Underlying Ovarian Development in Wild Largemouth Bass (Micropterus salmoides) 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(3):e59093.
Oocyte maturation in fish involves numerous cell signaling cascades that are activated or inhibited during specific stages of oocyte development. The objectives of this study were to characterize molecular pathways and temporal gene expression patterns throughout a complete breeding cycle in wild female largemouth bass to improve understanding of the molecular sequence of events underlying oocyte maturation.
Transcriptomic analysis was performed on eight morphologically diverse stages of the ovary, including primary and secondary stages of oocyte growth, ovulation, and atresia. Ovary histology, plasma vitellogenin, 17β-estradiol, and testosterone were also measured to correlate with gene networks.
Global expression patterns revealed dramatic differences across ovarian development, with 552 and 2070 genes being differentially expressed during both ovulation and atresia respectively. Gene set enrichment analysis (GSEA) revealed that early primary stages of oocyte growth involved increases in expression of genes involved in pathways of B-cell and T-cell receptor-mediated signaling cascades and fibronectin regulation. These pathways as well as pathways that included adrenergic receptor signaling, sphingolipid metabolism and natural killer cell activation were down-regulated at ovulation. At atresia, down-regulated pathways included gap junction and actin cytoskeleton regulation, gonadotrope and mast cell activation, and vasopressin receptor signaling and up-regulated pathways included oxidative phosphorylation and reactive oxygen species metabolism. Expression targets for luteinizing hormone signaling were low during vitellogenesis but increased 150% at ovulation. Other networks found to play a significant role in oocyte maturation included those with genes regulated by members of the TGF-beta superfamily (activins, inhibins, bone morphogenic protein 7 and growth differentiation factor 9), neuregulin 1, retinoid X receptor, and nerve growth factor family.
This study offers novel insight into the gene networks underlying vitellogenesis, ovulation and atresia and generates new hypotheses about the cellular pathways regulating oocyte maturation.
PMCID: PMC3604104  PMID: 23527095
8.  A Systems Biology Approach Identifies Molecular Networks Defining Skeletal Muscle Abnormalities in Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease 
PLoS Computational Biology  2011;7(9):e1002129.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is an inflammatory process of the lung inducing persistent airflow limitation. Extensive systemic effects, such as skeletal muscle dysfunction, often characterize these patients and severely limit life expectancy. Despite considerable research efforts, the molecular basis of muscle degeneration in COPD is still a matter of intense debate. In this study, we have applied a network biology approach to model the relationship between muscle molecular and physiological response to training and systemic inflammatory mediators. Our model shows that failure to co-ordinately activate expression of several tissue remodelling and bioenergetics pathways is a specific landmark of COPD diseased muscles. Our findings also suggest that this phenomenon may be linked to an abnormal expression of a number of histone modifiers, which we discovered correlate with oxygen utilization. These observations raised the interesting possibility that cell hypoxia may be a key factor driving skeletal muscle degeneration in COPD patients.
Author Summary
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a major life threatening disease of the lungs, characterized by airflow limitation and chronic inflammation. Progressive reduction of the body muscle mass is a condition linked to COPD that significantly decreases quality of life and survival. Physical exercise has been proposed as a therapeutic option but its utility is still a matter of debate. The mechanisms underlying muscle wasting are also still largely unknown. The results presented in this paper show that diseased muscles are largely unable to coordinate the expression of muscle remodelling and bioenergetics pathways and that the cause of this phenomena may be tissue hypoxia. These findings contrast with current hypotheses based on the role of chronic inflammation and show that a mechanism based on an oxygen driven, epigenetic control of these two important functions may be an important disease mechanism.
PMCID: PMC3164707  PMID: 21909251
9.  Towards a System Level Understanding of Non-Model Organisms Sampled from the Environment: A Network Biology Approach 
PLoS Computational Biology  2011;7(8):e1002126.
The acquisition and analysis of datasets including multi-level omics and physiology from non-model species, sampled from field populations, is a formidable challenge, which so far has prevented the application of systems biology approaches. If successful, these could contribute enormously to improving our understanding of how populations of living organisms adapt to environmental stressors relating to, for example, pollution and climate. Here we describe the first application of a network inference approach integrating transcriptional, metabolic and phenotypic information representative of wild populations of the European flounder fish, sampled at seven estuarine locations in northern Europe with different degrees and profiles of chemical contaminants. We identified network modules, whose activity was predictive of environmental exposure and represented a link between molecular and morphometric indices. These sub-networks represented both known and candidate novel adverse outcome pathways representative of several aspects of human liver pathophysiology such as liver hyperplasia, fibrosis, and hepatocellular carcinoma. At the molecular level these pathways were linked to TNF alpha, TGF beta, PDGF, AGT and VEGF signalling. More generally, this pioneering study has important implications as it can be applied to model molecular mechanisms of compensatory adaptation to a wide range of scenarios in wild populations.
Author Summary
Understanding how living organisms adapt to changes in their natural habitats is of paramount importance particularly in respect to environmental stressors, such as pollution or climate. Computational models integrating the multi-level molecular responses with organism physiology are likely to be indispensable tools to address this challenge. However, because of the difficulties in acquiring and integrating data from non-model species and because of the intrinsic complexity of field studies, such an approach has not yet been attempted. Here we describe the first example of a global network reconstruction linking transcriptional and metabolic responses to physiology in the flatfish, European flounder, a species currently used to monitor coastal waters around Northern Europe. The model we developed has revealed a remarkable similarity between network modules predictive of chemical exposure in the environment and pathways involved in relevant aspects of human pathophysiology. Generally, the approach we have pioneered has important implications as it can be applied to model molecular mechanisms of compensatory adaptation to a wide range of scenarios in wild populations.
PMCID: PMC3161900  PMID: 21901081
10.  A systems biology approach sheds new light on Escherichia coli acid resistance 
Nucleic Acids Research  2011;39(17):7512-7528.
In order to develop an infection, diarrhogenic Escherichia coli has to pass through the stomach, where the pH can be as low as 1. Mechanisms that enable E. coli to survive in low pH are thus potentially relevant for pathogenicity. Four acid response systems involved in reducing the concentration of intracellular protons have been identified so far. However, it is still unclear to what extent the regulation of other important cellular functions may be required for survival in acid conditions. Here, we have combined molecular and phenotypic analysis of wild-type and mutant strains with computational network inference to identify molecular pathways underlying E. coli response to mild and strong acid conditions. The interpretative model we have developed led to the hypothesis that a complex transcriptional programme, dependent on the two-component system regulator OmpR and involving a switch between aerobic and anaerobic metabolism, may be key for survival. Experimental validation has shown that the OmpR is responsible for controlling a sizeable component of the transcriptional programme to acid exposure. Moreover, we found that a ΔompR strain was unable to mount any transcriptional response to acid exposure and had one of the strongest acid sensitive phenotype observed.
PMCID: PMC3177180  PMID: 21690099
11.  A computational framework for gene regulatory network inference that combines multiple methods and datasets 
BMC Systems Biology  2011;5:52.
Reverse engineering in systems biology entails inference of gene regulatory networks from observational data. This data typically include gene expression measurements of wild type and mutant cells in response to a given stimulus. It has been shown that when more than one type of experiment is used in the network inference process the accuracy is higher. Therefore the development of generally applicable and effective methodologies that embed multiple sources of information in a single computational framework is a worthwhile objective.
This paper presents a new method for network inference, which uses multi-objective optimisation (MOO) to integrate multiple inference methods and experiments. We illustrate the potential of the methodology by combining ODE and correlation-based network inference procedures as well as time course and gene inactivation experiments. Here we show that our methodology is effective for a wide spectrum of data sets and method integration strategies.
The approach we present in this paper is flexible and can be used in any scenario that benefits from integration of multiple sources of information and modelling procedures in the inference process. Moreover, the application of this method to two case studies representative of bacteria and vertebrate systems has shown potential in identifying key regulators of important biological processes.
PMCID: PMC3098160  PMID: 21489290
12.  Analysis of Normal-Tumour Tissue Interaction in Tumours: Prediction of Prostate Cancer Features from the Molecular Profile of Adjacent Normal Cells 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(3):e16492.
Statistical modelling, in combination with genome-wide expression profiling techniques, has demonstrated that the molecular state of the tumour is sufficient to infer its pathological state. These studies have been extremely important in diagnostics and have contributed to improving our understanding of tumour biology. However, their importance in in-depth understanding of cancer patho-physiology may be limited since they do not explicitly take into consideration the fundamental role of the tissue microenvironment in specifying tumour physiology. Because of the importance of normal cells in shaping the tissue microenvironment we formulate the hypothesis that molecular components of the profile of normal epithelial cells adjacent the tumour are predictive of tumour physiology. We addressed this hypothesis by developing statistical models that link gene expression profiles representing the molecular state of adjacent normal epithelial cells to tumour features in prostate cancer. Furthermore, network analysis showed that predictive genes are linked to the activity of important secreted factors, which have the potential to influence tumor biology, such as IL1, IGF1, PDGF BB, AGT, and TGFβ.
PMCID: PMC3068146  PMID: 21479216
13.  Knowledge management for systems biology a general and visually driven framework applied to translational medicine 
BMC Systems Biology  2011;5:38.
To enhance our understanding of complex biological systems like diseases we need to put all of the available data into context and use this to detect relations, pattern and rules which allow predictive hypotheses to be defined. Life science has become a data rich science with information about the behaviour of millions of entities like genes, chemical compounds, diseases, cell types and organs, which are organised in many different databases and/or spread throughout the literature. Existing knowledge such as genotype - phenotype relations or signal transduction pathways must be semantically integrated and dynamically organised into structured networks that are connected with clinical and experimental data. Different approaches to this challenge exist but so far none has proven entirely satisfactory.
To address this challenge we previously developed a generic knowledge management framework, BioXM™, which allows the dynamic, graphic generation of domain specific knowledge representation models based on specific objects and their relations supporting annotations and ontologies. Here we demonstrate the utility of BioXM for knowledge management in systems biology as part of the EU FP6 BioBridge project on translational approaches to chronic diseases. From clinical and experimental data, text-mining results and public databases we generate a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) knowledge base and demonstrate its use by mining specific molecular networks together with integrated clinical and experimental data.
We generate the first semantically integrated COPD specific public knowledge base and find that for the integration of clinical and experimental data with pre-existing knowledge the configuration based set-up enabled by BioXM reduced implementation time and effort for the knowledge base compared to similar systems implemented as classical software development projects. The knowledgebase enables the retrieval of sub-networks including protein-protein interaction, pathway, gene - disease and gene - compound data which are used for subsequent data analysis, modelling and simulation. Pre-structured queries and reports enhance usability; establishing their use in everyday clinical settings requires further simplification with a browser based interface which is currently under development.
PMCID: PMC3060864  PMID: 21375767
14.  Gene signatures in wound tissue as evidenced by molecular profiling in the chick embryo model 
BMC Genomics  2010;11:495.
Modern functional genomic approaches may help to better understand the molecular events involved in tissue morphogenesis and to identify molecular signatures and pathways. We have recently applied transcriptomic profiling to evidence molecular signatures in the development of the normal chicken chorioallantoic membrane (CAM) and in tumor engrafted on the CAM. We have now extended our studies by performing a transcriptome analysis in the "wound model" of the chicken CAM, which is another relevant model of tissue morphogenesis.
To induce granulation tissue (GT) formation, we performed wounding of the chicken CAM and compared gene expression to normal CAM at the same stage of development. Matched control samples from the same individual were used. We observed a total of 282 genes up-regulated and 44 genes down-regulated assuming a false-discovery rate at 5% and a fold change > 2. Furthermore, bioinformatics analysis lead to the identification of several categories that are associated to organismal injury, tissue morphology, cellular movement, inflammatory disease, development and immune system. Endothelial cell data filtering leads to the identification of several new genes with an endothelial cell signature.
The chick chorioallantoic wound model allows the identification of gene signatures and pathways involved in GT formation and neoangiogenesis. This may constitute a fertile ground for further studies.
PMCID: PMC2996991  PMID: 20840761
15.  Mapping Drug Physico-Chemical Features to Pathway Activity Reveals Molecular Networks Linked to Toxicity Outcome 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(8):e12385.
The identification of predictive biomarkers is at the core of modern toxicology. So far, a number of approaches have been proposed. These rely on statistical inference of toxicity response from either compound features (i.e., QSAR), in vitro cell based assays or molecular profiling of target tissues (i.e., expression profiling). Although these approaches have already shown the potential of predictive toxicology, we still do not have a systematic approach to model the interaction between chemical features, molecular networks and toxicity outcome. Here, we describe a computational strategy designed to address this important need. Its application to a model of renal tubular degeneration has revealed a link between physico-chemical features and signalling components controlling cell communication pathways, which in turn are differentially modulated in response to toxic chemicals. Overall, our findings are consistent with the existence of a general toxicity mechanism operating in synergy with more specific single-target based mode of actions (MOAs) and provide a general framework for the development of an integrative approach to predictive toxicology.
PMCID: PMC2929951  PMID: 20811577
16.  Integrating Omic Technologies into Aquatic Ecological Risk Assessment and Environmental Monitoring: Hurdles, Achievements, and Future Outlook 
In this commentary we present the findings from an international consortium on fish toxicogenomics sponsored by the U.K. Natural Environment Research Council (Fish Toxicogenomics—Moving into Regulation and Monitoring, held 21–23 April 2008 at the Pacific Environmental Science Centre, Vancouver, BC, Canada).
The consortium from government agencies, academia, and industry addressed three topics: progress in ecotoxicogenomics, regulatory perspectives on roadblocks for practical implementation of toxicogenomics into risk assessment, and dealing with variability in data sets.
Participants noted that examples of successful application of omic technologies have been identified, but critical studies are needed to relate molecular changes to ecological adverse outcome. Participants made recommendations for the management of technical and biological variation. They also stressed the need for enhanced interdisciplinary training and communication as well as considerable investment into the generation and curation of appropriate reference omic data.
The participants concluded that, although there are hurdles to pass on the road to regulatory acceptance, omics technologies are already useful for elucidating modes of action of toxicants and can contribute to the risk assessment process as part of a weight-of-evidence approach.
PMCID: PMC2831950  PMID: 20056575
environment; environmental monitoring; fish; metabolomics; microarray; regulatory toxicology; transcriptomics
17.  Metabolomic analysis of human vitreous humor differentiates ocular inflammatory disease 
Molecular Vision  2009;15:1210-1217.
Vitreoretinal disorders lack specific biomarkers that define either disease type or response to treatment. We have used NMR-based metabolomic analysis of human vitreous humor to assess the applicability of this approach to the study of ocular disease.
Vitreous samples from patients with a range of vitreoretinal disorders were subjected to high-resolution 1H-nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (NMR). Good quality spectra were derived from the vitreous samples, and the profiles were analyzed by three different methods.
Principal component analysis (PCA) showed a wide dispersal of the different clinical conditions. Partial least squares discriminant analysis (PLS-DA) was used to define differences between lens-induced uveitis (LIU) and chronic uveitis (CU) and could distinguish between these conditions with a sensitivity of 78% and specificity of 85%. A genetic algorithm coupled with multivariate classification identified a small number of spectral components that showed clear discrimination between LIU and CU samples with sensitivity and specificity >90%. Assignment of specific resonances indicated that some metabolites involved in the arginase pathway were significantly more abundant in LIU than CU.
The discrimination we observed based on PCA, PLS-DA, and multivariate variable selection analysis of the NMR spectra suggests that a complex mix of metabolites are present in vitreous fluid of different uveitic conditions as a result of the disease process. Collectively the data demonstrates the efficacy of metabolomic analysis to distinguish between ocular inflammatory diseases.
PMCID: PMC2697460  PMID: 19536306
18.  Dosage Compensation in the Mouse Balances Up-Regulation and Silencing of X-Linked Genes 
PLoS Biology  2007;5(12):e326.
Dosage compensation in mammals involves silencing of one X chromosome in XX females and requires expression, in cis, of Xist RNA. The X to be inactivated is randomly chosen in cells of the inner cell mass (ICM) at the blastocyst stage of development. Embryonic stem (ES) cells derived from the ICM of female mice have two active X chromosomes, one of which is inactivated as the cells differentiate in culture, providing a powerful model system to study the dynamics of X inactivation. Using microarrays to assay expression of X-linked genes in undifferentiated female and male mouse ES cells, we detect global up-regulation of expression (1.4- to 1.6-fold) from the active X chromosomes, relative to autosomes. We show a similar up-regulation in ICM from male blastocysts grown in culture. In male ES cells, up-regulation reaches 2-fold after 2–3 weeks of differentiation, thereby balancing expression between the single X and the diploid autosomes. We show that silencing of X-linked genes in female ES cells occurs on a gene-by-gene basis throughout differentiation, with some genes inactivating early, others late, and some escaping altogether. Surprisingly, by allele-specific analysis in hybrid ES cells, we also identified a subgroup of genes that are silenced in undifferentiated cells. We propose that X-linked genes are silenced in female ES cells by spreading of Xist RNA through the X chromosome territory as the cells differentiate, with silencing times for individual genes dependent on their proximity to the Xist locus.
Author Summary
In organisms such as fruit flies and humans, major chromosomal differences exist between the sexes: females have two large, gene-rich X chromosomes, and males have one X and one small, gene-poor Y. Various strategies have evolved to balance X-linked gene expression between the single X and the autosomes, and between the sexes (a phenomenon called dosage compensation). In Drosophila melanogaster, expression from the male X is up-regulated approximately 2-fold, thereby balancing both X-to-autosome and female-to-male expression. In contrast, mammals silence one of the two female Xs in a process requiring the untranslated RNA product of the Xist gene. This balances female-to-male expression but leaves both sexes with only one functional X chromosome. Using mouse embryonic stem cells and microarray expression analysis, we found that dosage compensation in mice is more complex than previously thought, with X-linked genes up-regulated in both male and female cells so as to balance X-to-autosome expression. As differentiation proceeds, female cells show progressive loss of expression from one of the two initially active Xs. Surprisingly, silencing occurs on a gene-by-gene basis over 2–3 week of differentiation; some genes escape altogether, whereas a subgroup of genes, often adjacent to the Xist locus, is silenced even in undifferentiated cells. We propose that female X-linked genes are silenced by progressive spreading of Xist RNA through the X chromosome territory as differentiation proceeds.
In mouse embryonic stem cells, X:autosome expression balance is achieved by up-regulating X-linked genes in both sexes and gene-by-gene silencing on one female X chromosome.
PMCID: PMC2121114  PMID: 18076287
19.  DNA Microarrays: a Powerful Genomic Tool for Biomedical and Clinical Research 
Molecular Medicine  2007;13(9-10):527-541.
Among the many benefits of the Human Genome Project are new and powerful tools such as the genome-wide hybridization devices referred to as microarrays. Initially designed to measure gene transcriptional levels, microarray technologies are now used for comparing other genome features among individuals and their tissues and cells. Results provide valuable information on disease subcategories, disease prognosis, and treatment outcome. Likewise, they reveal differences in genetic makeup, regulatory mechanisms, and subtle variations and move us closer to the era of personalized medicine. To understand this powerful tool, its versatility, and how dramatically it is changing the molecular approach to biomedical and clinical research, this review describes the technology, its applications, a didactic step-by-step review of a typical microarray protocol, and a real experiment. Finally, it calls the attention of the medical community to the importance of integrating multidisciplinary teams to take advantage of this technology and its expanding applications that, in a slide, reveals our genetic inheritance and destiny.
PMCID: PMC1933257  PMID: 17660860
20.  Synovial fluid leukocyte apoptosis is inhibited in patients with very early rheumatoid arthritis 
Synovial leukocyte apoptosis is inhibited in established rheumatoid arthritis (RA). In contrast, high levels of leukocyte apoptosis are seen in self-limiting crystal arthritis. The phase in the development of RA at which the inhibition of leukocyte apoptosis is first apparent, and the relationship between leukocyte apoptosis in early RA and other early arthritides, has not been defined. We measured synovial fluid leukocyte apoptosis in very early arthritis and related this to clinical outcome. Synovial fluid was obtained at presentation from 81 patients with synovitis of ≤ 3 months duration. The percentages of apoptotic neutrophils and lymphocytes were assessed on cytospin preparations. Patients were assigned to diagnostic groups after 18 months follow-up. The relationship between leukocyte apoptosis and patient outcome was assessed. Patients with early RA had significantly lower levels of neutrophil apoptosis than patients who developed non-RA persistent arthritis and those with a resolving disease course. Similarly, lymphocyte apoptosis was absent in patients with early RA whereas it was seen in patients with other early arthritides. The inhibition of synovial fluid leukocyte apoptosis in the earliest clinically apparent phase of RA distinguishes this from other early arthritides. The mechanisms for this inhibition may relate to the high levels of anti-apoptotic cytokines found in the early rheumatoid joint (e.g. IL-2, IL-4, IL-15 GMCSF, GCSF). It is likely that this process contributes to an accumulation of leukocytes in the early rheumatoid lesion and is involved in the development of the microenvironment required for persistent RA.
PMCID: PMC1779404  PMID: 16859518
22.  Early rheumatoid arthritis is characterized by a distinct and transient synovial fluid cytokine profile of T cell and stromal cell origin 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2005;7(4):R784-R795.
Pathological processes involved in the initiation of rheumatoid synovitis remain unclear. We undertook the present study to identify immune and stromal processes that are present soon after the clinical onset of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) by assessing a panel of T cell, macrophage, and stromal cell related cytokines and chemokines in the synovial fluid of patients with early synovitis. Synovial fluid was aspirated from inflamed joints of patients with inflammatory arthritis of duration 3 months or less, whose outcomes were subsequently determined by follow up. For comparison, synovial fluid was aspirated from patients with acute crystal arthritis, established RA and osteoarthritis. Rheumatoid factor activity was blocked in the synovial fluid samples, and a panel of 23 cytokines and chemokines measured using a multiplex based system. Patients with early inflammatory arthritis who subsequently developed RA had a distinct but transient synovial fluid cytokine profile. The levels of a range of T cell, macrophage and stromal cell related cytokines (e.g. IL-2, IL-4, IL-13, IL-17, IL-15, basic fibroblast growth factor and epidermal growth factor) were significantly elevated in these patients within 3 months after symptom onset, as compared with early arthritis patients who did not develop RA. In addition, this profile was no longer present in established RA. In contrast, patients with non-rheumatoid persistent synovitis exhibited elevated levels of interferon-γ at initiation. Early synovitis destined to develop into RA is thus characterized by a distinct and transient synovial fluid cytokine profile. The cytokines present in the early rheumatoid lesion suggest that this response is likely to influence the microenvironment required for persistent RA.
PMCID: PMC1175027  PMID: 15987480
23.  Analysis of host response to bacterial infection using error model based gene expression microarray experiments 
Nucleic Acids Research  2005;33(6):e53.
A key step in the analysis of microarray data is the selection of genes that are differentially expressed. Ideally, such experiments should be properly replicated in order to infer both technical and biological variability, and the data should be subjected to rigorous hypothesis tests to identify the differentially expressed genes. However, in microarray experiments involving the analysis of very large numbers of biological samples, replication is not always practical. Therefore, there is a need for a method to select differentially expressed genes in a rational way from insufficiently replicated data. In this paper, we describe a simple method that uses bootstrapping to generate an error model from a replicated pilot study that can be used to identify differentially expressed genes in subsequent large-scale studies on the same platform, but in which there may be no replicated arrays. The method builds a stratified error model that includes array-to-array variability, feature-to-feature variability and the dependence of error on signal intensity. We apply this model to the characterization of the host response in a model of bacterial infection of human intestinal epithelial cells. We demonstrate the effectiveness of error model based microarray experiments and propose this as a general strategy for a microarray-based screening of large collections of biological samples.
PMCID: PMC1072804  PMID: 15800204
24.  Regulators Encoded in the Escherichia coli Type III Secretion System 2 Gene Cluster Influence Expression of Genes within the Locus for Enterocyte Effacement in Enterohemorrhagic E. coli O157:H7  
Infection and Immunity  2004;72(12):7282-7293.
Enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC) O157:H7 subverts host cells through a type III secretion system encoded by the locus for enterocyte effacement (LEE). Genome sequencing of this pathotype revealed the existence of a gene cluster encoding components of a second cryptic type III secretion system, E. coli type III secretion system 2 (ETT2). Recently, we showed that the ETT2 gene cluster is present in whole or in part in the majority of E. coli strains but is unable to encode a functional secretion system in most strains, including EHEC O157:H7. However, here we show that mutational inhibition of two regulatory genes (ECs3720 or etrA and ECs3734 or eivF) from the ETT2 cluster in EHEC O157:H7 leads to greatly increased secretion of proteins encoded by the LEE and to increased adhesion to human intestinal cells. Studies in which transcriptional fusions and microarrays were used indicated that EtrA and EivF exert profound negative effects on gene transcription within the LEE. Consistent with these observations, expression of these regulators in an EHEC O26:H- strain led to suppression of protein secretion under LEE-inducing conditions. These findings provide fresh examples of the influence of mobile genetic elements on regulation of the LEE and of cross talk between type III secretion system gene clusters. In addition, they provide a cautionary tale because they show that the effects of regulatory genes can outlive widespread decay of other genes in a functionally coherent gene cluster, a phenomenon that we have named the “Cheshire cat effect.” It also seems likely that variations in the ETT2 regulator repertoire might account for strain-to-strain variation in secretion of LEE-encoded proteins.
PMCID: PMC529121  PMID: 15557654
25.  Gene Selection in Arthritis Classification With Large-Scale Microarray Expression Profiles 
The use of large-scale microarray expression profiling to identify predictors of disease class has become of major interest. Beyond their impact in the clinical setting (i.e. improving diagnosis and treatment), these markers are also likely to provide clues on the molecular mechanisms underlining the diseases. In this paper we describe a new method for the identification of multiple gene predictors of disease class. The method is applied to the classification of two forms of arthritis that have a similar clinical endpoint but different underlying molecular mechanisms: rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and osteoarthritis (OA). We aim at both the classification of samples and the location of genes characterizing the different classes. We achieve both goals simultaneously by combining a binary probit model for classification with Bayesian variable selection methods to identify important genes.We find very small sets of genes that lead to good classification results. Some of the selected genes are clearly correlated with known aspects of the biology of arthritis and, in some cases, reflect already known differences between RA and OA.
PMCID: PMC2447416  PMID: 18629129

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