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1.  A vascular biology network model focused on inflammatory processes to investigate atherogenesis and plaque instability 
Numerous inflammation-related pathways have been shown to play important roles in atherogenesis. Rapid and efficient assessment of the relative influence of each of those pathways is a challenge in the era of “omics” data generation. The aim of the present work was to develop a network model of inflammation-related molecular pathways underlying vascular disease to assess the degree of translatability of preclinical molecular data to the human clinical setting.
We constructed and evaluated the Vascular Inflammatory Processes Network (V-IPN), a model representing a collection of vascular processes modulated by inflammatory stimuli that lead to the development of atherosclerosis.
Utilizing the V-IPN as a platform for biological discovery, we have identified key vascular processes and mechanisms captured by gene expression profiling data from four independent datasets from human endothelial cells (ECs) and human and murine intact vessels. Primary ECs in culture from multiple donors revealed a richer mapping of mechanisms identified by the V-IPN compared to an immortalized EC line. Furthermore, an evaluation of gene expression datasets from aortas of old ApoE-/- mice (78 weeks) and human coronary arteries with advanced atherosclerotic lesions identified significant commonalities in the two species, as well as several mechanisms specific to human arteries that are consistent with the development of unstable atherosclerotic plaques.
We have generated a new biological network model of atherogenic processes that demonstrates the power of network analysis to advance integrative, systems biology-based knowledge of cross-species translatability, plaque development and potential mechanisms leading to plaque instability.
PMCID: PMC4227037  PMID: 24965703
Vascular systems biology; Plaque destabilization; Vascular biology networks; Computational modeling; Atherosclerosis modeling
2.  On Crowd-verification of Biological Networks 
Biological networks with a structured syntax are a powerful way of representing biological information generated from high density data; however, they can become unwieldy to manage as their size and complexity increase. This article presents a crowd-verification approach for the visualization and expansion of biological networks.
Web-based graphical interfaces allow visualization of causal and correlative biological relationships represented using Biological Expression Language (BEL). Crowdsourcing principles enable participants to communally annotate these relationships based on literature evidences. Gamification principles are incorporated to further engage domain experts throughout biology to gather robust peer-reviewed information from which relationships can be identified and verified.
The resulting network models will represent the current status of biological knowledge within the defined boundaries, here processes related to human lung disease. These models are amenable to computational analysis. For some period following conclusion of the challenge, the published models will remain available for continuous use and expansion by the scientific community.
PMCID: PMC3798292  PMID: 24151423
community curation; biological network models; reputation system; Biological Expression Language
3.  Systems Approaches Evaluating the Perturbation of Xenobiotic Metabolism in Response to Cigarette Smoke Exposure in Nasal and Bronchial Tissues 
BioMed Research International  2013;2013:512086.
Capturing the effects of exposure in a specific target organ is a major challenge in risk assessment. Exposure to cigarette smoke (CS) implicates the field of tissue injury in the lung as well as nasal and airway epithelia. Xenobiotic metabolism in particular becomes an attractive tool for chemical risk assessment because of its responsiveness against toxic compounds, including those present in CS. This study describes an efficient integration from transcriptomic data to quantitative measures, which reflect the responses against xenobiotics that are captured in a biological network model. We show here that our novel systems approach can quantify the perturbation in the network model of xenobiotic metabolism. We further show that this approach efficiently compares the perturbation upon CS exposure in bronchial and nasal epithelial cells in vivo samples obtained from smokers. Our observation suggests the xenobiotic responses in the bronchial and nasal epithelial cells of smokers were similar to those observed in their respective organotypic models exposed to CS. Furthermore, the results suggest that nasal tissue is a reliable surrogate to measure xenobiotic responses in bronchial tissue.
PMCID: PMC3808713  PMID: 24224167
4.  Systematic Verification of Upstream Regulators of a Computable Cellular Proliferation Network Model on Non-Diseased Lung Cells Using a Dedicated Dataset 
We recently constructed a computable cell proliferation network (CPN) model focused on lung tissue to unravel complex biological processes and their exposure-related perturbations from molecular profiling data. The CPN consists of edges and nodes representing upstream controllers of gene expression largely generated from transcriptomics datasets using Reverse Causal Reasoning (RCR). Here, we report an approach to biologically verify the correctness of upstream controller nodes using a specifically designed, independent lung cell proliferation dataset. Normal human bronchial epithelial cells were arrested at G1/S with a cell cycle inhibitor. Gene expression changes and cell proliferation were captured at different time points after release from inhibition. Gene set enrichment analysis demonstrated cell cycle response specificity via an overrepresentation of proliferation related gene sets. Coverage analysis of RCR-derived hypotheses returned statistical significance for cell cycle response specificity across the whole model as well as for the Growth Factor and Cell Cycle sub-network models.
PMCID: PMC3733638  PMID: 23926424
cell proliferation; biological network model; reverse causal reasoning
5.  A Modular Cell-Type Focused Inflammatory Process Network Model for Non-Diseased Pulmonary Tissue 
Exposure to environmental stressors such as cigarette smoke (CS) elicits a variety of biological responses in humans, including the induction of inflammatory responses. These responses are especially pronounced in the lung, where pulmonary cells sit at the interface between the body’s internal and external environments. We combined a literature survey with a computational analysis of multiple transcriptomic data sets to construct a computable causal network model (the Inflammatory Process Network (IPN)) of the main pulmonary inflammatory processes. The IPN model predicted decreased epithelial cell barrier defenses and increased mucus hypersecretion in human bronchial epithelial cells, and an attenuated pro-inflammatory (M1) profile in alveolar macrophages following exposure to CS, consistent with prior results. The IPN provides a comprehensive framework of experimentally supported pathways related to CS-induced pulmonary inflammation. The IPN is freely available to the scientific community as a resource with broad applicability to study the pathogenesis of pulmonary disease.
PMCID: PMC3700945  PMID: 23843693
inflammation; cigarette smoke; network model; gene expression; biological expression language (BEL); reverse causal reasoning (RCR)
6.  Construction of a Computable Network Model for DNA Damage, Autophagy, Cell Death, and Senescence 
Towards the development of a systems biology-based risk assessment approach for environmental toxicants, including tobacco products in a systems toxicology setting such as the “21st Century Toxicology”, we are building a series of computable biological network models specific to non-diseased pulmonary and cardiovascular cells/tissues which capture the molecular events that can be activated following exposure to environmental toxicants. Here we extend on previous work and report on the construction and evaluation of a mechanistic network model focused on DNA damage response and the four main cellular fates induced by stress: autophagy, apoptosis, necroptosis, and senescence. In total, the network consists of 34 sub-models containing 1052 unique nodes and 1538 unique edges which are supported by 1231 PubMed-referenced literature citations. Causal node-edge relationships are described using the Biological Expression Language (BEL), which allows for the semantic representation of life science relationships in a computable format. The Network is provided in .XGMML format and can be viewed using freely available network visualization software, such as Cytoscape.
PMCID: PMC3596057  PMID: 23515068
computable; network model; DNA damage; autophagy; apoptosis; necroptosis; senescence; Biological Expression Language (BEL)
8.  A computable cellular stress network model for non-diseased pulmonary and cardiovascular tissue 
BMC Systems Biology  2011;5:168.
Humans and other organisms are equipped with a set of responses that can prevent damage from exposure to a multitude of endogenous and environmental stressors. If these stress responses are overwhelmed, this can result in pathogenesis of diseases, which is reflected by an increased development of, e.g., pulmonary and cardiac diseases in humans exposed to chronic levels of environmental stress, including inhaled cigarette smoke (CS). Systems biology data sets (e.g., transcriptomics, phosphoproteomics, metabolomics) could enable comprehensive investigation of the biological impact of these stressors. However, detailed mechanistic networks are needed to determine which specific pathways are activated in response to different stressors and to drive the qualitative and eventually quantitative assessment of these data. A current limiting step in this process is the availability of detailed mechanistic networks that can be used as an analytical substrate.
We have built a detailed network model that captures the biology underlying the physiological cellular response to endogenous and exogenous stressors in non-diseased mammalian pulmonary and cardiovascular cells. The contents of the network model reflect several diverse areas of signaling, including oxidative stress, hypoxia, shear stress, endoplasmic reticulum stress, and xenobiotic stress, that are elicited in response to common pulmonary and cardiovascular stressors. We then tested the ability of the network model to identify the mechanisms that are activated in response to CS, a broad inducer of cellular stress. Using transcriptomic data from the lungs of mice exposed to CS, the network model identified a robust increase in the oxidative stress response, largely mediated by the anti-oxidant NRF2 pathways, consistent with previous reports on the impact of CS exposure in the mammalian lung.
The results presented here describe the construction of a cellular stress network model and its application towards the analysis of environmental stress using transcriptomic data. The proof-of-principle analysis described here, coupled with the future development of additional network models covering distinct areas of biology, will help to further clarify the integrated biological responses elicited by complex environmental stressors such as CS, in pulmonary and cardiovascular cells.
PMCID: PMC3224482  PMID: 22011616
9.  Construction of a computable cell proliferation network focused on non-diseased lung cells 
BMC Systems Biology  2011;5:105.
Critical to advancing the systems-level evaluation of complex biological processes is the development of comprehensive networks and computational methods to apply to the analysis of systems biology data (transcriptomics, proteomics/phosphoproteomics, metabolomics, etc.). Ideally, these networks will be specifically designed to capture the normal, non-diseased biology of the tissue or cell types under investigation, and can be used with experimentally generated systems biology data to assess the biological impact of perturbations like xenobiotics and other cellular stresses. Lung cell proliferation is a key biological process to capture in such a network model, given the pivotal role that proliferation plays in lung diseases including cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and fibrosis. Unfortunately, no such network has been available prior to this work.
To further a systems-level assessment of the biological impact of perturbations on non-diseased mammalian lung cells, we constructed a lung-focused network for cell proliferation. The network encompasses diverse biological areas that lead to the regulation of normal lung cell proliferation (Cell Cycle, Growth Factors, Cell Interaction, Intra- and Extracellular Signaling, and Epigenetics), and contains a total of 848 nodes (biological entities) and 1597 edges (relationships between biological entities). The network was verified using four published gene expression profiling data sets associated with measured cell proliferation endpoints in lung and lung-related cell types. Predicted changes in the activity of core machinery involved in cell cycle regulation (RB1, CDKN1A, and MYC/MYCN) are statistically supported across multiple data sets, underscoring the general applicability of this approach for a network-wide biological impact assessment using systems biology data.
To the best of our knowledge, this lung-focused Cell Proliferation Network provides the most comprehensive connectivity map in existence of the molecular mechanisms regulating cell proliferation in the lung. The network is based on fully referenced causal relationships obtained from extensive evaluation of the literature. The computable structure of the network enables its application to the qualitative and quantitative evaluation of cell proliferation using systems biology data sets. The network is available for public use.
PMCID: PMC3160372  PMID: 21722388
10.  In vitro systems toxicology approach to investigate the effects of repeated cigarette smoke exposure on human buccal and gingival organotypic epithelial tissue cultures 
Toxicology Mechanisms and Methods  2014;24(7):470-487.
Smoking has been associated with diseases of the lung, pulmonary airways and oral cavity. Cytologic, genomic and transcriptomic changes in oral mucosa correlate with oral pre-neoplasia, cancer and inflammation (e.g. periodontitis). Alteration of smoking-related gene expression changes in oral epithelial cells is similar to that in bronchial and nasal epithelial cells. Using a systems toxicology approach, we have previously assessed the impact of cigarette smoke (CS) seen as perturbations of biological processes in human nasal and bronchial organotypic epithelial culture models. Here, we report our further assessment using in vitro human oral organotypic epithelium models. We exposed the buccal and gingival organotypic epithelial tissue cultures to CS at the air–liquid interface. CS exposure was associated with increased secretion of inflammatory mediators, induction of cytochrome P450s activity and overall weak toxicity in both tissues. Using microarray technology, gene-set analysis and a novel computational modeling approach leveraging causal biological network models, we identified CS impact on xenobiotic metabolism-related pathways accompanied by a more subtle alteration in inflammatory processes. Gene-set analysis further indicated that the CS-induced pathways in the in vitro buccal tissue models resembled those in the in vivo buccal biopsies of smokers from a published dataset. These findings support the translatability of systems responses from in vitro to in vivo and demonstrate the applicability of oral organotypical tissue models for an impact assessment of CS on various tissues exposed during smoking, as well as for impact assessment of reduced-risk products.
PMCID: PMC4219813  PMID: 25046638
Air–liquid interface; causal biological network model; oral keratinocytes; organotypic cultures; transcriptomics

Results 1-10 (10)