My Recent Publications
Perturbations of Glutathione and Sphingosine Metabolites in Port Wine Birthmark Patient-Derived Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells
Metabolites. 2023 Aug 31;13(9):983. doi: 10.3390/metabo13090983.
Port Wine Birthmarks (PWBs) are a congenital vascular malformation on the skin, occurring in 1-3 per 1000 live births. We have recently generated PWB-derived induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) as clinically relevant disease models. The metabolites associated with the pathological phenotypes of PWB-derived iPSCs are unknown, and so we aim to explore them in this study. Metabolites were separated by ultra-performance liquid chromatography and screened with electrospray ionization mass spectrometry. Orthogonal partial least-squares discriminant, multivariate, and univariate analyses were used to identify differential metabolites (DMs). KEGG analysis was used to determine the enrichment of metabolic pathways. A total of 339 metabolites was identified. There were 22 DMs, among which nine were downregulated-including sphingosine-and 13 were upregulated, including glutathione in PWB iPSCs, as compared to controls. Pathway enrichment analysis confirmed the upregulation of glutathione and the downregulation of sphingolipid metabolism in PWB-derived iPSCs as compared to normal ones. We next examined the expression patterns of the key molecules associated with glutathione metabolism in PWB lesions. We found that hypoxia-inducible factor 1α (HIF1α), glutathione S-transferase Pi 1 (GSTP1), γ-glutamyl transferase 7 (GGT7), and glutamate cysteine ligase modulatory subunit (GCLM) were upregulated in PWB vasculatures as compared to blood vessels in normal skin. Other significantly affected metabolic pathways in PWB iPSCs included pentose and glucuronate interconversions; amino sugar and nucleotide sugars; alanine, aspartate, and glutamate; arginine, purine, D-glutamine, and D-glutamate; arachidonic acid, glyoxylate, and dicarboxylate; nitrogen, aminoacyl-tRNA biosynthesis, pyrimidine, galactose, ascorbate, and aldarate; and starch and sucrose. Our data demonstrated that there were perturbations in sphingolipid and cellular redox homeostasis in PWB vasculatures, which could facilitate cell survival and pathological progression. Our data implied that the upregulation of glutathione could contribute to laser-resistant phenotypes in some PWB vasculatures.
Gastroenterology. 2023 Sep 20:S0016-5085(23)05012-6. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2023.09.021. Online ahead of print.
BACKGROUND AND AIMS: The dismal prognosis of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is linked to the presence of pancreatic cancer stem-like cells (CSCs) that respond poorly to current chemotherapy regimens. The epigenetic mechanisms regulating CSCs are currently insufficiently understood which hampers the development of novel strategies for eliminating CSCs.
METHODS: By small molecule compound screening targeting 142 epigenetic enzymes, we identified that bromodomain-containing protein BRD9, a component of the BAF histone remodelling complex, is a key chromatin regulator to orchestrate the stemness of pancreatic CSCs via cooperating with the TGFβ/Activin-SMAD2/3 signalling pathway.
RESULTS: Inhibition and genetic ablation of BRD9 block the self-renewal, cell cycle entry into G0 phase and invasiveness of CSCs, and improve the sensitivity of CSCs to Gemcitabine treatment. In addition, pharmacological inhibition of BRD9 significantly reduced the tumorigenesis in patient-derived xenografts mouse models and eliminated CSCs in tumours from pancreatic cancer patients. Mechanistically, inhibition of BRD9 disrupts enhancer-promoter looping and transcription of stemness genes in CSCs.
CONCLUSIONS: Collectively, the data suggest BRD9 as a novel therapeutic target for PDAC treatment via modulation of CSC stemness.
Endothelial cells differentiated from patient dermal fibroblast-derived induced pluripotent stem cells resemble vascular malformations of Port Wine Birthmark
Br J Dermatol. 2023 Sep 6:ljad330. doi: 10.1093/bjd/ljad330. Online ahead of print.
Supporting materials: Endothelial cells differentiated from patient dermal fibroblast-derived induced pluripotent stem cells resemble vascular malformations of Port Wine Birthmark
bioRxiv. 2023 Aug 24:2023.07.02.547408. doi: 10.1101/2023.07.02.547408. Preprint.
BACKGROUND: Port wine birthmark (PWB) is a congenital vascular malformation resulting from developmentally defective endothelial cells (ECs). Developing clinically relevant disease models for PWB studies is currently an unmet need.
OBJECTIVE: Our study aims to generate PWB-derived induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) and iPSC-derived ECs that preserve disease-related phenotypes.
METHODS: PWB iPSCs were generated by reprogramming lesional dermal fibroblasts and differentiated into ECs. RNA-seq was performed to identify differentially expressed genes (DEGs) and enriched pathways. The functional phenotypes of iPSC-derived ECs were characterized by capillary-like structure (CLS) formation in vitro and Geltrex plug-in assay in vivo .
RESULTS: Human PWB and control iPSC lines were generated through reprogramming of dermal fibroblasts by introducing the "Yamanaka factors" (Oct3/4, Sox2, Klf4, c-Myc) into them; the iPSCs were successfully differentiated into ECs. These iPSCs and their derived ECs were validated by expression of a series of stem cell and EC biomarkers, respectively. PWB iPSC-derived ECs showed impaired CLS in vitro with larger perimeters and thicker branches as compared to control iPSC-derived ECs. In the plug-in assay, perfused human vasculature formed by PWB iPSC- derived ECs showed bigger perimeters and greater densities than those formed by control iPSC- derived ECs in severe combined immune deficient (SCID) mice. The transcriptome analysis showed that dysregulated pathways of stem cell differentiation, Hippo, Wnt, and focal adhesion persisted through differentiation of PWB iPSCs to ECs. Functional enrichment analysis showed that Hippo and Wnt pathway-related PWB DEGs are enriched for vasculature development, tube morphology, endothelium development, and EC differentiation. Further, members of the zinc finger (ZNF) gene family were overrepresented among the DEGs in PWB iPSCs. ZNF DEGs confer significant functions in transcriptional regulation, chromatin remodeling, protein ubiquitination, and retinoic acid receptor signaling. Furthermore, NF-kappa B, TNF, MAPK, and cholesterol metabolism pathways were dysregulated in PWB ECs as readouts of impaired differentiation.
CONCLUSIONS: PWB iPSC-derived ECs render a novel and clinically-relevant disease model by retaining pathological phenotypes. Our data demonstrate multiple pathways, such as Hippo and Wnt, NF-kappa B, TNF, MAPK, and cholesterol metabolism, are dysregulated, which may contribute to the development of differentiation-defective ECs in PWB.
BULLETED STATEMENTS: What is already known about this topic?: Port Wine Birthmark (PWB) is a congenital vascular malformation with an incidence rate of 0.1 - 0.3 % per live births.PWB results from developmental defects in the dermal vasculature; PWB endothelial cells (ECs) have differentiational impairments.Pulse dye laser (PDL) is currently the preferred treatment for PWB; unfortunately, the efficacy of PDL treatment of PWB has not improved over the past three decades.What does this study add?: Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) were generated from PWB skin fibroblasts and differentiated into ECs.PWB ECs recapitulated their pathological phenotypes such as forming enlarged blood vessels in vitro and in vivo.Hippo and Wnt pathways were dysregulated in PWB iPSCs and ECs.Zinc-finger family genes were overrepresented among the differentially expressed genes in PWB iPSCs.Dysregulated NF-kappa B, TNF, MAPK, and cholesterol metabolism pathways were enriched in PWB ECs.What is the translational message?: Targeting Hippo and Wnt pathways and Zinc-finger family genes could restore the physiological differentiation of ECs.Targeting NF-kappa B, TNF, MAPK, and cholesterol metabolism pathways could mitigate the pathological progression of PWB.These mechanisms may lead to the development of paradigm-shifting therapeutic interventions for PWB.
Perturbations of glutathione and sphingosine metabolites in Port Wine Birthmark patient-derived induced pluripotent stem cells
bioRxiv. 2023 Jul 19:2023.07.18.549581. doi: 10.1101/2023.07.18.549581. Preprint.
Port Wine Birthmark (PWB) is a congenital vascular malformation in the skin, occurring in 1-3 per 1,000 live births. We recently generated PWB-derived induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) as clinically relevant disease models. The metabolites associated with the pathological phenotypes of PWB-derived iPSCs are unknown, which we aimed to explore in this study. Metabolites were separated by ultra-performance liquid chromatography and were screened with electrospray ionization mass spectrometry. Orthogonal partial least-squares discriminant analysis, multivariate and univariate analysis were used to identify differential metabolites (DMs). KEGG analysis was used for the enrichment of metabolic pathways. A total of 339 metabolites were identified. There were 22 DMs confirmed with 9 downregulated DMs including sphingosine and 13 upregulated DMs including glutathione in PWB iPSCs as compared to controls. Pathway enrichment analysis confirmed the upregulation of glutathione and downregulation of sphingolipid metabolism in PWB-derived iPSCs as compared to normal ones. We next examined the expression patterns of the key factors associated with glutathione metabolism in PWB lesions. We found that hypoxia-inducible factor 1α (HIF1α), glutathione S-transferase Pi 1 (GSTP1), γ-glutamyl transferase 7 (GGT7), and glutamate cysteine ligase modulatory subunit (GCLM) were upregulated in PWB vasculatures as compared to blood vessels in normal skins. Our data demonstrate that there are perturbations in sphingolipid and cellular redox homeostasis in the PWB vasculature, which may facilitate cell survival and pathological progression. Our data imply that upregulation of glutathione may contribute to laser-resistant phenotypes in the PWB vasculature.
Mucosal transcriptomics highlight lncRNAs implicated in ulcerative colitis, Crohn disease, and celiac disease
JCI Insight. 2023 Jun 1:e170181. doi: 10.1172/jci.insight.170181. Online ahead of print.
Ulcerative colitis (UC), Crohn's disease (CD), and celiac disease are prevalent intestinal inflammatory disorders with non-satisfactory therapeutic interventions. Analyzing patient data-driven cohorts can highlight disease pathways and new targets for interventions. Long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) are attractive candidates as they are readily targetable by RNA therapeutics, show relative cell-specific expression, and play key cellular functions. Uniformly analyzing gut mucosal transcriptomics from 696 subjects, we highlight lncRNA expression along the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, demonstrating that in control samples, lncRNAs have a more location-specific expression in comparison to protein-coding genes. We defined dysregulation of lncRNAs in treatment-naïve UC, CD, and celiac diseases using independent test and validation cohorts. Using the PROTECT inception UC cohort, we define and prioritize lncRNA linked with UC severity and prospective outcomes, and highlight lncRNAs linked with gut microbes previously implicated in mucosal homeostasis. HNF1A-AS1 lncRNA was reduced in all 3 conditions and was further reduced in more severe UC form. Similarly, the reduction of HNF1A-AS1 ortholog in mice gut epithelial showed higher sensitivity to dextran sodium sulfate-induced colitis which was coupled with alteration in the gut microbial community. These analyses highlight prioritized dysregulated lncRNAs that can guide future preclinical studies for testing them as novel potential targets.
Relationships between gene expression and behavior in mice in response to systemic modulation of the O-GlcNAcylation pathway
J Neurochem. 2023 May 2. doi: 10.1111/jnc.15835. Online ahead of print.
Enhancing protein O-GlcNAcylation by pharmacological inhibition of the enzyme O-GlcNAcase (OGA), which removes the O-GlcNAc modification from proteins, has been explored in mouse models of amyloid-beta and tau pathology. However, the O-GlcNAcylation-dependent link between gene expression and neurological behavior remains to be explored. Using chronic administration of Thiamet G (TG, an OGA inhibitor) in vivo, we used a protocol designed to relate behavior with the transcriptome and selected biochemical parameters from the cortex of individual animals. TG-treated mice showed improved working memory as measured using a Y-maze test. RNA sequencing analysis revealed 151 top differentially expressed genes with a Log2fold change > 0.33 and adjusted p-value < 0.05. Top TG-dependent upregulated genes were related to learning, cognition, and behavior, while top downregulated genes were related to IL-17 signaling, inflammatory response, and chemotaxis. Additional pathway analysis uncovered 3 pathways involving gene expression including 14 cytochrome c oxidase subunits/regulatory components, chaperones, or assembly factors, and 5 mTOR (mechanistic target of rapamycin) signaling factors. Multivariate Kendall correlation analyses of behavioral tests and the top TG-dependent differentially expressed genes revealed 91 statistically significant correlations in saline-treated mice and 70 statistically significant correlations in TG-treated mice. These analyses provide a network regulation landscape that is important in relating the transcriptome to behavior and the potential impact of the O-GlcNAC pathway.
PLoS Biol. 2023 Apr 20;21(4):e3002058. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.3002058. eCollection 2023 Apr.
Genes associated with risk for brain disease exhibit characteristic expression patterns that reflect both anatomical and cell type relationships. Brain-wide transcriptomic patterns of disease risk genes provide a molecular-based signature, based on differential co-expression, that is often unique to that disease. Brain diseases can be compared and aggregated based on the similarity of their signatures which often associates diseases from diverse phenotypic classes. Analysis of 40 common human brain diseases identifies 5 major transcriptional patterns, representing tumor-related, neurodegenerative, psychiatric and substance abuse, and 2 mixed groups of diseases affecting basal ganglia and hypothalamus. Further, for diseases with enriched expression in cortex, single-nucleus data in the middle temporal gyrus (MTG) exhibits a cell type expression gradient separating neurodegenerative, psychiatric, and substance abuse diseases, with unique excitatory cell type expression differentiating psychiatric diseases. Through mapping of homologous cell types between mouse and human, most disease risk genes are found to act in common cell types, while having species-specific expression in those types and preserving similar phenotypic classification within species. These results describe structural and cellular transcriptomic relationships of disease risk genes in the adult brain and provide a molecular-based strategy for classifying and comparing diseases, potentially identifying novel disease relationships.
A systems approach points to a therapeutic role for retinoids in asparaginase-associated pancreatitis
Sci Transl Med. 2023 Mar 15;15(687):eabn2110. doi: 10.1126/scitranslmed.abn2110. Epub 2023 Mar 15.
Among drug-induced adverse events, pancreatitis is life-threatening and results in substantial morbidity. A prototype example is the pancreatitis caused by asparaginase, a crucial drug used to treat acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). Here, we used a systems approach to identify the factors affecting asparaginase-associated pancreatitis (AAP). Connectivity Map analysis of the transcriptomic data showed that asparaginase-induced gene signatures were potentially reversed by retinoids (vitamin A and its analogs). Analysis of a large electronic health record database (TriNetX) and the U.S. Federal Drug Administration Adverse Events Reporting System demonstrated a reduction in AAP risk with concomitant exposure to vitamin A. Furthermore, we performed a global metabolomic screening of plasma samples from 24 individuals with ALL who developed pancreatitis (cases) and 26 individuals with ALL who did not develop pancreatitis (controls), before and after a single exposure to asparaginase. Screening from this discovery cohort revealed that plasma carotenoids were lower in the cases than in controls. This finding was validated in a larger external cohort. A 30-day dietary recall showed that the cases received less dietary vitamin A than the controls did. In mice, asparaginase administration alone was sufficient to reduce circulating and hepatic retinol. Based on these data, we propose that circulating retinoids protect against pancreatic inflammation and that asparaginase reduces circulating retinoids. Moreover, we show that AAP is more likely to develop with reduced dietary vitamin A intake. The systems approach taken for AAP provides an impetus to examine the role of dietary vitamin A supplementation in preventing or treating AAP.
bioRxiv. 2023 Mar 2:2023.03.02.530770. doi: 10.1101/2023.03.02.530770. Preprint.
The dismal prognosis of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is linked to the presence of pancreatic cancer stem-like cells (CSCs) that respond poorly to current chemotherapy regimens. By small molecule compound screening targeting 142 epigenetic enzymes, we identified that bromodomain-containing protein BRD9, a component of the BAF histone remodelling complex, is a key chromatin regulator to orchestrate the stemness of pancreatic CSCs via cooperating with the TGFβ/Activin-SMAD2/3 signalling pathway. Inhibition and genetic ablation of BDR9 block the self-renewal, cell cycle entry into G0 phase and invasiveness of CSCs, and improve the sensitivity of CSCs to gemcitabine treatment. In addition, pharmacological inhibition of BRD9 significantly reduced the tumorigenesis in patient-derived xenografts mouse models and eliminated CSCs in tumours from pancreatic cancer patients. Mechanistically, inhibition of BRD9 disrupts enhancer-promoter looping and transcription of stemness genes in CSCs. Collectively, the data suggest BRD9 as a novel therapeutic target for PDAC treatment via modulation of CSC stemness.
Transcriptome analysis in acute gastrointestinal graft-versus host disease reveals a unique signature in children and shared biology with pediatric inflammatory bowel disease
Haematologica. 2023 Feb 2. doi: 10.3324/haematol.2022.282035. Online ahead of print.
We performed transcriptomic analyses on freshly frozen (n=21) and paraffin embedded (n=35) gastrointestinal (GI)biopsies from children with and without acute GI graft versus host disease (GVHD) to study differential gene expressions. We identified 164 significant genes, 141 upregulated and 23 downregulated, in acute GVHD from freshy frozen biopsies. CHI3L1 was the top differentially expressed gene in acute GVHD, involved in macrophage recruitment and bacterial adhesion. Mitochondrial genes were among the top downregulated genes. Immune deconvolution identified a macrophage cellular signature. Weighted gene co-expression network analysis showed enrichment of genes in the ERK1/2 cascade. Transcriptome data from 206 ulcerative colitis (UC) patients were included to uncover genes and pathways shared between GVHD and UC. Comparison with the UC transcriptome showed both shared and distinct pathways. Both UC and GVHD transcriptomes shared an innate antimicrobial signature and FCγ1RA/CD64 was upregulated in both acute GVHD (log fold increase 1.7, p=0.001) and UC. Upregulation of the ERK1/2 cascade pathway was specific to GVHD. We performed additional experiments to confirm transcriptomics. Firstly, we examined phosphorylation of ERK (pERK) by immunohistochemistry on GI biopsies (acute GVHD n=10, no GVHD n=10). pERK staining was increased in acute GVHD biopsies compared to biopsies without acute GVHD (p= 0.001). Secondly, plasma CD64, measured by ELISA (n=85) was elevated in acute GI GVHD (p.
Combination of esomeprazole and pirfenidone enhances antifibrotic efficacy in vitro and in a mouse model of TGFβ-induced lung fibrosis
Sci Rep. 2022 Nov 30;12(1):20668. doi: 10.1038/s41598-022-24985-x.
Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is a progressive and fatal lung disease of unknown etiology. Currently, pirfenidone and nintedanib are the only FDA-approved drugs for the treatment of IPF and are now the standard of care. This is a significant step in slowing down the progression of the disease. However, the drugs are unable to stop or reverse established fibrosis. Several retrospective clinical studies indicate that proton pump inhibitors (PPIs; FDA-approved to treat gastroesophageal reflux) are associated with favorable outcomes in patients with IPF, and emerging preclinical studies report that PPIs possess antifibrotic activity. In this study, we evaluated the antifibrotic efficacy of the PPI esomeprazole when combined with pirfenidone in vitro and in vivo. In cell culture studies of IPF lung fibroblasts, we assessed the effect of the combination on several fibrosis-related biological processes including TGFβ-induced cell proliferation, cell migration, cell contraction, and collagen production. In an in vivo study, we used mouse model of TGFβ-induced lung fibrosis to evaluate the antifibrotic efficacy of esomeprazole/pirfenidone combination. We also performed computational studies to understand the molecular mechanisms by which esomeprazole and/or pirfenidone regulate lung fibrosis. We found that esomeprazole significantly enhanced the anti-proliferative effect of pirfenidone and favorably modulated TGFβ-induced cell migration and contraction of collagen gels. We also found that the combination significantly suppressed collagen production in response to TGFβ in comparison to pirfenidone monotherapy. In addition, our animal study demonstrated that the combination therapy effectively inhibited the differentiation of lung fibroblasts into alpha smooth muscle actin (αSMA)-expressing myofibroblasts to attenuate the progression of lung fibrosis. Finally, our bioinformatics study of cells treated with esomeprazole or pirfenidone revealed that the drugs target several extracellular matrix (ECM) related pathways with esomeprazole preferentially targeting collagen family members while pirfenidone targets the keratins. In conclusion, our cell biological, computational, and in vivo studies show that the PPI esomeprazole enhances the antifibrotic efficacy of pirfenidone through complementary molecular mechanisms. This data supports the initiation of prospective clinical studies aimed at repurposing PPIs for the treatment of IPF and other fibrotic lung diseases where pirfenidone is prescribed.
J Immunother Cancer. 2022 Nov;10(11):e004806. doi: 10.1136/jitc-2022-004806.
BACKGROUND: Cancer immunotherapy has taken center stage in cancer treatment. However, the current immunotherapies only benefit a small proportion of patients with cancer, necessitating better understanding of the mechanisms of tumor immune evasion and improved cancer immunotherapy strategies. Regulatory T (Treg) cells play an important role in maintaining immune tolerance through inhibiting effector T-cell function. In the tumor microenvironment, Treg cells are used by tumor cells to counteract effector T cell-mediated tumor suppression. Targeting Treg cells may thus unleash the antitumor activity of effector T cells. While systemic depletion of Treg cells can cause excessive effector T-cell responses and subsequent autoimmune diseases, controlled targeting of Treg cells may benefit patients with cancer.
METHODS: Treg cells from Treg cell-specific heterozygous Cdc42 knockout mice, C57BL/6 mice treated with a Cdc42 inhibitor CASIN, and control mice were examined for their homeostasis and stability by flow cytometry. The autoimmune responses in Treg cell-specific heterozygous Cdc42 knockout mice, CASIN-treated C57BL/6 mice, and control mice were assessed by H&E staining and ELISA. Antitumor T-cell immunity in Treg cell-specific heterozygous Cdc42 knockout mice, CASIN-treated C57BL/6 mice, humanized NSGS mice, and control mice was assessed by challenging the mice with MC38 mouse colon cancer cells, KPC mouse pancreatic cancer cells, or HCT116 human colon cancer cells.
RESULTS: Treg cell-specific heterozygous deletion or pharmacological targeting of Cdc42 with CASIN does not affect Treg cell numbers but induces Treg cell instability, leading to antitumor T-cell immunity without detectable autoimmune reactions. Cdc42 targeting causes an additive effect on immune checkpoint inhibitor anti-programmed cell death protein-1 antibody-induced T-cell response against mouse and human tumors. Mechanistically, Cdc42 targeting induces Treg cell instability and unleashes antitumor T-cell immunity through carbonic anhydrase I-mediated pH changes.
CONCLUSIONS: Rational targeting of Cdc42 in Treg cells holds therapeutic promises in cancer immunotherapy.
Am J Transl Res. 2022 Oct 15;14(10):7612-7620. eCollection 2022.
We report a rare case of a patient with cystic fibrosis suffering from debilitating abdominal pain due to chronic pancreatitis. This 13-year-old patient was evaluated for surgical intervention to relieve pain from chronic pancreatitis and to improve quality of life. The patient carried two mutations in the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) gene; the most common ΔF508 variant and a second variant, p.Glu1044Gly, which has not been previously described. The patient's condition did not improve despite medical management and multiple endoscopic interventions, and therefore total pancreatectomy with islet autotransplantation and a near-total duodenectomy was offered for definitive management. Patient-derived duodenal crypts were isolated and cultured from the resected duodenum, and duodenal organoids were generated to test CFTR function. Our studies demonstrate that this novel mutation (ΔF508/p.Glu1044Gly) caused severely impaired CFTR function in vitro. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved drug ivacaftor, a CFTR potentiator, was identified to robustly improve CFTR function in the context of this novel mutation. Herein, we describe a personalized medicine approach consisting of performing drug testing on individual patient derived organoids that has potential to guide management of patients with novel CFTR genetic mutations. Identified effective medical therapeutics using this approach may avoid irreversible surgical treatments such as total pancreatectomy with islet autotransplantation in the future.
<em>gene2gauss</em>: A multi-view gaussian gene embedding learner for analyzing transcriptomic networks
AMIA Annu Symp Proc. 2022 May 23;2022:206-215. eCollection 2022.
Analyzing gene co-expression networks can help in the discovery of biological processes and regulatory mechanisms underlying normal or perturbed states. Unlike standard differential analysis, network-based approaches consider the interactions between the genes involved leading to biologically relevant results. Applying such network-based methods to jointly analyze multiple transcriptomic networks representing independent disease cohorts or studies could lead to the identification of more robust gene modules or gene regulatory networks. We present gene2gauss, a novel feature learning framework that is capable of embedding genes as multivariate gaussian distributions by taking into account their long-range interaction neighborhoods across multiple transcriptomic studies. Using multiple gene co-expression networks from idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, we demonstrate that these multi-dimensional gaussian features are suitable for identifying regulons of known transcription factors (TF). Using standard TF-target libraries, we demonstrate that the features from our method are highly relevant in comparison with other feature learning approaches on transcriptomic data.
Front Genet. 2022 Jun 27;13:896117. doi: 10.3389/fgene.2022.896117. eCollection 2022.
Myosin binding protein-C (MyBP-C) is a sarcomeric protein which regulates the force of contraction in striated muscles. Mutations in the MYBPC family of genes, including slow skeletal (MYBPC1), fast skeletal (MYBPC2) and cardiac (MYBPC3), can result in cardiac and skeletal myopathies. Nonetheless, their evolutionary pattern, pathogenicity and impact on MyBP-C protein structure remain to be elucidated. Therefore, the present study aimed to systematically assess the evolutionarily conserved and epigenetic patterns of MYBPC family mutations. Leveraging a machine learning (ML) approach, the Genome Aggregation Database (gnomAD) provided variants in MYBPC1, MYBPC2, and MYBPC3 genes. This was followed by an analysis with Ensembl's variant effect predictor (VEP), resulting in the identification of 8,618, 3,871, and 3,071 variants in MYBPC1, MYBPC2, and MYBPC3, respectively. Missense variants comprised 61%-66% of total variants in which the third nucleotide positions in the codons were highly altered. Arginine was the most mutated amino acid, important because most disease-causing mutations in MyBP-C proteins are arginine in origin. Domains C5 and C6 of MyBP-C were found to be hotspots for most mutations in the MyBP-C family of proteins. A high percentage of truncated mutations in cMyBP-C cause cardiomyopathies. Arginine and glutamate were the top hits in fMyBP-C and cMyBP-C, respectively, and tryptophan and tyrosine were the most common among the three paralogs changing to premature stop codons and causing protein truncations at the carboxyl terminus. A heterogeneous epigenetic pattern was identified among the three MYBP-C paralogs. Overall, it was shown that databases using computational approaches can facilitate diagnosis and drug discovery to treat muscle disorders caused by MYBPC mutations.
Defining the Dynamic Regulation of O-GlcNAc Proteome in the Mouse Cortex---the O-GlcNAcylation of Synaptic and Trafficking Proteins Related to Neurodegenerative Diseases
Front Aging. 2021 Sep 29;2:757801. doi: 10.3389/fragi.2021.757801. eCollection 2021.
O-linked conjugation of ß-N-acetyl-glucosamine (O-GlcNAc) to serine and threonine residues is a post-translational modification process that senses nutrient availability and cellular stress and regulates diverse biological processes that are involved in neurodegenerative diseases and provide potential targets for therapeutics development. However, very little is known of the networks involved in the brain that are responsive to changes in the O-GlcNAc proteome. Pharmacological increase of protein O-GlcNAcylation by Thiamet G (TG) has been shown to decrease tau phosphorylation and neurotoxicity, and proposed as a therapy in Alzheimer's disease (AD). However, acute TG exposure impairs learning and memory, and protein O-GlcNAcylation is increased in the aging rat brain and in Parkinson's disease (PD) brains. To define the cortical O-GlcNAc proteome that responds to TG, we injected young adult mice with either saline or TG and performed mass spectrometry analysis for detection of O-GlcNAcylated peptides. This approach identified 506 unique peptides corresponding to 278 proteins that are O-GlcNAcylated. Of the 506 unique peptides, 85 peptides are elevated by > 1.5 fold in O-GlcNAcylation levels in response to TG. Using pathway analyses, we found TG-dependent enrichment of O-GlcNAcylated synaptic proteins, trafficking, Notch/Wnt signaling, HDAC signaling, and circadian clock proteins. Significant changes in the O-GlcNAcylation of DNAJC6/AUXI, and PICALM, proteins that are risk factors for PD and/or AD respectively, were detected. We compared our study with two key prior O-GlcNAc proteome studies using mouse cerebral tissue and human AD brains. Among those identified to be increased by TG, 15 are also identified to be increased in human AD brains compared to control, including those involved in cytoskeleton, autophagy, chromatin organization and mitochondrial dysfunction. These studies provide insights regarding neurodegenerative diseases therapeutic targets.
Is There a Benefit From Islet Autotransplantation in Patients With Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus Undergoing Total Pancreatectomy?
Pancreas. 2022 Apr 1;51(4):399-403. doi: 10.1097/MPA.0000000000002017.
Children with acute recurrent and chronic pancreatitis (CP) experience abdominal pain that leads to hospitalizations, opioid dependence, and poor quality of life. Total pancreatectomy with islet autotransplantation (TPIAT) is offered as a surgical option in management of debilitating pancreatitis that fails medical and endoscopic therapy to reduce or eliminate pain. Given that patients with type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM) lack insulin-producing β cells, the outcomes from autotransplanting islet isolates back into total pancreatectomy patients with T1DM are not fully known.We performed TPIAT in 2 CP patients who also had a diagnosis of T1DM for at least 6 years before the operation and evaluated the clinical and laboratory outcomes before and after the operation. Postoperatively both patients' abdominal pain had significantly subsided, they were weaned off opioid medications, and they were able to return to full-time school attendance. In addition, total daily dose of insulin in 1 patient was able to be slightly reduced at 12 months post-TPIAT. We observed in vitro that residual α cells and β cells in T1DM islets were able to secrete a small amount of glucagon and insulin, respectively.
Targeted Assessment of Mucosal Immune Gene Expression Predicts Clinical Outcomes in Children with Ulcerative Colitis
J Crohns Colitis. 2022 Jun 4:jjac075. doi: 10.1093/ecco-jcc/jjac075. Online ahead of print.
BACKGROUND AND AIMS: We aimed to determine whether a targeted gene expression panel could predict clinical outcomes in pediatric UC and investigated putative pathogenic roles of predictive genes.
METHODS: 313 rectal RNA samples from a cohort of newly diagnosed pediatric UC patients (PROTECT) were analyzed by a real-time PCR microfluidic array for expression of type 1, 2, and 17 inflammation genes. Associations between expression and clinical outcomes were assessed by logistic regression. Identified prognostic markers were further analyzed using existing RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) data sets and tissue immunostaining.
RESULTS: IL13RA2 was associated with lower likelihood of corticosteroid-free remission (CSFR) on mesalamine at week 52 (P= .002). A model including IL13RA2 and only baseline clinical parameters was as accurate as an established clinical model, which requires week 4 remission status. RORC was associated with lower likelihood of colectomy by week 52. A model including RORC and PUCAI predicted colectomy by 52 weeks (AUC 0.71). Bulk RNA-seq identified IL13RA2 and RORC as hub genes within UC outcome-associated expression networks related to extracellular matrix and innate immune response, and lipid metabolism and microvillus assembly, respectively. Adult UC single-cell RNA-seq data revealed IL13RA2 and RORC co-expressed genes were localized to inflammatory fibroblasts and undifferentiated epithelial cells, respectively, which was supported by protein immunostaining.
CONCLUSION: Targeted assessment of rectal mucosal immune gene expression predicts 52-week CSFR in treatment-naïve pediatric UC patients. Further exploration of IL-13Rɑ2 as a therapeutic target in UC, and future studies of the epithelial-specific role of RORC in UC pathogenesis are warranted.
Consensus Gene Co-Expression Network Analysis Identifies Novel Genes Associated with Severity of Fibrotic Lung Disease
Int J Mol Sci. 2022 May 13;23(10):5447. doi: 10.3390/ijms23105447.
Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is a severe fibrotic lung disease characterized by irreversible scarring of the lung parenchyma leading to dyspnea, progressive decline in lung function, and respiratory failure. We analyzed lung transcriptomic data from independent IPF cohorts using weighted gene co-expression network analysis (WGCNA) to identify gene modules based on their preservation status in these cohorts. The consensus gene modules were characterized by leveraging existing clinical and molecular data such as lung function, biological processes, pathways, and lung cell types. From a total of 32 consensus gene modules identified, two modules were found to be significantly correlated with the disease, lung function, and preserved in other IPF datasets. The upregulated gene module was enriched for extracellular matrix, collagen metabolic process, and BMP signaling while the downregulated module consisted of genes associated with tube morphogenesis, blood vessel development, and cell migration. Using a combination of connectivity-based and trait-based significance measures, we identified and prioritized 103 "hub" genes (including 25 secretory candidate biomarkers) by their similarity to known IPF genetic markers. Our validation studies demonstrate the dysregulated expression of CRABP2, a retinol-binding protein, in multiple lung cells of IPF, and its correlation with the decline in lung function.