A data-driven modeling approach to identify disease-specific multi-organ networks driving physiological dysregulation.

Warren D Anderson, Danielle DeCicco, James S Schwaber, Rajanikanth Vadigepalli,

PLoS computational biology, July 21, 2017

Multiple physiological systems interact throughout the development of a complex disease. Knowledge of the dynamics and connectivity of interactions across physiological systems could facilitate the prevention or mitigation of organ damage underlying complex diseases, many of which are currently refractory to available therapeutics (e.g., hypertension). We studied the regulatory interactions operating within and across organs throughout disease development by integrating in vivo analysis of gene expression dynamics with a reverse engineering approach to infer data-driven dynamic network models of multi-organ gene regulatory influences. We obtained experimental data on the expression of 22 genes across five organs, over a time span that encompassed the development of autonomic nervous system dysfunction and hypertension. We pursued a unique approach for identification of continuous-time models that jointly described the dynamics and structure of multi-organ networks by estimating a sparse subset of ∼12,000 possible gene regulatory interactions. Our analyses revealed that an autonomic dysfunction-specific multi-organ sequence of gene expression activation patterns was associated with a distinct gene regulatory network. We analyzed the model structures for adaptation motifs, and identified disease-specific network motifs involving genes that exhibited aberrant temporal dynamics. Bioinformatic analyses identified disease-specific single nucleotide variants within or near transcription factor binding sites upstream of key genes implicated in maintaining physiological homeostasis. Our approach illustrates a novel framework for investigating the pathogenesis through model-based analysis of multi-organ system dynamics and network properties. Our results yielded novel candidate molecular targets driving the development of cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, and immune dysfunction.

Pubmed Link: 28732007

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1005627