Integrated systems analysis of salivary gland transcriptomics reveals key molecular networks in Sjögren’s syndrome
Arthritis Research & Therapy, December 2019
Hong Ki Min, Su-Jin Moon, Kyung-Su Park, Ki-Jo Kim
Treatment of patients with Sjögren's syndrome (SjS) is a clinical challenge with high unmet needs. Gene expression profiling and integrative network-based approaches to complex disease can offer an insight on molecular characteristics in the context of clinical setting. An integrated dataset was created from salivary gland samples of 30 SjS patients. Pathway-driven enrichment profiles made by gene set enrichment analysis were categorized using hierarchical clustering. Differentially expressed genes (DEGs) were subjected to functional network analysis, where the elements of the core subnetwork were used for key driver analysis. We identified 310 upregulated DEGs, including nine known genetic risk factors and two potential biomarkers. The core subnetwork was enriched with the processes associated with B cell hyperactivity. Pathway-based subgrouping revealed two clusters with distinct molecular signatures for the relevant pathways and cell subsets. Cluster 2, with low-grade inflammation, showed a better response to rituximab therapy than cluster 1, with high-grade inflammation. Fourteen key driver genes appeared to be essential signaling mediators downstream of the B cell receptor (BCR) signaling pathway and to have a positive relationship with histopathology scores. Integrative network-based approaches provide deep insights into the modules and pathways causally related to SjS and allow identification of key targets for disease. Intervention adjusted to the molecular traits of the disease would allow the achievement of better outcomes, and the BCR signaling pathway and its leading players are promising therapeutic targets.
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