Using expression profiles from postmortem prefrontal cortex samples of 624 dementia patients and non-demented controls, we investigated global disruptions in the co-regulation of genes in two neurodegenerative diseases, late-onset Alzheimer's disease (AD) and Huntington's disease (HD). We identified networks of differentially co-expressed (DC) gene pairs that either gained or lost correlation in disease cases relative to the control group, with the former dominant for both AD and HD and both patterns replicating in independent human cohorts of AD and aging. When aligning networks of DC patterns and physical interactions, we identified a 242-gene subnetwork enriched for independent AD/HD signatures. This subnetwork revealed a surprising dichotomy of gained/lost correlations among two inter-connected processes, chromatin organization and neural differentiation, and included DNA methyltransferases, DNMT1 and DNMT3A, of which we predicted the former but not latter as a key regulator. To validate the inter-connection of these two processes and our key regulator prediction, we generated two brain-specific knockout (KO) mice and show that Dnmt1 KO signature significantly overlaps with the subnetwork (P = 3.1 × 10(-12)), while Dnmt3a KO signature does not (P = 0.017).
The genetics of complex disease produce alterations in the molecular interactions of cellular pathways whose collective effect may become clear through the organized structure of molecular networks. To characterize molecular systems associated with late-onset Alzheimers disease (LOAD), we constructed gene-regulatory networks in 1,647 postmortem brain tissues from LOAD patients and nondemented subjects, and we demonstrate that LOAD reconfigures specific portions of the molecular interaction structure. Through an integrative network-based approach, we rank-ordered these network structures for relevance to LOAD pathology, highlighting an immune- and microglia-specific module that is dominated by genes involved in pathogen phagocytosis, contains TYROBP as a key regulator, and is upregulated in LOAD. Mouse microglia cells overexpressing intact or truncated TYROBP revealed expression changes that significantly overlapped the human brain TYROBP network. Thus the causal network structure is a useful predictor of response to gene perturbations and presents a framework to test models of disease mechanisms underlying LOAD.
For late onset Alzheimers disease (LOAD), the only confirmed, genetic association is with the apolipoprotein E (APOE) locus on chromosome 19. Meta-analysis is often employed to sort the true associations from the false positives. LOAD research has the advantage of a continuously updated meta-analysis of candidate gene association studies in the web-based AlzGene database. The top 30 AlzGene loci on May 1(st), 2007 were investigated in our whole genome association data set consisting of 1411 LOAD cases and neuropathoiogicaiiy verified controls genotyped at 312,316 SNPs using the Affymetrix 500K Mapping Platform. Of the 30 "top AlzGenes", 32 SNPs in 24 genes had odds ratios (OR) whose 95% confidence intervals that did not include 1. Of these 32 SNPs, six were part of the Affymetrix 500K Mapping panel and another ten had proxies on the Affymetrix array that had >80% power to detect an association with ?=0.001. Two of these 16 SNPs showed significant association with LOAD in our sample series. One was rs4420638 at the APOE locus (uncorrected p-value=4.58E-37) and the other was rs4293, located in the angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) locus (uncorrected p-value=0.014). Since this result was nominally significant, but did not survive multiple testing correction for 16 independent tests, this association at rs4293 was verified in a geographically distinct German cohort (p-value=0.03). We present the results of our ACE replication aiongwith a discussion of the statistical limitations of multiple test corrections in whole genome studies.
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