Multi-omics data integration for the detection and characterization of smoking related lung diseases
Pavel, Ana Brandusa
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Lung cancer is the leading cause of death from cancer in the world. First, we hypothesized that microRNA expression is altered in the bronchial epithelium of patients with lung cancer and that incorporating microRNA expression into an existing mRNA biomarker may improve its performance. Using bronchial brushings collected from current and former smokers, we profiled microRNA expression via small RNA sequencing for 347 patients with available mRNA data. We found that four microRNAs were under-expressed in cancer patients compared to controls (p<0.002, FDR<0.2). We explored the role of these microRNAs and their gene targets in cancer. In addition, we found that adding a microRNA feature to an existing 23-gene biomarker significantly improves its performance (AUC) in a test set (p<0.05). Next, we generalized the biomarker discovery process, and developed a visualization tool for biomarker selection. We built upon an existing biomarker discovery pipeline and created a web-based interface to visualize the performance of multiple predictors. The “visualization” component is the key to sorting through a thousand potential biomarkers, and developing clinically useful molecular predictors. Finally, we explored the molecular events leading to the development of COPD and ILD, two heterogeneous diseases with high mortality. We hypothesized that integrative genetic and expression networks can help identify drivers and elucidate mechanisms of genetic susceptibility. We utilized 262 lung tissue specimens profiled with microRNA sequencing, microarray gene expression and SNP chip genotyping. Next, we built condition specific integrative networks using a causality inference test for predicting SNP-microRNA-mRNA associations, where the microRNA is a predicted mediator of the SNP’s effect on gene expression. We identified the microRNAs predicted to affect the most genes within each network. Members of miR-34/449 family, known to promote airway differentiation by repressing the Notch pathway, were among the top ranked microRNAs in COPD and ILD networks, but not in the non-disease network. In addition, the miR-34/449 gene module was enriched among genes that increase in expression over time when airway basal cells are differentiated at an air-liquid interface and among genes that increase in expression with the airway wall thickening in patients with emphysema.