Analytical strategy to prioritize Alzheimer's disease candidate genes in gene regulatory networks using public expression data
Alzheimer's disease (AD) progressively destroys cognitive abilities in the aging population with tremendous effects on memory. Despite recent progress in understanding the underlying mechanisms, high drug attrition rates have put a question mark behind our knowledge about its etiology. Re-evaluation of past studies could help us to elucidate molecular-level details of this disease. Several methods to infer such networks exist, but most of them do not elaborate on context specificity and completeness of the generated networks, missing out on lesser-known candidates. In this study, we present a novel strategy that corroborates common mechanistic patterns across large scale AD gene expression studies and further prioritizes potential biomarker candidates. To infer gene regulatory networks (GRNs), we applied an optimized version of the BC3Net algorithm, named BC3Net10, capable of deriving robust and coherent patterns. In principle, this approach initially leverages the power of literature knowledge to extract AD specific genes for generating viable networks. Our findings suggest that AD GRNs show significant enrichment for key signaling mechanisms involved in neurotransmission. Among the prioritized genes, well-known AD genes were prominent in synaptic transmission, implicated in cognitive deficits. Moreover, less intensive studied AD candidates (STX2, HLA-F, HLA-C, RAB11FIP4, ARAP3, AP2A2, ATP2B4, ITPR2, and ATP2A3) are also involved in neurotransmission, providing new insights into the underlying mechanism. To our knowledge, this is the first study to generate knowledge-instructed GRNs that demonstrates an effective way of combining literature-based knowledge and data-driven analysis to identify lesser known candidates embedded in stable and robust functional patterns across disparate datasets.