Peer-Reviewed Publications

      Causal biological network models for reactive astrogliosis: a systems approach to neuroinflammation

      Barkhuizen, M.; Renggli, K.; Gubian, S.; Peitsch, M. C.; Mathis, C.; Talikka, M.

      Mar 10, 2022

      Astrocytes play a central role in the neuroimmune response by responding to CNS pathologies with diverse molecular and morphological changes during the process of reactive astrogliosis. Here, we used a computational biological network model and mathematical algorithms that allow the interpretation of high-throughput transcriptomic datasets in the context of known biology to study reactive astrogliosis. We gathered available mechanistic information from the literature into a comprehensive causal biological network (CBN) model of astrocyte reactivity. The CBN model was built in the Biological Expression Language, which is both human-readable and computable. We characterized the CBN with a network analysis of highly connected nodes and demonstrated that the CBN captures relevant astrocyte biology. Subsequently, we used the CBN and transcriptomic data to identify key molecular pathways driving the astrocyte phenotype in four CNS pathologies: samples from mouse models of lipopolysaccharide-induced endotoxemia, Alzheimer’s disease, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; and samples from multiple sclerosis patients. The astrocyte CBN provides a new tool to identify causal mechanisms and quantify astrogliosis based on transcriptomic data.