Discovery of Emphysema Relevant Molecular Networks from an A/J Mouse Inhalation Study Using Reverse Engineering and Forward Simulation (REFS™).

Authored by  Y Xiang, U Kogel, S Gebel*, M Peck, M Peitsch, VR Akmaev*, J Hoeng

Published in Gene Regulation and Systems Biology     
* This author is not affiliated with PMI.


Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a respiratory disorder caused by extended exposure of the airways to noxious stimuli, principally cigarette smoke (CS). The mechanisms through which COPD develops are not fully understood, though it is believed that the disease process includes a genetic component, as not all smokers develop COPD. To investigate the mechanisms that lead to the development of COPD/emphysema, we measured whole genome gene expression and several COPD-relevant biological endpoints in mouse lung tissue after exposure to two CS doses for various lengths of time. A novel and powerful method, Reverse Engineering and Forward Simulation (REFS™), was employed to identify key molecular drivers by integrating the gene expression data and four measured COPD-relevant endpoints (matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) activity, MMP-9 levels, tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase-1 levels and lung weight). An ensemble of molecular networks was generated using REFS™, and simulations showed that it could successfully recover the measured experimental data for gene expression and COPD-relevant endpoints. The ensemble of networks was then employed to simulate thousands of in silico gene knockdown experiments. Thirty-three molecular key drivers for the above four COPD-relevant endpoints were therefore identified, with the majority shown to be enriched in inflammation and COPD.