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In G3 (Bethesda, Md.)

An integrative analysis focused on multi-tissue transcriptomics has not been done for asthma. Tissue-specific DEGs remain undetected in many multi-tissue analyses, which influences identification of disease-relevant pathways and potential drug candidates. Transcriptome data from 609 cases and 196 controls, generated using airway epithelium, bronchial, nasal, airway macrophages, distal lung fibroblasts, proximal lung fibroblasts, CD4+ lymphocytes, CD8+ lymphocytes from whole blood and induced sputum samples, were retrieved from Gene Expression Omnibus (GEO). Differentially regulated asthma-relevant genes identified from each sample type were used to identify (a) tissue-specific and tissue-shared asthma pathways, (b) their connection to GWAS-identified disease genes to identify candidate tissue for functional studies, (c) to select surrogate sample for invasive tissues, and finally (d) to identify potential drug candidates via connectivity map analysis. We found that inter-tissue similarity in gene expression was more pronounced at pathway/functional level than at gene level with highest similarity between bronchial epithelial cells and lung fibroblasts, and lowest between airway epithelium and whole blood samples. Although public-domain gene expression data is limited by inadequately annotated per-sample demographic and clinical information which limited the analysis, our tissue-resolved analysis clearly demonstrated relative importance of unique and shared asthma pathways, At the pathway level, IL-1b signaling and ERK signaling were significant in many tissue types, while Insulin-like growth factor and TGF-beta signaling were relevant in only airway epithelial tissue. IL-12 (in macrophages) and Immunoglobulin signaling (in lymphocytes) and chemokines (in nasal epithelium) were the highest expressed pathways. Overall, the IL-1 signaling genes (inflammatory) were relevant in the airway compartment, while pro-Th2 genes including IL-13 and STAT6 were more relevant in fibroblasts, lymphocytes, macrophages and bronchial biopsies. These genes were also associated with asthma in the GWAS catalog. Support Vector Machine showed that DEGs based on macrophages and epithelial cells have the highest and lowest discriminatory accuracy, respectively. Drug (entinostat, BMS-345541) and genetic perturbagens (KLF6, BCL10, INFB1 and BAMBI) negatively connected to disease at multi-tissue level could potentially repurposed for treating asthma. Collectively, our study indicates that the DEGs, perturbagens and disease are connected differentially depending on tissue/cell types. While most of the existing literature describes asthma transcriptome data from individual sample types, the present work demonstrates the utility of multi-tissue transcriptome data. Future studies should focus on collecting transcriptomic data from multiple tissues, age and race groups, genetic background, disease subtypes and on the availability of better-annotated data in the public domain.

Ghosh Debajyoti, Ding Lili, Bernstein Jonathan A, Mersha Tesfaye B


Connectivity Map, GWAS Catalog, asthma transcriptome, ilincs, machine learning, pathways/networks, tissue-specific analysis