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In Translational psychiatry ; h5-index 60.0

In vivo experimental analysis of human brain tissue poses substantial challenges and ethical concerns. To address this problem, we developed a computational method called the Brain Gene Expression and Network-Imputation Engine (BrainGENIE) that leverages peripheral-blood transcriptomes to predict brain tissue-specific gene-expression levels. Paired blood-brain transcriptomic data collected by the Genotype-Tissue Expression (GTEx) Project was used to train BrainGENIE models to predict gene-expression levels in ten distinct brain regions using whole-blood gene-expression profiles. The performance of BrainGENIE was compared to PrediXcan, a popular method for imputing gene expression levels from genotypes. BrainGENIE significantly predicted brain tissue-specific expression levels for 2947-11,816 genes (false-discovery rate-adjusted p < 0.05), including many transcripts that cannot be predicted significantly by a transcriptome-imputation method such as PrediXcan. BrainGENIE recapitulated measured diagnosis-related gene-expression changes in the brain for autism, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia better than direct correlations from blood and predictions from PrediXcan. We developed a convenient software toolset for deploying BrainGENIE, and provide recommendations for how best to implement models. BrainGENIE complements and, in some ways, outperforms existing transcriptome-imputation tools, providing biologically meaningful predictions and opening new research avenues.

Hess Jonathan L, Quinn Thomas P, Zhang Chunling, Hearn Gentry C, Chen Samuel, Kong Sek Won, Cairns Murray, Tsuang Ming T, Faraone Stephen V, Glatt Stephen J