Reanalysis and integration of public microarray datasets reveals novel host genes modulated in leprosy

Thyago Leal-Calvo, Milton Ozório Moraes
Molecular Genetics and Genomics: MGG 2020 July 13
Due to multiple hypothesis testing with often limited sample size, microarrays and other-omics technologies can sometimes produce irreproducible findings. Complementary to better experimental design, reanalysis and integration of gene expression datasets may help overcome reproducibility issues by identifying consistent differentially expressed genes from independent studies. In this work, after a systematic search, nine microarray datasets evaluating host gene expression in leprosy were reanalyzed and the information was integrated to strengthen evidence of differential expression for several genes. Our results are relevant in prioritizing genes and pathways for further investigation, whether in functional studies or in biomarker discovery. Reanalysis of individual datasets revealed several differentially expressed genes (DEGs) in accordance with original reports. Then, five integration methods (P value and effect size based) were tested. In the end, random-effects model and ratio association were selected as the main methods to pinpoint DEGs. Overall, classic pathways were found corroborating previous findings and validating this approach. Also, we identified some novel DEG involved especially with skin development processes (AQP3, AKR1C3, CYP27B1, LTB, VDR) and keratinocyte biology (CSTA, DSG1, KRT14, KRT5, PKP1, IVL), both still poorly understood in leprosy context. In addition, here we provide aggregated evidence towards some gene candidates that should be prioritized in further leprosy research, as they are likely important in immunopathogenesis. Altogether, these data are useful in better understanding host responses to the disease and, at the same time, provide a list of potential host biomarkers that could be useful in complementing leprosy diagnosis based on transcriptional levels.

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