The GENDULF Algorithm: Mining Transcriptomics to Uncover Modifier Genes for Monogenic Diseases
48 Pages Posted: 13 Jan 2020 Sneak Peek Status: Under ReviewMore...
Modifier genes are believed to account for the clinical variability observed in many Mendelian disorders, but their identification remains challenging due to the limited availability of genomics data from large patient cohorts. Here, we present GENDULF (GENetic moDULators identiFication), one of the first methods to predict disease modifiers from healthy and diseased tissue gene expression data. When applied to cystic fibrosis, GENDULF successfully identifies multiple, previously established disease modifiers, including EHF, SLC6A14, and CLCA1. It is then utilized in spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) and predicts U2AF1 as a modifier whose under-expression correlates with higher SMN2 pre-mRNA exon 7 retention. Indeed, knockdown of U2AF1 in SMA patient-derived cells leads to increased full-length SMN2 transcript and SMN protein expression. Taking advantage of the increasing availability of transcriptomic data, GENDULF is a novel tool to predict genetic disease modifiers, providing insights into disease pathogenesis and uncovering novel therapeutic targets.
Keywords: Monogenic disorders, Genetic modifiers, Gene expression analysis, Cystic Fibrosis, Spinal Muscular Atrophy
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