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Title: Expression of Human Endogenous Retroviruses in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus: Multiomic Integration With Gene Expression
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a chronic autoimmune disease characterized by the production of autoantibodies predominantly to nuclear material. Many aspects of disease pathology are mediated by the deposition of nucleic acid containing immune complexes, which also induce the type 1interferon response, a characteristic feature of SLE. Notably, SLE is remarkably heterogeneous, with a variety of organs involved in different individuals, who also show variation in disease severity related to their ancestries. Here, we probed one potential contribution to disease heterogeneity as well as a possible source of immunoreactive nucleic acids by exploring the expression of human endogenous retroviruses (HERVs). We investigated the expression of HERVs in SLE and their potential relationship to SLE features and the expression of biochemical pathways, including the interferon gene signature (IGS). Towards this goal, we analyzed available and new RNA-Seq data from two independent whole blood studies using Telescope. We identified 481 locus specific HERV encoding regions that are differentially expressed between case and control individuals with only 14% overlap of differentially expressed HERVs between these two datasets. We identified significant differences between differentially expressed HERVs and non-differentially expressed HERVs between the two datasets. We also characterized the host differentially expressed genes and tested their association with the differentially expressed HERVs. We found that differentially expressed HERVs were significantly more physically proximal to host differentially expressed genes than non-differentially expressed HERVs. Finally, we capitalized on locus specific resolution of HERV mapping to identify key molecular pathways impacted by differential HERV expression in people with SLE.  more » « less
Award ID(s):
2028280
NSF-PAR ID:
10332914
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ;
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Frontiers in Immunology
Volume:
12
ISSN:
1664-3224
Format(s):
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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    Mammalian gonadal sex is determined by the presence or absence of a Y chromosome and the subsequent production of sex hormones contributes to secondary sexual differentiation. However, sex chromosome-linked genes encoding dosage-sensitive transcription and epigenetic factors are expressed well before gonad formation and have the potential to establish sex-biased expression that persists beyond the appearance of gonadal hormones. Here, we apply a comparative bioinformatics analysis on a pair of published single-cell datasets from mouse and human during very early embryogenesis—from two-cell to pre-implantation stages—to characterize sex-specific signals and to assess the degree of conservation among early acting sex-specific genes and pathways.

    Results

    Clustering and regression analyses of gene expression across samples reveal that sex initially plays a significant role in overall gene expression patterns at the earliest stages of embryogenesis which potentially may be the byproduct of signals from male and female gametes during fertilization. Although these transcriptional sex effects rapidly diminish, sex-biased genes appear to form sex-specific protein–protein interaction networks across pre-implantation stages in both mammals providing evidence that sex-biased expression of epigenetic enzymes may establish sex-specific patterns that persist beyond pre-implantation. Non-negative matrix factorization (NMF) on male and female transcriptomes generated clusters of genes with similar expression patterns across sex and developmental stages, including post-fertilization, epigenetic, and pre-implantation ontologies conserved between mouse and human. While the fraction of sex-differentially expressed genes (sexDEGs) in early embryonic stages is similar and functional ontologies are conserved, the genes involved are generally different in mouse and human.

    Conclusions

    This comparative study uncovers much earlier than expected sex-specific signals in mouse and human embryos that pre-date hormonal signaling from the gonads. These early signals are diverged with respect to orthologs yet conserved in terms of function with important implications in the use of genetic models for sex-specific disease.

     
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