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  1. Kutalik, Zoltán (Ed.)

    Epigenetic researchers often evaluate DNA methylation as a potential mediator of the effect of social/environmental exposures on a health outcome. Modern statistical methods for jointly evaluating many mediators have not been widely adopted. We compare seven methods for high-dimensional mediation analysis with continuous outcomes through both diverse simulations and analysis of DNAm data from a large multi-ethnic cohort in the United States, while providing an R package for their seamless implementation and adoption. Among the considered choices, the best-performing methods for detecting active mediators in simulations are the Bayesian sparse linear mixed model (BSLMM) and high-dimensional mediation analysis (HDMA); while the preferred methods for estimating the global mediation effect are high-dimensional linear mediation analysis (HILMA) and principal component mediation analysis (PCMA). We provide guidelines for epigenetic researchers on choosing the best method in practice and offer suggestions for future methodological development.

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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available November 7, 2024
  2. Abstract

    Cell-free RNA (cfRNA) allows assessment of health, status, and phenotype of a variety of human organs and is a potential biomarker to non-invasively diagnose numerous diseases. Nevertheless, there is a lack of highly efficient and bias-free cfRNA isolation technologies due to the low abundance and instability of cfRNA. Here, we developed a reproducible and high-efficiency isolation technology for different types of cell-free nucleic acids (containing cfRNA and viral RNA) in serum/plasma based on the inclusion of nucleic acids by metal-organic framework (MOF) materials, which greatly improved the isolation efficiency and was able to preserve RNA integrity compared with the most widely used research kit method. Importantly, the quality of cfRNA extracted by the MOF method is about 10-fold that of the kit method, and the MOF method isolates more than three times as many different RNA types as the kit method. The whole transcriptome mapping characteristics of cfRNA in serum from patients with liver cancer was described and a cfRNA signature with six cfRNAs was identified to diagnose liver cancer with high diagnostic efficiency (area under curve = 0.905 in the independent validation cohort) using this MOF method. Thus, this new MOF isolation technique will advance the field of liquid biopsy, with the potential to diagnose liver cancer.

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  3. Free, publicly-accessible full text available April 30, 2024
  4. Abstract

    Efficient and accurate modeling of the coupled thermal‐hydraulic‐mechanical‐chemical (THMC) processes in various rock formations is indispensable for designing energy geo‐structures such as underground repositories for high‐level nuclear wastes. This work focuses on developing and verifying an implicit finite element solver for generic coupled THMC problems in geological settings. Starting from the mass, momentum, and energy balance laws, a specialized set of governing equations and a thermoporoelastic constitutive model is derived. This system is then solved by an implicit finite element (FE) scheme. Specifically, the residuals and the Jacobians are scripted in a user‐defined element (UEL) subroutine which is then combined with the general‐purpose FE software Abaqus Standard to solve initial‐boundary value problems. Considering the complexity of the system, the UEL development follows a stepwise manner by first solving the coupled hydraulic‐mechanical (HM) and thermal‐hydraulic‐mechanical (THM) equations before moving on to the full THMC problem. Each implementation step consists of at least one verification test by comparing computed results with closed‐form analytical solutions to ensure that the various coupling effects are correctly realized. To demonstrate the robustness of the algorithm and to validate the UEL, a three‐dimensional case study is performed with reference to the in‐situ heating test of ATLAS at Belgium in 1980s. A hypothetical radionuclide leakage event is then simulated by activating the chemical‐concentration degree of freedom and prescribing a constant high concentration at the heater's surface. The model predicts a limited contaminated regime after six years considering both diffusion and advection effects on species transport.

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  5. Abstract

    Mediation hypothesis testing for a large number of mediators is challenging due to the composite structure of the null hypothesis, (: effect of the exposure on the mediator after adjusting for confounders; : effect of the mediator on the outcome after adjusting for exposure and confounders). In this paper, we reviewed three classes of methods for large‐scale one at a time mediation hypothesis testing. These methods are commonly used for continuous outcomes and continuous mediators assuming there is no exposure‐mediator interaction so that the product has a causal interpretation as the indirect effect. The first class of methods ignores the impact of different structures under the composite null hypothesis, namely, (1) ; (2) ; and (3) . The second class of methods weights the reference distribution under each case of the null to form a mixture reference distribution. The third class constructs a composite test statistic using the threepvalues obtained under each case of the null so that the reference distribution of the composite statistic is approximately . In addition to these existing methods, we developed the Sobel‐comp method belonging to the second class, which uses a corrected mixture reference distribution for Sobel's test statistic. We performed extensive simulation studies to compare all six methods belonging to these three classes in terms of the false positive rates (FPRs) under the null hypothesis and the true positive rates under the alternative hypothesis. We found that the second class of methods which uses a mixture reference distribution could best maintain the FPRs at the nominal level under the null hypothesis and had the greatest true positive rates under the alternative hypothesis. We applied all methods to study the mediation mechanism of DNA methylation sites in the pathway from adult socioeconomic status to glycated hemoglobin level using data from the Multi‐Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA). We provide guidelines for choosing the optimal mediation hypothesis testing method in practice and develop an R packagemedScanavailable on the CRAN for implementing all the six methods.

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  6. Abstract Motivation

    The analysis of spatially resolved transcriptome enables the understanding of the spatial interactions between the cellular environment and transcriptional regulation. In particular, the characterization of the gene–gene co-expression at distinct spatial locations or cell types in the tissue enables delineation of spatial co-regulatory patterns as opposed to standard differential single gene analyses. To enhance the ability and potential of spatial transcriptomics technologies to drive biological discovery, we develop a statistical framework to detect gene co-expression patterns in a spatially structured tissue consisting of different clusters in the form of cell classes or tissue domains.


    We develop SpaceX (spatially dependent gene co-expression network), a Bayesian methodology to identify both shared and cluster-specific co-expression network across genes. SpaceX uses an over-dispersed spatial Poisson model coupled with a high-dimensional factor model which is based on a dimension reduction technique for computational efficiency. We show via simulations, accuracy gains in co-expression network estimation and structure by accounting for (increasing) spatial correlation and appropriate noise distributions. In-depth analysis of two spatial transcriptomics datasets in mouse hypothalamus and human breast cancer using SpaceX, detected multiple hub genes which are related to cognitive abilities for the hypothalamus data and multiple cancer genes (e.g. collagen family) from the tumor region for the breast cancer data.

    Availability and implementation

    The SpaceX R-package is available at

    Supplementary information

    Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.

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  7. Abstract

    Spatial transcriptomic studies are becoming increasingly common and large, posing important statistical and computational challenges for many analytic tasks. Here, we present SPARK-X, a non-parametric method for rapid and effective detection of spatially expressed genes in large spatial transcriptomic studies. SPARK-X not only produces effective type I error control and high power but also brings orders of magnitude computational savings. We apply SPARK-X to analyze three large datasets, one of which is only analyzable by SPARK-X. In these data, SPARK-X identifies many spatially expressed genes including those that are spatially expressed within the same cell type, revealing new biological insights.

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  8. Low socioeconomic status (SES) and living in a disadvantaged neighborhood are associated with poor cardiovascular health. Multiple lines of evidence have linked DNA methylation to both cardiovascular risk factors and social disadvantage indicators. However, limited research has investigated the role of DNA methylation in mediating the associations of individual- and neighborhood-level disadvantage with multiple cardiovascular risk factors in large, multi-ethnic, population-based cohorts. We examined whether disadvantage at the individual level (childhood and adult SES) and neighborhood level (summary neighborhood SES as assessed by Census data and social environment as assessed by perceptions of aesthetic quality, safety, and social cohesion) were associated with 11 cardiovascular risk factors including measures of obesity, diabetes, lipids, and hypertension in 1,154 participants from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA). For significant associations, we conducted epigenome-wide mediation analysis to identify methylation sites mediating the relationship between individual/neighborhood disadvantage and cardiovascular risk factors using the JT-Comp method that assesses sparse mediation effects under a composite null hypothesis. In models adjusting for age, sex, race/ethnicity, smoking, medication use, and genetic principal components of ancestry, epigenetic mediation was detected for the associations of adult SES with body mass index (BMI), insulin, and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C), as well as for the association between neighborhood socioeconomic disadvantage and HDL-C at FDRq< 0.05. The 410 CpG mediators identified for the SES-BMI association were enriched for CpGs associated with gene expression (expression quantitative trait methylation loci, or eQTMs), and corresponding genes were enriched in antigen processing and presentation pathways. For cardiovascular risk factors other than BMI, most of the epigenetic mediators lost significance after controlling for BMI. However, 43 methylation sites showed evidence of mediating the neighborhood socioeconomic disadvantage and HDL-C association after BMI adjustment. The identified mediators were enriched for eQTMs, and corresponding genes were enriched in inflammatory and apoptotic pathways. Our findings support the hypothesis that DNA methylation acts as a mediator between individual- and neighborhood-level disadvantage and cardiovascular risk factors, and shed light on the potential underlying epigenetic pathways. Future studies are needed to fully elucidate the biological mechanisms that link social disadvantage to poor cardiovascular health.

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  9. Genome-wide association studies (GWASs) have identified and replicated many genetic variants that are associated with diseases and disease-related complex traits. However, the biological mechanisms underlying these identified associations remain largely elusive. Exploring the biological mechanisms underlying these associations requires identifying trait-relevant tissues and cell types, as genetic variants likely influence complex traits in a tissue- and cell type-specific manner. Recently, several statistical methods have been developed to integrate genomic data with GWASs for identifying trait-relevant tissues and cell types. These methods often rely on different genomic information and use different statistical models for trait-tissue relevance inference. Here, we present a comprehensive technical review to summarize ten existing methods for trait-tissue relevance inference. These methods make use of different genomic information that include functional annotation information, expression quantitative trait loci information, genetically regulated gene expression information, as well as gene co-expression network information. These methods also use different statistical models that range from linear mixed models to covariance network models. We hope that this review can serve as a useful reference both for methodologists who develop methods and for applied analysts who apply these methods for identifying trait relevant tissues and cell types.

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