EcoToxModules: Custom Gene Sets to Organize and Analyze Toxicogenomics Data from Ecological Species
AbstractTraditional results from toxicogenomics studies are complex lists of significantly impacted genes or gene sets, which are challenging to synthesize down to actionable results with a clear interpretation. Here, we defined two sets of 21 custom gene sets, called the functional and statistical EcoToxModules, in fathead minnow (Pimephales promelas) to (1) re-cast predefined molecular pathways into a toxicological framework and (2) provide a data-driven, unsupervised grouping of genes impacted by exposure to environmental contaminants. The functional EcoToxModules were identified by re-organizing KEGG pathways into biological processes that are more relevant to ecotoxicology based on the input from expert scientists and regulators. The statistical EcoToxModules were identified using co-expression analysis of publicly available microarray data (n = 303 profiles) measured in livers of fathead minnows after exposure to 38 different conditions. Potential applications of the EcoToxModules were demonstrated with two case studies that represent exposure to a pure chemical and to environmental wastewater samples. In comparisons to differential expression and gene set analysis, we found that EcoToxModule responses were consistent with these traditional results. Additionally, they were easier to visualize and quantitatively compare across different conditions, which facilitated drawing conclusions about the relative toxicity of the exposures within each case study.
Ewald, J.D., Soufan, O., Crump, D., Hecker, M., Xia, J., Basu, N.