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Open Access Research article

Network analysis identifies protein clusters of functional importance in juvenile idiopathic arthritis

Adam Stevens1, Stefan Meyer12, Daniel Hanson1, Peter Clayton1* and Rachelle Donn3*

Author Affiliations

1 Manchester Academic Health Sciences Centre, Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital, Manchester M13 9WL, UK

2 Stem Cell and Leukaemia Proteomics Laboratory, School of Cancer and Imaging Sciences, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK

3 Centre for Musculoskeletal Research, University of Manchester, Manchester M13 9PT, UK

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Arthritis Research & Therapy 2014, 16:R109  doi:10.1186/ar4559

Published: 8 May 2014

Abstract

Introduction

Our objective was to utilise network analysis to identify protein clusters of greatest potential functional relevance in the pathogenesis of oligoarticular and rheumatoid factor negative (RF-ve) polyarticular juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA).

Methods

JIA genetic association data were used to build an interactome network model in BioGRID 3.2.99. The top 10% of this protein:protein JIA Interactome was used to generate a minimal essential network (MEN). Reactome FI Cytoscape 2.83 Plugin and the Disease Association Protein-Protein Link Evaluator (Dapple) algorithm were used to assess the functionality of the biological pathways within the MEN and to statistically rank the proteins. JIA gene expression data were integrated with the MEN and clusters of functionally important proteins derived using MCODE.

Results

A JIA interactome of 2,479 proteins was built from 348 JIA associated genes. The MEN, representing the most functionally related components of the network, comprised of seven clusters, with distinct functional characteristics. Four gene expression datasets from peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC), neutrophils and synovial fluid monocytes, were mapped onto the MEN and a list of genes enriched for functional significance identified. This analysis revealed the genes of greatest potential functional importance to be PTPN2 and STAT1 for oligoarticular JIA and KSR1 for RF-ve polyarticular JIA. Clusters of 23 and 14 related proteins were derived for oligoarticular and RF-ve polyarticular JIA respectively.

Conclusions

This first report of the application of network biology to JIA, integrating genetic association findings and gene expression data, has prioritised protein clusters for functional validation and identified new pathways for targeted pharmacological intervention.