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Backes C.,Saarland University | Ruhle F.,University of Munster | Stoll M.,University of Munster | Haas J.,University of Heidelberg | And 20 more authors.
BMC Genomics | Year: 2014

Background: Genome wide association studies (GWAS) are applied to identify genetic loci, which are associated with complex traits and human diseases. Analogous to the evolution of gene expression analyses, pathway analyses have emerged as important tools to uncover functional networks of genome-wide association data. Usually, pathway analyses combine statistical methods with a priori available biological knowledge. To determine significance thresholds for associated pathways, correction for multiple testing and over-representation permutation testing is applied.Results: We systematically investigated the impact of three different permutation test approaches for over-representation analysis to detect false positive pathway candidates and evaluate them on genome-wide association data of Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) and Ulcerative Colitis (UC). Our results provide evidence that the gold standard - permuting the case-control status - effectively improves specificity of GWAS pathway analysis. Although permutation of SNPs does not maintain linkage disequilibrium (LD), these permutations represent an alternative for GWAS data when case-control permutations are not possible. Gene permutations, however, did not add significantly to the specificity. Finally, we provide estimates on the required number of permutations for the investigated approaches.Conclusions: To discover potential false positive functional pathway candidates and to support the results from standard statistical tests such as the Hypergeometric test, permutation tests of case control data should be carried out. The most reasonable alternative was case-control permutation, if this is not possible, SNP permutations may be carried out. Our study also demonstrates that significance values converge rapidly with an increasing number of permutations. By applying the described statistical framework we were able to discover axon guidance, focal adhesion and calcium signaling as important DCM-related pathways and Intestinal immune network for IgA production as most significant UC pathway. © 2014 Backes et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

Backes C.,Saarland University | Meder B.,University of Heidelberg | Meder B.,German Center for Cardiovascular Research | Meder B.,Klaus Tschira Institute for Integrative Computational Cardiology | And 8 more authors.
Human Genetics | Year: 2016

Genome-wide association (GWA) studies have significantly contributed to the understanding of human genetic variation and its impact on clinical traits. Frequently only a limited number of highly significant associations were considered as biologically relevant. Increasingly, network analysis of affected genes is used to explore the potential role of the genetic background on disease mechanisms. Instead of first determining affected genes or calculating scores for genes and performing pathway analysis on the gene level, we integrated both steps and directly calculated enrichment on the genetic variant level. The respective approach has been tested on dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) GWA data as showcase. To compute significance values, 5000 permutation tests were carried out and p values were adjusted for multiple testing. For 282 KEGG pathways, we computed variant enrichment scores and significance values. Of these, 65 were significant. Surprisingly, we discovered the “nucleotide excision repair” and “tuberculosis” pathways to be most significantly associated with DCM (p = 10−9). The latter pathway is driven by genes of the HLA-D antigen group, a finding that closely resembles previous discoveries made by expression quantitative trait locus analysis in the context of DCM–GWA. Next, we implemented a sub-network-based analysis, which searches for affected parts of KEGG, however, independent on the pre-defined pathways. Here, proteins of the contractile apparatus of cardiac cells as well as the FAS sub-network were found to be affected by common polymorphisms in DCM. In this work, we performed enrichment analysis directly on variants, leveraging the potential to discover biological information in thousands of published GWA studies. The applied approach is cutoff free and considers a ranked list of genetic variants as input. © 2015, Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg.

Meder B.,University of Heidelberg | Meder B.,German Center for Cardiovascular Research | Meder B.,Klaus Tschira Institute for Integrative Computational Cardiology | Backes C.,Saarland University | And 13 more authors.
Clinical Chemistry | Year: 2014

BACKGROUND: MicroRNAs (miRNAs) measured from blood samples are promising minimally invasive biomarker candidates that have been extensively studied in several case-control studies. However, the influence of age and sex as confounding variables remains largely unknown. METHODS: We systematically explored the impact of age and sex on miRNAs in a cohort of 109 physiologically unaffected individuals whose blood was characterized by microarray technology (stage 1). We also investigated an independent cohort from a different institution consisting of 58 physiologically unaffected individuals having a similar mean age but with a smaller age distribution. These samples were measured by use of high-throughput sequencing (stage 2). RESULTS: We detected 318 miRNAs that were significantly correlated with age in stage 1 and, after adjustment for multiple testing of 35 miRNAs, remained statistically significant. Regarding sex, 144 miRNAs showed significant dysregulation. Here, no miRNA remained significant after adjustment for multiple testing. In the high-throughput datasets of stage 2, we generally observed a smaller number of significant associations, mainly as an effect of the smaller cohort size and age distribution. Nevertheless, we found 7 miRNAs that were correlated with age, of which 5 were concordant with stage 1. CONCLUSIONS: The age distribution of individuals recruited for case-control studies needs to be carefully considered, whereas sex may be less confounding. To support the translation of miRNAs into clinical application, we offer a web-based application (http://www.ccb.uni- saarland.de/mirnacon) to test individual miRNAs or miRNA signatures for their likelihood of being influenced. © 2014 American Association for Clinical Chemistry.

Schwarz E.C.,Saarland University | Backes C.,Saarland University | Knorck A.,Saarland University | Ludwig N.,Saarland University | And 20 more authors.
Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences | Year: 2016

A systematic understanding of different factors influencing cell type specific microRNA profiles is essential for state-of-the art biomarker research. We carried out a comprehensive analysis of the biological variability and changes in cell type pattern over time for different cell types and different isolation approaches in technical replicates. All combinations of the parameters mentioned above have been measured, resulting in 108 miRNA profiles that were evaluated by next-generation-sequencing. The largest miRNA variability was due to inter-individual differences (34 %), followed by the cell types (23.4 %) and the isolation technique (17.2 %). The change over time in cell miRNA composition was moderate (<3 %) being close to the technical variations (<1 %). Largest variability (including technical and biological variance) was observed for CD8 cells while CD3 and CD4 cells showed significantly lower variations. ANOVA highlighted that 51.5 % of all miRNAs were significantly influenced by the purification technique. While CD4 cells were least affected, especially miRNA profiles of CD8 cells were fluctuating depending on the cell purification approach. To provide researchers access to the profiles and to allow further analyses of the tested conditions we implemented a dynamic web resource. © 2016 Springer International Publishing

Ludwig N.,Saarland University | Leidinger P.,Saarland University | Becker K.,Saarland University | Backes C.,Saarland University | And 9 more authors.
Nucleic Acids Research | Year: 2016

We present a human miRNA tissue atlas by determining the abundance of 1997 miRNAs in 61 tissue biopsies of different organs from two individuals collected post-mortem. One thousand three hundred sixty-four miRNAs were discovered in at least one tissue, 143 were present in each tissue. To define the distribution of miRNAs, we utilized a tissue specificity index (TSI). The majority of miRNAs (82.9%) fell in a middle TSI range i.e. were neither specific for single tissues (TSI > 0.85) nor housekeeping miRNAs (TSI < 0.5). Nonetheless, we observed many different miRNAs and miRNA families that were predominantly expressed in certain tissues. Clustering of miRNA abundances revealed that tissues like several areas of the brain clustered together. Considering -3p and -5p mature forms we observed miR-150 with different tissue specificity. Analysis of additional lung and prostate biopsies indicated that inter-organism variability was significantly lower than inter-organ variability. Tissue-specific differences between the miRNA patterns appeared not to be significantly altered by storage as shown for heart and lung tissue. MiRNAs TSI values of human tissues were significantly (P = 10-8) correlated with those of rats; miRNAs that were highly abundant in certain human tissues were likewise abundant in according rat tissues. We implemented a web-based repository enabling scientists to access and browse the data (https://ccb-web.cs.uni-saarland.de/tissueatlas). © The Author(s) 2016. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Nucleic Acids Research.

Backes C.,Saarland University | Sedaghat-Hamedani F.,University of Heidelberg | Sedaghat-Hamedani F.,German Center for Cardiovascular Research | Sedaghat-Hamedani F.,Klaus Tschira Institute for Integrative Computational Cardiology | And 10 more authors.
Analytical Chemistry | Year: 2016

A certain degree of bias in high-throughput molecular technologies including microarrays and next-generation sequencing (NGS) is known. To quantify the actual impact of the biomarker discovery platform on miRNA profiles, we first performed a meta-analysis: raw data of 1 539 microarrays and 705 NGS blood-borne miRNomes were statistically evaluated, suggesting a substantial influence of the technology on biomarker profiles. We observed highly significant dependency of the miRNA nucleotide composition on the expression level. Higher expression in NGS was discovered for uracil-rich miRNAs (p = 7 × 10-37), while high expression in microarrays was found predominantly for guanine-rich miRNAs (p = 3 × 10-33). To verify the findings, 10 identical replicates of one individual were measured using NGS and microarrays (2 525 miRNAs from miRBase version 21). Overall, we calculated a correlation coefficient of 0.414 for both technologies. Detailed analysis however revealed that the correlation was observed only for miRNAs in the early miRBase versions (<8). The majority of miRNAs (2 013 from miRBase version 8 onward) was not correlated between microarray and NGS. Specifically, we observed 67 miRNAs with a median read count above 10 in NGS, while they were not detected in any of the 10 replicated array experiments. In contrast, 234 miRNAs were discovered in all 10 replicated array measurements but were not found in any of the NGS experiments of the same individual. While the first group had average guanine content of 22%, the latter group consisted of 41% of this nucleotide. Selected concordant and discordant miRNAs were tested in quantitative real-time-polymerase chain reaction (RT-qPCR) experiments again of the same individual, providing further evidence for the substantial bias depending on the base composition. As a consequence, biomarkers that have been discovered by specific high-throughout technologies have to be carefully considered. Especially for validation of the platform, the selection of reasonable candidates is essential. © 2016 American Chemical Society.

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