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PLoS One. 2011 Apr 21;6(4):e18660. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0018660.

Shared molecular and functional frameworks among five complex human disorders: a comparative study on interactomes linked to susceptibility genes.

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  • 1Neuroimmunology and Neuromuscular Disorders Unit, Foundation IRCCS Neurological Institute Carlo Besta, Milan, Italy.



Genome-wide association studies (gwas) are invaluable in revealing the common variants predisposing to complex human diseases. Yet, until now, the large volumes of data generated from such analyses have not been explored extensively enough to identify the molecular and functional framework hosting the susceptibility genes.


We investigated the relationships among five neurodegenerative and/or autoimmune complex human diseases (Parkinson's disease--Park, Alzheimer's disease--Alz, multiple sclerosis--MS, rheumatoid arthritis--RA and Type 1 diabetes--T1D) by characterising the interactomes linked to their gwas-genes. An initial study on the MS interactome indicated that several genes predisposing to the other autoimmune or neurodegenerative disorders may come into contact with it, suggesting that susceptibility to distinct diseases may converge towards common molecular and biological networks. In order to test this hypothesis, we performed pathway enrichment analyses on each disease interactome independently. Several issues related to immune function and growth factor signalling pathways appeared in all autoimmune diseases, and, surprisingly, in Alzheimer's disease. Furthermore, the paired analyses of disease interactomes revealed significant molecular and functional relatedness among autoimmune diseases, and, unexpectedly, between T1D and Alz.


The systems biology approach highlighted several known pathogenic processes, indicating that changes in these functions might be driven or sustained by the framework linked to genetic susceptibility. Moreover, the comparative analyses among the five genetic interactomes revealed unexpected genetic relationships, which await further biological validation. Overall, this study outlines the potential of systems biology to uncover links between genetics and pathogenesis of complex human disorders.

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