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Front Neurosci. 2011 Aug 30;5:95. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2011.00095. eCollection 2011.

Differentially expressed genes in major depression reside on the periphery of resilient gene coexpression networks.

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1
Department of Psychiatry, Center for Neuroscience, University of Pittsburgh Pittsburgh, PA, USA.

Abstract

The structure of gene coexpression networks reflects the activation and interaction of multiple cellular systems. Since the pathology of neuropsychiatric disorders is influenced by diverse cellular systems and pathways, we investigated gene coexpression networks in major depression, and searched for putative unifying themes in network connectivity across neuropsychiatric disorders. Specifically, based on the prevalence of the lethality–centrality relationship in disease-related networks, we hypothesized that network changes between control and major depression-related networks would be centered around coexpression hubs, and secondly, that differentially expressed (DE) genes would have a characteristic position and connectivity level in those networks. Mathematically, the first hypothesis tests the relationship of differential coexpression to network connectivity, while the second “hybrid” expression-and-network hypothesis tests the relationship of differential expression to network connectivity. To answer these questions about the potential interaction of coexpression network structure with differential expression, we utilized all available human post-mortem depression-related datasets appropriate for coexpression analysis, which spanned different microarray platforms, cohorts, and brain regions. Similar studies were also performed in an animal model of depression and in schizophrenia and bipolar disorder microarray datasets. We now provide results which consistently support (1) that genes assemble into small-world and scale-free networks in control subjects, (2) that this efficient network topology is largely resilient to changes in depressed subjects, and (3) that DE genes are positioned on the periphery of coexpression networks. Similar results were observed in a mouse model of depression, and in selected bipolar- and schizophrenia-related networks. Finally, we show that baseline expression variability contributes to the propensity of genes to be network hubs and/or to be DE in disease. In summary, our results suggest that the small-world and scale-free properties of gene networks are resilient to pathological changes in major depression, and that the network structure may constrain the extent to which a gene may be DE in the illness, hence informing further gene-network-based mechanistic studies of neuropsychiatric disorders.

KEYWORDS:

coexpression; graph theory; human post-mortem; major depression; microarray; psychiatry; scale-free; small-world

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