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Meta-analysis of gene expression in mouse models of neurodegenerative disorders Zhuang, Cuili


There is intense interest in understanding the molecular mechanisms that contribute to neurodegenerative disorders (NDs), which involve complex interplays of genetic and environmental factors. To catch early events involved in disease initiation requires investigation on pre-symptomatic brain samples. It is difficult to capture early molecular events using post-mortem human brain samples since these samples represent the late phase of the disorder with progressive brain damage and neurodegeneration. Disease mouse models are developed to study disease progression and pathophysiology. Here, I focus on two of the most studied NDs: Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and Huntington’s disease (HD). Mouse models developed for the disease (AD or HD) often share similar phenotypes mimicking human disease symptoms, which suggest potential common underlying mechanisms of disease initiation and progression across mouse models of the same disease. Investigation of gene expression profiles of pre-symptomatic animals from different mouse models may shed light on the mechanisms occurred in the early disease phase. Gene expression profiling analyses have been performed on mouse models and some of the studies investigate the molecular changes in pre-symptomatic phase of AD and HD respectively. However, their findings have not reached a clear consensus. To identify shared molecular changes across mouse models, I conducted a systematic meta-analysis of gene expression in mouse models of AD and HD, consisted of 369 gene expression profiles from 23 independent studies. The goal of this project is to identify transcriptional alterations shared among different mouse models of each disease respectively, especially changes during early disease phase that may link to disease-causing mechanisms, and potential common cross-disease changes. For both of the disorders, the results showed subtle but biologically interpretable changes shared across mouse models in the early disease phase that may contribute to the early disease progression: dysregulation of genes involved in cholesterol biosynthesis and complement system in AD mouse models and genes encoding mitochondrial respiratory chain complexes in HD mouse models. Cross-disease similarities in the late phase suggested that different brain regions may share mechanisms in response to neuronal loss and toxic protein aggregates.

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