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Characterization of exogenous αSN response genes and their relation to Parkinson's disease using network analyses

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  • Zahra Nayeri, National Institute of Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology
  • ,
  • Farhang Aliakbari, National Institute of Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, University of Western Ontario
  • ,
  • Farzaneh Afzali, Queen’s University
  • ,
  • Soha Parsafar, National Institute of Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology
  • ,
  • Ehsan Gharib, Universite de Moncton
  • ,
  • Daniel E Otzen
  • Dina Morshedi, National Institute of Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology

Despite extensive research, the molecular mechanisms underlying the toxicity of αSN in Parkinson's disease (PD) pathology are still poorly understood. To address this, we used a microarray dataset to identify genes that are induced and differentially expressed after exposure to toxic αSN aggregates, which we call exogenous αSN response (EASR) genes. Using systems biology approaches, we then determined, at multiple levels of analysis, how these EASR genes could be related to PD pathology. A key result was the identification of functional connections between EASR genes and previously identified PD-related genes by employing the proteins' interactions networks and 9 brain region-specific co-expression networks. In each brain region, co-expression modules of EASR genes were enriched for gene sets whose expression are altered by SARS-CoV-2 infection, leading to the hypothesis that EASR co-expression genes may explain the observed links between COVID-19 and PD. An examination of the expression pattern of EASR genes in different non-neurological healthy brain regions revealed that regions with lower mean expression of the upregulated EASR genes, such as substantia nigra, are more vulnerable to αSN aggregates and lose their neurological functions during PD progression. Gene Set Enrichment Analysis of healthy and PD samples from substantia nigra revealed that a specific co-expression network, "TNF-α signaling via NF-κB", is an upregulated pathway associated with the PD phenotype. Inhibitors of the "TNF-α signaling via NF-κB" pathway may, therefore, decrease the activity level of this pathway and thereby provide therapeutic benefits for PD patients. We virtually screened FDA-approved drugs against these upregulated genes ( NR4A1, DUSP1, and FOS) using docking-based drug discovery and identified several promising drugs. Altogether, our study provides a better understanding of αSN toxicity mechanisms in PD and identifies potential therapeutic targets and small molecules for treatment of PD.

Original languageEnglish
Article number966760
JournalFrontiers in Pharmacology
Volume13
Number of pages14
ISSN1663-9812
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2022

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