Changes in gene expression can help reveal the mechanisms of disease processes and the mode of action for toxicities and adverse effects on cellular responses induced by exposures to chemicals, drugs and environment agents. The U.S. Tox21 Federal collaboration, which currently quantifies the biological effects of nearly 10,000 chemicals via quantitative high-throughput screening(qHTS) in in vitro model systems, is now making an effort to incorporate gene expression profiling into the existing battery of assays. Whole transcriptome analyses performed on large numbers of samples using microarrays or RNA-Seq is currently cost-prohibitive. Accordingly, the Tox21 Program is pursuing a high-throughput transcriptomics (HTT) method that focuses on the targeted detection of gene expression for a carefully selected subset of the transcriptome that potentially can reduce the cost by a factor of 10-fold, allowing for the analysis of larger numbers of samples. To identify the optimal transcriptome subset, genes were sought that are (1) representative of the highly diverse biological space, (2) capable of serving as a proxy for expression changes in unmeasured genes, and (3) sufficient to provide coverage of well described biological pathways. A hybrid method for gene selection is presented herein that combines data-driven and knowledge-driven concepts into one cohesive method. Our approach is modular, applicable to any species, and facilitates a robust, quantitative evaluation of performance. In particular, we were able to perform gene selection such that the resulting set of “sentinel genes” adequately represents all known canonical pathways from Molecular Signature Database (MSigDB v4.0) and can be used to infer expression changes for the remainder of the transcriptome. The resulting computational model allowed us to choose a purely data-driven subset of 1500 sentinel genes, referred to as the S1500 set, which was then augmented using a knowledge-driven selection of additional genes to create the final S1500+ gene set. Our results indicate that the sentinel genes selected can be used to accurately predict pathway perturbations and biological relationships for samples under study.
Mav, D., Shah, R. R., Howard, B. E., Auerbach, S. S., Bushel, P. R., Collins, J. B., … Paules, R. S. (2018). A hybrid gene selection approach to create the S1500+ targeted gene sets for use in high-throughput transcriptomics. PLoS ONE, 13(2). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0191105