Protein expression is regulated by the production and degradation of mRNAs and proteins but the specifics of their relationship are controversial. Although technological advances have enabled genome-wide and time-series surveys of mRNA and protein abundance, recent studies have shown paradoxical results, with most statistical analyses being limited to linear correlation, or analysis of variance applied separately to mRNA and protein datasets. Here, using recently analyzed genome-wide time-series data, we have developed a statistical analysis framework for identifying which types of genes or biological gene groups have significant correlation between mRNA and protein abundance after accounting for potential time delays. Our framework stratifies all genes in terms of the extent of time delay, conducts gene clustering in each stratum, and performs a non-parametric statistical test of the correlation between mRNA and protein abundance in a gene cluster. Consequently, we revealed stronger correlations than previously reported between mRNA and protein abundance in two metabolic pathways. Moreover, we identified a pair of stress responsive genes (ADC17 and KIN1) that showed a highly similar time series of mRNA and protein abundance. Furthermore, we confirmed robustness of the analysis framework by applying it to another genome-wide time-series data and identifying a cytoskeleton-related gene cluster (keratin 18, keratin 17, and mitotic spindle positioning) that shows similar correlation. The significant correlation and highly similar changes of mRNA and protein abundance suggests a concerted role of these genes in cellular stress response, which we consider provides an answer to the question of the specific relationships between mRNA and protein in a cell. In addition, our framework for studying the relationship between mRNAs and proteins in a cell will provide a basis for studying specific relationships between mRNA and protein abundance after accounting for potential time delays.
Morimoto, S., & Yahara, K. (2018). Identification of stress responsive genes by studying specific relationships between mRNA and protein abundance. Heliyon, 4(3). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.heliyon.2018.e00558