Inter-species inference of gene set enrichment in lung epithelial cells from proteomic and large transcriptomic datasets

View publication


Motivation: Translating findings in rodent models to human models has been a cornerstone of modern biology and drug development. However, in many cases, a naive 'extrapolation' between the two species has not succeeded. As a result, clinical trials of new drugs sometimes fail even after considerable success in the mouse or rat stage of development. In addition to in vitro studies, inter-species translation requires analytical tools that can predict the enriched gene sets in human cells under various stimuli from corresponding measurements in animals. Such tools can improve our understanding of the underlying biology and optimize the allocation of resources for drug development. Results: We developed an algorithm to predict differential gene set enrichment as part of the sbv IMPROVER (systems biology verification in Industrial Methodology for Process Verification in Research) Species Translation Challenge, which focused on phosphoproteomic and transcriptomic measurements of normal human bronchial epithelial (NHBE) primary cells under various stimuli and corresponding measurements in rat (NRBE) primary cells. We find that gene sets exhibit a higher inter-species correlation compared with individual genes, and are potentially more suited for direct prediction. Furthermore, in contrast to a similar cross-species response in protein phosphorylation states 5 and 25min after exposure to stimuli, gene set enrichment 6 h after exposure is significantly different in NHBE cells compared with NRBE cells. In spite of this difference, we were able to develop a robust algorithm to predict gene set activation in NHBE with high accuracy using simple analytical methods.