Systems-oriented genetic approaches that incorporate gene expression and genotype data are valuable in the quest for genetic regulatory loci underlying complex traits. Gene coexpression network analysis lends itself to identification of entire groups of differentially regulated genes—a highly relevant endeavor in finding the underpinnings of complex traits that are, by definition, polygenic in nature. Here we describe one such approach based on liver gene expression and genotype data from an F2 mouse intercross utilizing weighted gene coexpression network analysis (WGCNA) of gene expression data to identify physiologically relevant modules. We describe two strategies: single-network analysis and differential network analysis. Single-network analysis reveals the presence of a physiologically interesting module that can be found in two distinct mouse crosses. Module quantitative trait loci (mQTLs) that perturb this module were discovered. In addition, we report a list of genetic drivers for this module. Differential network analysis reveals differences in connectivity and module structure between two networks based on the liver expression data of lean and obese mice. Functional annotation of these genes suggests a biological pathway involving epidermal growth factor (EGF). Our results demonstrate the utility of WGCNA in identifying genetic drivers and in finding genetic pathways represented by gene modules. These examples provide evidence that integration of network properties may well help chart the path across the gene–trait chasm.
Mammalian Genome – Springer Journals
Published: Aug 1, 2007
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