OBJECTIVE - To identify key target genes and activated signaling pathways associated with the pathogenesis of Sjögren's syndrome (SS) by conducting a systems analysis of parotid glands manifesting primary SS or primary SS/mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue (MALT) lymphoma phenotypes.
METHODS - A systems biology approach was used to analyze parotid gland tissue samples obtained from patients with primary SS, patients with primary SS/MALT lymphoma, and subjects without primary SS (non-primary SS controls). The tissue samples were assessed concurrently by gene-expression microarray profiling and proteomics analysis, followed by weighted gene-coexpression network analysis.
RESULTS - Gene-coexpression modules related to primary SS and primary SS/MALT lymphoma were significantly enriched with genes known to be involved in the immune/defense response, apoptosis, cell signaling, gene regulation, and oxidative stress. Detailed functional pathway analyses indicated that primary SS-associated modules were enriched with genes involved in proteasome degradation, apoptosis, signal peptides of the class I major histocompatibility complex (MHC), complement activation, cell growth and death, and integrin-mediated cell adhesion, while primary SS/MALT lymphoma-associated modules were enriched with genes involved in translation, ribosome biogenesis and assembly, proteasome degradation, class I MHC signal peptides, the G13 signaling pathway, complement activation, and integrin-mediated cell adhesion. Combined analyses of gene expression and proteomics data implicated 6 highly connected "hub" genes for distinguishing primary SS from non-primary SS, and 8 hub genes for distinguishing primary SS/MALT lymphoma from primary SS.
CONCLUSION - Systems biology analyses of the parotid glands from patients with primary SS and those with primary SS/MALT lymphoma revealed pathways and molecular targets associated with disease pathogenesis. The identified gene modules/pathways provide further insights into the molecular mechanisms of primary SS and primary SS/MALT lymphoma. The identified disease-hub genes represent promising targets for therapeutic intervention, diagnosis, and prognosis.