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Identifying lncRNA-mediated regulatory modules via ChIA-PET network analysis

  • Background: Although several studies have provided insights into the role of long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs), the majority of them have unknown function. Recent evidence has shown the importance of both lncRNAs and chromatin interactions in transcriptional regulation. Although network-based methods, mainly exploiting gene-lncRNA co-expression, have been applied to characterize lncRNA of unknown function by means of ’guilt-by-association’, no strategy exists so far which identifies mRNA-lncRNA functional modules based on the 3D chromatin interaction graph. Results: To better understand the function of chromatin interactions in the context of lncRNA-mediated gene regulation, we have developed a multi-step graph analysis approach to examine the RNA polymerase II ChIA-PET chromatin interaction network in the K562 human cell line. We have annotated the network with gene and lncRNA coordinates, and chromatin states from the ENCODE project. We used centrality measures, as well as an adaptation of our previously developed Markov State Models (MSM) clustering method, to gain a better understanding of lncRNAs in transcriptional regulation. The novelty of our approach resides in the detection of fuzzy regulatory modules based on network properties and their optimization based on co-expression analysis between genes and gene-lncRNA pairs. This results in our method returning more bona fide regulatory modules than other state-of-the art approaches for clustering on graphs. Conclusions: Interestingly, we find that lncRNA network hubs tend to be significantly enriched in evolutionary conserved lncRNAs and enhancer-like functions. We validated regulatory functions for well known lncRNAs, such as MALAT1 and the enhancer-like lncRNA FALEC. In addition, by investigating the modular structure of bigger components we mine putative regulatory functions for uncharacterized lncRNAs.

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Author:Denise Thiel, Natasa Djurdjevac ConradORCiD, Evgenia Ntini, Ria Peschutter, Heike Siebert, Annalisa Marsico
Document Type:Article
Parent Title (English):BMC Bioinformatics
Year of first publication:2019
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