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posted on 2022-03-22, 05:08 authored by Mengmeng Xu, Ying Kong, Nannan Chen, Wenlong Peng, Ruidong Zi, Manman Jiang, Jinfeng Zhu, Yuting Wang, Jicheng Yue, Jinrong Lv, Yuanyuan Zeng, Y. Eugene Chin

Ulcerative colitis (UC) is an inflammatory disease of the intestinal mucosa, and its incidence is steadily increasing worldwide. Intestinal immune dysfunction has been identified as a central event in UC pathogenesis. However, the underlying mechanisms that regulate dysfunctional immune cells and inflammatory phenotype remain to be fully elucidated.


Transcriptome profiling of intestinal mucosa biopsies were downloaded from the GEO database. Robust Rank Aggregation (RRA) analysis was performed to identify statistically changed genes and differentially expressed genes (DEGs). Gene Set Enrichment Analysis (GSEA), Gene Ontology (GO), and Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes (KEGG) were used to explore potential biological mechanisms. CIBERSORT was used to evaluate the proportion of 22 immune cells in biopsies. Weighted co-expression network analysis (WGCNA) was used to determine key module-related clinical traits. Protein-Protein Interaction (PPI) network and Cytoscape were performed to explore protein interaction network and screen hub genes. We used a validation cohort and colitis mouse model to validate hub genes. Several online websites were used to predict competing endogenous RNA (ceRNA) network.


RRA integrated analysis revealed 1838 statistically changed genes from four training cohorts (adj. p-value < 0.05). GSEA showed that statistically changed genes were enriched in the innate immune system. CIBERSORT analysis uncovered an increase in activated dendritic cells (DCs) and M1 macrophages. The red module of WGCNA was considered the most critical module related to active UC. Based on the results of the PPI network and Cytoscape analyses, we identified six critical genes and transcription factor NF-κB. RT-PCR revealed that andrographolide (AGP) significantly inhibited the expression of hub genes. Finally, we identified XIST and three miRNAs (miR-9-5p, miR-129-5p, and miR-340-5p) as therapeutic targets.


Our integrated analysis identified four hub genes (CXCL1, IL1B, MMP1, and MMP10) regulated by NF-κB. We further revealed that AGP decreased the expression of hub genes by inhibiting NF-κB activation. Lastly, we predicted the involvement of ceRNA network in the regulation of NF-κB expression. Collectively, our results provide valuable information in understanding the molecular mechanisms of active UC. Furthermore, we predict the use of AGP and small RNA combination for the treatment of UC.