Overcoming the matched-sample bottleneck: an orthogonal approach to integrate omic data

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MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small non-coding RNA molecules whose primary function is to regulate the expression of gene products via hybridization to mRNA transcripts, resulting in suppression of translation or mRNA degradation. Although miRNAs have been implicated in complex diseases, including cancer, their impact on distinct biological pathways and phenotypes is largely unknown. Current integration approaches require sample-matched miRNA/mRNA datasets, resulting in limited applicability in practice. Since these approaches cannot integrate heterogeneous information available across independent experiments, they neither account for bias inherent in individual studies, nor do they benefit from increased sample size. Here we present a novel framework able to integrate miRNA and mRNA data (vertical data integration) available in independent studies (horizontal meta-analysis) allowing for a comprehensive analysis of the given phenotypes. To demonstrate the utility of our method, we conducted a meta-analysis of pancreatic and colorectal cancer, using 1,471 samples from 15 mRNA and 14 miRNA expression datasets. Our two-dimensional data integration approach greatly increases the power of statistical analysis and correctly identifies pathways known to be implicated in the phenotypes. The proposed framework is sufficiently general to integrate other types of data obtained from high-throughput assays.

Scientific Reports
Tin Nguyen
Associate Professor