Identifying the biological substrates of complex neurobehavioral traits such as alcohol dependency pose a tremendous challenge given the diverse model systems and phenotypic assessments used. To address this problem we have developed a platform for integrated analysis of high-throughput or genome-wide functional genomics studies. A wealth of such data exists, but it is often found in disparate, non-computable forms. Our interactive web-based software system, Gene Weaver (http://www.geneweaver.org), couples curated results from genomic studies to graph-theoretical tools for combinatorial analysis. Using this system we identified a gene underlying multiple alcohol-related phenotypes in four species. A search of over 60,000 gene sets in GeneWeaver's database revealed alcohol-related experimental results including genes identified in mouse genetic mapping studies, alcohol selected Drosophila lines, Rattus differential expression, and human alcoholic brains. We identified highly connected genes and compared these to genes currently annotated to alcohol-related behaviors and processes. The most highly connected gene not annotated to alcohol was Pafah1b1. Experimental validation using a Pafah1b1 conditional knock-out mouse confirmed that this gene is associated with an increased preference for alcohol and an altered thermoregulatory response to alcohol. Although this gene has not been previously implicated in alcohol-related behaviors, its function in various neural mechanisms makes a role in alcohol-related phenomena plausible. By making diverse cross-species functional genomics data readily computable, we were able to identify and confirm a novel alcohol-related gene that may have implications for alcohol use disorders and other effects of alcohol.
Keywords: behavioral genomics; combinatorial data integration; functional genomics.