Gene-disease associations identify a connectome with shared molecular pathways in human cholangiopathies

Hepatology. 2018 Feb;67(2):676-689. doi: 10.1002/hep.29504. Epub 2018 Jan 2.


Cholangiopathies are a diverse group of progressive diseases whose primary cell targets are cholangiocytes. To identify shared pathogenesis and molecular connectivity among the three main human cholangiopathies (biliary atresia [BA], primary biliary cholangitis [PBC], and primary sclerosing cholangitis [PSC]), we built a comprehensive platform of published data on gene variants, gene expression, and functional studies and applied network-based analytics in the search for shared molecular circuits. Mining the data platform with largest connected component and interactome analyses, we validated previously reported associations and identified essential and hub genes. In addition to disease-specific modules, we found a substantial overlap of disease neighborhoods and uncovered a group of 34 core genes that are enriched for immune processes and abnormal intestine/hepatobiliary mouse phenotypes. Within this core, we identified a gene subcore containing signal transduction and activator of transcription 3, interleukin-6, tumor necrosis factor, and forkhead box P3 prominently placed in a regulatory connectome of genes related to cellular immunity and fibrosis. We also found substantial gene enrichment in the advanced glycation endproduct/receptor for advanced glycation endproducts (RAGE) pathway and showed that RAGE activation induced cholangiocyte proliferation. Conclusion: Human cholangiopathies share pathways enriched by immunity genes and a molecular connectome that links different pathogenic features of BA, PBC, and PSC. (Hepatology 2018;67:676-689).

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bile Duct Diseases / etiology
  • Bile Duct Diseases / genetics*
  • Bile Duct Diseases / immunology
  • Biliary Atresia / genetics
  • Cholangitis, Sclerosing / genetics
  • Connectome*
  • Databases, Genetic
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors / physiology
  • Gene Regulatory Networks
  • Glycation End Products, Advanced / physiology
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-6 / physiology
  • Mice
  • MicroRNAs / physiology
  • Receptor for Advanced Glycation End Products / physiology
  • STAT3 Transcription Factor / physiology


  • FOXP3 protein, human
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors
  • Glycation End Products, Advanced
  • Interleukin-6
  • MicroRNAs
  • Receptor for Advanced Glycation End Products
  • STAT3 Transcription Factor