Helicobacter pylori is a gram-negative bacterium that colonizes the human gastric mucosa and can lead to gastric inflammation, ulcers, and stomach cancer. Due to the increase in H. pylori antimicrobial resistance new methods to identify the molecular mechanisms of H. pylori-induced pathology are urgently needed. Here we utilized a computational biology approach, harnessing genome-wide association and gene expression studies to identify genes and pathways determining disease development. We mined gene expression data related to H. pylori-infection and its complications from publicly available databases to identify four human datasets as discovery datasets and used two different multi-cohort analysis pipelines to define a H. pylori-induced gene signature. An initial Helicobacter-signature was curated using the MetaIntegrator pipeline and validated in cell line model datasets. With this approach we identified cell line models that best match gene regulation in human pathology. A second analysis pipeline through NetworkAnalyst was used to refine our initial signature. This approach defined a 55-gene signature that is stably deregulated in disease conditions. The 55-gene signature was validated in datasets from human gastric adenocarcinomas and could separate tumor from normal tissue. As only a small number of H. pylori patients develop cancer, this gene-signature must interact with other host and environmental factors to initiate tumorigenesis. We tested for possible interactions between our curated gene signature and host genomic background mutations and polymorphisms by integrating genome-wide association studies (GWAS) and known oncogenes. We analyzed public databases to identify genes harboring single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) associated with gastric pathologies and driver genes in gastric cancers. Using this approach, we identified 37 genes from GWA studies and 61 oncogenes, which were used with our 55-gene signature to map gene-gene interaction networks. In conclusion, our analysis defines a unique gene signature driven by H. pylori-infection at early phases and that remains relevant through different stages of pathology up to gastric cancer, a stage where H. pylori itself is rarely detectable. Furthermore, this signature elucidates many factors of host gene and pathway regulation in infection and can be used as a target for drug repurposing and testing of infection models suitability to investigate human infection.
Keywords: Helicobacter pylori; gastric cancer; gastritis; gene-signature; genome-wide association study; immune response; multi-cohort analysis; transcriptomics.
Copyright © 2021 Badr, Omar and Häcker.