Inferring protein expression changes from mRNA in Alzheimer's dementia using deep neural networks

Nat Commun. 2022 Feb 3;13(1):655. doi: 10.1038/s41467-022-28280-1.


Identifying the molecular systems and proteins that modify the progression of Alzheimer's disease and related dementias (ADRD) is central to drug target selection. However, discordance between mRNA and protein abundance, and the scarcity of proteomic data, has limited our ability to advance candidate targets that are mainly based on gene expression. Therefore, by using a deep neural network that predicts protein abundance from mRNA expression, here we attempt to track the early protein drivers of ADRD. Specifically, by applying the clei2block deep learning model to 1192 brain RNA-seq samples, we identify protein modules and disease-associated expression changes that were not directly observed at the mRNA level. Moreover, pseudo-temporal trajectory inference based on the predicted proteome became more closely correlated with cognitive decline and hippocampal atrophy compared to RNA-based trajectories. This suggests that the predicted changes in protein expression could provide a better molecular representation of ADRD progression. Furthermore, overlaying clinical traits on protein pseudotime trajectory identifies protein modules altered before cognitive impairment. These results demonstrate how our method can be used to identify potential early protein drivers and possible drug targets for treating and/or preventing ADRD.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alzheimer Disease / genetics*
  • Alzheimer Disease / metabolism
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / genetics
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / metabolism
  • Deep Learning
  • Dementia / genetics*
  • Dementia / metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Spectrometry / methods
  • Neural Networks, Computer*
  • Protein Biosynthesis
  • Proteome / genetics*
  • Proteome / metabolism
  • Proteomics / methods*
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics*
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • RNA-Seq / methods
  • Transcriptome / genetics


  • Proteome
  • RNA, Messenger