School of Mathematics and Statistics - Research Publications

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    A guide to creating design matrices for gene expression experiments.
    Law, CW ; Zeglinski, K ; Dong, X ; Alhamdoosh, M ; Smyth, GK ; Ritchie, ME (F1000 Research Ltd, 2020)
    Differential expression analysis of genomic data types, such as RNA-sequencing experiments, use linear models to determine the size and direction of the changes in gene expression. For RNA-sequencing, there are several established software packages for this purpose accompanied with analysis pipelines that are well described. However, there are two crucial steps in the analysis process that can be a stumbling block for many -- the set up an appropriate model via design matrices and the set up of comparisons of interest via contrast matrices. These steps are particularly troublesome because an extensive catalogue for design and contrast matrices does not currently exist. One would usually search for example case studies across different platforms and mix and match the advice from those sources to suit the dataset they have at hand. This article guides the reader through the basics of how to set up design and contrast matrices. We take a practical approach by providing code and graphical representation of each case study, starting with simpler examples (e.g. models with a single explanatory variable) and move onto more complex ones (e.g. interaction models, mixed effects models, higher order time series and cyclical models). Although our work has been written specifically with a limma-style pipeline in mind, most of it is also applicable to other software packages for differential expression analysis, and the ideas covered can be adapted to data analysis of other high-throughput technologies. Where appropriate, we explain the interpretation and differences between models to aid readers in their own model choices. Unnecessary jargon and theory is omitted where possible so that our work is accessible to a wide audience of readers, from beginners to those with experience in genomics data analysis.
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    Germline heterozygous mutations in Nxf1 perturb RNA metabolism and trigger thrombocytopenia and lymphopenia in mice
    Chappaz, S ; Law, CW ; Dowling, MR ; Carey, KT ; Lane, RM ; Ngo, LH ; Wickramasinghe, VO ; Smyth, GK ; Ritchie, ME ; Kile, BT (ELSEVIER, 2020-04-14)
    In eukaryotic cells, messenger RNA (mRNA) molecules are exported from the nucleus to the cytoplasm, where they are translated. The highly conserved protein nuclear RNA export factor1 (Nxf1) is an important mediator of this process. Although studies in yeast and in human cell lines have shed light on the biochemical mechanisms of Nxf1 function, its contribution to mammalian physiology is less clear. Several groups have identified recurrent NXF1 mutations in chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), placing it alongside several RNA-metabolism factors (including SF3B1, XPO, RPS15) whose dysregulation is thought to contribute to CLL pathogenesis. We report here an allelic series of germline point mutations in murine Nxf1. Mice heterozygous for these loss-of-function Nxf1 mutations exhibit thrombocytopenia and lymphopenia, together with milder hematological defects. This is primarily caused by cell-intrinsic defects in the survival of platelets and peripheral lymphocytes, which are sensitized to intrinsic apoptosis. In contrast, Nxf1 mutations have almost no effect on red blood cell homeostasis. Comparative transcriptome analysis of platelets, lymphocytes, and erythrocytes from Nxf1-mutant mice shows that, in response to impaired Nxf1 function, the cytoplasmic representation of transcripts encoding regulators of RNA metabolism is altered in a unique, lineage-specific way. Thus, blood cell lineages exhibit differential requirements for Nxf1-mediated global mRNA export.
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    Targeting triple-negative breast cancers with the Smac-mimetic birinapant
    Lalaoui, N ; Merino, D ; Giner, G ; Vaillant, F ; Chau, D ; Liu, L ; Kratina, T ; Pal, B ; Whittle, JR ; Etemadi, N ; Berthelet, J ; Grasel, J ; Hall, C ; Ritchie, ME ; Ernst, M ; Smyth, GK ; Vaux, DL ; Visvader, JE ; Lindeman, GJ ; Silke, J (Springer Nature, 2020-04-27)
    Smac mimetics target inhibitor of apoptosis (IAP) proteins, thereby suppressing their function to facilitate tumor cell death. Here we have evaluated the efficacy of the preclinical Smac-mimetic compound A and the clinical lead birinapant on breast cancer cells. Both exhibited potent in vitro activity in triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) cells, including those from patient-derived xenograft (PDX) models. Birinapant was further studied using in vivo PDX models of TNBC and estrogen receptor-positive (ER+) breast cancer. Birinapant exhibited single agent activity in all TNBC PDX models and augmented response to docetaxel, the latter through induction of TNF. Transcriptomic analysis of TCGA datasets revealed that genes encoding mediators of Smac-mimetic-induced cell death were expressed at higher levels in TNBC compared with ER+ breast cancer, resulting in a molecular signature associated with responsiveness to Smac mimetics. In addition, the cell death complex was preferentially formed in TNBCs versus ER+ cells in response to Smac mimetics. Taken together, our findings provide a rationale for prospectively selecting patients whose breast tumors contain a competent death receptor signaling pathway for the further evaluation of birinapant in the clinic.