The lack of medical therapy to treat abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) stems from our inadequate understanding of the mechanisms underlying AAA pathogenesis. To date, the only available treatment option relies on surgical intervention, which aims to prevent AAA rupture. Identifying specific regulators of pivotal pathogenetic mechanisms would allow the development of novel treatments. With this work, we sought to identify regulatory factors associated with co-expressed genes characterizing the diseased perivascular adipose tissue (PVAT) of AAA patients, which is crucially involved in AAA pathogenesis. We applied a reverse engineering approach to identify cis-regulatory elements of diseased PVAT genes, the associated transcription factors, and upstream regulators. Finally, by analyzing the topological properties of the reconstructed regulatory disease network, we prioritized putative targets for AAA interference treatment options. Overall, we identified NFKB1, SPIB, and TBP as the most relevant transcription factors, as well as MAPK1 and GSKB3 protein kinases and RXRA nuclear receptor as key upstream regulators. We showed that these factors could regulate different co-expressed gene subsets in AAA PVAT, specifically associated with both innate and antigen-driven immune response pathways. Inhibition of these factors may represent a novel option for the development of efficient immunomodulatory strategies to treat AAA.
Piacentini L, Chiesa M, Colombo GI. Gene Regulatory Network Analysis of Perivascular Adipose Tissue of Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Identifies Master Regulators of Key Pathogenetic Pathways. Biomedicines 2020 Aug 14;8(8):E288.doi: 10.3390/biomedicines8080288.