Purdue University Graduate School
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Systems Modeling of host microbiome interactions in Inflammatory Bowel Diseases

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posted on 2024-04-24, 19:52 authored by Javier E MunozJavier E Munoz

Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are chronic inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) with a rising global prevalence, influenced by clinical and demographics factors. The pathogenesis of IBD involves complex interactions between gut microbiome dysbiosis, epithelial cell barrier disruption, and immune hyperactivity, which are poorly understood. This necessitates the development of novel approaches to integrate and model multiple clinical and molecular data modalities from patients, animal models, and in-vitro systems to discover effective biomarkers for disease progression and drug response. As sequencing technologies advance, the amount of molecular and compositional data from paired measurements of host and microbiome systems is exploding. While it is become routine to generate such rich, deep datasets, tools for their interpretation lag behind. Here, I present a computational framework for integrative modeling of microbiome multi-omics data titled: Latent Interacting Variable Effects (LIVE) modeling. LIVE combines various types of microbiome multi-omics data using single-omic latent variables (LV) into a structured meta-model to determine the most predictive combinations of multi-omics features predicting an outcome, patient group, or phenotype. I implemented and tested LIVE using publicly available metagenomic and metabolomics data set from Crohn’s Disease (CD) and ulcerative colitis (UC) status patients in the PRISM and LLDeep cohorts. The findings show that LIVE reduced the number of features interactions from the original datasets for CD to tractable numbers and facilitated prioritization of biological associations between microbes, metabolites, enzymes, clinical variables, and a disease status outcome. LIVE modeling makes a distinct and complementary contribution to the current methods to integrate microbiome data to predict IBD status because of its flexibility to adapt to different types of microbiome multi-omics data, scalability for large and small cohort studies via reliance on latent variables and dimensionality reduction, and the intuitive interpretability of the meta-model integrating -omic data types.

A novel application of LIVE modeling framework was associated with sex-based differences in UC. Men are 20% more likely to develop this condition and 60% more likely to progress to colitis-associated cancer compared to women. A possible explanation for this observation is differences in estrogen signaling among men and women in which estrogen signaling may be protective against UC. Extracting causal insights into how gut microbes and metabolites regulate host estrogen receptor β (ERβ) signaling can facilitate the study of the gut microbiome’s effects on ERβ’s protective role against UC. Supervised LIVE models ERβ signaling using high-dimensional gut microbiome data by controlling clinical covariates such as: sex and disease status. LIVE models predicted an inhibitory effect on ER-UP and ER-DOWN signaling activities by pairs of gut microbiome features, generating a novel of catalog of metabolites, microbial species and their interactions, capable of modulating ER. Two strongly positively correlated gut microbiome features: Ruminoccocus gnavus with acesulfame and Eubacterium rectale with 4-Methylcatechol were prioritized as suppressors ER-UP and ER-DOWN signaling activities. An in-vitro experimental validation roadmap is proposed to study the synergistic relationships between metabolites and microbiota suppressors of ERβ signaling in the context of UC. Two in-vitro systems, HT-29 female colon cancer cell and female epithelial gut organoids are described to evaluate the effect of gut microbiome on ERβ signaling. A detailed experimentation is described per each system including the selection of doses, treatments, metrics, potential interpretations and limitations. This experimental roadmap attempts to compare experimental conditions to study the inhibitory effects of gut microbiome on ERβ signaling and how it could elevate or reduce the risk of developing UC. The intuitive interpretability of the meta-model integrating -omic data types in conjunction with the presented experimental validation roadmap aim to transform an artificial intelligence-generated big data hypothesis into testable experimental predictions.


BII: Emergent Mechanisms in Biology of Robustness, Integration & Organization (EMBRIO)

Directorate for Biological Sciences

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Degree Type

  • Doctor of Philosophy


  • Agricultural and Biological Engineering

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Douglas Brubaker

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee co-chair

David Umulis

Additional Committee Member 2

Tzu Wen Cross

Additional Committee Member 3

Leopold Green

Additional Committee Member 4

Deva Chan

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