Bayesian model of signal rewiring reveals mechanisms of gene dysregulation in acquired drug resistance in breast cancer

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Small molecule inhibitors, such as lapatinib, are effective against breast cancer in clinical trials, but tumor cells ultimately acquire resistance to the drug. Maintaining sensitization to drug action is essential for durable growth inhibition. Recently, adaptive reprogramming of signaling circuitry has been identified as a major cause of acquired resistance. We developed a computational framework using a Bayesian statistical approach to model signal rewiring in acquired resistance. We used the p1-model to infer potential aberrant gene-pairs with differential posterior probabilities of appearing in resistant-vs-parental networks. Results were obtained using matched gene expression profiles under resistant and parental conditions. Using two lapatinib-treated ErbB2-positive breast cancer cell-lines: SKBR3 and BT474, our method identified similar dysregulated signaling pathways including EGFR-related pathways as well as other receptor-related pathways, many of which were reported previously as compensatory pathways of EGFR-inhibition via signaling cross-talk. A manual literature survey provided strong evidence that aberrant signaling activities in dysregulated pathways are closely related to acquired resistance in EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitors. Our approach predicted literature-supported dysregulated pathways complementary to both node-centric (SPIA, DAVID, and GATHER) and edge-centric (ESEA and PAGI) methods. Moreover, by proposing a novel pattern of aberrant signaling called V-structures, we observed that genes were dysregulated in resistant-vs-sensitive conditions when they were involved in the switch of dependencies from targeted to bypass signaling events. A literature survey of some important V-structures suggested they play a role in breast cancer metastasis and/or acquired resistance to EGFR-TKIs, where the mRNA changes of TGFBR2, LEF1 and TP53 in resistant-vs-sensitive conditions were related to the dependency switch from targeted to bypass signaling links. Our results suggest many signaling pathway structures are compromised in acquired resistance, and V-structures of aberrant signaling within/among those pathways may provide further insights into the bypass mechanism of targeted inhibition.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0173331
Number of pages37
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2017

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