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November 2014


To identify brain transcriptional networks that may predispose an animal to consume alcohol, we used weighted gene coexpression network analysis (WGCNA). Candidate coexpression modules are those with an eigengene expression level that correlates significantly with the level of alcohol consumption across a panel of BXD recombinant inbred mouse strains, and that share a genomic region that regulates the module transcript expression levels (mQTL) with a genomic region that regulates alcohol consumption (bQTL). To address a controversy regarding utility of gene expression profiles from whole brain, vs specific brain regions, as indicators of the relationship of gene expression to phenotype, we compared candidate coexpression modules from whole brain gene expression data (gathered with Affymetrix 430 v2 arrays in the Colorado laboratories) and from gene expression data from 6 brain regions (nucleus accumbens (NA); prefrontal cortex (PFC); ventral tegmental area (VTA); striatum (ST); hippocampus (HP); cerebellum (CB)) available from GeneNetwork. The candidate modules were used to construct candidate eigengene networks across brain regions, resulting in three “meta-modules”, composed of candidate modules from two or more brain regions (NA, PFC, ST, VTA) and whole brain. To mitigate the potential influence of chromosomal location of transcripts and cis-eQTLs in linkage disequilibrium, we calculated a semi-partial correlation of the transcripts in the meta-modules with alcohol consumption conditional on the transcripts' cis-eQTLs. The function of transcripts that retained the correlation with the phenotype after correction for the strong genetic influence, implicates processes of protein metabolism in the ER and Golgi as influencing susceptibility to variation in alcohol consumption. Integration of these data with human GWAS provides further information on the function of polymorphisms associated with alcohol-related traits.


© 2013 Vanderlinden et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

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