Localization within the nervous system provides context for neurological disease manifestations and treatment, with numerous disease mechanisms exhibiting predilect locations. In contrast, the molecular function of most disease-causing genes is generally considered dissociated from such brain regional correlations because most genes are expressed throughout the brain. We tested the factual basis for this dissociation by discerning between two distinct genetic disease mechanism possibilities: One, gene-specific, in which genetic disorders are poorly localizable because they are multiform at the molecular level, with each mutant gene acting more widely or complexly than via mere loss or gain of one function. The other, more general, where aspects shared by groups of genes such as membership in a gene set that sustains a concerted biological process accounts for a common or localizable phenotype. We analyzed mitochondrial substrate disorders as a paradigm of apparently heterogeneous diseases when considered from the point of view of their manifestations and individual function of their causal genes. We used publicly available transcriptomes, disease phenotypes published in peer-reviewed journals and Human Ontology classifications for 27 mitochondrial substrate metabolism diseases and analyzed if these disorders manifest common phenotypes and if this relates to common brain regions or cells as demarcated by their transcriptome. The most frequent phenotypic manifestations and brain structures involved were almost stereotypic regardless of the individual gene affected, correlating with the regional abundance of the transcriptome that served mitochondrial substrate metabolism. This also applied to the transcriptome of inhibitory neurons, which are dysfunctional in some mitochondrial diseases. This stands in contrast with resistance to dementia atrophy from other causes, which is known to also associate with greater expression of a similar fraction of the transcriptome. The results suggest that brain region or cell type dysfunction stemming from a broad process such as mitochondrial substrate metabolism is more relevant for disease manifestations than individual gene participation in specific molecular function.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
- Molecular Biology