Exploring the biological function of immune cell-related genes in human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-1 infection based on weighted gene co-expression network analysis (WGCNA)


Abstract Background Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) is a chronic infectious disease characterized by consistent immune dysfunction. The objective of this study is to determine whether immune cell-related genes can be used as biomarkers for the occurrence of AIDS and potential molecular mechanisms. Methods A weighted gene co-expression network analysis was performed using the GSE6740 dataset from the Gene Expression Synthesis Database to identify the Hub gene, which contained microarray data from HIV-1 positive (HIV-1+) and HIV-1 negative (HIV-1−) individuals. The HIV-1+-related differentially expressed genes were then identified using the limma package. Subsequently, the characteristic immune cell-related genes were identified as diagnostic biomarkers for HIV-1+ using the random forest model (RF), support vector machine model, and generalized linear model. Results MEdarkgreen exhibited the strongest correlation with HIV clinical features of any of these modules. As the best model for diagnosing HIV-1±, RF was used to select four critical immune cell-related genes, namely, ARRB1, DPEP2, LTBP3, and RGCC, and a nomogram model was created to predict the occurrence of HIV-1 infection based on four key immune cell-related genes. Diagnostic genes were shown to be engaged in immune-related pathways, suggesting that immunological molecules, immune cells, and immune pathways all have a role in HIV-1 infection. The CTD database was explored for prospective medications or molecular compounds that might be utilized to treat HIV-1+ patients. = Moreover, in HIV-1+ individuals, the ceRNA network revealed that ARRB1, DPEP2, LTBP3, and RGCC could be regulated by lncRNAs through the corresponding miRNAs. Ultimately, RT-PCR results from clinical blood samples demonstrated that the four diagnostic genes were significantly downregulated in HIV-1+ patients. Conclusion We screened four immune cell-related genes, ARRB1, DPEP2, LTBP3, and RGCC, which may be considered as the diagnostic markers for HIV-1/AIDS. Our findings reveal that immune related genes and pathways involved in HIV-1 pathogenesis were regulated on both genetic and epigenetic levels by constructing a ceRNA network associated with lncRNA.

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