Transcription factor activity inference in systemic lupus erythematosus

Raul Lopez-Dominguez, Daniel Toro-Dominguez, Jordi Martorell-Marugan, Adrian Garcia-Moreno, Christian H. Holland, Julio Saez-Rodriguez, Daniel Goldman, Michelle A. Petri, Marta E. Alarcon-Riquelme, Pedro Carmona-Saez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) is a systemic autoimmune disease with diverse clinical manifestations. Although most of the SLE-associated loci are located in regulatory regions, there is a lack of global information about transcription factor (TFs) activities, the mode of regulation of the TFs, or the cell or sample-specific regulatory circuits. The aim of this work is to decipher TFs implicated in SLE. Methods: In order to decipher regulatory mechanisms in SLE, we have inferred TF activities from transcriptomic data for almost all human TFs, defined clusters of SLE patients based on the estimated TF activities and analyzed the differential activity patterns among SLE and healthy samples in two different cohorts. The Transcription Factor activity matrix was used to stratify SLE patients and define sets of TFs with statistically significant differential activity among the disease and control samples. Results: TF activities were able to identify two main subgroups of patients characterized by distinct neutrophil-to-lymphocyte ratio (NLR), with consistent patterns in two independent datasets-one from pediatric patients and other from adults. Furthermore, after contrasting all subgroups of patients and controls, we obtained a significant and robust list of 14 TFs implicated in the dysregulation of SLE by different mechanisms and pathways. Among them, well-known regulators of SLE, such as STAT or IRF, were found, but others suggest new pathways that might have important roles in SLE. Conclusions: These results provide a foundation to comprehend the regulatory mechanism underlying SLE and the established regulatory factors behind SLE heterogeneity that could be potential therapeutic targets.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number299
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2021


  • Clustering analysis
  • Disease classification
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus
  • Transcription factor activity inference

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Palaeontology
  • Space and Planetary Science


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