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Research Article

Gene Expression Profiles of the NCI-60 Human Tumor Cell Lines Define Molecular Interaction Networks Governing Cell Migration Processes


Although there is extensive information on gene expression and molecular interactions in various cell types, integrating those data in a functionally coherent manner remains challenging. This study explores the premise that genes whose expression at the mRNA level is correlated over diverse cell lines are likely to function together in a network of molecular interactions. We previously derived expression-correlated gene clusters from the database of the NCI-60 human tumor cell lines and associated each cluster with function categories of the Gene Ontology (GO) database. From a cluster rich in genes associated with GO categories related to cell migration, we extracted 15 genes that were highly cross-correlated; prominent among them were RRAS, AXL, ADAM9, FN14, and integrin-beta1. We then used those 15 genes as bait to identify other correlated genes in the NCI-60 database. A survey of current literature disclosed, not only that many of the expression-correlated genes engaged in molecular interactions related to migration, invasion, and metastasis, but that highly cross-correlated subsets of those genes engaged in specific cell migration processes. We assembled this information in molecular interaction maps (MIMs) that depict networks governing 3 cell migration processes: degradation of extracellular matrix, production of transient focal complexes at the leading edge of the cell, and retraction of the rear part of the cell. Also depicted are interactions controlling the release and effects of calcium ions, which may regulate migration in a spaciotemporal manner in the cell. The MIMs and associated text comprise a detailed and integrated summary of what is currently known or surmised about the role of the expression cross-correlated genes in molecular networks governing those processes.