DEGAS: De novo discovery of dysregulated pathways in human diseases

Igor Ulitsky*, Akshay Krishnamurthy, Richard M. Karp, Ron Shamir

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

104 Scopus citations


Background: Molecular studies of the human disease transcriptome typically involve a search for genes whose expression is significantly dysregulated in sick individuals compared to healthy controls. Recent studies have found that only a small number of the genes in human disease-related pathways show consistent dysregulation in sick individuals. However, those studies found that some pathway genes are affected in most sick individuals, but genes can differ among individuals. While a pathway is usually defined as a set of genes known to share a specific function, pathway boundaries are frequently difficult to assign, and methods that rely on such definition cannot discover novel pathways. Protein interaction networks can potentially be used to overcome these problems. Methodology/Principal Findings: We present DEGAS (DysrEgulated Gene set Analysis via Subnetworks), a method for identifying connected gene subnetworks significantly enriched for genes that are dysregulated in specimens of a disease. We applied DEGAS to seven human diseases and obtained statistically significant results that appear to home in on compact pathways enriched with hallmarks of the diseases. In Parkinson's disease, we provide novel evidence for involvement of mRNA splicing, cell proliferation, and the 14-3-3 complex in the disease progression. DEGAS is available as part of the MATISSE software package ( Conclusions/Significance: The subnetworks identified by DEGAS can provide a signature of the disease potentially useful for diagnosis, pinpoint possible pathways affected by the disease, and suggest targets for drug intervention.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere13367
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number10
StatePublished - 2010


FundersFunder number
Seventh Framework Programme223575


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