Literature-based discovery of diabetes- and ROS-related targets
© Hur et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. 2010
Received: 6 May 2010
Accepted: 27 October 2010
Published: 27 October 2010
Reactive oxygen species (ROS) are known mediators of cellular damage in multiple diseases including diabetic complications. Despite its importance, no comprehensive database is currently available for the genes associated with ROS.
We present ROS- and diabetes-related targets (genes/proteins) collected from the biomedical literature through a text mining technology. A web-based literature mining tool, SciMiner, was applied to 1,154 biomedical papers indexed with diabetes and ROS by PubMed to identify relevant targets. Over-represented targets in the ROS-diabetes literature were obtained through comparisons against randomly selected literature. The expression levels of nine genes, selected from the top ranked ROS-diabetes set, were measured in the dorsal root ganglia (DRG) of diabetic and non-diabetic DBA/2J mice in order to evaluate the biological relevance of literature-derived targets in the pathogenesis of diabetic neuropathy.
SciMiner identified 1,026 ROS- and diabetes-related targets from the 1,154 biomedical papers (http://jdrf.neurology.med.umich.edu/ROSDiabetes/). Fifty-three targets were significantly over-represented in the ROS-diabetes literature compared to randomly selected literature. These over-represented targets included well-known members of the oxidative stress response including catalase, the NADPH oxidase family, and the superoxide dismutase family of proteins. Eight of the nine selected genes exhibited significant differential expression between diabetic and non-diabetic mice. For six genes, the direction of expression change in diabetes paralleled enhanced oxidative stress in the DRG.
Literature mining compiled ROS-diabetes related targets from the biomedical literature and led us to evaluate the biological relevance of selected targets in the pathogenesis of diabetic neuropathy.
Diabetes is a metabolic disease in which the body does not produce or properly respond to insulin, a hormone required to convert carbohydrates into energy for daily life. According to the American Diabetes Association, 23.6 million children and adults, approximately 7.8% of the population in the United States, have diabetes . The cost of diabetes in 2007 was estimated to be $174 billion . The micro- and macro-vascular complications of diabetes are the most common causes of renal failure, blindness and amputations leading to significant mortality, morbidity and poor quality of life; however, incomplete understanding of the causes of diabetic complications hinders the development of mechanism-based therapies.
In vivo and in vitro experiments implicate a number of enzymatic and non-enzymatic metabolic pathways in the initiation and progression of diabetic complications  including: (1) increased polyol pathway activity leading to sorbitol and fructose accumulation, NAD(P)-redox imbalances and changes in signal transduction; (2) non-enzymatic glycation of proteins yielding "advanced glycation end-products" (AGEs); (3) activation of protein kinase C (PKC), initiating a cascade of intracellular stress responses; and (4) increased hexosamine pathway flux [2, 3]. Only recently has a link among these pathways been established that provides a unified mechanism of tissue damage. Each of these pathways directly and indirectly leads to overproduction of reactive oxygen species (ROS) [2, 3].
ROS are highly reactive ions or small molecules including oxygen ions, free radicals and peroxides, formed as natural byproducts of cellular energy metabolism. ROS are implicated in multiple cellular pathways such as mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signaling, c-Jun amino-terminal kinase (JNK), cell proliferation and apoptosis [4–6]. Due to the highly reactive properties of ROS, excessive ROS may cause significant damage to proteins, DNA, RNA and lipids. All cells express enzymes capable of neutralizing ROS. In addition to the maintenance of antioxidant systems such as glutathione and thioredoxins, primary sensory neurons express two main detoxifying enzymes: superoxide dismutase (SOD)  and catalase . SOD converts superoxide (O2-) to H2O2, which is reduced to H2O by glutathione and catalase . SOD1 is the main form of SOD in the cytoplasm; SOD2 is located within the mitochondria. In neurons, SOD1 activity represents approximately 90% of total SOD activity and SOD2 approximately 10% . Under diabetic conditions, this protective mechanism is overwhelmed due to the substantial increase in ROS, leading to cellular damage and dysfunction .
The idea that increased ROS and oxidative stress contribute to the pathogenesis of diabetic complications has led scientists to investigate different oxidative stress pathways [7, 11]. Inhibition of ROS or maintenance of euglycemia restores metabolic and vascular imbalances and blocks both the initiation and progression of complications [12, 13]. Despite the significant implications and extensive research into the role of ROS in diabetes, no comprehensive database regarding ROS-related genes or proteins is currently available.
In the present study, a comprehensive list of ROS- and diabetes-related targets (genes/proteins) was compiled from the biomedical literature through text mining technology. SciMiner, a web-based literature mining tool , was used to retrieve and process documents and identify targets from the text. SciMiner provides a convenient web-based platform for target-identification within the biomedical literature, similar to other tools including EBIMed , ALI BABA , and PolySearch ; however, SciMiner is unique in that it searches full text documents, supports free-text PubMed query style, and allows the comparison of target lists from multiple queries.
The ROS-diabetes targets collected by SciMiner were further tested against randomly selected non-ROS-diabetes literature to identify targets that are significantly over-represented in the ROS-diabetes literature. Functional enrichment analyses were performed on these targets to identify significantly over-represented biological functions in terms of Gene Ontology (GO) terms and pathways.
In order to confirm the biological relevance of the over-represented ROS-diabetes targets, the gene expression levels of nine selected targets were measured in dorsal root ganglia (DRG) from mice with and without diabetes. DRG contain primary sensory neurons that relay information from the periphery to the central nervous system (CNS) [7, 10, 18]. Unlike the CNS, DRG are not protected by a blood-nerve barrier, and are consequently vulnerable to metabolic and toxic injury . We hypothesize that differential expression of identified targets in DRG would confirm their involvement in the pathogenesis of diabetic neuropathy.
Defining ROS-diabetes literature
To retrieve the list of biomedical literature associated with ROS and diabetes, PubMed was queried using ("Reactive Oxygen Species"[MeSH] AND "Diabetes Mellitus"[MeSH]). This query yielded 1,154 articles as of April 27, 2009. SciMiner, a web-based literature mining tool , was used to retrieve and process the abstracts and available full text documents to identify targets (full text documents were available for approximately 40% of the 1,154 articles). SciMiner-identified targets, reported in the form of HGNC [HUGO (Human Genome Organization) Gene Nomenclature Committee] genes, were confirmed by manual review of the text.
Comparison with human curated data (NCBI Gene2PubMed)
The NCBI Gene database provides links between Gene and PubMed. The links are the result of (1) manual curation within the NCBI via literature analysis as part of generating a Gene record, (2) integration of information from other public databases, and (3) GeneRIF (Gene Reference Into Function) in which human experts provide a brief summary of gene functions and make the connections between citation (PubMed) and Gene databases. For the 1,154 ROS-diabetes articles, gene-paper associations were retrieved from the NCBI Gene database. Non-human genes were mapped to homologous human genes through the NCBI HomoloGene database. The retrieved genes were compared against the SciMiner derived targets. Any genes missed by SciMiner were added to the ROS-diabetes target set.
Protein-protein interactions among ROS-diabetes targets
To indirectly examine the association of literature derived targets (by SciMiner and NCBI Gene2PubMed) with ROS and diabetes, protein-protein interactions (PPIs) among the targets were surveyed. This was based on an assumption that targets are more likely to have PPIs with each other if they are truly associated within the same biological functions/pathways. A PPI network of the ROS-diabetes targets was generated using the Michigan Molecular Interactions (MiMI, http://mimi.ncibi.org/) database  and compared against 100 PPI networks of randomly drawn sets (the same number of the ROS-diabetes target set) from HUGO. A standard Z-test and one sample T-test were used to calculate the statistical significance of the ROS-diabetes PPI network with respect to the random PPI networks.
Functional enrichment analysis
Literature derived ROS-diabetes targets (by SciMiner and NCBI Gene2PubMed) were subject to functional enrichment analyses to identify significantly over-represented biological functions in terms of Gene Ontology , pathways (Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes (KEGG, http://www.genome.jp/kegg/)  and Reactome http://www.reactome.org/). Fisher's exact test  was used to calculate the statistical significance of these biological functions with Benjamini-Hochberg (BH) adjusted p-value < 0.05  as the cut-off.
Over-represented ROS-diabetes targets
Defining background corpora
To identify a subset of targets that are highly over-represented within the ROS-diabetes targets, the frequency of each target (defined as the number of documents in which the target was identified divided by the number of total documents in the query) was compared against the frequencies in randomly selected background corpora. Depending on how the background set is defined, over-represented targets may vary widely; therefore, to maintain the background corpora close to the ROS and diabetes context, documents were selected from the same journal, volume, and issue of the 1,154 ROS-diabetes documents, but were NOT indexed with "Reactive Oxygen Species"[MeSH] nor "Diabetes Mellitus"[MeSH]. For example, one of the ROS-diabetes articles (PMID: 18227068), was published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, Volume 283, Issue 16. This issue contained 85 papers, 78 of which were not indexed with either "Reactive Oxygen Species"[MeSH] or "Diabetes Mellitus"[MeSH] indexed. One of these 78 papers was randomly selected as a background document. Three sets of 1,154 documents were selected using this approach and processed using SciMiner. Identified targets were confirmed by manual review for accuracy.
Identifying significantly over-represented targets
ROS-diabetes targets were tested for over-representation against targets identified from the three background sets. Fisher's exact test was used to determine if the frequency of each target in the ROS-diabetes target set was significantly different from that of the background sets. Any targets with a BH adjusted p-value < 0.05 in at least two of the three comparisons were deemed to be an over-represented ROS-diabetes target. Functional enrichment analyses were performed on these over-represented ROS-diabetes targets as described above.
Selecting targets for real-time RT-PCR
A subset of targets were selected for RT-PCR from the top 10 over-represented ROS-diabetes targets excluding insulin and NADPH oxidase 5 (NOX5), which does not have a mouse ortholog. Nitric oxide synthase 1 (NOS1), the main generator of nitric oxide, ranked at the 15th position and was additionally selected for inclusion in the test set.
Differential gene expression by real-time RT-PCR
DBA/2J mice were purchased from the Jackson Laboratory (Bar Harbor, ME). Mice were housed in a pathogen-free environment and cared for following the University of Michigan Committee on the Care and Use of Animals guidelines. Mice were fed AIN76A chow (Research Diets, New Brunswick, NJ). Male mice were used for this study.
Induction of diabetes
Two treatment groups were defined: control (n = 4) and diabetic (n = 4). Diabetes was induced at 13 weeks of age by low-dose streptozotocin (STZ) injections, 50 mg/kg/day for five consecutive days. All diabetic mice received LinBit sustained release insulin implants (LinShin, Toronto, Canada) at 8 weeks post-STZ treatment. Insulin implants were replaced every 4 weeks, at 12 and 16 weeks post-STZ treatment. At 20 weeks post-STZ treatment, mice were euthanized by sodium pentobarbital overdose and DRG were harvested as previously described .
The gene expression of the selected nine literature-derived ROS-diabetes targets in DRG was measured using real-time RT-PCR in duplicate. The amount of mRNA isolated from each DRG was normalized to an endogenous reference [Tbp: TATA box binding protein; Δ cycle threshold (CT)].
Identification of ROS-diabetes targets
Top 10 most frequent ROS-diabetes targets
INS | insulin | proinsulin |
superoxide dismutase 1
Sod1 | SOD1 | SOD1 | *
CAT | catalase | *
protein kinase C, alpha
PKCA | PKC-alpha | *
albumin | serum albumin |
NADPH oxidase 5
NOX5 | nadph oxidase |
nitric oxide synthase 2A
NOS | iNOS | Nos2 |*
XOR |xanthine dehydrogenase| *
Ang-II | ANG | AGT | AngI | *
tumor necrosis factor
TNFA | TNF | TNF-alpha | *
The NCBI Gene2PubMed database, containing expert-curated associations between the NCBI Gene and PubMed databases, revealed 90 unique genes associated with the 1,154 ROS-diabetes papers (Additional File 1). SciMiner identified 85 out of these 90 targets, indicating a 94% recall rate. Five targets missed by SciMiner were added to the initial ROS-diabetes target set to result in 1,026 unique targets (Additional File 2).
PPI network of the ROS-diabetes targets
Summary of 100 randomly generated PPI networks
# of targets
# of targets
# of direct
Mean (100 networks)
STDEV (100 networks)
Functional enrichment analyses of the ROS-diabetes targets
Enriched functions of 1,026 ROS-diabetes targets
Biological Processes GO
protein amino acid phosphorylation
response to hypoxia
Molecular Functions GO
Cellular Components GO
MAPK signaling pathway
Identification of over-represented ROS-diabetes targets
53 targets over-represented in ROS-diabetes literature
superoxide dismutase 1, soluble (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis 1 (adult))
NADPH oxidase, EF-hand calcium binding domain 5
protein kinase C, alpha
neutrophil cytosolic factor 1, (chronic granulomatous disease, autosomal 1)
nitric oxide synthase 3 (endothelial cell)
superoxide dismutase 2, mitochondrial
cytochrome b-245, alpha polypeptide
nitric oxide synthase 2A (inducible, hepatocytes)
angiotensinogen (serpin peptidase inhibitor, clade A, member 8)
aldo-keto reductase family 1, member B1 (aldose reductase)
cytochrome b-245, beta polypeptide (chronic granulomatous disease)
nitric oxide synthase 1 (neuronal)
neutrophil cytosolic factor 2 (65 kDa, chronic granulomatous disease, autosomal 2)
cytochrome c, somatic
uncoupling protein 1 (mitochondrial, proton carrier)
NADPH oxidase 4
poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase family, member 1
uncoupling protein 2 (mitochondrial, proton carrier)
hemoglobin, alpha 1
NADPH oxidase 1
nuclear factor of kappa light polypeptide gene enhancer in B-cells 1 (p105)
vascular endothelial growth factor A
superoxide dismutase 3, extracellular
collagen, type IV, alpha 1
transforming growth factor, alpha
angiotensin I converting enzyme (peptidyl-dipeptidase A) 1
angiotensin II receptor, type 1
neutrophil cytosolic factor 4, 40kDa
mitochondrially encoded cytochrome b
dual oxidase 1
serpin peptidase inhibitor, clade E (nexin, plasminogen activator inhibitor type 1), member 1
glutathione S-transferase, C-terminal domain containing
coenzyme Q7 homolog, ubiquinone (yeast)
ras-related C3 botulinum toxin substrate 1 (rho family, small GTP binding protein Rac1)
monoamine oxidase B
uncoupling protein 3 (mitochondrial, proton carrier)
vascular cell adhesion molecule 1
v-akt murine thymoma viral oncogene homolog 1
collagen, type I, alpha 1
chemokine (C-C motif) ligand 2
Functional enrichment analyses of the over-represented ROS-diabetes targets
Enriched functions of the 53 over-represented targets in diabetes
Biological Processes GO
superoxide metabolic process
Molecular Functions GO
electron carrier activity
iron ion binding
Cellular Components GO
Leukocyte transendothelial migration
Small cell lung cancer
Formation of Platelet plug
Gene expression change in diabetes
Reactive oxygen species (ROS) are products of normal energy metabolism and play important roles in many other biological processes such as the immune response and signaling cascades [4–6]. As mediators of cellular damage, ROS are implicated in pathogenesis of multiple diseases including diabetic complications [27–30]. With the aid of literature mining technology, we collected 1,026 possible ROS-related targets from a set of biomedical literature indexed with both ROS and diabetes.
Fifty-three targets were significantly over-represented in the ROS-diabetes papers when compared against three background sets. Depending on how the background set is defined, the over-represented targets may vary widely. An ideal background set would be the entire PubMed set; however, this is not possible due to limited access to full texts and intense data processing. An alternative method would be to use only abstracts in PubMed, but this may not fully represent the literature. Using only the abstracts, our target identification method resulted in 21 (39%) of the 53 key ROS-diabetes targets (Additional File 12), suggesting the benefit of rich information in full text documents. In the present study, background documents were randomly selected from the same journal, volume, and issue of the 1,154 ROS-diabetes documents, which were not indexed with "Reactive Oxygen Species"[MeSH] nor "Diabetes Mellitus"[MeSH]. This approach maintained the background corpora not far from the ROS and diabetes context.
The gene expression levels of nine targets selected from the 53 over-represented ROS-diabetes targets were measured in diabetic and non-diabetic DRG. Our laboratory is particularly interested in deciphering the underlying mechanisms of diabetic neuropathy, a major complication of diabetes. Data published by our laboratory both in vitro and in vivo confirm the negative impact of oxidative stress in complication-prone neuron tissues like DRG [7, 10, 18, 31]. In an effort to obtain diabetic neuropathy specific targets, SciMiner was employed to further analyze a subset of the ROS-diabetes papers (data not shown). Nerve growth factor (NGF) was identified as the most over-represented target in this subset when compared to the full ROS-diabetes set; however, NGF did not have statistical significance (BH adjusted p-value = 0.06). The relatively small numbers of papers and associated targets may have contributed to this non-significance. Therefore, the candidate targets for gene expression validation were selected from among the 53 over-represented ROS-diabetes targets derived from the full ROS-diabetes corpus.
Among the tested genes, the expression levels of Cat, Sod1, Sod2, Prkca, and Nos1 were decreased, while the expression levels of Ncf1, Xdh, and Cyba were increased under diabetic conditions. Cat, Sod1, and Sod2 are responsible for protecting cells from oxidative stress by destroying superoxides and hydrogen peroxides [8–11]. Decreased expression of these genes may result in oxidative stress . Increased expression of Cyba and Ncf1, subunits of superoxide-generating nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADPH) oxidase complex , also supports enhanced oxidative stress. Xdh and its inter-convertible form, Xanthine oxidase (Xod), showed increased activity in various rat tissues under oxidative stress conditions with diabetes , and also showed increased expression in diabetic DRG in the current study.
Unlike the above concordant genes, protein kinase C and nitric oxide synthases did not exhibit predicted expression changes in diabetes. Protein kinase C activates NADPH oxidase, further promoting oxidative stress in the cell [34, 35]. Decreased expression of Prkca in our diabetic DRG is not parallel with expression levels of other enzymes expected to increase oxidative stress. Between the two nitric oxide synthases tested in the present study, Nos1 (neuronal) expression was significantly decreased (p-value < 0.001) in diabetes, while Nos3 (endothelial) expression was not significant (p-value = 0.06). The neuronal Nos1 is expected to play a major role in producing nitric oxide, another type of highly reactive free radical. Thus, with some exceptions, the majority of the differentially expressed genes in DRG show parallel results to the known activities of these targets in diabetes, suggesting enhanced oxidative stress in the diabetic DRG.
Assessment of antioxidant enzyme expression in diabetes has yielded a variety of results [36–40] depending upon the duration of diabetes, the tissue studied and other factors. In diabetic mice and rats, it is commonly reported that superoxide dismutases are down-regulated [37–40], where data regarding catalase are variable [36, 40]. PKC is activated in diabetes, but most papers that examined mRNA demonstrated that its expression is largely unchanged .
Among the 53 over-represented ROS-diabetes targets, SOD1 was the most over-represented and was differentially expressed under diabetic and non-diabetic conditions. To the best of our knowledge, no published study has investigated the role of SOD1 in the onset and/or progression of diabetic neuropathy. Mutations of SOD1 have long been associated with the inherited form of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)  and the theory of oxidative stress-based aging . Early reports indicate that knockout of the SOD1 gene does not affect nervous system development , although recovery following injury is slow and incomplete [45, 46]. With respect to diabetes, SOD1 KO accelerates the development of diabetic nephropathy  and cataract formation . Thus, examining the SOD1 KO mouse as a model of diabetic neuropathy would be a reasonable follow-up study.
One limitation of the current approach using literature mining technology is incorrect or missed identification of the mentioned targets within the literature. Based on a performance evaluation using a standard text set BioCreAtIvE (Critical Assessment of Information Extraction systems in Biology) version 2 , SciMiner achieved 87.1% recall (percentage identification of targets in the given text), 71.3% precision (percentage accuracy of identified target) and 75.8% F-measure (harmonious average of recall and precision = (2 × recall × precision)/(recall + precision)) before manual revision . In order to improve the accuracy of SciMiner's results, each target was manually reviewed and corrected by checking the sentences in which each target was identified. Approximately, 120 targets (~10% of the initially identified targets from the ROS-diabetes papers) were removed during the manual review process. The overall accuracy is expected to improve through the review process; however, the review process did not address targets missed by SciMiner, since we did not thoroughly review individual papers. Instead, 5 missed targets, whose associations with ROS-diabetes literature were available in the NCBI Gene2PubMed database, were added to the final ROS-diabetes target list (Additional File 2).
The present approach enabled us to collect a comprehensive list of ROS and diabetes related targets and led us to confirm the biological relevance to diabetic neuropathy of the selected ROS-diabetes targets. Using SciMiner to identify significantly enriched targets is applicable to other disease topics of interest by providing a more focused subset of literature for review and by highlighting targets common to multiple manuscripts.
List of abbreviations
nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (phosphate)
advanced glycoation end-products
protein kinase C
reactive oxygen species
mitogen-activated protein kinase
c-Jun amino-terminal kinase
superoxide dismutase 1
superoxide dismutase 2
neutrophil cytosolic factor 1
nitric oxide synthase 3
cytochrome b-245 alpha
nitric oxide synthase 1
amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
Critical Assessment of Information Extraction systems in Biology
Michigan Molecular Interactions
Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes
dorsal root ganglia
central nervous system
HUGO (human genome organization) nomenclature committee
standard error mean.
The authors acknowledge the expertise of Mr. John Hayes, Dr. Sang Su Oh and Ms. Carey Backus with regard to animal models of diabetes and neuropathy phenotyping methods.
Funding: This work was supported by National Institutes of Health (R01-LM008106 to DJS, U54-DA021519 (NCIBI) to DJS, HVJ, and ELF); Animal Models of Diabetic Complications Consortium (AMDCC U01-DK076160) to ELF; Program for Neurology Research and Discovery, and a Rackham Graduate School Predoctoral Fellowship (to JH).
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