A Systems Approach to Understanding Dupuytren's Disease

    Student thesis: Phd


    Introduction: Dupuytren's disease (DD) is an ill-defined fibroproliferative disorder affecting the palms of the hands of certain patient groups. Whether changes in DD fibroblasts are due to genetic alterations alone or related to metabolic dysregulation has not yet been investigated.Hypotheses: 1. DD is a disease of several networks rather than of a single gene. 2. DD may be investigated more effectively by employing systems biology. 3. Strict definition of cell passage number is important for the revelation of any DD phenotype. 4. Some of the differences between DD and healthy tissues reside in a difference in their respiratory metabolism. 5. Any such differences are akin the Warburg effect noted for tumour cells in the literature.Methods: We induced hypoxia in healthy and disease cells to test whether the difference in disease cell types and healthy is the same as the difference in control fibroblasts cultured in normoxia and hypoxia. We investigated both at the metabolic level (intracellular and extracellular) and at the transcript level. This study also employed Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy to permit profiling of cells: (1) DD cords and nodules against the unaffected transverse palmar fascia (internal control), (2) those (1) with carpal ligamentous fascia (external controls) (3) those in (1) against DD fat surrounding the nodule, and skin overlying the nodule. We then compared metabolic profiles of the above to determine the effect of serial passaging by assessment of reproducibility. Subsequently, a novel protocol was employed in carefully controlled culture conditions for the parallel extraction of the metabolome and transcriptome of DD-derived fibroblasts and control at normoxic and hypoxic conditions to investigate this hypothesis. Gas chromatography-mass spectrometry combined with microarrays was employed to identify metabolites and transcript characteristic for DD tissue phenotypes. The extracellular metabolome was also studied for a selected subset. The metabolic and transcriptional changes were then integrated employing a network approach.Results: Carefully controlled culture conditions combined with multivariate statistical analyses demonstrated metabolic differences in DD and unaffected transverse palmar fascia, in addition to the external control. Differences between profiles of the four DD tissue phenotypes were also demonstrated. In addition early passage (0-3) metabolic differences were observed where a clear separation pattern in clusters was observed. Subsequent passages (4-6) displayed asynchrony, losing distinction between diseased and non-diseased sample phenotypes. A substantial number of dysregulated metabolites involved in amino acid metabolism, carbohydrate metabolism and also metabolism of cofactors and vitamins including downregulated cysteine and aspartic acid have been identified from the integrative analyses. Metabolic and transcriptional differences were revealed between fibroblast cell samples (passage number 3) cultured in 1% and 21% oxygen. The hypothesis that the difference in disease and healthy cells maybe akin to the differences in healthy cells in normoxia and hypoxia was rejected as only a very small number of significant molecules from these studies coincided in perturbed fascia and disease samples. No lactic acid was observed and little difference in the pyruvate concentrations. Yet, upon perturbation several of these transcripts and metabolites involved in the afore-mentioned pathways were significantly dysregulated.Conclusion: Early, but not late, passage numbers of primary cells provide representative metabolic and transcript fingerprinting for investigating DD. A unique parallel analysis of transcript and metabolic profiles of DD fibroblasts and control, enabled a robust characterization of DD and correlation of parameters across the various levels of systemic description. The tools that should facilitate our understanding of these complex systems are immature, but the
    Date of Award31 Dec 2011
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • The University of Manchester
    SupervisorArdeshir Bayat (Supervisor), Royston Goodacre (Supervisor), Magnus Rattray (Supervisor), Philip Day (Supervisor) & Hans Westerhoff (Supervisor)


    • multifactorial disease
    • gas chromatography mass spectrometry
    • myofibroblast
    • fourier transform infrared spectroscopy
    • transcriptomics
    • metabolomics
    • systems biology
    • Dupuytren's disease / contracture

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