Gene utility recapitulates chromosomal aberrancies in advanced stage neuroblastoma

Choong Y. Ung, Taylor M. Levee, Cheng Zhang, Cristina Correia, Kok Siong Yeo, Hu Li, Shizhen Zhu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Neuroblastoma (NB) is the most common extracranial solid tumor in children. Although only a few recurrent somatic mutations have been identified, chromosomal abnormalities, including the loss of heterozygosity (LOH) at the chromosome 1p and gains of chromosome 17q, are often seen in the high-risk cases. The biological basis and evolutionary forces that drive such genetic abnormalities remain enigmatic. Here, we conceptualize the Gene Utility Model (GUM) that seeks to identify genes driving biological signaling via their collective gene utilities and apply it to understand the impact of those differentially utilized genes on constraining the evolution of NB karyotypes. By employing a computational process-guided flow algorithm to model gene utility in protein–protein networks that built based on transcriptomic data, we conducted several pairwise comparative analyses to uncover genes with differential utilities in stage 4 NBs with distinct classification. We then constructed a utility karyotype by mapping these differentially utilized genes to their respective chromosomal loci. Intriguingly, hotspots of the utility karyotype, to certain extent, can consistently recapitulate the major chromosomal abnormalities of NBs and also provides clues to yet identified predisposition sites. Hence, our study not only provides a new look, from a gene utility perspective, into the known chromosomal abnormalities detected by integrative genomic sequencing efforts, but also offers new insights into the etiology of NB and provides a framework to facilitate the identification of novel therapeutic targets for this devastating childhood cancer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3291-3303
Number of pages13
JournalComputational and Structural Biotechnology Journal
StatePublished - Jan 2022


  • Chromosomal abnormalities
  • Inferred karyotype
  • Network simulation
  • Neuroblastoma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Biophysics
  • Structural Biology
  • Biochemistry
  • Genetics
  • Computer Science Applications


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