Background: Preterm infants are a special population that vulnerable to respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infection and the lower respiratory tract infections (LRTIs) caused by RSV could be severe and even life-threating. The purpose of the present study was to identify candidate genes of preterm infants who are susceptible to RSV infection and provide a new insight into the pathogenesis of RSV infection.
Methods: Three datasets (GSE77087, GSE69606 and GSE41374) containing 183 blood samples of RSV infected patients and 33 blood samples of healthy controls from Gene Expression Omnibus (GEO) database were downloaded and the differentially expressed genes (DEGs) were screened out. The function and pathway enrichments were analyzed through Database for Annotation, Visualization and Integrated Discovery (DAVID) website. The protein‐protein interaction (PPI) network for DEGs was constructed through Search Tool for the Retrieval of Interacting Genes (STRING). The module analysis was performed by Cytoscape software and hub genes were identified. Clinical verification was employed to verify the expression level of top five hub genes among 72 infants including 50 RSV infected patients and 22 non-RSV-infected patients hospitalized in our center. Further, the RSV infected infants with high-expression IFI27 and those with low-expression IFI27 were compared (defined as higher or lower than the median mRNA level). Finally, the gene set enrichment analysis (GSEA) focusing on IFI27 was carried out.
Results: Totally, 4028 DEGs were screened out and among which, 131 most significant DEGs were selected. Subsequently, 13 hub genes were identified and function and pathway enrichments of hub genes mainly were: response to virus, defense response to virus, regulation of viral genome replication and regulation of viral life cycle. Furthermore, IFI27 was confirmed to be the most significantly expressed in clinical verification. Gene sets associated with calcium signaling pathway, arachidonic acid metabolism, extracellular matrix receptor interaction and so on were significantly enriched when IFI27 was highly expressed. Moreover, high-expression IFI27 was associated with more severe cases (p=0.041), more requirements of mechanical ventilation (p=0.034), more frequent hospitalization (p<0.001) and longer cumulative hospital stay (p=0.012).
Conclusion: IFI27 might serve to predict RSV infection and evaluate the severity of RSV infection in preterm infants.