It is quite a leap from building genetic networks in a model organism to the identification of a clinically relevant marker for a human cancer. Liu et al. combined transcription-factor DNA binding site mapping and expression profiling data with literature mining and protein interaction data to build a network around the classical pair-rule genes in Drosophila that specify the segments during embryogenesis. Consequently, a gene was identified that encodes an E3 ubiquitin ligase adaptor, SPOP, that targets the Jun kinase pathway. The gene is conserved in humans, and expression is associated with the most common type of kidney cancer.
J. Liu, M. Ghanim, L. Xue, C. D. Brown, I. Iossifov, C. Angeletti, S. Hua, N. Nègre, M. Ludwig, T. Stricker, H. A. Al-Ahmadie, M. Tretiakova, R. L. Camp, M. Perera-Alberto, D. L. Rimm, T. Xu, A. Rzhetsky, K. P. White, Analysis of Drosophila segmentation network identifies a JNK pathway factor overexpressed in kidney cancer. Science 323, 1218–1222 (2009). [Abstract] [Full Text]