Improving Disease Gene Prioritization by Comparing the Semantic Similarity of Phenotypes in Mice with Those of Human Diseases

<div><p>Despite considerable progress in understanding the molecular origins of hereditary human diseases, the molecular basis of several thousand genetic diseases still remains unknown. High-throughput phenotype studies are underway to systematically assess the phenotype outcome of targeted mutations in model organisms. Thus, comparing the similarity between experimentally identified phenotypes and the phenotypes associated with human diseases can be used to suggest causal genes underlying a disease. In this manuscript, we present a method for disease gene prioritization based on comparing phenotypes of mouse models with those of human diseases. For this purpose, either human disease phenotypes are “translated” into a mouse-based representation (using the Mammalian Phenotype Ontology), or mouse phenotypes are “translated” into a human-based representation (using the Human Phenotype Ontology). We apply a measure of semantic similarity and rank experimentally identified phenotypes in mice with respect to their phenotypic similarity to human diseases. Our method is evaluated on manually curated and experimentally verified gene–disease associations for human and for mouse. We evaluate our approach using a Receiver Operating Characteristic (ROC) analysis and obtain an area under the ROC curve of up to . Furthermore, we are able to confirm previous results that the <em>Vax1</em> gene is involved in <em>Septo-Optic Dysplasia</em> and suggest <em>Gdf6</em> and <em>Marcks</em> as further potential candidates. Our method significantly outperforms previous phenotype-based approaches of prioritizing gene–disease associations. To enable the adaption of our method to the analysis of other phenotype data, our software and prioritization results are freely available under a BSD licence at <a href=""></a>. Furthermore, our method has been integrated in PhenomeNET and the results can be explored using the PhenomeBrowser at <a href=""></a>.</p> </div>