Researchers identified 11 hub genes whose dysregulation and crosstalk may impact the development of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). Some of these hub genes may even be associated with the prognosis of the disease.

According to the authors of the study, which was published in Frontiers in Molecular Biosciences, “The present study provides further insights into individualized treatment and prognosis for IPF.”

The cause of IPF is not known. In this study, a team of researchers from China explored hub genes and pathways that may be related to the development and prognosis of IPF. 

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They downloaded multiple gene expression datasets from the Gene Expression Omnibus database, performed a weighted correlation network analysis, and identified differentially expressed genes between controls and those with IPF.

Read more about IPF prognosis

COL1A1, a protein which is a major component of type I collagen, the fibrillar collagen found in most connective tissues, including cartilage. 3d rendering.
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Using a database resource and protein-protein interaction network analysis, the researchers identified ASPN, CDH2, COL1A1, COL1A2, COL3A1, COL14A1, CTSK, MMP1, MMP7, POSTN, and SPP1 as hub genes for IPF. They then used real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction to verify the expression levels of these genes. 

They concluded that these 11 genes are potential biomarkers of IPF. 

They stated, “Dysregulated expression of these genes and their crosstalk might impact the development of IPF through modulating IPF-related biological processes and signaling pathways.”

The researchers also found that the survival rate of patients with IPF who had high expression levels of COL1A1, CTSK, MMP1, MMP7, and SPP1 was lower than that of those who had low expression levels. They concluded that these genes could therefore be potential biomarkers for poor prognosis in IPF.

IPF is a chronic and progressive lung condition with a median survival of 3 to 4 years after diagnosis. It is characterized by the buildup of fibrotic tissue in the pulmonary parenchyma. Research into the causes and treatments for the disease continues.


Wan H, Huang X, Cong P, et al. Identification of hub genes and pathways associated with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis via bioinformatics analysis. Front Mol Biosci. 2021;8:711239. doi:10.3389/fmolb.2021.711239