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Title: Functional genomics of the sepsis response
Author: Burnham, Katie
ISNI:       0000 0004 7430 5763
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2017
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Sepsis is defined as a dysregulated immune response to infection causing organ dysfunction, and is a major area of unmet clinical need. Although conventionally considered a unified disease with a common pathway to organ failure and death, substantial clinical and molecular heterogeneity is seen, which has limited efforts to understand pathophysiology and improve therapeutic strategies. Sepsis is associated with global changes in gene expression, and genetic variants are known to affect the response to infection. This thesis therefore uses an integrated functional genomics approach to investigate disease mechanisms and variation in the sepsis response. Data are presented for 551 patients admitted to intensive care with sepsis due to community acquired pneumonia (CAP) or faecal peritonitis (FP). The sepsis response is explored using genome-wide gene expression and proteomics data, and molecular quantitative trait loci (QTL) are mapped in the context of disease. Comparisons with cardiac surgery patients are performed to identify shared and specific aspects of the host response. The host transcriptomic response was largely shared across sources of sepsis, although some specificity relating to viral infection and interferon signalling was observed and validated in prospectively recruited patients. Expression-based sepsis response signature (SRS) subgroups previously described in CAP were validated, and were additionally observed in FP. SRS1 is associated with higher early mortality, and shows enrichment of pathways relating to T cell exhaustion, cell death, and endotoxin tolerance. Differences between SRS groups were also observed in the FP plasma proteome. Serial sampling enabled the investigation of temporal changes in gene expression and protein abundance within patients. Lastly, disease-relevant expression QTL were identified, and interactions with source of sepsis and SRS determined, highlighting the potential impact of regulatory variation on the sepsis response. This thesis demonstrates the benefit of an integrative functional genomics approach to explore heterogeneity in sepsis, and highlights opportunities for patient stratification and personalised medicine.
Supervisor: Knight, Julian ; Davenport, Emma Sponsor: Medical Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Genetics ; eQTL ; sepsis ; transcriptomics