Disentangling genetic and environmental risk factors for individual diseases from multiplex comorbidity networks
Most disorders are caused by a combination of multiple genetic and/or environmental factors. If two diseases are caused by the same molecular mechanism, they tend to co-occur in patients. Here we provide a quantitative method to disentangle how much genetic or environmental risk factors contribute to the pathogenesis of 358 individual diseases, respectively. We pool data on genetic, pathway-based, and toxicogenomic disease-causing mechanisms with disease co-occurrence data obtained from almost two million patients. From this data we construct a multiplex network where nodes represent disorders that are connected by links that either represent phenotypic comorbidity of the patients or the involvement of a certain molecular mechanism. From the similarity of phenotypic and mechanism-based networks for each disorder we derive measure that allows us to quantify the relative importance of various molecular mechanisms for a given disease. We find that most diseases are dominated by genetic risk factors, while environmental influences prevail for disorders such as depressions, cancers, or dermatitis. Almost never we find that more than one type of mechanisms is involved in the pathogenesis of diseases.