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Background: The haplotype H1 of the tau gene, MAPT, is highly associated with progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP) and corticobasal degeneration (CBD).
Objective: To investigate the pathogenic basis of this association.
Methods: Detailed linkage disequilibrium and common haplotype structure of MAPT were examined in 27 CEPH trios using validated HapMap genotype data for 24 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) spanning MAPT.
Results: Multiple variants of the H1 haplotype were resolved, reflecting a far greater diversity of MAPT than can be explained by the H1 and H2 clades alone. Based on this, six haplotype tagging SNPs (htSNPs) that capture 95% of the common haplotype diversity were used to genotype well characterised PSP and CBD case–control cohorts. In addition to strong association with PSP and CBD of individual SNPs, two common haplotypes derived from these htSNPs were identified that are highly associated with PSP: the sole H2 derived haplotype was underrepresented and one of the common H1 derived haplotypes was highly associated, with a similar trend observed in CBD. There were powerful and highly significant associations with PSP and CBD of haplotypes formed by three H1 specific SNPs. This made it possible to define a candidate region of at least ~56 kb, spanning sequences from upstream of MAPT exon 1 to intron 9. On the H1 haplotype background, these could harbour the pathogenic variants.
Conclusions: The findings support the pathological evidence that underlying variations in MAPT could contribute to disease pathogenesis by subtle effects on gene expression and/or splicing. They also form the basis for the investigation of the possible genetic role of MAPT in Parkinson's disease and other tauopathies, including Alzheimer's disease.