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1.  Polymorphisms, Mutations, and Amplification of the EGFR Gene in Non-Small Cell Lung Cancers 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(4):e125.
The epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) gene is the prototype member of the type I receptor tyrosine kinase (TK) family and plays a pivotal role in cell proliferation and differentiation. There are three well described polymorphisms that are associated with increased protein production in experimental systems: a polymorphic dinucleotide repeat (CA simple sequence repeat 1 [CA-SSR1]) in intron one (lower number of repeats) and two single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the promoter region, −216 (G/T or T/T) and −191 (C/A or A/A). The objective of this study was to examine distributions of these three polymorphisms and their relationships to each other and to EGFR gene mutations and allelic imbalance (AI) in non-small cell lung cancers.
Methods and Findings
We examined the frequencies of the three polymorphisms of EGFR in 556 resected lung cancers and corresponding non-malignant lung tissues from 336 East Asians, 213 individuals of Northern European descent, and seven of other ethnicities. We also studied the EGFR gene in 93 corresponding non-malignant lung tissue samples from European-descent patients from Italy and in peripheral blood mononuclear cells from 250 normal healthy US individuals enrolled in epidemiological studies including individuals of European descent, African–Americans, and Mexican–Americans. We sequenced the four exons (18–21) of the TK domain known to harbor activating mutations in tumors and examined the status of the CA-SSR1 alleles (presence of heterozygosity, repeat number of the alleles, and relative amplification of one allele) and allele-specific amplification of mutant tumors as determined by a standardized semiautomated method of microsatellite analysis. Variant forms of SNP −216 (G/T or T/T) and SNP −191 (C/A or A/A) (associated with higher protein production in experimental systems) were less frequent in East Asians than in individuals of other ethnicities (p < 0.001). Both alleles of CA-SSR1 were significantly longer in East Asians than in individuals of other ethnicities (p < 0.001). Expression studies using bronchial epithelial cultures demonstrated a trend towards increased mRNA expression in cultures having the variant SNP −216 G/T or T/T genotypes. Monoallelic amplification of the CA-SSR1 locus was present in 30.6% of the informative cases and occurred more often in individuals of East Asian ethnicity. AI was present in 44.4% (95% confidence interval: 34.1%–54.7%) of mutant tumors compared with 25.9% (20.6%–31.2%) of wild-type tumors (p = 0.002). The shorter allele in tumors with AI in East Asian individuals was selectively amplified (shorter allele dominant) more often in mutant tumors (75.0%, 61.6%–88.4%) than in wild-type tumors (43.5%, 31.8%–55.2%, p = 0.003). In addition, there was a strong positive association between AI ratios of CA-SSR1 alleles and AI of mutant alleles.
The three polymorphisms associated with increased EGFR protein production (shorter CA-SSR1 length and variant forms of SNPs −216 and −191) were found to be rare in East Asians as compared to other ethnicities, suggesting that the cells of East Asians may make relatively less intrinsic EGFR protein. Interestingly, especially in tumors from patients of East Asian ethnicity, EGFR mutations were found to favor the shorter allele of CA-SSR1, and selective amplification of the shorter allele of CA-SSR1 occurred frequently in tumors harboring a mutation. These distinct molecular events targeting the same allele would both be predicted to result in greater EGFR protein production and/or activity. Our findings may help explain to some of the ethnic differences observed in mutational frequencies and responses to TK inhibitors.
Masaharu Nomura and colleagues examine the distribution ofEGFR polymorphisms in different populations and find differences that might explain different responses to tyrosine kinase inhibitors in lung cancer patients.
Editors' Summary
Most cases of lung cancer—the leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide—are “non-small cell lung cancer” (NSCLC), which has a very low cure rate. Recently, however, “targeted” therapies have brought new hope to patients with NSCLC. Like all cancers, NSCLC occurs when cells begin to divide uncontrollably because of changes (mutations) in their genetic material. Chemotherapy drugs treat cancer by killing these rapidly dividing cells, but, because some normal tissues are sensitive to these agents, it is hard to kill the cancer completely without causing serious side effects. Targeted therapies specifically attack the changes in cancer cells that allow them to divide uncontrollably, so it might be possible to kill the cancer cells selectively without damaging normal tissues. Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGRF) was one of the first molecules for which a targeted therapy was developed. In normal cells, messenger proteins bind to EGFR and activate its “tyrosine kinase,” an enzyme that sticks phosphate groups on tyrosine (an amino acid) in other proteins. These proteins then tell the cell to divide. Alterations to this signaling system drive the uncontrolled growth of some cancers, including NSCLC.
Why Was This Study Done?
Molecules that inhibit the tyrosine kinase activity of EGFR (for example, gefitinib) dramatically shrink some NSCLCs, particularly those in East Asian patients. Tumors shrunk by tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) often (but not always) have mutations in EGFR's tyrosine kinase. However, not all tumors with these mutations respond to TKIs, and other genetic changes—for example, amplification (multiple copies) of the EGFR gene—also affect tumor responses to TKIs. It would be useful to know which genetic changes predict these responses when planning treatments for NSCLC and to understand why the frequency of these changes varies between ethnic groups. In this study, the researchers have examined three polymorphisms—differences in DNA sequences that occur between individuals—in the EGFR gene in people with and without NSCLC. In addition, they have looked for associations between these polymorphisms, which are present in every cell of the body, and the EGFR gene mutations and allelic imbalances (genes occur in pairs but amplification or loss of one copy, or allele, often causes allelic imbalance in tumors) that occur in NSCLCs.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers measured how often three EGFR polymorphisms (the length of a repeat sequence called CA-SSR1, and two single nucleotide variations [SNPs])—all of which probably affect how much protein is made from the EGFR gene—occurred in normal tissue and NSCLC tissue from East Asians and individuals of European descent. They also looked for mutations in the EGFR tyrosine kinase and allelic imbalance in the tumors, and then determined which genetic variations and alterations tended to occur together in people with the same ethnicity. Among many associations, the researchers found that shorter alleles of CA-SSR1 and the minor forms of the two SNPs occurred less often in East Asians than in individuals of European descent. They also confirmed that EGFR kinase mutations were more common in NSCLCs in East Asians than in European-descent individuals. Furthermore, mutations occurred more often in tumors with allelic imbalance, and in tumors where there was allelic imbalance and an EGFR mutation, the mutant allele was amplified more often than the wild-type allele.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The researchers use these associations between gene variants and tumor-associated alterations to propose a model to explain the ethnic differences in mutational frequencies and responses to TKIs seen in NSCLC. They suggest that because of the polymorphisms in the EGFR gene commonly seen in East Asians, people from this ethnic group make less EGFR protein than people from other ethnic groups. This would explain why, if a threshold level of EGFR is needed to drive cells towards malignancy, East Asians have a high frequency of amplified EGFR tyrosine kinase mutations in their tumors—mutation followed by amplification would be needed to activate EGFR signaling. This model, though speculative, helps to explain some clinical findings, such as the frequency of EGFR mutations and of TKI sensitivity in NSCLCs in East Asians. Further studies of this type in different ethnic groups and in different tumors, as well as with other genes for which targeted therapies are available, should help oncologists provide personalized cancer therapies for their patients.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
US National Cancer Institute information on lung cancer and on cancer treatment for patients and professionals
MedlinePlus encyclopedia entries on NSCLC
Cancer Research UK information for patients about all aspects of lung cancer, including treatment with TKIs
Wikipedia pages on lung cancer, EGFR, and gefitinib (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit)
PMCID: PMC1876407  PMID: 17455987
2.  Racial or ethnic differences in allele frequencies of single‐nucleotide polymorphisms in the methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase gene and their influence on response to methotrexate in rheumatoid arthritis 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  2006;65(9):1213-1218.
The anti‐folate drug methotrexate (MTX) is commonly used to treat rheumatoid arthritis.
To determine the allele frequencies of five common coding single‐nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) gene in African‐Americans and Caucasians with rheumatoid arthritis and controls to assess whether there are differences in allele frequencies among these ethnic or racial groups and whether these SNPs differentially affect the efficacy or toxicity of MTX.
Allele frequencies in the 677, 1298 and 3 additional SNPs in the MTHFR coding region in 223 (193 Caucasians and 30 African‐Americans) patients with rheumatoid arthritis who previously participated in one of two prospective clinical trials were characterised, and genotypes were correlated with the efficacy and toxicity of MTX. Another 308 subjects with rheumatoid arthritis who participated in observational studies, one group predominantly Caucasian and the other African‐American, as well as 103 normal controls (53 African‐Americans and 50 Caucasians) were used to characterise allele frequencies of these SNPs and their associated haplotypes.
Significantly different allele frequencies were seen in three of the five SNPs and haplotype frequencies between Caucasians and African‐Americans. Allele frequencies were similar between patients with rheumatoid arthritis and controls of the same racial or ethnic group. Frequencies of the rs4846051C, 677T and 1298C alleles were 0.33, 0.11 and 0.13, respectively, among African‐Americans with rheumatoid arthritis. Among Caucasians with rheumatoid arthritis, these allele frequencies were 0.08 (p<0.001 compared with African‐Americans with rheumatoid arthritis), 0.30 (p = 0.002) and 0.34 (p<0.001), respectively. There was no association between SNP alleles or haplotypes and response to MTX as measured by the mean change in the 28‐joint Disease Activity Score from baseline values. In Caucasians, the 1298 A (major) allele was associated with a significant increase in MTX‐related adverse events characteristic of a recessive genetic effect (odds ratio 15.86, 95% confidence interval 1.51 to 167.01; p = 0.021), confirming previous reports. There was an association between scores of MTX toxicity and the rs4846051 C allele, and haplotypes containing this allele, in African‐Americans, but not in Caucasians.
: These results, although preliminary, highlight racial or ethnic differences in frequencies of common MTHFR SNPs. The MTHFR 1298 A and the rs4846051 C alleles were associated with MTX‐related adverse events in Caucasians and African‐Americans, respectively, but these findings should be replicated in larger studies. The rs4846051 SNP, which is far more common in African‐Americans than in Caucasians, can also be proved to be a useful ancestry informative marker in future studies on genetic admixture.
PMCID: PMC1798268  PMID: 16439441
3.  MicroRNA-3148 Modulates Allelic Expression of Toll-Like Receptor 7 Variant Associated with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(2):e1003336.
We previously reported that the G allele of rs3853839 at 3′untranslated region (UTR) of Toll-like receptor 7 (TLR7) was associated with elevated transcript expression and increased risk for systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) in 9,274 Eastern Asians [P = 6.5×10−10, odds ratio (OR) (95%CI) = 1.27 (1.17–1.36)]. Here, we conducted trans-ancestral fine-mapping in 13,339 subjects including European Americans, African Americans, and Amerindian/Hispanics and confirmed rs3853839 as the only variant within the TLR7-TLR8 region exhibiting consistent and independent association with SLE (Pmeta = 7.5×10−11, OR = 1.24 [1.18–1.34]). The risk G allele was associated with significantly increased levels of TLR7 mRNA and protein in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) and elevated luciferase activity of reporter gene in transfected cells. TLR7 3′UTR sequence bearing the non-risk C allele of rs3853839 matches a predicted binding site of microRNA-3148 (miR-3148), suggesting that this microRNA may regulate TLR7 expression. Indeed, miR-3148 levels were inversely correlated with TLR7 transcript levels in PBMCs from SLE patients and controls (R2 = 0.255, P = 0.001). Overexpression of miR-3148 in HEK-293 cells led to significant dose-dependent decrease in luciferase activity for construct driven by TLR7 3′UTR segment bearing the C allele (P = 0.0003). Compared with the G-allele construct, the C-allele construct showed greater than two-fold reduction of luciferase activity in the presence of miR-3148. Reduced modulation by miR-3148 conferred slower degradation of the risk G-allele containing TLR7 transcripts, resulting in elevated levels of gene products. These data establish rs3853839 of TLR7 as a shared risk variant of SLE in 22,613 subjects of Asian, EA, AA, and Amerindian/Hispanic ancestries (Pmeta = 2.0×10−19, OR = 1.25 [1.20–1.32]), which confers allelic effect on transcript turnover via differential binding to the epigenetic factor miR-3148.
Author Summary
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a debilitating autoimmune disease contributed to by excessive innate immune activation involving toll-like receptors (TLRs, particularly TLR7/8/9) and type I interferon (IFN) signaling pathways. TLR7 responds against RNA–containing nuclear antigens and activates IFN-α pathway, playing a pivotal role in the development of SLE. While a genomic duplication of Tlr7 promotes lupus-like disease in the Y-linked autoimmune accelerator (Yaa) murine model, the lack of common copy number variations at TLR7 in humans led us to identify a functional single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP), rs3853839 at 3′ UTR of the TLR7 gene, associated with SLE susceptibility in Eastern Asians. In this study, we fine-mapped the TLR7-TLR8 region and confirmed rs3853839 exhibiting the strongest association with SLE in European Americans, African Americans, and Amerindian/Hispanics. Individuals carrying the risk G allele of rs3853839 exhibited increased TLR7 expression at the both mRNA and protein level and decreased transcript degradation. MicroRNA-3148 (miR-3148) downregulated the expression of non-risk allele (C) containing transcripts preferentially, suggesting a likely mechanism for increased TLR7 levels in risk-allele carriers. This trans-ancestral mapping provides evidence for the global association with SLE risk at rs3853839, which resides in a microRNA–gene regulatory site affecting TLR7 expression.
PMCID: PMC3585142  PMID: 23468661
4.  An African Ancestry-Specific Allele of CTLA4 Confers Protection against Rheumatoid Arthritis in African Americans 
PLoS Genetics  2009;5(3):e1000424.
Cytotoxic T-lymphocyte associated protein 4 (CTLA4) is a negative regulator of T-cell proliferation. Polymorphisms in CTLA4 have been inconsistently associated with susceptibility to rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in populations of European ancestry but have not been examined in African Americans. The prevalence of RA in most populations of European and Asian ancestry is ∼1.0%; RA is purportedly less common in black Africans, with little known about its prevalence in African Americans. We sought to determine if CTLA4 polymorphisms are associated with RA in African Americans. We performed a 2-stage analysis of 12 haplotype tagging single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) across CTLA4 in a total of 505 African American RA patients and 712 African American controls using Illumina and TaqMan platforms. The minor allele (G) of the rs231778 SNP was 0.054 in RA patients, compared to 0.209 in controls (4.462×10−26, Fisher's exact). The presence of the G allele was associated with a substantially reduced odds ratio (OR) of having RA (AG+GG genotypes vs. AA genotype, OR 0.19, 95% CI: 0.13–0.26, p = 2.4×10−28, Fisher's exact), suggesting a protective effect. This SNP is polymorphic in the African population (minor allele frequency [MAF] 0.09 in the Yoruba population), but is very rare in other groups (MAF = 0.002 in 530 Caucasians genotyped for this study). Markers associated with RA in populations of European ancestry (rs3087243 [+60C/T] and rs231775 [+49A/G]) were not replicated in African Americans. We found no confounding of association for rs231778 after stratifying for the HLA-DRB1 shared epitope, presence of anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide antibody, or degree of admixture from the European population. An African ancestry-specific genetic variant of CTLA4 appears to be associated with protection from RA in African Americans. This finding may explain, in part, the relatively low prevalence of RA in black African populations.
Author Summary
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a systemic autoimmune condition affecting the synovial membranes of diarthrodial joints. The etiology of RA is unclear but is thought to result from an environmental trigger in the context of genetic predisposition. We report that a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) (rs231778) in CTLA4, which encodes a negative regulator of T cell activation, is associated (p = 2.4×10−28) with protection from developing RA among African Americans. rs231778 is only polymorphic in populations of African ancestry. Protective alleles such as this one may contribute to the purported lower prevalence of RA in African Americans. Our finding appears to be independent from confounding by linkage with the HLA-DRB1 shared epitope or by genetic admixture. Furthermore, we did not replicate associations of CTLA4 SNPs with RA or other autoimmune diseases previously reported in Asians and Caucasians, such as rs3087243 (+60C/T) and rs231775 (+49A/G). The associations of different SNPs with RA susceptibility specific to different populations highlight the importance of CTLA4 in the pathogenesis of RA and demonstrate the ethnic-specific genetic background that contributes to its susceptibility.
PMCID: PMC2652071  PMID: 19300490
5.  Association Analysis of the FTO Gene with Obesity in Children of Caucasian and African Ancestry Reveals a Common Tagging SNP 
PLoS ONE  2008;3(3):e1746.
Recently an association was demonstrated between the single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP), rs9939609, within the FTO locus and obesity as a consequence of a genome wide association (GWA) study of type 2 diabetes in adults. We examined the effects of two perfect surrogates for this SNP plus 11 other SNPs at this locus with respect to our childhood obesity cohort, consisting of both Caucasians and African Americans (AA). Utilizing data from our ongoing GWA study in our cohort of 418 Caucasian obese children (BMI≥95th percentile), 2,270 Caucasian controls (BMI<95th percentile), 578 AA obese children and 1,424 AA controls, we investigated the association of the previously reported variation at the FTO locus with the childhood form of this disease in both ethnicities. The minor allele frequencies (MAF) of rs8050136 and rs3751812 (perfect surrogates for rs9939609 i.e. both r2 = 1) in the Caucasian cases were 0.448 and 0.443 respectively while they were 0.391 and 0.386 in Caucasian controls respectively, yielding for both an odds ratio (OR) of 1.27 (95% CI 1.08–1.47; P = 0.0022). Furthermore, the MAFs of rs8050136 and rs3751812 in the AA cases were 0.449 and 0.115 respectively while they were 0.436 and 0.090 in AA controls respectively, yielding an OR of 1.05 (95% CI 0.91–1.21; P = 0.49) and of 1.31 (95% CI 1.050–1.643; P = 0.017) respectively. Investigating all 13 SNPs present on the Illumina HumanHap550 BeadChip in this region of linkage disequilibrium, rs3751812 was the only SNP conferring significant risk in AA. We have therefore replicated and refined the association in an AA cohort and distilled a tag-SNP, rs3751812, which captures the ancestral origin of the actual mutation. As such, variants in the FTO gene confer a similar magnitude of risk of obesity to children as to their adult counterparts and appear to have a global impact.
PMCID: PMC2262153  PMID: 18335027
6.  Variants in the estrogen receptor alpha gene and its mRNA contribute to risk for schizophrenia 
Human Molecular Genetics  2008;17(15):2293-2309.
Estrogen modifies human emotion and cognition and impacts symptoms of schizophrenia. We hypothesized that the variation in the estrogen receptor alpha (ESR1) gene and cortical ESR1 mRNA is associated with schizophrenia. In a small case–control genetic association analysis of postmortem brain tissue, genotype CC (rs2234693) and haplotypes containing the C allele of a single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) in intron1 (PvuII) were more frequent in African American schizophrenics (P = 0.01–0.001). In a follow-up family-based association analysis, we found overtransmission of PvuII allele C and a PvuII C-containing haplotype (P = 0.01–0.03) to African American and Caucasian patients with schizophrenia. Schizophrenics with the ‘at risk’ PvuII genotype had lower ESR1 mRNA levels in the frontal cortex. Eighteen ESR1 splice variants and decreased frequencies of the wild-type ESR1 mRNA were detected in schizophrenia. In one patient, a unique ESR1 transcript with a genomic insert encoding a premature stop codon and a truncated ESR1 protein lacking most of the estrogen binding domain was the only transcript detected. Using a luciferase assay, we found that mRNA encoding a truncated ESR1 significantly attenuates gene expression at estrogen-response elements demonstrating a dominant negative function. An intron 6 SNP [rs2273207(G)] was associated with an ESR1 splice variant missing exon seven. The T allele of another intron 6 SNP was part of a 3′ haplotype less common in schizophrenia [rs2273206(T), rs2273207(G), rs2228480(G)]. Thus, the variation in the ESR1 gene is associated with schizophrenia and the mechanism of this association may involve alternative gene regulation and transcript processing.
PMCID: PMC2465798  PMID: 18424448
7.  A functional haplotype implicated in vulnerability to develop cocaine dependence is associated with reduced PDYN expression in human brain 
Dynorphin peptides and the kappa opioid receptor play important roles in the rewarding properties of cocaine, heroin and alcohol. We tested polymorphisms of the prodynorphin gene (PDYN) for association with cocaine dependence and cocaine/alcohol codependence. We genotyped six SNPs, located in the promoter region, exon 4 coding and 3′ untranslated region (UTR), in 106 Caucasians and 204 African Americans who were cocaine dependent, cocaine/alcohol codependent or controls. In Caucasians, we found point-wise significant associations of 3′UTR SNPs (rs910080, rs910079, and rs2235749) with cocaine dependence and cocaine/alcohol codependence. These SNPs are in high linkage disequilibrium, comprising a haplotype block. The haplotype CCT was significantly experiment-wise associated with cocaine dependence and with combined cocaine dependence and cocaine/alcohol codependence (FDR, q=0.04 and 0.03, respectively). We investigated allele-specific gene expression of PDYN, using SNP rs910079 as a reporter, in postmortem human brains from eight heterozygous subjects, using SNaPshot assay. There was significantly lower expression for C allele (rs910079), with ratios ranging from 0.48 to 0.78, indicating lower expression of the CCT haplotype of PDYN in both the caudate and nucleus accumbens. Analysis of total PDYN expression in 43 postmortem brains also showed significantly lower levels of preprodynorphin mRNA in subjects having the risk CCT haplotype. This study provides evidence that a 3′UTR PDYN haplotype, implicated in vulnerability to develop cocaine addiction and/or cocaine/alcohol codependence, is related to lower mRNA expression of the PDYN gene in human dorsal and ventral striatum.
PMCID: PMC2778041  PMID: 18923396
Addiction & Substance Abuse; Molecular & Cellular Neurobiology; Neurogenetics; Neurochemistry; Cocaine
8.  Genetic and Epigenetic Regulation of the Organic Cation Transporter 3, SLC22A3 
The pharmacogenomics journal  2012;13(2):110-120.
Human organic cation transporter 3 (OCT3, SLC22A3) mediates the uptake of many important endogenous amines and basic drugs in a variety of tissues. OCT3 is identified as one of the important risk loci for prostate cancer and is markedly under-expressed in aggressive prostate cancers. The goal of this study was to identify genetic and epigenetic factors in the promoter region that influence the expression level of OCT3. Haplotypes that contained the common variants, g.-81G>delGA (rs60515630) (minor allele frequency (MAF) 11.5% in African American) and g.-2G>A (rs555754) (MAF>30% in all ethnic groups) showed significant increases in luciferase reporter activities and exhibited stronger transcription factor binding affinity than the haplotypes that contained the major alleles. Consistent with the reporter assays, OCT3 mRNA expression levels were significantly higher in Asian (P<0.001) and Caucasian (P<0.05) liver samples from individuals who were homozygous for g.-2A/A in comparison with those homozygous for the g.-2G/G allele. Studies revealed that the methylation level in the basal promoter region of OCT3 was associated with OCT3 expression level and tumorigenesis capability in various prostate cancer cell lines. The methylation level of the OCT3 promoter was higher in 62% of prostate tumor samples compared with matched normal samples. Our studies demonstrate that genetic polymorphisms in the proximal promoter region of OCT3 alter the transcription rate of the gene and may be associated with altered expression levels of OCT3 in human liver. Aberrant methylation contributes to the reduced expression of OCT3 in prostate cancer.
PMCID: PMC3396779  PMID: 22231567
SLC22A3; Polymorphism; Methylation and Prostate Cancer
9.  Type 2 Diabetes Risk Alleles Demonstrate Extreme Directional Differentiation among Human Populations, Compared to Other Diseases 
PLoS Genetics  2012;8(4):e1002621.
Many disease-susceptible SNPs exhibit significant disparity in ancestral and derived allele frequencies across worldwide populations. While previous studies have examined population differentiation of alleles at specific SNPs, global ethnic patterns of ensembles of disease risk alleles across human diseases are unexamined. To examine these patterns, we manually curated ethnic disease association data from 5,065 papers on human genetic studies representing 1,495 diseases, recording the precise risk alleles and their measured population frequencies and estimated effect sizes. We systematically compared the population frequencies of cross-ethnic risk alleles for each disease across 1,397 individuals from 11 HapMap populations, 1,064 individuals from 53 HGDP populations, and 49 individuals with whole-genome sequences from 10 populations. Type 2 diabetes (T2D) demonstrated extreme directional differentiation of risk allele frequencies across human populations, compared with null distributions of European-frequency matched control genomic alleles and risk alleles for other diseases. Most T2D risk alleles share a consistent pattern of decreasing frequencies along human migration into East Asia. Furthermore, we show that these patterns contribute to disparities in predicted genetic risk across 1,397 HapMap individuals, T2D genetic risk being consistently higher for individuals in the African populations and lower in the Asian populations, irrespective of the ethnicity considered in the initial discovery of risk alleles. We observed a similar pattern in the distribution of T2D Genetic Risk Scores, which are associated with an increased risk of developing diabetes in the Diabetes Prevention Program cohort, for the same individuals. This disparity may be attributable to the promotion of energy storage and usage appropriate to environments and inconsistent energy intake. Our results indicate that the differential frequencies of T2D risk alleles may contribute to the observed disparity in T2D incidence rates across ethnic populations.
Author Summary
We identified 12 risk alleles that had been validated to increase the risk of type 2 diabetes (T2D) in five or more different subpopulations. These risk alleles share a consistent pattern of decreasing frequencies in the human genomes from Sub-Saharan Africa and through Europe to East Asia regions. These differential frequencies are statistically significant, compared with European frequency-matched control genomic alleles and risk alleles for other diseases. The differential frequencies of T2D risk alleles further caused the significant differentiation of genetic risks of T2D, with higher risk in the African and lower risk in the Asian populations. The differences might be caused by the promotion of energy storage and usage appropriate to environments and inconsistent energy intake. Future evolutionary and environmental analysis of this unique pattern may provide further insight on the origin of T2D and modern disparities in T2D incidence.
PMCID: PMC3325177  PMID: 22511877
10.  Promoter polymorphism -119C/G in MYG1 (C12orf10) gene is related to vitiligo susceptibility and Arg4Gln affects mitochondrial entrance of Myg1 
BMC Medical Genetics  2010;11:56.
MYG1 (Melanocyte proliferating gene 1, also C12orf10 in human) is a ubiquitous nucleo-mitochondrial protein, involved in early developmental processes and in adult stress/illness conditions. We recently showed that MYG1 mRNA expression is elevated in the skin of vitiligo patients. Our aim was to examine nine known polymorphisms in the MYG1 gene, to investigate their functionality, and to study their association with vitiligo susceptibility.
Nine single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the MYG1 locus were investigated by SNPlex assay and/or sequencing in vitiligo patients (n = 124) and controls (n = 325). MYG1 expression in skin biopsies was detected by quantitative-real time PCR (Q-RT-PCR) and polymorphisms were further analysed using luciferase and YFP reporters in the cell culture.
Control subjects with -119G promoter allele (rs1465073) exhibited significantly higher MYG1 mRNA levels than controls with -119C allele (P = 0.01). Higher activity of -119G promoter was confirmed by luciferase assay. Single marker association analysis showed that the -119G allele was more frequent in vitiligo patients (47.1%) compared to controls (39.3%, P < 0.05, OR 1.37, 95%CI 1.02-1.85). Analysis based on the stage of progression of the vitiligo revealed that the increased frequency of -119G allele occurred prevalently in the group of patients with active vitiligo (n = 86) compared to the control group (48.2% versus 39.3%, P < 0.05; OR 1.44, 95%CI 1.02-2.03). Additionally, we showed that glutamine in the fourth position (in Arg4Gln polymorphism) completely eliminated mitochondrial entrance of YFP-tagged Myg1 protein in cell culture. The analysis of available EST, cDNA and genomic DNA sequences revealed that Myg1 4Gln allele is remarkably present in human populations but is never detected in homozygous state according to the HapMap database.
Our study demonstrated that both MYG1 promoter polymorphism -119C/G and Arg4Gln polymorphism in the mitochondrial signal of Myg1 have a functional impact on the regulation of the MYG1 gene and promoter polymorphism (-119C/G) is related with suspectibility for actively progressing vitiligo.
PMCID: PMC2856544  PMID: 20377893
11.  Ischemic stroke risk, smoking, and the genetics of inflammation in a biracial population: the stroke prevention in young women study 
Thrombosis Journal  2008;6:11.
Although cigarette smoking is a well-established risk factor for vascular disease, the genetic mechanisms that link cigarette smoking to an increased incidence of stroke are not well understood. Genetic variations within the genes of the inflammatory pathways are thought to partially mediate this risk. Here we evaluate the association of several inflammatory gene single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) with ischemic stroke risk among young women, further stratified by current cigarette smoking status.
A population-based case-control study of stroke among women aged 15–49 identified 224 cases of first ischemic stroke (47.3% African-American) and 211 age-comparable control subjects (43.1% African-American). Several inflammatory candidate gene SNPs chosen through literature review were genotyped in the study population and assessed for association with stroke and interaction with smoking status.
Of the 8 SNPs (across 6 genes) analyzed, only IL6 SNP rs2069832 (allele C, African-American frequency = 92%, Caucasian frequency = 55%) was found to be significantly associated with stroke using an additive model, and this was only among African-Americans (age-adjusted: OR = 2.2, 95% CI = 1.0–5.0, p = 0.049; risk factor adjusted: OR = 2.5, 95% CI = 1.0–6.5, p = 0.05). When stratified by smoking status, two SNPs demonstrated statistically significant gene-environment interactions. First, the T allele (frequency = 5%) of IL6 SNP rs2069830 was found to be protective among non-smokers (OR = 0.30, 95% CI = 0.11–.082, p = 0.02), but not among smokers (OR = 1.63, 95% CI = 0.48–5.58, p = 0.43); genotype by smoking interaction (p = 0.036). Second, the C allele (frequency = 39%) of CD14 SNP rs2569190 was found to increase risk among smokers (OR = 2.05, 95% CI = 1.09–3.86, p = 0.03), but not among non-smokers (OR = 0.93, 95% CI = 0.62–1.39, p = 0.72); genotype by smoking interaction (p = 0.039).
This study demonstrates that inflammatory gene SNPs are associated with early-onset ischemic stroke among African-American women (IL6) and that cigarette smoking may modulate stroke risk through a gene-environment interaction (IL6 and CD14). Our finding replicates a prior study showing an interaction with smoking and the C allele of CD14 SNP rs2569190.
PMCID: PMC2533289  PMID: 18727828
12.  Intronic Polymorphisms Affecting Alternative Splicing of Human Dopamine D2 Receptor Are Associated with Cocaine Abuse 
Neuropsychopharmacology  2010;36(4):753-762.
The dopamine receptor D2 (encoded by DRD2) is implicated in susceptibility to mental disorders and cocaine abuse, but mechanisms responsible for this relationship remain uncertain. DRD2 mRNA exists in two main splice isoforms with distinct functions: D2 long (D2L) and D2 short (D2S, lacking exon 6), expressed mainly postsynaptically and presynaptically, respectively. Two intronic single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs rs2283265 (intron 5) and rs1076560 (intron 6)) in high linkage disequilibrium (LD) with each other have been reported to alter D2S/D2L splicing and several behavioral traits in human subjects, such as memory processing. To assess the role of DRD2 variants in cocaine abuse, we measured levels of D2S and D2L mRNA in human brain autopsy tissues (prefrontal cortex and putamen) obtained from cocaine abusers and controls, and genotyped a panel of DRD2 SNPs (119 abusers and 95 controls). Robust effects of rs2283265 and rs1076560 on reducing formation of D2S relative to D2L were confirmed. The minor alleles of rs2283265/rs1076560 were considerably more frequent in Caucasians (18%) compared with African Americans (7%). Also, in Caucasians, rs2283265/rs1076560 minor alleles were significantly overrepresented in cocaine abusers compared with controls (rs2283265: 25 to 9%, respectively; p=0.001; OR=3.4 (1.7–7.1)). Several SNPs previously implicated in diverse clinical association studies are in high LD with rs2283265/rs1076560 and could have served as surrogate markers. Our results confirm the role of rs2283265/rs1076560 in D2 alternative splicing and support a strong role in susceptibility to cocaine abuse.
PMCID: PMC3055737  PMID: 21150907
alternative splicing; cocaine; dopamine; DRD2; D2S; human; addiction and substance abuse; dopamine; neurogenetics; psychostimulants; drd2; d2s; human; alternative splicing; cocaine
13.  Characterization of a functional polymorphism in the 3’UTR of SLC6A4 and its association with drinking intensity 
The propensity for severe drinking is hypothesized to be regulated by differential expression of serotonin transporter gene (SLC6A4) in the human brain. The SLC6A4 promoter region 5-HTTLPR has been examined previously as a candidate polymorphic variant associated with severe drinking. In this study, we investigated whether other SLC6A4 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) are associated with drinking intensity among treatment-seeking alcoholics and whether these polymorphic variants result in differential SLC6A4 expression levels.
We analyzed associations of drinking intensity in 275 (78.5% male) treatment-seeking alcoholics of Caucasian and Hispanic origin, with 6 SLC6A4 polymorphisms. Next, to examine the functionality of the SNP that showed a significant association with drinking intensity, we transfected the two alleles of rs1042173 into HeLa cell cultures and measured serotonin transporter mRNA and protein expression levels by using qRT-PCR and western blotting techniques.
One of the 6 polymorphisms we examined, rs1042173 in the 3’ untranslated region (3’-UTR) of SLC6A4, showed a significant association with drinking intensity. The G allele carriers for rs1042173 were associated with significantly lower drinking intensity (P=0.0034) compared to T allele homozygotes. In HeLa cell cultures, the cells transfected with G allele showed a significantly higher mRNA and protein levels than the T allele-transfected cells.
These findings suggest that the allelic variations of rs1042173 affect drinking intensity in alcoholics possibly by altering serotonin transporter expression levels. This provides additional support to the hypothesis that SLC6A4 polymorphisms play an important role in regulating propensity for severe drinking.
PMCID: PMC2657929  PMID: 19032574
SLC6A4 3’-UTR; rs1042173; intensity of drinking; gene expression
14.  Promoter Polymorphisms in ACE (Angiotensin I–Converting Enzyme) Associated With Clinical Outcomes in Hypertension 
Genetic variants of ACE are suspected risk factors in cardiovascular disease, but the alleles responsible for the variations remain unidentified. To search for regulatory polymorphisms, allelic angiotensin I–converting enzyme (ACE) mRNA expression was measured in 65 heart tissues, followed by genotype scanning of the ACE locus. Marked allelic expression imbalance (AEI) detected in five African-American subjects was associated with single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) (rs7213516, rs7214530, and rs4290) residing in conserved regions 2−3 kb upstream of ACE. Moreover, each of the SNPs affected transcription in reporter gene assays. SNPs rs4290 and rs7213516 were tested for associations with adverse cardiovascular outcomes in hypertensive patients with coronary disease (International Verapamil SR Trandolapril Study Genetic Substudy (INVEST-GENES), n = 1,032). Both SNPs were associated with adverse cardiovascular outcomes, largely attributable to nonfatal myocardial infarction in African Americans, showing an odds ratio of 6.16 (2.43−15.60) (P < 0.0001) for rs7213516. The high allele frequency in African Americans (16%) compared to Hispanics (4%) and Caucasians (<1%) suggests that these alleles contribute to variation between populations in cardiovascular risk and treatment outcomes.
PMCID: PMC2709290  PMID: 18946466
15.  Frequencies of single nucleotide polymorphisms in genes regulating inflammatory responses in a community-based population 
BMC Genetics  2007;8:7.
Allele frequencies reported from public databases or articles are mostly based on small sample sizes. Differences in genotype frequencies by age, race and sex have implications for studies designed to examine genetic susceptibility to disease.
In a community-based cohort of 9,960 individuals, we compared the allele frequencies of 49 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) of genes involved in inflammatory pathways to the frequencies reported on public databases, and examined the genotypes frequencies by age and sex. The genes in which SNPs were analyzed include CCR2, CCR5, COX1, COX2, CRP, CSF1, CSF2, IFNG, IL1A, IL1B, IL2, IL4, IL6, IL8, IL10, IL13, IL18, LTA, MPO, NOS2A, NOS3, PPARD, PPARG, PPARGC1 and TNF.
Mean(SD) age was 53.2(15.5); 98% were Caucasians and 62% were women. Only 1 out of 33 SNPs differed from the SNP500Cancer database in allele frequency by >10% in Caucasians (n = 9,831), whereas 12 SNPs differed by >10% (up to 50%) in African Americans (n = 105). Two out of 15 SNPs differed from the dbSNP database in allele frequencies by >10% in Caucasians, and 5 out of 15 SNPs differed by >10% in African Americans. Age was similar across most genotype groups. Genotype frequencies did not differ by sex except for TNF(rs1799724), IL2(rs2069762), IL10(rs1800890), PPARG(rs1801282), and CRP(rs1800947) with differences of less than 4%.
When estimating the size of samples needed for a study, particularly if a reference sample is used, one should take into consideration the size and ethnicity of the reference sample. Larger sample size is needed for public databases that report allele frequencies in non-Caucasian populations.
PMCID: PMC1838428  PMID: 17355643
16.  Regulatory polymorphisms in CYP2C19 affecting hepatic expression 
Cytochrome P450 2C19 is responsible for the metabolism of many drugs, including the activation of clopidogrel. The allele CYP2C19*17 is associated with ultra-rapid metabolizer phenotypes by increasing gene transcription. This study tests to what extent CYP2C19*17 enhances CYP2C19 expression in human liver and whether additional regulatory variants contribute to variation in CYP2C19 expression.
CYP2C19 mRNA was measured with quantitative real-time PCR (qRT-PCR), enzyme activity as metabolic velocity with S-mephenytoin as the substrate and allelic mRNA expression ratio with SNaPshot in human livers. CYP2C19 transcribed exons and a 4kb promoter region were sequenced using IonTorrent PGM or Sanger sequencing and screened for polymorphisms associated with total hepatic CYP2C19 mRNA, enzyme activity and allelic mRNA ratios.
Livers heterozygote and homozygous for CYP2C19*17 had mRNA levels 1.8-fold (p=0.028) and 2.9- fold (p=0.006), respectively, above homozygous reference allele livers. CYP2C19*17 heterozygotes were also associated with increased allelic mRNA expression (allelic ratio ~1.8-fold, SD±0.6, p<0.005), whereas CYP2C19 enzyme activity was elevated 2.3-fold, with borderline significance (p=0.06) in CYP2C19*17 carriers. One liver sample of African ancestry displayed a 2-fold allelic expression ratio, and another sample, a ~12-fold increase in metabolic velocity. Neither case was accounted for by *17, which indicates the presence of additional regulatory variants.
Our findings confirm *17 as a regulatory polymorphism enhancing hepatic CYP2C19 expression 2-fold with potential to compensate for the loss of function allele CYP2C19*2. Additional regulatory factors may also enhance CYP2C19 expression in African American populations.
PMCID: PMC3755489  PMID: 23412869
CYP2C19; clopidogrel; allelic expression imbalance; polymorphism; biomarker; cytochrome P450
17.  Association of Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs) in CCR6, TAGAP and TNFAIP3 with Rheumatoid Arthritis in African Americans 
Arthritis and Rheumatism  2012;64(5):1355-1358.
We previously reported an analysis of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in three validated European rheumatoid arthritis (RA) susceptibility loci, TAGAP, TNFAIP3, and CCR6 in African-Americans with RA. Unexpectedly, the disease-associated alleles were different in African-Americans than in Europeans. In an effort to better define their contribution, we performed additional SNP genotyping in these genes.
Seven SNPs were genotyped in 446 African Americans with RA and 733 African American controls. Differences in minor allele frequency between cases and controls were analyzed after controlling for global proportion of European admixture, and pairwise linkage disequilibrium (LD) was estimated among the SNPs.
Three SNPs were significantly associated with RA: TNFAIP3 rs719149 A allele (OR (95% CI) 1.22 (1.03–1.44) (p =0.02); TAGAP rs1738074 G allele OR 0.75 (0.63–0.89), (p =0.0012); and TAGAP rs4709267 G allele 0.74 (0.60–0.91), (p =0.004). Pairwise LD between the TAGAP SNPs was low (R2=0.034). The haplotype containing minor alleles for both TAGAP SNPs was uncommon (4.5%). After conditional analysis on each TAGAP SNP, its counterpart remained significantly associated with RA (rs1738074 for rs4709267 p=0.00001; rs4709267 for rs1738074 p=0.00005), suggesting independent effects.
SNPs in regulatory regions of TAGAP and an intronic SNP (TNFAIP3) are potential susceptibility loci in African Americans. Pairwise LD, haplotype analysis, and SNP conditioning analysis suggest that these two SNPs in TAGAP are independent susceptibility alleles. Additional fine mapping of this gene and functional genomic studies of these SNPs should provide additional insight into the role of these genes in RA.
PMCID: PMC3299842  PMID: 22127930
18.  Genetic Regulation of α-Synuclein mRNA Expression in Various Human Brain Tissues 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(10):e7480.
Genetic variability across the SNCA locus has been repeatedly associated with susceptibility to sporadic Parkinson's disease (PD). Accumulated evidence emphasizes the importance of SNCA dosage and expression levels in PD pathogenesis. However whether genetic variability in the SNCA gene modulates the risk to develop sporadic PD via regulation of SNCA expression remained elusive. We studied the effect of PD risk-associated variants at SNCA 5′ and 3′regions on SNCA-mRNA levels in vivo in 228 human brain samples from three structures differentially vulnerable to PD pathology (substantia-nigra, temporal- and frontal-cortex) obtained from 144 neurologically normal cadavers. The extensively characterized PD-associated promoter polymorphism, Rep1, had an effect on SNCA-mRNA levels. Homozygous genotype of the ‘protective’, Rep1-259 bp allele, was associated with lower levels of SNCA-mRNA relative to individuals that carried at least one copy of the PD-risk associated alleles, amounting to an average decrease of ∼40% and >50% in temporal-cortex and substantia-nigra, respectively. Furthermore, SNPs tagging the SNCA 3′-untranslated-region also showed effects on SNCA-mRNA levels in both the temporal-cortex and the substantia-nigra, although, in contrast to Rep1, the ‘decreased-risk’ alleles were correlated with increased SNCA-mRNA levels. Similar to Rep1 findings, no difference in SNCA-mRNA level was seen with different SNCA 3′SNP alleles in the frontal-cortex, indicating there is brain-region specificity of the genetic regulation of SNCA expression. We provide evidence for functional consequences of PD-associated SNCA gene variants in disease relevant brain tissues, suggesting that genetic regulation of SNCA expression plays an important role in the development of the disease.
PMCID: PMC2759540  PMID: 19834617
19.  Linkage Disequilibrium between Two High-Frequency Deletion Polymorphisms: Implications for Association Studies Involving the glutathione-S transferase (GST) Genes 
PLoS Genetics  2009;5(5):e1000472.
Copy number variations (CNVs) represent a large source of genetic variation in humans and have been increasingly studied for disease association. A deletion polymorphism of the gene encoding the cytosolic detoxification enzyme glutathione S-transferase theta 1 (GSTT1) has been extensively studied for cancer susceptibility (919 studies, from HuGE navigator, However, clear conclusions have not been reached. Since the GSTT1 gene is located within a genomic region of segmental duplications (SD), there may be a confounding effect from another, yet-uncharacterized CNV at the same locus. Here we describe a previously uncharacterized 38-kilo-base (kb) long deletion polymorphism of GSTT2B located within a 61-kb DNA inverted repeat. GSTT2B is a duplicated copy of GSTT2, the only paralogue of GSTT1 in humans. A newly developed PCR assay revealed that a microhomology-mediated breakpoint appears to be shared among individuals at high frequency. The GSTT2B deletion polymorphism was in strong linkage disequilibrium (LD) (D′ = 0.841) with the neighboring GSTT1 deletion polymorphism in the Caucasian population. Alleles harboring a single deletion were significantly overrepresented (p = 2.22×10−16), suggesting a selection against alleles with both deletions. The deletion alleles are almost certainly the derived ones, because the GSTT2B-GSTT2-GSTT1 genes were strictly retained in chimpanzees. Extremely low GSTT2 mRNA expression was associated with the GSTT2B deletion, suggesting an influence of the deletion on the flanking region and loss of GSTT2 function. Genome-wide LD analysis between deletion polymorphisms further points to the uniqueness of two deletions, because strong LD between deletion polymorphisms might be very rare in humans. These results show a complex genomic organization and unexpected biological functions of CNVs within segmental duplications and emphasize the importance of detailed structural characterization for disease association studies.
Author Summary
Common diseases such as cancer are caused by interactions between multiple genetic and environmental factors. Glutathione S-transferases (GST) are key enzymes in eliminating carcinogens and harmful macromolecules from cells. Based on the assumption that individuals who do not have a particular type of GST genes are susceptible to cancers, a number of studies have been conducted to find a link between GST genotypes and cancer. However such associations remain inconclusive to date. Because GST genes are clustered in repetitive, complex regions in the genome, other previously uncharacterized variations/polymorphisms may have had an impact on the data. We describe here such a genotype, a 37-kb deletion of GSTT2B gene that is found very frequently among humans. The neighboring GSTT2 gene expression is greatly impaired by the GSTT2B deletion, conferring a potentially null allele at GSTT2. The GSTT2B deletion is non-randomly associated with another high frequency deletion of the GSTT1 gene. Therefore, a detailed characterization of this complex region of the genome revealed unexpected genetic and biological interactions of large deletion polymorphisms; this is essential to consider in future disease association studies.
PMCID: PMC2672168  PMID: 19424424
20.  Genome-wide Ancestry Association Testing Identifies a Common European Variant on 6q14.1 as a Risk Factor for Asthma in African Americans 
Genetic variants that contribute to asthma susceptibility may be present at varying frequencies in different populations, which is an important consideration and advantage for performing genetic association studies in admixed populations.
To identify asthma-associated loci in African Americans.
We compared local African and European ancestry estimated from dense single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) genotype data in African American adults with asthma and non-asthmatic controls. Allelic tests of association were performed within the candidate regions identified, correcting for local European admixture.
We identified a significant ancestry association peak on chromosomes 6q. Allelic tests for association within this region identified a SNP (rs1361549) on 6q14.1 that was associated with asthma exclusively in African Americans with local European admixture (OR=2.2). The risk allele is common in Europe (42% in the HapMap CEU) but absent in West Africa (0% in the HapMap YRI), suggesting the allele is present in African Americans due to recent European admixture. We replicated our findings in Puerto Ricans and similarly found that the signal of association is largely specific to individuals who are heterozygous for African and non-African ancestry at 6q14.1. However, we found no evidence for association in European Americans or in Puerto Ricans in the absence of local African ancestry, suggesting that the association with asthma at rs1361549 is due to an environmental or genetic interaction.
We identified a novel asthma-associated locus that is relevant to admixed populations with African ancestry, and highlight the importance of considering local ancestry in genetic association studies of admixed populations.
PMCID: PMC3503456  PMID: 22607992
asthma; population structure; genome-wide association study; admixture mapping; ancestry association testing; admixed populations; African Americans; Puerto Ricans
21.  Reduced Neutrophil Count in People of African Descent Is Due To a Regulatory Variant in the Duffy Antigen Receptor for Chemokines Gene 
PLoS Genetics  2009;5(1):e1000360.
Persistently low white blood cell count (WBC) and neutrophil count is a well-described phenomenon in persons of African ancestry, whose etiology remains unknown. We recently used admixture mapping to identify an approximately 1-megabase region on chromosome 1, where ancestry status (African or European) almost entirely accounted for the difference in WBC between African Americans and European Americans. To identify the specific genetic change responsible for this association, we analyzed genotype and phenotype data from 6,005 African Americans from the Jackson Heart Study (JHS), the Health, Aging and Body Composition (Health ABC) Study, and the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) Study. We demonstrate that the causal variant must be at least 91% different in frequency between West Africans and European Americans. An excellent candidate is the Duffy Null polymorphism (SNP rs2814778 at chromosome 1q23.2), which is the only polymorphism in the region known to be so differentiated in frequency and is already known to protect against Plasmodium vivax malaria. We confirm that rs2814778 is predictive of WBC and neutrophil count in African Americans above beyond the previously described admixture association (P = 3.8×10−5), establishing a novel phenotype for this genetic variant.
Author Summary
Many African Americans have white blood cell counts (WBC) that are persistently below the normal range for people of European descent, a condition called “benign ethnic neutropenia.” Because most African Americans have both African and European ancestors, selected genetic variants can be analyzed to assign probable African or European origin to each region of each such person's chromosomes. Previously, we found a region on chromosome 1 where increased local African ancestry completely accounted for differences in WBC between African and European Americans, suggesting the presence of an African-derived variant causing low WBC. Here, we show that low neutrophil count is predominantly responsible for low WBC; that a dominant, European-derived allele contributes to high neutrophil count; and that the frequency of this allele differs in Africans and Europeans by >91%. Across the chromosome 1 locus, only the well-characterized “Duffy” polymorphism was this differentiated. Neutrophil count was more strongly associated to the Duffy variant than to ancestry, suggesting that the variant itself causes benign ethnic neutropenia. The African, or “null,” form of this variant abolishes expression of the “Duffy Antigen Receptor for Chemokines” on red blood cells, perhaps altering the concentrations and distribution of chemokines that regulate neutrophil production or migration.
PMCID: PMC2628742  PMID: 19180233
22.  DC-SIGN (CD209) gene promoter polymorphisms in a Brazilian population and their association with human T-cell lymphotropic virus type 1 infection 
The Journal of General Virology  2009;90(Pt 4):927-934.
This study evaluated four polymorphisms located in the DC-SIGN (CD209) gene promoter region (positions −336, −332 −201 and −139) in DNA samples from four Brazilian ethnic groups (Caucasians, Afro-Brazilian, Asians and Amerindians) to establish the population distribution of these single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and correlated DC-SIGN polymorphisms and infection in samples from human T-cell lymphotropic virus type 1 (HTLV-1)-infected individuals. To identify CD209 SNPs, 452 bp of the CD209 promoter region were sequenced and the genotype and allelic frequencies were evaluated. This is the first study to show genetic polymorphism in the CD209 gene in distinct Brazilian ethnic groups with the distribution of allelic and genotypic frequency. The results showed that −336A and −139A SNPs were quite common in Asians and that the −201T allele was not observed in Caucasians, Asians or Amerindians. No significant differences were observed between individuals with HTLV-1 disease and asymptomatic patients. However, the −336A variant was more frequent in HTLV-1-infected patients [HTLV-1-associated myelopathy/tropical spastic paraparesis (HAM/TSP), 80 %; healthy asymptomatic HTLV-1 carriers, 90 %] than in the control group (70 %) [P=0.0197, odds ratio (OR)=2.511, 95 % confidence interval (CI)=1.218–5.179). In addition, the −139A allele was found to be associated with protection against HTLV-1 infection (P=0.0037, OR=0.3758, 95 % CI=0.1954–0.7229) when the HTLV-1-infected patients as a whole were compared with the healthy-control group. These observations suggest that the −139A allele may be associated with HTLV-1 infection, although no significant association was observed among asymptomatic and HAM/TSP patients. In conclusion, the variation observed in SNPs −336 and −139 indicates that this lectin may be of crucial importance in the susceptibility/transmission of HTLV-1 infections.
PMCID: PMC2885039  PMID: 19264667
23.  Fine Mapping of Calcineurin (PPP3CA) Gene Reveals Novel Alternative Splicing Patterns, Association of 5′UTR Trinucleotide Repeat With Addiction Vulnerability, and Differential Isoform Expression in Alzheimer's Disease 
Substance use & misuse  2010;45(11):1809-1826.
Fine mapping of calcineurin (PPP3CA) gene identified single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and simple sequence repeat polymorphisms that are associated with addiction vulnerability. A trinucleotide repeat marker, located in the 5′ untranslated region (5′UTR) of the PPP3CA mRNA, exhibited significantly different genotype and allele frequencies between abusers and controls in the NIDA African–American sample. The polymorphism showed allelic-specific expression in mRNA extracted from postmortem brain specimens. Novel alternatively spliced isoforms of PPP3CA were identified and their expressions were found altered in brain regions of postmortem Alzheimer's disease patients. These data underscore the importance of calcineurin gene in the molecular mechanism of addiction and Alzheimer's diseases.
PMCID: PMC3031160  PMID: 20590401
phosphatase; SNP association; gene regulation; alternative splicing
24.  Association Analysis in African Americans of European-Derived Type 2 Diabetes Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms From Whole-Genome Association Studies 
Diabetes  2008;57(8):2220-2225.
OBJECTIVE— Several whole-genome association studies have reported identification of type 2 diabetes susceptibility genes in various European-derived study populations. Little investigation of these loci has been reported in other ethnic groups, specifically African Americans. Striking differences exist between these populations, suggesting they may not share identical genetic risk factors. Our objective was to examine the influence of type 2 diabetes genes identified in whole-genome association studies in a large African American case-control population.
RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS— Single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in 12 loci (e.g., TCF7L2, IDE/KIF11/HHEX, SLC30A8, CDKAL1, PKN2, IGF2BP2, FLJ39370, and EXT2/ALX4) associated with type 2 diabetes in European-derived populations were genotyped in 993 African American type 2 diabetic and 1,054 African American control subjects. Additionally, 68 ancestry-informative markers were genotyped to account for the impact of admixture on association results.
RESULTS— Little evidence of association was observed between SNPs, with the exception of those in TCF7L2, and type 2 diabetes in African Americans. One TCF7L2 SNP (rs7903146) showed compelling evidence of association with type 2 diabetes (admixture-adjusted additive P [Pa] = 1.59 × 10−6). Only the intragenic SNP on 11p12 (rs9300039, dominant P [Pd] = 0.029) was also associated with type 2 diabetes after admixture adjustments. Interestingly, four of the SNPs are monomorphic in the Yoruba population of the HAPMAP project, with only the risk allele from the populations of European descent present.
CONCLUSIONS— Results suggest that these variants do not significantly contribute to interindividual susceptibility to type 2 diabetes in African Americans. Consequently, genes contributing to type 2 diabetes in African Americans may, in part, be different from those in European-derived study populations. High frequency of risk alleles in several of these genes may, however, contribute to the increased prevalence of type 2 diabetes in African Americans.
PMCID: PMC2494685  PMID: 18443202
25.  The discovery of new coding alleles of human CYP26A1 which are potentially defective in the metabolism of all-trans retinoic acid and their assessment in a recombinant cDNA expression system 
Pharmacogenetics and genomics  2007;17(3):169-180.
Retinoic acid (RA) is a critical regulator of gene expression during embryonic development and in the maintenance of adult epithelial tissues. Genetic polymorphisms of CYP26A1 could cause inter-individual variation in the metabolism of retinoic acid, thus altering signaling during embryonic development. A total of 13 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) were identified in CYP26A1 in 92 racially diverse individuals (24 Caucasians, 24 African-Americans, 24 Asians and 20 individuals of unknown racial origin). Three of the 13 SNPS produced coding changes: R173S, F186L and C358R. These alleles were termed CYP26A1*2, CYP26A1*3, and CYP26A1*4, respectively, by the Human Cytochrome P450 (CYP) Allele Nomenclature Committee at cDNA constructs for wild-type and mutant alleles of CYP26A1 were constructed in a pcDNA3.1 expression vector containing a FLAG tag at the C-terminal end, which was used to identify and quantitate the CYP26A1 allelic proteins when expressed in COS-1 cells. Wild type CYP26A1 protein metabolized all-trans-retinoic acid (at-RA) to 4-oxo-RA, 4-OH-RA and 18-OH-RA as well as water-soluble metabolites. CYP26A1.3 (F186L) and CYP26A1.4 (C358R) allelic proteins exhibited significantly lower metabolism (40-80%) of at-RA than wild-type CYP26A1.1 protein. This study identifies two CYP26A1 coding alleles, CYP26A1*3 and CYP26A1*4, which are predicted to be defective in retinoic acid metabolism based on the metabolism of at-RA by the recombinant proteins. This is the first study to identify coding alleles of CYP26A1. The in vitro characterization of the recombinant allelic proteins suggests the need for future clinical studies of genotype/phenotype relationships of CYP26A1 in embryonic development.
PMCID: PMC2393551  PMID: 17460545
P450; CYP26A1; retinoic acid; polymorphisms; retinoic acid metabolism

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