Variations in sortilin-related receptor (SORL1) expression and function have been implicated in Alzheimers Disease (AD). Here, to gain insights into SORL1, we evaluated SORL1 expression and splicing as a function of AD and AD neuropathology, neural gene expression and a candidate single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP).
To identify SORL1 splice variants, we scanned each of the 46 internal SORL1 exons in human brain RNA samples and readily found SORL1 isoforms that lack exon 2 or exon 19. Quantification in a case-control series of the more abundant isoform lacking exon 2 (delta-2-SORL1), as well as the "full-length" SORL1 (FL-SORL1) isoform containing exon 2 showed that expression of FL-SORL1 was reduced in AD individuals. Moreover, FL-SORL1 was reduced in cognitively intact individuals with significant AD-like neuropathology. In contrast, the expression of the delta-2-SORL1 isoform was similar in AD and non-AD brains. The expression of FL-SORL1 was significantly associated with synaptophysin expression while delta-2-SORL1 was modestly enriched in white matter. Lastly, FL-SORL1 expression was associated with rs661057, a SORL1 intron one SNP that has been associated with AD risk. A linear regression analysis found that rs661057, synaptophysin expression and AD neuropathology were each associated with FL-SORL1 expression.
These results confirm that FL-SORL1 expression declines in AD and with AD-associated neuropathology, suggest that FL-SORL1 declines in cognitively-intact individuals with AD-associated neuropathology, identify a novel SORL1 splice variant that is expressed similarly in AD and non-AD individuals, and provide evidence that an AD-associated SNP is associated with SORL1 expression. Overall, these results contribute to our understanding of SORL1 expression in the human brain.
Sorting mechanisms that cause the amyloid precursor protein (APP) and the β-secretases and γ-secretases to colocalize in the same compartment play an important role in the regulation of Aβ production in Alzheimer’s disease (AD). We and others have reported that genetic variants in the Sortilin-related receptor (SORL1) increased the risk of AD, that SORL1 is involved in trafficking of APP, and that under expression of SORL1 leads to overproduction of Aβ. Here we explored the role of one of its homologs, the sortilin-related VPS10 domain containing receptor 1 (SORCS1), in AD.
We analyzed the genetic associations between AD and 16 SORCS1–single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in 6 independent data sets (2,809 cases and 3,482 controls). In addition, we compared SorCS1 expression levels of affected and unaffected brain regions in AD and control brains in microarray gene expression and real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) sets, explored the effects of significant SORCS1-SNPs on SorCS1 brain expression levels, and explored the effect of suppression and overexpression of the common SorCS1 isoforms on APP processing and Aβ generation.
Inherited variants in SORCS1 were associated with AD in all datasets (0.001 < p < 0.049). In addition, SorCS1 influenced APP processing. While overexpression of SorCS1 reduced γ-secretase activity and Aβ levels, the suppression of SorCS1 increased γ-secretase processing of APP and the levels of Aβ.
These data suggest that inherited or acquired changes in SORCS1 expression or function may play a role in the pathogenesis of AD.
Recent studies indicate that two clusters of single nucleotide polymorphisms in the neuronal sortilin-related receptor gene (SORL1) are causally associated with late-onset Alzheimer's disease (AD). At the cellular level, SORL1 is thought to be involved in intracellular trafficking of amyloid precursor protein. When this gene is suppressed, toxic amyloid β production is increased, and high levels of amyloid β are associated with a higher AD risk. Extending the cellular findings, gene expression studies show that SORL1 is differentially expressed in AD patients compared with controls. Furthermore, several genetic studies have identified allelic and haplotypic SORL1 variants associated with late-onset AD, and these variants confer small to modest risk of AD. Taken together, the evidence for SORL1 as a causative gene is compelling. However, putative variants have not yet been identified. Further research is necessary to determine its utility as a diagnostic marker of AD or as a target for new therapeutic approaches.
The gene encoding the dopamine transporter (DAT) has been implicated in CNS disorders, but the responsible polymorphisms remain uncertain. To search for regulatory polymorphisms, we measured allelic DAT mRNA expression in substantia nigra of human autopsy brain tissues, using two marker SNPs (rs6347 in exon 9 and rs27072 in the 3′-UTR). Allelic mRNA expression imbalance (AEI), an indicator of cis-acting regulatory polymorphisms, was observed in all tissues heterozygous for either of the two marker SNPs. SNP scanning of the DAT locus with AEI ratios as the phenotype, followed by in vitro molecular genetics studies, demonstrated that rs27072 C>T affects mRNA expression and translation. Expression of the minor T allele was dynamically regulated in transfected cell cultures, possibly involving microRNA interactions. Both rs6347 and rs3836790 (intron8 5/6 VNTR) also seemed to affect DAT expression, but not the commonly tested 9/10 VNTR in the 3′UTR (rs28363170). All four polymorphisms (rs6347, intron8 5/6 VNTR, rs27072 and 3′UTR 9/10 VNTR) were genotyped in clinical cohorts, representing schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, and controls. Only rs27072 was significantly associated with bipolar disorder (OR=2.1, p=0.03). This result was replicated in a second bipolar/control population (OR=1.65, p=0.01), supporting a critical role for DAT regulation in bipolar disorder.
dopamine transporter; bipolar disorder; allelic expression imbalance; SLC6A3; rs27072; Dopamine; Depression; Unipolar/Bipolar; Pharmacogenetics/Pharmacogenomics; Neurogenetics; Allelic expression imbalance; Dopamine transporter; SLC6A3
Genetic variation in mRNA expression plays a critical role in human phenotypic diversity, but it has proven difficult to detect regulatory polymorphisms - mostly single nucleotide polymorphisms (rSNPs). Additionally, variants in the transcribed region, termed here ‘structural RNA SNPs’ (srSNPs), can affect mRNA processing and turnover. Both rSNPs and srSNPs cause allelic mRNA expression imbalance (AEI) in heterozygous individuals. We have applied a rapid and accurate AEI methodology for testing 42 genes implicated in human diseases and drug response, specifically cardiovascular and CNS diseases, and affecting drug metabolism and transport. Each gene was analyzed in physiologically relevant human autopsy tissues, including brain, heart, liver, intestines, and lymphocytes. Substantial AEI was observed in ∼55% of the surveyed genes. Focusing on cardiovascular candidate genes in human hearts, AEI analysis revealed frequent cis-acting regulatory factors in SOD2 and ACE mRNA expression, having potential clinical significance. SNP scanning to locate regulatory polymorphisms in a number of genes failed to support several previously proposed promoter SNPs discovered with use of reporter gene assays in heterologous tissues, while srSNPs appear more frequent than expected. Computational analysis of mRNA folding indicates that ∼90% of srSNPs affects mRNA folding, and hence potentially function. Our results indicate that both rSNPs and srSNPs represent a still largely untapped reservoir of variants that contribute to human phenotypic diversity.
The recycling of the amyloid precursor protein (APP) from the cell surface via the endocytic pathways plays a key role in the generation of amyloid β-peptide (Aβ) in Alzheimer’s Disease (AD). We report here that inherited variants in the SORL1 neuronal sorting receptor are associated with late-onset AD. These variants, which occur in at least two different clusters of intronic sequences may regulate tissue-specific expression of SORL1. We also show that SORL1 directs trafficking of APP into recycling pathways, and that when SORL1 is under-expressed, APP is sorted into Aβ-generating compartments. These data suggest that inherited or acquired changes in SORL1 expression or function are mechanistically involved in causing AD.
Recent reports have suggested that variants in the sortilin-related receptor gene (SORL1) increase the risk of late onset Alzheimer's disease (AD) in Northern European, Hispanic, African-American and Isreali-Arab populations. SORL1 directs trafficking of amyloid precursor protein (APP) and under-expression of SORL1 may lead to over-expression of β amyloid peptides. Adults with Down syndrome (DS) over-express APP and have early onset and high risk for AD. We investigated the relation of seven variants in the gene for SORL1 to age at onset and risk for AD among 208 adults with DS, 45–70 years of age at baseline. Participants were ascertained through the New York State developmental disability service system and followed at 18-month intervals. Information from cognitive assessments, caregiver interviews, medical record review and neurological examination was used to establish the diagnosis of dementia. Homozygosity for the minor T allele in rs556349 and for the minor C allele in rs536360 was associated with later age at onset and reduced risk of AD (HR= 0.26, 95% CI: 0.08–0.86; and HR= 0.40, 95% CI: 0.16–0.98, respectively). Mean age at onset was approximately four years later in individuals who were homozygous for those alleles compared with those who had at least one major allele. These findings indicate a modest association of variants in SORL1 with AD. In addition, we did not observe the same alleles to be associated with AD compared with earlier studies, suggesting that these SNPs are in linkage disequilibrium (LD) with the putative functional variants or that expression of the SORL1 gene and hence its interaction with APP might be modified by the extremely high levels of APP characteristic of Down syndrome. Thus, further studies are needed to identify functional variants that influence risk for AD in this uniquely vulnerable population.
SORL1; Down syndrome; Alzheimer’s disease
A recent study reported significant association of late-onset Alzheimer's disease (LOAD) with multiple single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and haplotypes in SORL1, a neuronal sortilin-related receptor protein known to be involved in the trafficking and processing of amyloid precursor protein. Here we attempted to validate this finding in three large, well characterized case-control series. Approximately 2,000 samples from the three series were individually genotyped for 12 SNPs, including the 10 reported significant SNPs and 2 that constitute the reported significant haplotypes. A total of 25 allelic and haplotypic association tests were performed. One SNP rs2070045 was marginally replicated in the three sample sets combined (nominal P=0.035), however this result does not remain significant when accounting for multiple comparisons. Further validation in other sample sets will be required to assess the true effects of SORL1 variants in LOAD.
Alzheimer's disease; single nucleotide polymorphism; haplotype; association study; SORL1
To reexamine the association between the neuronal sortilin-related receptor gene (SORL1) and Alzheimer disease (AD).
Comprehensive and unbiased meta-analysis of all published and unpublished data from case-control studies for the SORL1 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) that had been repeatedly assessed across studies.
Academic research institutions in the United States, the Netherlands, Canada, Belgium, the United Kingdom, Singapore, Japan, Sweden, Germany, France, and Italy.
All published white and Asian case-control data sets, which included a total of 12 464 cases and 17 929 controls.
Main Outcome Measures
Alzheimer disease according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (Fourth Edition) and the National Institute of Neurological and Communicative Disorders and Stroke and the Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders Association (now known as the Alzheimer’s Association).
In the white data sets, several markers were associated with AD after correction for multiple testing, including previously reported SNPs 8, 9, and 10 (P<.001). In addition, the C-G-C haplotype at SNPs 8 through 10 was associated with AD risk (P<.001). In the combined Asian data sets, SNPs 19 and 23 through 25 were associated with AD risk (P<.001). The disease-associated alleles at SNPs 8, 9, and 10 (120 873 131-120 886 175 base pairs [bp]; C-G-C alleles), at SNP 19 (120 953 300 bp; G allele), and at SNPs 24 through 25 (120 988 611 bp; T and C alleles) were the same previously reported alleles. The SNPs 4 through 5, 8 through 10, 12, and 19 through 25 belong to distinct linkage disequilibrium blocks. The same alleles at SNPs 8 through 10 (C-G-C), 19 (G), and 24 and 25 (T and C) have also been associated with AD endophenotypes, including white matter hyperintensities and hippocampal atrophy on magnetic resonance imaging, cerebrospinal fluid measures of amyloid β-peptide 42, and full-length SORL1 expression in the human brain.
This comprehensive meta-analysis provides confirmatory evidence that multiple SORL1 variants in distinct linkage disequilibrium blocks are associated with AD.
Variants in 3′ and 5′ regions of SORL1, the neuronal sorting protein-related receptor, were recently found to be associated with late onset familial and sporadic Alzheimer’s disease in several datasets that were selected for familial aggregation or were ethnically diverse or clinic-based selected series.
To investigate the association between Alzheimer’s disease and variant alleles in SORL1 using a series of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in an urban, multiethnic community-based population.
Design & Setting
We used a nested case-control analysis in a population-based, prospective study of aging and dementia in Medicare recipients, 65 years and older, residing in northern Manhattan.
There were 296 patients with probable Alzheimer’s disease and 428 healthy elderly controls. The participants were of African American (34%), Caribbean Hispanic (51%) or non-Hispanic whites (15%).
Main Outcome Measures
We genotyped all 29 SNPs in SORL1 that were examined in the earlier report. We assessed allelic association with AD using standard case-control methods which included APOE genotype as a covariate.
Several individual SNPs and SNP haplotypes were significantly associated with AD in this prospectively collected community-based cohort, confirming the previously reported positive association of SORL1 with Alzheimer’s disease. SNP 12 near the 5′ region was associated with AD in African-Americans and Hispanics. Two SNPs in the 3′ region were also associated with AD in African-Americans (SNP 26) and Whites (SNP 20). A single haplotype in the 3′ region was associated with AD in Hispanics. However, several different haplotypes were associated with AD in the African-Americans and Whites, including the “TTC” haplotypes at SNPs 23–25 (p=0.035) that was significantly associated with AD in the North European Whites in the previous report.
This study confirms the association between genetic variants in SORL1 and AD. While the associations observed in these datasets overlap with those previously reported, the finding of novel SNP and haplotype associations suggest that there may be extensive allelic heterogeneity in SORL1. Broad regions of the SORL1 gene will therefore need to be scrutinized for functional pathogenic variants.
SORL1; Alzheimer’s disease; sporadic; African American; Caribbean Hispanic
Alzheimer's disease (AD) is the leading cause of dementia in the elderly. Because the pathological changes underlying this disease can begin decades prior to the onset of cognitive impairment, identifying the earliest events in the AD pathological cascade has critical implications for both the diagnosis and treatment of this disease. We previously reported that compared to autopsy confirmed healthy control brain, expression of LR11 (or SorLA) is markedly reduced in AD brain as well as in a subset of people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), a prodromal clinical stage of AD. Recent studies of the LR11 gene SORL1 have suggested that the association between SORL1 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and AD risk may not be universal. Therefore, we sought to confirm our earlier findings in a population chosen solely based on clinical criteria, as in most genetic studies. Quantitative immunohistochemistry was used to measure LR11 expression in 43 cases from the Religious Orders Study that were chosen based on a final pre-mortem clinical diagnosis of MCI, mild/moderate AD or no cognitive impairment (NCI). LR11 expression was highly variable in all three diagnostic groups, with no significant group differences. Low LR11 cases were identified using the lowest tertile of LR11 expression observed across all cases as a threshold. Contrary to previous reports, low LR11 expression was found in only 29% of AD cases. A similar proportion of both the MCI and NCI cases also displayed low LR11 expression. AD-associated lesions were present in the majority of cases regardless of diagnostic group, although we found no association between LR11 levels and pathological variables. These findings suggest that the relationship between LR11 expression and the development of AD may be more complicated than originally believed.
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.
Single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in 2 distinct regions of the gene for the sortilin-related receptor (SORL1) (bounded by consecutively numbered SNPs 8−10 and 22−25) were shown to be associated with Alzheimer disease (AD) in multiple ethnically diverse samples.
To test the hypothesis that SORL1 is associated with brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) measurements of atrophy and/or vascular disease.
Design, Setting, and Patients
We evaluated the association of 30 SNPs spanning SORL1 with MRI measures of general cerebral atrophy, hippocampal atrophy, white matter hyperintensities, and overall cerebrovascular disease in 44 African American and 182 white sibships from the MIRAGE Study. We performed single-and 3-SNP haplotype association analyses using family-based tests. Haplotypes found to be significantly associated with at least 1 MRI trait were tested for association with 6 pathological traits in a separate sample of 69 white patients with autopsy-confirmed AD.
In white patients, white matter hyperintensities were associated with multiple markers in the region encompassing SNPs 6 to 10, whereas cerebral and hippocampal atrophy were associated with markers from the region including SNPs 21 to 26. Examination of specific 3-SNP haplotypes from these 2 regions in the autopsy-confirmed cases of AD revealed association of white matter disease with SNPs 8 to 10 and association of hippocampal atrophy with SNPs 22 to 26. The haplotype CGC at SNPs 8 to 10 was associated with fewer white matter changes in the clinical (P<.001) and autopsy (P=.02) samples.
Variants of SORL1 previously associated with AD are also associated with MRI and neuropathological measures of neurodegenerative and cerebrovascular disease. These findings not only support the hypothesis that multiple areas in SORL1 are of functional importance but also raise the possibility that multiple SORL1 variants influence amyloid precursor protein or endothelial lipoprotein processing or both in different regions of the brain.
SorCS1 and SorL1/SorLA/LR11 belong to the sortilin family of vacuolar protein sorting-10 (Vps10) domain-containing proteins. Both are genetically associated with Alzheimer’s disease (AD), and SORL1 expression is decreased in the brains of patients suffering from AD. SORCS1 is also genetically associated with types 1 and 2 diabetes mellitus (T1DM, T2DM). We have undertaken a study of the possible role(s) for SorCS1 in metabolism of the Alzheimer’s amyloid-β peptide (Aβ) and the Aβ precursor protein (APP), to test the hypothesis that Sorcs1-deficiency might be a common genetic risk factor underlying the predisposition to AD that is associated with T2DM. Overexpression of SorCS1Cβ-myc in cultured cells caused a reduction (p=0.002) in Aβ generation. Conversely, endogenous murine Aβ40 and Aβ42 levels were increased (Aβ40, p=0.044; Aβ42, p=0.007) in the brains of female Sorcs1 hypomorphic mice, possibly paralleling the sexual dimorphism that is characteristic of the genetic associations of SORCS1 with AD and DM. Since SorL1 directly interacts with Vps35 to modulate APP metabolism, we investigated the possibility that SorCS1Cβ-myc interacts with APP, SorL1, and/or Vps35. We readily recovered SorCS1:APP, SorCS1:SorL1, and SorCS1:Vps35 complexes from nontransgenic mouse brain. Notably, total Vps35 protein levels were decreased by 49% (p=0.009) and total SorL1 protein levels were decreased by 29% (p=0.003) in the brains of female Sorcs1-hypomorphic mice. From these data, we propose that dysfunction of SorCS1 may contribute to both the APP/Aβ disturbance underlying AD and the insulin/glucose disturbance underlying DM.
AD; T1DM; T2DM; protein trafficking; APP; SorCS1; Vps10 domain; retromer
Cis-acting genetic variations can affect the amount and structure of mRNA/protein. Genomic surveys indicate that polymorphisms affecting transcription and mRNA processing, including splicing and turnover, may account for main share of genetic factors in human phenotypic variability; however, most of these polymorphisms remain yet to be discovered. We use allelic expression imbalance (AEI) as a quantitative phenotype in the search for functionalcis-acting polymorphisms in many genes includingABCB1 (multidrug resistance 1 gene, MDR1, Pgp). Previous studies have shown that ABCB1 activity correlates with a synonymous polymorphism. C3435T; however, the functional polymorphism and molecular mechanisms underlying this clinical association remained unknown. Analysis of allele-specific expression in liver autopsy samples and in vitro expression experiments showed that C3435T represents a main functional polymorphism, accounting for 1.5-to 2-fold changes in mRNA levels. The mechanism appears to involve increased mRNA turnover, probably as a result of different folding structures calculated for mRNA with the Mfold program. Other examples of the successful application of AEI analysis for studying functional polymorphism include5-HTT (serotonin transporter, SLC6A4) andOPRM1 (μ opioid receptor). AEI is therefore a powerful approach for detectingcis-acting polymorphisms affecting gene expression and mRNA processing.
ABCB1; allele-specific expression; mRNA stability; cis-acting polymorphism
The gene encoding the neuronal sortilin-related receptor SORL1 has been claimed to be associated with Alzheimer Disease by independent groups and across various human populations. We evaluated six genetic markers in SORL1 in a sample of 1558 Swedish dementia cases (including 1270 Alzheimer disease cases) and 2179 controls. For both single marker and haplotype-based analyses we found no strong support for SORL1 as a dementia- or AD-risk modifying gene in our sample in isolation, nor did we observe association with AD/dementia-related traits, including CSF β-amyloid1–42, tau levels, or age-at-onset. However, meta-analyses of markers in this study together with previously published studies on SORL1 encompassing in excess of 13,000 individuals does suggest significant association with AD (best OR 1.097; 95% CI 1.038–1.158, p = 0.001). All six markers were significant in meta-analyses and it is notable that they occur in two distinct LD blocks. These data are consistent with either allelic heterogeneity or the existence of as yet untested functional variants and these will be important considerations in further attempts to evaluate the importance of sequence variation in SORL1 with AD risk.
SORL1; Alzheimer; meta-analysis; association; Swedish
Psychotic symptoms occur in approximately 40% of subjects with Alzheimer disease (AD with Psychosis, AD+P) and identify a subgroup with more rapid cognitive decline. We evaluated in 867 AD subjects the association of AD+P with genes which may modify the pathologic process via effects on the accumulation of amyloid beta (Aβ) protein and/or hyperphosphorylated microtubule-associated protein tau (MAPT): amyloid precursor protein (APP), beta-site amyloid precursor protein cleaving enzyme (BACE1), sortilin-related receptor (SORL1), and MAPT. Each gene was thoroughly interrogated with tag SNPs, and gene-based tests were used to enhance power. We found no association of these genes with AD+P.
Alzheimer's disease; psychosis; amyloid precursor protein (APP); beta-site amyloid precursor protein cleaving enzyme (BACE1); sortilin-related receptor (SORL1); microtubule-associated protein tau (MAPT); and Apolipoprotein E e4 (APOE e4)
Several studies [1–3] have reported an association of Alzheimer disease (AD) with polymorphic markers in SORL1. Data from a recently published genome wide association study in AD  have been made publically available. We tested the association of AD with SORL1 in this dataset (TGEN), which included 31 SORL1 SNPs, 8 of which overlapped the original study . Six SNPs, near the 3′ region of SORL1 containing SNPs which were strongly associated with AD in previous studies, showed significant association in the TGEN dataset. These results provide an independent replication of the association between AD and SORL1.
Alzheimer disease; SORL1; association; genome-wide association study
Late-onset Alzheimer’s disease is a common complex disorder of old age. Though these types of disorders can be highly heritable, they differ from single-gene (Mendelian) diseases in that their causes are often multifactorial with both genetic and environmental components. Genetic risk factors that have been firmly implicated in the cause are mutations in the amyloid precursor protein (APP), presenilin 1 (PSEN1) and presenilin 2 (PSEN2) genes, which are found in large multi-generational families with an autosomal dominant pattern of disease inheritance, the apolipoprotein E (APOE)ε4 allele and the sortilin-related receptor (SORL1) gene. Environmental factors that have been associated with late-onset Alzheimer’s disease include depressive illness, various vascular risk factors, level of education, head trauma and estrogen replacement therapy. This complexity may help explain their high prevalence from an evolutionary perspective, but the etiologic complexity makes identification of disease-related genes much more difficult. The “endophenotype” approach is an alternative method for measuring phenotypic variation that may facilitate the identification of susceptibility genes for complexly inherited traits. The usefulness of endophenotypes in genetic analyses of normal brain morphology and, in particular for Alzheimer’s disease will be reviewed as will the implications of these findings for models of disease causation. Given that the pathways from genotypes to end-stage phenotypes are circuitous at best, identifying endophenotypes more proximal to the effects of genetic variation may expedite the attempts to link genetic variants to disorders.
SORL1 is an element of the amyloid precursor protein processing pathway and is therefore a good candidate for affecting Alzheimer’s disease (AD) risk. Indeed, there have been reports of associations between variation in SORL1 and AD risk. We examined six statistically significant single-nucleotide polymorphisms from the initial observation in a large Caucasian American case–controls cohort (1000 late-onset AD [LOAD] cases and 1000 older controls). Analysis of allele, genotype and haplotype frequencies revealed no association with LOAD risk in our cohort.
Alzheimer’s disease; SORL1; genetics
Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified numerous loci associated with various complex traits for which the underlying susceptibility gene(s) remain unknown. In a GWAS for high-density lipoprotein-cholesterol (HDL-C) level, one strongly associated locus contains at least two biologically compelling candidates, methylmalonic aciduria cblB type (MMAB) and mevalonate kinase (MVK). To detect evidence of cis-acting regulation at this locus, we measured relative allelic expression of transcribed SNPs in five genes using human hepatocyte samples heterozygous for the transcribed SNP. If an HDL-C-associated SNP allele differentially regulates mRNA level in cis, samples heterozygous both for a transcribed SNP and an HDL-C-associated SNP should display allelic expression imbalance (AEI) of the transcribed SNP. We designed statistical tests to detect AEI in a comprehensive set of linkage disequilibrium (LD) scenarios between the transcribed SNP and an HDL-C-associated SNP (rs7298565) in phase unknown samples. We observed significant AEI of 22% in MMAB (P = 1.4 × 10−13, transcribed SNP rs11067231), and the allele associated with lower HDL-C level was associated with greater MMAB transcript level. The same rs7298565 allele was also associated with higher MMAB mRNA level (P = 0.0081) and higher MMAB protein level (P = 0.0020). In contrast, MVK, UBE3B, KCTD10 and ACACB did not show significant AEI (P ≥ 0.05). These data suggest MMAB is the most likely gene influencing HDL-C levels at this locus and demonstrate that measuring AEI at loci containing more than one candidate gene can prioritize genes for functional studies.
The p73 protein, a paralogue of the p53 tumor suppressor, is essential for normal development and survival of neurons. TP73 is therefore of interest as a candidate gene for Alzheimer's disease (AD) susceptibility. TP73 mRNA is transcribed from three promoters, termed P1 – P3, and there is evidence for an additional complexity in its regulation, namely, a variable allelic expression bias in some human tissues.
We utilized RT-PCR/RFLP and direct cDNA sequencing to measure allele-specific expression of TP73 mRNA, SNP genotyping to assess genetic associations with AD, and promoter-reporter assays to assess allele-specific TP73 promoter activity.
Using a coding-neutral BanI polymorphism in TP73 exon 5 as an allelic marker, we found a pronounced allelic expression bias in one adult brain hippocampus, while 3 other brains (two adult; one fetal) showed approximately equal expression from both alleles. In a tri-ethnic elderly population of African-Americans, Caribbean Hispanics and Caucasians, a G/A single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) at -386 in the TP73 P3 promoter was weakly but significantly associated with AD (crude O.R. for AD given any -386G allele 1.7; C.I. 1.2–2.5; after adjusting for age and education O.R. 1.5; C.I. 1.1–2.3, N= 1191). The frequency of the -386G allele varied by ethnicity and was highest in African-Americans and lowest in Caucasians. No significant differences in basal P3 promoter activity were detected comparing -386G vs. -386A promoter-luciferase constructs in human SK-NSH-N neuroblastoma cells.
There is a reproducible allelic expression bias in mRNA expression from the TP73 gene in some, though not all, adult human brains, and inter-individual variation in regulatory sequences of the TP73 locus may affect susceptibility to AD. However, additional studies will be necessary to exclude genetic admixture as an alternative explanation for the observed associations.
Common genetic variants that regulate gene expression are widely suspected to contribute to the etiology and phenotypic variability of complex diseases. Although high-throughput, microarray-based assays have been developed to measure differences in mRNA expression among independent samples, these assays often lack the sensitivity to detect rare mRNAs and the reproducibility to quantify small changes in mRNA expression. By contrast, PCR-based allelic expression imbalance (AEI) assays, which use a "marker" single nucleotide polymorphism (mSNP) in the mRNA to distinguish expression from pairs of genetic alleles in individual samples, have high sensitivity and accuracy, allowing differences in mRNA expression greater than 1.2-fold to be quantified with high reproducibility. In this paper, we describe the use of an efficient PCR/next-generation DNA sequencing-based assay to analyze allele-specific differences in mRNA expression for candidate neuropsychiatric disorder genes in human brain.
Using our assay, we successfully analyzed AEI for 70 candidate neuropsychiatric disorder genes in 52 independent human brain samples. Among these genes, 62/70 (89%) showed AEI ratios greater than 1 ± 0.2 in at least one sample and 8/70 (11%) showed no AEI. Arranging log2AEI ratios in increasing order from negative-to-positive values revealed highly reproducible distributions of log2AEI ratios that are distinct for each gene/marker SNP combination. Mathematical modeling suggests that these log2AEI distributions can provide important clues concerning the number, location and contributions of cis-acting regulatory variants to mRNA expression.
We have developed a highly sensitive and reproducible method for quantifying AEI of mRNA expressed in human brain. Importantly, this assay allowed quantification of differential mRNA expression for many candidate disease genes entirely missed in previously published microarray-based studies of mRNA expression in human brain. Given the ability of next-generation sequencing technology to generate large numbers of independent sequencing reads, our method should be suitable for analyzing from 100- to 200-candidate genes in 100 samples in a single experiment. We believe that this is the appropriate scale for investigating variation in mRNA expression for defined sets candidate disorder genes, allowing, for example, comprehensive coverage of genes that function within biological pathways implicated in specific disorders. The combination of AEI measurements and mathematical modeling described in this study can assist in identifying SNPs that correlate with mRNA expression. Alleles of these SNPs (individually or as sets) that accurately predict high- or low-mRNA expression should be useful as markers in genetic association studies aimed at linking candidate genes to specific neuropsychiatric disorders.
CHRNA5, encoding the nicotinic α5 subunit, is implicated in multiple disorders, including nicotine addiction and lung cancer. Previous studies demonstrate significant associations between promoter polymorphisms and CHRNA5 mRNA expression, but the responsible sequence variants remain uncertain. To search for cis-regulatory variants, we measured allele-specific mRNA expression of CHRNA5 in human prefrontal cortex autopsy tissues and scanned the CHRNA5 locus for regulatory variants. A cluster of six frequent single nucleotide polymorphisms (rs1979905, rs1979906, rs1979907, rs880395, rs905740, and rs7164030), in complete linkage disequilibrium, fully account for a >2.5-fold allelic expression difference and a fourfold increase in overall CHRNA5 mRNA expression. This proposed enhancer region resides more than 13 kilobases upstream of the CHRNA5 transcription start site. The same upstream variants failed to affect CHRNA5 mRNA expression in peripheral blood lymphocytes, indicating tissue-specific gene regulation. Other promoter polymorphisms were also correlated with overall CHRNA5 mRNA expression in the brain, but were inconsistent with allelic mRNA expression ratios, a robust and proximate measure of cis-regulatory variants. The enhancer region and the nonsynonymous polymorphism rs16969968 generate three main haplotypes that alter the risk of developing nicotine dependence. Ethnic differences in linkage disequilibrium across the CHRNA5 locus require consideration of the upstream enhancer variants when testing clinical associations.
Nicotinic receptor; alpha5 subunit; gene expression; nicotine dependence; lung cancer; enhancer
CHRNA5, encoding the nicotinic α5 subunit, is implicated in multiple disorders, including nicotine addiction and lung cancer. Previous studies demonstrate significant associations between promoter polymorphisms and CHRNA5 mRNA expression, but the responsible sequence variants remain uncertain. To search for cis-regulatory variants, we measured allele-specific mRNA expression of CHRNA5 in human prefrontal cortex autopsy tissues and scanned the CHRNA5 locus for regulatory variants. A cluster of six frequent single-nucleotide polymorphisms (rs1979905, rs1979906, rs1979907, rs880395, rs905740, and rs7164030), in complete linkage disequilibrium (LD), fully account for a >2.5-fold allelic expression difference and a fourfold increase in overall CHRNA5 mRNA expression. This proposed enhancer region resides more than 13 kilobases upstream of the CHRNA5 transcription start site. The same upstream variants failed to affect CHRNA5 mRNA expression in peripheral blood lymphocytes, indicating tissue-specific gene regulation. Other promoter polymorphisms were also correlated with overall CHRNA5 mRNA expression in the brain, but were inconsistent with allelic mRNA expression ratios, a robust and proximate measure of cis-regulatory variants. The enhancer region and the nonsynonymous polymorphism rs16969968 generate three main haplotypes that alter the risk of developing nicotine dependence. Ethnic differences in LD across the CHRNA5 locus require consideration of upstream enhancer variants when testing clinical associations.
nicotinic receptor; α5 subunit; gene expression; nicotine dependence; lung cancer; enhancer