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1.  Cognitive Flexibility is Associated with KIBRA Variant and Modulated by Recent Tobacco Use 
The kidney and brain expressed protein gene (KIBRA) and the calsyntenin 2 gene (CLSTN2) are reportedly involved in synaptic plasticity. Single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) rs17070145 (KIBRA) and rs6439886 (CLSTN2) have been found to affect memory performance measures. This study examined the association of KIBRA SNP rs17070145 and CLSTN2 SNPs rs6439886 and rs17348572 (a nonsynonymous variant) with cognitive flexibility in 674 African Americans (AAs; 526 current smokers) and 419 European Americans (EAs; 318 current smokers). The subjects’ cognitive flexibility was assessed using the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test. The effects on cognitive flexibility of sex, age, education, and tobacco recency (a possible mediator of gene effects in smokers), the three SNPs, and the interaction of each SNP with tobacco recency were analyzed using multivariate analysis of variance. In AAs, there were no main or interaction effects of the SNPs on cognitive flexibility. In EAs, the two CLSTN2 SNPs showed no main effect on cognitive flexibility. However, among EAs, individuals with the KIBRA rs17070145 T allele made significantly more perseverative responses (P=0.002) and perseverative errors (P=0.002) than those with no T allele. Furthermore, among EAs with the rs17070145 T allele, current smokers made significantly fewer perseverative responses (P<0.001) and perseverative errors (P<0.001) than past smokers. Nongenetic factors (age, education, and tobacco recency) had substantial effects on cognitive flexibility in both AAs and EAs. We conclude that variation in KIBRA influences cognitive flexibility in a population-specific way, and that current smoking status moderates this effect.
PMCID: PMC2898508  PMID: 19606085
KIBRA; CLSTN2; cognitive flexibility; Wisconsin Card Sorting Test; single nucleotide polymorphism; SNP × tobacco recency
2.  Evidence for an association between KIBRA and late-onset Alzheimer’s disease 
Neurobiology of aging  2008;31(6):901-909.
We recently reported evidence for an association between the individual variation in normal human episodic memory and a common variant of the KIBRA gene, KIBRA rs17070145 (T-allele). Since memory impairment is a cardinal clinical feature of Alzheimer’s disease (AD), we investigated the possibility of an association between the KIBRA gene and AD using data from neuronal gene expression, brain imaging studies, and genetic association tests. KIBRA was significantly over-expressed and 3 of its 4 known binding partners under-expressed in AD-affected hippocampal, posterior cingulate and temporal cortex regions (p<0.010, corrected) in a study of laser capture microdissected neurons. Using positron emission tomography in a cohort of cognitively normal, late-middle-aged persons genotyped for KIBRA rs17070145, KIBRA T non-carriers exhibited lower glucose metabolism than did carriers in posterior cingulate and precuneus brain regions (P<0.001, uncorrected). Lastly, non-carriers of the KIBRA rs17070145 T-allele had increased risk of late-onset AD in an association study of 702 neuropathologically verified expired subjects (p=0.034; OR=1.29) and in a combined analysis of 1026 additional living and expired subjects (p=0.039; OR=1.26). Our findings suggest that KIBRA is associated with both individual variation in normal episodic memory and predisposition to AD.
PMCID: PMC2913703  PMID: 18789830
genetics; imaging; expression profiling; memory
3.  KIBRA gene polymorphism has no association with verbal or visual episodic memory performance 
Inter-individual variability in memory performance has been suggested to result, in part, from genetic differences in the coding of proteins involved in long-term potentiation (LTP). The present study examined the effect of a single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) in the KIBRA gene (rs17070145) on episodic memory performance, using multiple measures of verbal and visual episodic memory. A total of 256 female and 130 male healthy, older adults (mean age = 60.86 years) were recruited from the Tasmanian Healthy Brain Project (THBP), undergoing both neuropsychological and genetic testing. The current study showed no significant effect of the KIBRA polymorphism on performance on the Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Task, Logical Memory test, Paired Associates Learning test or Rey Complex Figure Task. The results suggest there is little to no functional significance of KIBRA genotype on episodic memory performance, regardless of modality.
PMCID: PMC4189412  PMID: 25339899
KIBRA; WWC1; episodic memory; aging; single-nucleotide polymorphism
4.  Impact of Common KIBRA Allele on Human Cognitive Functions 
Neuropsychopharmacology  2011;36(6):1296-1304.
The rs17070145 polymorphism (C → T substitution, intron 9) of the KIBRA gene has recently been associated with episodic memory and cognitive flexibility. These findings were inconsistent across reports though, and largely lacked gene–gene or gene–environment interactions. The aim of the present study was to determine the impact of the rs17070145 polymorphism on clinically relevant cognitive domains and its interaction with the modifiers ‘lifestyle' and ‘cardiovascular risk factors'. Five-hundred forty-five elderly volunteers (mean age 64 years, ±7 years, 56% women) accomplished a comprehensive cognitive testing. Principal component analysis was used to reveal the internal structure of the data, rendering four composite scores: verbal memory, word fluency, executive function/psychomotor speed, and working memory. Lifestyle was assessed with a detailed questionnaire, age-associated risk factors by clinical interview and examination. There was no main effect of the rs17070145 genotype on any cognitive composite scores. However, we found worse performance in executive functions for T-allele carriers in the presence of arterial hypertension (β=−0.365, p=0.0077 and 0.031 after Bonferroni correction). This association was further modified by gender, showing the strongest association in hypertensive females (β=−0.500, p=0.0072 and 0.029 after Bonferroni correction). The effect of KIBRA on cognitive function seems to be complex and modified by gender and arterial hypertension.
PMCID: PMC3079841  PMID: 21346737
aging; memory; executive functions; vascular risk factors; gender; ecogenetic context; Aging; memory; executive functions; vascular risk factors; gender; ecogenetic context
5.  Common exonic missense variants in the C2 domain of the human KIBRA protein modify lipid binding and cognitive performance 
Translational Psychiatry  2013;3(6):e272-.
The human KIBRA gene has been linked to human cognition through a lead intronic single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP; rs17070145) that is associated with episodic memory performance and the risk to develop Alzheimer's disease. However, it remains unknown how this relates to the function of the KIBRA protein. Here, we identified two common missense SNPs (rs3822660G/T [M734I], rs3822659T/G [S735A]) in exon 15 of the human KIBRA gene to affect cognitive performance, and to be in almost complete linkage disequilibrium with rs17070145. The identified SNPs encode variants of the KIBRA C2 domain with distinct Ca2+ dependent binding preferences for monophosphorylated phosphatidylinositols likely due to differences in the dynamics and folding of the lipid-binding pocket. Our results further implicate the KIBRA protein in higher brain function and provide direction to the cellular pathways involved.
PMCID: PMC3693407  PMID: 23778582
C2 domain; human cognition; KIBRA; membrane binding; phosphatidylinositols
6.  Effects of the KIBRA Single Nucleotide Polymorphism on Synaptic Plasticity and Memory: A Review of the Literature 
Current Neuropharmacology  2014;12(3):281-288.
There has been a great deal of interest recently in genetic effects on neurocognitive performance in the healthy population. KIBRA –a postsynaptic protein from the WWC family of proteins– was identified in 2003 in the human brain and kidney and has recently been associated with memory performance and synaptic plasticity. Through genome-wide screening, a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) was detected in the ninth intron of KIBRA gene (T→ C substitution) and was implicated in human memory and the underlying neuronal circuitry. This review presents a synopsis of the current findings on the effects of the KIBRA SNP on human memory and synaptic plasticity. Overall the findings suggest impaired memory performance and less efficient or impaired hippocampal/medial temporal lobe (MTL) activation in CC homozygotes (in comparison to T carriers) with some differences between young and older subjects. This review also highlights limitations and potential sources for variability of studies’ imaging findings along with future perspectives and implications for the role of KIBRA in memory-related brain systems.
PMCID: PMC4023458  PMID: 24851092
Cognition; episodic memory; fMRI; genetic polymorphism; KIBRA; synaptic plasticity.
7.  Frequent epigenetic inactivation of KIBRA, an upstream member of the Salvador/Warts/Hippo (SWH) tumor suppressor network, is associated with specific genetic event in B-cell acute lymphocytic leukemia 
Epigenetics  2011;6(3):326-332.
The WW-domain containing protein KIBRA has recently been identified as a new member of the Salvador/Warts/Hippo (SWH) pathway in Drosophila and is shown to act as a tumor suppressor gene in Drosophila. This pathway is conserved in humans and members of the pathway have been shown to act as tumor suppressor genes in mammalian systems. We determined the methylation status of the 5′ CpG island associated with the KIBRA gene in human cancers. In a large panel of cancer cell lines representing common epithelial cancers KIBRA was unmethylated. But in pediatric acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) cell lines KIBRA showed frequent hypermethylation and silencing of gene expression, which could be reversed by treatment with 5-aza-2′-deoxycytidine. In ALL patient samples KIBRA was methylated in 70% B-ALL but was methylated in <20% T-ALL leukemia (p = 0.0019). In B-ALL KIBRA methylation was associated with ETV6/RUNX1 [t(12;21) (p13;q22)] chromosomal translocation (p = 0.0082) phenotype, suggesting that KIBRA may play an important role in t(12;21) leukemogenesis. In ALL paired samples at diagnosis and remission KIBRA methylation was seen in diagnostic but not in any of the remission samples accompanied by loss of KIBRA expression in disease state compared to patients in remission. Hence KIBRA methylation occurs frequently in B-cell acute lymphocytic leukemia but not in epithelial cancers and is linked to specific genetic event in B-ALL.
PMCID: PMC3092681  PMID: 21173572
KIBRA; methylation; ALL; SWH pathway; ETV6/RUNX1 translocation
8.  The KIBRA-aPKC connection 
The kidney and brain protein (KIBRA) is a scaffold or an adaptor-like protein with WW, C2-like and atypical protein kinase C (aPKC)-binding domains. Genetic studies in Drosophila revealed that KIBRA is an upstream regulator of the conserved Hippo pathway, which is implicated in organ size determination. In addition, genome-wide studies revealed an association between the single nucleotide polymorphism in the KIBRA gene locus and human episodic memory performance. However, the mechanism of action through which KIBRA is linked to these functions remains poorly understood. Recent studies on the biochemical and cellular properties of KIBRA reveal the role of KIBRA as a regulator of membrane trafficking. Further, KIBRA directly inhibits the activity of the cell polarity regulator, aPKC, which is required for apical protein exocytosis. Here, we discuss how this KIBRA-aPKC connection, a potential regulator of membrane trafficking and cell polarity, can contribute to the recently discovered functions of KIBRA.
PMCID: PMC3376049  PMID: 22808318
atypical PKC; cell polarity; Hippo pathway; KIBRA; membrane trafficking; memory formation
9.  Regulation of AMPA Receptor Function by the Human Memory-Associated Gene KIBRA 
Neuron  2011;71(6):1022-1029.
KIBRA has recently been identified as a gene associated with human memory performance. Despite the elucidation of the role of KIBRA in several diverse processes in non-neuronal cells, the molecular function of KIBRA in neurons is unknown. We found that KIBRA directly binds to the protein interacting with C-kinase 1 (PICK1) and forms a complex with α-amino-3-hydroxyl-5-methyl-4-isoxazole-propionate receptors (AMPARs), the major excitatory neurotransmitter receptors in the brain. KIBRA knockdown accelerates the rate of AMPAR recycling following N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor induced internalization. Genetic deletion of KIBRA in mice impairs both long-term depression and long-term potentiation at hippocampal Schaffer collateral-CA1 synapses. Moreover, KIBRA knockout mice have severe deficits in contextual fear learning and memory. These results indicate that KIBRA regulates higher brain function by regulating AMPAR trafficking and synaptic plasticity.
PMCID: PMC3200575  PMID: 21943600
10.  Kibra Is a Regulator of the Salvador/Warts/Hippo Signaling Network 
Developmental Cell  2010;18(2-3):300-308.
The Salvador (Sav)/Warts (Wts)/Hippo (Hpo) (SWH) network controls tissue growth by inhibiting cell proliferation and promoting apoptosis. The core of the pathway consists of a MST and LATS family kinase cascade that ultimately phosphorylates and inactivates the YAP/Yorkie (Yki) transcription coactivator. The FERM domain proteins Merlin (Mer) and Expanded (Ex) represent one mode of upstream regulation controlling pathway activity. Here, we identify Kibra as a member of the SWH network. Kibra, which colocalizes and associates with Mer and Ex, also promotes the Mer/Ex association. Furthermore, the Kibra/Mer association is conserved in human cells. Finally, Kibra complexes with Wts and kibra depletion in tissue culture cells induces a marked reduction in Yki phosphorylation without affecting the Yki/Wts interaction. We suggest that Kibra is part of an apical scaffold that promotes SWH pathway activity.
► The Salvador/Hippo/Warts network restricts tissue size ► We identify the scaffold protein Kibra as a SWH upstream regulator ► Kibra promotes SWH activity by complexing with multiple pathway members
PMCID: PMC2845807  PMID: 20159599
11.  GABRA2 and KIBRA Genotypes Predict Early Relapse to Substance Use 
Drug and Alcohol Dependence  2011;123(1-3):154-159.
Numerous single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) within different genes have been associated with alcohol and drug involvement or known risk factors for involvement, such as impaired cognitive control. The ability of these SNPs to predict re-involvement, defined here as abstinence failure during treatment, has not been thoroughly tested.
We studied a small sample (n=146; 49% female) of residential substance abuse treatment program patients who had maintained 2–6 months of abstinence. They were followed for 4 months thereafter for the purpose of counting days until the first abstinence violation. The analysis used logistic and Cox regression methods to evaluate the contributions of age; sex; number of intake alcohol, drug use, and depression symptoms; and either GABRA2, CHRM2, ANKK1, BDNF, or KIBRA SNP genotypes to outcome.
GABRA2 and KIBRA genotypes, as well as the number of intake drug abuse problems and a younger age, were associated with an increased risk of relapse. Importantly, these genotypes were found to add value to relapse prediction: the χ2 statistic evaluating their residual contribution, after age and the number of previous drug use problems were entered, was significant.
Genetic analyses may add value to outcome prediction. Future studies should evaluate the sensitivity and specificity of GABRA2 and KIBRA genotypes for this purpose in other racial/ethnic groups and treatment settings.
PMCID: PMC3294190  PMID: 22129841
GABRA2; KIBRA; CHRM2; ANKK1; BDNF; gene; relapse; substance use disorder; treatment outcome
12.  Peripheral Delivery of a ROCK Inhibitor Improves Learning and Working Memory 
Behavioral neuroscience  2009;123(1):218-223.
Previously, utilizing a series of genome-wide association, brain imaging and gene expression studies we implicated the KIBRA gene and the RhoA/ROCK pathway in hippocampal-mediated human memory. Here we show that peripheral administration of the ROCK inhibitor hydroxyfasudil improves spatial learning and working memory in the rodent model. This study supports the action of ROCK on learning and memory, suggests the potential value of ROCK inhibition for the promotion of cognition in humans and highlights the powerful potential of unbiased genome-wide association studies to inform potential novel uses for existing pharmaceuticals.
PMCID: PMC2701389  PMID: 19170447
learning; memory; ROCK; fasudil; aging
13.  Allelic Variation of Calsyntenin 2 (CLSTN2) Modulates the Impact of Developmental Tobacco Smoke Exposure on Mnemonic Processing in Adolescents 
Biological psychiatry  2008;65(8):671-679.
Exposure to nicotine in tobacco smoke during development has been linked to subsequent deficits in attention and memory. The present study tested for evidence that genetic variation may contribute to individual differences in vulnerability to the effects of developmental exposure to tobacco smoke on memory and medial temporal lobe function in adolescents.
Verbal and visuospatial memory were assessed and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data were acquired in 101 adolescents systematically characterized for prenatal and adolescent exposure to tobacco smoke, while they performed an encoding and recognition memory task. The impact of allelic variation at loci within CLSTN2 (encoding synaptic protein calsyntenin 2) and KIBRA, shown previously to modulate early and delayed recall of words, on the dependent measures was examined.
KIBRA genotype did not exert significant main or interacting effects with prenatal or adolescent exposure to tobacco smoke on verbal or visuospatial memory. Previous observations of a beneficial effect of the CLSTN2 C allele on verbal recall were replicated. Adolescent exposure to tobacco smoke reversed this beneficial effect and was associated with increased activation of parahippocampal gyrus during early and delayed recognition in CLTSN2 C allele carriers. While the CLSTN2 C allele conferred enhanced functional connectivity between brain regions subserving accurate verbal recognition, adolescent exposure to tobacco smoke reversed this effect.
These findings extend previous work demonstrating that calsyntenins play an essential role in learning and indicate that this role is modulated both by CLSTN2 genotype and, during adolescent development, by exposure to tobacco smoke.
PMCID: PMC2864130  PMID: 19058786
Adolescent; calsyntenin 2; nicotine; parahippocampal gyrus; prenatal; verbal memory
14.  Genetic variants associated with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis susceptibility and mortality: a genome-wide association study 
The lancet. Respiratory medicine  2013;1(4):309-317.
Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is a devastating disease that probably involves several genetic loci. Several rare genetic variants and one common single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) of MUC5B have been associated with the disease. Our aim was to identify additional common variants associated with susceptibility and ultimately mortality in IPF.
First, we did a three-stage genome-wide association study (GWAS): stage one was a discovery GWAS; and stages two and three were independent case-control studies. DNA samples from European-American patients with IPF meeting standard criteria were obtained from several US centres for each stage. Data for European-American control individuals for stage one were gathered from the database of genotypes and phenotypes; additional control individuals were recruited at the University of Pittsburgh to increase the number. For controls in stages two and three, we gathered data for additional sex-matched European-American control individuals who had been recruited in another study. DNA samples from patients and from control individuals were genotyped to identify SNPs associated with IPF. SNPs identified in stage one were carried forward to stage two, and those that achieved genome-wide significance (p<5 × 10−8) in a meta-analysis were carried forward to stage three. Three case series with follow-up data were selected from stages one and two of the GWAS using samples with follow-up data. Mortality analyses were done in these case series to assess the SNPs associated with IPF that had achieved genome-wide significance in the meta-analysis of stages one and two. Finally, we obtained gene-expression profiling data for lungs of patients with IPF from the Lung Genomics Research Consortium and analysed correlation with SNP genotypes.
In stage one of the GWAS (542 patients with IPF, 542 control individuals matched one-by-one to cases by genetic ancestry estimates), we identified 20 loci. Six SNPs reached genome-wide significance in stage two (544 patients, 687 control individuals): three TOLLIP SNPs (rs111521887, rs5743894, rs5743890) and one MUC5B SNP (rs35705950) at 11p15.5; one MDGA2 SNP (rs7144383) at 14q21.3; and one SPPL2C SNP (rs17690703) at 17q21.31. Stage three (324 patients, 702 control individuals) confirmed the associations for all these SNPs, except for rs7144383. Linkage disequilibrium between the MUC5B SNP (rs35705950) and TOLLIP SNPs (rs111521887 [r2=0.07], rs5743894 [r2=0.16], and rs5743890 [r2=0.01]) was low. 683 patients from the GWAS were included in the mortality analysis. Individuals who developed IPF despite having the protective TOLLIP minor allele of rs5743890 carried an increased mortality risk (meta-analysis with fixed-effect model: hazard ratio 1.72 [95% CI 1.24–2.38]; p=0.0012). TOLLIP expression was decreased by 20% in individuals carrying the minor allele of rs5743890 (p=0.097), 40% in those with the minor allele of rs111521887 (p=3.0 × 10−4), and 50% in those with the minor allele of rs5743894 (p=2.93 × 10−5) compared with homozygous carriers of common alleles for these SNPs.
Novel variants in TOLLIP and SPPL2C are associated with IPF susceptibility. One novel variant of TOLLIP, rs5743890, is also associated with mortality. These associations and the reduced expression of TOLLIP in patients with IPF who carry TOLLIP SNPs emphasise the importance of this gene in the disease.
National Institutes of Health; National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation; Coalition for Pulmonary Fibrosis; and Instituto de Salud Carlos III.
PMCID: PMC3894577  PMID: 24429156
15.  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
16.  An aPKC-Exocyst Complex Controls Paxillin Phosphorylation and Migration through Localised JNK1 Activation 
PLoS Biology  2009;7(11):e1000235.
The exocyst/aPKC complex controls the spatiotemporal activation of the kinases JNK and ERK at the leading edge of migrating cells and thereby controls the dynamic behaviour of the adhesion protein paxillin during cell migration.
Atypical protein kinase C (aPKC) isoforms have been implicated in cell polarisation and migration through association with Cdc42 and Par6. In distinct migratory models, the Exocyst complex has been shown to be involved in secretory events and migration. By RNA interference (RNAi) we show that the polarised delivery of the Exocyst to the leading edge of migrating NRK cells is dependent upon aPKCs. Reciprocally we demonstrate that aPKC localisation at the leading edge is dependent upon the Exocyst. The basis of this inter-dependence derives from two-hybrid, mass spectrometry, and co-immunoprecipitation studies, which demonstrate the existence of an aPKC–Exocyst interaction mediated by Kibra. Using RNAi and small molecule inhibitors, the aPKCs, Kibra, and the Exocyst are shown to be required for NRK cell migration and it is further demonstrated that they are necessary for the localized activation of JNK at the leading edge. The migration associated control of JNK by aPKCs determines JNK phosphorylation of the plasma membrane substrate Paxillin, but not the phosphorylation of the nuclear JNK substrate, c-jun. This plasma membrane localized JNK cascade serves to control the stability of focal adhesion complexes, regulating migration. The study integrates the polarising behaviour of aPKCs with the pro-migratory properties of the Exocyst complex, defining a higher order complex associated with the localised activation of JNK at the leading edge of migrating cells that determines migration rate.
Author Summary
Cell migration is an essential process in multicellular organisms during such events as embryonic development, the immune response, and wound healing. Cell migration is also instrumental in the development of pathologies such as cancer cell invasion of healthy tissues. To make cells move, key molecules must be engaged in a coordinated manner; understanding which molecules, and how and when they work (for example, under physiological versus pathological conditions) will impact on new therapies designed to suppress abnormal migration. Migrating cells must coordinate two key processes: extension of the front or ‘leading’ edge of the cell and retraction of the back edge. Both processes require the turnover of protein assemblies known as focal adhesion complexes. In this paper we show that two different groups of regulators of migration – aPKC, a protein kinase, and exocyst, a complex of proteins also known to be required for exocytosis – interact physically via the scaffold protein kibra. All these components are required for efficient cell migration and all are enriched at the leading edge of moving cells, in a mutually dependent manner. At the leading edge, these components control the local activation of two additional protein kinases, ERK and JNK. The activation of ERK and JNK at the front of migrating cells in turn controls the phosphorylation of paxillin, a component of focal adhesions. Phosphorylation of paxillin is associated with the presence of more dynamic focal adhesions. Our data thus indicate that an aPKC-kibra-exocyst complex plays a crucial role in delivering local stimulatory signals to the leading edge of migrating cells.
PMCID: PMC2762617  PMID: 19885391
17.  Interaction between two independent CNR1 variants increases risk for cocaine dependence in European Americans 
We recently reported that, in a European-American (EA) sample, the interaction between two cannabinoid receptor 1 gene (CNR1) variants significantly increased risk for drug dependence (DD), including cocaine dependence (CD). The present study aimed to investigate directly the association between CNR1 and CD in four independent samples. Eight markers across the 45kb CNR1 region and four large samples, i.e., family-based European-American (EA) sample (n=734), case-control EA sample (n=862), family-based African-American (AA) sample (n=834) and case-control AA sample (n=619) were examined in the present study. We investigated the association of these markers with CD and cocaine-induced paranoia (CIP) in the EA family sample first, and then replicated positive results in the other three samples.
The interaction between two independent CNR1 variants, i.e., the G allele-containing genotypes of rs6454674 (SNP3^G+), and the T/T genotype of rs806368 (SNP8^T/T), significantly increased risk for CD in the EA family (PGEE=0.015) and EA case-control (Pregression=0.003) samples. EA subjects with SNP3^G+ and SNP8^T/T had higher risk to develop CD than those EA subjects with the other genotypes for these two SNPs (LR+=1.4). The SNP3^G-SNP8^T haplotype also showed significant association (P=0.018) with CD in the EA case-control sample. SNP8-containing haplotypes showed significant association with both CD (Pglobal=0.007) and CIP (Pglobal=0.003) in the EA family sample. In the AA family sample, SNP8^T/T significantly confered higher risk for CD (P=0.019).
We conclude that wo independent CNR1 variants have significant interaction effects on risk for CD in EAs; they may also have effects on risk for CD in AAs.
PMCID: PMC2879626  PMID: 19052543
Interaction; CNR1; cocaine dependence; cocaine induced paranoia
18.  KIBRA: A New Gateway to Learning and Memory? 
The genetic locus encoding KIBRA, a member of the WWC family of proteins, has recently been shown to be associated with human memory performance through genome-wide single nucleotide polymorphism screening. Gene expression analysis and a variety of functional studies have further indicated that such a role is biologically plausible for KIBRA. Here, we review the existing literature, illustrate connections between the different lines of evidence, and derive models based on KIBRA's function(s) in the brain that can be further tested experimentally.
PMCID: PMC2874402  PMID: 20552044
cognition; memory; hippocampus; genome-wide association study (GWAS); Alzheimer's disease; cognitive impairment; PKCζ
Archives of neurology  2010;68(1):51-57.
Insulin resistance is a causal factor in pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes (T2D), and also increases the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Reductions in cerebral glucose metabolic rate (CMRglu) as measured by fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography (FDG PET) in parietotemporal, frontal, and cingulate cortex are also associated with increased AD risk, and can be observed years before dementia onset.
We examined whether greater insulin resistance as indexed by the homeostasis model assessment (HOMA-IR) would be associated with reduced resting CMRglu in areas known to be vulnerable in AD in a sample of cognitively normal adults with newly diagnosed pre-diabetes or T2D (P-D/T2D). We also determined whether P-D/T2D adults have abnormal patterns of CMRglu during a memory encoding task.
Randomized crossover design of resting and activation [F-18] FDG-PET.
University Imaging Center and VA Clinical Research Unit.
Participants included 23 older adults (mean age±SEM=74.4±1.4) with no prior diagnosis of or treatment for diabetes, but who met American Diabetes Association glycemic criteria for pre-diabetes (n=11) or diabetes (n=12) based on fasting or 2-h oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) glucose values, and 6 adults (mean age±SEM=74.3±2.8) with normal fasting glucose and glucose tolerance. No participant met Petersen criteria for mild cognitive impairment (MCI).
Fasting participants rested with eyes open in a dimly lit room and underwent resting and cognitive activation [F-18]FDG PET imaging on separate days, in randomized order, at 9 am. Following a 30-min transmission scan, subjects received an intravenous injection of 5 mCi [F-18]FDG, and the emission scan commenced 40 min post-injection. In the activation condition, a 35-min memory encoding task was initiated at the time of tracer injection. Subjects were instructed to remember a repeating list of 20 words that were randomly presented in series through earphones. Delayed free recall for items on the word list was assessed once the emission scan was complete.
Main Outcome Measures
HOMA-IR was calculated for each participant using fasting glucose and insulin values obtained during OGTT screening, and then correlated with CMRglu values obtained during the resting scan. Resting CMRglu values were also subtracted from CMRglu values obtained during the memory encoding/activation scan to examine task-related patterns of CMRglu.
Greater insulin resistance as indexed by HOMA-IR was associated with an AD-like pattern of reduced CMRglu in frontal, temporal-parietal, and cingulate regions in adults with P-D/T2D. The relationship between CMRglu and HOMA-IR was independent of age, 2-h OGTT glucose concentration, or apolipoprotein E-ε4 allele carriage. During the memory encoding task, normal adults showed activation in right anterior and inferior prefrontal cortex, right inferior temporal cortex, and medial and posterior cingulate regions. Compared to the normal group, adults with P-D/T2D showed a different pattern during the memory encoding task, characterized by more diffuse and extensive activation, and recalled fewer items on the delayed memory test.
Our results suggest that insulin resistance may be a marker of AD risk that is associated with reduced CMRglu and subtle cognitive impairments at the earliest stage of disease, even before the onset of MCI.
PMCID: PMC3023149  PMID: 20837822
Alzheimer’s disease; FDG PET; insulin; insulin resistance; diabetes; pre-diabetes; memory
20.  Epistatic interaction of genetic depression risk variants in the human subgenual cingulate cortex during memory encoding 
Translational Psychiatry  2014;4(3):e372-.
Recent genome-wide association studies have pointed to single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in genes encoding the neuronal calcium channel CaV1.2 (CACNA1C; rs1006737) and the presynaptic active zone protein Piccolo (PCLO; rs2522833) as risk factors for affective disorders, particularly major depression. Previous neuroimaging studies of depression-related endophenotypes have highlighted the role of the subgenual cingulate cortex (CG25) in negative mood and depressive psychopathology. Here, we aimed to assess how recently associated PCLO and CACNA1C depression risk alleles jointly affect memory-related CG25 activity as an intermediate phenotype in clinically healthy humans. To investigate the combined effects of rs1006737 and rs2522833 on the CG25 response, we conducted three functional magnetic resonance imaging studies of episodic memory formation in three independent cohorts (N=79, 300, 113). An epistatic interaction of PCLO and CACNA1C risk alleles in CG25 during memory encoding was observed in all groups, with carriers of no risk allele and of both risk alleles showing higher CG25 activation during encoding when compared with carriers of only one risk allele. Moreover, PCLO risk allele carriers showed lower memory performance and reduced encoding-related hippocampal activation. In summary, our results point to region-specific epistatic effects of PCLO and CACNA1C risk variants in CG25, potentially related to episodic memory. Our data further suggest that genetic risk factors on the SNP level do not necessarily have additive effects but may show complex interactions. Such epistatic interactions might contribute to the ‘missing heritability' of complex phenotypes.
PMCID: PMC3966038  PMID: 24643163
CACNA1C; epistatisis; imaging genetics; memory; Piccolo; subgenual cingulate
21.  MHC region and risk of systemic lupus erythematosus in African-American women 
Human genetics  2011;130(6):807-815.
The major histocompatibility complex (MHC) on chromosome 6p21 is a key contributor to the genetic basis of systemic lupus erythemathosus (SLE). Although SLE affects African Americans disproportionately compared to European Americans, there has been no comprehensive analysis of the MHC region in relationship to SLE in African Americans. We conducted a screening of the MHC region for 1,536 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and the deletion of the C4A gene in a SLE case-control study (380 cases, 765 age-matched controls) nested within the prospective Black Women’s Health Study. We also genotyped 1,509 ancestral informative markers throughout the genome to estimate European ancestry in order to control for population stratification due to population admixture. The most strongly associated SNP with SLE was the rs9271366 (odds ratio, OR = 1.70, p = 5.6×10−5) near the HLA-DRB1 gene. Conditional haplotype analysis revealed three other SNPs, rs204890 (OR = 1.86, p = 1.2×10−4), rs2071349 (OR = 1.53, p = 1.0×10−3), and rs2844580 (OR = 1.43, p = 1.3×10−3) to be associated with SLE independent of the rs9271366 SNP. In univariate analysis, the OR for the C4A deletion was 1.38, p = 0.075, but after simultaneous adjustment for the other four SNPs the odds ratio was 1.01, p = 0.98. A genotype score combining the four newly identified SNPs showed an additive risk according to the number of high-risk alleles (OR = 1.67 per high-risk allele, p< 0.0001). Our strongest signal, the rs9271366 SNP, was also associated with higher risk of SLE in a previous Chinese genome-wide association study (GWAS). In addition, two SNPs found in a GWAS of European ancestry women were confirmed in our study, indicating that African Americans share some genetic risk factors for SLE with European and Chinese subjects. In summary, we found four independent signals in the MHC region associated with risk of SLE in African American women.
PMCID: PMC3215804  PMID: 21695597
systemic lupus erythemathosus; African Americans; major histocompatibility complex; single nucleotide polymorphisms
22.  lgl Regulates the Hippo Pathway Independently of Fat/Dachs, Kibra/Expanded/Merlin and dRASSF/dSTRIPAK 
Cancers  2014;6(2):879-896.
In both Drosophila and mammalian systems, the Hippo (Hpo) signalling pathway controls tissue growth by inhibiting cell proliferation and promoting apoptosis. The core pathway consists of a protein kinase Hpo (MST1/2 in mammals) that is regulated by a number of upstream inputs including Drosophila Ras Association Factor, dRASSF. We have previously shown in the developing Drosophila eye epithelium that loss of the apico-basal cell polarity regulator lethal-(2)-giant-larvae (lgl), and the concomitant increase in aPKC activity, results in ectopic proliferation and suppression of developmental cell death by blocking Hpo pathway signalling. Here, we further explore how Lgl/aPKC interacts with the Hpo pathway. Deregulation of the Hpo pathway by Lgl depletion is associated with the mislocalization of Hpo and dRASSF. We demonstrate that Lgl/aPKC regulate the Hpo pathway independently of upstream inputs from Fat/Dachs and the Kibra/Expanded/Merlin complex. We show depletion of Lgl also results in accumulation and mislocalization of components of the dSTRIPAK complex, a major phosphatase complex that directly binds to dRASSF and represses Hpo activity. However, depleting dSTRIPAK components, or removal of dRASSF did not rescue the lgl−/− or aPKC overexpression phenotypes. Thus, Lgl/aPKC regulate Hpo activity by a novel mechanism, independently of dRASSF and dSTRIPAK. Surprisingly, removal of dRASSF in tissue with increased aPKC activity results in mild tissue overgrowth, indicating that in this context dRASSF acts as a tumor suppressor. This effect was independent of the Hpo and Ras Mitogen Activated Protein Kinase (MAPK) pathways, suggesting that dRASSF regulates a novel pathway to control tissue growth.
PMCID: PMC4074808  PMID: 24743776
tumor suppressor; cell polarity; Drosophila; Lgl; aPKC; dRASSF; Hpo; Ras; dSTRIPAK complex
23.  Association of polymorphisms in the klotho gene with severity of non-diabetic ESRD in African Americans 
Nephrology Dialysis Transplantation  2010;25(10):3348-3355.
Background. Non-diabetic forms of nephropathy commonly lead to end-stage renal disease (non-DM ESRD). Previous studies have demonstrated that African Americans are more susceptible to non-DM ESRD compared to other ethnic groups, and this risk has a strong genetic component. A genome-wide scan for ESRD in African American families enriched for non-DM ESRD showed evidence for linkage in chromosome 13q33.3, and a candidate gene in this region, klotho, was selected for a detailed analysis in a follow-up case-control association study.
Methods. Thirty-four single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the klotho gene were genotyped in 317 unrelated African American non-DM ESRD cases and 354 non-nephropathy controls, including 12 SNPs identified by re-sequencing a region around exon 4.
Results. Two SNPs demonstrated modest admixture-adjusted evidence of association with non-DM ESRD, rs650439 (P = 0.013, recessive model) and rs643780 (P = 0.017, recessive model), while rs17643698 approached significance (P = 0.0953, two degrees of freedom test). Eight of the most significant SNPs were tested for replication in a second case-control collection (557 African American non-DM ESRD cases and 187 controls), and there was no evidence of association in replicate cases and controls; nor when the samples were combined for a total of 874 non-DM cases and 541 controls. Cox proportional hazards models were computed to test for association between polymorphisms in klotho and age at onset of ESRD. A three-SNP haplotype, rs526906, rs525014 and rs571118 (T/T/A), was associated with age of onset of ESRD [P = 0.007, recessive model; hazard ratio (HR) = 0.70]. Subjects homozygous for this haplotype had a mean 4 years later onset of ESRD, suggesting a slower disease progression. HapMap subjects homozygous for this haplotype had increased expression of klotho, further supporting a protective role of this variant in ESRD.
Conclusion. We conclude that three SNPs in intron 1 of the klotho gene are associated with delayed age at onset of non-DM ESRD in African Americans.
PMCID: PMC2948839  PMID: 20466664
genetics; klotho; non-diabetic ESRD
24.  Genome-Wide Association Studies of the PR Interval in African Americans 
PLoS Genetics  2011;7(2):e1001304.
The PR interval on the electrocardiogram reflects atrial and atrioventricular nodal conduction time. The PR interval is heritable, provides important information about arrhythmia risk, and has been suggested to differ among human races. Genome-wide association (GWA) studies have identified common genetic determinants of the PR interval in individuals of European and Asian ancestry, but there is a general paucity of GWA studies in individuals of African ancestry. We performed GWA studies in African American individuals from four cohorts (n = 6,247) to identify genetic variants associated with PR interval duration. Genotyping was performed using the Affymetrix 6.0 microarray. Imputation was performed for 2.8 million single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) using combined YRI and CEU HapMap phase II panels. We observed a strong signal (rs3922844) within the gene encoding the cardiac sodium channel (SCN5A) with genome-wide significant association (p<2.5×10−8) in two of the four cohorts and in the meta-analysis. The signal explained 2% of PR interval variability in African Americans (beta  = 5.1 msec per minor allele, 95% CI  = 4.1–6.1, p = 3×10−23). This SNP was also associated with PR interval (beta = 2.4 msec per minor allele, 95% CI = 1.8–3.0, p = 3×10−16) in individuals of European ancestry (n = 14,042), but with a smaller effect size (p for heterogeneity <0.001) and variability explained (0.5%). Further meta-analysis of the four cohorts identified genome-wide significant associations with SNPs in SCN10A (rs6798015), MEIS1 (rs10865355), and TBX5 (rs7312625) that were highly correlated with SNPs identified in European and Asian GWA studies. African ancestry was associated with increased PR duration (13.3 msec, p = 0.009) in one but not the other three cohorts. Our findings demonstrate the relevance of common variants to African Americans at four loci previously associated with PR interval in European and Asian samples and identify an association signal at one of these loci that is more strongly associated with PR interval in African Americans than in Europeans.
Author Summary
We performed genome-wide association studies in African American participants from four population-based cohorts to identify genetic variation that correlates with variation in PR interval duration, an electrocardiographic measure of conduction through the atria and atrioventricular node. We observed a strong signal within the gene encoding the cardiac sodium channel, SCN5A, with genome-wide significant association (p<2.5×10−8) in two cohorts and in a meta-analysis of four cohorts with African Americans. We replicated this association in two additional cohorts of African Americans and in Europeans (p = 3×10−16). The signal explains 2% of PR duration variability in African Americans and 0.5% in Europeans. In further meta-analysis, we observed genome-wide significant associations for single nucleotide polymorphisms in SCN10A, MEIS1, TBX5, corresponding to signals observed in people of European and Asian descent. We found an association of genetic ancestry and PR interval in one but not the other three cohorts. Our findings provide the first demonstration of the relevance of these loci to individuals of African ancestry and identify an association signal from SCN5A that is more strongly associated with PR interval in African Americans.
PMCID: PMC3037415  PMID: 21347284
25.  Genome-Wide Association Study of Coronary Heart Disease and Its Risk Factors in 8,090 African Americans: The NHLBI CARe Project 
PLoS Genetics  2011;7(2):e1001300.
Coronary heart disease (CHD) is the leading cause of mortality in African Americans. To identify common genetic polymorphisms associated with CHD and its risk factors (LDL- and HDL-cholesterol (LDL-C and HDL-C), hypertension, smoking, and type-2 diabetes) in individuals of African ancestry, we performed a genome-wide association study (GWAS) in 8,090 African Americans from five population-based cohorts. We replicated 17 loci previously associated with CHD or its risk factors in Caucasians. For five of these regions (CHD: CDKN2A/CDKN2B; HDL-C: FADS1-3, PLTP, LPL, and ABCA1), we could leverage the distinct linkage disequilibrium (LD) patterns in African Americans to identify DNA polymorphisms more strongly associated with the phenotypes than the previously reported index SNPs found in Caucasian populations. We also developed a new approach for association testing in admixed populations that uses allelic and local ancestry variation. Using this method, we discovered several loci that would have been missed using the basic allelic and global ancestry information only. Our conclusions suggest that no major loci uniquely explain the high prevalence of CHD in African Americans. Our project has developed resources and methods that address both admixture- and SNP-association to maximize power for genetic discovery in even larger African-American consortia.
Author Summary
To date, most large-scale genome-wide association studies (GWAS) carried out to identify risk factors for complex human diseases and traits have focused on population of European ancestry. It is currently unknown whether the same loci associated with complex diseases and traits in Caucasians will replicate in population of African ancestry. Here, we conducted a large GWAS to identify common DNA polymorphisms associated with coronary heart disease (CHD) and its risk factors (type-2 diabetes, hypertension, smoking status, and LDL- and HDL-cholesterol) in 8,090 African Americans as part of the NHLBI Candidate gene Association Resource (CARe) Project. We replicated 17 associations previously reported in Caucasians, suggesting that the same loci carry common DNA sequence variants associated with CHD and its risk factors in Caucasians and African Americans. At five of these 17 loci, we used the different patterns of linkage disequilibrium between populations of European and African ancestry to identify DNA sequence variants more strongly associated with phenotypes than the index SNPs found in Caucasians, suggesting smaller genomic intervals to search for causal alleles. We also used the CARe data to develop new statistical methods to perform association studies in admixed populations. The CARe Project data represent an extraordinary resource to expand our understanding of the genetics of complex diseases and traits in non-European-derived populations.
PMCID: PMC3037413  PMID: 21347282

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