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1.  Association of UBQLN1 mutation with Brown-Vialetto-Van Laere syndrome but not typical ALS 
Neurobiology of disease  2012;48(3):391-398.
Genetic variants in UBQLN1 gene have been linked to neurodegeneration and mutations in UBQLN2 have recently been identified as a rare cause of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
To test if genetic variants in UBQLN1 are involved in ALS.
102 and 94 unrelated patients with familial and sporadic forms of ALS were screened for UBQLN1 gene mutations. Single nucleotide variants were further screened in a larger set of sporadic ALS (SALS) patients and unrelated control subjects using high-throughput Taqman genotyping; variants were further assessed for novelty using the 1000Genomes and NHLBI databases. In vitro studies tested the effect of UBQLN1 variants on the ubiquitin-proteasome system (UPS).
Only two UBQLN1 coding variants were detected in the familial and sporadic ALS DNA set; one, the missense mutation p.E54D, was identified in a single patient with atypical motor neuron disease consistent with Brown-Vialetto-Van Laere syndrome (BVVLS), for whom c20orf54 mutations had been excluded. Functional studies revealed that UBQLN1E54D protein forms cytosolic aggregates that contain mislocalized TDP-43 and impairs degradation of ubiquitinated proteins through the proteasome.
Genetic variants in UBQLN1 are not commonly associated with ALS. A novel UBQLN1 mutation (E45D) detected in a patient with BVVLS altered nuclear TDP-43 localization in vitro, suggesting that UPS dysfunction may also underlie the pathogenesis of this condition.
PMCID: PMC4245016  PMID: 22766032
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; Drosophila; motor neuron disease; TDP-43; ubiquilins
3.  A Web-based database of genetic association studies in cutaneous melanoma enhanced with network-driven data exploration tools 
The publicly available online database MelGene provides a comprehensive, regularly updated, collection of data from genetic association studies in cutaneous melanoma (CM), including random-effects meta-analysis results of all eligible polymorphisms. The updated database version includes data from 192 publications with information on 1114 significantly associated polymorphisms across 280 genes, along with new front-end and back-end capabilities. Various types of relationships between data are calculated and visualized as networks. We constructed 13 different networks containing the polymorphisms and the genes included in MelGene. We explored the derived network representations under the following questions: (i) are there nodes that deserve consideration regarding their network connectivity characteristics? (ii) What is the relation of either the genome-wide or nominally significant CM polymorphisms/genes with the ones highlighted by the network representation? We show that our network approach using the MelGene data reveals connections between statistically significant genes/ polymorphisms and other genes/polymorphisms acting as ‘hubs’ in the reconstructed networks. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first database containing data from a comprehensive field synopsis and systematic meta-analyses of genetic polymorphisms in CM that provides user-friendly tools for in-depth molecular network visualization and exploration. The proposed network connections highlight potentially new loci requiring further investigation of their relation to melanoma risk.
Database URL:
PMCID: PMC4224266  PMID: 25380778
4.  MANBA, CXCR5, SOX8, RPS6KB1 and ZBTB46 are genetic risk loci for multiple sclerosis 
Brain  2013;136(6):1778-1782.
A recent genome-wide association study reported five loci for which there was strong, but sub-genome-wide significant evidence for association with multiple sclerosis risk. The aim of this study was to evaluate the role of these potential risk loci in a large and independent data set of ∼20 000 subjects. We tested five single nucleotide polymorphisms rs228614 (MANBA), rs630923 (CXCR5), rs2744148 (SOX8), rs180515 (RPS6KB1), and rs6062314 (ZBTB46) for association with multiple sclerosis risk in a total of 8499 cases with multiple sclerosis, 8765 unrelated control subjects and 958 trios of European descent. In addition, we assessed the overall evidence for association by combining these newly generated data with the results from the original genome-wide association study by meta-analysis. All five tested single nucleotide polymorphisms showed consistent and statistically significant evidence for association with multiple sclerosis in our validation data sets (rs228614: odds ratio = 0.91, P = 2.4 × 10−6; rs630923: odds ratio = 0.89, P = 1.2 × 10−4; rs2744148: odds ratio = 1.14, P = 1.8 × 10−6; rs180515: odds ratio = 1.12, P = 5.2 × 10−7; rs6062314: odds ratio = 0.90, P = 4.3 × 10−3). Combining our data with results from the previous genome-wide association study by meta-analysis, the evidence for association was strengthened further, surpassing the threshold for genome-wide significance (P < 5 × 10−8) in each case. Our study provides compelling evidence that these five loci are genuine multiple sclerosis susceptibility loci. These results may eventually lead to a better understanding of the underlying disease pathophysiology.
PMCID: PMC3673463  PMID: 23739915
multiple sclerosis; complex genetics; genetic risk; immunogenetics; genetic association
5.  Genetic Analysis of Quantitative Phenotypes in AD and MCI: Imaging, Cognition and Biomarkers 
Brain imaging and behavior  2014;8(2):183-207.
The Genetics Core of the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI), formally established in 2009, aims to provide resources and facilitate research related to genetic predictors of multidimensional Alzheimer’s disease (AD)-related phenotypes. Here, we provide a systematic review of genetic studies published between 2009 and 2012 where either ADNI APOE genotype or genome-wide association study (GWAS) data were used. We review and synthesize ADNI genetic associations with disease status or quantitative disease endophenotypes including structural and functional neuroimaging, fluid biomarker assays, and cognitive performance. We also discuss the diverse analytical strategies used in these studies, including univariate and multivariate analysis, meta-analysis, pathway analysis, and interaction and network analysis. Finally, we perform pathway and network enrichment analyses of these ADNI genetic associations to highlight key mechanisms that may drive disease onset and trajectory. Major ADNI findings included all the top 10 AD genes and several of these (e.g. APOE, BIN1, CLU, CR1, and PICALM) were corroborated by ADNI imaging, fluid and cognitive phenotypes. ADNI imaging genetics studies discovered novel findings (e.g. FRMD6) that were later replicated on different data sets. Several other genes (e.g. APOC1, FTO, GRIN2B, MAGI2, and TOMM40) were associated with multiple ADNI phenotypes, warranting further investigation on other data sets. The broad availability and wide scope of ADNI genetic and phenotypic data has advanced our understanding of the genetic basis of AD and has nominated novel targets for future studies employing next-generation sequencing and convergent multi-omics approaches, and for clinical drug and biomarker development.
PMCID: PMC3976843  PMID: 24092460
Alzheimer’s disease; genetic association study; quantitative traits; neuroimaging; biomarker; cognition
6.  MicroRNA-138 is a potential regulator of memory performance in humans 
Genetic factors underlie a substantial proportion of individual differences in cognitive functions in humans, including processes related to episodic and working memory. While genetic association studies have proposed several candidate “memory genes,” these currently explain only a minor fraction of the phenotypic variance. Here, we performed genome-wide screening on 13 episodic and working memory phenotypes in 1318 participants of the Berlin Aging Study II aged 60 years or older. The analyses highlight a number of novel single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) associated with memory performance, including one located in a putative regulatory region of microRNA (miRNA) hsa-mir-138-5p (rs9882688, P-value = 7.8 × 10−9). Expression quantitative trait locus analyses on next-generation RNA-sequencing data revealed that rs9882688 genotypes show a significant correlation with the expression levels of this miRNA in 309 human lymphoblastoid cell lines (P-value = 5 × 10−4). In silico modeling of other top-ranking GWAS signals identified an additional memory-associated SNP in the 3′ untranslated region (3′ UTR) of DCP1B, a gene encoding a core component of the mRNA decapping complex in humans, predicted to interfere with hsa-mir-138-5p binding. This prediction was confirmed in vitro by luciferase assays showing differential binding of hsa-mir-138-5p to 3′ UTR reporter constructs in two human cell lines (HEK293: P-value = 0.0470; SH-SY5Y: P-value = 0.0866). Finally, expression profiling of hsa-mir-138-5p and DCP1B mRNA in human post-mortem brain tissue revealed that both molecules are expressed simultaneously in frontal cortex and hippocampus, suggesting that the proposed interaction between hsa-mir-138-5p and DCP1B may also take place in vivo. In summary, by combining unbiased genome-wide screening with extensive in silico modeling, in vitro functional assays, and gene expression profiling, our study identified miRNA-138 as a potential molecular regulator of human memory function.
PMCID: PMC4093940  PMID: 25071529
genome-wide association study; GWAS; working memory; episodic memory; microRNA; hsa-mir-138-5p; DCP1B
7.  Genetic analysis of quantitative phenotypes in AD and MCI: imaging, cognition and biomarkers 
Brain Imaging and Behavior  2013;8(2):183-207.
The Genetics Core of the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI), formally established in 2009, aims to provide resources and facilitate research related to genetic predictors of multidimensional Alzheimer’s disease (AD)-related phenotypes. Here, we provide a systematic review of genetic studies published between 2009 and 2012 where either ADNI APOE genotype or genome-wide association study (GWAS) data were used. We review and synthesize ADNI genetic associations with disease status or quantitative disease endophenotypes including structural and functional neuroimaging, fluid biomarker assays, and cognitive performance. We also discuss the diverse analytical strategies used in these studies, including univariate and multivariate analysis, meta-analysis, pathway analysis, and interaction and network analysis. Finally, we perform pathway and network enrichment analyses of these ADNI genetic associations to highlight key mechanisms that may drive disease onset and trajectory. Major ADNI findings included all the top 10 AD genes and several of these (e.g., APOE, BIN1, CLU, CR1, and PICALM) were corroborated by ADNI imaging, fluid and cognitive phenotypes. ADNI imaging genetics studies discovered novel findings (e.g., FRMD6) that were later replicated on different data sets. Several other genes (e.g., APOC1, FTO, GRIN2B, MAGI2, and TOMM40) were associated with multiple ADNI phenotypes, warranting further investigation on other data sets. The broad availability and wide scope of ADNI genetic and phenotypic data has advanced our understanding of the genetic basis of AD and has nominated novel targets for future studies employing next-generation sequencing and convergent multi-omics approaches, and for clinical drug and biomarker development.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s11682-013-9262-z) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC3976843  PMID: 24092460
Alzheimer’s disease; Genetic association study; Quantitative traits; Neuroimaging; Biomarker; Cognition
9.  Serum Iron Levels and the Risk of Parkinson Disease: A Mendelian Randomization Study 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(6):e1001462.
In this study, Mendelian randomization was used to study genes known to modify iron levels, and the effect of iron on Parkinson's disease (PD) risk was estimated. Based on estimates of the genetic effects on both iron and PD obtained from the largest sample meta-analyzed to date, the findings suggest that increased iron levels in the blood are associated with a 3% reduction in the risk of Parkinson's disease for every 10 µg/dL increase in iron. The results of this analysis have potentially important implications for future research into the prevention of Parkinson's disease.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Although levels of iron are known to be increased in the brains of patients with Parkinson disease (PD), epidemiological evidence on a possible effect of iron blood levels on PD risk is inconclusive, with effects reported in opposite directions. Epidemiological studies suffer from problems of confounding and reverse causation, and mendelian randomization (MR) represents an alternative approach to provide unconfounded estimates of the effects of biomarkers on disease. We performed a MR study where genes known to modify iron levels were used as instruments to estimate the effect of iron on PD risk, based on estimates of the genetic effects on both iron and PD obtained from the largest sample meta-analyzed to date.
Methods and Findings
We used as instrumental variables three genetic variants influencing iron levels, HFE rs1800562, HFE rs1799945, and TMPRSS6 rs855791. Estimates of their effect on serum iron were based on a recent genome-wide meta-analysis of 21,567 individuals, while estimates of their effect on PD risk were obtained through meta-analysis of genome-wide and candidate gene studies with 20,809 PD cases and 88,892 controls. Separate MR estimates of the effect of iron on PD were obtained for each variant and pooled by meta-analysis. We investigated heterogeneity across the three estimates as an indication of possible pleiotropy and found no evidence of it. The combined MR estimate showed a statistically significant protective effect of iron, with a relative risk reduction for PD of 3% (95% CI 1%–6%; p = 0.001) per 10 µg/dl increase in serum iron.
Our study suggests that increased iron levels are causally associated with a decreased risk of developing PD. Further studies are needed to understand the pathophysiological mechanism of action of serum iron on PD risk before recommendations can be made.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Parkinson disease is a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system caused by the death of dopamine-generating cells in the substania nigra, a region of the midbrain. The earliest symptoms are usually movement-related and include tremor, slow movements, and difficulty walking, and later cognitive and behavioral problems may arise, with dementia commonly occurring in the advanced stages of the disease. Parkinson disease affects around ten million people world-wide and incidence increases with age, with men more affected than women. To date, the causes of Parkinson disease remain unknown although a combination of genetic and environmental factors is thought to play a role. Identifying possible modifiable risks is an important step in the possible prevention of Parkinson disease.
Why Was This Study Done?
Previous studies have shown a possible association between lower blood levels of iron in people with Parkinson disease compared with controls, although the quality of these studies makes this finding difficult to interpret. So in this study, the researchers used a mendelian randomization approach to investigate whether there was any evidence of an effect of blood iron levels on the risk of Parkinson disease and if so to further explore the direction and scale of any link. Mendelian randomization is a method of using measured variation in genes of known function to examine the causal effect of a modifiable exposure on disease in situations where it is inappropriate to perform a randomized controlled trial.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers estimated the effect of blood iron levels on the risk of Parkinson disease using three polymorphisms in two genes, HFE and TMPRSS6. For each polymorphism, they performed a meta-analysis combining the results of studies investigating the genetic effect on iron levels, which included almost 22,000 people from Europe and Australia, and a meta-analysis of studies investigating the genetic effect on the risk of Parkinson disease, which included a total of 20,809 people with Parkinson disease and 88,892 controls from Europe and North America. They then performed three separate mendelian randomization analyses to estimate the effect of iron on Parkinson disease for the three polymorphisms. By combining the three estimates, they obtained a statistically significant odds ratio of 0.97 for Parkinson disease per 10 µg/dl increase in iron, corresponding to a 3% reduction in the risk of Parkinson disease for every 10 µg/dl increase in blood iron. Since genotype influences on blood iron levels represent differences that generally persist throughout adult life, the combined mendelian randomization estimate reflects an effect of iron over the course of a lifetime.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that increased iron levels in the blood are associated with a 3% reduction in the risk of Parkinson disease for every 10 µg/dl increase in iron. This finding is important as it suggests that increased blood iron levels may have a protective effect against Parkinson disease, although the underlying mechanism remains unclear. Furthermore, although mendelian randomization is an increasingly used approach to address the issue of classical confounding, there may be remaining confounding factors specific of mendelian randomization that may influence the interpretation of this study. Nevertheless, the results of this analysis have potentially important implications for future research into the prevention of Parkinson disease. Further studies on the underlying mechanisms are needed before any specific treatment recommendations can be proposed.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
The National Institutes of Neurological Disorder and Stroke, MedlinePlus, and NHS Choices have several pages with comprehensive information on Parkinson disease
Wikipedia gives an explanation of mendelian randomization (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
PMCID: PMC3672214  PMID: 23750121
10.  On the Meta-Analysis of Genome-Wide Association Studies: A Robust and Efficient Approach to Combine Population and Family-Based Studies 
Human Heredity  2012;73(1):35-46.
For the meta-analysis of genome-wide association studies, we propose a new method to adjust for the population stratification and a linear mixed approach that combines family-based and unrelated samples. The proposed approach achieves similar power levels as a standard meta-analysis which combines the different test statistics or p values across studies. However, by virtue of its design, the proposed approach is robust against population admixture and stratification, and no adjustments for population admixture and stratification, even in unrelated samples, are required. Using simulation studies, we examine the power of the proposed method and compare it to standard approaches in the meta-analysis of genome-wide association studies. The practical features of the approach are illustrated with a meta-analysis of three genome-wide association studies for Alzheimer's disease. We identify three single nucleotide polymorphisms showing significant genome-wide association with affection status. Two single nucleotide polymorphisms are novel and will be verified in other populations in our follow-up study.
PMCID: PMC3322629  PMID: 22261799
Meta-analysis; Genome-wide study; Population stratification
11.  Large-scale replication and heterogeneity in Parkinson disease genetic loci 
Sharma, Manu | Ioannidis, John P.A. | Aasly, Jan O. | Annesi, Grazia | Brice, Alexis | Van Broeckhoven, Christine | Bertram, Lars | Bozi, Maria | Crosiers, David | Clarke, Carl | Facheris, Maurizio | Farrer, Matthew | Garraux, Gaetan | Gispert, Suzana | Auburger, Georg | Vilariño-Güell, Carles | Hadjigeorgiou, Georgios M. | Hicks, Andrew A. | Hattori, Nobutaka | Jeon, Beom | Lesage, Suzanne | Lill, Christina M. | Lin, Juei-Jueng | Lynch, Timothy | Lichtner, Peter | Lang, Anthony E. | Mok, Vincent | Jasinska-Myga, Barbara | Mellick, George D. | Morrison, Karen E. | Opala, Grzegorz | Pramstaller, Peter P. | Pichler, Irene | Park, Sung Sup | Quattrone, Aldo | Rogaeva, Ekaterina | Ross, Owen A. | Stefanis, Leonidas | Stockton, Joanne D. | Satake, Wataru | Silburn, Peter A. | Theuns, Jessie | Tan, Eng-King | Toda, Tatsushi | Tomiyama, Hiroyuki | Uitti, Ryan J. | Wirdefeldt, Karin | Wszolek, Zbigniew | Xiromerisiou, Georgia | Yueh, Kuo-Chu | Zhao, Yi | Gasser, Thomas | Maraganore, Demetrius | Krüger, Rejko | Boyle, R.S | Sellbach, A | O'Sullivan, J.D. | Sutherland, G.T. | Siebert, G.A | Dissanayaka, N.N.W | Van Broeckhoven, Christine | Theuns, Jessie | Crosiers, David | Pickut, Barbara | Engelborghs, Sebastiaan | Meeus, Bram | De Deyn, Peter P. | Cras, Patrick | Rogaeva, Ekaterina | Lang, Anthony E | Agid, Y | Anheim, M | Bonnet, A-M | Borg, M | Brice, A | Broussolle, E | Corvol, JC | Damier, P | Destée, A | Dürr, A | Durif, F | Lesage, S | Lohmann, E | Pollak, P | Rascol, O | Tison, F | Tranchant, C | Viallet, F | Vidailhet, M | Tzourio, Christophe | Amouyel, Philippe | Loriot, Marie-Anne | Mutez, Eugénie | Duflot, Aurélie | Legendre, Jean-Philippe | Waucquier, Nawal | Gasser, Thomas | Riess, Olaf | Berg, Daniela | Schulte, Claudia | Klein, Christine | Djarmati, Ana | Hagenah, Johann | Lohmann, Katja | Auburger, Georg | Hilker, Rüdiger | van de Loo, Simone | Dardiotis, Efthimios | Tsimourtou, Vaia | Ralli, Styliani | Kountra, Persa | Patramani, Gianna | Vogiatzi, Cristina | Hattori, Nobutaka | Tomiyama, Hiroyuki | Funayama, Manabu | Yoshino, Hiroyo | Li, Yuanzhe | Imamichi, Yoko | Toda, Tatsushi | Satake, Wataru | Lynch, Tim | Gibson, J. Mark | Valente, Enza Maria | Ferraris, Alessandro | Dallapiccola, Bruno | Ialongo, Tamara | Brighina, Laura | Corradi, Barbara | Piolti, Roberto | Tarantino, Patrizia | Annesi, Ferdinanda | Jeon, Beom S. | Park, Sung-Sup | Aasly, J | Opala, Grzegorz | Jasinska-Myga, Barbara | Klodowska-Duda, Gabriela | Boczarska-Jedynak, Magdalena | Tan, Eng King | Belin, Andrea Carmine | Olson, Lars | Galter, Dagmar | Westerlund, Marie | Sydow, Olof | Nilsson, Christer | Puschmann, Andreas | Lin, JJ | Maraganore, Demetrius M. | Ahlskog, J, Eric | de Andrade, Mariza | Lesnick, Timothy G. | Rocca, Walter A. | Checkoway, Harvey | Ross, Owen A | Wszolek, Zbigniew K. | Uitti, Ryan J.
Neurology  2012;79(7):659-667.
Eleven genetic loci have reached genome-wide significance in a recent meta-analysis of genome-wide association studies in Parkinson disease (PD) based on populations of Caucasian descent. The extent to which these genetic effects are consistent across different populations is unknown.
Investigators from the Genetic Epidemiology of Parkinson's Disease Consortium were invited to participate in the study. A total of 11 SNPs were genotyped in 8,750 cases and 8,955 controls. Fixed as well as random effects models were used to provide the summary risk estimates for these variants. We evaluated between-study heterogeneity and heterogeneity between populations of different ancestry.
In the overall analysis, single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in 9 loci showed significant associations with protective per-allele odds ratios of 0.78–0.87 (LAMP3, BST1, and MAPT) and susceptibility per-allele odds ratios of 1.14–1.43 (STK39, GAK, SNCA, LRRK2, SYT11, and HIP1R). For 5 of the 9 replicated SNPs there was nominally significant between-site heterogeneity in the effect sizes (I2 estimates ranged from 39% to 48%). Subgroup analysis by ethnicity showed significantly stronger effects for the BST1 (rs11724635) in Asian vs Caucasian populations and similar effects for SNCA, LRRK2, LAMP3, HIP1R, and STK39 in Asian and Caucasian populations, while MAPT rs2942168 and SYT11 rs34372695 were monomorphic in the Asian population, highlighting the role of population-specific heterogeneity in PD.
Our study allows insight to understand the distribution of newly identified genetic factors contributing to PD and shows that large-scale evaluation in diverse populations is important to understand the role of population-specific heterogeneity. Neurology® 2012;79:659–667
PMCID: PMC3414661  PMID: 22786590
12.  A multi-centre clinico-genetic analysis of the VPS35 gene in Parkinson disease indicates reduced penetrance for disease-associated variants 
Journal of Medical Genetics  2012;49(11):721-726.
Two recent studies identified a mutation (p.Asp620Asn) in the vacuolar protein sorting 35 gene as a cause for an autosomal dominant form of Parkinson disease . Although additional missense variants were described, their pathogenic role yet remains inconclusive.
Methods and results
We performed the largest multi-center study to ascertain the frequency and pathogenicity of the reported vacuolar protein sorting 35 gene variants in more than 15,000 individuals worldwide. p.Asp620Asn was detected in 5 familial and 2 sporadic PD cases and not in healthy controls, p.Leu774Met in 6 cases and 1 control, p.Gly51Ser in 3 cases and 2 controls. Overall analyses did not reveal any significant increased risk for p.Leu774Met and p.Gly51Ser in our cohort.
Our study apart from identifying the p.Asp620Asn variant in familial cases also identified it in idiopathic Parkinson disease cases, and thus provides genetic evidence for a role of p.Asp620Asn in Parkinson disease in different populations worldwide.
PMCID: PMC3488700  PMID: 23125461
Parkinson-s disease; Genome-wide; Genetics; Genetic epidemiology; Complex traits
13.  Maximizing the Power of Genome-Wide Association Studies: A Novel Class of Powerful Family-Based Association Tests 
Statistics in biosciences  2009;1(2):125-143.
For genome-wide association studies in family-based designs, a new, universally applicable approach is proposed. Using a modified Liptak’s method, we combine the p-value of the family-based association test (FBAT) statistic with the p-value for the Van Steen-statistic. The Van Steen-statistic is independent of the FBAT-statistic and utilizes information that is ignored by traditional FBAT-approaches. The new test statistic takes advantages of all available information about the genetic association, while, by virtue of its design, it achieves complete robustness against confounding due to population stratification. The approach is suitable for the analysis of almost any trait type for which FBATs are available, e.g. binary, continuous, time to-onset, multivariate, etc. The efficiency and the validity of the new approach depend on the specification of a nuisance/tuning parameter and the weight parameters in the modified Liptak’s method. For different trait types and ascertainment conditions, we discuss general guidelines for the optimal specification of the tuning parameter and the weight parameters. Our simulation experiments and an application to an Alzheimer study show the validity and the efficiency of the new method, which achieves power levels that are comparable to those of population-based approaches.
PMCID: PMC3349940  PMID: 22582089
FBAT; Liptak’s method; Tuning parameter
14.  Comprehensive Research Synopsis and Systematic Meta-Analyses in Parkinson's Disease Genetics: The PDGene Database 
PLoS Genetics  2012;8(3):e1002548.
More than 800 published genetic association studies have implicated dozens of potential risk loci in Parkinson's disease (PD). To facilitate the interpretation of these findings, we have created a dedicated online resource, PDGene, that comprehensively collects and meta-analyzes all published studies in the field. A systematic literature screen of ∼27,000 articles yielded 828 eligible articles from which relevant data were extracted. In addition, individual-level data from three publicly available genome-wide association studies (GWAS) were obtained and subjected to genotype imputation and analysis. Overall, we performed meta-analyses on more than seven million polymorphisms originating either from GWAS datasets and/or from smaller scale PD association studies. Meta-analyses on 147 SNPs were supplemented by unpublished GWAS data from up to 16,452 PD cases and 48,810 controls. Eleven loci showed genome-wide significant (P<5×10−8) association with disease risk: BST1, CCDC62/HIP1R, DGKQ/GAK, GBA, LRRK2, MAPT, MCCC1/LAMP3, PARK16, SNCA, STK39, and SYT11/RAB25. In addition, we identified novel evidence for genome-wide significant association with a polymorphism in ITGA8 (rs7077361, OR 0.88, P = 1.3×10−8). All meta-analysis results are freely available on a dedicated online database (, which is cross-linked with a customized track on the UCSC Genome Browser. Our study provides an exhaustive and up-to-date summary of the status of PD genetics research that can be readily scaled to include the results of future large-scale genetics projects, including next-generation sequencing studies.
Author Summary
The genetic basis of Parkinson's disease is complex, i.e. it is determined by a number of different disease-causing and disease-predisposing genes. Especially the latter have proven difficult to find, evidenced by more than 800 published genetic association studies, typically showing discrepant results. To facilitate the interpretation of this large and continuously increasing body of data, we have created a freely available online database (“PDGene”: which provides an exhaustive account of all published genetic association studies in PD. One particularly useful feature is the calculation and display of up-to-date summary statistics of published data for overlapping DNA sequence variants (polymorphisms). These meta-analyses revealed eleven gene loci that showed a statistically very significant (P<5×10−8; a.k.a. genome-wide significance) association with risk for PD: BST1, CCDC62/HIP1R, DGKQ/GAK, GBA, LRRK2, MAPT, MCCC1/LAMP3, PARK16, SNCA, STK39, SYT11/RAB25. In addition and purely by data-mining, we identified one novel PD susceptibility locus in a gene called ITGA8 (rs7077361, P = 1.3×10−8). We note that our continuously updated database represents the most comprehensive research synopsis of genetic association studies in PD to date. In addition to vastly facilitating the work of other PD geneticists, our approach may serve as a valuable example for other complex diseases.
PMCID: PMC3305333  PMID: 22438815
15.  Alzheimer's disease-associated ubiquilin-1 regulates presenilin-1 accumulation and aggresome formation 
Traffic (Copenhagen, Denmark)  2011;12(3):330-348.
The Alzheimer's disease (AD)-associated ubiquilin-1 regulates proteasomal degradation of proteins, including presenilin (PS). PS-dependent γ-secretase generates β-amyloid (Aβ) peptides, which excessively accumulate in AD brain. Here we have characterized the effects of naturally occurring ubiquilin-1 transcript variants (TV) on the levels and subcellular localization of PS1 and other γ-secretase complex components and subsequent γ-secretase function in human embryonic kidney 293, human neuroblastoma SH-SY5Y, and mouse primary cortical cells. Full-length ubiquilin-1 TV1 and TV3 that lacks the proteasome-interaction domain, increased full-length PS1 levels as well as induced accumulation of high-molecular-weight PS1 and aggresome formation. Accumulated PS1 co-localized with TV1 or TV3 in the aggresomes. Electron microscopy indicated that aggresomes containing TV1 or TV3 were targeted to autophagosomes. TV1- and TV3-expressing cells did not accumulate other unrelated proteasome substrates, suggesting that the increase in PS1 levels was not due to a general impairment of the ubiquitin-proteasome system. Furthermore, PS1 accumulation and aggresome formation coincided with alterations in Aβ levels particularly in cells over-expressing TV3. These effects were not related to altered γ-secretase activity or PS1 binding to TV3. Collectively, our results indicate that specific ubiquilin-1 TVs can cause PS1 accumulation and aggresome formation, which may impact AD pathogenesis or susceptibility.
PMCID: PMC3050036  PMID: 21143716
proteasomal degradation; β-amyloid precursor protein; PEN-2; transcript variant; high-molecular-weight forms
16.  Cysteine 27 Variant of the δ-Opioid Receptor Affects Amyloid Precursor Protein Processing through Altered Endocytic Trafficking ▿  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2011;31(11):2326-2340.
Agonist-induced activation of the δ-opioid receptor (δOR) was recently shown to augment β- and γ-secretase activities, which increased the production of β-amyloid peptide (Aβ), known to accumulate in the brain tissues of Alzheimer's disease (AD) patients. Previously, the δOR variant with a phenylalanine at position 27 (δOR-Phe27) exhibited more efficient receptor maturation and higher stability at the cell surface than did the less common cysteine (δOR-Cys27) variant. For this study, we expressed these variants in human SH-SY5Y and HEK293 cells expressing exogenous or endogenous amyloid precursor protein (APP) and assessed the effects on APP processing. Expression of δOR-Cys27, but not δOR-Phe27, resulted in a robust accumulation of the APP C83 C-terminal fragment and the APP intracellular domain, while the total soluble APP and, particularly, the β-amyloid 40 levels were decreased. These changes upon δOR-Cys27 expression coincided with decreased localization of APP C-terminal fragments in late endosomes and lysosomes. Importantly, a long-term treatment with a subset of δOR-specific ligands or a c-Src tyrosine kinase inhibitor suppressed the δOR-Cys27-induced APP phenotype. These data suggest that an increased constitutive internalization and/or concurrent signaling of the δOR-Cys27 variant affects APP processing through altered endocytic trafficking of APP.
PMCID: PMC3133236  PMID: 21464208
18.  Involvement of ubiquilin-1 transcript variants in protein degradation and accumulation 
Controlled management of protein levels and quality is essential for normal cellular function. Specific molecular chaperones and foldases monitor the levels and assist correct folding of proteins. The ubiquitin-proteasome system recognizes and degrades misfolded proteins that can otherwise be harmful to cells. However, when misfolded or aggregated proteins excessively accumulate, they may be sequestered to the microtubule-organizing center to form aggresomes. These may then be removed from cells by autophagocytosis. Abnormal protein accumulation and aggregation is a common hallmark of many neurodegenerative diseases. In a recent study, we provide evidence that specific transcript variants (TVs) of ubiquilin-1, which are genetically and functionally associated to Alzheimer's disease (AD), regulate proteasomal and aggresomal targeting of presenilin-1 (PS1), a key player in AD pathogenesis. Our study together with current data provide interesting implications for ubiquilin-1 and its TVs in the pathogenesis of AD and other neurodegenerative diseases involving abnormal protein aggregation.
PMCID: PMC3181512  PMID: 21966562
transcript variant; high-molecular-weight; presenilin-1; proteasome; aggresome; autophagocytosis
19.  Quantifying Selective Reporting and the Proteus Phenomenon for Multiple Datasets with Similar Bias 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(3):e18362.
Meta-analyses play an important role in synthesizing evidence from diverse studies and datasets that address similar questions. A major obstacle for meta-analyses arises from biases in reporting. In particular, it is speculated that findings which do not achieve formal statistical significance are less likely reported than statistically significant findings. Moreover, the patterns of bias can be complex and may also depend on the timing of the research results and their relationship with previously published work. In this paper, we present an approach that is specifically designed to analyze large-scale datasets on published results. Such datasets are currently emerging in diverse research fields, particularly in molecular medicine. We use our approach to investigate a dataset on Alzheimer's disease (AD) that covers 1167 results from case-control studies on 102 genetic markers. We observe that initial studies on a genetic marker tend to be substantially more biased than subsequent replications. The chances for initial, statistically non-significant results to be published are estimated to be about 44% (95% CI, 32% to 63%) relative to statistically significant results, while statistically non-significant replications have almost the same chance to be published as statistically significant replications (84%; 95% CI, 66% to 107%). Early replications tend to be biased against initial findings, an observation previously termed Proteus phenomenon: The chances for non-significant studies going in the same direction as the initial result are estimated to be lower than the chances for non-significant studies opposing the initial result (73%; 95% CI, 55% to 96%). Such dynamic patters in bias are difficult to capture by conventional methods, where typically simple publication bias is assumed to operate. Our approach captures and corrects for complex dynamic patterns of bias, and thereby helps generating conclusions from published results that are more robust against the presence of different coexisting types of selective reporting.
PMCID: PMC3066227  PMID: 21479240
20.  Obesity and the brain: a possible genetic link 
Structural brain deficits have been repeatedly linked to body mass index and obesity, which itself is controlled by the effects of a number of independent genetic loci. One of the most consistently replicated of these putative obesity genes is fat mass and obesity-associated protein (FTO). A recent study by investigators from the Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative set out to assess whether polymorphisms in FTO are directly correlated with brain volume in a collection of over 200 healthy older individuals. The authors found a modest but significant reduction in brain volume in the frontal and occipital lobes exerted by the same FTO alleles that also predispose to obesity. Although potentially providing a novel genetic link between obesity and brain structure, the relevance of these findings for normal brain function and disease remains to be determined.
PMCID: PMC2983436  PMID: 20875147
21.  The COPD genetic association compendium: a comprehensive online database of COPD genetic associations 
Human Molecular Genetics  2009;19(3):526-534.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a major cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide. COPD is thought to arise from the interaction of environmental exposures and genetic susceptibility, and major research efforts are underway to identify genetic determinants of COPD susceptibility. With the exception of SERPINA1, genetic associations with COPD identified by candidate gene studies have been inconsistently replicated, and this literature is difficult to interpret. We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of all population-based, case–control candidate gene COPD studies indexed in PubMed before 16 July 2008. We stored our findings in an online database, which serves as an up-to-date compendium of COPD genetic associations and cumulative meta-analysis estimates. On the basis of our systematic review, the vast majority of COPD candidate gene era studies are underpowered to detect genetic effect odds ratios of 1.2–1.5. We identified 27 genetic variants with adequate data for quantitative meta-analysis. Of these variants, four were significantly associated with COPD susceptibility in random effects meta-analysis, the GSTM1 null variant (OR 1.45, CI 1.09–1.92), rs1800470 in TGFB1 (0.73, CI 0.64–0.83), rs1800629 in TNF (OR 1.19, CI 1.01–1.40) and rs1799896 in SOD3 (OR 1.97, CI 1.24–3.13). In summary, most COPD candidate gene era studies are underpowered to detect moderate-sized genetic effects. Quantitative meta-analysis identified four variants in GSTM1, TGFB1, TNF and SOD3 that show statistically significant evidence of association with COPD susceptibility.
PMCID: PMC2798725  PMID: 19933216
22.  Evidence of altered posteromedial cortical fMRI activity in subjects at risk for Alzheimer disease 
The posteromedial cortices and other regions of the “default network” are particularly vulnerable to the pathology of Alzheimer disease (AD). In this study, we performed fMRI to investigate whether the presence of apolipoprotein E (APOE) ε4 allele and degree of memory impairment were associated with dysfunction of these brain regions. Seventy-five elderly subjects ranging from cognitively normal to mild AD, divided into ε4 carriers and non-carriers, underwent fMRI during a memory encoding task. Across all subjects, posteromedial and ventral anterior cingulate cortices (key components of the default network) as well as right middle and inferior prefrontal regions demonstrated reduced task-induced deactivation in the ε4 carriers relative to non-carriers. Even among cognitively normal subjects, ε4 carriers demonstrated reduced posteromedial deactivation compared to non-carriers, in the same regions which demonstrated failure of deactivation in AD patients. Greater failure of posteromedial deactivation was related to worse memory performance (delayed recall) across all subjects and within the range of cognitively normal subjects. In summary, the posteromedial cortical fMRI response pattern is modulated both by the presence of APOE ε4 and episodic memory capability. Altered fMRI activity of the posteromedial areas of the brain default network may be an early indicator of risk for AD.
PMCID: PMC2837131  PMID: 19571734
Alzheimer disease; apolipoprotein E (APOE); cognitive aging; functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI); mild cognitive impairment (MCI); memory
23.  The CALHM1 P86L polymorphism is a genetic modifier of age at onset in Alzheimer’s disease: a meta-analysis study 
Lambert, Jean-Charles | Sleegers, Kristel | González-Pérez, Antonio | Ingelsson, Martin | Beecham, Gary W | Hiltunen, Mikko | Combarros, Onofre | Bullido, Maria J | Brouwers, Nathalie | Bettens, Karolien | Berr, Claudine | Pasquier, Florence | Richard, Florence | DeKosky, Steven T | Hannequin, Didier | Haines, Jonathan L | Tognoni, Gloria | Fiévet, Nathalie | Dartigues, Jean-François | Tzourio, Christophe | Engelborghs, Sebastiaan | Arosio, Beatrice | Coto, Elicer | De Deyn, Peter | Zompo, Maria Del | Mateo, Ignacio | Boada, Merce | Antunez, Carmen | Lopez-Arrieta, Jesus | Epelbaum, Jacques | Schjeide, Brit-Maren Michaud | Frank-Garcia, Ana | Giedraitis, Vilmentas | Helisalmi, Seppo | Porcellini, Elisa | Pilotto, Alberto | Forti, Paola | Ferri, Raffaele | Delepine, Marc | Zelenika, Diana | Lathrop, Mark | Scarpini, Elio | Siciliano, Gabriele | Solfrizzi, Vincenzo | Sorbi, Sandro | Spalletta, Gianfranco | Ravaglia, Giovanni | Valdivieso, Fernando | Vepsäläinen, Saila | Alvarez, Victoria | Bosco, Paolo | Mancuso, Michelangelo | Panza, Francesco | Nacmias, Benedetta | Bossù, Paola | Hanon, Olivier | Piccardi, Paola | Annoni, Giorgio | Mann, David | Marambaud, Philippe | Seripa, Davide | Galimberti, Daniela | Tanzi, Rudolph E | Bertram, Lars | Lendon, Corinne | Lannfelt, Lars | Licastro, Federico | Campion, Dominique | Pericak-Vance, Margaret A | Soininen, Hilkka | Van Broeckhoven, Christine | Alpérovitch, Annick | Ruiz, Agustin | Kamboh, M Ilyas | Amouyel, Philippe
The only established genetic determinant of non-Mendelian forms of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the ε4 allele of the apolipoprotein E gene (APOE). Recently, it has been reported that the P86L polymorphism of the calcium homeostasis modulator 1 gene (CALHM1) is associated with the risk of developing AD. In order to independently assess this association, we performed a meta-analysis of 7,873 AD cases and 13,274 controls of Caucasian origin (from a total of 24 centres in Belgium, Finland, France, Italy, Spain, Sweden, the UK and the USA). Our results indicate that the CALHM1 P86L polymorphism is likely not a genetic determinant of AD but may modulate age at onset by interacting with the effect of the ε4 allele of the APOE gene.
PMCID: PMC2964875  PMID: 20847397
24.  Somatic Mutation Profiles of MSI and MSS Colorectal Cancer Identified by Whole Exome Next Generation Sequencing and Bioinformatics Analysis 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(12):e15661.
Colorectal cancer (CRC) is with approximately 1 million cases the third most common cancer worldwide. Extensive research is ongoing to decipher the underlying genetic patterns with the hope to improve early cancer diagnosis and treatment. In this direction, the recent progress in next generation sequencing technologies has revolutionized the field of cancer genomics. However, one caveat of these studies remains the large amount of genetic variations identified and their interpretation.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Here we present the first work on whole exome NGS of primary colon cancers. We performed 454 whole exome pyrosequencing of tumor as well as adjacent not affected normal colonic tissue from microsatellite stable (MSS) and microsatellite instable (MSI) colon cancer patients and identified more than 50,000 small nucleotide variations for each tissue. According to predictions based on MSS and MSI pathomechanisms we identified eight times more somatic non-synonymous variations in MSI cancers than in MSS and we were able to reproduce the result in four additional CRCs. Our bioinformatics filtering approach narrowed down the rate of most significant mutations to 359 for MSI and 45 for MSS CRCs with predicted altered protein functions. In both CRCs, MSI and MSS, we found somatic mutations in the intracellular kinase domain of bone morphogenetic protein receptor 1A, BMPR1A, a gene where so far germline mutations are associated with juvenile polyposis syndrome, and show that the mutations functionally impair the protein function.
We conclude that with deep sequencing of tumor exomes one may be able to predict the microsatellite status of CRC and in addition identify potentially clinically relevant mutations.
PMCID: PMC3008745  PMID: 21203531
25.  Recovering unused information in genome-wide association studies: the benefit of analyzing SNPs out of Hardy–Weinberg equilibrium 
European Journal of Human Genetics  2009;17(12):1676-1682.
Although the rapid advancements in high throughput genotyping technology have made genome-wide association studies possible, these studies remain an expensive undertaking, especially when considering the large sample sizes necessary to find the small to moderate effect sizes that define complex diseases. It is therefore prudent to utilize all possible information contained in a genome-wide scan. We propose a straightforward analytical approach that tests often unused SNP data without sacrificing statistical validity. We simulate genotype miscalls under a variety of models consistent with observed miscall rates and test for departures from HWE using the standard Pearson's χ2-test. We find that true disease susceptibility loci subjected to various patterns of genotype miscalls can be largely out of HWE and, thus, be candidates for removal before association testing. These loci, we demonstrate, can maintain sufficient statistical power even under extreme error models. We additionally show that random miscalls of null SNPs, independent of the phenotype, do not induce bias in case–control or cohort studies, and we suggest that a significant HWE test should not prevent a SNP from being tested when conducting genome-wide association studies in these scenarios. However, association findings for SNPs that are out of HWE must be treated more carefully than ‘regular' findings, for example, by re-genotyping the SNP in the same study using a different genotyping technology.
PMCID: PMC2796342  PMID: 19491930
genome-wide association; genotyping error; Hardy–Weinberg equilibrium

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