The study of families with rare inherited forms of hypo- and hyper-tension has been one of the
most successful strategies to probe the molecular pathophysiology of blood pressure control and has
revealed dysregulation of distal nephron Na+ reabsorption to be a common mechanism. FHHt
(familial hyperkalaemic hypertension; also known as Gordon's syndrome) is a salt-dependent
form of hypertension caused by mutations in the regulators of the thiazide-sensitive
Na+–Cl− co-transporter NCC [also known as SLC12A3 (solute
carrier family 12 member 3)] and is effectively treated by thiazide diuretics and/or dietary salt
restriction. Variation in at least four genes can cause FHHt, including WNK1 [With
No lysine (=K) 1] and WNK4, KLHL3 (kelch-like family member 3),
and CUL3 (cullin 3). In the present study we have identified novel disease-causing
variants in CUL3 and KLHL3 segregating in 63% of the pedigrees
with previously unexplained FHHt, confirming the importance of these recently described FHHt genes.
We have demonstrated conclusively, in two unrelated affected individuals, that rare intronic
variants in CUL3 cause the skipping of exon 9 as has been proposed previously.
KLHL3 variants all occur in kelch-repeat domains and so probably disrupt WNK
complex binding. We have found no evidence of any plausible disease-causing variants within
SLC4A8 (an alternative thiazide-sensitive sodium transporter) in this population.
The results of the present study support the existing evidence that the CUL3 and
KLHL3 gene products are physiologically important regulators of thiazide-sensitive
distal nephron NaCl reabsorption, and hence potentially interesting novel anti-hypertensive drug
targets. As a third of our non-WNK FHHt families do not have plausible
CUL3 or KLHL3 variants, there are probably additional, as yet
undiscovered, regulators of the thiazide-sensitive pathways.
The present study has found new mutations in the CUL3 and KLHL3
genes of patients with Gordon's syndrome. CUL3 mutations were shown to cause
a defect in the splicing of exon 9. One-third of families with Gordon's syndrome remain
without a genetic diagnosis.
diuretic; Gordon's syndrome; hypertension; hyperkalaemia; pseudohypoaldosteronism; thiazide; CUL3, cullin 3; FHHt, familial hyperkalaemic hypertension; GAN, gigaxonin; IBD, identity by descent; KLHL3, kelch-like family member 3; NCC, Na+–Cl− co-transporter; NGS, next-generation sequencing; SLC, solute carrier; SNP, single nucleotide polymorphism; SPAK, STE20/SPS1-related proline/alanine-rich kinase; STE20, sterile 20; WNK, With No lysine (=K)
Plasma levels of high density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) are known to be heritable, but only a fraction of the heritability is explained. We used a high density genotyping array containing SNPs from HDL-C candidate genes selected on known biology of HDL-C metabolism, mouse genetic studies, and human genetic association studies. SNP selection was based on tagging-SNPs but also included low-frequency nonsynonymous SNPs.
Methods and Results
Association analysis in a cohort containing extremes of HDL-C (case-control, n=1733) provided a discovery phase, with replication in three additional populations for a total meta-analysis in 7,857 individuals. We replicated the majority of loci identified through genome wide association studies and present on the array (including ABCA1, APOA1/C3/A4/A5, APOB, APOE/C1/C2, CETP, CTCF-PRMT8, FADS1/2/3, GALNT2, LCAT, LILRA3, LIPC, LIPG, LPL, LRP4, SCARB1, TRIB1, ZNF664), and provide evidence suggestive of association in several previously unreported candidate gene loci (including ABCG1, GPR109A/B/81, NFKB1, PON1/2/3/4). There was evidence for multiple, independent association signals in five loci, including association with low frequency nonsynonymous variants.
Genetic loci associated with HDL-C are likely to harbor multiple, independent causative variants, frequently with opposite effects on the HDL-C phenotype. Cohorts composed of extreme individuals may be efficiently used in a case-control discovery of quantitative traits.
lipids; genetic association; HDL cholesterol; cardiovascular diseases
Lung function measures are heritable, predict mortality and are relevant in diagnosis of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). COPD and asthma are diseases of the airways with major public health impacts and each have a heritable component. Genome-wide association studies of SNPs have revealed novel genetic associations with both diseases but only account for a small proportion of the heritability. Complex copy number variation may account for some of the missing heritability. A well-characterised genomic region of complex copy number variation contains beta-defensin genes (DEFB103, DEFB104 and DEFB4), which have a role in the innate immune response. Previous studies have implicated these and related genes as being associated with asthma or COPD. We hypothesised that copy number variation of these genes may play a role in lung function in the general population and in COPD and asthma risk. We undertook copy number typing of this locus in 1149 adult and 689 children using a paralogue ratio test and investigated association with COPD, asthma and lung function. Replication of findings was assessed in a larger independent sample of COPD cases and smoking controls. We found evidence for an association of beta-defensin copy number with COPD in the adult cohort (OR = 1.4, 95%CI:1.02–1.92, P = 0.039) but this finding, and findings from a previous study, were not replicated in a larger follow-up sample(OR = 0.89, 95%CI:0.72–1.07, P = 0.217). No robust evidence of association with asthma in children was observed. We found no evidence for association between beta-defensin copy number and lung function in the general populations. Our findings suggest that previous reports of association of beta-defensin copy number with COPD should be viewed with caution. Suboptimal measurement of copy number can lead to spurious associations. Further beta-defensin copy number measurement in larger sample sizes of COPD cases and children with asthma are needed.
Elevated blood pressure is a common, heritable cause of cardiovascular disease worldwide. To date, identification of common genetic variants influencing blood pressure has proven challenging. We tested 2.5m genotyped and imputed SNPs for association with systolic and diastolic blood pressure in 34,433 subjects of European ancestry from the Global BPgen consortium and followed up findings with direct genotyping (N≤71,225 European ancestry, N=12,889 Indian Asian ancestry) and in silico comparison (CHARGE consortium, N=29,136). We identified association between systolic or diastolic blood pressure and common variants in 8 regions near the CYP17A1 (P=7×10−24), CYP1A2 (P=1×10−23), FGF5 (P=1×10−21), SH2B3 (P=3×10−18), MTHFR (P=2×10−13), c10orf107 (P=1×10−9), ZNF652 (P=5×10−9) and PLCD3 (P=1×10−8) genes. All variants associated with continuous blood pressure were associated with dichotomous hypertension. These associations between common variants and blood pressure and hypertension offer mechanistic insights into the regulation of blood pressure and may point to novel targets for interventions to prevent cardiovascular disease.
Background Contemporary bioscience sometimes demands vast sample sizes and there is often then no choice but to synthesize data across several studies and to undertake an appropriate pooled analysis. This same need is also faced in health-services and socio-economic research. When a pooled analysis is required, analytic efficiency and flexibility are often best served by combining the individual-level data from all sources and analysing them as a single large data set. But ethico-legal constraints, including the wording of consent forms and privacy legislation, often prohibit or discourage the sharing of individual-level data, particularly across national or other jurisdictional boundaries. This leads to a fundamental conflict in competing public goods: individual-level analysis is desirable from a scientific perspective, but is prevented by ethico-legal considerations that are entirely valid.
Methods Data aggregation through anonymous summary-statistics from harmonized individual-level databases (DataSHIELD), provides a simple approach to analysing pooled data that circumvents this conflict. This is achieved via parallelized analysis and modern distributed computing and, in one key setting, takes advantage of the properties of the updating algorithm for generalized linear models (GLMs).
Results The conceptual use of DataSHIELD is illustrated in two different settings.
Conclusions As the study of the aetiological architecture of chronic diseases advances to encompass more complex causal pathways—e.g. to include the joint effects of genes, lifestyle and environment—sample size requirements will increase further and the analysis of pooled individual-level data will become ever more important. An aim of this conceptual article is to encourage others to address the challenges and opportunities that DataSHIELD presents, and to explore potential extensions, for example to its use when different data sources hold different data on the same individuals.
Pooling; analysis; meta-analysis; individual-level; study-level; generalized linear model; GLM; ethico-legal; ELSI; identification; disclosure; distributed computing; bioinformatics; information technology; IT
Nuala Sheehan and colleagues describe how Mendelian randomization provides an alternative way of dealing with the problems of observational studies, especially confounding.
Genome-Wide Association Study (GWAS) meta-analyses have identified a strong association signal for lung function, which maps to a region on 4q24 containing two oppositely transcribed genes: glutathione S-transferase, C-terminal domain containing (GSTCD) and integrator complex subunit 12 (INTS12). Both genes were found to be expressed in a range of human airway cell types. The promoter regions and transcription start sites were determined in mRNA from human lung and a novel splice variant was identified for each gene. We obtained the following evidence for GSTCD and INTS12 co-regulation and expression: (i) correlated mRNA expression was observed both via Q-PCR and in a lung expression quantitative trait loci (eQTL) study, (ii) induction of both GSTCD and INTS12 mRNA expression in human airway smooth muscle cells was seen in response to TGFβ1, (iii) a lung eQTL study revealed that both GSTCD and INTS12 mRNA levels positively correlate with percent predicted FEV1, and (iv) FEV1 GWAS associated SNPs in 4q24 were found to act as an eQTL for INTS12 in a number of tissues. In fixed sections of human lung tissue, GSTCD protein expression was ubiquitous, whereas INTS12 expression was predominantly in epithelial cells and pneumocytes. During human fetal lung development, GSTCD protein expression was observed to be highest at the earlier pseudoglandular stage (10-12 weeks) compared with the later canalicular stage (17-19 weeks), whereas INTS12 expression levels did not alter throughout these stages. Knowledge of the transcriptional and translational regulation and expression of GSTCD and INTS12 provides important insights into the potential role of these genes in determining lung function. Future work is warranted to fully define the functions of INTS12 and GSTCD.
We conducted genome-wide association analyses of mean leukocyte telomere length in 2,917 subjects and follow-up replication analyses in 9,492 and identified a locus on 3q26 encompassing the telomerase RNA component TERC, with compelling evidence for association (rs12696304, combined P value 3.72×10−14). Each copy of the minor allele of rs12696304 was associated with ≈75 base pairs shorter mean telomere length equivalent to ≈3.6 years of age-related attrition of mean telomere length.
This paper describes an analysis of systolic blood pressure (SBP) in the Genetic Analysis Workshop 13 (GAW13) simulated data. The main aim was to assess evidence for both general and specific genetic effects on the baseline blood pressure and on the rate of change (slope) of blood pressure with time. Generalized linear mixed models were fitted using Gibbs sampling in WinBUGS, and the additive polygenic random effects estimated using these models were then used as continuous phenotypes in a variance components linkage analysis. The first-stage analysis provided evidence for general genetic effects on both the baseline and slope of blood pressure, and the linkage analysis found evidence of several genes, again for both baseline and slope.
Several infrequent genetic polymorphisms in the SERPINA1 gene are known to substantially reduce concentration of alpha1-antitrypsin (AAT) in the blood. Since low AAT serum levels fail to protect pulmonary tissue from enzymatic degradation, these polymorphisms also increase the risk for early onset chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The role of more common SERPINA1 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in respiratory health remains poorly understood.
We present here an agnostic investigation of genetic determinants of circulating AAT levels in a general population sample by performing a genome-wide association study (GWAS) in 1392 individuals of the SAPALDIA cohort.
Five common SNPs, defined by showing minor allele frequencies (MAFs) >5%, reached genome-wide significance, all located in the SERPINA gene cluster at 14q32.13. The top-ranking genotyped SNP rs4905179 was associated with an estimated effect of β = −0.068 g/L per minor allele (P = 1.20*10−12). But denser SERPINA1 locus genotyping in 5569 participants with subsequent stepwise conditional analysis, as well as exon-sequencing in a subsample (N = 410), suggested that AAT serum level is causally determined at this locus by rare (MAF<1%) and low-frequent (MAF 1–5%) variants only, in particular by the well-documented protein inhibitor S and Z (PI S, PI Z) variants. Replication of the association of rs4905179 with AAT serum levels in the Copenhagen City Heart Study (N = 8273) was successful (P<0.0001), as was the replication of its synthetic nature (the effect disappeared after adjusting for PI S and Z, P = 0.57). Extending the analysis to lung function revealed a more complex situation. Only in individuals with severely compromised pulmonary health (N = 397), associations of common SNPs at this locus with lung function were driven by rarer PI S or Z variants. Overall, our meta-analysis of lung function in ever-smokers does not support a functional role of common SNPs in the SERPINA gene cluster in the general population.
Low levels of alpha1-antitrypsin (AAT) in the blood are a well-established risk factor for accelerated loss in lung function and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. While a few infrequent genetic polymorphisms are known to influence the serum levels of this enzyme, the role of common genetic variants has not been examined so far. The present genome-wide scan for associated variants in approximately 1400 Swiss inhabitants revealed a chromosomal locus containing the functionally established variants of AAT deficiency and variants previously associated with lung function and emphysema. We used dense genotyping of this genetic region in more than 5500 individuals and subsequent conditional analyses to unravel which of these associated variants contribute independently to the phenotype's variability. All associations of common variants could be attributed to the rarer functionally established variants, a result which was then replicated in an independent population-based Danish cohort. Hence, this locus represents a textbook example of how a large part of a trait's heritability can be hidden in infrequent genetic polymorphisms. The attempt to transfer these results to lung function furthermore suggests that effects of common variants in this genetic region in ever-smokers may also be explained by rarer variants, but only in individuals with hampered pulmonary health.
Generation Scotland: Scottish Family Health Study (GS:SFHS) is a family-based biobank of 24,000 participants with rich phenotype and DNA available for genetic research. This paper describes the laboratory results from genotyping 32 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) on DNA from over 10,000 participants who attended GS:SFHS research clinics. The analysis described here was undertaken to test the quality of genetic information available to researchers. The success rate of each marker genotyped (call rate), minor allele frequency and adherence to Mendelian inheritance are presented. The few deviations in marker transmission in the 925 parent-child trios analysed were assessed as to whether they were likely to be miscalled genotypes, data or sample handling errors, or pedigree inaccuracies including non-paternity.
The first 10,450 GS:SFHS clinic participants who had spirometry and smoking data available and DNA extracted were selected. 32 SNPs were assayed, chosen as part of a replication experiment from a Genome-Wide Association Study meta-analysis of lung function.
In total 325,336 genotypes were returned. The overall project pass rate (32 SNPs on 10,450 samples) was 97.29%. A total of 925 parent-child trios were assessed for transmission of the SNP markers, with 16 trios indicating evidence of inconsistency in the recorded pedigrees.
The Generation Scotland: Scottish Family Health Study used well-validated study methods and can produce good quality genetic data, with a low error rate. The GS:SFHS DNA samples are of high quality and the family groups were recorded and processed with accuracy during collection of the cohort.
Genetics; SNP Genotyping; Parent-child trios; Error rate; Non paternity; Generation Scotland; Biobank
Genetic determinants of blood pressure are poorly defined. We undertook a large-scale gene-centric analysis to identify loci and pathways associated with ambulatory systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
We measured 24-hour ambulatory BP in 2020 individuals from 520 white European nuclear families (the GRAPHIC Study) and genotyped their DNA using the Illumina HumanCVD BeadChip array which contains approximately 50000 single nucleotide polymorphisms in >2000 cardiovascular candidate loci. We found a strong association between rs13306560 polymorphism in the promoter region of MTHFR and CLCN6 and mean 24-hour diastolic blood pressure - each minor allele copy of rs13306560 was associated with 2.6 mmHg lower mean 24-hour diastolic blood pressure (P=1.2×10−8). rs13306560 was also associated with clinic diastolic blood pressure in a combined analysis of 8129 subjects from the GRAPHIC Study, the CoLaus Study and the Silesian Cardiovascular Study (P=5.4×10−6). Additional analysis of associations between variants in Gene Ontology-defined pathways and mean 24-hour blood pressure in the GRAPHIC Study showed that cell survival control signalling cascades could play a role in blood pressure regulation. There was also a significant over-representation of rare variants (minor allele frequency <0.05) amongst polymorphisms showing at least nominal association with mean 24-hour blood pressure indicating that a considerable proportion of its heritability may be explained by uncommon alleles.
Through a large scale gene-centric analysis of ambulatory blood pressure, we identified an association of a novel variant at the MTHFR/CLNC6 locus with diastolic blood pressure and provided new insights into the genetic architecture of blood pressure.
gene; genetics; blood pressure; single nucleotide polymorphism; association; heritability
COPD; Genetics; Association analysis; Consortium
HDL cholesterol (HDL-C) is an established marker of cardiovascular risk with significant genetic determination. However, HDL particles are not homogenous, and refined HDL phenotyping may improve insight into regulation of HDL metabolism. We therefore assessed HDL particles by NMR spectroscopy and conducted a large-scale candidate gene association analysis.
We measured plasma HDL-C and determined mean HDL particle size and particle number by NMR spectroscopy in 2024 individuals from 512 British Caucasian families. Genotypes were 49,094 SNPs in >2,100 cardiometabolic candidate genes/loci as represented on the HumanCVD BeadChip version 2. False discovery rates (FDR) were calculated to account for multiple testing. Analyses on classical HDL-C revealed significant associations (FDR<0.05) only for CETP (cholesteryl ester transfer protein; lead SNP rs3764261: p = 5.6*10−15) and SGCD (sarcoglycan delta; rs6877118: p = 8.6*10−6). In contrast, analysis with HDL mean particle size yielded additional associations in LIPC (hepatic lipase; rs261332: p = 6.1*10−9), PLTP (phospholipid transfer protein, rs4810479: p = 1.7*10−8) and FBLN5 (fibulin-5; rs2246416: p = 6.2*10−6). The associations of SGCD and Fibulin-5 with HDL particle size could not be replicated in PROCARDIS (n = 3,078) and/or the Women's Genome Health Study (n = 23,170).
We show that refined HDL phenotyping by NMR spectroscopy can detect known genes of HDL metabolism better than analyses on HDL-C.
The genetic contribution to sporadic amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) has not been fully elucidated. There are increasing efforts to characterise the role of copy number variants (CNVs) in human diseases; two previous studies concluded that CNVs may influence risk of sporadic ALS, with multiple rare CNVs more important than common CNVs. A little-explored issue surrounding genome-wide CNV association studies is that of post-calling filtering and merging of raw CNV calls. We undertook simulations to define filter thresholds and considered optimal ways of merging overlapping CNV calls for association testing, taking into consideration possibly overlapping or nested, but distinct, CNVs and boundary estimation uncertainty.
Methodology and Principal Findings
In this study we screened Illumina 300K SNP genotyping data from 730 ALS cases and 789 controls for copy number variation. Following quality control filters using thresholds defined by simulation, a total of 11321 CNV calls were made across 575 cases and 621 controls. Using region-based and gene-based association analyses, we identified several loci showing nominally significant association. However, the choice of criteria for combining calls for association testing has an impact on the ranking of the results by their significance. Several loci which were previously reported as being associated with ALS were identified here. However, of another 15 genes previously reported as exhibiting ALS-specific copy number variation, only four exhibited copy number variation in this study. Potentially interesting novel loci, including EEF1D, a translation elongation factor involved in the delivery of aminoacyl tRNAs to the ribosome (a process which has previously been implicated in genetic studies of spinal muscular atrophy) were identified but must be treated with caution due to concerns surrounding genomic location and platform suitability.
Conclusions and Significance
Interpretation of CNV association findings must take into account the effects of filtering and combining CNV calls when based on early genome-wide genotyping platforms and modest study sizes.
Modern genotyping platforms permit a systematic search for inherited components of complex diseases. We performed a joint analysis of two genomewide association studies of coronary artery disease.
We first identified chromosomal loci that were strongly associated with coronary artery disease in the Wellcome Trust Case Control Consortium (WTCCC) study (which involved 1926 case subjects with coronary artery disease and 2938 controls) and looked for replication in the German MI [Myocardial Infarction] Family Study (which involved 875 case subjects with myocardial infarction and 1644 controls). Data on other single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) that were significantly associated with coronary artery disease in either study (P<0.001) were then combined to identify additional loci with a high probability of true association. Genotyping in both studies was performed with the use of the GeneChip Human Mapping 500K Array Set (Affymetrix).
Of thousands of chromosomal loci studied, the same locus had the strongest association with coronary artery disease in both the WTCCC and the German studies: chromosome 9p21.3 (SNP, rs1333049) (P=1.80×10−14 and P=3.40×10−6, respectively). Overall, the WTCCC study revealed nine loci that were strongly associated with coronary artery disease (P<1.2×10−5 and less than a 50% chance of being falsely positive). In addition to chromosome 9p21.3, two of these loci were successfully replicated (adjusted P<0.05) in the German study: chromosome 6q25.1 (rs6922269) and chromosome 2q36.3 (rs2943634). The combined analysis of the two studies identified four additional loci significantly associated with coronary artery disease (P<1.3×10−6) and a high probability (>80%) of a true association: chromosomes 1p13.3 (rs599839), 1q41 (rs17465637), 10q11.21 (rs501120), and 15q22.33 (rs17228212).
We identified several genetic loci that, individually and in aggregate, substantially affect the risk of development of coronary artery disease.
Effective health protection requires systematised responses with clear accountabilities. In England, Primary Care Trusts and the Health Protection Agency both have statutory responsibilities for health protection. A Memorandum of Understanding identifies responsibilities of both parties, but there is a potential lack of clarity about responsibility for specific health protection functions. We aimed to investigate professionals' perceptions of responsibility for different health protection functions, to inform future guidance for, and organisation of, health protection in England.
We sent a postal questionnaire to all health protection professionals in England from the following groups: (a) Directors of Public Health in Primary Care Trusts; (b) Directors of Health Protection Units within the Health Protection Agency; (c) Directors of Public Health in Strategic Health Authorities and; (d) Regional Directors of the Health Protection Agency
The response rate exceeded 70%. Variations in perceptions of who should be, and who is, delivering health protection functions were observed within, and between, the professional groups (a)-(d). Concordance in views of which organisation should, and which does deliver was high (≥90%) for 6 of 18 health protection functions, but much lower (≤80%) for 6 other functions, including managing the implications of a case of meningitis out of hours, of landfill environmental contamination, vaccination in response to mumps outbreaks, nursing home infection control, monitoring sexually transmitted infections and immunisation training for primary care staff. The proportion of respondents reporting that they felt confident most or all of the time in the safe delivery of a health protection function was strongly correlated with the concordance (r = 0.65, P = 0.0038).
Whilst we studied professionals' perceptions, rather than actual responses to incidents, our study suggests that there are important areas of health protection where consistent understanding of responsibility for delivery is lacking. There are opportunities to clarify the responsibility for health protection in England, perhaps learning from the approaches used for those health protection functions where we found consistent perceptions of accountability.