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1.  Evidence for RPGRIP1 gene as risk factor for primary open angle glaucoma 
Glaucoma is a genetically heterogeneous disorder and is the second cause of blindness worldwide owing to the progressive degeneration of retinal ganglion neurons. Very few genes causing glaucoma were identified to this date. In this study, we screened 10 candidate genes of glaucoma between the D14S261 and D14S121 markers of chromosome 14q11, a critical region previously linked to primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG). Mutation analyses of two large cohorts of patients with POAG, normal tension glaucoma (NTG) and juvenile open-angle glaucoma (JOAG), and control subjects, found only association of non-synonymous heterozygous variants of the retinitis pigmentosa GTPase regulator-interacting protein 1 (RPGRIP1) with POAG, NTG and JOAG. The 20 non-synonymous variants identified in RPGRIP1 were all distinct from variants causing photoreceptor dystrophies and were found throughout all but one domain (RPGR-interacting domain) of RPGRIP1. Among them, 14 missense variants clustered within or around the C2 domains of RPGRIP1. Yeast two-hybrid analyses of a subset of the missense mutations within the C2 domains of RPGRIP1 shows that five of them (p.R598Q, p.A635G, p.T806I, p.A837G and p.I838V) decrease the association of the C2 domains with nephrocystin-4 (NPHPH). When considering only these five confirmed C2-domain mutations, the association remains statistically significant (P=0.001). Altogether, the data support that heterozygous non-synonymous variants of RPGRIP1 may cause or increase the susceptibility to various forms of glaucoma and that among other factors, physical impairment of the interaction of RPGRIP1with different proteins may contribute to the pathogenesis of forms of glaucoma.
PMCID: PMC3060327  PMID: 21224891
glaucoma; RPGRIP1; mutation screening
2.  Genome-wide association study with DNA pooling identifies variants at CNTNAP2 associated with pseudoexfoliation syndrome 
Genetic and nongenetic factors contribute to development of pseudoexfoliation (PEX) syndrome, a complex, age-related, generalized matrix process frequently associated with glaucoma. To identify specific genetic variants underlying its etiology, we performed a genome-wide association study (GWAS) using a DNA-pooling approach. Therefore, equimolar amounts of DNA samples of 80 subjects with PEX syndrome, 80 with PEX glaucoma (PEXG) and 80 controls were combined into separate pools and hybridized to 500K SNP arrays (Affymetrix). Array probe intensity data were analyzed and visualized with expressly developed software tools GPFrontend and GPGraphics in combination with GenePool software. For replication, independent German cohorts of 610 unrelated patients with PEX/PEXG and 364 controls as well as Italian cohorts of 249 patients and 190 controls were used. Of 19, 17 SNPs showing significant allele frequency difference in DNA pools were confirmed by individual genotyping. Further single genotyping at CNTNAP2 locus revealed association between PEX/PEXG for two SNPs, which was confirmed in an independent German but not the Italian cohort. Both SNPs remained significant in the combined German cohorts even after Bonferroni correction (rs2107856: Pc=0.0108, rs2141388: Pc=0.0072). CNTNAP2 was found to be ubiquitously expressed in all human ocular tissues, particularly in retina, and localized to cell membranes of epithelial, endothelial, smooth muscle, glial and neuronal cells. Confirming efficiency of GWAS with DNA-pooling approach by detection of the known LOXL1 locus, our study data show evidence for association of CNTNAP2 with PEX syndrome and PEXG in German patients.
PMCID: PMC3025781  PMID: 20808326
pseudoexfoliation syndrome; DNA pooling; association study
3.  Evolution and functional divergence of the anoctamin family of membrane proteins 
The anoctamin family of transmembrane proteins are found in all eukaryotes and consists of 10 members in vertebrates. Ano1 and ano2 were observed to have Ca2+ activated Cl- channel activity. Recent findings however have revealed that ano6, and ano7 can also produce chloride currents, although with different properties. In contrast, ano9 and ano10 suppress baseline Cl- conductance when co-expressed with ano1 thus suggesting that different anoctamins can interfere with each other. In order to elucidate intrinsic functional diversity, and underlying evolutionary mechanism among anoctamins, we performed comprehensive bioinformatics analysis of anoctamin gene family.
Our results show that anoctamin protein paralogs evolved from several gene duplication events followed by functional divergence of vertebrate anoctamins. Most of the amino acid replacements responsible for the functional divergence were fixed by adaptive evolution and this seem to be a common pattern in anoctamin gene family evolution. Strong purifying selection and the loss of many gene duplication products indicate rigid structure-function relationships among anoctamins.
Our study suggests that anoctamins have evolved by series of duplication events, and that they are constrained by purifying selection. In addition we identified a number of protein domains, and amino acid residues which contribute to predicted functional divergence. Hopefully, this work will facilitate future functional characterization of the anoctamin membrane protein family.
PMCID: PMC2974728  PMID: 20964844
4.  Nuclear receptor coregulator SNP discovery and impact on breast cancer risk 
BMC Cancer  2009;9:438.
Coregulator proteins are "master regulators", directing transcriptional and posttranscriptional regulation of many target genes, and are critical in many normal physiological processes, but also in hormone driven diseases, such as breast cancer. Little is known on how genetic changes in these genes impact disease development and progression. Thus, we set out to identify novel single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) within SRC-1 (NCoA1), SRC-3 (NCoA3, AIB1), NCoR (NCoR1), and SMRT (NCoR2), and test the most promising SNPs for associations with breast cancer risk.
The identification of novel SNPs was accomplished by sequencing the coding regions of these genes in 96 apparently normal individuals (48 Caucasian Americans, 48 African Americans). To assess their association with breast cancer risk, five SNPs were genotyped in 1218 familial BRCA1/2-mutation negative breast cancer cases and 1509 controls (rs1804645, rs6094752, rs2230782, rs2076546, rs2229840).
Through our resequencing effort, we identified 74 novel SNPs (30 in NCoR, 32 in SMRT, 10 in SRC-3, and 2 in SRC-1). Of these, 8 were found with minor allele frequency (MAF) >5% illustrating the large amount of genetic diversity yet to be discovered. The previously shown protective effect of rs2230782 in SRC-3 was strengthened (OR = 0.45 [0.21-0.98], p = 0.04). No significant associations were found with the other SNPs genotyped.
This data illustrates the importance of coregulators, especially SRC-3, in breast cancer development and suggests that more focused studies, including functional analyses, should be conducted.
PMCID: PMC2804710  PMID: 20003447
5.  Molecular evolution and functional divergence of the bestrophin protein family 
Mutations in human bestrophin 1 are associated with at least three autosomal-dominant macular dystrophies including Best disease, adult onset vitelliform macular dystrophy and autosomal dominant vitreo-retinochoroidopathy. The protein is integral to the membrane and is likely involved in Ca2+-dependent transport of chloride ions across cellular membranes. Bestrophin 1 together with its three homologues forms a phylogenetically highly conserved family of proteins.
A bioinformatics study was performed to investigate the phylogenetic relationship among the bestrophin family members and to statistically evaluate sequence conservation and functional divergence. Phylogenetic tree assembly with all available eukaryotic bestrophin sequences suggests gene duplication events in the lineage leading to the vertebrates. A common N-terminal topology which includes four highly conserved transmembrane domains is shared by the members of the four paralogous groups of vertebrate bestrophins and has been constrained by purifying selection. Pairwise comparison shows that altered functional constraints have occurred at specific amino acid positions after phylogenetic diversification of the paralogues. Most notably, significant functional divergence was found between bestrophin 4 and the other family members, as well as between bestrophin 2 and bestrophin 3. Site-specific profiles were established by posterior probability analysis revealing significantly divergent clusters mainly in two hydrophilic loops and a region immediately adjacent to the last predicted transmembrane domain. Strikingly, codons 279 and 347 of human bestrophin 4 reveal high divergence when compared to the paralogous positions strongly indicating the functional importance of these residues for the bestrophin 4 protein. None of the functionally divergent amino acids were found to reside within obvious sequences patterns or motifs.
Our study highlights the molecular evolution of the bestrophin family of transmembrane proteins and indicates amino acid residues likely relevant for distinct functional properties of the paralogues. These findings may provide a starting point for further experimental verifications.
PMCID: PMC2292144  PMID: 18307799
6.  Three novel ABCC5 splice variants in human retina and their role as regulators of ABCC5 gene expression 
The ABCC5 gene encodes an organic anion pump of the ATP-binding cassette (ABC) transporter family, subclass C. The exact physiological function of ABCC5 however is not known. Here, we have isolated three novel ABCC5 splice variants and characterized their role in the regulation of ABCC5 gene expression.
Two additional exons within intron 5 of the ABCC5 gene were identified; one of the exons exhibits alternative donor splice sites. Differential usage of these exons generates three short ABCC5 transcripts named ABCC5_SV1, ABCC5_SV2 and ABCC5_SV3. The variants share the first five exons with the ABCC5 gene but differ in their 3' sequences. ABCC5 and its novel isoforms are abundantly expressed in the human retina. Splice variant ABCC5_SV1 and ABCC5_SV2 contain premature stop codons. While inhibition of nonsense-mediated mRNA decay selectively stabilized ABCC5_SV1 but not ABCC5_SV2, the amount of full length ABCC5 mRNA was simultaneously reduced. A negative regulatory effect on full length ABCC5 expression was also observed when the ABCC5 isoforms were silenced with siRNA duplexes. Finally, we show that the evolutionarily conserved ABCC5_SV2 transcript is translated into a protein abundantly present in endothelial cells of inner retinal blood vessels and along RPE membranes.
Our data suggest that alternative splicing of the ABCC5 gene has functional consequences by modulating ABCC5 gene expression. In addition, at least one ABCC5 splice variant is protein-coding and produces a truncated ABCC5 protein isoform with thus far unknown functional properties in the retina.
PMCID: PMC1890297  PMID: 17521428
7.  The Retinome – Defining a reference transcriptome of the adult mammalian retina/retinal pigment epithelium 
BMC Genomics  2004;5:50.
The mammalian retina is a valuable model system to study neuronal biology in health and disease. To obtain insight into intrinsic processes of the retina, great efforts are directed towards the identification and characterization of transcripts with functional relevance to this tissue.
With the goal to assemble a first genome-wide reference transcriptome of the adult mammalian retina, referred to as the retinome, we have extracted 13,037 non-redundant annotated genes from nearly 500,000 published datasets on redundant retina/retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) transcripts. The data were generated from 27 independent studies employing a wide range of molecular and biocomputational approaches. Comparison to known retina-/RPE-specific pathways and established retinal gene networks suggest that the reference retinome may represent up to 90% of the retinal transcripts. We show that the distribution of retinal genes along the chromosomes is not random but exhibits a higher order organization closely following the previously observed clustering of genes with increased expression.
The genome wide retinome map offers a rational basis for selecting suggestive candidate genes for hereditary as well as complex retinal diseases facilitating elaborate studies into normal and pathological pathways. To make this unique resource freely available we have built a database providing a query interface to the reference retinome [1].
PMCID: PMC512282  PMID: 15283859

Results 1-7 (7)