Recent genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have implicated a range of genes from discrete biological pathways in the aetiology of autism. However, despite the strong influence of genetic factors, association studies have yet to identify statistically robust, replicated major effect genes or SNPs. We apply the principle of the SNP ratio test methodology described by O'Dushlaine et al to over 2100 families from the Autism Genome Project (AGP). Using a two-stage design we examine association enrichment in 5955 unique gene-ontology classifications across four groupings based on two phenotypic and two ancestral classifications. Based on estimates from simulation we identify excess of association enrichment across all analyses. We observe enrichment in association for sets of genes involved in diverse biological processes, including pyruvate metabolism, transcription factor activation, cell-signalling and cell-cycle regulation. Both genes and processes that show enrichment have previously been examined in autistic disorders and offer biologically plausibility to these findings.
autism; genome-wide association analysis; pathway analysis; family-based association test; gene ontology
SLC25A12, a susceptibility gene for autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) that is mutated in a neurodevelopmental syndrome, encodes a mitochondrial aspartate/glutamate carrier (AGC1). AGC1 is an important component of the malate/aspartate shuttle, a crucial system supporting oxidative phosphorylation and ATP production.
We characterized mice with a disruption of the Slc25a12 gene, followed by confirmatory in vitro studies.
Slc25a12-knockout mice, which showed no AGC1 by immunoblotting, were born normally but displayed delayed development and died around 3 weeks after birth. In P13-14 knockout brains, the brains were smaller with no obvious alteration in gross structure. However, we found a reduction in myelin basic protein (MBP)-positive fibers, consistent with a previous report. Furthermore, the neocortex of knockout mice contained abnormal neurofilamentous accumulations in neurons, suggesting defective axonal transport and/or neurodegeneration. Slice cultures prepared from knockout mice also showed a myelination defect, and reduction of Slc25a12 in rat primary oligodendrocytes led to a cellautonomous reduction in MBP expression. Myelin deficits in slice cultures from knockout mice could be reversed by administration of pyruvate, indicating that reduction in AGC1 activity leads to reduced production of aspartate/N-acetyl aspartate (NAA) and/or alterations in the NADH/NAD+ ratio, resulting in myelin defects.
Our data implicate AGC1 activity in myelination and in neuronal structure, and indicate that while loss of AGC1 leads to hypomyelination and neuronal changes, subtle alterations in AGC1 expression could affect brain development contributing to increased autism susceptibility.
Malate/aspartate shuttle; mitochondria; N-acetyl aspartate (NAA); neuron-oligodendrocyte interactions; pyruvate
Response to endotoxins is an important part of the organismal reaction to Gram-negative bacteria and plays a critical role in sepsis and septic shock, as well as other conditions such as metabolic endotoxemia. Humans are generally more sensitive to endotoxins when compared with experimental animals such as mice. Inflammatory caspases mediate endotoxin-induced IL-1β secretion and lethality in mice, and caspase-4 is an inflammatory caspase that is found in the human, and not mouse, genome. To test whether caspase-4 is involved in endotoxin sensitivity, we developed a transgenic mouse expressing human caspase-4 in its genomic context. Caspase-4 transgenic mice exhibited significantly higher endotoxin sensitivity, as measured by enhanced cytokine secretion and lethality following LPS challenge. Using bone marrow–derived macrophages, we then observed that caspase-4 can support activation of caspase-1 and secretion of IL-1β and IL-18 in response to priming signals (LPS or Pam3CSK4) alone, without the need for second signals to stimulate the assembly of the inflammasome. These findings indicate that the regulation of caspase-1 activity by human caspase-4 could represent a unique mechanism in humans, as compared with laboratory rodents, and may partially explain the higher sensitivity to endotoxins observed in humans. Regulation of the expression, activation, or activity of caspase-4 therefore represents targets for systemic inflammatory response syndrome, sepsis, septic shock, and related disorders.
The Alzheimer amyloid protein precursor (APP) is subject to proteolysis by ADAM10 and ADAM17, precluding the formation of Aβ. Recently, coding variations in ADAM10 resulting in altered function have been reported in familial Alzheimer disease (AD). We carried out a large-scale (n=576: Controls, 271; AD, 305) resequencing study of ADAM10 in sporadic AD. Our results do not support a significant role for ADAM10 mutations in AD. Our results also make it clear that the careful examination of ancestry required in any case-control comparison is especially true with rare variations, where even a very small number of variations might form the basis of scientific conclusions.
Mutation; rare variation; genetics; association
Alzheimer's disease is a common debilitating dementia with known heritability, for which 20 late onset susceptibility loci have been identified, but more remain to be discovered. This study sought to identify new susceptibility genes, using an alternative gene-wide analytical approach which tests for patterns of association within genes, in the powerful genome-wide association dataset of the International Genomics of Alzheimer's Project Consortium, comprising over 7 m genotypes from 25,580 Alzheimer's cases and 48,466 controls.
In addition to earlier reported genes, we detected genome-wide significant loci on chromosomes 8 (TP53INP1, p = 1.4×10−6) and 14 (IGHV1-67 p = 7.9×10−8) which indexed novel susceptibility loci.
The additional genes identified in this study, have an array of functions previously implicated in Alzheimer's disease, including aspects of energy metabolism, protein degradation and the immune system and add further weight to these pathways as potential therapeutic targets in Alzheimer's disease.
Eleven susceptibility loci for late-onset Alzheimer’s disease (LOAD) were identified by previous studies; however, a large portion of the genetic risk for this disease remains unexplained. We conducted a large, two-stage meta-analysis of genome-wide association studies (GWAS) in individuals of European ancestry. In stage 1, we used genotyped and imputed data (7,055,881 SNPs) to perform meta-analysis on 4 previously published GWAS data sets consisting of 17,008 Alzheimer’s disease cases and 37,154 controls. In stage 2,11,632 SNPs were genotyped and tested for association in an independent set of 8,572 Alzheimer’s disease cases and 11,312 controls. In addition to the APOE locus (encoding apolipoprotein E), 19 loci reached genome-wide significance (P < 5 × 10−8) in the combined stage 1 and stage 2 analysis, of which 11 are newly associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
Haploinsufficiency of SHANK3, caused by chromosomal abnormalities or mutations that disrupt one copy of the gene, leads to a neurodevelopmental syndrome called Phelan-McDermid syndrome, symptoms of which can include absent or delayed speech, intellectual disability, neurological changes and autism spectrum disorders. The SHANK3 protein forms a key structural part of the post-synaptic density. We previously generated and characterized mice with a targeted disruption of Shank3 in which exons coding for the ankyrin-repeat domain were deleted and expression of full-length Shank3 was disrupted. We documented specific deficits in synaptic function and plasticity, along with reduced reciprocal social interactions, in Shank3 heterozygous mice. Changes in phenotype owing to a mutation at a single locus are quite frequently modulated by other loci, most dramatically when the entire genetic background is changed. In mice, each strain of laboratory mouse represents a distinct genetic background and alterations in phenotype owing to gene knockout or transgenesis are frequently different across strains, which can lead to the identification of important modifier loci. We have investigated the effect of genetic background on phenotypes of Shank3 heterozygous, knockout and wild-type mice, using C57BL/6, 129SVE and FVB/Ntac strain backgrounds. We focused on observable behaviors with the goal of carrying out subsequent analyses to identify modifier loci. Surprisingly, there were very modest strain effects over a large battery of analyses. These results indicate that behavioral phenotypes associated with Shank3 haploinsufficiency are largely strain-independent.
Shank3; Phelan-McDermid syndrome; Autism spectrum disorders; 22q13; Mouse strain; Genetic modifier; Behavior
DNA mutational events are increasingly being identified in autism spectrum disorder (ASD), but the potential additional role of dysregulation of the epigenome in the pathogenesis of the condition remains unclear. The epigenome is of interest as a possible mediator of environmental effects during development, encoding a cellular memory reflected by altered function of progeny cells. Advanced maternal age (AMA) is associated with an increased risk of having a child with ASD for reasons that are not understood. To explore whether AMA involves covert aneuploidy or epigenetic dysregulation leading to ASD in the offspring, we tested a homogeneous ectodermal cell type from 47 individuals with ASD compared with 48 typically developing (TD) controls born to mothers of ≥35 years, using a quantitative genome-wide DNA methylation assay. We show that DNA methylation patterns are dysregulated in ectodermal cells in these individuals, having accounted for confounding effects due to subject age, sex and ancestral haplotype. We did not find mosaic aneuploidy or copy number variability to occur at differentially-methylated regions in these subjects. Of note, the loci with distinctive DNA methylation were found at genes expressed in the brain and encoding protein products significantly enriched for interactions with those produced by known ASD-causing genes, representing a perturbation by epigenomic dysregulation of the same networks compromised by DNA mutational mechanisms. The results indicate the presence of a mosaic subpopulation of epigenetically-dysregulated, ectodermally-derived cells in subjects with ASD. The epigenetic dysregulation observed in these ASD subjects born to older mothers may be associated with aging parental gametes, environmental influences during embryogenesis or could be the consequence of mutations of the chromatin regulatory genes increasingly implicated in ASD. The results indicate that epigenetic dysregulatory mechanisms may complement and interact with DNA mutations in the pathogenesis of the disorder.
Older mothers have a higher than expected risk of having a child with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The reason for this increased risk is unknown. The eggs of older mothers are more prone to abnormalities of chromosome numbers, suggesting this as one possible mechanism of the increased ASD risk. Age is also associated with a loss of control of epigenetic regulatory patterns that govern gene expression, indicating a second potential mechanism. To test both possibilities, we sampled cells from the same developmental origin as the brain, and performed genome-wide tests looking for unusual chromosome numbers and DNA methylation patterns. The studies were performed on individuals with ASD and typically developing controls, all born to mothers at least 35 years of age at the time of birth. We found the cells from individuals with ASD to have changes in DNA methylation at a number of loci, especially near genes encoding proteins known to interact with those already implicated in ASD. We conclude that epigenetic dysregulation occurring in gametes or early embryonic life may be one of the contributors to the development of ASD.
SCN2A is a gene that codes for the alpha subunit of voltage-gated, type II sodium channels, and is highly expressed in the brain. Sodium channel disruptions, such as mutations in SCN2A, may play an important role in psychiatric disorders. Recently, de novo SCN2A mutations in autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have been identified. The current study characterizes a de novo splice site mutation in SCN2A that alters mRNA and protein products.
We describe results from clinical and genetic characterizations of a seven-year-old boy with ASD. Psychiatric interview and gold standard autism diagnostic instruments (ADOS and ADI-R) were used to confirm ASD diagnosis, in addition to performing standardized cognitive and adaptive functioning assessments (Leiter-R and Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scale), and sensory reactivity assessments (Sensory Profile and Sensory Processing Scales). Genetic testing by whole exome sequencing revealed four de novo events, including a splice site mutation c.476 + 1G > A in SCN2A, a missense mutation (c.2263G > A) causing a p.V755I change in the TLE1 gene, and two synonymous mutations (c.2943A > G in the BUB1 gene, and c.1254 T > A in C10orf68 gene). The de novo SCN2A splice site mutation produced a stop codon 10 amino acids downstream, possibly resulting in a truncated protein and/or a nonsense-mediated mRNA decay. The participant met new DSM-5 criteria for ASD, presenting with social and communication impairment, repetitive behaviors, and sensory reactivity issues. The participant’s adaptive and cognitive skills fell in the low range of functioning.
This report indicates that a splice site mutation in SCN2A might be contributing to the risk of ASD. Describing the specific phenotype associated with SCN2A mutations might help to reduce heterogeneity seen in ASD.
DSM-5; autism spectrum disorder; de novo SCN2A splice site mutation
De novo loss-of-function (dnLoF) mutations are found twofold more often in autism spectrum disorder (ASD) probands than their unaffected siblings. Multiple independent dnLoF mutations in the same gene implicate the gene in risk and hence provide a systematic, albeit arduous, path forward for ASD genetics. It is likely that using additional non-genetic data will enhance the ability to identify ASD genes.
To accelerate the search for ASD genes, we developed a novel algorithm, DAWN, to model two kinds of data: rare variations from exome sequencing and gene co-expression in the mid-fetal prefrontal and motor-somatosensory neocortex, a critical nexus for risk. The algorithm casts the ensemble data as a hidden Markov random field in which the graph structure is determined by gene co-expression and it combines these interrelationships with node-specific observations, namely gene identity, expression, genetic data and the estimated effect on risk.
Using currently available genetic data and a specific developmental time period for gene co-expression, DAWN identified 127 genes that plausibly affect risk, and a set of likely ASD subnetworks. Validation experiments making use of published targeted resequencing results demonstrate its efficacy in reliably predicting ASD genes. DAWN also successfully predicts known ASD genes, not included in the genetic data used to create the model.
Validation studies demonstrate that DAWN is effective in predicting ASD genes and subnetworks by leveraging genetic and gene expression data. The findings reported here implicate neurite extension and neuronal arborization as risks for ASD. Using DAWN on emerging ASD sequence data and gene expression data from other brain regions and tissues would likely identify novel ASD genes. DAWN can also be used for other complex disorders to identify genes and subnetworks in those disorders.
Autism; Risk prediction; Gene discovery; Weighted gene co-expression network analysis; Network; Hidden Markov random field; Neurite extension; Neuronal arborization
While most neuropathologic studies focus on regions involved in behavioral abnormalities in autism, it is also important to identify whether areas that appear functionally normal are devoid of pathologic alterations. In this study we analyzed the posteroinferior occipitotemporal gyrus, an extrastriate area not considered to be affected in autism. This area borders the fusiform gyrus, which is known to exhibit functional and cellular abnormalities in autism.
No studies have implicated posteroinferior occipitotemporal gyrus dysfunction in autism, leading us to hypothesize that neuropathology would not occur in this area. We indeed observed no significant differences in pyramidal neuron number or size in layers III, V, and VI in seven pairs of autism and controls.
These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that neuropathology is unique to areas involved in stereotypies and social and emotional behaviors, and support the specificity of the localization of pathology in the fusiform gyrus.
Autism; Fusiform gyrus; Neuropathology; Posteroinferior occipitotemporal gyrus; Stereology
To characterize the role of rare complete human knockouts in autism spectrum disorders (ASD), we identify genes with homozygous or compound heterozygous loss-of-function (LoF) variants (defined as nonsense and essential splice sites) from exome sequencing of 933 cases and 869 controls. We identify a two-fold increase in complete knockouts of autosomal genes with low rates of LoF variation (≤5% frequency) in cases and estimate a 3% contribution to ASD risk by these events, confirming this observation in an independent set of 563 probands and 4,605 controls. Outside the pseudo-autosomal regions on the X-chromosome, we similarly observe a significant 1.5-fold increase in rare hemizygous knockouts in males, contributing to another 2% of ASDs in males. Taken together these results provide compelling evidence that rare autosomal and X-chromosome complete gene knockouts are important inherited risk factors for ASD.
Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are a group of related neurodevelopmental disorders with significant combined prevalence (~1%) and high heritability. Dozens of individually rare genes and loci associated with high-risk for ASD have been identified, which overlap extensively with genes for intellectual disability (ID). However, studies indicate that there may be hundreds of genes that remain to be identified. The advent of inexpensive massively parallel nucleotide sequencing can reveal the genetic underpinnings of heritable complex diseases, including ASD and ID. However, whole exome sequencing (WES) and whole genome sequencing (WGS) provides an embarrassment of riches, where many candidate variants emerge. It has been argued that genetic variation for ASD and ID will cluster in genes involved in distinct pathways and protein complexes. For this reason, computational methods that prioritize candidate genes based on additional functional information such as protein-protein interactions or association with specific canonical or empirical pathways, or other attributes, can be useful. In this study we applied several supervised learning approaches to prioritize ASD or ID disease gene candidates based on curated lists of known ASD and ID disease genes. We implemented two network-based classifiers and one attribute-based classifier to show that we can rank and classify known, and predict new, genes for these neurodevelopmental disorders. We also show that ID and ASD share common pathways that perturb an overlapping synaptic regulatory subnetwork. We also show that features relating to neuronal phenotypes in mouse knockouts can help in classifying neurodevelopmental genes. Our methods can be applied broadly to other diseases helping in prioritizing newly identified genetic variation that emerge from disease gene discovery based on WES and WGS.
High-throughput sequencing; massively parallel sequencing; gene discovery; networks; pathways; neurodevelopmental disorders; classifiers; support vector machine
Multiple lines of evidence in schizophrenia, from brain imaging, studies in postmortem brains, and genetic association studies, have implicated oligodendrocyte and myelin dysfunction in this disease. Recent studies suggest that oligodendrocyte and myelin dysfunction leads to changes in synaptic formation and function, which could lead to cognitive dysfunction, a core symptom of schizophrenia. Furthermore, there is accumulating data linking oligodendrocyte and myelin dysfunction with dopamine and glutamate abnormalities, both of which are found in schizophrenia. These findings implicate oligodendrocyte and myelin dysfunction as a primary change in schizophrenia, not only as secondary consequences of the illness or treatment. Strategies targeting oligodendrocyte and myelin abnormalities could therefore provide therapeutic opportunities for patients suffering from schizophrenia.
myelin; gene expression; genetic association; brain imaging; oligodendrocyte; synaptic plasticity; dopamine; glutamate
Lampreys are representatives of an ancient vertebrate lineage that diverged from our own ~500 million years ago. By virtue of this deeply shared ancestry, the sea lamprey (P. marinus) genome is uniquely poised to provide insight into the ancestry of vertebrate genomes and the underlying principles of vertebrate biology. Here, we present the first lamprey whole-genome sequence and assembly. We note challenges faced owing to its high content of repetitive elements and GC bases, as well as the absence of broad-scale sequence information from closely related species. Analyses of the assembly indicate that two whole-genome duplications likely occurred before the divergence of ancestral lamprey and gnathostome lineages. Moreover, the results help define key evolutionary events within vertebrate lineages, including the origin of myelin-associated proteins and the development of appendages. The lamprey genome provides an important resource for reconstructing vertebrate origins and the evolutionary events that have shaped the genomes of extant organisms.
Epigenetic alterations offer promise as diagnostic or prognostic markers, but it is not known whether these measures associate with, or predict, clinical state. These questions were addressed in a pilot study with combat veterans with PTSD to determine whether cytosine methylation in promoter regions of the glucocorticoid related NR3C1 and FKBP51 genes would predict or associate with treatment outcome. Veterans with PTSD received prolonged exposure (PE) psychotherapy, yielding responders (n = 8), defined by no longer meeting diagnostic criteria for PTSD, and non-responders (n = 8). Blood samples were obtained at pre-treatment, after 12 weeks of psychotherapy (post-treatment), and after a 3-month follow-up. Methylation was examined in DNA extracted from lymphocytes. Measures reflecting glucocorticoid receptor (GR) activity were also obtained (i.e., plasma and 24 h-urinary cortisol, plasma ACTH, lymphocyte lysozyme IC50-DEX, and plasma neuropeptide-Y). Methylation of the GR gene (NR3C1) exon 1F promoter assessed at pre-treatment predicted treatment outcome, but was not significantly altered in responders or non-responders at post-treatment or follow-up. In contrast, methylation of the FKBP5 gene (FKBP51) exon 1 promoter region did not predict treatment response, but decreased in association with recovery. In a subset, a corresponding group difference in FKBP5 gene expression was observed, with responders showing higher gene expression at post-treatment than non-responders. Endocrine markers were also associated with the epigenetic markers. These preliminary observations require replication and validation. However, the results support research indicating that some glucocorticoid related genes are subject to environmental regulation throughout life. Moreover, psychotherapy constitutes a form of “environmental regulation” that may alter epigenetic state. Finally, the results further suggest that different genes may be associated with prognosis and symptom state, respectively.
PTSD; veterans; epigenetics; methylation; promoter; glucocorticoid receptor; FK506 binding protein 5; psychotherapy
Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is a syndrome characterized by recurrent and intrusive thoughts and ritualistic behaviors or mental acts that a person feels compelled to perform. Twin studies, family studies, and segregation analyses provide compelling evidence that OCD has a strong genetic component. The SLITRK1 gene encodes a developmentally regulated stimulator of neurite outgrowth and previous studies have implicated rare variants in this gene in disorders in the OC spectrum, specifically Tourette syndrome (TS) and trichotillomania (TTM). The objective of the current study was to evaluate rare genetic variation in SLITRK1 in risk for OCD and to functionally characterize associated coding variants. We sequenced SLITRK1 coding exons in 381 individuals with OCD as well as in 356 control samples and identified three novel variants in seven individuals. We found that the combined mutation load in OCD relative to controls was significant (p = 0.036). We identified a missense N400I change in an individual with OCD, which was not found in more than 1000 control samples (P<0.05). In addition, we showed the the N400I variant failed to enhance neurite outgrowth in primary neuronal cultures, in contrast to wildtype SLITRK1, which enhanced neurite outgrowth in this assay. These important functional differences in the N400I variant, as compared to the wildtype SLITRK1 sequence, may contribute to OCD and OC spectrum symptoms. A synonymous L63L change identified in an individual with OCD and an additional missense change, T418S, was found in four individuals with OCD and in one individual without an OCD spectrum disorder. Examination of additional samples will help assess the role of rare SLITRK1 variation in OCD and in related psychiatric illness.
De novo mutations affect risk for many diseases and disorders, especially those with early-onset. An example is autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Four recent whole-exome sequencing (WES) studies of ASD families revealed a handful of novel risk genes, based on independent de novo loss-of-function (LoF) mutations falling in the same gene, and found that de novo LoF mutations occurred at a twofold higher rate than expected by chance. However successful these studies were, they used only a small fraction of the data, excluding other types of de novo mutations and inherited rare variants. Moreover, such analyses cannot readily incorporate data from case-control studies. An important research challenge in gene discovery, therefore, is to develop statistical methods that accommodate a broader class of rare variation. We develop methods that can incorporate WES data regarding de novo mutations, inherited variants present, and variants identified within cases and controls. TADA, for Transmission And De novo Association, integrates these data by a gene-based likelihood model involving parameters for allele frequencies and gene-specific penetrances. Inference is based on a Hierarchical Bayes strategy that borrows information across all genes to infer parameters that would be difficult to estimate for individual genes. In addition to theoretical development we validated TADA using realistic simulations mimicking rare, large-effect mutations affecting risk for ASD and show it has dramatically better power than other common methods of analysis. Thus TADA's integration of various kinds of WES data can be a highly effective means of identifying novel risk genes. Indeed, application of TADA to WES data from subjects with ASD and their families, as well as from a study of ASD subjects and controls, revealed several novel and promising ASD candidate genes with strong statistical support.
The genetic underpinnings of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have proven difficult to determine, despite a wealth of evidence for genetic causes and ongoing effort to identify genes. Recently investigators sequenced the coding regions of the genomes from ASD children along with their unaffected parents (ASD trios) and identified numerous new candidate genes by pinpointing spontaneously occurring (de novo) mutations in the affected offspring. A gene with a severe (de novo) mutation observed in more than one individual is immediately implicated in ASD; however, the majority of severe mutations are observed only once per gene. These genes create a short list of candidates, and our results suggest about 50% are true risk genes. To strengthen our inferences, we develop a novel statistical method (TADA) that utilizes inherited variation transmitted to affected offspring in conjunction with (de novo) mutations to identify risk genes. Through simulations we show that TADA dramatically increases power. We apply this approach to nearly 1000 ASD trios and 2000 subjects from a case-control study and identify several promising genes. Through simulations and application we show that TADA's integration of sequencing data can be a highly effective means of identifying risk genes.
Latrepirdine (Dimebon™) is a pro-neurogenic, antihistaminic compound that has yielded mixed results in clinical trials of mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease, with a dramatically positive outcome in a Russian clinical trial that was unconfirmed in a replication trial in the United States. We sought to determine whether latrepirdine-stimulated APP catabolism is at least partially attributable to regulation of macroautophagy, a highly conserved protein catabolism pathway that is known to be impaired in brains of patients with Alzheimer’s disease (AD). We utilized several mammalian cellular models to determine whether latrepirdine regulates mTOR- and Atg5-dependent autophagy. Male TgCRND8 mice were chronically administered latrepirdine prior to behavior analysis in the cued and contextual fear conditioning paradigm, as well as immunohistological and biochemical analysis of AD-related neuropathology. Treatment of cultured mammalian cells with latrepirdine led to enhanced mTOR- and Atg5-dependent autophagy. Latrepirdine treatment of TgCRND8 transgenic mice was associated with improved learning behavior and with a reduction in accumulation of Aβ42 and α-synuclein. We conclude that latrepirdine possesses pro-autophagic properties in addition to the previously reported pro-neurogenic properties, both of which are potentially relevant to the treatment and/or prevention of neurodegenerative diseases. We suggest that elucidation of the molecular mechanism(s) underlying latrepirdine effects on neurogenesis, autophagy, and behavior might warranty the further study of latrepirdine as a potentially viable lead compound that might yield more consistent clinical benefit following optimization of its pro-neurogenic, pro-autophagic, and/or pro-cognitive activities.
autophagy; amyloid; Alzheimer’s disease; therapeutics
Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are etiologically heterogeneous, with hundreds of rare, highly penetrant mutations and genomic imbalances involved, each contributing to a very small fraction of cases. In this issue of Molecular Autism, Soorya and colleagues evaluated 32 patients with Phelan-McDermid syndrome, caused by either deletion of 22q13.33 or SHANK3 mutations, using gold-standard diagnostic assessments and showed that 84% met criteria for ASD, including 75% meeting criteria for autism. This study and prior studies demonstrate that this syndrome appears to be one of the more penetrant causes of ASD. In this companion review, we show that in samples ascertained for ASD, SHANK3 haploinsufficiency is one of the more prevalent monogenic causes of ASD, explaining at least 0.5% of cases. We note that SHANK3 haploinsufficiency remains underdiagnosed in ASD and developmental delay, although with the increasingly widespread use of chromosomal microarray analysis and targeted sequencing of SHANK3, the number of cases is bound to rise.
22q13 deletion syndrome, also known as Phelan-McDermid syndrome, is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by intellectual disability, hypotonia, delayed or absent speech, and autistic features. SHANK3 has been identified as the critical gene in the neurological and behavioral aspects of this syndrome. The phenotype of SHANK3 deficiency has been described primarily from case studies, with limited evaluation of behavioral and cognitive deficits. The present study used a prospective design and inter-disciplinary clinical evaluations to assess patients with SHANK3 deficiency, with the goal of providing a comprehensive picture of the medical and behavioral profile of the syndrome.
A serially ascertained sample of patients with SHANK3 deficiency (n = 32) was evaluated by a team of child psychiatrists, neurologists, clinical geneticists, molecular geneticists and psychologists. Patients were evaluated for autism spectrum disorder using the Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised and the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule-G.
Thirty participants with 22q13.3 deletions ranging in size from 101 kb to 8.45 Mb and two participants with de novo SHANK3 mutations were included. The sample was characterized by high rates of autism spectrum disorder: 27 (84%) met criteria for autism spectrum disorder and 24 (75%) for autistic disorder. Most patients (77%) exhibited severe to profound intellectual disability and only five (19%) used some words spontaneously to communicate. Dysmorphic features, hypotonia, gait disturbance, recurring upper respiratory tract infections, gastroesophageal reflux and seizures were also common. Analysis of genotype-phenotype correlations indicated that larger deletions were associated with increased levels of dysmorphic features, medical comorbidities and social communication impairments related to autism. Analyses of individuals with small deletions or point mutations identified features related to SHANK3 haploinsufficiency, including ASD, seizures and abnormal EEG, hypotonia, sleep disturbances, abnormal brain MRI, gastroesophageal reflux, and certain dysmorphic features.
This study supports findings from previous research on the severity of intellectual, motor, and speech impairments seen in SHANK3 deficiency, and highlights the prominence of autism spectrum disorder in the syndrome. Limitations of existing evaluation tools are discussed, along with the need for natural history studies to inform clinical monitoring and treatment development in SHANK3 deficiency.
22q13 deletion syndrome; Autism; Microarrays; Mutation; Phelan-McDermid syndrome; SHANK3
Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are highly heritable and characterised by impairments in social interaction and communication, and restricted and repetitive behaviours. Considering four sets of de novo copy number variants (CNVs) identified in 181 individuals with autism and exploiting mouse functional genomics and known protein-protein interactions, we identified a large and significantly interconnected interaction network. This network contains 187 genes affected by CNVs drawn from 45% of the patients we considered and 22 genes previously implicated in ASD, of which 192 form a single interconnected cluster. On average, those patients with copy number changed genes from this network possess changes in 3 network genes, suggesting that epistasis mediated through the network is extensive. Correspondingly, genes that are highly connected within the network, and thus whose copy number change is predicted by the network to be more phenotypically consequential, are significantly enriched among patients that possess only a single ASD-associated network copy number changed gene (p = 0.002). Strikingly, deleted or disrupted genes from the network are significantly enriched in GO-annotated positive regulators (2.3-fold enrichment, corrected p = 2×10−5), whereas duplicated genes are significantly enriched in GO-annotated negative regulators (2.2-fold enrichment, corrected p = 0.005). The direction of copy change is highly informative in the context of the network, providing the means through which perturbations arising from distinct deletions or duplications can yield a common outcome. These findings reveal an extensive ASD-associated molecular network, whose topology indicates ASD-relevant mutational deleteriousness and that mechanistically details how convergent aetiologies can result extensively from CNVs affecting pathways causally implicated in ASD.
Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are characterised by impairments in social interaction and communication, and restricted and repetitive behaviours. ASD are highly heritable and many different stretches of DNA have been found to be duplicated or deleted in individuals with ASD. We found that an unusually high number of genes affected by these DNA deletions/duplications are associated with the functioning of synaptic transmission between nerve cells. The proteins made by many of these genes are known to interact with each other and, together with proteins from other deleted/duplicated genes, form a large interlinked biological network. This network was affected by almost 50% of the deletions/duplications in the ASD patients considered. Many individual ASD patients had deletions or duplications of multiple genes within this network, but for those patients with just a single gene from the network changed, that single gene appeared to play an important role. Furthermore, the network predicts that the effects arising from the genes in the deletions are similar to the effects arising from the genes in the duplications. Thus, the way that this ASD-associated network is wired together contributes to the understanding of the impact of these DNA deletions and duplications.
Pancreatitis is a complex, progressively destructive inflammatory disorder. Alcohol was long thought to be the primary causative agent, but genetic contributions have been of interest since the discovery that rare PRSS1, CFTR, and SPINK1 variants were associated with pancreatitis risk. We now report two significant genome-wide associations identified and replicated at PRSS1-PRSS2 (1×10-12) and x-linked CLDN2 (p < 1×10-21) through a two-stage genome-wide study (Stage 1, 676 cases and 4507 controls; Stage 2, 910 cases and 4170 controls). The PRSS1 variant affects susceptibility by altering expression of the primary trypsinogen gene. The CLDN2 risk allele is associated with atypical localization of claudin-2 in pancreatic acinar cells. The homozygous (or hemizygous male) CLDN2 genotype confers the greatest risk, and its alleles interact with alcohol consumption to amplify risk. These results could partially explain the high frequency of alcohol-related pancreatitis in men – male hemizygous frequency is 0.26, female homozygote is 0.07.
Genetic variants associated with susceptibility to late-onset Alzheimer disease are known for individuals of European ancestry, but whether the same or different variants account for the genetic risk of Alzheimer disease in African American individuals is unknown. Identification of disease-associated variants helps identify targets for genetic testing, prevention, and treatment.
To identify genetic loci associated with late-onset Alzheimer disease in African Americans.
Design, Setting, and Participants
The Alzheimer Disease Genetics Consortium (ADGC) assembled multiple data sets representing a total of 5896 African Americans (1968 case participants, 3928 control participants) 60 years or older that were collected between 1989 and 2011 at multiple sites. The association of Alzheimer disease with genotyped and imputed single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) was assessed in case-control and in family-based data sets. Results from individual data sets were combined to perform an inverse variance–weighted meta-analysis, first with genome-wide analyses and subsequently with gene-based tests for previously reported loci.
Main Outcomes and Measures
Presence of Alzheimer disease according to standardized criteria.
Genome-wide significance in fully adjusted models (sex, age, APOE genotype, population stratification) was observed for a SNP in ABCA7 (rs115550680, allele = G; frequency, 0.09 cases and 0.06 controls; odds ratio [OR], 1.79 [95% CI, 1.47-2.12]; P = 2.2 × 10–9), which is in linkage disequilibrium with SNPs previously associated with Alzheimer disease in Europeans (0.8
Conclusions and Relevance
In this meta-analysis of data from African American participants, Alzheimer disease was significantly associated with variants in ABCA7 and with other genes that have been associated with Alzheimer disease in individuals of European ancestry. Replication and functional validation of this finding is needed before this information is used in clinical settings.
Results 1-25 (76)
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