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1.  Identification of candidate risk gene variations by whole-genome sequence analysis of four rat strains commonly used in inflammation research 
BMC Genomics  2014;15(1):391.
The DA rat strain is particularly susceptible to the induction of a number of chronic inflammatory diseases, such as models for rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis. Here we sequenced the genomes of two DA sub-strains and two disease resistant strains, E3 and PVG, previously used together with DA strains in genetically segregating crosses.
The data uncovers genomic variations, such as single nucleotide variations (SNVs) and copy number variations that underlie phenotypic differences between the strains. Comparisons of regional differences between the two DA sub-strains identified 8 genomic regions that discriminate between the strains that together cover 38 Mbp and harbor 302 genes. We analyzed 10 fine-mapped quantitative trait loci and our data implicate strong candidates for genetic variations that mediate their effects. For example we could identify a single SNV candidate in a regulatory region of the gene Il21r, which has been associated to differential expression in both rats and human MS patients. In the APLEC complex we identified two SNVs in a highly conserved region, which could affect the regulation of all APLEC encoded genes and explain the polygenic differential expression seen in the complex. Furthermore, the non-synonymous SNV modifying aa153 of the Ncf1 protein was confirmed as the sole causative factor.
This complete map of genetic differences between the most commonly used rat strains in inflammation research constitutes an important reference in understanding how genetic variations contribute to the traits of importance for inflammatory diseases.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/1471-2164-15-391) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4041999  PMID: 24885425
Rat genome; Whole-genome sequencing; QTL; Rheumatoid arthritis; Multiple sclerosis; Disease-associated SNVs
2.  Neuroendocrine Profile in a Rat Model of Psychosocial Stress: Relation to Oxidative Stress 
Antioxidants & Redox Signaling  2013;18(12):1385-1399.
Aims: Psychosocial stress alters the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA-axis). Increasing evidence shows a link between these alterations and oxidant elevation. Oxidative stress is implicated in the stress response and in the pathogenesis of neurologic and psychiatric diseases. NADPH oxidases (NOXs) are a major source of reactive oxygen species (ROS) in the central nervous system. Here, we investigated the contributory role of NOX2-derived ROS to the development of neuroendocrine alterations in a rat model of chronic psychosocial stress, the social isolation. Results: Significant elevations in the hypothalamic levels of corticotropin-releasing factor and plasmatic adrenocorticotropic hormone were observed from 4 weeks of social isolation. Increased levels of peripheral markers of the HPA-axis (plasmatic and salivary corticosterone) were observed at a later time point of social isolation (7 weeks). Alteration in the exploratory activity of isolated rats followed the same time course. Increased expression of markers of oxidative stress (8-hydroxy-2-deoxyguanosine [8OhdG] and nitrotyrosine) and NOX2 mRNA was early detectable in the hypothalamus of isolated rats (after 2 weeks), but later (after 7 weeks) in the adrenal gland. A 3-week treatment with the antioxidant/NOX inhibitor apocynin stopped the progression of isolation-induced alterations of the HPA-axis. Rats with a loss-of-function mutation in the NOX2 subunit p47phox were totally protected from the alterations of the neuroendocrine profile, behavior, and increased NOX2 mRNA expression induced by social isolation. Innovation: We demonstrate that psychosocial stress induces early elevation of NOX2-derived oxidative stress in the hypothalamus and consequent alterations of the HPA-axis, leading ultimately to an altered behavior. Conclusion: Pharmacological targeting of NOX2 might be of crucial importance for the treatment of psychosocial stress-induced psychosis. Antioxid. Redox Signal. 18, 1385–1399.
PMCID: PMC3603501  PMID: 23320850
3.  Functional regulatory T cells produced by inhibiting cyclic nucleotide phosphodiesterase type 3 prevent allograft rejection 
Science translational medicine  2011;3(83):83ra40.
Regulatory T cells (Tregs) manipulated ex vivo have potential as cellular therapeutics in autoimmunity and transplantation. Although it is possible to expand naturally occurring Tregs, an attractive alternative possibility, particularly suited to solid organ and bone marrow transplantation, is the stimulation of total T cell populations with defined allogeneic antigen presenting cells under conditions that lead to the generation or expansion of donor-reactive, adaptive Tregs. Here we demonstrate that stimulation of mouse CD4+ T cells by immature allogeneic dendritic cells (DCs) combined with pharmacological inhibition of phosphodiesterase 3 (PDEi) results in a functional enrichment of Foxp3+ T cells. Without further manipulation or selection, the resultant population delayed skin allograft rejection mediated by polyclonal CD4+ effectors or donor-reactive CD8+ TCR transgenic T cells and inhibited both effector cell proliferation and T cell priming for IFN-γ production. Notably, PDE inhibition also enhanced the enrichment of human Foxp3+ CD4+ T cells driven by allogeneic APC. These cells inhibited T cell proliferation in a standard in vitro mixed lymphocyte assay and importantly, attenuated the development of vasculopathy mediated by autologous PBMC in a functionally relevant humanized mouse transplant model. These data establish a method for the ex vivo generation of graft-reactive, functional mouse and human Tregs that uses a clinically approved agent, making pharmacological PDE inhibition a potential strategy for Treg-based therapies
PMCID: PMC3321352  PMID: 21593400
4.  Genome-Wide Screen for Differential DNA Methylation Associated with Neural Cell Differentiation in Mouse 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(10):e26002.
Cellular differentiation involves widespread epigenetic reprogramming, including modulation of DNA methylation patterns. Using Differential Methylation Hybridization (DMH) in combination with a custom DMH array containing 51,243 features covering more than 16,000 murine genes, we carried out a genome-wide screen for cell- and tissue-specific differentially methylated regions (tDMRs) in undifferentiated embryonic stem cells (ESCs), in in-vitro induced neural stem cells (NSCs) and 8 differentiated embryonic and adult tissues. Unsupervised clustering of the generated data showed distinct cell- and tissue-specific DNA methylation profiles, revealing 202 significant tDMRs (p<0.005) between ESCs and NSCs and a further 380 tDMRs (p<0.05) between NSCs/ESCs and embryonic brain tissue. We validated these tDMRs using direct bisulfite sequencing (DBS) and methylated DNA immunoprecipitation on chip (MeDIP-chip). Gene ontology (GO) analysis of the genes associated with these tDMRs showed significant (absolute Z score>1.96) enrichment for genes involved in neural differentiation, including, for example, Jag1 and Tcf4. Our results provide robust evidence for the relevance of DNA methylation in early neural development and identify novel marker candidates for neural cell differentiation.
PMCID: PMC3196508  PMID: 22028803
5.  A Bayesian deconvolution strategy for immunoprecipitation-based DNA methylome analysis 
Nature biotechnology  2008;26(7):779-785.
DNA methylation is an indispensible epigenetic modification of mammalian genomes. Consequently there is great interest in strategies for genome-wide/whole-genome DNA methylation analysis, and immunoprecipitation-based methods have proven to be a powerful option. Such methods are rapidly shifting the bottleneck from data generation to data analysis, necessitating the development of better analytical tools. Until now, a major analytical difficulty associated with immunoprecipitation-based DNA methylation profiling has been the inability to estimate absolute methylation levels. Here we report the development of a novel cross-platform algorithm – Bayesian Tool for Methylation Analysis (Batman) – for analyzing Methylated DNA Immunoprecipitation (MeDIP) profiles generated using arrays (MeDIP-chip) or next-generation sequencing (MeDIP-seq). The latter is an approach we have developed to elucidate the first high-resolution whole-genome DNA methylation profile (DNA methylome) of any mammalian genome. MeDIP-seq/MeDIP-chip combined with Batman represent robust, quantitative, and cost-effective functional genomic strategies for elucidating the function of DNA methylation.
PMCID: PMC2644410  PMID: 18612301
6.  Generation of a genomic tiling array of the human Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) and its application for DNA methylation analysis 
BMC Medical Genomics  2008;1:19.
The major histocompatibility complex (MHC) is essential for human immunity and is highly associated with common diseases, including cancer. While the genetics of the MHC has been studied intensively for many decades, very little is known about the epigenetics of this most polymorphic and disease-associated region of the genome.
To facilitate comprehensive epigenetic analyses of this region, we have generated a genomic tiling array of 2 Kb resolution covering the entire 4 Mb MHC region. The array has been designed to be compatible with chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP), methylated DNA immunoprecipitation (MeDIP), array comparative genomic hybridization (aCGH) and expression profiling, including of non-coding RNAs. The array comprises 7832 features, consisting of two replicates of both forward and reverse strands of MHC amplicons and appropriate controls.
Using MeDIP, we demonstrate the application of the MHC array for DNA methylation profiling and the identification of tissue-specific differentially methylated regions (tDMRs). Based on the analysis of two tissues and two cell types, we identified 90 tDMRs within the MHC and describe their characterisation.
A tiling array covering the MHC region was developed and validated. Its successful application for DNA methylation profiling indicates that this array represents a useful tool for molecular analyses of the MHC in the context of medical genomics.
PMCID: PMC2430202  PMID: 18513384

Results 1-6 (6)