Our objective was to design a genotyping platform that would allow rapid genetic characterization of samples in the context of genetic mutations and risk factors associated with common neurodegenerative diseases. The platform needed to be relatively affordable, rapid to deploy, and use a common and accessible technology. Central to this project, we wanted to make the content of the platform open to any investigator without restriction. In designing this array we prioritised a number of types of genetic variability for inclusion, such as known risk alleles, disease causing mutations, putative risk alleles, and other functionally important variants. The array was primarily designed to allow rapid screening of samples for disease causing mutations, and large population studies of risk factors. Notably, an explicit aim was to make this array widely available to facilitate data sharing across and within diseases.
The resulting array, NeuroX, is a remarkably cost and time effective solution for high quality genotyping. NeuroX comprises a backbone of standard Illumina exome content of approximately 240,000 variants, and over 24,000 custom content variants focusing on neurological diseases. Data is generated at ~$50–$60 per sample using a 12-sample format chip and regular Infinium infrastructure; thus genotyping is rapid, and accessible to many investigators. Here, we describe the design of NeuroX, discuss the utility of NeuroX in the analyses of rare and common risk variants, and present quality control metrics and a brief primer for the analysis of NeuroX derived data.
The autosomal dominant spinocerebellar ataxias are most commonly caused by nucleotide repeat expansions followed by base-pair changes in functionally important genes. Structural variation has recently been shown to underlie Spinocerebellar ataxia types 15 and 20.
We applied single-nucleotide polymorphism genotyping to determine if structural variation causes spinocerebellar ataxia in a family from France.
We identified an approximately 7.5 megabasepair duplication on chromosome 11q21-11q22.3 that segregates with disease. This duplication contains an estimated 44 genes. Duplications at this locus were not found in control individuals.
We have identified a new spastic ataxia syndrome caused by a genomic duplication, which we have denoted as Spinocerebellar ataxia type 39. Finding additional families with this phenotype will be important to identify the genetic lesion underlying disease.
whole-genome genotyping; genomic duplications; spinocerebellar ataxia; structural variation; SCA39
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and Tourette Syndrome (TS) are highly heritable neurodevelopmental disorders that are thought to share genetic risk factors. However, the identification of definitive susceptibility genes for these etiologically complex disorders remains elusive. Here, we report a combined genome-wide association study (GWAS) of TS and OCD in 2723 cases (1310 with OCD, 834 with TS, 579 with OCD plus TS/chronic tics (CT)), 5667 ancestry-matched controls, and 290 OCD parent-child trios. Although no individual single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) achieved genome-wide significance, the GWAS signals were enriched for SNPs strongly associated with variations in brain gene expression levels, i.e. expression quantitative loci (eQTLs), suggesting the presence of true functional variants that contribute to risk of these disorders. Polygenic score analyses identified a significant polygenic component for OCD (p=2×10−4), predicting 3.2% of the phenotypic variance in an independent data set. In contrast, TS had a smaller, non-significant polygenic component, predicting only 0.6% of the phenotypic variance (p=0.06). No significant polygenic signal was detected across the two disorders, although the sample is likely underpowered to detect a modest shared signal. Furthermore, the OCD polygenic signal was significantly attenuated when cases with both OCD and TS/CT were included in the analysis (p=0.01). Previous work has shown that TS and OCD have some degree of shared genetic variation. However, the data from this study suggest that there are also distinct components to the genetic architectures of TS and OCD. Furthermore, OCD with co-occurring TS/CT may have different underlying genetic susceptibility compared to OCD alone.
Autosomal recessive cerebellar ataxia (ARCA) comprises a large and heterogeneous group of neurodegenerative disorders. We studied 3 families diagnosed with ARCA.
To determine the gene lesions responsible for their disorders, we performed high density SNP genotyping and exome sequencing.
We identified a new mutation in the SACS gene and a known mutation in SPG11. Notably we also identified a homozygous variant in APOB, a gene previously associated with ataxia.
These findings demonstrate that exome sequencing is an efficient and direct diagnostic tool for identifying the causes of complex and genetically heterogeneous neurodegenerative diseases, early stage disease or cases with limited clinical data.
Exome sequencing; ataxia; SPG11; APOB; SACS; mutation
Our objective was to design a genotyping platform that would allow rapid genetic characterization of samples in the context of genetic mutations and risk factors associated with common neurodegenerative diseases. The platform needed to be relatively affordable, rapid to deploy, and use a common and accessible technology. Central to this project, we wanted to make the content of the platform open to any investigator without restriction. In designing this array we prioritized a number of types of genetic variability for inclusion, such as known risk alleles, disease-causing mutations, putative risk alleles, and other functionally important variants. The array was primarily designed to allow rapid screening of samples for disease-causing mutations and large population studies of risk factors. Notably, an explicit aim was to make this array widely available to facilitate data sharing across and within diseases. The resulting array, NeuroX, is a remarkably cost and time effective solution for high-quality genotyping. NeuroX comprises a backbone of standard Illumina exome content of approximately 240,000 variants, and over 24,000 custom content variants focusing on neurologic diseases. Data are generated at approximately $50–$60 per sample using a 12-sample format chip and regular Infinium infrastructure; thus, genotyping is rapid and accessible to many investigators. Here, we describe the design of NeuroX, discuss the utility of NeuroX in the analyses of rare and common risk variants, and present quality control metrics and a brief primer for the analysis of NeuroX derived data.
Genotyping; Methods; Genetics; Neurodegeneration; Parkinson’s; Meta-analysis; Imputation
The highly complex structure of the human brain is strongly shaped by genetic influences1. Subcortical brain regions form circuits with cortical areas to coordinate movement2, learning, memory3 and motivation4, and altered circuits can lead to abnormal behaviour and disease2. To investigate how common genetic variants affect the structure of these brain regions, here we conduct genome-wide association studies of the volumes of seven subcortical regions and the intracranial volume derived from magnetic resonance images of 30,717 individuals from 50 cohorts. We identify five novel genetic variants influencing the volumes of the putamen and caudate nucleus. We also find stronger evidence for three loci with previously established influences on hippocampal volume5 and intracranial volume6. These variants show specific volumetric effects on brain structures rather than global effects across structures. The strongest effects were found for the putamen, where a novel intergenic locus with replicable influence on volume (rs945270; P = 1.08 × 10−33; 0.52% variance explained) showed evidence of altering the expression of the KTN1 gene in both brain and blood tissue. Variants influencing putamen volume clustered near developmental genes that regulate apoptosis, axon guidance and vesicle transport. Identification of these genetic variants provides insight into the causes of variability inhuman brain development, and may help to determine mechanisms of neuropsychiatric dysfunction.
We conducted a meta analysis of Parkinson’s disease genome-wide association studies using a common set of 7,893,274 variants across 13,708 cases and 95,282 controls. Twenty-six loci were identified as genome-wide significant; these and six additional previously reported loci were then tested in an independent set of 5,353 cases and 5,551 controls. Of the 32 tested SNPs, 24 replicated, including 6 novel loci. Conditional analyses within loci show four loci including GBA, GAK/DGKQ, SNCA, and HLA contain a secondary independent risk variant. In total we identified and replicated 28 independent risk variants for Parkinson disease across 24 loci. While the effect of each individual locus is small, a risk profile analysis revealed a substantial cummulative risk in a comparison highest versus lowest quintiles of genetic risk (OR=3.31, 95% CI: 2.55, 4.30; p-value = 2×10−16). We also show 6 risk loci associated with proximal gene expression or DNA methylation.
Parkinson's disease (PD) is the second most common neurodegenerative disease affecting 1–2% in people >60 and 3–4% in people >80. Genome-wide association (GWA) studies have now implicated significant evidence for association in at least 18 genomic regions. We have studied a large PD-meta analysis and identified a significant excess of SNPs (P < 1 × 10−16) that are associated with PD but fall short of the genome-wide significance threshold. This result was independent of variants at the 18 previously implicated regions and implies the presence of additional polygenic risk alleles. To understand how these loci increase risk of PD, we applied a pathway-based analysis, testing for biological functions that were significantly enriched for genes containing variants associated with PD. Analysing two independent GWA studies, we identified that both had a significant excess in the number of functional categories enriched for PD-associated genes (minimum P = 0.014 and P = 0.006, respectively). Moreover, 58 categories were significantly enriched for associated genes in both GWA studies (P < 0.001), implicating genes involved in the ‘regulation of leucocyte/lymphocyte activity’ and also ‘cytokine-mediated signalling’ as conferring an increased susceptibility to PD. These results were unaltered by the exclusion of all 178 genes that were present at the 18 genomic regions previously reported to be strongly associated with PD (including the HLA locus). Our findings, therefore, provide independent support to the strong association signal at the HLA locus and imply that the immune-related genetic susceptibility to PD is likely to be more widespread in the genome than previously appreciated.
Old English Sheepdogs and Gordon Setters suffer from a juvenile onset, autosomal recessive form of canine hereditary ataxia primarily affecting the Purkinje neuron of the cerebellar cortex. The clinical and histological characteristics are analogous to hereditary ataxias in humans. Linkage and genome-wide association studies on a cohort of related Old English Sheepdogs identified a region on CFA4 strongly associated with the disease phenotype. Targeted sequence capture and next generation sequencing of the region identified an A to C single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) located at position 113 in exon 1 of an autophagy gene, RAB24, that segregated with the phenotype. Genotyping of six additional breeds of dogs affected with hereditary ataxia identified the same polymorphism in affected Gordon Setters that segregated perfectly with phenotype. The other breeds tested did not have the polymorphism. Genome-wide SNP genotyping of Gordon Setters identified a 1.9 MB region with an identical haplotype to affected Old English Sheepdogs. Histopathology, immunohistochemistry and ultrastructural evaluation of the brains of affected dogs from both breeds identified dramatic Purkinje neuron loss with axonal spheroids, accumulation of autophagosomes, ubiquitin positive inclusions and a diffuse increase in cytoplasmic neuronal ubiquitin staining. These findings recapitulate the changes reported in mice with induced neuron-specific autophagy defects. Taken together, our results suggest that a defect in RAB24, a gene associated with autophagy, is highly associated with and may contribute to canine hereditary ataxia in Old English Sheepdogs and Gordon Setters. This finding suggests that detailed investigation of autophagy pathways should be undertaken in human hereditary ataxia.
Neurodegenerative diseases are one of the most important causes of decline in an aging population. An important subset of these diseases are known as the hereditary ataxias, familial neurodegenerative diseases that affect the cerebellum causing progressive gait disturbance in both humans and dogs. We identified a mutation in RAB24, a gene associated with autophagy, in Old English Sheepdogs and Gordon Setters with hereditary ataxia. Autophagy is a process by which cell proteins and organelles are removed and recycled and its critical role in maintenance of the continued health of cells is becoming clear. We evaluated the brains of affected dogs and identified accumulations of autophagosomes within the cerebellum, suggesting a defect in the autophagy pathway. Our results suggest that a defect in the autophagy pathway results in neuronal death in a naturally occurring disease in dogs. The autophagy pathway should be investigated in human hereditary ataxia and may represent a therapeutic target in neurodegenerative diseases.
Brown–Vialetto–Van Laere syndrome was first described in 1894 as a rare neurodegenerative disorder characterized by progressive sensorineural deafness in combination with childhood amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Mutations in the gene, SLC52A3 (formerly C20orf54), one of three known riboflavin transporter genes, have recently been shown to underlie a number of severe cases of Brown–Vialetto–Van Laere syndrome; however, cases and families with this disease exist that do not appear to be caused by SLC52A3 mutations. We used a combination of linkage and exome sequencing to identify the disease causing mutation in an extended Lebanese Brown–Vialetto–Van Laere kindred, whose affected members were negative for SLC52A3 mutations. We identified a novel mutation in a second member of the riboflavin transporter gene family (gene symbol: SLC52A2) as the cause of disease in this family. The same mutation was identified in one additional subject, from 44 screened. Within this group of 44 patients, we also identified two additional cases with SLC52A3 mutations, but none with mutations in the remaining member of this gene family, SLC52A1. We believe this strongly supports the notion that defective riboflavin transport plays an important role in Brown–Vialetto–Van Laere syndrome. Initial work has indicated that patients with SLC52A3 defects respond to riboflavin treatment clinically and biochemically. Clearly, this makes an excellent candidate therapy for the SLC52A2 mutation-positive patients identified here. Initial riboflavin treatment of one of these patients shows promising results.
motor neuron disease; ALS; riboflavin; BVVL; SLC52A2
Genome wide association studies have nominated many genetic variants for common human traits, including diseases, but in many cases the underlying biological reason for a trait association is unknown. Subsets of genetic polymorphisms show a statistical association with transcript expression levels, and have therefore been nominated as expression quantitative trait loci (eQTL). However, many tissue and cell types have specific gene expression patterns and so it is not clear how frequently eQTLs found in one tissue type will be replicated in others. In the present study we used two appropriately powered sample series to examine the genetic control of gene expression in blood and brain. We find that while many eQTLs associated with human traits are shared between these two tissues, there are also examples where blood and brain differ, either by restricted gene expression patterns in one tissue or because of differences in how genetic variants are associated with transcript levels. These observations suggest that design of eQTL mapping experiments should consider tissue of interest for the disease or other trait studied.
A hexanucleotide repeat expansion in the C9ORF72 gene has recently been shown to cause a large proportion of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and fronto-temporal dementia (FTD).
We screened 4,448 patients diagnosed with ALS and 1,425 patients diagnosed with FTD drawn from diverse populations for the hexanucleotide expansion using a repeat-primed PCR assay. ALS and FTD were diagnosed according to the El Escorial and Lund-Manchester criteria respectively. Familial status was based on self-reported family history of similar neurodegenerative diseases at the time of sample collection. Haplotype data of 262 patients carrying the expansion were compared with the known Finnish founder risk haplotype across the chromosomal locus. Age-related penetrance was calculated by the Kaplan-Meier method using data from 603 individuals carrying the expansion.
The mutation was observed among 7·0% (n = 236 of 3,377) of Caucasians, 4·1% (n = 2 of 49) of African-Americans, and 8·3% (n = 6 of 72) of Hispanic individuals diagnosed with sporadic ALS, whereas the rate was 6·0% (n = 59 of 981) among Caucasians diagnosed with sporadic FTD. Among Asians, 5·0% (n = 1 of 20) of familial ALS and 66·6% (n = 2 of 3) of familial FTD cases carried the repeat expansion. In contrast, mutations were not observed among patients of Native American (n = 3 sporadic ALS), Indian (n = 31 sporadic ALS, n = 31 sporadic FTD), and Pacific Islander (n = 90 sporadic ALS) ethnicity. All patients with the repeat expansion carried, either partially or fully, the founder haplotype suggesting that the expansion occurred on a single occasion in the past (~1,500 years ago). The pathogenic expansion was non-penetrant below 35 years of age, increasing to 50·0% penetrance by 58 years of age, and was almost fully penetrant by 80 years of age.
We confirm that a common single Mendelian genetic lesion is implicated in a large proportion of sporadic and familial ALS and FTD. Testing for this pathogenic expansion will be important in the management and genetic counseling of patients with these fatal neurodegenerative diseases.
Polymorphisms in the target mRNA sequence can greatly affect the binding affinity of microarray probe sequences, leading to false-positive and false-negative expression quantitative trait locus (QTL) signals with any other polymorphisms in linkage disequilibrium. We provide the most complete solution to this problem, by using the latest genome and exome sequence reference data to identify almost all common polymorphisms (frequency >1% in Europeans) in probe sequences for two commonly used microarray panels (the gene-based Illumina Human HT12 array, which uses 50-mer probes, and exon-based Affymetrix Human Exon 1.0 ST array, which uses 25-mer probes). We demonstrate the impact of this problem using cerebellum and frontal cortex tissues from 438 neuropathologically normal individuals. We find that although only a small proportion of the probes contain polymorphisms, they account for a large proportion of apparent expression QTL signals, and therefore result in many false signals being declared as real. We find that the polymorphism-in-probe problem is insufficiently controlled by previous protocols, and illustrate this using some notable false-positive and false-negative examples in MAPT and PRICKLE1 that can be found in many eQTL databases. We recommend that both new and existing eQTL data sets should be carefully checked in order to adequately address this issue.
To test whether the synucleinopathies Parkinson’s disease and multiple system atrophy (MSA) share a common genetic etiology, we performed a candidate single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) association study of the 384 most associated SNPs in a genome-wide association study of Parkinson’s disease in 413 MSA cases and 3,974 control subjects. The 10 most significant SNPs were then replicated in additional 108 MSA cases and 537 controls. SNPs at the SNCA locus were significantly associated with risk for increased risk for the development of MSA (combined p = 5.5 × 1012; odds ratio 6.2).
Cortical and cerebrovascular amyloid-beta (A-beta) deposition is a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease (AD), but also occurs in elderly people not affected by dementia. The apolipoprotein E (APOE) epsilon4 is a major genetic modulator of A-beta deposition and AD risk. Variants of the amyloid-beta protein precursor (A-betaPP) gene have been reported to contribute to AD and cerebral amyloid angiopathy (CAA). We analyzed the role of APOE and A-beta PP variants in cortical and cerebrovascular A-beta deposition, and neuropathologically verified AD (based on modified NIA-RI criteria) in a population-based autopsy sample of Finns aged ≥85 years (Vantaa85 + Study; n = 282). Our updated analysis of APOE showed strong associations of the epsilon4 allele with cortical (p = 4.91×10−17) and cerebrovascular (p = 9.87×10−11) A-beta deposition as well as with NIA-RI AD (p = 1.62×10−8). We also analyzed 60 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) at the A-betaPP locus. In single SNP or haplotype analyses there were no statistically significant A-betaPP locus associations with cortical or cerebrovascular A-beta deposition or with NIA-RI AD. We sequenced the promoter of the A-betaPP gene in 40 subjects with very high A-beta deposition, but none of these subjects had any of the previously reported or novel AD-associated mutations. These results suggest that cortical and cerebrovascular A-beta depositions are useful quantitative traits for genetic studies, as highlighted by the strong associations with the APOE epsilon4 variant. Promoter mutations or common allelic variation in the A-betaPP gene do not have a major contribution to cortical or cerebrovascular A-beta deposition, or very late-onset AD in this Finnish population based study.
To perform an extensive screening for mutations of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)–related genes in a consecutive cohort of Sardinian patients, a genetic isolate phylogenically distinct from other European populations.
Population-based, prospective cohort study.
A total of 135 Sardinian patients with ALS and 156 healthy control subjects of Sardinian origin who were age- and sex-matched to patients.
Patients underwent mutational analysis for SOD1, FUS, and TARDBP.
Mutational screening of the entire cohort found that 39 patients (28.7%) carried the c.1144G A (p.A382T) missense mutation of the TARDBP gene. Of these, 15 had familial ALS (belonging to 10 distinct pedigrees) and 24 had apparently sporadic ALS. None of the 156 age-, sex-, and ethnicity-matched controls carried the pathogenic variant. Genotype data obtained for 5 ALS cases carrying the p.A382T mutation found that they shared a 94–single-nucleotide polymorphism risk haplotype that spanned 663 Kb across the TARDBP locus on chromosome 1p36.22. Three patients with ALS who carry the p.A382T mutation developed extrapyramidal symptoms several years after their initial presentation with motor weakness.
The TARDBP p.A382T missense mutation accounts for approximately one-third of all ALS cases in this island population. These patients share a large risk haplotype across the TARDBP locus, indicating that they have a common ancestor.
Genome-wide association studies have nominated many genetic variants for common human traits, including diseases, but in many cases the underlying biological reason for a trait association is unknown. Subsets of genetic polymorphisms show a statistical association with transcript expression levels, and have therefore been nominated as expression quantitative trait loci (eQTL). However, many tissue and cell types have specific gene expression patterns and so it is not clear how frequently eQTLs found in one tissue type will be replicated in others. In the present study we used two appropriately powered sample series to examine the genetic control of gene expression in blood and brain. We find that while many eQTLs associated with human traits are shared between these two tissues, there are also examples where blood and brain differ, either by restricted gene expression patterns in one tissue or because of differences in how genetic variants are associated with transcript levels. These observations suggest that design of eQTL mapping experiments should consider tissue of interest for the disease or other traits studied.
► We integrate GWAS SNPs and examine the genetic control of gene expression in blood and brain tissue. ► Many eQTLs associated with human traits are shared between the blood and the brain. ► A number of discrete, tissue specific eQTLs also exist in the blood or the brain. ► Functional studies in blood have a limited capacity to inform on regulatory variation in the brain. ► Design of eQTL mapping experiments should consider the tissue of interest for the phenotype studied.
eQTL; GWAS; Brain; Blood
The MAPT (microtubule-associated protein tau) locus is one of the most remarkable in neurogenetics due not only to its involvement in multiple neurodegenerative disorders, including progressive supranuclear palsy, corticobasal degeneration, Parksinson's disease and possibly Alzheimer's disease, but also due its genetic evolution and complex alternative splicing features which are, to some extent, linked and so all the more intriguing. Therefore, obtaining robust information regarding the expression, splicing and genetic regulation of this gene within the human brain is of immense importance. In this study, we used 2011 brain samples originating from 439 individuals to provide the most reliable and coherent information on the regional expression, splicing and regulation of MAPT available to date. We found significant regional variation in mRNA expression and splicing of MAPT within the human brain. Furthermore, at the gene level, the regional distribution of mRNA expression and total tau protein expression levels were largely in agreement, appearing to be highly correlated. Finally and most importantly, we show that while the reported H1/H2 association with gene level expression is likely to be due to a technical artefact, this polymorphism is associated with the expression of exon 3-containing isoforms in human brain. These findings would suggest that contrary to the prevailing view, genetic risk factors for neurodegenerative diseases at the MAPT locus are likely to operate by changing mRNA splicing in different brain regions, as opposed to the overall expression of the MAPT gene.
In view of the population-specific heterogeneity in reported genetic risk factors for Parkinson's disease (PD), we conducted a genome-wide association study (GWAS) in a large sample of PD cases and controls from the Netherlands. After quality control (QC), a total of 514 799 SNPs genotyped in 772 PD cases and 2024 controls were included in our analyses. Direct replication of SNPs within SNCA and BST1 confirmed these two genes to be associated with PD in the Netherlands (SNCA, rs2736990: P=1.63 × 10−5, OR=1.325 and BST1, rs12502586: P=1.63 × 10−3, OR=1.337). Within SNCA, two independent signals in two different linkage disequilibrium (LD) blocks in the 3′ and 5′ ends of the gene were detected. Besides, post-hoc analysis confirmed GAK/DGKQ, HLA and MAPT as PD risk loci among the Dutch (GAK/DGKQ, rs2242235: P=1.22 × 10−4, OR=1.51; HLA, rs4248166: P=4.39 × 10−5, OR=1.36; and MAPT, rs3785880: P=1.9 × 10−3, OR=1.19).
SNCA; BST1; GAK/DGKQ; HLA; MAPT; PD
We aimed to accurately estimate the frequency of a hexanucleotide repeat expansion in C9orf72 that has been associated with a large proportion of cases of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal dementia (FTD).
We screened 4448 patients diagnosed with ALS (El Escorial criteria) and 1425 patients with FTD (Lund-Manchester criteria) from 17 regions worldwide for the GGGGCC hexanucleotide expansion using a repeat-primed PCR assay. We assessed familial disease status on the basis of self-reported family history of similar neurodegenerative diseases at the time of sample collection. We compared haplotype data for 262 patients carrying the expansion with the known Finnish founder risk haplotype across the chromosomal locus. We calculated age-related penetrance using the Kaplan-Meier method with data for 603 individuals with the expansion.
In patients with sporadic ALS, we identified the repeat expansion in 236 (7·0%) of 3377 white individuals from the USA, Europe, and Australia, two (4·1%) of 49 black individuals from the USA, and six (8·3%) of 72 Hispanic individuals from the USA. The mutation was present in 217 (39·3%) of 552 white individuals with familial ALS from Europe and the USA. 59 (6·0%) of 981 white Europeans with sporadic FTD had the mutation, as did 99 (24·8%) of 400 white Europeans with familial FTD. Data for other ethnic groups were sparse, but we identified one Asian patient with familial ALS (from 20 assessed) and two with familial FTD (from three assessed) who carried the mutation. The mutation was not carried by the three Native Americans or 360 patients from Asia or the Pacific Islands with sporadic ALS who were tested, or by 41 Asian patients with sporadic FTD. All patients with the repeat expansion had (partly or fully) the founder haplotype, suggesting a one-off expansion occurring about 1500 years ago. The pathogenic expansion was non-penetrant in individuals younger than 35 years, 50% penetrant by 58 years, and almost fully penetrant by 80 years.
A common Mendelian genetic lesion in C9orf72 is implicated in many cases of sporadic and familial ALS and FTD. Testing for this pathogenic expansion should be considered in the management and genetic counselling of patients with these fatal neurodegenerative diseases.
Full funding sources listed at end of paper (see Acknowledgments).
Methylation at CpG sites is a critical epigenetic modification in mammals. Altered DNA methylation has been suggested to be a central mechanism in development, some disease processes and cellular senescence. Quantifying the extent and identity of epigenetic changes in the aging process is therefore potentially important for understanding longevity and age-related diseases. In the current study, we have examined DNA methylation at >27 000 CpG sites throughout the human genome, in frontal cortex, temporal cortex, pons and cerebellum from 387 human donors between the ages of 1 and 102 years. We identify CpG loci that show a highly significant, consistent correlation between DNA methylation and chronological age. The majority of these loci are within CpG islands and there is a positive correlation between age and DNA methylation level. Lastly, we show that the CpG sites where the DNA methylation level is significantly associated with age are physically close to genes involved in DNA binding and regulation of transcription. This suggests that specific age-related DNA methylation changes may have quite a broad impact on gene expression in the human brain.
Using exome sequencing, we identified a p.R191Q amino acid change in the valosin-containing protein (VCP) gene in an Italian family with autosomal dominantly inherited amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Mutations in VCP have previously been identified in families with Inclusion Body Myopathy, Paget’s disease and Frontotemporal Dementia (IBMPFD). Screening of VCP in a cohort of 210 familial ALS cases and 78 autopsy-proven ALS cases identified four additional mutations including a p.R155H mutation in a pathologically-proven case of ALS. VCP protein is essential for maturation of ubiquitin-containing autophagosomes, and mutant VCP toxicity is partially mediated through its effect on TDP-43 protein, a major constituent of ubiquitin inclusions that neuropathologically characterize ALS. Our data broaden the phenotype of IBMPFD to include motor neuron degeneration, suggest that VCP mutations may account for ~1–2% of familial ALS, and represent the first evidence directly implicating defects in the ubiquitination/protein degradation pathway in motor neuron degeneration.
to determine the frequency and the phenotypical spectrum of SCA15 patients.
in the index cases of 333 families with autosomal dominant cerebellar ataxia (ADCA) negative for CAG repeat expansions in coding exons (SCA1,2,3,6,7,17 and dentatorubropallidoluysian atrophy), we searched for heterozygous rearrangements in ITPR1. Taqman PCR (258 index cases) or SNP genome-wide genotyping (75 index cases) were used.
a deletion of ITPR1 was found in 6/333 (1.8%) families, corresponding to 13 SCA15 patients. Age at onset ranged from 18 to 66 years with a mean of 35±16 years. The symptom at onset was mainly cerebellar gait ataxia, except for one patient presenting with isolated upper limb tremor. Although we tested a large cohort of families irrespective of their phenotype, the main clinical features of SCA15 patients were homogeneous and characterized by a very slowly progressive gait and limb cerebellar ataxia with dysarthria. However, pyramidal signs (two patients), and mild cognitive problems (two patients) were occasionally present. Ocular alterations consisted of nystagmus, mainly horizontal and gaze-evoked (ten patients), and saccadic pursuit (seven patients). Radiological findings showed global or predominant vermian cerebellar atrophy in all patients.
In this series ITPR1 deletions are rare and account for ~1% of all ADCA. The SCA15 phenotype mostly consists of a slowly progressive isolated cerebellar ataxia with variable age at onset; an additional pyramidal syndrome and problems in executive functions may be present in a minority of patients.
Total white blood cell (WBC) and neutrophil counts are lower among individuals of African descent due to the common African-derived “null” variant of the Duffy Antigen Receptor for Chemokines (DARC) gene. Additional common genetic polymorphisms were recently associated with total WBC and WBC sub-type levels in European and Japanese populations. No additional loci that account for WBC variability have been identified in African Americans. In order to address this, we performed a large genome-wide association study (GWAS) of total WBC and cell subtype counts in 16,388 African-American participants from 7 population-based cohorts available in the Continental Origins and Genetic Epidemiology Network. In addition to the DARC locus on chromosome 1q23, we identified two other regions (chromosomes 4q13 and 16q22) associated with WBC in African Americans (P<2.5×10−8). The lead SNP (rs9131) on chromosome 4q13 is located in the CXCL2 gene, which encodes a chemotactic cytokine for polymorphonuclear leukocytes. Independent evidence of the novel CXCL2 association with WBC was present in 3,551 Hispanic Americans, 14,767 Japanese, and 19,509 European Americans. The index SNP (rs12149261) on chromosome 16q22 associated with WBC count is located in a large inter-chromosomal segmental duplication encompassing part of the hydrocephalus inducing homolog (HYDIN) gene. We demonstrate that the chromosome 16q22 association finding is most likely due to a genotyping artifact as a consequence of sequence similarity between duplicated regions on chromosomes 16q22 and 1q21. Among the WBC loci recently identified in European or Japanese populations, replication was observed in our African-American meta-analysis for rs445 of CDK6 on chromosome 7q21 and rs4065321 of PSMD3-CSF3 region on chromosome 17q21. In summary, the CXCL2, CDK6, and PSMD3-CSF3 regions are associated with WBC count in African American and other populations. We also demonstrate that large inter-chromosomal duplications can result in false positive associations in GWAS.
Although recent genome-wide association studies have identified common genetic variants associated with total white blood cell (WBC) and WBC sub-type counts in European and Japanese ancestry populations, whether these or other loci account for differences in WBC count among African Americans is unknown. By examining >16,000 African Americans, we show that, in addition to the previously identified Duffy Antigen Receptor for Chemokines (DARC) locus on chromosome 1, another variant, rs9131, and other nearby variants on human chromosome 4 are associated with total WBC count in African Americans. The variants span the CXCL2 gene, which encodes an inflammatory mediator involved in WBC production and migration. We show that the association is not restricted to African Americans but is also present in independent samples of European Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Japanese. This finding is potentially important because WBC mediate or have altered counts in a variety of acute and chronic disorders.
White blood cell (WBC) count is a common clinical measure from complete blood count assays, and it varies widely among healthy individuals. Total WBC count and its constituent subtypes have been shown to be moderately heritable, with the heritability estimates varying across cell types. We studied 19,509 subjects from seven cohorts in a discovery analysis, and 11,823 subjects from ten cohorts for replication analyses, to determine genetic factors influencing variability within the normal hematological range for total WBC count and five WBC subtype measures. Cohort specific data was supplied by the CHARGE, HeamGen, and INGI consortia, as well as independent collaborative studies. We identified and replicated ten associations with total WBC count and five WBC subtypes at seven different genomic loci (total WBC count—6p21 in the HLA region, 17q21 near ORMDL3, and CSF3; neutrophil count—17q21; basophil count- 3p21 near RPN1 and C3orf27; lymphocyte count—6p21, 19p13 at EPS15L1; monocyte count—2q31 at ITGA4, 3q21, 8q24 an intergenic region, 9q31 near EDG2), including three previously reported associations and seven novel associations. To investigate functional relationships among variants contributing to variability in the six WBC traits, we utilized gene expression- and pathways-based analyses. We implemented gene-clustering algorithms to evaluate functional connectivity among implicated loci and showed functional relationships across cell types. Gene expression data from whole blood was utilized to show that significant biological consequences can be extracted from our genome-wide analyses, with effect estimates for significant loci from the meta-analyses being highly corellated with the proximal gene expression. In addition, collaborative efforts between the groups contributing to this study and related studies conducted by the COGENT and RIKEN groups allowed for the examination of effect homogeneity for genome-wide significant associations across populations of diverse ancestral backgrounds.
WBC traits are highly variable, moderately heritable, and commonly assayed as part of clinical complete blood count (CBC) examinations. The counts of constituent cell subtypes comprising the WBC count measure are assayed as part of a standard clinical WBC differential test. In this study we employed meta-analytic techniques and identified ten associations with WBC measures at seven genomic loci in a large sample set of over 31,000 participants. Cohort specific data was supplied by the CHARGE, HeamGen, and INGI consortia, as well as independent collaborative studies. We confirm previous associations of WBC traits with three loci and identified seven novel loci. We also utilize a number of additional analytic methods to infer the functional relatedness of independently implicated loci across WBC phenotypes, as well as investigate direct functional consequences of these loci through analyses of genomic variation affecting the expression of proximal genes in samples of whole blood. In addition, subsequent collaborative efforts with studies of WBC traits in African-American and Japanese cohorts allowed for the investigation of the effects of these genomic variants across populations of diverse continental ancestries.