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1.  Encore: Genetic Association Interaction Network Centrality Pipeline and Application to SLE Exome Data 
Genetic epidemiology  2013;37(6):614-621.
Open source tools are needed to facilitate the construction, analysis, and visualization of gene-gene interaction networks for sequencing data. To address this need, we present Encore, an open source network analysis pipeline for GWAS and rare variant data. Encore constructs Genetic Association Interaction Networks or Epistasis Networks using two optional approaches: our previous information-theory method or a generalized linear model approach. Additionally, Encore includes multiple data filtering options, including Random Forest/Random Jungle for main effect enrichment and Evaporative Cooling and Relief-F filters for enrichment of interaction effects. Encore implements SNPrank network centrality for identifying susceptibility hubs (nodes containing a large amount of disease susceptibility information through the combination of multivariate main effects and multiple gene-gene interactions in the network), and it provides appropriate files for interactive visualization of a network using tools from our online Galaxy instance. We implemented these algorithms in C++ using OpenMP for shared-memory parallel analysis on a server or desktop. To demonstrate Encore’s utility in analysis of genetic sequencing data, we present an analysis of exome resequencing data from healthy individuals and those with Systemic Lupus Erythematous (SLE). Our results verify the importance of the previously associated SLE genes HLA-DRB and NCF2, and these two genes had the highest gene-gene interaction degrees among the susceptibility hubs. An additional 14 genes previously associated with SLE emerged in our epistasis network model of the exome data, and three novel candidate genes, ST8SIA4, CMTM4, and C2CD4B, were implicated in the model. In summary, we present a comprehensive tool for epistasis network analysis and the first such analysis of exome data from a genetic study of SLE.
Software Availability: http://insilico.utulsa.edu/encore.php.
doi:10.1002/gepi.21739
PMCID: PMC3955726  PMID: 23740754
epistasis network; machine learning; network analysis; network centrality; Systemic Lupus Erythematous
2.  Performance of HLA allele prediction methods in African Americans for class II genes HLA-DRB1, −DQB1, and –DPB1 
BMC Genetics  2014;15:72.
Background
The expense of human leukocyte antigen (HLA) allele genotyping has motivated the development of imputation methods that use dense single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) genotype data and the region’s haplotype structure, but the performance of these methods in admixed populations (such as African Americans) has not been adequately evaluated. We compared genotype-based—derived from both genome-wide genotyping and targeted sequencing—imputation results to existing allele data for HLA–DRB1, −DQB1, and –DPB1.
Results
In European Americans, the newly-developed HLA Genotype Imputation with Attribute Bagging (HIBAG) method outperformed HLA*IMP:02. In African Americans, HLA*IMP:02 performed marginally better than HIBAG pre-built models, but HIBAG models constructed using a portion of our African American sample with both SNP genotyping and four-digit HLA class II allele typing had consistently higher accuracy than HLA*IMP:02. However, HIBAG was significantly less accurate in individuals heterozygous for local ancestry (p ≤0.04). Accuracy improved in models with equal numbers of African and European chromosomes. Variants added by targeted sequencing and SNP imputation further improved both imputation accuracy and the proportion of high quality calls.
Conclusion
Combining the HIBAG approach with local ancestry and dense variant data can produce highly-accurate HLA class II allele imputation in African Americans.
doi:10.1186/1471-2156-15-72
PMCID: PMC4074844  PMID: 24935557
HLA; African American; Single nucleotide polymorphisms; Imputation; Admixture
3.  Variants at multiple loci implicated in both innate and adaptive immune responses are associated with Sjögren’s syndrome 
Nature genetics  2013;45(11):10.1038/ng.2792.
Sjögren’s syndrome is a common autoimmune disease (~0.7% of European Americans) typically presenting as keratoconjunctivitis sicca and xerostomia. In addition to strong association within the HLA region at 6p21 (Pmeta=7.65×10−114), we establish associations with IRF5-TNPO3 (Pmeta=2.73×10−19), STAT4 (Pmeta=6.80×10−15), IL12A (Pmeta =1.17×10−10), FAM167A-BLK (Pmeta=4.97×10−10), DDX6-CXCR5 (Pmeta=1.10×10−8), and TNIP1 (Pmeta=3.30×10−8). Suggestive associations with Pmeta<5×10−5 were observed with 29 regions including TNFAIP3, PTTG1, PRDM1, DGKQ, FCGR2A, IRAK1BP1, ITSN2, and PHIP amongst others. These results highlight the importance of genes involved in both innate and adaptive immunity in Sjögren’s syndrome.
doi:10.1038/ng.2792
PMCID: PMC3867192  PMID: 24097067
4.  Admixture Fine-Mapping in African Americans Implicates XAF1 as a Possible Sarcoidosis Risk Gene 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e92646.
Sarcoidosis is a complex, multi-organ granulomatous disease with a likely genetic component. West African ancestry confers a higher risk for sarcoidosis than European ancestry. Admixture mapping provides the most direct method to locate genes that underlie such ethnic variation in disease risk. We sought to identify genetic risk variants within four previously-identified ancestry-associated regions—6p24.3–p12.1, 17p13.3–13.1, 2p13.3–q12.1, and 6q23.3–q25.2—in a sample of 2,727 African Americans. We used logistic regression fit by generalized estimating equations and the MIX score statistic to determine which variants within ancestry-associated regions were associated with risk and responsible for the admixture signal. Fine mapping was performed by imputation, based on a previous genome-wide association study; significant variants were validated by direct genotyping. Within the 6p24.3–p12.1 locus, the most significant ancestry-adjusted SNP was rs74318745 (p = 9.4*10−11), an intronic SNP within the HLA-DRA gene that did not solely explain the admixture signal, indicating the presence of more than a single risk variant within this well-established sarcoidosis risk region. The locus on chromosome 17p13.3–13.1 revealed a novel sarcoidosis risk SNP, rs6502976 (p = 9.5*10−6), within intron 5 of the gene X-linked Inhibitor of Apoptosis Associated Factor 1 (XAF1) that accounted for the majority of the admixture linkage signal. Immunohistochemical expression studies demonstrated lack of expression of XAF1 and a corresponding high level of expression of its downstream target, X-linked Inhibitor of Apoptosis (XIAP) in sarcoidosis granulomas. In conclusion, ancestry and association fine mapping revealed a novel sarcoidosis susceptibility gene, XAF1, which has not been identified by previous genome-wide association studies. Based on the known biology of the XIAP/XAF1 apoptosis pathway and the differential expression patterns of XAF1 and XIAP in sarcoidosis granulomas, we suggest that this pathway may play a role in the maintenance of sarcoidosis granulomas.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0092646
PMCID: PMC3963923  PMID: 24663488
5.  Comparison of the American-European Consensus Group Sjögren's syndrome classification criteria to newly proposed American College of Rheumatology criteria in a large, carefully characterized sicca cohort 
Annals of the rheumatic diseases  2013;73(1):10.1136/annrheumdis-2013-203845.
Objective
To compare the performance of the American-European Consensus Group (AECG) and the newly proposed American College of Rheumatology (ACR) classification criteria for Sjögren's syndrome in a well-characterized sicca cohort, given ongoing efforts to resolve discrepancies and weaknesses in the systems.
Methods
In a multidisciplinary clinic for the evaluation of sicca, we assessed features of salivary and lacrimal gland dysfunction and autoimmunity as defined by tests of both AECG and ACR criteria in 646 participants. Global gene expression profiles were compared in a subset of 180 participants.
Results
Application of the AECG and ACR criteria resulted in classification of 279 and 268 participants with SS, respectively. Both criteria were met by 244 participants (81%). In 26 of the 35 AECG+/ACR- participants, the minor salivary gland biopsy focal score was ≥1 (74%), while 9 had positive anti-Ro/La (26%). There were 24 AECG-/ACR+ who met ACR criteria mainly due to differences in the scoring of corneal staining. All patients with SS, regardless of classification, had similar gene expression profiles, which were distinct from the healthy controls.
Conclusion
The two sets of classification criteria yield concordant results in the majority of cases and gene expression profiling suggests that patients meeting either set of criteria are more similar to other SS participants than to healthy controls. Thus, there is no clear evidence for increased value of the new ACR criteria over the old AECG criteria from the clinical or biological perspective. It is our contention, supported by this report, that improvements in diagnostic acumen will require a more fundamental understanding of the pathogenic mechanisms than is at present available.
doi:10.1136/annrheumdis-2013-203845
PMCID: PMC3855629  PMID: 23968620
Sjögren's syndrome; Classification; Diagnosis
6.  Two Independent Functional Risk Haplotypes in TNIP1 are Associated with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2012;64(11):3695-3705.
Objective
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an autoimmune disease characterized by autoantibody production and altered type I interferon expression. Genetic surveys and genome-wide association studies have identified more than 30 SLE susceptibility genes. One of these genes, TNIP1, encodes the ABIN1 protein. ABIN1 functions in the immune system by restricting the NF-κB signaling. In order to better understand the genetic factors that influence association with SLE in genes that regulate the NF-κB pathway, we analyzed a dense set of genetic markers spanning TNIP1 and TAX1BP1, as well as the TNIP1 homolog, TNIP2, in case-control sets of diverse ethnic origins.
Methods
We fine-mapped TNIP1, TNIP2, and TAX1BP1 in a total of 8372 SLE cases and 7492 healthy controls from European-ancestry, African-American, Hispanic, East Asian, and African-American Gullah populations. Levels of TNIP1 mRNA and ABIN1 protein were analyzed using quantitative RT-PCR and Western blotting, respectively, in EBV-transformed human B cell lines.
Results
We found significant associations between genetic variants within TNIP1 and SLE but not in TNIP2 or TAX1BP1. After resequencing and imputation, we identified two independent risk haplotypes within TNIP1 in individuals of European-ancestry that were also present in African-American and Hispanic populations. These risk haplotypes produced lower levels of TNIP1 mRNA and ABIN1 protein suggesting they harbor hypomorphic functional variants that influence susceptibility to SLE by restricting ABIN1 expression.
Conclusion
Our results confirmed the association signals between SLE and TNIP1 variants in multiple populations and provide new insight into the mechanism by which TNIP1 variants may contribute to SLE pathogenesis.
doi:10.1002/art.34642
PMCID: PMC3485412  PMID: 22833143
8.  Genetics of Sjögren’s syndrome in the genome-wide association era 
Journal of autoimmunity  2012;39(1-2):57-63.
While Sjögren’s syndrome (SS) is more common than related autoimmune disorders, such as systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA), scientific and medical research in SS has lagged behind significantly. This is especially true in the field of SS genetics, where efforts to date have relied heavily on candidate gene approaches. Within the last decade, the advent of the genome-wide association (GWA) scan has altered our understanding of disease pathogenesis in hundreds of disorders through the successful identification of novel risk loci. With strong evidence for a genetic component in SS as evidenced by familial aggregation of SS as well as similarities between SS and SLE and RA, the application of GWA approaches would likely yield numerous novel risk loci in SS. Here we review the fundamental scientific principles employed in GWA scans as well as the limitations of this tool, and we discuss the application of GWA scans in determining genetic variants at play in complex disease. We also examine the successful application of GWA scans in SLE, which now has more than 40 confirmed risk loci, and consider the possibility for a similar trajectory of SS genetic discovery in the era of GWA scans. Ultimately, the GWA studies that will be performed in SS have the potential to identify a myriad of novel genetic loci that will allow scientists to begin filling in the gaps in our understanding of the SS pathogenesis.
doi:10.1016/j.jaut.2012.01.008
PMCID: PMC3518871  PMID: 22289719
genetics; Sjögren’s syndrome; genome-wide association
9.  The Genomics of Autoimmune Disease in the Era of Genome-Wide Association Studies and Beyond 
Autoimmunity Reviews  2011;11(4):267-275.
Recent advances in the field of genetics have dramatically changed our understanding of autoimmune disease. Candidate gene and, more recently, genome-wide association (GWA) studies have led to an explosion in the number of loci and pathways known to contribute to autoimmune phenotypes. Since the 1970s, researchers have known that several alleles in the MHC region play a role in the pathogenesis of many autoimmune diseases. More recent work has identified numerous risk loci involving both the innate and adaptive immune responses. However, much remains to be learned about the heritability of autoimmune conditions. Most regions found through GWA scans have yet to isolate the association to the causal allele(s) responsible for conferring disease risk. A role for rare variants (allele frequencies of <1%) has begun to emerge. Future research will use next generation sequencing (NGS) technology to comprehensively evaluate the human genome for risk variants. Whole transcriptome sequencing is now possible, which will provide much more detailed gene expression data. The dramatic drop in the cost and time required to sequence the entire human genome will ultimately make it possible for this technology to be used as a clinical diagnostic tool.
doi:10.1016/j.autrev.2011.10.003
PMCID: PMC3288956  PMID: 22001415
Genetics; Genomics; Genome-wide association study; Autoimmune disease
10.  A functional haplotype of UBE2L3 confers risk for Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
Genes and immunity  2012;13(5):380-387.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an autoimmune disease with diverse clinical manifestations characterized by the development of pathogenic autoantibodies manifesting in inflammation of target organs such as the kidneys, skin and joints. Genome-wide association studies have identified genetic variants in the UBE2L3 region that are associated with SLE in subjects of European and Asian ancestry. UBE2L3 encodes an ubiquitin-conjugating enzyme, UBCH7, involved in cell proliferation and immune function. In this study, we sought to further characterize the genetic association in the region of UBE2L3 and use molecular methods to determine the functional effect of the risk haplotype. We identified significant associations between variants in the region of UBE2L3 and SLE in individuals of European and Asian ancestry that exceeded a Bonferroni corrected threshold (P < 1 × 10−4). A single risk haplotype was observed in all associated populations. Individuals harboring the risk haplotype display a significant increase in both UBE2L3 mRNA expression (P = 0.0004) and UBCH7 protein expression (P = 0.0068). The results suggest that variants carried on the SLE associated UBE2L3 risk haplotype influence autoimmunity by modulating UBCH7 expression.
doi:10.1038/gene.2012.6
PMCID: PMC3411915  PMID: 22476155
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus; UBE2L3; Multi Ethnic Association Study; UBCH7 Expression
11.  Genome-Wide Association Study of African and European Americans Implicates Multiple Shared and Ethnic Specific Loci in Sarcoidosis Susceptibility 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(8):e43907.
Sarcoidosis is a systemic inflammatory disease characterized by the formation of granulomas in affected organs. Genome-wide association studies (GWASs) of this disease have been conducted only in European population. We present the first sarcoidosis GWAS in African Americans (AAs, 818 cases and 1,088 related controls) followed by replication in independent sets of AAs (455 cases and 557 controls) and European Americans (EAs, 442 cases and 2,284 controls). We evaluated >6 million SNPs either genotyped using the Illumina Omni1-Quad array or imputed from the 1000 Genomes Project data. We identified a novel sarcoidosis-associated locus, NOTCH4, that reached genome-wide significance in the combined AA samples (rs715299, PAA-meta = 6.51×10−10) and demonstrated the independence of this locus from others in the MHC region in the same sample. We replicated previous European GWAS associations within HLA-DRA, HLA-DRB5, HLA-DRB1, BTNL2, and ANXA11 in both our AA and EA datasets. We also confirmed significant associations to the previously reported HLA-C and HLA-B regions in the EA but not AA samples. We further identified suggestive associations with several other genes previously reported in lung or inflammatory diseases.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0043907
PMCID: PMC3428296  PMID: 22952805
12.  Role of MYH9 and APOL1 in African and non-African populations with Lupus Nephritis 
Genes and Immunity  2011;13(3):232-238.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a complex autoimmune disease characterized by autoantibody production and organ damage. Lupus nephritis (LN) is one of the most severe manifestations of SLE. Multiple studies reported associations between renal diseases and variants in the non-muscle myosin heavy chain 9 (MYH9) and the neighboring apolipoprotein L 1 (APOL1) genes. We evaluated 167 variants spanning MYH9 for association with LN in a multiethnic sample. The two previously identified risk variants in APOL1 were also tested for association with LN in European-Americans (EAs) (N = 579) and African-Americans (AAs) (N = 407). Multiple peaks of association exceeding a Bonferroni corrected p-value of p < 2.03 × 10−3 were observed between LN and MYH9 in EAs (N=4620), with the most pronounced association at rs2157257 (p = 4.7 × 10−4; odds ratio [OR]=1.205). A modest effect with MYH9 was also detected in Gullah (rs8136069, p = 0.0019, OR = 2.304). No association between LN and MYH9 was found in AAs, Asians, Amerindians or Hispanics. This study provides the first investigation of MYH9 in LN in non-Africans and of APOL1 in LN in any population and presents novel insight into the potential role of MYH9 in LN in EAs.
doi:10.1038/gene.2011.82
PMCID: PMC3330160  PMID: 22189356
MYH9; APOL1; lupus nephritis; systemic lupus erythematosus; multiethnic association study

Results 1-12 (12)