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1.  G-Quadruplex Structures and CpG Methylation Cause Drop-Out of the Maternal Allele in Polymerase Chain Reaction Amplification of the Imprinted MEST Gene Promoter 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(12):e113955.
We observed apparent non-Mendelian behaviour of alleles when genotyping a region in a CpG island at the 5′ end of the maternally imprinted human MEST isoform. This region contains three single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in total linkage disequilibrium, such that only two haplotypes occur in the human population. Only one haplotype was detectable in each subject, never both, despite the use of multiple primers and several genotyping methods. We observed that this region contains motifs capable of forming several G-quadruplex structures. Circular dichroism spectroscopy and native polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis confirmed that at least three G-quadruplexes form in vitro in the presence of potassium ions, and one of these structures has a Tm of greater than 99°C in polymerase chain reaction (PCR) buffer. We demonstrate that it is the methylated maternal allele that is always lost during PCR amplification, and that formation of G-quadruplexes and presence of methylated cytosines both contributed to this phenomenon. This observed parent-of-origin specific allelic drop-out has important implications for analysis of imprinted genes in research and diagnostic settings.
PMCID: PMC4249981  PMID: 25437198
4.  RAGE is a nucleic acid receptor that promotes inflammatory responses to DNA 
The Journal of Experimental Medicine  2013;210(11):2447-2463.
Receptor for advanced glycation end-products (RAGE) detects nucleic acids and promotes DNA uptake into endosomes, which in turn lowers the immune recognition threshold for TLR9 activation.
Recognition of DNA and RNA molecules derived from pathogens or self-antigen is one way the mammalian immune system senses infection and tissue damage. Activation of immune signaling receptors by nucleic acids is controlled by limiting the access of DNA and RNA to intracellular receptors, but the mechanisms by which endosome-resident receptors encounter nucleic acids from the extracellular space are largely undefined. In this study, we show that the receptor for advanced glycation end-products (RAGE) promoted DNA uptake into endosomes and lowered the immune recognition threshold for the activation of Toll-like receptor 9, the principal DNA-recognizing transmembrane signaling receptor. Structural analysis of RAGE–DNA complexes indicated that DNA interacted with dimers of the outermost RAGE extracellular domains, and could induce formation of higher-order receptor complexes. Furthermore, mice deficient in RAGE were unable to mount a typical inflammatory response to DNA in the lung, indicating that RAGE is important for the detection of nucleic acids in vivo.
PMCID: PMC3804942  PMID: 24081950
5.  MAOA, abuse exposure and antisocial behaviour: 30-year longitudinal study 
The British Journal of Psychiatry  2011;198(6):457-463.
Recent studies have raised issues concerning the replicability of gene × environment (G × E) interactions involving the monoamine oxidase A (MAOA) gene in moderating the associations between abuse or maltreatment exposure and antisocial behaviour. This study attempted to replicate the findings in this area using a 30-year longitudinal study that has strong resemblance to the original research cohort.
To test the hypothesis that the presence of the low-activity MAOA genotype was associated with an increased response to abuse exposure.
Participants were 398 males from the Christchurch Health and Development Study who had complete data on: MAOA promoter region variable number tandem repeat genotype; antisocial behaviour to age 30; and exposure to childhood sexual and physical abuse.
Regression models were fitted to five antisocial behaviour outcomes (self-reported property offending; self-reported violent offending; convictions for property/violent offending; conduct problems; hostility) observed from age 16 to 30, using measures of childhood exposure to sexual and physical abuse. The analyses revealed consistent evidence of G × E interactions, with those having the low-activity MAOA variant and who were exposed to abuse in childhood being significantly more likely to report later offending, conduct problems and hostility. These interactions remained statistically significant after control for a range of potentially confounding factors. Findings for convictions data were somewhat weaker.
The present findings add to the evidence suggesting that there is a stable G × E interaction involving MAOA, abuse exposure and antisocial behaviour across the life course.
PMCID: PMC3105117  PMID: 21628708
6.  Life stress, 5-HTTLPR and mental disorder: findings from a 30-year longitudinal study 
The British Journal of Psychiatry  2011;198(2):129-135.
Recent meta-analyses have raised concerns about the replicability of gene × environment interactions involving the serotonin transporter gene (5-HTTLPR) in moderating the associations between adverse life events and mental disorders.
To use data gathered over the course of a 30-year longitudinal study of a New Zealand birth cohort to test the hypothesis that the presence of short (‘s’) alleles of 5-HTTLPR are associated with an increased response to life stress.
Participants were 893 individuals from the Christchurch Health and Development Study who had complete data on: the 5-HTTLPR genotype; psychiatric disorders up to the age of 30; and exposure to childhood and adult adverse life events.
A series of 104 regression models were fitted to four mental health outcomes (depressive symptoms, major depression, anxiety disorder and suicidal ideation) observed at ages 18, 21, 25 and 30 using 13 measures of life-course stress that spanned childhood and adult stressors. Both multiplicative and additive models were fitted to the data. No evidence was found that would support the hypothesis that ‘s’ alleles of 5-HTTLPR are associated with increased responsivity to life stressors.
The present findings add to the evidence suggesting that it is unlikely that there is a stable gene × environment interaction involving 5-HTTLPR, life stress and mental disorders.
PMCID: PMC3031653  PMID: 21282783
7.  Opposing Roles of Membrane and Soluble Forms of the Receptor for Advanced Glycation End Products in Primary Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infection 
The Journal of Infectious Diseases  2012;205(8):1311-1320.
Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), a common respiratory pathogen in infants and the older population, causes pulmonary inflammation and airway occlusion that leads to impairment of lung function. Here, we have established a role for receptor for advanced glycation end products (RAGE) in RSV infection. RAGE-deficient (ager−/−) mice were protected from RSV-induced weight loss and inflammation. This protection correlated with an early increase in type I interferons, later decreases in proinflammatory cytokines, and a reduction in viral load. To assess the contribution of soluble RAGE (sRAGE) to RSV-induced disease, wild-type and ager−/− mice were given doses of sRAGE following RSV infection. Of interest, sRAGE treatment prevented RSV-induced weight loss and neutrophilic inflammation to a degree similar to that observed in ager−/− mice. Our work further elucidates the roles of RAGE in the pathogenesis of respiratory infections and highlights the opposing roles of membrane and sRAGE in modulating the host response to RSV infection.
PMCID: PMC3308901  PMID: 22262795
8.  Generation of a Novel System for Studying Spleen Tyrosine Kinase Function in Macrophages and B Cells1 
Spleen tyrosine kinase (Syk) is a nonreceptor tyrosine kinase that is expressed primarily in hematopoietic cells. Because this protein has been implicated in processes such as Fc-mediated phagocytosis, BCR signaling, oxidative burst, degranulation, cytokine secretion, and integrin-mediated outside-in signaling, it is hypothesized that Syk may be a viable target in the treatment of a variety of autoimmune and inflammatory diseases. Because efforts to design a small-molecule therapeutic that specifically inhibits Syk have been largely unsuccessful, and genetic studies of Syk have been hampered by the fact that syk−/− mice die in utero, we have taken a chemical genetic approach to study the function of Syk. Specifically, we have created a mutant form of Syk that retains its wild-type function, but is susceptible to inhibition by enlarged derivatives of the tyrosine kinase inhibitor, PP1. We report in this study that Syk M442A S505A reconstituted wild-type function when introduced into murine syk−/− bone marrow-derived macrophages and syk−/− DT40 chicken B cells, as determined by functional and biochemical assays. Furthermore, after screening a series of PP1 derivatives, we identified one compound, namely 2,3-DMB-PP1, that specifically inhibited Syk M442A S505A, but not wild-type Syk. This system provides us with the power to characterize immune functions that are Syk specific, and furthermore, it provides us with a tool to assess how inhibition of Syk may alter an immune response and influence disease pathogenesis and/or progression.
PMCID: PMC3248399  PMID: 19124742
9.  Differential Signaling of T Cell Generation of IL-4 by Wild-Type and Short-Deletion Variant of Type 2 G Protein-Coupled Receptor for Vasoactive Intestinal Peptide (VPAC2)1 
Vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP) released from some neurons and T cells affects T cell migration, cytokine generation, and other functions by binding to constitutively expressed type 1 G protein-coupled receptor (VPAC1) or activation-induced type 2 G protein-coupled receptor (VPAC2). Recently, a short-deletion (SD) splice variant of mouse VPAC2 that lacks 14 amino acids at the end of the last transmembrane domain has been identified in T cells and shown to resemble wild-type (WT) VPAC2 in affinity of VIP binding but to differ by lack of signaling of T cell adenylyl cyclase, migration, and IL-2 secretion. As Th2 cells are the principal source of immune VIP and have the greatest functional responses to VIP, the differences in signals transduced by WT and SD VPAC2 were studied in VPAC2–low D10G4.1 model Th2 cell transfectants individually expressing the respective types of VPAC2 equally. WT and SD VPAC2 Th2 cell transfectants secreted equal amounts of VIP. WT VPAC2 transfectants generated more IL-4 than did SD VPAC2 transfectants, and this increment was dependent on endogenous VIP. Exogenous VIP further increased IL-4 production by WT VPAC2 transfectants but decreased IL-4 production by SD VPAC2 transfectants. Cotransfection of the two constructs diminished VIP enhancement of IL-4 production seen with WT VPAC2 alone by preventing increases in nuclear levels of the requisite transcription factors c-Maf and Jun B. Thus the ratio of two forms of T cell VPAC2 determines the net effect of VIP on IL-4 generation by activated Th2 cells.
PMCID: PMC1551935  PMID: 16709822
10.  Functional Splice Variants of the Type II G Protein–Coupled Receptor (VPAC2) for Vasoactive Intestinal Peptide in Mouse and Human Lymphocytes 
A PCR-based search for splice variants of the VPAC2 G protein–coupled receptor for vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP) revealed: (a) a short-deletion variant in mouse lymphocytes termed VPAC2de367–380, that lacks 14 amino acids in the seventh transmembrane domain, and (b) a long-deletion variant in human lymphocytes termed VPAC2de325–438(i325–334), that lacks 114 amino acids beginning with the carboxyl-terminal end of the third cytoplasmic loop and has 10 new carboxy-terminal amino acids. VPAC2de367–380 binds VIP normally, but shows reduced VIP-evoked signaling and effects on immune functions, whereas VPAC2de325–438(i325–334) shows reduced binding affinity for VIP and a complex pattern of functional differences. These splice variants may modify the immunoregulatory contributions of the VIP–VPAC2 axis.
PMCID: PMC1557659  PMID: 16888203
neuropeptide; immunity; T cell; cytokine
11.  An association study of DRD2 and COMT polymorphisms with novelty seeking and harm avoidance scores, in two independent samples of depressed patients 
It was recently reported that an interaction of the dopamine D2 receptor (DRD2) and catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) influences the behavioural approach system – as measured using Carver and White's Behavioural Inhibition and Behavioural Approach System (BIS/BAS) scales – in a sample of healthy German subjects. The Temperament and Character Inventory (TCI), in particular the novelty seeking (NS) and harm avoidance (HA) scales, correlates moderately with the BIS/BAS measure. This study aimed to examine support for an association of DRD2 and COMT with behavioural activation, using the TCI within two independent samples of depressed outpatients (for both samples n = 146).
Two clinical samples of depressed patients were ascertained to assess the efficacy of two different pharmacotherapy and psychotherapy treatments. Analysis of variance (ANOVA) was used to analyse NS and HA scale and subscale scores with respect to gene loci within each clinical sample. Analysis of covariance were undertaken to examine the association of age and gender with NS and HA scores. An association of age group or gender with gene loci were explored using chi-squared tests, in each sample.
No significant effect of DRD2 or COMT, either independently or as an interaction, on NS or HA scores was observed, within either sample. Whilst age was significantly negatively associated with NS scores, including age in the two- and three-way interactions did not affect the significance of the association of personality with gene loci.
This study suggests that the COMT-DRD2 Equilibrium Model of Positive Emotionality recently proposed by Reuter and his colleagues is not applicable amongst currently depressed individuals, whose behavioural approach and inhibition tendencies have been assessed using the TCI.
PMCID: PMC1779796  PMID: 17217544

Results 1-11 (11)