A strong association has been confirmed between age‐related macular degeneration (AMD) and variants at two independent loci including Tyr402His in the complement factor H (CFH) on 1q32 and Ser69Ala at LOC387715, a hypothetical gene on chromosome 10q26. The contribution of both loci to AMD was investigated in an isolated north‐west Russian population.
Together with a PLEKHA1 variant at 10q26, the CFH Tyr402His and LOC387715 Ser69Ala polymorphisms were genotyped in 155 patients with AMD and 151 age‐matched controls. χ2 and Mantel–Haenszel (M–H) score tests were used to test for association. Sex‐adjusted ORs were calculated.
The frequency of the Tyr402His C allele was significantly higher in patients with AMD compared with controls (pM–H = 0.0035). The increased risk observed in patients homozygous for the C allele (ORHOM = 2.71, 95% CI 1.25 to 5.90) in this indigenous Russian population was considerably lower than that observed in previous western Caucasian populations. A significant increase in the frequency of the LOC387715 variant was observed in patients with late‐stage AMD compared with controls (pM–H = 0.007), with a homozygous OR of 3.47 (95% CI 1.01 to 11.9), although this association was not seen with early‐stage AMD.
The CFH gene contributes to AMD in this Russian population, although the risk conferred is considerably lower in this population than that found in other Western populations. A contribution of LOC387715 to disease in this population is also likely to be of weak effect.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of severe vision impairment in Western populations over 55 years. A growing number of gene variants have been identified which are strongly associated with an altered risk to develop AMD. Nevertheless, gene-based biomarkers which could be dysregulated at defined stages of AMD may point toward key processes in disease mechanism and thus may support efforts to design novel treatment regimens for this blinding disorder. Circulating microRNAs (cmiRNAs) which are carried by nanosized exosomes or microvesicles in blood plasma or serum, have been recognized as valuable indicators for various age-related diseases. We therefore aimed to elucidate the role of cmiRNAs in AMD by genome-wide miRNA expression profiling and replication analyses in 147 controls and 129 neovascular AMD patients. We identified three microRNAs differentially secreted in neovascular (NV) AMD (hsa-mir-301-3p, pcorrected = 5.6*10−5, hsa-mir-361-5p, pcorrected = 8.0*10−4 and hsa-mir-424-5p, pcorrected = 9.6*10−3). A combined profile of the three miRNAs revealed an area under the curve (AUC) value of 0.727 and was highly associated with NV AMD (p = 1.2*10−8). To evaluate subtype-specificity, an additional 59 AMD cases with pure unilateral or bilateral geographic atrophy (GA) were analyzed for microRNAs hsa-mir-301-3p, hsa-mir-361-5p, and hsa-mir-424-5p. While we found no significant differences between GA AMD and controls neither individually nor for a combined microRNAs profile, hsa-mir-424-5p levels remained significantly higher in GA AMD when compared to NV (pcorrected<0.005). Pathway enrichment analysis on genes predicted to be regulated by microRNAs hsa-mir-301-3p, hsa-mir-361-5p, and hsa-mir-424-5p, suggests canonical TGFβ, mTOR and related pathways to be involved in NV AMD. In addition, knockdown of hsa-mir-361-5p resulted in increased neovascularization in an in
vitro angiogenesis assay.
Induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC)-derived retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) has widely been appreciated as a promising tool to model human ocular disease emanating from primary RPE pathology. Here, we describe the successful reprogramming of adult human dermal fibroblasts to iPSCs and their differentiation to pure expandable RPE cells with structural and functional features characteristic for native RPE. Fibroblast cultures were established from skin biopsy material and subsequently reprogrammed following polycistronic lentiviral transduction with OCT4, SOX2, KLF4 and L-Myc. Fibroblast-derived iPSCs showed typical morphology, chromosomal integrity and a distinctive stem cell marker profile. Subsequent differentiation resulted in expandable pigmented hexagonal RPE cells. The cells revealed stable RNA expression of mature RPE markers RPE65, RLBP and BEST1. Immunolabelling verified localisation of BEST1 at the basolateral plasma membrane, and scanning electron microscopy showed typical microvilli at the apical side of iPSC-derived RPE cells. Transepithelial resistance was maintained at high levels during cell culture indicating functional formation of tight junctions. Secretion capacity was demonstrated for VEGF-A. Feeding of porcine photoreceptor outer segments revealed the proper ability of these cells for phagocytosis. IPSC-derived RPE cells largely maintained these properties after cryopreservation. Together, our study underlines that adult dermal fibroblasts can serve as a valuable resource for iPSC-derived RPE with characteristics highly reminiscent of true RPE cells. This will allow its broad application to establish cellular models for RPE-related human diseases.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s12017-014-8308-8) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Induced pluripotent stem cell; Retinal pigment epithelium; Dermal fibroblast; Bestrophin-1; BEST1
The complement system is an essential part of the innate immune system by acting as a first line of defense which is stabilized by properdin, the sole known positive regulator of the alternative complement pathway. Dysregulation of complement can promote a diversity of human inflammatory diseases which are treated by complement inhibitors. Here, we generated a novel blocking monoclonal antibody (mAb) against properdin and devised a new diagnostic assay for this important complement regulator. Mouse mAb 1340 specifically detected native properdin from human samples with high avidity. MAb 1340 inhibited specifically the alternative complement mediated cell lysis within a concentration range of 1–10 µg/mL. Thus, in vitro anti-properdin mAb 1340 was up to fifteen times more efficient in blocking the complement system as compared to anti-C5 or anti-Ba antibodies. Computer-assisted modelling suggested a three-dimensional binding epitope in a properdin-C3(H2O)-clusterin complex to be responsible for the inhibition. Recovery of properdin in a newly established sandwich ELISA using mAb 1340 was determined at 80–125% for blood sample dilutions above 1∶50. Reproducibility assays showed a variation below 25% at dilutions less than 1∶1,000. Systemic properdin concentrations of healthy controls and patients with age-related macular degeneration or rheumatic diseases were all in the range of 13–30 µg/mL and did not reveal significant differences. These initial results encourage further investigation into the functional role of properdin in the development, progression and treatment of diseases related to the alternative complement pathway. Thus, mAb 1340 represents a potent properdin inhibitor suitable for further research to understand the exact mechanisms how properdin activates the complement C3-convertase and to determine quantitative levels of properdin in biological samples.
Macular degeneration is a common cause of blindness in the elderly. To identify rare coding variants associated with a large increase in risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), we sequenced 2,335 cases and 789 controls in 10 candidate loci (57 genes). To increase power, we augmented our control set with ancestry-matched exome sequenced controls. An analysis of coding variation in 2,268 AMD cases and 2,268 ancestry matched controls revealed two large-effect rare variants; previously described R1210C in the CFH gene (fcase = 0.51%, fcontrol = 0.02%, OR = 23.11), and newly identified K155Q in the C3 gene (fcase = 1.06%, fcontrol = 0.39%, OR = 2.68). The variants suggest decreased inhibition of C3 by Factor H, resulting in increased activation of the alternative complement pathway, as a key component of disease biology.
The translocator protein (18 kDa) (TSPO) is a mitochondrial protein expressed on reactive glial cells and a biomarker for gliosis in the brain. TSPO ligands have been shown to reduce neuroinflammation in several mouse models of neurodegeneration. Here, we analyzed TSPO expression in mouse and human retinal microglia and studied the effects of the TSPO ligand XBD173 on microglial functions.
TSPO protein analyses were performed in retinoschisin-deficient mouse retinas and human retinas. Lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-challenged BV-2 microglial cells were treated with XBD173 and TSPO shRNAs in vitro and pro-inflammatory markers were determined by qRT-PCR. The migration potential of microglia was determined with wound healing assays and the proliferation was studied with Fluorescence Activated Cell Sorting (FACS) analysis. Microglial neurotoxicity was estimated by nitrite measurement and quantification of caspase 3/7 levels in 661 W photoreceptors cultured in the presence of microglia-conditioned medium. The effects of XBD173 on filopodia formation and phagocytosis were analyzed in BV-2 cells and human induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cell-derived microglia (iPSdM). The morphology of microglia was quantified in mouse retinal explants treated with XBD173.
TSPO was strongly up-regulated in microglial cells of the dystrophic mouse retina and also co-localized with microglia in human retinas. Constitutive TSPO expression was high in the early postnatal Day 3 mouse retina and declined to low levels in the adult tissue. TSPO mRNA and protein were also strongly induced in LPS-challenged BV-2 microglia while the TSPO ligand XBD173 efficiently suppressed transcription of the pro-inflammatory marker genes chemokine (C-C motif) ligand 2 (CCL2), interleukin 6 (IL6) and inducible nitric oxide (NO)-synthase (iNOS). Moreover, treatment with XBD173 significantly reduced the migratory capacity and proliferation of microglia, their level of NO secretion and their neurotoxic activity on 661 W photoreceptor cells. Furthermore, XBD173 treatment of murine and human microglial cells promoted the formation of filopodia and increased their phagocytic capacity to ingest latex beads or photoreceptor debris. Finally, treatment with XBD173 reversed the amoeboid alerted phenotype of microglial cells in explanted organotypic mouse retinal cultures after challenge with LPS.
These findings suggest that TSPO is highly expressed in reactive retinal microglia and a promising target to control microglial reactivity during retinal degeneration.
Translocator protein (18 kDa); Microglia; Retinal degeneration; Phagocytosis
X-linked juvenile retinoschisis (XLRS, MIM 312700) is a common early onset macular degeneration in males characterized by mild to severe loss in visual acuity, splitting of retinal layers, and a reduction in the b-wave of the electroretinogram (ERG). The RS1 gene (MIM 300839) associated with the disease encodes retinoschisin, a 224 amino acid protein containing a discoidin domain as the major structural unit, an N-terminal cleavable signal sequence, and regions responsible for subunit oligomerization. Retinoschisin is secreted from retinal cells as a disulphide-linked homo-octameric complex which binds to the surface of photoreceptors and bipolar cells to help maintain the integrity of the retina. Over 190 disease-causing mutations in the RS1 gene are known with most mutations occurring as non-synonymous changes in the discoidin domain. Cell expression studies have shown that disease-associated missense mutations in the discoidin domain cause severe protein misfolding and retention in the endoplasmic reticulum, mutations in the signal sequence result in aberrant protein synthesis, and mutations in regions flanking the discoidin domain cause defective disulphide-linked subunit assembly, all of which produce a non-functional protein. Knockout mice deficient in retinoschisin have been generated and shown to display most of the characteristic features found in XLRS patients. Recombinant adeno-associated virus (rAAV) mediated delivery of the normal RS1 gene to the retina of young knockout mice result in long term retinoschisin expression and rescue of retinal structure and function providing a ‘proof of concept’ that gene therapy may be an effective treatment for XLRS.
X-linked retinoschisis; Molecular genetics; Retinoschisin; Disease mechanisms; Clinical diagnosis; Gene Therapy
BRCA1-associated breast and ovarian cancer risks can be modified by common genetic variants. To identify further cancer risk-modifying loci, we performed a multi-stage GWAS of 11,705 BRCA1 carriers (of whom 5,920 were diagnosed with breast and 1,839 were diagnosed with ovarian cancer), with a further replication in an additional sample of 2,646 BRCA1 carriers. We identified a novel breast cancer risk modifier locus at 1q32 for BRCA1 carriers (rs2290854, P = 2.7×10−8, HR = 1.14, 95% CI: 1.09–1.20). In addition, we identified two novel ovarian cancer risk modifier loci: 17q21.31 (rs17631303, P = 1.4×10−8, HR = 1.27, 95% CI: 1.17–1.38) and 4q32.3 (rs4691139, P = 3.4×10−8, HR = 1.20, 95% CI: 1.17–1.38). The 4q32.3 locus was not associated with ovarian cancer risk in the general population or BRCA2 carriers, suggesting a BRCA1-specific association. The 17q21.31 locus was also associated with ovarian cancer risk in 8,211 BRCA2 carriers (P = 2×10−4). These loci may lead to an improved understanding of the etiology of breast and ovarian tumors in BRCA1 carriers. Based on the joint distribution of the known BRCA1 breast cancer risk-modifying loci, we estimated that the breast cancer lifetime risks for the 5% of BRCA1 carriers at lowest risk are 28%–50% compared to 81%–100% for the 5% at highest risk. Similarly, based on the known ovarian cancer risk-modifying loci, the 5% of BRCA1 carriers at lowest risk have an estimated lifetime risk of developing ovarian cancer of 28% or lower, whereas the 5% at highest risk will have a risk of 63% or higher. Such differences in risk may have important implications for risk prediction and clinical management for BRCA1 carriers.
BRCA1 mutation carriers have increased and variable risks of breast and ovarian cancer. To identify modifiers of breast and ovarian cancer risk in this population, a multi-stage GWAS of 14,351 BRCA1 mutation carriers was performed. Loci 1q32 and TCF7L2 at 10q25.3 were associated with breast cancer risk, and two loci at 4q32.2 and 17q21.31 were associated with ovarian cancer risk. The 4q32.3 ovarian cancer locus was not associated with ovarian cancer risk in the general population or in BRCA2 carriers and is the first indication of a BRCA1-specific risk locus for either breast or ovarian cancer. Furthermore, modeling the influence of these modifiers on cumulative risk of breast and ovarian cancer in BRCA1 mutation carriers for the first time showed that a wide range of individual absolute risks of each cancer can be estimated. These differences suggest that genetic risk modifiers may be incorporated into the clinical management of BRCA1 mutation carriers.
Background Variation in the complement factor H gene (CFH) is associated with risk of late age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Previous studies have been case–control studies in populations of European ancestry with little differentiation in AMD subtype, and insufficient power to confirm or refute effect modification by smoking.
Methods To precisely quantify the association of the single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP rs1061170, ‘Y402H’) with risk of AMD among studies with differing study designs, participant ancestry and AMD grade and to investigate effect modification by smoking, we report two unpublished genetic association studies (n = 2759) combined with data from 24 published studies (26 studies, 26 494 individuals, including 14 174 cases of AMD) of European ancestry, 10 of which provided individual-level data used to test gene–smoking interaction; and 16 published studies from non-European ancestry.
Results In individuals of European ancestry, there was a significant association between Y402H and late-AMD with a per-allele odds ratio (OR) of 2.27 [95% confidence interval (CI) 2.10–2.45; P = 1.1 x 10−161]. There was no evidence of effect modification by smoking (P = 0.75). The frequency of Y402H varied by ancestral origin and the association with AMD in non-Europeans was less clear, limited by paucity of studies.
Conclusion The Y402H variant confers a 2-fold higher risk of late-AMD per copy in individuals of European descent. This was stable to stratification by study design and AMD classification and not modified by smoking. The lack of association in non-Europeans requires further verification. These findings are of direct relevance for disease prediction. New research is needed to ascertain if differences in circulating levels, expression or activity of factor H protein explain the genetic association.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD); Complement factor H gene; meta-ananlysis
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the most common cause of incurable visual impairment in high-income countries. Previous studies report inconsistent associations between AMD and apolipoprotein E (APOE), a lipid transport protein involved in low-density cholesterol modulation. Potential interaction between APOE and sex, and smoking status, has been reported. We present a pooled analysis (n=21,160) demonstrating associations between late AMD and APOε4 (OR=0.72 per haplotype; CI: 0.65–0.74; P=4.41×10−11) and APOε2 (OR=1.83 for homozygote carriers; CI: 1.04–3.23; P=0.04), following adjustment for age-group and sex within each study and smoking status. No evidence of interaction between APOE and sex or smoking was found. Ever smokers had significant increased risk relative to never smokers for both neovascular (OR=1.54; CI: 1.38–1.72; P=2.8×10−15) and atrophic (OR=1.38; CI: 1.18–1.61; P=3.37×10−5) AMD but not early AMD (OR=0.94; CI: 0.86–1.03; P=0.16), implicating smoking as a major contributing factor to disease progression from early signs to the visually disabling late forms. Extended haplotype analysis incorporating rs405509 did not identify additional risks beyondε2 and ε4 haplotypes. Our expanded analysis substantially improves our understanding of the association between the APOE locus and AMD. It further provides evidence supporting the role of cholesterol modulation, and low-density cholesterol specifically, in AMD disease etiology.
age-related macular degeneration; AMD; apolipoprotein E; APOE; case-control association study
Late-stage age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a common sight-threatening disease of the central retina affecting approximately 1 in 30 Caucasians. Besides age and smoking, genetic variants from several gene loci have reproducibly been associated with this condition and likely explain a large proportion of disease. Here, we developed a genetic risk score (GRS) for AMD based on 13 risk variants from eight gene loci. The model exhibited good discriminative accuracy, area-under-curve (AUC) of the receiver-operating characteristic of 0.820, which was confirmed in a cross-validation approach. Noteworthy, younger AMD patients aged below 75 had a significantly higher mean GRS (1.87, 95% CI: 1.69–2.05) than patients aged 75 and above (1.45, 95% CI: 1.36–1.54). Based on five equally sized GRS intervals, we present a risk classification with a relative AMD risk of 64.0 (95% CI: 14.11–1131.96) for individuals in the highest category (GRS 3.44–5.18, 0.5% of the general population) compared to subjects with the most common genetic background (GRS −0.05–1.70, 40.2% of general population). The highest GRS category identifies AMD patients with a sensitivity of 7.9% and a specificity of 99.9% when compared to the four lower categories. Modeling a general population around 85 years of age, 87.4% of individuals in the highest GRS category would be expected to develop AMD by that age. In contrast, only 2.2% of individuals in the two lowest GRS categories which represent almost 50% of the general population are expected to manifest AMD. Our findings underscore the large proportion of AMD cases explained by genetics particularly for younger AMD patients. The five-category risk classification could be useful for therapeutic stratification or for diagnostic testing purposes once preventive treatment is available.
Fifteen variants in 10q26 are in strong linkage disequilibrium and are associated with an increased risk for age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a frequent cause of blindness in developed countries. These variants tag a single-risk haplotype encompassing the genes ARMS2 (age-related maculopathy susceptibility 2) and part of HTRA1 (HtrA serine peptidase 1). To define the true AMD susceptibility gene in 10q26, several studies have focused on the influence of risk alleles on the expression of ARMS2 and/or HTRA1, but the results have been inconsistent. By heterologous expression of genomic ARMS2 variants, we now show that ARMS2 mRNA levels transcribed from the risk haplotype are significantly reduced compared with non-risk mRNA isoforms. Analyzing variant ARMS2 constructs, this effect could specifically be assigned to the known insertion/deletion polymorphism (c.(*)372_815del443ins54) in the 3′-untranslated region of ARMS2. Reporter gene assays with HTRA1 promoter sequences demonstrated the presence of a Müller glia-specific cis-regulatory region further upstream of the transcription start site. However, AMD risk alleles had little or no effect on HTRA1 promoter activity in the retina. Analysis of a large series of human post-mortem retina/retinal pigment epithelial samples heterozygous for the risk haplotype confirmed the in vitro/ex vivo results and demonstrated that the risk haplotype affects ARMS2 but not HTRA1 mRNA expression. Furthermore, we provide in vivo evidence that a common non-risk-associated non-synonymous variant (rs2736911) also leads to decreased ARMS2 transcript levels. Consequently, our data suggest that pathogenic effects due to ARMS2 protein deficiency are unlikely to account for AMD pathology.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a major cause of blindness in older adults and has a genetically complex background. This study examines the potential association between single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the glucose transporter 1 (SLC2A1) gene and AMD. SLC2A1 regulates the bioavailability of glucose in the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE), which might influence oxidative stress–mediated AMD pathology.
Twenty-two SNPs spanning the SLC2A1 gene were genotyped in 375 cases and 199 controls from an initial discovery cohort (the Amsterdam-Rotterdam-Netherlands study). Replication testing was performed in The Rotterdam Study (the Netherlands) and study populations from Würzburg (Germany), the Age Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS; United States), Columbia University (United States), and Iowa University (United States). Subsequently, a meta-analysis of SNP association was performed.
In the discovery cohort, significant genotypic association between three SNPs (rs3754219, rs4660687, and rs841853) and AMD was found. Replication in five large independent (Caucasian) cohorts (4,860 cases and 4,004 controls) did not yield consistent association results. The genotype frequencies for these SNPs were significantly different for the controls and/or cases among the six individual populations. Meta-analysis revealed significant heterogeneity of effect between the studies.
No overall association between SLC2A1 SNPs and AMD was demonstrated. Since the genotype frequencies for the three SLC2A1 SNPs were significantly different for the controls and/or cases between the six cohorts, this study corroborates previous evidence that population dependent genetic risk heterogeneity in AMD exists.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a prevalent cause of blindness in Western societies. Variants in the genes encoding complement factor H (CFH), complement component 3 (C3) and age-related maculopathy susceptibility 2 (ARMS2) have repeatedly been shown to confer significant risks for AMD; however, their role in disease progression and thus their potential relevance for interventional therapeutic approaches remains unknown.
Here, we analyzed association between variants in CFH, C3 and ARMS2 and disease progression of geographic atrophy (GA) due to AMD. A quantitative phenotype of disease progression was computed based on longitudinal observations by fundus autofluorescence imaging. In a subset of 99 cases with pure bilateral GA, variants in CFH (Y402H), C3 (R102G), and ARMS2 (A69S) are associated with disease (P = 1.6×10−9, 3.2×10−3, and P = 2.6×10−12, respectively) when compared to 612 unrelated healthy control individuals. In cases, median progression rate of GA over a mean follow-up period of 3.0 years was 1.61 mm2/year with high concordance between fellow eyes. No association between the progression rate and any of the genetic risk variants at the three loci was observed (P>0.13).
This study confirms that variants at CFH, C3, and ARMS2 confer significant risks for GA due to AMD. In contrast, our data indicate no association of these variants with disease progression which may have important implications for future treatment strategies. Other, as yet unknown susceptibilities may influence disease progression.
X-linked juvenile retinoschisis is a heritable condition of the retina in males caused by mutations in the RS1 gene. Still, the cellular function and retina-specific expression of RS1 are poorly understood. To address the latter issue, we characterized the minimal promoter driving expression of RS1 in the retina. Binding site prediction, site-directed mutagenesis, and reporter assays suggest an essential role of two nearby cone-rod homeobox (CRX)-responsive elements (CRE) in the proximal −177/+32 RS1 promoter. Chromatin immunoprecipitation associates the RS1 promoter in vivo with CRX, the coactivators CBP, P300, GCN5 and acetylated histone H3. Transgenic Xenopus laevis expressing a green fluorescent protein (GFP) reporter under the control of RS1 promoter sequences show that the −177/+32 fragment drives GFP expression in photoreceptors and bipolar cells. Mutating either of the two conserved CRX binding sites results in strongly decreased RS1 expression. Despite the presence of sequence motifs in the promoter, NRL and NR2E3 appear not to be essential for RS1 expression. Together, our in vitro and in vivo results indicate that two CRE sites in the minimal RS1 promoter region control retinal RS1 expression and establish CRX as a key factor driving this expression.
Dysregulation of the alternative pathway (AP) of complement cascade has been implicated in the pathogenesis of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of blindness in the elderly. To further test the hypothesis that defective control of complement activation underlies AMD, parameters of complement activation in blood plasma were determined together with disease-associated genetic markers in AMD patients. Plasma concentrations of activation products C3d, Ba, C3a, C5a, SC5b-9, substrate proteins C3, C4, factor B and regulators factor H and factor D were quantified in patients (n = 112) and controls (n = 67). Subjects were analyzed for single nucleotide polymorphisms in factor H (CFH), factor B-C2 (BF-C2) and complement C3 (C3) genes which were previously found to be associated with AMD. All activation products, especially markers of chronic complement activation Ba and C3d (p<0.001), were significantly elevated in AMD patients compared to controls. Similar alterations were observed in factor D, but not in C3, C4 or factor H. Logistic regression analysis revealed better discriminative accuracy of a model that is based only on complement activation markers Ba, C3d and factor D compared to a model based on genetic markers of the complement system within our study population. In both the controls' and AMD patients' group, the protein markers of complement activation were correlated with CFH haplotypes.
This study is the first to show systemic complement activation in AMD patients. This suggests that AMD is a systemic disease with local disease manifestation at the ageing macula. Furthermore, the data provide evidence for an association of systemic activation of the alternative complement pathway with genetic variants of CFH that were previously linked to AMD susceptibility.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a genetically complex disorder of the photoreceptor-RPE-Bruch's membrane-choriocapillaris complex. Family and twin studies have shown that the susceptibility for this disease is genetically influenced. The heritability has been estimated to be up to 71%. Linkage and association studies have identified several chromosomal regions that are likely to contain susceptibility loci with strongest evidence found on chromosome 1q31 and 10q26. Variants in the complement factor H (CFH) gene have been shown by several independent studies to be associated with an increased risk for AMD in Caucasian populations. These findings imply that the innate immune system may play a significant role in AMD pathogenesis. The LOC387715/HTRA1 locus within 10q26 has been identified as a second major locus contributing to AMD pathogenesis. The two late forms of AMD, choroidal neovascularization and geographic atrophy, have not been found to be different in risk allele distribution. Variants within CFH and LOC387715/HTRA1 may contribute to the increased risk of late AMD largely through their impact on precursors, such as drusen and/or other RPE/Bruch's membrane changes. Considering variants at CFH, LOC387715/HTRA1 and complement component 2-complement factor B (C2-FB), high-risk homozygotes at all three loci may have a 250-fold increased risk compared to baseline. However, the identification of genetic factors has not resulted in therapeutic strategies to modify the disease so far and additional genetic and environmental factors are yet to be discovered in order to influence the onset and the progression of AMD.
For genetic counselling of a woman on familial breast cancer, an accurate evaluation of the probability that she carries a germ-line mutation is needed to assist in making decisions about genetic-testing.
We used data from eight collaborating centres comprising 618 families (346 breast cancer only, 239 breast or ovarian cancer) recruited as research families or counselled for familial breast cancer, representing a broad range of family structures. Screening was performed in affected women from 618 families for germ-line mutations in BRCA1 and in 176 families for BRCA2 mutations, using different methods including SSCP, CSGE, DGGE, FAMA and PTT analysis followed by direct sequencing. Germ-line BRCA1 mutations were detected in 132 families and BRCA2 mutations in 16 families. The probability of being a carrier of a dominant breast cancer gene was calculated for the screened individual under the established genetic model for breast cancer susceptibility, first, with parameters for age-specific penetrances for breast cancer only  and, second, with age-specific penetrances for ovarian cancer in addition . Our results indicate that the estimated probability of carrying a dominant breast cancer gene gives a direct measure of the likelihood of detecting mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2. For breast/ovarian cancer families, the genetic model according to Narod et al.  is preferable for calculating the proband's genetic risk, and gives detection rates that indicate a 50% sensitivity of the gene test. Due to the incomplete BRCA2 screening of the families, we cannot yet draw any conclusions with respect to the breast cancer only families.
genetic counselling; genetic risk assessment; familial breast cancer