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1.  Genomic study in Mexicans identifies a new locus for triglycerides and refines European lipid loci 
Journal of medical genetics  2013;50(5):298-308.
The Mexican population and others with Amerindian heritage exhibit a substantial predisposition to dyslipidemias and coronary heart disease. Yet, these populations remain underinvestigated by genomic studies, and to date, no genome-wide association (GWA) studies have been reported for lipids in these rapidly expanding populations.
Methods and Findings
We performed a two-stage GWA study for hypertriglyceridemia and low high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) in Mexicans (n=4,361) and identified a novel Mexican-specific genome-wide significant locus for serum triglycerides (TGs) near the Niemann-Pick type C1 protein (NPC1) gene (P=2.43×10−08). Furthermore, three European loci for TGs (APOA5, GCKR, and LPL) and four loci for HDL-C (ABCA1, CETP, LIPC and LOC55908) reached genome-wide significance in Mexicans. We utilized cross-ethnic mapping to narrow three European TG GWA loci, APOA5, MLXIPL, and CILP2 that were wide and contained multiple candidate variants in the European scan. At the APOA5 locus, this reduced the most likely susceptibility variants to one, rs964184. Importantly, our functional analysis demonstrated a direct link between rs964184 and postprandial serum apoAV protein levels, supporting rs964184 as the causative variant underlying the European and Mexican GWA signal. Overall, 52 of the 100 reported associations from European lipid GWA meta-analysis generalized to Mexicans. However, in 82 of the 100 European GWA loci, a different variant other than the European lead/best-proxy variant had the strongest regional evidence of association in Mexicans.
This first Mexican GWA study of lipids identified a novel GWA locus for high TG levels; utilized the inter-population heterogeneity to significantly restrict three previously known European GWA signals; and surveyed whether the European lipid GWA SNPs extend to the Mexican population.
PMCID: PMC3917605  PMID: 23505323
2.  Replication of linkage at chromosome 20p13 and identification of suggestive sex-differential risk loci for autism spectrum disorder 
Molecular Autism  2014;5:13.
Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are male-biased and genetically heterogeneous. While sequencing of sporadic cases has identified de novo risk variants, the heritable genetic contribution and mechanisms driving the male bias are less understood. Here, we aimed to identify familial and sex-differential risk loci in the largest available, uniformly ascertained, densely genotyped sample of multiplex ASD families from the Autism Genetics Resource Exchange (AGRE), and to compare results with earlier findings from AGRE.
From a total sample of 1,008 multiplex families, we performed genome-wide, non-parametric linkage analysis in a discovery sample of 847 families, and separately on subsets of families with only male, affected children (male-only, MO) or with at least one female, affected child (female-containing, FC). Loci showing evidence for suggestive linkage (logarithm of odds ≥2.2) in this discovery sample, or in previous AGRE samples, were re-evaluated in an extension study utilizing all 1,008 available families. For regions with genome-wide significant linkage signal in the discovery stage, those families not included in the corresponding discovery sample were then evaluated for independent replication of linkage. Association testing of common single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) was also performed within suggestive linkage regions.
We observed an independent replication of previously observed linkage at chromosome 20p13 (P < 0.01), while loci at 6q27 and 8q13.2 showed suggestive linkage in our extended sample. Suggestive sex-differential linkage was observed at 1p31.3 (MO), 8p21.2 (FC), and 8p12 (FC) in our discovery sample, and the MO signal at 1p31.3 was supported in our expanded sample. No sex-differential signals met replication criteria, and no common SNPs were significantly associated with ASD within any identified linkage regions.
With few exceptions, analyses of subsets of families from the AGRE cohort identify different risk loci, consistent with extreme locus heterogeneity in ASD. Large samples appear to yield more consistent results, and sex-stratified analyses facilitate the identification of sex-differential risk loci, suggesting that linkage analyses in large cohorts are useful for identifying heritable risk loci. Additional work, such as targeted re-sequencing, is needed to identify the specific variants within these loci that are responsible for increasing ASD risk.
PMCID: PMC3942516  PMID: 24533643
Male brain; Sex differences; Intermediate phenotype; Linkage analysis; Association; AGRE
3.  Detecting Rare Variant Associations: Methods for Testing Haplotypes and Multiallelic Genotypes 
Genetic Epidemiology  2011;35(Suppl 1):S85-S91.
We summarize the work done by the contributors to Group 13 at Genetic Analysis Workshop 17 (GAW17) and provide a synthesis of their data analyses. The Group 13 contributors used a variety of approaches to test associations of both rare variants and common single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) with the GAW17 simulated traits, implementing analytic methods that incorporate multiallelic genotypes and haplotypes. In addition to using a wide variety of statistical methods and approaches, the contributors exhibited a remarkable amount of flexibility and creativity in coding the variants and their genes and in evaluating their proposed approaches and methods. We describe and contrast their methods along three dimensions: (1) selection and coding of genetic entities for analysis, (2) method of analysis, and (3) evaluation of the results. The contributors consistently presented a strong rationale for using multiallelic analytic approaches. They indicated that power was likely to be increased by capturing the signals of multiple markers within genetic entities defined by sliding windows, haplotypes, genes, functional pathways, and the entire set of SNPs and rare variants taken in aggregate. Despite this variability, the methods were fairly consistent in their ability to identify two associated genes for each simulated trait. The first gene was selected for the largest number of causal alleles and the second for a high-frequency causal SNP. The presumed model of inheritance and choice of genetic entities are likely to have a strong effect on the outcomes of the analyses.
PMCID: PMC3274416  PMID: 22128065
rare variants; sequence data; multiallelic data; Bayesian regression; penalized regression; tree-based clustering; pathway analysis; haplotypes
4.  Systems Biology of the Vervet Monkey 
ILAR Journal  2013;54(2):122-143.
Nonhuman primates (NHP) provide crucial biomedical model systems intermediate between rodents and humans. The vervet monkey (also called the African green monkey) is a widely used NHP model that has unique value for genetic and genomic investigations of traits relevant to human diseases. This article describes the phylogeny and population history of the vervet monkey and summarizes the use of both captive and wild vervet monkeys in biomedical research. It also discusses the effort of an international collaboration to develop the vervet monkey as the most comprehensively phenotypically and genomically characterized NHP, a process that will enable the scientific community to employ this model for systems biology investigations.
PMCID: PMC3814400  PMID: 24174437
African green monkey; genetics; genomics; phenomics; simian immunodeficiency virus [SIV]; systems biology; transcriptomics; vervet
5.  A non-human primate system for large-scale genetic studies of complex traits 
Human Molecular Genetics  2012;21(15):3307-3316.
Non-human primates provide genetic model systems biologically intermediate between humans and other mammalian model organisms. Populations of Caribbean vervet monkeys (Chlorocebus aethiops sabaeus) are genetically homogeneous and large enough to permit well-powered genetic mapping studies of quantitative traits relevant to human health, including expression quantitative trait loci (eQTL). Previous transcriptome-wide investigation in an extended vervet pedigree identified 29 heritable transcripts for which levels of expression in peripheral blood correlate strongly with expression levels in the brain. Quantitative trait linkage analysis using 261 microsatellite markers identified significant (n = 8) and suggestive (n = 4) linkages for 12 of these transcripts, including both cis- and trans-eQTL. Seven transcripts, located on different chromosomes, showed maximum linkage to markers in a single region of vervet chromosome 9; this observation suggests the possibility of a master trans-regulator locus in this region. For one cis-eQTL (at B3GALTL, beta-1,3-glucosyltransferase), we conducted follow-up single nucleotide polymorphism genotyping and fine-scale association analysis in a sample of unrelated Caribbean vervets, localizing this eQTL to a region of <200 kb. These results suggest the value of pedigree and population samples of the Caribbean vervet for linkage and association mapping studies of quantitative traits. The imminent whole genome sequencing of many of these vervet samples will enhance the power of such investigations by providing a comprehensive catalog of genetic variation.
PMCID: PMC3392106  PMID: 22556363
6.  Stratification Based on Language-Related Endophenotypes in Autism: Attempt to Replicate Reported Linkage 
The identification of autism susceptibility genes has been hampered by phenotypic heterogeneity of autism, among other factors. However, the use of endophenotypes has shown preliminary success in reducing heterogeneity and identifying potential autism-related susceptibility regions. To further explore the utility of using language related endophenotypes, we performed linkage analysis on multiplex autism families stratified according to delayed expressive speech and also assessed the extent to which parental phenotype information would aid in identifying regions of linkage. A whole genome scan using a multipoint nonparametric linkage approach was performed in 133 families, stratifying the sample by phrase speech delay and word delay. None of the regions reached suggested genome-wide or replication significance thresholds. However, several loci on chromosomes 1, 2, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 12, 15, and 19 yielded nominally higher linkage signals in the delayed groups. The results did not support reported linkage findings for loci on chromosomes 7 or 13 that were a result of stratification based on the language delay endophenotype. In addition, inclusion of information on parental history of language delay did not appreciably affect the linkage results. The nominal increase in NPL scores across several regions using language delay endophenotypes for stratification suggests that this strategy may be useful in attenuating heterogeneity. However, the inconsistencies in regions identified across studies highlight the importance of increasing sample sizes to provide adequate power to test replications in independent samples.
PMCID: PMC3653581  PMID: 16752361
Autism; linkage; endophenotypes; language; AGRE
7.  Fine Mapping of Xq28: Both MECP2 and IRAK1 Contribute to Risk for Systemic Lupus Erythematosus in Multiple Ancestral Groups 
Annals of the rheumatic diseases  2012;72(3):437-444.
The Xq28 region containing IRAK1 and MECP2 has been identified as a risk locus for systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) in previous genetic association studies. However, due to the strong linkage disequilibrium between IRAK1 and MECP2, it remains unclear which gene is affected by the underlying causal variant(s) conferring risk of SLE.
We fine-mapped ≥136 SNPs in a ~227kb region on Xq28, containing IRAK1, MECP2 and 7 adjacent genes (L1CAM, AVPR2, ARHGAP4, NAA10, RENBP, HCFC1 and TMEM187), for association with SLE in 15,783 case-control subjects derived from 4 different ancestral groups.
Multiple SNPs showed strong association with SLE in European Americans, Asians and Hispanics at P<5×10−8 with consistent association in subjects with African ancestry. Of these, 6 SNPs located in the TMEM187-IRAK1-MECP2 region captured the underlying causal variant(s) residing in a common risk haplotype shared by all 4 ancestral groups. Among them, rs1059702 best explained the Xq28 association signals in conditional testings and exhibited the strongest P value in trans-ancestral meta-analysis (Pmeta=1.3×10−27, OR=1.43), and thus was considered to be the most-likely causal variant. The risk allele of rs1059702 results in the amino acid substitution S196F in IRAK1 and had previously been shown to increase NF-κB activity in vitro. We also found that the homozygous risk genotype of rs1059702 was associated with lower mRNA levels of MECP2, but not IRAK1, in SLE patients (P=0.0012) and healthy controls (P=0.0064).
These data suggest contributions of both IRAK1 and MECP2 to SLE susceptibility.
PMCID: PMC3567234  PMID: 22904263
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus; Gene Polymorphism; Xq28; IRAK1; MECP2
8.  Support for calcium channel gene defects in autism spectrum disorders 
Molecular Autism  2012;3:18.
Alternation of synaptic homeostasis is a biological process whose disruption might predispose children to autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Calcium channel genes (CCG) contribute to modulating neuronal function and evidence implicating CCG in ASD has been accumulating. We conducted a targeted association analysis of CCG using existing genome-wide association study (GWAS) data and imputation methods in a combined sample of parent/affected child trios from two ASD family collections to explore this hypothesis.
A total of 2,176 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP) (703 genotyped and 1,473 imputed) covering the genes that encode the α1 subunit proteins of 10 calcium channels were tested for association with ASD in a combined sample of 2,781 parent/affected child trios from 543 multiplex Caucasian ASD families from the Autism Genetics Resource Exchange (AGRE) and 1,651 multiplex and simplex Caucasian ASD families from the Autism Genome Project (AGP). SNP imputation using IMPUTE2 and a combined reference panel from the HapMap3 and the 1,000 Genomes Project increased coverage density of the CCG. Family-based association was tested using the FBAT software which controls for population stratification and accounts for the non-independence of siblings within multiplex families. The level of significance for association was set at 2.3E-05, providing a Bonferroni correction for this targeted 10-gene panel.
Four SNPs in three CCGs were associated with ASD. One, rs10848653, is located in CACNA1C, a gene in which rare de novo mutations are responsible for Timothy syndrome, a Mendelian disorder that features ASD. Two others, rs198538 and rs198545, located in CACN1G, and a fourth, rs5750860, located in CACNA1I, are in CCGs that encode T-type calcium channels, genes with previous ASD associations.
These associations support a role for common CCG SNPs in ASD.
PMCID: PMC3558437  PMID: 23241247
Autism spectrum disorders; Calcium channel genes; Common variants; Imputed SNPs; Association studies
9.  Adipose Co-expression networks across Finns and Mexicans identify novel triglyceride-associated genes 
BMC Medical Genomics  2012;5:61.
High serum triglyceride (TG) levels is an established risk factor for coronary heart disease (CHD). Fat is stored in the form of TGs in human adipose tissue. We hypothesized that gene co-expression networks in human adipose tissue may be correlated with serum TG levels and help reveal novel genes involved in TG regulation.
Gene co-expression networks were constructed from two Finnish and one Mexican study sample using the blockwiseModules R function in Weighted Gene Co-expression Network Analysis (WGCNA). Overlap between TG-associated networks from each of the three study samples were calculated using a Fisher’s Exact test. Gene ontology was used to determine known pathways enriched in each TG-associated network.
We measured gene expression in adipose samples from two Finnish and one Mexican study sample. In each study sample, we observed a gene co-expression network that was significantly associated with serum TG levels. The TG modules observed in Finns and Mexicans significantly overlapped and shared 34 genes. Seven of the 34 genes (ARHGAP30, CCR1, CXCL16, FERMT3, HCST, RNASET2, SELPG) were identified as the key hub genes of all three TG modules. Furthermore, two of the 34 genes (ARHGAP9, LST1) reside in previous TG GWAS regions, suggesting them as the regional candidates underlying the GWAS signals.
This study presents a novel adipose gene co-expression network with 34 genes significantly correlated with serum TG across populations.
PMCID: PMC3543280  PMID: 23217153
Mexicans; Finns; RNA sequencing; Triglycerides; Adipose tissue; Weighted gene co-expression network analysis
10.  Mitochondrial Dysfunction, Oxidative Stress, and Apoptosis Revealed by Proteomic and Transcriptomic Analyses of the Striata in Two Mouse Models of Parkinson’s Disease 
Journal of Proteome Research  2008;7(2):666-677.
The molecular mechanisms underlying the changes in the nigrostriatal pathway in Parkinson’s disease (PD) are not completely understood. Here, we use mass spectrometry and microarrays to study the proteomic and transcriptomic changes in the striatum of two mouse models of PD, induced by the distinct neurotoxins 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine (MPTP) and methamphetamine (METH). Proteomic analyses resulted in the identification and relative quantification of 912 proteins with two or more unique peptides and 86 proteins with significant abundance changes following neurotoxin treatment. Similarly, microarray analyses revealed 181 genes with significant changes in mRNA, following neurotoxin treatment. The combined protein and gene list provides a clearer picture of the potential mechanisms underlying neurodegeneration observed in PD. Functional analysis of this combined list revealed a number of significant categories, including mitochondrial dysfunction, oxidative stress response, and apoptosis. These results constitute one of the largest descriptive data sets integrating protein and transcript changes for these neurotoxin models with many similar end point phenotypes but distinct mechanisms.
PMCID: PMC3319057  PMID: 18173235
Parkinson’s disease; transcriptomics; proteomics; codon usage; miRNA; mouse model
11.  Familial Aggregation of Hyperemesis Gravidarum 
This study was undertaken to determine whether there is familial aggregation of Hyperemesis Gravidarum making it a disease amenable to genetic study.
Study Design
Cases with severe nausea and vomiting in a singleton pregnancy treated with intravenous hydration and unaffected friend controls completed a survey regarding family history.
Sisters of women with Hyperemesis Gravidarum have a significantly increased risk of having Hyperemesis Gravidarum themselves (OR=17.3, p=0.005). Cases have a significantly increased risk of having a mother with severe nausea and vomiting; 33% of cases reported an affected mother compared to 7.7% of controls (p<.0001). Cases reported a similar frequency of affected second-degree maternal and paternal relatives (18% maternal lineage, 23% paternal lineage).
There is familial aggregation of Hyperemesis Gravidarum. This study provides strong evidence for a genetic component to hyperemesis gravidarum. Identification of the predisposing gene(s) may determine the cause of this poorly understood disease of pregnancy.
PMCID: PMC3030697  PMID: 20974461
Familial Aggregation; Genetic; Hyperemesis Gravidarum; Nausea; Pregnancy
12.  Association of IRF5 polymorphisms with activation of the interferon α pathway 
Annals of the rheumatic diseases  2009;69(3):611-617.
The genetic association of interferon regulatory factor 5 (IRF5) with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) susceptibility has been convincingly established. To gain understanding of the effect of IRF5 variation in individuals without SLE, a study was undertaken to examine whether such genetic variation predisposes to activation of the interferon α (IFNα) pathway.
Using a computer simulated approach, 14 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and haplotypes of IRF5 were tested for association with mRNA expression levels of IRF5, IFNα and IFN-inducible genes and chemokines in lymphoblastoid cell lines (LCLs) from individuals of European (CEU), Han Chinese (CHB), Japanese (JPT) and Yoruba Nigerian (YRI) backgrounds. IFN-inducible gene expression was assessed in LCLs from children with SLE in the presence and absence of IFNα stimulation.
The major alleles of IRF5 rs13242262 and rs2280714 were associated with increased IRF5 mRNA expression levels in the CEU, CHB+JPT and YRI samples. The minor allele of IRF5 rs10488631 was associated with increased IRF5, IFNα and IFN-inducible chemokine expression in CEU (pc=0.0005, 0.01 and 0.04, respectively). A haplotype containing these risk alleles of rs13242262, rs10488631 and rs2280714 was associated with increased IRF5, IFNα and IFN-inducible chemokine expression in CEU LCLs. In vitro studies showed specific activation of IFN-inducible genes in LCLs by IFNα.
SNPs of IRF5 in healthy individuals of a number of ethnic groups were associated with increased mRNA expression of IRF5. In European-derived individuals, an IRF5 haplotype was associated with increased IRF5, IFNα and IFN-inducible chemokine expression. Identifying individuals genetically predisposed to increased IFN-inducible gene and chemokine expression may allow early detection of risk for SLE.
PMCID: PMC3135414  PMID: 19854706
13.  “High Density SNP Association Study of the 17q21 Chromosomal Region Linked to Autism Identifies CACNA1G as a Novel Candidate Gene” 
Molecular psychiatry  2009;15(10):996-1005.
Chromosome 17q11-q21 is a region of the genome likely to harbor susceptibility to autism (MIM[209850]) based on prior evidence of linkage to the disorder. This linkage is specific to multiplex pedigrees containing only male probands (MO) within the Autism Genetic Resource Exchange (AGRE). Previously, Stone et al.1 completed a high-density SNP association study of 13.7Mb within this interval, but common variant association was not sufficient to account for the linkage signal. Here we extend this SNP-based association study to complete the coverage of the 2 LOD support interval around the chromosome 17q linkage peak by testing the majority of common alleles in 284 MO trios.
Markers within an interval containing the gene CACNA1G were found to be associated with Autism Spectrum Disorder at a locally significant level (p = 1.9 × 10-5). While establishing CACNA1G as a novel candidate for autism, these alleles do not contribute sufficient genetic effect to explain the observed linkage, indicating there is substantial genetic heterogeneity despite the clear linkage signal. The region thus likely harbors a combination of multiple common and rare alleles contributing to the genetic risk. These data, along with previous studies of Chromosomes 5 and 7q3, suggest few if any major common risk alleles account for ASD risk under major linkage peaks in the AGRE sample. This provides important evidence for strategies to identify ASD genes, suggesting they should focus on identifying rare variants and common variants of small effect.
PMCID: PMC2889141  PMID: 19455149
Autism; Autism Spectrum Disorder; Association; Chromosome 17q; CACNA1G
14.  Identification of two common variants contributing to serum apolipoprotein B levels in Mexicans 
Although the Mexican population has a high predisposition to dyslipidemias and premature coronary artery disease, this population is underinvestigated for the genetic factors conferring the high susceptibility.
Methods and Results
First, we investigated apolipoprotein B (apoB) levels in Mexican extended families with familial combined hyperlipidemia (FCHL) using a two-step testing strategy. In the screening step, we screened 5,721 SNPs for linkage signals with apoB. In the test step, we analyzed the 130 SNPs residing in regions of suggestive linkage signals for association with apoB. We identified significant associations with two SNPs, rs1424032 (P=6.07×10−6) and rs1349411 (P=2.72×10−4), that surpassed the significance level for the number of tests performed in the test step (P<3.84×10−4). Second, these SNPs were tested for replication in Mexican hyperlipidemic cases-control samples. The same risk alleles as in the FCHL families were significantly associated (P<0.05) with apoB in the case-control samples. The rs1349411 resides near the apoB mRNA editing enzyme (APOBEC1) involved in the processing of APOB mRNA in the small intestine. The rs1424032 resides in a highly conserved non-coding region predicted to function as a regulatory element.
We identified two novel variants, rs1349411 and rs1424032, for serum apoB levels in Mexicans.
PMCID: PMC2809779  PMID: 19965785
association; lipids; apolipoproteins; cardiovascular disease and Mexican population
15.  Investigation of variants identified in Caucasian genome-wide association studies for plasma HDL cholesterol and triglycerides levels in Mexican dyslipidemic study samples 
Although epidemiological studies have demonstrated an increased predisposition to low HDL cholesterol (HDL-C) and high triglyceride (TG) levels in the Mexican population, Mexicans have not been included in any of the previously reported genome-wide association studies (GWAS) for lipids.
We investigated six SNPs associated with TGs, seven with HDL-C and one with both TGs and HDL-C in recent Caucasian GWAS in Mexican familial combined hyperlipidemia families and hypertriglyceridemia case-control study samples. These variants were within or near the genes ABCA1, ANGPTL3, APOA5, APOB, CETP, GALNT2, GCKR, LCAT, LIPC, LPL (2), MMAB-MVK, TRIB1 and XKR6-AMAC1L2. We performed a combined analysis of the family-based and case-control studies (n=2,298) using the Z-method to combine statistics. Ten of the SNPs were nominally significant and five were significant after Bonferroni correction (P = 2.20 × 10-3 – 2.6 × 10-11) for the number of tests performed (APOA5, CETP, GCKR and GALNT2). Interestingly, our strongest signal was obtained for TGs with the minor allele of rs964184 (P=2.6 × 10-11) in the APOA1/C3/A4/A5 gene cluster region that is significantly more common in Mexicans (27%) than in Caucasians (12%).
It is important to confirm whether known loci have a consistent effect across ethnic groups. We show replication of five Caucasian GWAS lipid associations in Mexicans. The remaining loci will require a comprehensive investigation to exclude or verify their significance in Mexicans. We also demonstrate that rs964184 has a large effect (OR=1.74) and is more frequent in the Mexican population, and thus it may contribute to the high predisposition to dyslipidemias in Mexicans.
PMCID: PMC2827864  PMID: 20160193
Lipids; High-density lipoprotein cholesterol; triglycerides; genome-wide association studies; replication; diverse populations; Mexicans; Single-nucleotide polymorphism
16.  Association of GSK3B With Alzheimer Disease and Frontotemporal Dementia 
Archives of neurology  2008;65(10):1368-1374.
Deposits of abnormally hyperphosphorylated tau are a hallmark of several dementias, including Alzheimer disease (AD), and about 10% of familial frontotemporal dementia (FTD) cases are caused by mutations in the tau gene. As a known tau kinase, GSK3B is a promising candidate gene in the remaining cases of FTD and in AD, for which tau mutations have not been found.
To examine the promoter of GSK3B and all 12 exons, including the surrounding intronic sequence, in patients with FTD, patients with AD, and aged healthy subjects to identify single-nucleotide polymorphisms associated with disease.
Design, Setting, and Participants
Single-nucleotide polymorphism frequency was examined in a case-control cohort of 48 patients with probable AD, 102 patients with FTD, 38 patients with primary progressive aphasia, and 85 aged healthy subjects. Results were followed up in 2 independent AD family samples consisting of 437 multiplex families with AD (National Institute of Mental Health Genetics Initiative AD Study) or 150 sibships discordant for AD (Consortium on Alzheimer’s Genetics Study).
Several rare sequence variants in GSK3B were identified in the case-control study. An intronic polymorphism (IVS2−68G>A) occurred at more than twice the frequency among patients with FTD (10.8%) and patients with AD (14.6%) than in aged healthy subjects (4.1%). The polymorphism showed association with disease in both follow-up samples independently, although only the Consortium on Alzheimer’s Genetics sample showed the same direction of association as the case-control sample.
To our knowledge, this is the first evidence that a gene known to be involved in tau phosphorylation, GSK3B, is associated with risk for primary neurodegenerative dementias. This supports previous work in animal models suggesting that such genes are therapeutic targets.
PMCID: PMC2841136  PMID: 18852354
17.  Association of common variants in the Joubert syndrome gene (AHI1) with autism 
Human Molecular Genetics  2008;17(24):3887-3896.
It has been suggested that autism, like other complex genetic disorders, may benefit from the study of rare or Mendelian variants associated with syndromic or non-syndromic forms of the disease. However, there are few examples in which common variation in genes causing a Mendelian neuropsychiatric disorder has been shown to contribute to disease susceptibility in an allied common condition. Joubert syndrome (JS) is a rare recessively inherited disorder, with mutations reported at several loci including the gene Abelson’s Helper Integration 1 (AHI1). A significant proportion of patients with JS, in some studies up to 40%, have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and several linkage studies in ASD have nominally implicated the region on 6q where AHI1 resides. To evaluate AHI1 in ASD, we performed a three-stage analysis of AHI1 as an a priori candidate gene for autism. Re-sequencing was first used to screen AHI1, followed by two subsequent association studies, one limited and one covering the gene more completely, in Autism Genetic Resource Exchange (AGRE) families. In stage 3, we found evidence of an associated haplotype in AHI1 with ASD after correction for multiple comparisons, in a region of the gene that had been previously associated with schizophrenia. These data suggest a role for AHI1 in common disorders affecting human cognition and behavior.
PMCID: PMC2638573  PMID: 18782849
18.  Association of Stearoyl-coA desaturase 1 Activity with Familial Combined Hyperlipidemia 
Stearoyl-coA desaturase 1 (SCD1) is the rate-limiting enzyme involved in the synthesis of monounsaturated fatty acids, and in mice SCD1 activity is associated with plasma triglyceride levels.
We used the fatty acid desaturation index (the plasma ratio of 18:1/18:0), as a marker of SCD1 activity to investigate the relationship of SCD1 to familial combined hyperlipidemia (FCHL).
Methods and Results
The fatty acid desaturation index was measured in 400 individuals from 18 extended FCHL pedigrees. FCHL-affected individuals exhibited increased SCD1 activity when compared to unrelated controls (P<0.0001). The fatty acid desaturation index was found to be highly heritable (h2 = 0.48, p= 2.2 × 10−11) in this study sample. QTL analysis in 346 sibling pairs from 18 FCHL families revealed suggestive linkage of the desaturation index to chromosomes 3p26.1-3p13 (z=2.7, P=0.003), containing the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma (PPARγ) gene, and 20p11.21-20q13.32 (z=1.7, P=0.04), containing the hepatocyte nuclear factor 4, alpha (HNF4α) gene. A specific haplotype of HNF4α was found to be associated with the desaturation index in these FCHL families (P=0.002).
Our results demonstrate that the fatty acid desaturation index is a highly heritable trait that is associated with the dyslipidemia observed in FCHL.
PMCID: PMC2758768  PMID: 18340007
familial combined hyperlipidemia; genetics; Stearoyl-coA desaturase 1; peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma; hepatocyte nuclear factor 4 alpha
19.  The brain-derived neurotrophic factor rs6265 (Val66Met) polymorphism and depression in Mexican-Americans 
Neuroreport  2007;18(12):1291-1293.
The hypothesis that brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is involved in the pathogenesis of major depression is supported by several research findings; however, genetic studies assessing the relationship between BDNF and psychiatric disorders have produced conflicting results.We examined the effect of a BDNF polymorphism on depression susceptibility in Mexican-Americans.The single nucleotide polymorphism (Val66Met), which has been shown to have functional and behavioral effects, was genotyped in 284 depressed participants and 331 controls, showing association with depression (P=0.005). Individuals homozygous for the major allele (GG) had an increased chance of being depressed (OR=1.7 95% CI 1.17-2.47).Our findings support the association of BDNF single nucleotide polymorphism rs6265 and depression, suggesting that this polymorphism may increase susceptibility to major depression in Mexican-Americans.
PMCID: PMC2686836  PMID: 17632285
BDNF (brain derived neurotrophic factor); major depressive disorder; Mexican-Americans; pharmacogenetics; polymorphism; psychiatry; single nucleotide polymorphism; rs6265; Val66Met
20.  Co-regulation and multilocus determinants of gene expression in humans 
BMC Proceedings  2007;1(Suppl 1):S88.
The regulation of gene expression is an emerging area of investigation. Increased knowledge can deepen our understanding of the genetic contributions to variations in complex traits. The purpose of this study is to explore the feasibility of detecting regulatory elements of gene expression with multivariate analyses.
Peripheral blood lymphocyte expression levels of 30 genes on chromosome 5 and a single gene, DEAD, on chromosome 22 were analyzed in single-point variance-component linkage analyses in multiplex families to identify putative regulatory regions. To explore the possibility of regulatory regions having individual relationships with the expression levels of a single gene, we utilized stepwise regression. To explore the possibility of pleiotropy of a single regulatory locus for multiple genes, bivariate linkage analysis was applied.
Twenty-one loci were linked to five expression levels. The two most significant were for the known region on chromosome 22 (LOD = 4.62). On chromosome 5 a LOD of 4.57 was found for the gene leukocyte-derived arginine aminopeptidase (LRAP) with a single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) within 5 Mb. Both genes showed evidence of linkage to multiple SNPs. When 194 family members were treated as independent, stepwise regression identified fewer single-nucleotide polymorphisms with significant predictive values (p < 0.05), providing evidence for multiple regulatory regions of unequal effect. However, when corrections for non-independence were applied these results could no longer be detected.
The complex nature of gene regulation can be explored by linkage analysis with single-nucleotide polymorphisms followed by multivariate methods to explore co-regulation.
PMCID: PMC2367586  PMID: 18466591
22.  The SLC6A14 gene shows evidence of association with obesity 
Journal of Clinical Investigation  2003;112(11):1762-1772.
In our previous genome-wide scan of Finnish nuclear families, obesity was linked to chromosome Xq24. Here we analyzed this 15-Mb region by genotyping 9 microsatellite markers and 36 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) for 11 positional and functional candidate genes in an extended sample of 218 obese Finnish sibling pairs (sibpairs) (BMI > 30 kg/m2). Evidence of linkage emerged mainly from the obese male sibpairs, suggesting a gender-specific effect for the underlying gene. By constructing haplotypes among the obese male sibpairs, we restricted the region from 15 Mb to 4 Mb, between markers DXS8088 and DXS8067. Regional functional candidate genes were tested for association in an initial sample of 117 cases and 182 controls. Significant evidence was observed for association for an SNP in the 3′-untranslated region of the solute carrier family 6 member 14 (SLC6A14) gene (P = 0.0002) and for SNP haplotypes of the SLC6A14 gene (P = 0.0007–0.006). Furthermore, an independent replication study sample of 837 cases and 968 controls from Finland and Sweden also showed significant differences in allele frequencies between obese and non-obese individuals (P = 0.003). The SLC6A14 gene is an interesting novel candidate for obesity because it encodes an amino acid transporter, which potentially regulates tryptophan availability for serotonin synthesis and thus possibly affects appetite control.
PMCID: PMC281637  PMID: 14660752
23.  PARP alleles within the linked chromosomal region are associated with systemic lupus erythematosus 
Journal of Clinical Investigation  1999;103(8):1135-1140.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an autoimmune disease characterized by various autoantibodies that recognize autoantigens displayed on the surface of cells undergoing apoptosis. The genetic contribution to SLE susceptibility has been widely recognized. We previously reported evidence for linkage to SLE of the human chromosome 1q41–q42 region and have now narrowed it from 15 to 5 cM in an extended sample using multipoint linkage analysis. Candidate genes within this region include (a) PARP, poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase, encoding a zinc-finger DNA-binding protein that is involved in DNA repair and apoptosis; (b) TGFB2, encoding a transforming growth factor that regulates cellular interactions and responses; and (c) HLX1, encoding a homeobox protein that may regulate T-cell development. Using a multiallelic, transmission-disequilibrium test (TDT), we found overall skewing of transmission of PARP alleles to affected offspring in 124 families (P = 0.00008), preferential transmission of a PARP allele to affected offspring (P = 0.0003), and lack of transmission to unaffected offspring (P = 0.004). Similar TDT analyses of TGFB2 and HLX1 polymorphisms yielded no evidence for association with SLE. These results suggest that PARP may be (or is close to) the susceptibility gene within the chromosome 1q41–q42 region linked to SLE.
PMCID: PMC408279  PMID: 10207165
24.  Amerindian-specific regions under positive selection harbour new lipid variants in Latinos 
Nature Communications  2014;5:3983.
Dyslipidemia and obesity are especially prevalent in populations with Amerindian backgrounds, such as Mexican–Americans, which predispose these populations to cardiovascular disease. Here we design an approach, known as the cross-population allele screen (CPAS), which we conduct prior to a genome-wide association study (GWAS) in 19,273 Europeans and Mexicans, in order to identify Amerindian risk genes in Mexicans. Utilizing CPAS to restrict the GWAS input variants to only those differing in frequency between the two populations, we identify novel Amerindian lipid genes, receptor-related orphan receptor alpha (RORA) and salt-inducible kinase 3 (SIK3), and three loci previously unassociated with dyslipidemia or obesity. We also detect lipoprotein lipase (LPL) and apolipoprotein A5 (APOA5) harbouring specific Amerindian signatures of risk variants and haplotypes. Notably, we observe that SIK3 and one novel lipid locus underwent positive selection in Mexicans. Furthermore, after a high-fat meal, the SIK3 risk variant carriers display high triglyceride levels. These findings suggest that Amerindian-specific genetic architecture leads to a higher incidence of dyslipidemia and obesity in modern Mexicans.
Dyslipidemia and obesity have a high prevalence in populations with Amerindian backgrounds, such as Mexican–Americans. Here, the authors design an approach to identify Amerindian risk genes in Mexicans and identify five genomic loci, which include RORA and SIK3 that may contribute to the risk of dyslipidemia and obesity in Amerindian populations.
PMCID: PMC4062071  PMID: 24886709
25.  MicroRNA-3148 Modulates Allelic Expression of Toll-Like Receptor 7 Variant Associated with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(2):e1003336.
We previously reported that the G allele of rs3853839 at 3′untranslated region (UTR) of Toll-like receptor 7 (TLR7) was associated with elevated transcript expression and increased risk for systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) in 9,274 Eastern Asians [P = 6.5×10−10, odds ratio (OR) (95%CI) = 1.27 (1.17–1.36)]. Here, we conducted trans-ancestral fine-mapping in 13,339 subjects including European Americans, African Americans, and Amerindian/Hispanics and confirmed rs3853839 as the only variant within the TLR7-TLR8 region exhibiting consistent and independent association with SLE (Pmeta = 7.5×10−11, OR = 1.24 [1.18–1.34]). The risk G allele was associated with significantly increased levels of TLR7 mRNA and protein in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) and elevated luciferase activity of reporter gene in transfected cells. TLR7 3′UTR sequence bearing the non-risk C allele of rs3853839 matches a predicted binding site of microRNA-3148 (miR-3148), suggesting that this microRNA may regulate TLR7 expression. Indeed, miR-3148 levels were inversely correlated with TLR7 transcript levels in PBMCs from SLE patients and controls (R2 = 0.255, P = 0.001). Overexpression of miR-3148 in HEK-293 cells led to significant dose-dependent decrease in luciferase activity for construct driven by TLR7 3′UTR segment bearing the C allele (P = 0.0003). Compared with the G-allele construct, the C-allele construct showed greater than two-fold reduction of luciferase activity in the presence of miR-3148. Reduced modulation by miR-3148 conferred slower degradation of the risk G-allele containing TLR7 transcripts, resulting in elevated levels of gene products. These data establish rs3853839 of TLR7 as a shared risk variant of SLE in 22,613 subjects of Asian, EA, AA, and Amerindian/Hispanic ancestries (Pmeta = 2.0×10−19, OR = 1.25 [1.20–1.32]), which confers allelic effect on transcript turnover via differential binding to the epigenetic factor miR-3148.
Author Summary
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a debilitating autoimmune disease contributed to by excessive innate immune activation involving toll-like receptors (TLRs, particularly TLR7/8/9) and type I interferon (IFN) signaling pathways. TLR7 responds against RNA–containing nuclear antigens and activates IFN-α pathway, playing a pivotal role in the development of SLE. While a genomic duplication of Tlr7 promotes lupus-like disease in the Y-linked autoimmune accelerator (Yaa) murine model, the lack of common copy number variations at TLR7 in humans led us to identify a functional single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP), rs3853839 at 3′ UTR of the TLR7 gene, associated with SLE susceptibility in Eastern Asians. In this study, we fine-mapped the TLR7-TLR8 region and confirmed rs3853839 exhibiting the strongest association with SLE in European Americans, African Americans, and Amerindian/Hispanics. Individuals carrying the risk G allele of rs3853839 exhibited increased TLR7 expression at the both mRNA and protein level and decreased transcript degradation. MicroRNA-3148 (miR-3148) downregulated the expression of non-risk allele (C) containing transcripts preferentially, suggesting a likely mechanism for increased TLR7 levels in risk-allele carriers. This trans-ancestral mapping provides evidence for the global association with SLE risk at rs3853839, which resides in a microRNA–gene regulatory site affecting TLR7 expression.
PMCID: PMC3585142  PMID: 23468661

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