The aim of this study was to identify structural and functional brain changes that accompanied the transition from chronic (CM; ≥15 headache days/month) to episodic (EM; <15 headache days/month) migraine following prophylactic treatment with onabotulinumtoxinA (BoNT-A). Specifically, we examined whether CM patients responsive to prophylaxis (responders; n = 11), as evidenced by a reversal in disease status (defined by at least a 50% reduction in migraine frequency and <15 headache days/month), compared to CM patients whose migraine frequency remained unchanged (non-responders; n = 12), showed differences in cortical thickness using surface-based morphometry. We also investigated whether areas showing group differences in cortical thickness displayed altered resting-state functional connectivity (RS-FC) using seed-to-voxel analyses. Migraine characteristics measured across groups included disease duration, pain intensity and headache frequency. Patient reports of headache frequency over the 4 weeks prior to (pre-treatment) and following (post-treatment) prophylaxis were compared (post minus pre) and this measure served as the clinical endpoint that determined group assignment. All patients were scanned within 2 weeks of the post-treatment visit. Results revealed that responders showed significant cortical thickening in the right primary somatosensory cortex (SI) and anterior insula (aINS), and left superior temporal gyrus (STG) and pars opercularis (ParsOp) compared to non-responders. In addition, disease duration was negatively correlated with cortical thickness in fronto-parietal and temporo-occipital regions in responders but not non-responders, with the exception of the primary motor cortex (MI) that showed the opposite pattern; disease duration was positively associated with MI cortical thickness in responders versus non-responders. Our seed-based RS-FC analyses revealed anti-correlations between the SI seed and lateral occipital (LOC) and dorsomedial prefrontal cortices (DMPFC) in responders, whereas non-responders showed increased connectivity between the ParsOp seed and LOC. Overall, our findings revealed distinct morphometric and functional brain changes in CM patients that reverted to EM following prophylactic treatment compared to CM patients that showed no change in disease status. Elucidating the CNS changes involved in disease reversal may be critical to discovering interventions that prevent or slow the progression of CM. Such changes may aid in the evaluation of treatments as well as provide markers for disease “de-chronification”.
headache; pain; preventative therapy; BOTOX®; migraine transformation; fMRI; gray matter; network connectivity
The serotonin 2A receptor gene (HTR2A) harbors two functional single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) that are frequent in populations of African and European descent; rs6311, which affects mRNA expression, and rs6314, which changes the amino acid sequence of the encoded protein and affects the signaling properties of the receptor. Multiple clinical associations support a role for these SNPs in cognitive and neuropsychiatric phenotypes, although studies in autism spectrum disorder (ASD) remain equivocal. Here, we tested transmission disequilibrium of rs6311 and rs6314 in a cohort of 158 ASD trios (simplex and multiplex), observing significant under-transmission of the minor “A” allele of rs6311 to offspring with ASD (permuted p=0.0004). Consistent with our previous findings in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex of unaffected individuals, rs6311/A decreases expression of HTR2A mRNA with an extended 5′ untranslated region in the frontopolar cortex in brain samples from 54 ASD patients and controls. Interpreting the clinical results in the context of our mRNA expression analysis, we speculate that any risk associated with rs6311 is conferred by greater expression of the long 5′UTR mRNA isoform. The current study corroborates earlier associations between rs6311 and ASD in a family study, supporting the hypothesis that rs6311 plays a modulatory role in ASD risk.
Autism; serotonin; gene expression; HTR2A; rs6311; monoamine
The serotonin 2A receptor is widely implicated in genetic association studies and remains an important drug target for psychiatric, neurological, and cardiovascular conditions. RNA sequencing redefined the architecture of the serotonin 2A receptor gene (HTR2A), revealing novel mRNA transcript isoforms utilizing unannotated untranslated regions of the gene. Expression of these untranslated regions is modulated by common single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), namely rs6311. Previous studies did not fully capture the complexity of the sense- and antisense-encoded transcripts with respect to novel exons in the HTR2A gene locus. Here, we comprehensively catalogued exons and RNA isoforms for both HTR2A and HTR2A-AS1 using RNA-Seq from human prefrontal cortex and multiple mouse tissues. We subsequently tested associations between expression of newfound gene features and common SNPs in humans.
We find that the human HTR2A gene spans ~66 kilobases and consists of 7, rather than 4 exons. Furthermore, the revised human HTR2A-AS1 gene spans ~474 kilobases and consists of 18, rather than 3 exons. Three HTR2A exons directly overlap with HTR2A-AS1 exons, suggesting potential for complementary nucleotide interactions. The repertoire of possible mouse Htr2a splice isoforms is remarkably similar to humans and we also find evidence for overlapping sense-antisense transcripts in the same relative positions as the human transcripts. rs6311 and SNPs in high linkage disequilibrium are associated with HTR2A-AS1 expression, in addition to previously described associations with expression of the extended 5’ untranslated region of HTR2A.
Our proposed HTR2A and HTR2A-AS1 gene structures dramatically differ from current annotations, now including overlapping exons on the sense and anti-sense strands. We also find orthologous transcript isoforms expressed in mice, providing opportunities to elucidate the biological roles of the human isoforms using a model system. Associations between rs6311 and expression of HTR2A and HTR2A-AS1 suggest this polymorphism is capable of modulating the expression of the sense or antisense transcripts. Still unclear is whether these SNPs act directly on the expression of the sense or antisense transcripts and whether overlapping exons are capable of interacting through complimentary base-pairing. Additional studies are necessary to determine the extent and nature of interactions between the SNPs and the transcripts prior to interpreting these findings in the context of phenotypes associated with HTR2A.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12863-015-0325-6) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Serotonin; HTR2A; Alternative splicing; Antisense RNA; mRNA expression; Regulatory polymorphism; Allelic expression; Comparative genomics; Long non-coding RNA; 5-HT2A
The nicotinic α5 receptor subunit, encoded by CHRNA5, harbors multiple functional single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) that affect mRNA expression and alter the encoded protein. These polymorphisms are most notably associated with drug-taking behaviors and cognition. We previously identified common SNPs in a distant regulatory element (DRE) that increase CHRNA5 mRNA expression in the human prefrontal cortex (PFC) and confer risk for nicotine dependence. Genome-wide epigenetic studies in PFC and adipose tissue find strong effects of the DRE SNPs on CpG methylation. However, it is unclear whether DRE SNPs influence CpG methylation en route to modulating CHRNA5 mRNA expression. It is also unclear whether these polymorphisms affect expression in other brain regions, especially those mediating drug-taking behaviors.
By measuring total and allelic CHRNA5 mRNA expression in human habenula and putamen autopsy tissues, we found that CHRNA5 DRE variants considerably increase mRNA expression by up to 3.5-fold in both brain regions. Our epigenetic analysis finds no association between CpG methylation and CHRNA5 mRNA expression in the PFC or adipose tissues.
These finding suggests the mechanisms responsible for the genetic modulation of CpG methylation and mRNA expression are independent despite the DRE SNPs being highly associated with both measures. Our findings support a strong association between the DRE SNPs and mRNA expression or CpG methylation in the brain and periphery, but the independence of the two measures leads us to conclude that environmental factors affecting CpG methylation do not appear to directly modulate gene expression.
Nicotinic receptors; Nicotine; mRNA expression; Enhancer; Repressor; Silencer; Methylation; Epigenetics; Expression quantitative trait loci; eQTL; Functional polymorphism; Allelic expression
mRNA translation into proteins is highly regulated, but the role of mRNA isoforms, noncoding RNAs (ncRNAs), and genetic variants remains poorly understood. mRNA levels on polysomes have been shown to correlate well with expressed protein levels, pointing to polysomal loading as a critical factor. To study regulation and genetic factors of protein translation we measured levels and allelic ratios of mRNAs and ncRNAs (including microRNAs) in lymphoblast cell lines (LCL) and in polysomal fractions. We first used targeted assays to measure polysomal loading of mRNA alleles, confirming reported genetic effects on translation of OPRM1 and NAT1, and detecting no effect of rs1045642 (3435C>T) in ABCB1 (MDR1) on polysomal loading while supporting previous results showing increased mRNA turnover of the 3435T allele. Use of high-throughput sequencing of complete transcript profiles (RNA-Seq) in three LCLs revealed significant differences in polysomal loading of individual RNA classes and isoforms. Correlated polysomal distribution between protein-coding and non-coding RNAs suggests interactions between them. Allele-selective polysome recruitment revealed strong genetic influence for multiple RNAs, attributable either to differential expression of RNA isoforms or to differential loading onto polysomes, the latter defining a direct genetic effect on translation. Genes identified by different allelic RNA ratios between cytosol and polysomes were enriched with published expression quantitative trait loci (eQTLs) affecting RNA functions, and associations with clinical phenotypes. Polysomal RNA-Seq combined with allelic ratio analysis provides a powerful approach to study polysomal RNA recruitment and regulatory variants affecting protein translation.
Measuring allele-specific RNA expression provides valuable insights into cis-acting genetic and epigenetic regulation of gene expression. Widespread adoption of high-throughput sequencing technologies for studying RNA expression (RNA-Seq) permits measurement of allelic RNA expression imbalance (AEI) at heterozygous single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) across the entire transcriptome, and this approach has become especially popular with the emergence of large databases, such as GTEx. However, the existing binomial-type methods used to model allelic expression from RNA-seq assume a strong negative correlation between reference and variant allele reads, which may not be reasonable biologically.
Here we propose a new strategy for AEI analysis using RNA-seq data. Under the null hypothesis of no AEI, a group of SNPs (possibly across multiple genes) is considered comparable if their respective total sums of the allelic reads are of similar magnitude. Within each group of “comparable” SNPs, we identify SNPs with AEI signal by fitting a mixture of folded Skellam distributions to the absolute values of read differences. By applying this methodology to RNA-Seq data from human autopsy brain tissues, we identified numerous instances of moderate to strong imbalanced allelic RNA expression at heterozygous SNPs. Findings with SLC1A3 mRNA exhibiting known expression differences are discussed as examples.
The folded Skellam mixture model searches for SNPs with significant difference between reference and variant allele reads (adjusted for different library sizes), using information from a group of “comparable” SNPs across multiple genes. This model is particularly suitable for performing AEI analysis on genes with few heterozygous SNPs available from RNA-seq, and it can fit over-dispersed read counts without specifying the direction of the correlation between reference and variant alleles.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12864-015-1749-0) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Allelic RNA expression imbalance (AEI); Allele-specific expression (ASE); RNA-seq; Poisson mixture; Folded Skellam mixture; Human brain
Over the past 50,000 years, shifts in human-environmental or human-human interactions shaped genetic differences within and among human populations, including variants under positive selection. Shaped by environmental factors, such variants influence the genetics of modern health, disease, and treatment outcome. Because evolutionary processes tend to act on gene regulation, we test whether regulatory variants are under positive selection. We introduce a new approach to enhance detection of genetic markers undergoing positive selection, using conditional entropy to capture recent local selection signals. Results We use conditional logistic regression to compare our Adjusted Haplotype Conditional Entropy (H|H) measure of positive selection to existing positive selection measures. H|H and existing measures were applied to published regulatory variants acting in cis (cis-eQTLs), with conditional logistic regression testing whether regulatory variants undergo stronger positive selection than the surrounding gene.
These cis-eQTLs were drawn from six independent studies of genotype and RNA expression. The conditional logistic regression shows that, overall, H|H is substantially more powerful than existing positive-selection methods in identifying cis-eQTLs against other Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs) in the same genes. When broken down by Gene Ontology, H|H predictions are particularly strong in some biological process categories, where regulatory variants are under strong positive selection compared to the bulk of the gene, distinct from those GO categories under overall positive selection. . However, cis-eQTLs in a second group of genes lack positive selection signatures detectable by H|H, consistent with ancient short haplotypes compared to the surrounding gene (for example, in innate immunity GO:0042742); under such other modes of selection, H|H would not be expected to be a strong predictor.. These conditional logistic regression models are adjusted for Minor allele frequency(MAF); otherwise, ascertainment bias is a huge factor in all eQTL data sets. Relationships between Gene Ontology categories, positive selection and eQTL specificity were replicated with H|H in a single larger data set. Our measure, Adjusted Haplotype Conditional Entropy (H|H), was essential in generating all of the results above because it: 1) is a stronger overall predictor for eQTLs than comparable existing approaches, and 2) shows low sequential auto-correlation, overcoming problems with convergence of these conditional regression statistical models.
Our new method, H|H, provides a consistently more robust signal associated with cis-eQTLs compared to existing methods. We interpret this to indicate that some cis-eQTLs are under positive selection compared to their surrounding genes. Conditional entropy indicative of a selective sweep is an especially strong predictor of eQTLs for genes in several biological processes of medical interest. Where conditional entropy is a weak or negative predictor of eQTLs, such as innate immune genes, this would be consistent with balancing selection acting on such eQTLs over long time periods. Different measures of selection may be needed for variant prioritization under other modes of evolutionary selection.
Haplotype; Positive Selection; Selective Sweep; Conditional Entropy; eQTL; Conditional Logistic Regression
Background & Aims
Recently an association was demonstrated between the single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP), rs11209026, within the interleukin-23 receptor (IL23R) locus and Crohn’s disease (CD) as a consequence of a genome wide association study of this disease in adults. We examined the effects of this and other previously reported SNPs at this locus with respect to CD in children.
Utilizing data from our ongoing genome-wide association study in our cohort of 142 pediatric CD cases and 281 matched controls, we investigated the association of the previously reported SNPs at the IL23R locus with the childhood form of this disease.
Using a Fisher’s exact test, the minor allele frequency (MAF) of rs1120902 in the cases was 1.75% while it was 6.61% in controls, yielding a protective odds ratio (OR) of 0.25 (95% CI 0.10 – 0.65; one-sided P = 9.2×10−4). Furthermore, of all the SNPs previously reported, rs11209026 was the most strongly associated. A subsequent family-based association test (which is more resistant to population stratification) with 65 sets of trios derived from our initial patient cohort yielded significant association with rs11209026 in a transmission disequilibrium test (one-sided P=0.0017). In contrast, no association was detected to the CARD15 gene for the IBD phenotype.
The OR of the IL23R variant in our pediatric study is highly comparable with that reported previously in a non-Jewish adult IBD case-control cohort (OR=0.26). As such, variants in IL23R gene confer a similar magnitude of risk of CD to children as for their adult counterparts.
IL23R; gene; association; Crohn’s Disease
The integration of research on neuroimaging and pharmacogenetics holds promise for improving treatment for neuropsychiatric conditions. Neuroimaging may provide a more sensitive early measure of treatment response in genetically defined patient groups, and could facilitate development of novel therapies based on an improved understanding of pathogenic mechanisms underlying pharmacogenetic associations. This review summarizes progress in efforts to incorporate neuroimaging into genetics and treatment research on major psychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia, major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and addiction. Methodological challenges include: performing genetic analyses in small study populations used in imaging studies; inclusion of patients with psychiatric comorbidities; and the extensive variability across studies in neuroimaging protocols, neurobehavioral task probes, and analytic strategies. Moreover, few studies use pharmacogenetic designs that permit testing of genotype × drug effects. As a result of these limitations, few findings have been fully replicated. Future studies that pre-screen participants for genetic variants selected a priori based on drug metabolism and targets have the greatest potential to advance the science and practice of psychiatric treatment.
imaging; clinical or preclinical; neurogenetics; neuroimaging; neuropharmacology; pharmacogenetics/pharmacogenomics; psychiatry; treatment; neuroimaging; pharmacogenetics; psychiatry; treatment
Prefrontal behavior and activity in humans are heritable. Studies in animals demonstrate an interaction between dopamine D2 receptors and nicotinic acetylcholine receptors on prefrontal behavior but evidence in humans is weak. Therefore, we hypothesize that genetic variation regulating dopamine D2 and nicotinic acetylcholine receptor signaling impact prefrontal cortex activity and related cognition. To test this hypothesis in humans, we explored the interaction between functional genetic variants in the D2 receptor gene (DRD2, rs1076560) and in the nicotinic receptor α5 gene (CHRNA5, rs16969968) on both dorsolateral prefrontal cortex mediated behavior and physiology during working memory and on prefrontal gray matter volume.
A large sample of healthy subjects was compared for genotypic differences for DRD2 rs1076560 (G>T) and CHNRA5 rs16969968 (G>A) on prefrontal phenotypes, including cognitive performance at the N-Back task, prefrontal physiology with BOLD fMRI during performance of the 2-Back working memory task, and prefrontal morphometry with structural MRI.
We found that DRD2 rs1076560 and CHNRA5 rs16969968 interact to modulate cognitive function, prefrontal physiology during working memory, and prefrontal gray matter volume. More specifically, CHRNA5-AA/DRD2-GT subjects had greater behavioral performance, more efficient prefrontal cortex activity at 2Back working memory task, and greater prefrontal gray matter volume than the other genotype groups.
The present data extend previous studies in animals and enhance our understanding of dopamine and acetylcholine signaling in the human prefrontal cortex, demonstrating interactions elicited by working memory that are modulated by genetic variants in DRD2 and CHRNA5.
The 5-hydroxytryptamine 2A receptor, encoded by HTR2A, is a major post-synaptic target for serotonin in the human brain and a therapeutic drug target. Despite hundreds of genetic associations investigating HTR2A polymorphisms in neuropsychiatric disorders and therapies, the role of genetic HTR2A variability in health and disease remains uncertain.
To discover and characterize regulatory HTR2A variants, we sequenced whole transcriptomes from ten human brain regions with massively-parallel RNA sequencing and measured allelic expression of multiple HTR2A mRNA transcript variants. Following discovery of functional variants, we further characterized their impact on genetic expression in vitro.
Three polymorphisms modulate the use of novel alternative exons and untranslated regions (UTRs), changing expression of RNA and protein. The frequent promoter variant rs6311, widely implicated in human neuropsychiatric disorders, decreases usage of an upstream transcription start site encoding a longer 5′UTR with greater translation efficiency. rs76665058, located in an extended 3′UTR and unique to individuals of African descent, modulates allelic HTR2A mRNA expression. The third SNP, unannotated and present in only a single subject, directs alternative splicing of exon 2. Targeted analysis of HTR2A in the Sequenced Treatment Alternatives to Relieve Depression (STAR*D) study reveals associations between functional variants and depression severity or citalopram response.
Regulatory polymorphisms modulate HTR2A mRNA expression in an isoform-specific manner, directing the usage of novel untranslated regions and alternative exons. These results provide a foundation for delineating the role of HTR2A and serotonin signaling in CNS disorders.
serotonin; 5-HT2A; HTR2A; schizophrenia; depression; mRNA expression
Measuring allelic RNA expression ratios is a powerful approach for detecting cis-acting regulatory variants, RNA editing, loss of heterozygosity in cancer, copy number variation, and allele-specific epigenetic gene silencing. Whole transcriptome RNA sequencing (RNA-Seq) has emerged as a genome-wide tool for identifying allelic expression imbalance (AEI), but numerous factors bias allelic RNA ratio measurements. Here, we compare RNA-Seq allelic ratios measured in nine different human brain regions with a highly sensitive and accurate SNaPshot measure of allelic RNA ratios, identifying factors affecting reliable allelic ratio measurement. Accounting for these factors, we subsequently surveyed the variability of RNA editing across brain regions and across individuals.
We find that RNA-Seq allelic ratios from standard alignment methods correlate poorly with SNaPshot, but applying alternative alignment strategies and correcting for observed biases significantly improves correlations. Deploying these methods on a transcriptome-wide basis in nine brain regions from a single individual, we identified genes with AEI across all regions (SLC1A3, NHP2L1) and many others with region-specific AEI. In dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) tissues from 14 individuals, we found evidence for frequent regulatory variants affecting RNA expression in tens to hundreds of genes, depending on stringency for assigning AEI. Further, we find that the extent and variability of RNA editing is similar across brain regions and across individuals.
These results identify critical factors affecting allelic ratios measured by RNA-Seq and provide a foundation for using this technology to screen allelic RNA expression on a transcriptome-wide basis. Using this technology as a screening tool reveals tens to hundreds of genes harboring frequent functional variants affecting RNA expression in the human brain. With respect to RNA editing, the similarities within and between individuals leads us to conclude that this post-transcriptional process is under heavy regulatory influence to maintain an optimal degree of editing for normal biological function.
RNA-Seq; Whole transcriptome; Allele expression; mRNA expression; Functional genetics; Regulatory polymorphism; eQTL; Read alignment; Next generation sequencing; Bioinformatics
The dopamine receptor D2 (encoded by DRD2) is implicated in susceptibility to mental disorders and cocaine abuse, but mechanisms responsible for this relationship remain uncertain. DRD2 mRNA exists in two main splice isoforms with distinct functions: D2 long (D2L) and D2 short (D2S, lacking exon 6), expressed mainly postsynaptically and presynaptically, respectively. Two intronic single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs rs2283265 (intron 5) and rs1076560 (intron 6)) in high linkage disequilibrium (LD) with each other have been reported to alter D2S/D2L splicing and several behavioral traits in human subjects, such as memory processing. To assess the role of DRD2 variants in cocaine abuse, we measured levels of D2S and D2L mRNA in human brain autopsy tissues (prefrontal cortex and putamen) obtained from cocaine abusers and controls, and genotyped a panel of DRD2 SNPs (119 abusers and 95 controls). Robust effects of rs2283265 and rs1076560 on reducing formation of D2S relative to D2L were confirmed. The minor alleles of rs2283265/rs1076560 were considerably more frequent in Caucasians (18%) compared with African Americans (7%). Also, in Caucasians, rs2283265/rs1076560 minor alleles were significantly overrepresented in cocaine abusers compared with controls (rs2283265: 25 to 9%, respectively; p=0.001; OR=3.4 (1.7–7.1)). Several SNPs previously implicated in diverse clinical association studies are in high LD with rs2283265/rs1076560 and could have served as surrogate markers. Our results confirm the role of rs2283265/rs1076560 in D2 alternative splicing and support a strong role in susceptibility to cocaine abuse.
alternative splicing; cocaine; dopamine; DRD2; D2S; human; addiction and substance abuse; dopamine; neurogenetics; psychostimulants; drd2; d2s; human; alternative splicing; cocaine
CHRNA5, encoding the nicotinic α5 subunit, is implicated in multiple disorders, including nicotine addiction and lung cancer. Previous studies demonstrate significant associations between promoter polymorphisms and CHRNA5 mRNA expression, but the responsible sequence variants remain uncertain. To search for cis-regulatory variants, we measured allele-specific mRNA expression of CHRNA5 in human prefrontal cortex autopsy tissues and scanned the CHRNA5 locus for regulatory variants. A cluster of six frequent single nucleotide polymorphisms (rs1979905, rs1979906, rs1979907, rs880395, rs905740, and rs7164030), in complete linkage disequilibrium, fully account for a >2.5-fold allelic expression difference and a fourfold increase in overall CHRNA5 mRNA expression. This proposed enhancer region resides more than 13 kilobases upstream of the CHRNA5 transcription start site. The same upstream variants failed to affect CHRNA5 mRNA expression in peripheral blood lymphocytes, indicating tissue-specific gene regulation. Other promoter polymorphisms were also correlated with overall CHRNA5 mRNA expression in the brain, but were inconsistent with allelic mRNA expression ratios, a robust and proximate measure of cis-regulatory variants. The enhancer region and the nonsynonymous polymorphism rs16969968 generate three main haplotypes that alter the risk of developing nicotine dependence. Ethnic differences in linkage disequilibrium across the CHRNA5 locus require consideration of the upstream enhancer variants when testing clinical associations.
Nicotinic receptor; alpha5 subunit; gene expression; nicotine dependence; lung cancer; enhancer
CHRNA5, encoding the nicotinic α5 subunit, is implicated in multiple disorders, including nicotine addiction and lung cancer. Previous studies demonstrate significant associations between promoter polymorphisms and CHRNA5 mRNA expression, but the responsible sequence variants remain uncertain. To search for cis-regulatory variants, we measured allele-specific mRNA expression of CHRNA5 in human prefrontal cortex autopsy tissues and scanned the CHRNA5 locus for regulatory variants. A cluster of six frequent single-nucleotide polymorphisms (rs1979905, rs1979906, rs1979907, rs880395, rs905740, and rs7164030), in complete linkage disequilibrium (LD), fully account for a >2.5-fold allelic expression difference and a fourfold increase in overall CHRNA5 mRNA expression. This proposed enhancer region resides more than 13 kilobases upstream of the CHRNA5 transcription start site. The same upstream variants failed to affect CHRNA5 mRNA expression in peripheral blood lymphocytes, indicating tissue-specific gene regulation. Other promoter polymorphisms were also correlated with overall CHRNA5 mRNA expression in the brain, but were inconsistent with allelic mRNA expression ratios, a robust and proximate measure of cis-regulatory variants. The enhancer region and the nonsynonymous polymorphism rs16969968 generate three main haplotypes that alter the risk of developing nicotine dependence. Ethnic differences in LD across the CHRNA5 locus require consideration of upstream enhancer variants when testing clinical associations.
nicotinic receptor; α5 subunit; gene expression; nicotine dependence; lung cancer; enhancer
Several studies suggest that prenatal stress is a possible risk factor in the development of autism spectrum disorders. However, many children exposed to stress prenatally are born healthy and develop typically, suggesting that other factors must contribute to autism. Genes that contribute to stress reactivity may, therefore, exacerbate prenatal stress-mediated behavioral changes in the adult offspring. One candidate gene linked to increased stress reactivity encodes the serotonin transporter. Specifically, an insertion/deletion (long/short allele) polymorphism upstream of the serotonin transporter gene correlates with differential expression and function of the serotonin transporter and a heightened response to stressors. Heterozygous serotonin transporter knockout mice show reductions in serotonin transporter expression similar to the human short polymorphism. In this study, the role of prenatal stress and maternal serotonin transporter genotype were assessed in mice to determine whether their combined effect produces reductions in social behavior in the adult offspring. Pregnant serotonin transporter heterozygous knockout and wild-type dams were placed in either a control condition or subjected to chronic variable stress. The adult offspring were subsequently assessed for social interaction and anxiety using a 3-chamber social approach task, ultrasonic vocalization detection, elevated-plus maze and an open field task. Results indicated that prenatal stress and reduced serotonin transporter expression of the dam may have the combined effect of producing changes in social interaction and social interest in the offspring consistent with those observed in autism spectrum disorder. This data indicates a possible combined effect of maternal serotonin transporter genotype and prenatal stress contributing to the production of autistic-like behaviors in offspring.
animal model; autism; knockout mouse; stress; prenatal stress; serotonin transporter
Interactions between presynaptic and postsynaptic cellular adhesion molecules (CAMs) drive synapse maturation during development. These trans-synaptic interactions are regulated by alternative splicing of CAM RNAs, which ultimately determines neurotransmitter phenotype. The diverse assortment of RNAs produced by alternative splicing generates countless protein isoforms necessary for guiding specialized cell-to-cell connectivity. Failure to generate the appropriate synaptic adhesion proteins is associated with disrupted glutamatergic and gamma-aminobutyric acid signaling, resulting in loss of activity-dependent neuronal plasticity, and risk for developmental disorders, including autism. While the majority of genetic mutations currently linked to autism are rare variants that change the protein-coding sequence of synaptic candidate genes, regulatory polymorphisms affecting constitutive and alternative splicing have emerged as risk factors in numerous other diseases, accounting for an estimated 40–60% of general disease risk. Here, we review the relationship between aberrant RNA splicing of synapse-related genes and autism spectrum disorders.
autism spectrum disorder; synaptogenesis; alternative RNA splicing; cellular adhesion molecules; neurexin; neuroligin; gene expression; neural development
The prevalence of obesity in children and adults in the United States has increased dramatically over the past decade. Besides environmental factors, genetic factors are known to play an important role in the pathogenesis of obesity. A number of genetic determinants of adult BMI have already been established through genome wide association studies. In this study, we examined 25 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) corresponding to thirteen previously reported genomic loci in 6,078 children with measures of BMI. Fifteen of these SNPs yielded at least nominally significant association to BMI, representing nine different loci including INSIG2, FTO, MC4R, TMEM18, GNPDA2, NEGR1, BDNF, KCTD15 and 1q25. Other loci revealed no evidence for association, namely at MTCH2, SH2B1, 12q13 and 3q27. For the 15 associated variants, the genotype score explained 1.12% of the total variation for BMI z-score. We conclude that among thirteen loci that have been reported to associate with adult BMI, at least nine also contribute to the determination of BMI in childhood as demonstrated by their associations in our pediatric cohort.
Recently a modest, but consistently, replicated association was demonstrated between obesity and the single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP), rs17782313, 3’ of the MC4R locus as a consequence of a meta-analysis of genome wide association (GWA) studies of the disease in Caucasian populations. We investigated the association in the context of the childhood form of the disease utilizing data from our ongoing GWA study in a cohort of 728 European American (EA) obese children (BMI ≥ 95th percentile) and 3,960 EA controls (BMI < 95th percentile), as well as 1,008 African American (AA) obese children and 2,715 AA controls. rs571312, rs10871777 and rs476828 (perfect surrogates for rs17782313) yielded odds ratios in the EA cohort of 1.142 (P = 0.045), 1.137 (P = 0.054) and 1.145 (P = 0.042); however, there was no significant association with these SNPs in the AA cohort. When investigating all thirty SNPs present on the Illumina BeadChip at this locus, again there was no evidence for association in AA cases when correcting for the number of tests employed. As such, variants 3’ to the MC4R locus present on the genotyping platform utilized confer a similar magnitude of risk of obesity in Caucasian children as to their adult Caucasian counterparts but this observation did not extend to African Americans.
OBJECTIVE—Two recent genome-wide association (GWA) studies have revealed novel loci for type 1 diabetes, a common multifactorial disease with a strong genetic component. To fully utilize the GWA data that we had obtained by genotyping 563 type 1 diabetes probands and 1,146 control subjects, as well as 483 case subject–parent trios, using the Illumina HumanHap550 BeadChip, we designed a full stage 2 study to capture other possible association signals.
RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS—From our existing datasets, we selected 982 markers with P < 0.05 in both GWA cohorts. Genotyping these in an independent set of 636 nuclear families with 974 affected offspring revealed 75 markers that also had P < 0.05 in this third cohort. Among these, six single nucleotide polymorphisms in five novel loci also had P < 0.05 in the Wellcome Trust Case-Control Consortium dataset and were further tested in 1,303 type 1 diabetes probands from the Diabetes Control and Complications Trial/Epidemiology of Diabetes Interventions and Complications (DCCT/EDIC) plus 1,673 control subjects.
RESULTS—Two markers (rs9976767 and rs3757247) remained significant after adjusting for the number of tests in this last cohort; they reside in UBASH3A (OR 1.16; combined P = 2.33 × 10−8) and BACH2 (1.13; combined P = 1.25 × 10−6).
CONCLUSIONS—Evaluation of a large number of statistical GWA candidates in several independent cohorts has revealed additional loci that are associated with type 1 diabetes. The two genes at these respective loci, UBASH3A and BACH2, are both biologically relevant to autoimmunity.
Recently an association was demonstrated between the single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP), rs10516487, within the B-cell gene BANK1 and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) as a consequence of a genome wide association study of this disease in European and Argentinean populations. In a bid for replication, we examined the effects of the R61H non-synonymous variant with respect to SLE in our genotyped American cohorts of European and African ancestry. Utilizing data from our ongoing genome-wide association study in our cohort of 178 Caucasian SLE cases and 1808 Caucasian population-based controls plus 148 African American (AA) SLE cases and 1894 AA population-based controls we investigated the association of the previously described non-synonymous SNP at the BANK1 locus with the disease in the two ethnicities separately. Using a Fisher’s exact test, the minor allele frequency (MAF) of rs10516487 in the Caucasian cases was 22.6% while it was 31.2% in Caucasian controls, yielding a protective odds ratio (OR) of 0.64 (95% CI 0.49-0.85; one-sided p = 7.07 × 10−4). Furthermore, the MAF of rs10516487 in the AA cases was 18.7% while it was 23.3% in AA controls, yielding a protective OR of 0.75 (95% CI 0.55–1.034; one-sided p = 0.039). The OR of the BANK1 variant in our study cohorts is highly comparable with that reported previously in a South American/European SLE case-control cohort (OR = 0.72). As such, R61H in the BANK1 gene confers a similar magnitude of SLE protection, not only in European Americans, but also in African Americans.
systemic lupus erythematosus; African Americans; European Americans; BANK1 gene
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a common inflammatory disorder with complex etiology that involves both genetic and environmental triggers, including but not limited to defects in bacterial clearance, defective mucosal barrier and persistent dysregulation of the immune response to commensal intestinal bacteria. IBD is characterized by two distinct phenotypes: Crohn’s disease (CD) and ulcerative colitis (UC). Previously reported GWA studies have identified genetic variation accounting for a small portion of the overall genetic susceptibility to CD and an even smaller contribution to UC pathogenesis. We hypothesized that stratification of IBD by age of onset might identify additional genes associated with IBD. To that end, we carried out a GWA analysis in a cohort of 1,011 individuals with pediatric-onset IBD and 4,250 matched controls. We identified and replicated significantly associated, previously unreported loci on chromosomes 20q13 (rs2315008[T] and rs4809330[A]; P = 6.30 × 10−8 and 6.95 × 10−8, respectively; odds ratio (OR) = 0.74 for both) and 21q22 (rs2836878[A]; P = 6.01 × 10−8; OR = 0.73), located close to the TNFRSF6B and PSMG1 genes, respectively.
Recently an association was demonstrated between the single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP), rs9939609, within the FTO locus and obesity as a consequence of a genome wide association (GWA) study of type 2 diabetes in adults. We examined the effects of two perfect surrogates for this SNP plus 11 other SNPs at this locus with respect to our childhood obesity cohort, consisting of both Caucasians and African Americans (AA). Utilizing data from our ongoing GWA study in our cohort of 418 Caucasian obese children (BMI≥95th percentile), 2,270 Caucasian controls (BMI<95th percentile), 578 AA obese children and 1,424 AA controls, we investigated the association of the previously reported variation at the FTO locus with the childhood form of this disease in both ethnicities. The minor allele frequencies (MAF) of rs8050136 and rs3751812 (perfect surrogates for rs9939609 i.e. both r2 = 1) in the Caucasian cases were 0.448 and 0.443 respectively while they were 0.391 and 0.386 in Caucasian controls respectively, yielding for both an odds ratio (OR) of 1.27 (95% CI 1.08–1.47; P = 0.0022). Furthermore, the MAFs of rs8050136 and rs3751812 in the AA cases were 0.449 and 0.115 respectively while they were 0.436 and 0.090 in AA controls respectively, yielding an OR of 1.05 (95% CI 0.91–1.21; P = 0.49) and of 1.31 (95% CI 1.050–1.643; P = 0.017) respectively. Investigating all 13 SNPs present on the Illumina HumanHap550 BeadChip in this region of linkage disequilibrium, rs3751812 was the only SNP conferring significant risk in AA. We have therefore replicated and refined the association in an AA cohort and distilled a tag-SNP, rs3751812, which captures the ancestral origin of the actual mutation. As such, variants in the FTO gene confer a similar magnitude of risk of obesity to children as to their adult counterparts and appear to have a global impact.