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1.  A sequence variant associated with sortilin-1 (SORT1) on 1p13.3 is independently associated with abdominal aortic aneurysm 
Human Molecular Genetics  2013;22(14):2941-2947.
Abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) is a common human disease with a high estimated heritability (0.7); however, only a small number of associated genetic loci have been reported to date. In contrast, over 100 loci have now been reproducibly associated with either blood lipid profile and/or coronary artery disease (CAD) (both risk factors for AAA) in large-scale meta-analyses. This study employed a staged design to investigate whether the loci for these two phenotypes are also associated with AAA. Validated CAD and dyslipidaemia loci underwent screening using the Otago AAA genome-wide association data set. Putative associations underwent staged secondary validation in 10 additional cohorts. A novel association between the SORT1 (1p13.3) locus and AAA was identified. The rs599839 G allele, which has been previously associated with both dyslipidaemia and CAD, reached genome-wide significance in 11 combined independent cohorts (meta-analysis with 7048 AAA cases and 75 976 controls: G allele OR 0.81, 95% CI 0.76–0.85, P = 7.2 × 10−14). Modelling for confounding interactions of concurrent dyslipidaemia, heart disease and other risk factors suggested that this marker is an independent predictor of AAA susceptibility. In conclusion, a genetic marker associated with cardiovascular risk factors, and in particular concurrent vascular disease, appeared to independently contribute to susceptibility for AAA. Given the potential genetic overlap between risk factor and disease phenotypes, the use of well-characterized case–control cohorts allowing for modelling of cardiovascular disease risk confounders will be an important component in the future discovery of genetic markers for conditions such as AAA.
PMCID: PMC3690970  PMID: 23535823
2.  Novel pathways in the pathobiology of human abdominal aortic aneurysms 
Abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA), a dilatation of the infrarenal aorta, typically affects males > 65 years. The pathobiological mechanisms of human AAA are poorly understood. The goal of this study was to identify novel pathways involved in the development of AAAs.
A custom-designed “AAA-chip” was used to assay 43 of the differentially expressed genes identified in a previously published microarray study between AAA (n = 15) and control (n = 15) infrarenal abdominal aorta. Protein analyses were performed on selected genes.
Altogether 38 of the 43 genes on the “AAA-chip” showed significantly different expression. Novel validated genes in AAA pathobiology included ADCY7, ARL4C, BLNK, FOSB, GATM, LYZ, MFGE8, PRUNE2, PTPRC, SMTN, TMODI and TPM2. These genes represent a wide range of biological functions, such as calcium signaling, development and differentiation, as well as cell adhesion not previously implicated in AAA pathobiology. Protein analyses for GATM, CD4, CXCR4, BLNK, PLEK, LYZ, FOSB, DUSP6, ITGA5 and PTPRC confirmed the mRNA findings.
The results provide new directions for future research into AAA pathogenesis to study the role of novel genes confirmed here. New treatments and diagnostic tools for AAA could potentially be identified by studying these novel pathways.
PMCID: PMC3782105  PMID: 22797469
gene expression; vascular biology; aorta; abdominal aortic aneurysm
3.  Role of Complement Cascade in Abdominal Aortic Aneurysms 
The goal of this study was to investigate the role of complement cascade genes in the pathobiology of human abdominal aortic aneurysms (AAAs).
Methods and Results
Results of a genome-wide microarray expression profiling revealed 3,274 differentially expressed genes between aneurysmal and control aortic tissue. Interestingly, 13 genes in the complement cascade were significantly differentially expressed between AAA and the controls. In silico analysis of the promoters of the 13 complement cascade genes showed enrichment for transcription factor binding sites for STAT5A. Chromatin-immunoprecipitation experiments demonstrated binding of transcription factor STAT5A to the promoters of the majority of the complement cascade genes. Immunohistochemical analysis showed strong staining for C2 in AAA tissues.
These results provide strong evidence that the complement cascade plays a role in human AAA. Based on our microarray studies, the pathway is activated in AAA, particularly via the lectin and classical pathways. The overrepresented binding sites of transcription factor STAT5A in the complement cascade gene promoters suggest a role for STAT5A in the coordinated regulation of complement cascade gene expression.
PMCID: PMC3712630  PMID: 21493888
Abdominal aortic aneurysm; complement cascade; genetic association study; STAT5; chromatin immunoprecipitation
4.  Regional expression of HOXA4 along the aorta and its potential role in human abdominal aortic aneurysms 
BMC Physiology  2011;11:9.
The infrarenal abdominal aorta exhibits increased disease susceptibility relative to other aortic regions. Allograft studies exchanging thoracic and abdominal segments showed that regional susceptibility is maintained regardless of location, suggesting substantial roles for embryological origin, tissue composition and site-specific gene expression.
We analyzed gene expression with microarrays in baboon aortas, and found that members of the HOX gene family exhibited spatial expression differences. HOXA4 was chosen for further study, since it had decreased expression in the abdominal compared to the thoracic aorta. Western blot analysis from 24 human aortas demonstrated significantly higher HOXA4 protein levels in thoracic compared to abdominal tissues (P < 0.001). Immunohistochemical staining for HOXA4 showed nuclear and perinuclear staining in endothelial and smooth muscle cells in aorta. The HOXA4 transcript levels were significantly decreased in human abdominal aortic aneurysms (AAAs) compared to age-matched non-aneurysmal controls (P < 0.00004). Cultured human aortic endothelial and smooth muscle cells stimulated with INF-γ (an important inflammatory cytokine in AAA pathogenesis) showed decreased levels of HOXA4 protein (P < 0.0007).
Our results demonstrated spatial variation in expression of HOXA4 in human aortas that persisted into adulthood and that downregulation of HOXA4 expression was associated with AAAs, an important aortic disease of the ageing population.
PMCID: PMC3125234  PMID: 21627813
5.  Association of an INSIG2 obesity allele with cardiovascular phenotypes is gender and age dependent 
The INSIG2 gene has been implicated in cholesterol metabolism and a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) near INSIG2 has been shown to be associated with obesity. We sought to determine the relationship of the INSIG2 SNP to cardiovascular disease (CVD) related phenotypes.
Methods and Results
Nine hundred forty six patients undergoing percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) in wave 5 of the multicenter NHLBI Dynamic Registry were genotyped using RT-PCR/TaqMan/allelic discrimination for the rs7566605 SNP near the INSIG2 gene. Clinical variables analyzed include demographics, medical history, and procedural details. The prevalence of peripheral vascular disease (PVD) was significantly higher in older men (≥65 years) who were either homozygous or carriers of the obesity/lipid risk allele ("C") compared to non-carriers (odds ratio 3.4, p = 0.013) using a logistic regression model incorporating history of hypercholesterolemia, history of hypertension, cerebrovascular disease, history of diabetes, and BMI. A similar relationship with cerebrovascular disease was found in older (>65) women (odds ratio 3.4, p = 0.013). The INSIG2 SNP was not associated with BMI, nor with other clinical variables.
Age and gender may influence the association of the INSIG2 obesity SNP with PVD and cerebrovascular disease in patients with pre-existing CVD.
PMCID: PMC2958931  PMID: 20920244
6.  Association of chromosome 9p21 SNPs with cardiovascular phenotypes in morbid obesity using electronic health record data 
Genomic Medicine  2008;2(1-2):33-43.
Genomic medicine research requires substantial time and resources to obtain phenotype data. The electronic health record offers potential efficiencies in addressing these temporal and economic challenges, but few studies have explored the feasibility of using such data for genetics research. The main objective of this study was to determine the association of two genetic variants located on chromosome 9p21 conferring susceptibility to coronary heart disease and type 2 diabetes with a variety of clinical phenotypes derived from the electronic health record in a population of morbidly obese patients. Data on more than 100 clinical measures including diagnoses, laboratory values, and medications were extracted from the electronic health records of a total of 709 morbidly obese (body mass index (BMI) ≥ 40 kg/m2) patients. Two common single nucleotide polymorphisms located at chromosome 9p21 recently linked to coronary heart disease and type 2 diabetes (McPherson et al. Science 316:1488–1491, 2007; Saxena et al. Science 316:1331–1336, 2007; Scott et al. Science 316:1341-1345, 2007) were genotyped to assess statistical association with clinical phenotypes. Neither the type 2 diabetes variant nor the coronary heart disease variant was related to any expected clinical phenotype, although high-risk type 2 diabetes/coronary heart disease compound genotypes were associated with several coronary heart disease phenotypes. Electronic health records may be efficient sources of data for validation studies of genetic associations.
PMCID: PMC2518660  PMID: 18716918
SNP; Morbid obesity; Electronic health record; Cardiovascular disease; Type 2 diabetes
7.  The Putative “Switch 2” Domain of the Ras-related GTPase, Rab1B, Plays an Essential Role in the Interaction with Rab Escort Protein 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  1998;9(1):223-235.
Posttranslational modification of Rab proteins by geranylgeranyltransferase type II requires that they first bind to Rab escort protein (REP). Following prenylation, REP is postulated to accompany the modified GTPase to its specific target membrane. REP binds preferentially to Rab proteins that are in the GDP state, but the specific structural domains involved in this interaction have not been defined. In p21 Ras, the α2 helix of the Switch 2 domain undergoes a major conformational change upon GTP hydrolysis. Therefore, we hypothesized that the corresponding region in Rab1B might play a key role in the interaction with REP. Introduction of amino acid substitutions (I73N, Y78D, and A81D) into the putative α2 helix of Myc-tagged Rab1B prevented prenylation of the recombinant protein in cell-free assays, whereas mutations in the α3 and α4 helices did not. Additionally, upon transient expression in transfected HEK-293 cells, the Myc-Rab1B α2 helix mutants were not efficiently prenylated as determined by incorporation of [3H]mevalonate. Metabolic labeling studies using [32P]orthophosphate indicated that the poor prenylation of the Rab1B α2 helix mutants was not directly correlated with major disruptions in guanine nucleotide binding or intrinsic GTPase activity. Finally, gel filtration analysis of cytosolic fractions from 293 cells that were coexpressing T7 epitope-tagged REP with various Myc-Rab1B constructs revealed that mutations in the α2 helix of Rab1B prevented the association of nascent (i.e., nonprenylated) Rab1B with REP. These data indicate that the Switch 2 domain of Rab1B is a key structural determinant for REP interaction and that nucleotide-dependent conformational changes in this region are largely responsible for the selective interaction of REP with the GDP-bound form of the Rab substrate.
PMCID: PMC25245  PMID: 9437002

Results 1-7 (7)