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1.  A new regulatory variant in the interleukin-6 receptor gene associates with asthma risk 
Genes and immunity  2013;14(7):441-446.
The main genetic determinant of soluble IL-6R levels is the missense variant rs2228145, which maps to the cleavage site of IL-6R. For each Ala allele, sIL-6R serum levels increase by ~20 ng/ml and asthma risk by 1.09-fold. However, this variant does not explain the total heritability for sIL-6R levels. Additional independent variants in IL6R may therefore contribute to variation in sIL-6R levels and influence asthma risk. We imputed 471 variants in IL6R and tested these for association with sIL-6R serum levels in 360 individuals. An intronic variant (rs12083537) was associated with sIL-6R levels independently of rs4129267 (P = 0.0005), a proxy SNP for rs2228145. A significant and consistent association for rs12083537 was observed in a replication panel of 354 individuals (P = 0.033). Each rs12083537:A allele increased sIL-6R serum levels by 2.4 ng/ml Analysis of mRNA levels in two cohorts did not identify significant associations between rs12083537 and IL6R transcription levels. On the other hand, results from 16 705 asthmatics and 30 809 controls showed that the rs12083537:A allele increased asthma risk by 1.04-fold (P = 0.0419). Genetic risk scores based on IL6R regulatory variants may prove useful in explaining variation in clinical response to tocilizumab, an anti-IL-6R monoclonal antibody.
PMCID: PMC4233139  PMID: 23945879
allergy; eQTL; expression; disease
2.  Early life environmental predictors of asthma age-of-onset 
Prevention strategies that delay the onset of asthma may improve clinical outcomes. To identify early life environmental exposures associated with asthma age-of-onset and potential genetic modifiers of these exposures, we studied 1085 subjects with physician-diagnosed asthma and disease onset at or after age two. Subjects reported retrospectively on their exposure to 17 environmental factors before the age of two. The presence of individual or combinations of these early life exposures was then tested for association with variation in asthma age-of-onset. For exposures significantly associated with age-of-onset, we tested if 26 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP) with an established association with allergic disease significantly modified the effect of the exposure. Five environmental exposures were significantly associated with variation in asthma age-of-onset after correction for multiple testing: carpet at home (P = 6 × 10−5), a serious chest illness (P = 10−4), father a cigarette smoker (P = 6 × 10−4) and direct exposure to father's smoking (P = 3 × 10−4). Individuals with early childhood asthma onset, between the ages of two and six, were 1.4-fold (CI 1.1–1.9) more likely to report having lived in a house with carpet and 2.1-fold (CI 1.3–3.5) more likely to report suffering a serious chest illness before the age of two, than asthmatics with later disease onset. We further found these individual risks to increase to 3.2-fold (CI 1.7–6.0) if carpet exposure and suffering a serious chest illness co-occurred before age two. Paternal smoking exposures were less likely to be reported by asthmatics with early when compared to later disease onset (OR 0.5, CI 0.3–0.7). There were no significant SNP interactions with these environmental exposures after correction for multiple testing. Our results suggest that disease onset in individuals at a high-risk of developing asthma can potentially be delayed by avoiding exposure to carpet at home and preventing serious chest illnesses during the first 2 years of life.
PMCID: PMC4257759  PMID: 25505548
age; atopy; IL6R; infections; tobacco
3.  Human pigmentation genes under environmental selection 
Genome Biology  2012;13(9):248.
Genome-wide association studies and comparative genomics have established major loci and specific polymorphisms affecting human skin, hair and eye color. Environmental changes have had an impact on selected pigmentation genes as populations have expanded into different regions of the globe.
PMCID: PMC3491390  PMID: 23110848
4.  The Queensland study of Melanoma: Environmental and Genetic Associations (Q-MEGA). Study design, baseline characteristics, and repeatability of phenotype and sun exposure measures 
Cutaneous malignant melanoma (CMM) is a major health issue in Queensland, Australia which has the world’s highest incidence. Recent molecular and epidemiologic studies suggest that CMM arises through multiple etiological pathways involving gene-environment interactions. Understanding the potential mechanisms leading to CMM requires larger studies than those previously conducted. This article describes the design and baseline characteristics of Q-MEGA, the Queensland study of Melanoma: Environmental and Genetic Associations, which followed-up four population-based samples of CMM patients in Queensland, including children, adolescents, men aged over 50, and a large sample of adult cases and their families, including twins. Q-MEGA aims to investigate the roles of genetic and environmental factors, and their interaction, in the etiology of melanoma. 3,471 participants took part in the follow-up study and were administered a computer-assisted telephone interview in 2002–2005. Updated data on environmental and phenotypic risk factors, and 2,777 blood samples were collected from interviewed participants as well as a subset of relatives. This study provides a large and well-described population-based sample of CMM cases with follow-up data. Characteristics of the cases and repeatability of sun exposure and phenotype measures between the baseline and the follow-up surveys, from six to 17 years later, are also described.
PMCID: PMC3677021  PMID: 18361720
5.  Multiple pigmentation gene polymorphisms account for a substantial proportion of risk of cutaneous malignant melanoma 
We have previously described the role of red hair (Melanocortin 1 Receptor, MC1R) and blue eye (Oculocutaneous Albinism Type 2, OCA2) gene polymorphisms in modulating risk of cutaneous malignant melanoma (CMM) in a highly sun-exposed population of European descent. A number of recent studies, including genome-wide association studies (GWAS), have identified numerous polymorphisms controlling human hair, eye and skin colour. In this paper, we test a selected set of polymorphisms in pigmentation loci (ASIP, TYR, TYRP1, MC1R, OCA2, IRF4, SLC24A4, SLC45A2) for association with CMM risk in a large Australian population-based case control study. Variants in IRF4 and SLC24A4, despite being strongly associated with pigmentation in our sample, did not modify CMM risk, but the other six did. Three SNPs (rs28777, rs35391, rs16891982) in the MATP gene (SLC45A2) exhibited the strongest crude association with risk, but this was attenuated to approximately the same effect size as that of a MC1R red hair color allele by controlling for ancestry of cases and controls. We also detected significant epistatic interactions between SLC45A2 and OCA2 alleles, and MC1R and ASIP alleles. Overall, these measured variants account for 12% of the familial risk of CMM in our population.
PMCID: PMC3672059  PMID: 19710684
6.  Polymorphisms in the Syntaxin 17 Gene are not Associated with Human Cutaneous Malignant Melanoma 
Melanoma research  2009;19(2):80-86.
The prevalence of cutaneous malignant melanoma (CMM) has increased significantly in most Caucasian populations in recent decades. Both genetic and environment are significant risk factors involved in the development of CMM. A germline mutation in the Syntaxin 17 (STX17) gene was recently identified in horses causing premature hair gray and associated with susceptibility to melanoma. We hypothesized that common germline variants in the STX17 gene might be associated with predisposition to human CMM or might interact with other melanoma risk genes. We conducted a case-control study by genotyping 26 tagging single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) across the STX17 gene region in an Australian sample and performed logistic regression analysis for predicting the possible SNP interactions in a combined dataset. Our results do not support an association between CMM and any of the STX17 SNPs and provide no evidence for interactions between the melanoma risk SNP rs910873 on chromosome 20 and any of the STX17 SNPs. We conclude that common variants in the STX17 gene region do not play a key role in the pathogenesis of human melanoma.
PMCID: PMC3665505  PMID: 19209086
Syntaxin 17; melanoma; polymorphisms
7.  Genome-wide association study identifies novel loci predisposing to cutaneous melanoma† 
Human Molecular Genetics  2011;20(24):5012-5023.
We performed a multistage genome-wide association study of melanoma. In a discovery cohort of 1804 melanoma cases and 1026 controls, we identified loci at chromosomes 15q13.1 (HERC2/OCA2 region) and 16q24.3 (MC1R) regions that reached genome-wide significance within this study and also found strong evidence for genetic effects on susceptibility to melanoma from markers on chromosome 9p21.3 in the p16/ARF region and on chromosome 1q21.3 (ARNT/LASS2/ANXA9 region). The most significant single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the 15q13.1 locus (rs1129038 and rs12913832) lie within a genomic region that has profound effects on eye and skin color; notably, 50% of variability in eye color is associated with variation in the SNP rs12913832. Because eye and skin colors vary across European populations, we further evaluated the associations of the significant SNPs after carefully adjusting for European substructure. We also evaluated the top 10 most significant SNPs by using data from three other genome-wide scans. Additional in silico data provided replication of the findings from the most significant region on chromosome 1q21.3 rs7412746 (P = 6 × 10−10). Together, these data identified several candidate genes for additional studies to identify causal variants predisposing to increased risk for developing melanoma.
PMCID: PMC3298855  PMID: 21926416
8.  Identification of IL6R and chromosome 11q13.5 as risk loci for asthma 
Lancet  2011;378(9795):1006-1014.
We aimed to identify novel genetic variants affecting asthma risk, since these might provide novel insights into molecular mechanisms underlying asthma.
We performed a genome-wide association study (GWAS) in 2,669 physician-diagnosed asthmatics and 4,528 controls from Australia. Seven loci were prioritised for replication after combining our results with those from the GABRIEL consortium (n=26,475), and these were tested in an additional 25,358 independent samples from four in-silico cohorts. Quantitative multi-SNP scores of genetic load were constructed on the basis of results from the GABRIEL study and tested for association with asthma in our Australian GWAS dataset.
Two loci were confirmed to associate with asthma risk in the replication cohorts and reached genome-wide significance in the combined analysis of all available studies (n=57,800): rs4129267 (OR=1.09, combined P=2.4×10−8) in the interleukin-6 receptor gene (IL6R) and rs7130588 (OR=1.09, P=1.8×10−8) on chromosome 11q13.5 near the leucine-rich repeat containing 32 gene (LRRC32, also known as GARP). The 11q13.5 locus was significantly associated with atopic status among asthmatics (OR = 1.33, P = 7×10−4), suggesting that it is a risk factor for allergic but not non-allergic asthma. Multi-SNP association results are consistent with a highly polygenic contribution to asthma risk, including loci with weak effects that may be shared with other immune-related diseases, such as NDFIP1, HLA-B, LPP and BACH2.
The IL6R association further supports the hypothesis that cytokine signalling dysregulation affects asthma risk, and raises the possibility that an IL6R antagonist (tocilizumab) may be effective to treat the disease, perhaps in a genotype-dependent manner. Results for the 11q13.5 locus suggest that it directly increases the risk of allergic sensitisation which, in turn, increases the risk of subsequent development of asthma. Larger or more functionally focused studies are needed to characterise the many loci with modest effects that remain to be identified for asthma.
A full list of funding sources appears at the end of the paper.
PMCID: PMC3517659  PMID: 21907864
9.  First all-in-one diagnostic tool for DNA intelligence: genome-wide inference of biogeographic ancestry, appearance, relatedness, and sex with the Identitas v1 Forensic Chip 
When a forensic DNA sample cannot be associated directly with a previously genotyped reference sample by standard short tandem repeat profiling, the investigation required for identifying perpetrators, victims, or missing persons can be both costly and time consuming. Here, we describe the outcome of a collaborative study using the Identitas Version 1 (v1) Forensic Chip, the first commercially available all-in-one tool dedicated to the concept of developing intelligence leads based on DNA. The chip allows parallel interrogation of 201,173 genome-wide autosomal, X-chromosomal, Y-chromosomal, and mitochondrial single nucleotide polymorphisms for inference of biogeographic ancestry, appearance, relatedness, and sex. The first assessment of the chip’s performance was carried out on 3,196 blinded DNA samples of varying quantities and qualities, covering a wide range of biogeographic origin and eye/hair coloration as well as variation in relatedness and sex. Overall, 95 % of the samples (N = 3,034) passed quality checks with an overall genotype call rate >90 % on variable numbers of available recorded trait information. Predictions of sex, direct match, and first to third degree relatedness were highly accurate. Chip-based predictions of biparental continental ancestry were on average ~94 % correct (further support provided by separately inferred patrilineal and matrilineal ancestry). Predictions of eye color were 85 % correct for brown and 70 % correct for blue eyes, and predictions of hair color were 72 % for brown, 63 % for blond, 58 % for black, and 48 % for red hair. From the 5 % of samples (N = 162) with <90 % call rate, 56 % yielded correct continental ancestry predictions while 7 % yielded sufficient genotypes to allow hair and eye color prediction. Our results demonstrate that the Identitas v1 Forensic Chip holds great promise for a wide range of applications including criminal investigations, missing person investigations, and for national security purposes.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00414-012-0788-1) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC3631519  PMID: 23149900
DNA intelligence; Forensic DNA phenotyping; SNP; Prediction; Relatedness; Kinship; Ancestry; Eye color; Hair color; Sex
10.  Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in Australian Adults: Prevalence, Persistence, Conduct Problems and Disadvantage 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(10):e47404.
The Prevalence and persistence of ADHD have not been described in young Australian adults and few studies have examined how conduct problems (CP) are associated with ADHD for this age group. We estimate lifetime and adult prevalence and persistence rates for three categories of ADHD for 3795 Australian adults, and indicate how career, health and childhood risk factors differ for people with ADHD symptoms and ADHD symptoms plus CP.
Trained interviewers collected participant experience of ADHD, CP, education, employment, childhood experience, relationship and health variables. Three diagnostic definitions of ADHD used were (i) full DSM-IV criteria; (ii) excluding the age 7 onset criterion (no age criterion); (iii) participant experienced difficulties due to ADHD symptoms (problem symptoms).
Prevalence rates in adulthood were 1.1%, 2.3% and 2.7% for each categorization respectively. Persistence of ADHD from childhood averaged across gender was 55.3% for full criteria, 50.3% with no age criterion and 40.2% for problem symptoms. ADHD symptoms were associated with parental conflict, poor health, being sexually assaulted during childhood, lower education, income loss and higher unemployment. The lifetime prevalence of conduct problems for adults with ADHD was 57.8% and 6.9% for adults without ADHD. The greatest disadvantage was experienced by participants with ADHD plus CP.
The persistence of ADHD into adulthood was greatest for participants meeting full diagnostic criteria and inattention was associated with the greatest loss of income and disadvantage. The disadvantage associated with conduct problems differed in severity and was relevant for a high proportion of adults with ADHD. Women but not men with ADHD reported more childhood adversity, possibly indicating varied etiology and treatment needs. The impact and treatment needs of adults with ADHD and CP and the report of sexual assault during childhood by women and men with ADHD also deserve further study.
PMCID: PMC3468512  PMID: 23071800
12.  Genome-Wide Association Studies of Asthma in Population-Based Cohorts Confirm Known and Suggested Loci and Identify an Additional Association near HLA 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(9):e44008.
Asthma has substantial morbidity and mortality and a strong genetic component, but identification of genetic risk factors is limited by availability of suitable studies.
To test if population-based cohorts with self-reported physician-diagnosed asthma and genome-wide association (GWA) data could be used to validate known associations with asthma and identify novel associations.
The APCAT (Analysis in Population-based Cohorts of Asthma Traits) consortium consists of 1,716 individuals with asthma and 16,888 healthy controls from six European-descent population-based cohorts. We examined associations in APCAT of thirteen variants previously reported as genome-wide significant (P<5x10−8) and three variants reported as suggestive (P<5×10−7). We also searched for novel associations in APCAT (Stage 1) and followed-up the most promising variants in 4,035 asthmatics and 11,251 healthy controls (Stage 2). Finally, we conducted the first genome-wide screen for interactions with smoking or hay fever.
Main Results
We observed association in the same direction for all thirteen previously reported variants and nominally replicated ten of them. One variant that was previously suggestive, rs11071559 in RORA, now reaches genome-wide significance when combined with our data (P = 2.4×10−9). We also identified two genome-wide significant associations: rs13408661 near IL1RL1/IL18R1 (PStage1+Stage2 = 1.1x10−9), which is correlated with a variant recently shown to be associated with asthma (rs3771180), and rs9268516 in the HLA region (PStage1+Stage2 = 1.1x10−8), which appears to be independent of previously reported associations in this locus. Finally, we found no strong evidence for gene-environment interactions with smoking or hay fever status.
Population-based cohorts with simple asthma phenotypes represent a valuable and largely untapped resource for genetic studies of asthma.
PMCID: PMC3461045  PMID: 23028483
Paternoster, Lavinia | Standl, Marie | Chen, Chih-Mei | Ramasamy, Adaikalavan | Bønnelykke, Klaus | Duijts, Liesbeth | Ferreira, Manuel A | Alves, Alexessander Couto | Thyssen, Jacob P | Albrecht, Eva | Baurecht, Hansjörg | Feenstra, Bjarke | Sleiman, Patrick MA | Hysi, Pirro | Warrington, Nicole M | Curjuric, Ivan | Myhre, Ronny | Curtin, John A | Groen-Blokhuis, Maria M | Kerkhof, Marjan | Sääf, Annika | Franke, Andre | Ellinghaus, David | Fölster-Holst, Regina | Dermitzakis, Emmanouil | Montgomery, Stephen B | Prokisch, Holger | Heim, Katharina | Hartikainen, Anna-Liisa | Pouta, Anneli | Pekkanen, Juha | Blakemore, Alexandra IF | Buxton, Jessica L | Kaakinen, Marika | Duffy, David L | Madden, Pamela A | Heath, Andrew C | Montgomery, Grant W | Thompson, Philip J | Matheson, Melanie C | Le Souëf, Peter | Pourcain, Beate St | Smith, George Davey | Henderson, John | Kemp, John P | Timpson, Nicholas J | Deloukas, Panos | Ring, Susan M | Wichmann, H-Erich | Müller-Nurasyid, Martina | Novak, Natalija | Klopp, Norman | Rodríguez, Elke | McArdle, Wendy | Linneberg, Allan | Menné, Torkil | Nohr, Ellen A | Hofman, Albert | Uitterlinden, André G | van Duijn, Cornélia M | Rivadeneira, Fernando | de Jongste, Johan C | van der Valk, Ralf JP | Wjst, Matthias | Jogi, Rain | Geller, Frank | Boyd, Heather A | Murray, Jeffrey C | Kim, Cecilia | Mentch, Frank | March, Michael | Mangino, Massimo | Spector, Tim D | Bataille, Veronique | Pennell, Craig E | Holt, Patrick G | Sly, Peter | Tiesler, Carla MT | Thiering, Elisabeth | Illig, Thomas | Imboden, Medea | Nystad, Wenche | Simpson, Angela | Hottenga, Jouke-Jan | Postma, Dirkje | Koppelman, Gerard H | Smit, Henriette A | Söderhäll, Cilla | Chawes, Bo | Kreiner-Møller, Eskil | Bisgaard, Hans | Melén, Erik | Boomsma, Dorret I | Custovic, Adnan | Jacobsson, Bo | Probst-Hensch, Nicole M | Palmer, Lyle J | Glass, Daniel | Hakonarson, Hakon | Melbye, Mads | Jarvis, Deborah L | Jaddoe, Vincent WV | Gieger, Christian | Strachan, David P | Martin, Nicholas G | Jarvelin, Marjo-Riitta | Heinrich, Joachim | Evans, David M | Weidinger, Stephan
Nature genetics  2011;44(2):187-192.
Atopic dermatitis (AD) is a common chronic skin disease with high heritability. Apart from filaggrin (FLG), the genes influencing AD are largely unknown. We conducted a genome-wide association meta-analysis of 5,606 cases and 20,565 controls from 16 population-based cohorts and followed up the ten most strongly associated novel markers in a further 5,419 cases and 19,833 controls from 14 studies. Three SNPs met genome-wide significance in the discovery and replication cohorts combined: rs479844 upstream of OVOL1 (OR=0.88, p=1.1×10−13) and rs2164983 near ACTL9 (OR=1.16, p=7.1×10−9), genes which have been implicated in epidermal proliferation and differentiation, as well as rs2897442 in KIF3A within the cytokine cluster on 5q31.1 (OR=1.11, p=3.8×10−8). We also replicated the FLG locus and two recently identified association signals at 11q13.5 (rs7927894, p=0.008) and 20q13.3 (rs6010620, p=0.002). Our results underline the importance of both epidermal barrier function and immune dysregulation in AD pathogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3272375  PMID: 22197932
15.  Association between ORMDL3, IL1RL1 and a deletion on chromosome 17q21 with asthma risk in Australia 
Genome-wide association studies followed by replication provide a powerful approach to map genetic risk factors for asthma. We sought to search for new variants associated with asthma and attempt to replicate the association with four loci reported previously (ORMDL3, PDE4D, DENND1B and IL1RL1). Genome-wide association analyses of individual single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), rare copy number variants (CNVs) and overall CNV burden were carried out in 986 asthma cases and 1846 asthma-free controls from Australia. The most-associated locus in the SNP analysis was ORMDL3 (rs6503525, P=4.8 × 10−7). Five other loci were associated with P<10−5, most notably the chemokine CXC motif ligand 14 (CXCL14) gene (rs31263, P=7.8 × 10−6). We found no evidence for association with the specific risk variants reported recently for PDE4D, DENND1B and ILR1L1. However, a variant in IL1RL1 that is in low linkage disequilibrium with that reported previously was associated with asthma risk after accounting for all variants tested (rs10197862, gene wide P=0.01). This association replicated convincingly in an independent cohort (P=2.4 × 10−4). A 300-kb deletion on chromosome 17q21 was associated with asthma risk, but this did not reach experiment-wide significance. Asthma cases and controls had comparable CNV rates, length and number of genes affected by deletions or duplications. In conclusion, we confirm the association between asthma risk and variants in ORMDL3 and identify a novel risk variant in IL1RL1. Follow-up of the 17q21 deletion in larger cohorts is warranted.
PMCID: PMC3060316  PMID: 21150878
whole-genome; gene; atopy; heterogeneity; structural; IKZF3
16.  A novel recurrent mutation in MITF predisposes to familial and sporadic melanoma 
Nature  2011;480(7375):99-103.
So far, two familial melanoma genes have been identified, accounting for a minority of genetic risk in families. Mutations in CDKN2A account for approximately 40% of familial cases1, and predisposing mutations in CDK4 have been reported in a very small number of melanoma kindreds2. To identify other familial melanoma genes, here we conducted whole-genome sequencing of probands from several melanoma families, identifying one individual carrying a novel germline variant (coding DNA sequence c.G1075A; protein sequence p.E318K; rs149617956) in the melanoma-lineage-specific oncogene microphthalmia-associated transcription factor (MITF). Although the variant co-segregated with melanoma in some but not all cases in the family, linkage analysis of 31 families subsequently identified to carry the variant generated a log odds ratio (lod) score of 2.7 under a dominant model, indicating E318K as a possible intermediate risk variant. Consistent with this, the E318K variant was significantly associated with melanoma in a large Australian case–control sample. Likewise, it was similarly associated in an independent case–control sample from the United Kingdom. In the Australian sample, the variant allele was significantly over-represented in cases with a family history of melanoma, multiple primary melanomas, or both. The variant allele was also associated with increased naevus count and non-blue eye colour. Functional analysis of E318K showed that MITF encoded by the variant allele had impaired sumoylation and differentially regulated several MITF targets. These data indicate that MITF is a melanoma-predisposition gene and highlight the utility of whole-genome sequencing to identify novel rare variants associated with disease susceptibility.
PMCID: PMC3266855  PMID: 22080950
17.  Polymorphisms in naevus-associated genes MTAP, PLA2G6, and IRF4 and the risk of invasive cutaneous melanoma 
Twin Research and Human Genetics  2011;14(5):422-432.
An evolving hypothesis postulates that melanomas may arise through “naevus-associated” and “chronic sun exposure” pathways. We explored this hypothesis by examining associations between naevus-associated loci and melanoma risk across strata of body site and histological subtype. We genotyped 1028 invasive case patients and 1469 controls for variants in MTAP, PLA2G6, and IRF4, and compared allelic frequencies globally and by anatomical site and histological subtype of melanoma. Odds-ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were calculated using classical and multinomial logistic regression models. Among controls, MTAP rs10757257, PLA2G6 rs132985 and IRF4 rs12203592 were the variants most significantly associated with number of naevi. In adjusted models, a significant association was found between MTAP rs10757257 and overall melanoma risk (OR=1.32, 95% CI=1.14–1.53), with no evidence of heterogeneity across sites (Phomogeneity=0.52). In contrast, MTAP rs10757257 was associated with superficial spreading/nodular melanoma (OR=1.34, 95% CI=1.15–1.57), but not with lentigo maligna melanoma (OR=0.79, 95% CI=0.46–1.35) (Phomogeneity=0.06), the subtype associated with chronic sun exposure. Melanoma was significantly inversely associated with rs12203592 in children (OR=0.35, 95% CI=0.16–0.77) and adolescents (OR=0.61, 95% CI=0.42–0.91), but not in adults (Phomogeneity=0.0008). Our results suggest that the relationship between MTAP and melanoma is subtype-specific, and that the association between IRF4 and melanoma is more evident for cases with a younger age at onset. These findings lend some support to the “divergent pathways” hypothesis and may provide at least one candidate gene underlying this model. Further studies are warranted to confirm these findings and improve our understanding of these relationships.
PMCID: PMC3266856  PMID: 21962134
cutaneous melanoma; epidemiology; genes; naevi; polymorphisms
18.  PTPN22 polymorphisms may indicate a role for this gene in atopic dermatitis in West Highland white terriers 
BMC Research Notes  2011;4:571.
Canine atopic dermatitis is an allergic inflammatory skin disease common in West Highland white terriers. A genome-wide association study for atopic dermatitis in a population of West Highland white terriers identified a 1.3 Mb area of association on CFA17 containing canine protein tyrosine phosphatase non-receptor type 22 (lymphoid) PTPN22. This gene is a potential candidate gene for canine atopic dermatitis as it encodes a lymphoid-specific signalling mediator that regulates T-cell and possibly B-cell activity.
Sequencing of PTPN22 in three atopic and three non-atopic West Highland white terriers identified 18 polymorphisms, including five genetic variants with a bioinformatically predicted functional effect. An intronic polymorphic repeat sequence variant was excluded as the cause of the genome-wide association study peak signal, by large-scale genotyping in 72 West Highland white terriers (gene-dropping simulation method, P = 0.01).
This study identified 18 genetic variants in PTPN22 that might be associated with atopic dermatitis in West Highland white terriers. This preliminary data may direct further study on the role of PTPN22 in this disease. Large scale genotyping and complementary genomic and proteomic assays would be required to assess this possibility.
PMCID: PMC3271996  PMID: 22208456
19.  Real-time PCR quantification of the canine filaggrin orthologue in the skin of atopic and non-atopic dogs: a pilot study 
BMC Research Notes  2011;4:554.
Canine atopic dermatitis (AD) is a common inflammatory skin disease associated with defects in the epidermal barrier, particularly in West Highland white terriers (WHWTs). It shares many similarities with human AD, and so may be a useful animal model for this disease. Epidermal dysfunction in human AD can be caused by mutations in the gene encoding the epidermal protein filaggrin (FLG) and, in some atopic patients, be associated with altered FLG mRNA and protein expression in lesional and/or non-lesional skin. In experimental models of canine AD, mRNA expression of the orthologous canine filaggrin gene may be reduced in non-lesional skin compared with healthy controls. However, there is no published data on canine filaggrin mRNA expression in the skin of dogs with naturally-occurring AD. Hence, the aim of this pilot study was to develop a reverse transcriptase real-time PCR assay to compare filaggrin mRNA expression in the skin of atopic (n = 7) and non-atopic dogs (n = 5) from five breeds, including eight WHWTs.
Overall, filaggrin mRNA expression in non-lesional atopic skin was decreased compared to non-lesional non-atopic skin (two fold change); however this difference was only statistically significant in the subgroup of WHWTs (P = 0.03).
Although limited by the small sample size, these results indicate that, comparable to some cases of human AD, altered filaggrin mRNA expression may exist in the skin of some atopic dogs with naturally-occurring disease. Additional studies, including larger sample numbers, will be necessary to confirm this finding and to investigate whether mutations in the filaggrin gene exist and contribute to epidermal lesions of AD in dogs.
PMCID: PMC3339370  PMID: 22188733
20.  A Non-Synonymous Mutation in the Canine Pkd1 Gene Is Associated with Autosomal Dominant Polycystic Kidney Disease in Bull Terriers 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(7):e22455.
Polycystic Kidney Disease is an autosomal dominant disease common in some lines of Bull Terriers (BTPKD). The disease is linked to the canine orthologue of human PKD1 gene, Pkd1, located on CFA06, but no disease-associated mutation has been reported. This study sequenced genomic DNA from two Bull Terriers with BTPKD and two without the disease. A non-synonymous G>A transition mutation in exon 29 of Pkd1 was identified. A TaqMan® SNP Genotyping Assay was designed and demonstrated the heterozygous detection of the mutation in 47 Bull Terriers with BTPKD, but not in 102 Bull Terriers over one year of age and without BTPKD. This missense mutation replaces a glutamic acid residue with a lysine residue in the predicted protein, Polycystin 1. This region of Polycystin 1 is highly conserved between species, and is located in the first cytoplasmic loop of the predicted protein structure, close to the PLAT domain and the second transmembrane region. Thus, this change could alter Polycystin 1 binding or localization. Analytic programs PolyPhen 2, Align GVGD and SIFT predict this mutation to be pathogenic. Thus, BTPKD is associated with a missense mutation in Pkd1, and the application of this mutation specific assay could reduce disease transmission by allowing diagnosis of disease in young animals prior to breeding.
PMCID: PMC3144903  PMID: 21818326
21.  A genome wide linkage scan for dizygotic twinning in 525 families of mothers of dizygotic twins 
Human Reproduction (Oxford, England)  2010;25(6):1569-1580.
The tendency to conceive dizygotic (DZ) twins is a complex trait influenced by genetic and environmental factors. To search for new candidate loci for twinning, we conducted a genome-wide linkage scan in 525 families using microsatellite and single nucleotide polymorphism marker panels.
Non-parametric linkage analyses, including 523 families containing a total of 1115 mothers of DZ twins (MODZT) from Australia and New Zealand (ANZ) and The Netherlands (NL), produced four linkage peaks above the threshold for suggestive linkage, including a highly suggestive peak at the extreme telomeric end of chromosome 6 with an exponential logarithm of odds [(exp)LOD] score of 2.813 (P = 0.0002). Since the DZ twinning rate increases steeply with maternal age independent of genetic effects, we also investigated linkage including only families where at least one MODZT gave birth to her first set of twins before the age of 30. These analyses produced a maximum expLOD score of 2.718 (P = 0.0002), largely due to linkage signal from the ANZ cohort, however, ordered subset analyses indicated this result is most likely a chance finding in the combined dataset. Linkage analyses were also performed for two large DZ twinning families from the USA, one of which produced a peak on chromosome 2 in the region of two potential candidate genes. Sequencing of FSHR and FIGLA, along with INHBB in MODZTs from two large NL families with family specific linkage peaks directly over this gene, revealed a potentially functional variant in the 5′ untranslated region of FSHR that segregated with the DZ twinning phenotype in the Utah family.
Our data provide further evidence for complex inheritance of familial DZ twinning.
PMCID: PMC2912534  PMID: 20378614
dizygotic twinning; linkage
22.  Meta-analysis of 20 genome-wide linkage studies evidenced new regions linked to asthma and atopy 
Asthma is caused by a heterogeneous combination of environmental and genetic factors. In the context of GA2LEN (Global Allergy and Asthma European Network), we carried out meta-analyses of almost all genome-wide linkage screens conducted to date in 20 independent populations from different ethnic origins (≥3024 families with ≥10 027 subjects) for asthma, atopic asthma, bronchial hyper-responsiveness and five atopy-related traits (total immunoglobulin E level, positive skin test response (SPT) to at least one allergen or to House Dust Mite, quantitative score of SPT (SPTQ) and eosinophils (EOS)). We used the genome scan meta-analysis method to assess evidence for linkage within bins of traditionally 30-cM width, and explored the manner in which these results were affected by bin definition. Meta-analyses were conducted in all studies and repeated in families of European ancestry. Genome-wide evidence for linkage was detected for asthma in two regions (2p21–p14 and 6p21) in European families ascertained through two asthmatic sibs. With regard to atopy phenotypes, four regions reached genome-wide significance: 3p25.3–q24 in all families for SPT and three other regions in European families (2q32–q34 for EOS, 5q23–q33 for SPTQ and 17q12–q24 for SPT). Tests of heterogeneity showed consistent evidence of linkage of SPTQ to 3p11–3q21, whereas between-study heterogeneity was detected for asthma in 2p22–p13 and 6p21, and for atopic asthma in 1q23–q25. This large-scale meta-analysis provides an important resource of information that can be used to prioritize further fine-mapping studies and also be integrated with genome-wide association studies to increase power and better interpret the outcomes of these studies.
PMCID: PMC2987334  PMID: 20068594
asthma; atopy; meta-analysis; linkage scan
23.  Evaluation of Candidate Stromal Epithelial Cross-Talk Genes Identifies Association between Risk of Serous Ovarian Cancer and TERT, a Cancer Susceptibility “Hot-Spot” 
PLoS Genetics  2010;6(7):e1001016.
We hypothesized that variants in genes expressed as a consequence of interactions between ovarian cancer cells and the host micro-environment could contribute to cancer susceptibility. We therefore used a two-stage approach to evaluate common single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in 173 genes involved in stromal epithelial interactions in the Ovarian Cancer Association Consortium (OCAC). In the discovery stage, cases with epithelial ovarian cancer (n = 675) and controls (n = 1,162) were genotyped at 1,536 SNPs using an Illumina GoldenGate assay. Based on Positive Predictive Value estimates, three SNPs—PODXL rs1013368, ITGA6 rs13027811, and MMP3 rs522616—were selected for replication using TaqMan genotyping in up to 3,059 serous invasive cases and 8,905 controls from 16 OCAC case-control studies. An additional 18 SNPs with Pper-allele<0.05 in the discovery stage were selected for replication in a subset of five OCAC studies (n = 1,233 serous invasive cases; n = 3,364 controls). The discovery stage associations in PODXL, ITGA6, and MMP3 were attenuated in the larger replication set (adj. Pper-allele≥0.5). However genotypes at TERT rs7726159 were associated with ovarian cancer risk in the smaller, five-study replication study (Pper-allele = 0.03). Combined analysis of the discovery and replication sets for this TERT SNP showed an increased risk of serous ovarian cancer among non-Hispanic whites [adj. ORper-allele 1.14 (1.04–1.24) p = 0.003]. Our study adds to the growing evidence that, like the 8q24 locus, the telomerase reverse transcriptase locus at 5p15.33, is a general cancer susceptibility locus.
Author Summary
In this article, we report the findings from a large-scale analysis of common variation in genes that are expressed as a consequence of interactions between ovarian cancer cells and their host micro-environment that could influence serous ovarian cancer risk. We evaluated 1,302 common variants within or near 173 genes in two large case-control studies from the Ovarian Cancer Association Consortium (OCAC) and selected three variants for further evaluation in sixteen OCAC studies and an additional 18 for evaluation in five OCAC studies. We observed a significantly increased risk of serous ovarian cancer associated with a variant in the telomerase reverse transcriptase (TERT) gene. Although TERT variants have not been previously shown to contribute to ovarian cancer risk, several studies have recently reported associations between TERT variants and other forms of cancer, including gliomas, lung cancer, adenocarcinoma, basal cell carcinoma, prostate cancer, and multiple other cancers. TERT encodes a protein that is essential for the replication and maintenance of chromosomal integrity during cell division. In cancer cells, TERT has been linked to genomic instability and tumour cell proliferation. Further studies are necessary to confirm our findings and to investigate the mechanisms for the observed association.
PMCID: PMC2900295  PMID: 20628624
24.  Digital Quantification of Human Eye Color Highlights Genetic Association of Three New Loci 
PLoS Genetics  2010;6(5):e1000934.
Previous studies have successfully identified genetic variants in several genes associated with human iris (eye) color; however, they all used simplified categorical trait information. Here, we quantified continuous eye color variation into hue and saturation values using high-resolution digital full-eye photographs and conducted a genome-wide association study on 5,951 Dutch Europeans from the Rotterdam Study. Three new regions, 1q42.3, 17q25.3, and 21q22.13, were highlighted meeting the criterion for genome-wide statistically significant association. The latter two loci were replicated in 2,261 individuals from the UK and in 1,282 from Australia. The LYST gene at 1q42.3 and the DSCR9 gene at 21q22.13 serve as promising functional candidates. A model for predicting quantitative eye colors explained over 50% of trait variance in the Rotterdam Study. Over all our data exemplify that fine phenotyping is a useful strategy for finding genes involved in human complex traits.
Author Summary
We measured human eye color to hue and saturation values from high-resolution, digital, full-eye photographs of several thousand Dutch Europeans. This quantitative approach, which is extremely cost-effective, portable, and time efficient, revealed that human eye color varies along more dimensions than the one represented by the blue-green-brown categories studied previously. Our work represents the first genome-wide study of quantitative human eye color. We clearly identified 3 new loci, LYST, 17q25.3, TTC3/DSCR9, in contributing to the natural and subtle eye color variation along multiple dimensions, providing new leads towards a more detailed understanding of the genetic basis of human eye color. Our quantitative prediction model explained over 50% of eye color variance, representing the highest accuracy achieved so far in genomic prediction of human complex and quantitative traits, with relevance for future forensic applications.
PMCID: PMC2865509  PMID: 20463881
25.  Genetic influences on handedness: data from 25,732 Australian and Dutch twin families 
Neuropsychologia  2008;47(2):330-337.
Handedness refers to a consistent asymmetry in skill or preferential use between the hands and is related to lateralization within the brain of other functions such as language. Previous twin studies of handedness have yielded inconsistent results resulting from a general lack of statistical power to find significant effects. Here we present analyses from a large international collaborative study of handedness (assessed by writing/drawing or self report) in Australian and Dutch twins and their siblings (54,270 individuals from 25,732 families). Maximum likelihood analyses incorporating the effects of known covariates (sex, year of birth and birth weight) revealed no evidence of hormonal transfer, mirror imaging or twin specific effects. There were also no differences in prevalence between zygosity groups or between twins and their singleton siblings. Consistent with previous meta-analyses, additive genetic effects accounted for about a quarter (24.64%) of the variance (95% CI 20.17, 27.09%) with the remainder accounted for by non-shared environmental influences. The implications of these findings for handedness both as a primary phenotype and as a covariate in linkage and association analyses are discussed.
PMCID: PMC2755095  PMID: 18824185
laterality; behavioral genetics; left-handed; extended twin family design; asymmetry

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