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1.  Association between functional polymorphisms in genes involved in the MAPK signaling pathways and cutaneous melanoma risk 
Carcinogenesis  2013;34(4):885-892.
Genome-wide association studies (GWASs) have mainly focused on top significant single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), most of which did not have clear biological functions but were just surrogates for unknown causal variants. Studying SNPs with modest association and putative functions in biologically plausible pathways has become one complementary approach to GWASs. To unravel the key roles of mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathways in cutaneous melanoma (CM) risk, we re-evaluated the associations between 47 818 SNPs in 280 MAPK genes and CM risk using our published GWAS dataset with 1804 CM cases and 1026 controls. We initially found 105 SNPs with P ≤ 0.001, more than expected by chance, 26 of which were predicted to be putatively functional SNPs. The risk associations with 16 SNPs around DUSP14 (rs1051849) and a previous reported melanoma locus MAFF/PLA2G6 (proxy SNP rs4608623) were replicated in the GenoMEL dataset (P < 0.01) but failed in the Australian dataset. Meta-analysis showed that rs1051849 in the 3ʹ untranslated regions of DUSP14 was associated with a reduced risk of melanoma (odds ratio = 0.89, 95% confidence interval: 0.82–0.96, P = 0.003, false discovery rate = 0.056). Further genotype–phenotype correlation analysis using the 90 HapMap lymphoblastoid cell lines from Caucasians showed significant correlations between two SNPs (rs1051849 and rs4608623) and messenger RNA expression levels of DUSP14 and MAFF (P = 0.025 and P = 0.010, respectively). Gene-based tests also revealed significant SNPs were over-represented in MAFF, PLA2G6, DUSP14 and other 16 genes. Our results suggest that functional SNPs in MAPK pathways may contribute to CM risk. Further studies are warranted to validate our findings.
PMCID: PMC3616673  PMID: 23291271
2.  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
3.  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
4.  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
6.  Helicobacter pylori infection and the risks of Barrett's oesophagus: a population-based case-control study 
Infection with Helicobacter pylori is associated with significantly reduced risks of oesophageal adenocarcinoma, however few studies have examined the association between H pylori and Barrett's oesophagus (BO), the precursor lesion. We explored the relationship between H pylori infection and BO and sought to identify potential modifiers. We compared the prevalence of positive H pylori serology among 217 adults with simple BO (without dysplasia), 95 with dysplastic BO and 398 population controls sourced from the metropolitan Brisbane area. We determined H pylori serostatus using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. To estimate relative risks, we calculated odds ratios (OR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) using multivariable logistic regression in the entire sample and stratified by factors known to cause BO. The prevalence of H pylori seropositivity was 12%, 3% and 18% respectively, among patients with simple BO, dysplastic BO and population controls. BO patients were significantly less likely to have antibodies for H pylori (Simple BO: OR=0.51, 95% CI: 0.30-0.86; Dysplastic BO: OR=0.10, 95% CI: 0.03-0.33) than population controls. For simple BO, the association was diminished after adjustment for frequency of gastro-oesophageal reflux (GOR) symptoms. Adjustment for frequency of GOR symptoms did not substantially alter the observed effect for dysplastic BO. While there was some variation in the magnitude of risk estimates across strata of age, sex, GOR symptoms, and use of PPIs or H2-receptor antagonists, the differences were uniformly nonsignificant. H pylori infection is inversely associated with BO, and our findings suggest that decreased acid load is not the only mechanism underlying the H pylori protective effect.
PMCID: PMC3306509  PMID: 21681741
Barrett's oesophagus; environmental modifiers; epidemiology; Helicobacter pylori; gastro-oesophageal reflux
7.  Duplication of CXC chemokine genes on chromosome 4q13 in a melanoma-prone family 
Pigment cell & melanoma research  2012;25(2):243-247.
Copy number variations (CNVs) have been shown to contribute substantially to disease susceptibility in several inherited diseases including cancer. We conducted a genome-wide search for CNVs in blood-derived DNA from 79 individuals (62 melanoma patients and 17 spouse controls) of 30 high-risk melanoma-prone families without known segregating mutations using genome-wide comparative genomic hybridization (CGH) tiling arrays. We identified a duplicated region on chromosome 4q13 in germline DNA of all melanoma patients in a melanoma-prone family with three affected siblings. We confirmed the duplication using quantitative PCR and a custom-made CGH array design spanning the 4q13 region. The duplicated region contains 10 genes, most of which encode CXC chemokines. Among them, CXCL1 (melanoma growth-stimulating activity α) and IL8 (interleukin 8) have been shown to stimulate melanoma growth in vitro and in vivo. Our data suggests that the alteration of CXC chemokine genes may confer susceptibility to melanoma.
PMCID: PMC3288577  PMID: 22225770
Familial melanoma; Germline copy number variations; disease susceptibility; CXC chemokines; chromosome 4q13
8.  InterSCOPE Study: Associations Between Esophageal Squamous Cell Carcinoma and Human Papillomavirus Serological Markers 
The role of human papillomavirus (HPV) in the causation of esophageal squamous cell carcinoma is unclear. We examined the associations between esophageal squamous cell carcinoma and 28 centrally measured HPV serological markers in serum from six existing case–control studies conducted in regions with differing background risks of esophageal cancer.
We used centralized multiplex serology to test serum samples from 1561 case subjects and 2502 control subjects from six case–control studies for antibodies to the major HPV capsid protein (L1) and/or the early proteins E6 and/or E7 of eight high-risk, two low-risk, and four cutaneous HPV types. Study-specific odds ratios (ORs) and corresponding 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were estimated using conditional logistic regression with adjustment for smoking, alcohol consumption, and other potential confounders. Pooled odds ratios and 95% confidence intervals were calculated using either a linear mixed-effects approach or a joint fixed-effects approach. All statistical tests were two-sided.
We found statistically significant associations between esophageal squamous cell carcinoma and antibodies to E6 for HPV16 (OR = 1.89, 95% CI = 1.09 to 3.29, P = .023) and HPV6 (OR = 2.53, 95% CI = 1.51 to 4.25, P < .001) but not for other tested HPV types. There were no statistically significant associations between esophageal squamous cell carcinoma and antibodies to E7 for any of the tested HPV types. Simultaneous seropositivity for HPV16 E6 and E7 was rare (four case subjects, two control subjects; OR = 5.57, 95% CI = 0.90 to 34.35; P = .064). We also found statistically significant associations between esophageal squamous cell carcinoma and capsid antibodies for the high-risk mucosal type HPV33 L1 (OR = 1.30, 95% CI = 1.00 to 1.69; P = .047) and the low-risk mucosal types HPV6 (OR = 1.22, 95% CI = 1.05 to 1.42; P = .010) and HPV11 (OR = 1.30, 95% CI = 1.09 to 1.56, P = .0036).
We found limited serological evidence of an association between esophageal squamous cell carcinoma and HPV in the populations studied. Although HPV does not appear to be an important risk factor for esophageal squamous cell carcinoma, we cannot exclude the possibility that certain HPV types may be involved in a small subset of cancers.
PMCID: PMC3260131  PMID: 22228147
9.  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
11.  Menin and p53 have non-synergistic effects on tumorigenesis in mice 
BMC Cancer  2012;12:252.
While it is now more than a decade since the first description of the gene mutation underlying the tumour predisposition syndrome multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN1), the mechanism by which its protein product menin acts to prevent development of tumours is still poorly understood.
We undertook a genetic experiment to assess whether menin synergises with p53. Mice carrying various combinations of Men1 and Trp53 mutations were generated then survival and pathology assessed.
While homozygous loss of Trp53 in mice resulted in early onset, aggressive tumours and profoundly reduced lifespan, heterozygous loss of either Trp53 or Men1 caused later onset disease, with a spectrum of tumours characteristic of each tumour suppressor gene. Loss of one copy of Men1 in animals also lacking both alleles of Trp53 did not exacerbate phenotype, based on survival, animal weight or sites of pathology, compared to Trp53 deletion alone. Dual heterozygous deletion of Men1 and Trp53 resulted in a small reduction in lifespan compared to the individual mutations, without new tumour sites. In the adrenal, we observed development of cortical tumours in dual heterozygous animals, as we have previously seen in Men1+/− animals, and there was loss of heterozygosity at the Men1 allele in these tumours. Median number of pathology observations per animal was increased in dual heterozygous animals compared with heterozygous loss of Trp53 alone.
Simultaneous heterozygous deletion of Men1 in animals with either heterozygous or homozygous deletion of Trp53 did not result in formation of tumours at any new sites, implying additive rather than synergistic effects of these pathways. Mice that were Men1+/− in addition to Trp53+/− had tumours in endocrine as well as other sites, implying that increase in total tumour burden, at sites typically associated with either Men1 or Trp53 loss, contributed to the slight decrease in survival in Men1+/−: Trp53+/− animals in comparison with their littermates.
PMCID: PMC3433377  PMID: 22708734
12.  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
13.  Nevi, family history and fair skin increase the risk of second primary melanoma 
While risk factors for primary cutaneous melanoma are well defined, relatively little is known about predictors for second primary melanoma. Given the rising incidence of this cancer, coupled with improvements in survival, there is a prevalent and growing pool of patients at risk of second primary melanomas. To identify the predictors of second primary melanoma, we followed a cohort of 1083 Queensland patients diagnosed with incident melanoma between 1982-90 and who completed a baseline questionnaire. During a median follow-up of 16.5 years, 221 patients were diagnosed with at least one additional primary melanoma. In multivariate analyses, second primary melanomas were associated with high nevus count (HR 2,91, 95%CI 1,94 - 4.35), high familial melanoma risk (2.12, 1.34-3.36), fair skin (1.51, 1.06-2.16, inability to tan (1.66, 1.13-2.43), an in situ first primary melanoma (1.36, 0.99-1.87) and masculine sex (1.49, 1.12-2.00) Patients whose first primary was lentigo maligna melanoma (1.80, 1.05-3.07) or nodular melanoma (2.13 , 1.21-3.74) had higher risks of subsequent primaries than patients whose first primary tumor was superficial spreading melanoma. These characteristics could be assessed in patients presenting with first primary melanoma to assess their risk of developing a second primary.
PMCID: PMC3045696  PMID: 20944647
14.  A Novel Flexible Multiplex Bead-based Assay for Detecting Germline CDKN2A and CDK4 Variants in Melanoma-Prone Kindreds 
The presence of recurrent high-risk mutations in CDKN2A and CDK4 among melanoma-prone kindreds suggests that a high-throughput, multiplex assay could serve as an effective initial screening tool. Moreover, with the emergence of new melanoma risk single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) through genome-wide association studies, a flexible platform that can easily accommodate these new risk alleles is needed for more accurate genetic risk profiling. To this end, we have developed a novel melanoma-associated mutation detection method using a multiplex bead-based assay. This assay is suitable for high-throughput CDKN2A and CDK4 genotyping and can be eventually adapted to multiple loci across various constituent populations.
Genomic DNA from a 1603 subjects (1005 in training set, 598 in validation set) were amplified by multiplex PCR using five primer sets followed by multiplex allele-specific primer extension for 39 different known germline variants. The products were then sorted on an xMAP™ (formerly Tag-It™) array and detected by use of the Luminex xMAP™ system. Genotypes were compared to previously-determined sequence data.
In the Toronto training cohort, variants were detected in 145 samples, giving complete concordance between the bead assay and direct sequencing results. Analysis of the 598 samples from the GenoMEL validation set led to identification of 150/155 expected variants (96.77% concordance). Overall, the bead assay correctly genotyped 1540/1603 (96.07%) of all individuals in the study and 1540/1545 (99.68%) of individuals whose mutations were represented in the probe set. Out of a total of 62,512 SNP calls, 62,517 (99.99%) were correctly assigned.
In this initial evaluation, the multiplex bead-based assay for familial melanoma appears to be a highly accurate method for genotyping CDKN2A and CDK4 variants.
PMCID: PMC3045700  PMID: 21085193
Melanoma; CDKN2A; CDK4; p14ARF; familial; high-throughput
15.  MicroRNA-218 Is Deleted and Downregulated in Lung Squamous Cell Carcinoma 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(9):e12560.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are a family of small, non-coding RNA species functioning as negative regulators of multiple target genes including tumour suppressor genes and oncogenes. Many miRNA gene loci are located within cancer-associated genomic regions. To identify potential new amplified oncogenic and/or deleted tumour suppressing miRNAs in lung cancer, we inferred miRNA gene dosage from high dimensional arrayCGH data. From miRBase v9.0 (, 474 human miRNA genes were physically mapped to regions of chromosomal loss or gain identified from a high-resolution genome-wide arrayCGH study of 132 primary non-small cell lung cancers (NSCLCs) (a training set of 60 squamous cell carcinomas and 72 adenocarcinomas). MiRNAs were selected as candidates if their immediately flanking probes or host gene were deleted or amplified in at least 25% of primary tumours using both Analysis of Copy Errors algorithm and fold change (≥±1.2) analyses. Using these criteria, 97 miRNAs mapped to regions of aberrant copy number. Analysis of three independent published lung cancer arrayCGH datasets confirmed that 22 of these miRNA loci showed directionally concordant copy number variation. MiR-218, encoded on 4p15.31 and 5q35.1 within two host genes (SLIT2 and SLIT3), in a region of copy number loss, was selected as a priority candidate for follow-up as it is reported as underexpressed in lung cancer. We confirmed decreased expression of mature miR-218 and its host genes by qRT-PCR in 39 NSCLCs relative to normal lung tissue. This downregulation of miR-218 was found to be associated with a history of cigarette smoking, but not human papilloma virus. Thus, we show for the first time that putative lung cancer-associated miRNAs can be identified from genome-wide arrayCGH datasets using a bioinformatics mapping approach, and report that miR-218 is a strong candidate tumour suppressing miRNA potentially involved in lung cancer.
PMCID: PMC2933228  PMID: 20838434
16.  Characterization of the Melanoma miRNAome by Deep Sequencing 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(3):e9685.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are 18–23 nucleotide non-coding RNAs that regulate gene expression in a sequence specific manner. Little is known about the repertoire and function of miRNAs in melanoma or the melanocytic lineage. We therefore undertook a comprehensive analysis of the miRNAome in a diverse range of pigment cells including: melanoblasts, melanocytes, congenital nevocytes, acral, mucosal, cutaneous and uveal melanoma cells.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We sequenced 12 small RNA libraries using Illumina's Genome Analyzer II platform. This massively parallel sequencing approach of a diverse set of melanoma and pigment cell libraries revealed a total of 539 known mature and mature-star sequences, along with the prediction of 279 novel miRNA candidates, of which 109 were common to 2 or more libraries and 3 were present in all libraries.
Some of the novel candidate miRNAs may be specific to the melanocytic lineage and as such could be used as biomarkers to assist in the early detection of distant metastases by measuring the circulating levels in blood. Follow up studies of the functional roles of these pigment cell miRNAs and the identification of the targets should shed further light on the development and progression of melanoma.
PMCID: PMC2837346  PMID: 20300190
17.  Dual Loss of Rb1 and Trp53 in the Adrenal Medulla Leads to Spontaneous Pheochromocytoma1 
Neoplasia (New York, N.Y.)  2010;12(3):235-243.
Using a Cre/loxP system, we have determined the phenotypic consequences attributable to in vivo deletion of both Rb1 and Trp53 in the mouse adrenal medulla. The coablation of these two tumor suppressor genes during embryogenesis did not disrupt adrenal gland development but resulted in the neoplastic transformation of the neural crest-derived adrenal medulla, yielding pheochromocytomas (PCCs) that developed with complete penetrance and were inevitably bilateral. Despite their typically benign status, these PCCs had profound ramifications on mouse vitality, with effected mice having a median survival of only 121 days. Evaluation of these PCCs by both immunohistochemistry and electron microscopy revealed that most Rb1-/-:Trp53-/- chromaffin cells possessed atypical chromagenic vesicles that did not seem capable of appropriately storing synthesized catecholamines. The structural remodeling of the heart in mice harboring Rb1-/-:Trp53-/- PCCs suggests that the mortality of these mice may be attributable to the inappropriate release of catecholamines from the mutated adrenal chromaffin cells. On the basis of the collective data from Rb1 and Trp53 knockout mouse models, it seems that the conversion of Rb1 loss-driven adrenal medulla hyperplasia to PCC can be greatly enhanced by the compound loss of Trp53, whereas the loss of Trp53 alone is generally ineffectual on adrenal chromaffin cell homeostasis. Consequently, the Trp53 tumor suppressor gene is an efficient genetic modifier of Rb1 loss in the development of PCC, and their compound loss in the adrenal medulla has a profound impact on both cellular homeostasis and animal vitality.
PMCID: PMC2838441  PMID: 20234817
18.  Features associated with germline CDKN2A mutations: a GenoMEL study of melanoma‐prone families from three continents 
Journal of Medical Genetics  2006;44(2):99-106.
The major factors individually reported to be associated with an increased frequency of CDKN2A mutations are increased number of patients with melanoma in a family, early age at melanoma diagnosis, and family members with multiple primary melanomas (MPM) or pancreatic cancer.
These four features were examined in 385 families with ⩾3 patients with melanoma pooled by 17 GenoMEL groups, and these attributes were compared across continents.
Overall, 39% of families had CDKN2A mutations ranging from 20% (32/162) in Australia to 45% (29/65) in North America to 57% (89/157) in Europe. All four features in each group, except pancreatic cancer in Australia (p = 0.38), individually showed significant associations with CDKN2A mutations, but the effects varied widely across continents. Multivariate examination also showed different predictors of mutation risk across continents. In Australian families, ⩾2 patients with MPM, median age at melanoma diagnosis ⩽40 years and ⩾6 patients with melanoma in a family jointly predicted the mutation risk. In European families, all four factors concurrently predicted the risk, but with less stringent criteria than in Australia. In North American families, only ⩾1 patient with MPM and age at diagnosis ⩽40 years simultaneously predicted the mutation risk.
The variation in CDKN2A mutations for the four features across continents is consistent with the lower melanoma incidence rates in Europe and higher rates of sporadic melanoma in Australia. The lack of a pancreatic cancer–CDKN2A mutation relationship in Australia probably reflects the divergent spectrum of mutations in families from Australia versus those from North America and Europe. GenoMEL is exploring candidate host, genetic and/or environmental risk factors to better understand the variation observed.
PMCID: PMC2598064  PMID: 16905682
melanoma;  CDKN2A ; multiple primary melanomas; pancreatic cancer
19.  Variation in bone morphogenetic protein 15 is not associated with spontaneous human dizygotic twinning 
Human Reproduction (Oxford, England)  2008;23(10):2372-2379.
Spontaneous dizygotic (DZ) twinning in humans is under genetic control. In sheep, heterozygous loss of function mutations in bone morphogenetic protein 15 (BMP15) increase ovulation and hence twinning rates.
To investigate the role of BMP15 in human twinning, we typed 14 common variants, 4 rare novel variants initially detected by sequencing 279 mothers of DZ twins (MODZT) and 17 variants previously associated with premature ovarian failure (POF) in 933 DZ twinning families. We also typed five additional POF associated GDF9 variants.
There was some evidence for association between DZ twinning and a common intronic BMP15 variant (rs3897937), but this was not significant after correction for multiple testing. Three of the four novel variants (p.Pro174Ser, p.Ala311Thr and p.Arg392Thr) occurred in 1–5 MODZT but were not detected in 1512 controls. We also detected three POF associated mutations in both BMP15 and GDF9 at low frequencies in MODZT and controls.
We conclude that neither rare nor common BMP15 variants play a significant role in the variation in human DZ twinning.
PMCID: PMC2721723  PMID: 18614612
dizygotic twinning; BMP15; variation; genetic association; primary ovarian failure
20.  Expression profiling identifies genes involved in emphysema severity 
Respiratory Research  2009;10(1):81.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a major public health problem. The aim of this study was to identify genes involved in emphysema severity in COPD patients.
Gene expression profiling was performed on total RNA extracted from non-tumor lung tissue from 30 smokers with emphysema. Class comparison analysis based on gas transfer measurement was performed to identify differentially expressed genes. Genes were then selected for technical validation by quantitative reverse transcriptase-PCR (qRT-PCR) if also represented on microarray platforms used in previously published emphysema studies. Genes technically validated advanced to tests of biological replication by qRT-PCR using an independent test set of 62 lung samples.
Class comparison identified 98 differentially expressed genes (p < 0.01). Fifty-one of those genes had been previously evaluated in differentiation between normal and severe emphysema lung. qRT-PCR confirmed the direction of change in expression in 29 of the 51 genes and 11 of those validated, remaining significant at p < 0.05. Biological replication in an independent cohort confirmed the altered expression of eight genes, with seven genes differentially expressed by greater than 1.3 fold, identifying these as candidate determinants of emphysema severity.
Gene expression profiling of lung from emphysema patients identified seven candidate genes associated with emphysema severity including COL6A3, SERPINF1, ZNHIT6, NEDD4, CDKN2A, NRN1 and GSTM3.
PMCID: PMC2746189  PMID: 19723343
21.  A comparison of CDKN2A mutation detection within the Melanoma Genetics Consortium (GenoMEL) 
CDKN2A is the major melanoma susceptibility gene so far identified, but only 40% of three or more case families have identified mutations. A comparison of mutation detection rates was carried out by “blind” exchange of samples across GenoMEL, the Melanoma Genetics Consortium, to establish the false negative detection rates. Denaturing high performance liquid chromatography (DHPLC) screening results from 451 samples were compared to screening data from nine research groups in which the initial mutation screen had been done predominantly by sequencing. Three samples with mutations identified at local centres were not detected by the DHPLC screen. No additional mutations were detected by DHPLC. Mutation detection across groups within GenoMEL is carried out to a consistently high standard. The relatively low rate of CDKN2A mutation detection is not due to failure to detect mutations and implies the existence of other high penetrance melanoma susceptibility genes.
PMCID: PMC2494985  PMID: 18394881
CDKN2A; melanoma; mutation detection; sequencing; polymorphism; audit; DHPLC; False negative
22.  Similarity of aberrant DNA methylation in Barrett's esophagus and esophageal adenocarcinoma 
Molecular Cancer  2008;7:75.
Barrett's esophagus (BE) is the metaplastic replacement of squamous with columnar epithelium in the esophagus, as a result of reflux. It is the major risk factor for the development of esophageal adenocarcinoma (EAC). Methylation of CpG dinucleotides of normally unmethylated genes is associated with silencing of their expression, and is common in EAC. This study was designed to determine at what stage, in the progression from BE to EAC, methylation of key genes occurs.
We examined nine genes (APC, CDKN2A, ID4, MGMT, RBP1, RUNX3, SFRP1, TIMP3, and TMEFF2), frequently methylated in multiple cancer types, in a panel of squamous (19 biopsies from patients without BE or EAC, 16 from patients with BE, 21 from patients with EAC), BE (40 metaplastic, seven high grade dysplastic) and 37 EAC tissues. The methylation frequency, the percentage of samples that had any extent of methylation, for each of the nine genes in the EAC (95%, 59%, 76%, 57%, 70%, 73%, 95%, 74% and 83% respectively) was significantly higher than in any of the squamous groups. The methylation frequency for each of the nine genes in the metaplastic BE (95%, 28%, 78%, 48%, 58%, 48%, 93%, 88% and 75% respectively) was significantly higher than in the squamous samples except for CDKN2A and RBP1. The methylation frequency did not differ between BE and EAC samples, except for CDKN2A and RUNX3 which were significantly higher in EAC. The methylation extent was an estimate of both the number of methylated alleles and the density of methylation on these alleles. This was significantly greater in EAC than in metaplastic BE for all genes except APC, MGMT and TIMP3. There was no significant difference in methylation extent for any gene between high grade dysplastic BE and EAC.
We found significant methylation in metaplastic BE, which for seven of the nine genes studied did not differ in frequency from that found in EAC. This is also the first report of gene silencing by methylation of ID4 in BE or EAC. This study suggests that metaplastic BE is a highly abnormal tissue, more similar to cancer tissue than to normal epithelium.
PMCID: PMC2567345  PMID: 18831746
23.  Fibroblast and Lymphoblast Gene Expression Profiles in Schizophrenia: Are Non-Neural Cells Informative? 
PLoS ONE  2008;3(6):e2412.
Lymphoblastoid cell lines (LCLs) and fibroblasts provide conveniently derived non-neuronal samples in which to investigate the aetiology of schizophrenia (SZ) using gene expression profiling. This assumes that heritable mechanisms associated with risk of SZ have systemic effects and result in changes to gene expression in all tissues. The broad aim of this and other similar studies is that comparison of the transcriptomes of non-neuronal tissues from SZ patients and healthy controls may identify gene/pathway dysregulation underpinning the neurobiological defects associated with SZ. Using microarrays consisting of 18,664 probes we compared gene expression profiles of LCLs from SZ cases and healthy controls. To identify robust associations with SZ that were not patient or tissue specific, we also examined fibroblasts from an independent series of SZ cases and controls using the same microarrays. In both tissue types ANOVA analysis returned approximately the number of differentially expressed genes expected by chance. No genes were significantly differentially expressed in either tissue when corrected for multiple testing. Even using relaxed parameters (p≤0.05, without multiple testing correction) there were still no differentially expressed genes that also displayed ≥2-fold change between the groups of SZ cases and controls common to both LCLs and fibroblasts. We conclude that despite encouraging data from previous microarray studies assessing non-neural tissues, the lack of a convergent set of differentially expressed genes associated with SZ using fibroblasts and LCLs indicates the utility of non-neuronal tissues for detection of gene expression differences and/or pathways associated with SZ remains to be demonstrated.
PMCID: PMC2398775  PMID: 18545665
24.  SiDCoN: A Tool to Aid Scoring of DNA Copy Number Changes in SNP Chip Data 
PLoS ONE  2007;2(10):e1093.
The recent application of genome-wide, single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) microarrays to investigate DNA copy number aberrations in cancer has provided unparalleled sensitivity for identifying genomic changes. In some instances the complexity of these changes makes them difficult to interpret, particularly when tumour samples are contaminated with normal (stromal) tissue. Current automated scoring algorithms require considerable manual data checking and correction, especially when assessing uncultured tumour specimens. To address these limitations we have developed a visual tool to aid in the analysis of DNA copy number data. Simulated DNA Copy Number (SiDCoN) is a spreadsheet-based application designed to simulate the appearance of B-allele and logR plots for all known types of tumour DNA copy number changes, in the presence or absence of stromal contamination. The system allows the user to determine the level of stromal contamination, as well as specify up to 3 different DNA copy number aberrations for up to 5000 data points (representing individual SNPs). This allows users great flexibility to assess simple or complex DNA copy number combinations. We demonstrate how this utility can be used to estimate the level of stromal contamination within tumour samples and its application in deciphering the complex heterogeneous copy number changes we have observed in a series of tumours. We believe this tool will prove useful to others working in the area, both as a training tool, and to aid in the interpretation of complex copy number changes.
PMCID: PMC2034603  PMID: 17971856
25.  Conditional Inactivation of the Men1 Gene Leads to Pancreatic and Pituitary Tumorigenesis but Does Not Affect Normal Development of These Tissues 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2004;24(8):3125-3131.
Mutations of the MEN1 gene, encoding the tumor suppressor menin, predispose individuals to the cancer syndrome multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1, characterized by the development of tumors of the endocrine pancreas and anterior pituitary and parathyroid glands. We have targeted the murine Men1 gene by using Cre recombinase-loxP technology to develop both total and tissue-specific knockouts of the gene. Conditional homozygous inactivation of the Men1 gene in the pituitary gland and endocrine pancreas bypasses the embryonic lethality associated with a constitutional Men1−/− genotype and leads to β-cell hyperplasia in less than 4 months and insulinomas and prolactinomas starting at 9 months. The pituitary gland and pancreas develop normally in the conditional absence of menin, but loss of this transcriptional cofactor is sufficient to cause β-cell hyperplasia in some islets; however, such loss is not sufficient to initiate pituitary gland tumorigenesis, suggesting that additional genetic events are necessary for the latter.
PMCID: PMC381682  PMID: 15060136

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