Copy number variations (CNVs) are genomic regions that have added (duplications) or deleted (deletions) genetic material. They may overlap genes affecting their function and have been shown to be associated with disease. We previously investigated the role of CNVs in late-onset Alzheimer's disease (AD) and mild cognitive impairment using Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI) and National Institute of Aging-Late Onset AD/National Cell Repository for AD (NIA-LOAD/NCRAD) Family Study participants, and identified a number of genes overlapped by CNV calls. To confirm the findings and identify other potential candidate regions, we analyzed array data from a unique cohort of 1617 Caucasian participants (1022 AD cases and 595 controls) who were clinically characterized and whose diagnosis was neuropathologically verified. All DNA samples were extracted from brain tissue. CNV calls were generated and subjected to quality control (QC). 728 cases and 438 controls who passed all QC measures were included in case/control association analyses including candidate gene and genome-wide approaches. Rates of deletions and duplications did not significantly differ between cases and controls. Case-control association identified a number of previously reported regions (CHRFAM7A, RELN and DOPEY2) as well as a new gene (HLA-DRA). Meta-analysis of CHRFAM7A indicated a significant association of the gene with AD and/or MCI risk (P = 0.006, odds ratio = 3.986 (95% confidence interval 1.490–10.667)). A novel APP gene duplication was observed in one case sample. Further investigation of the identified genes in independent and larger samples is warranted.
Semaphorin 5A (Sema5A) expression is reduced in the brain of individuals with autism, thus mice with reduced Sema5A levels may serve as a model of this neurodevelopmental disorder. We tested male and female Sema5a knockout mice (B6.129P2SEMA5A/J) and C57BL/6J controls for emotionality, visual ability, prepulse inhibition, motor learning and cognition. Overall, there were only two genotype differences in emotionality: Sema5a mutant mice had more stretch-attend postures in the elevated plus-maze and more defecations in the open field. All mice could see, but Sema5a mice had better visual ability than C57BL/6J mice. There were no genotype differences in sensory-motor gating. Sema5a mice showed higher levels of activity in the elevated plus-maze and light/dark transition box, and there were sex by genotype differences in the Rotarod, suggesting a sex difference in balance and coordination differentially affected by Sema5a. There were no genotype effects on cognition: Sema5a mice did not differ from C57BL/6J in the Morris water maze, set-shifting or cued and contextual fear conditioning. In the social recognition test, all mice preferred social stimuli, but there was no preference for social novelty, thus the Sema5A mice do not have a deficit in social behavior. Overall, there were a number of sex differences, with females showing greater activity and males performing better in tests of spatial learning and memory, but no deficits in the behavior of Sema5A mice. We conclude that the Sema5a mice do not meet the behavioral criteria for a mouse model of autism.
semaphorin 5A; autism; mouse; cognition; anxiety
Human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) have become an intriguing approach for neurological disease modeling, because neural lineage-specific cell types that retain the donors' complex genetics can be established in vitro. The statistical power of these iPSC-based models, however, is dependent on accurate diagnoses of the somatic cell donors; unfortunately, many neurodegenerative diseases are commonly misdiagnosed in live human subjects. Postmortem histopathological examination of a donor's brain, combined with premortem clinical criteria, is often the most robust approach to correctly classify an individual as a disease-specific case or unaffected control. In this study, we describe iPSCs generated from a skin biopsy collected postmortem during the rapid autopsy of a 75-year-old male, whole body donor, defined as an unaffected neurological control by both clinical and histopathological criteria. These iPSCs were established in a feeder-free system by lentiviral transduction of the Yamanaka factors, Oct3/4, Sox2, Klf4, and c-Myc. Selected iPSC clones expressed both nuclear and surface antigens recognized as pluripotency markers of human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) and were able to differentiate in vitro into neurons and glia. Statistical analysis also demonstrated that fibroblast proliferation was significantly affected by biopsy site, but not donor age (within an elderly cohort). These results provide evidence that autopsy donor-derived fibroblasts can be successfully reprogrammed into iPSCs, and may provide an advantageous approach for generating iPSC-based neurological disease models.
induced pluripotent stem cells; genetic disease models; diagnostics; neurodegenerative diseases; postmortem; autopsy; neural differentiation
Gene bodies are the most evolutionarily conserved targets of DNA methylation in eukaryotes. However, the regulatory functions of gene body DNA methylation remain largely unknown. DNA methylation in insects appears to be primarily confined to exons. Two recent studies in Apis mellifera (honeybee) and Nasonia vitripennis (jewel wasp) analyzed transcription and DNA methylation data for one gene in each species to demonstrate that exon-specific DNA methylation may be associated with alternative splicing events. In this study we investigated the relationship between DNA methylation, alternative splicing, and cross-species gene conservation on a genome-wide scale using genome-wide transcription and DNA methylation data.
We generated RNA deep sequencing data (RNA-seq) to measure genome-wide mRNA expression at the exon- and gene-level. We produced a de novo transcriptome from this RNA-seq data and computationally predicted splice variants for the honeybee genome. We found that exons that are included in transcription are higher methylated than exons that are skipped during transcription. We detected enrichment for alternative splicing among methylated genes compared to unmethylated genes using fisher’s exact test. We performed a statistical analysis to reveal that the presence of DNA methylation or alternative splicing are both factors associated with a longer gene length and a greater number of exons in genes. In concordance with this observation, a conservation analysis using BLAST revealed that each of these factors is also associated with higher cross-species gene conservation.
This study constitutes the first genome-wide analysis exhibiting a positive relationship between exon-level DNA methylation and mRNA expression in the honeybee. Our finding that methylated genes are enriched for alternative splicing suggests that, in invertebrates, exon-level DNA methylation may play a role in the construction of splice variants by positively influencing exon inclusion during transcription. The results from our cross-species homology analysis suggest that DNA methylation and alternative splicing are genetic mechanisms whose utilization could contribute to a longer gene length and a slower rate of gene evolution.
Imaging traits provide a powerful and biologically relevant substrate to examine the influence of genetics on the brain. Interest in genome-wide, brain-wide search for influential genetic variants is growing, but has mainly focused on univariate, SNP-based association tests. Moving to gene-based multivariate statistics, we can test the combined effect of multiple genetic variants in a single test statistic. Multivariate models can reduce the number of statistical tests in gene-wide or genome-wide scans and may discover gene effects undetectable with SNP-based methods. Here we present a gene-based method for associating the joint effect of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in 18,044 genes across 31,662 voxels of the whole brain in 731 elderly subjects (mean age: 75.56 ± 6.82SD years; 430 males) from the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI). Structural MRI scans were analyzed using tensor-based morphometry (TBM) to compute 3D maps of regional brain volume differences compared to an average template image based on healthy elderly subjects. Using the voxel-level volume difference values as the phenotype, we selected the most significantly associated gene (out of 18,044) at each voxel across the brain. No genes identified were significant after correction for multiple comparisons, but several known candidates were re-identified, as were other genes highly relevant to brain function. GAB2, which has been previously associated with late-onset AD, was identified as the top gene in this study, suggesting the validity of the approach. This multivariate, gene-based voxelwise association study offers a novel framework to detect genetic influences on the brain.
principal components regression; voxelwise; multivariate; gene-based; GWAS; GAB2 (max. 6 keywords)
Premarin™ is the most commonly prescribed estrogenic component of hormone therapy, given since 1942. The current study is the first examining cognitive effects of tonic Premarin treatment in an animal model. Middle-aged ovariectomized (Ovx) rats received vehicle or one of three doses of Premarin (12, 24 or 36 μg daily). Rats were tested on a spatial working and reference memory maze battery. Both Medium- and High- dose Premarin enhanced memory retention, while Low-dose Premarin impaired learning and memory retention. Correlations with serum hormone levels showed that as the ratio of estrone:17β-estradiol increased, animals tended to show better working memory performance. Taken together with the dissociation of dose-specific estrogenic profiles, results suggest that higher levels of estrone, in the presence of 17β-estradiol concentrations higher than that of Ovx levels, may be beneficial for memory. Moreover, Premarin exerted dose and brain-region specific effects on BDNF and NGF protein levels, with most marked changes in cingulate and perirhinal cortices. Hippocampal gene expression profiling demonstrated significant Premarin-induced transcriptional changes in genes linked to plasticity and cognition. These findings indicate that Premarin can impact memory and the brain, and that dosing should be recognized as a clinically relevant factor possibly affecting the direction and efficacy of cognitive outcome.
Premarin; estrogen; hormone replacement; working memory; spatial memory; neurotrophins; gene expression
The understanding of patterns of genetic variation within and among human populations is a prerequisite for successful genetic association mapping studies of complex diseases and traits. Some populations are more favorable for association mapping studies than others. The Saami from northern Scandinavia and the Kola Peninsula represent a population isolate that, among European populations, has been less extensively sampled, despite some early interest for association mapping studies. In this paper, we report the results of a first genome-wide SNP-based study of genetic population structure in the Finnish Saami. Using data from the HapMap and the human genome diversity project (HGDP-CEPH) and recently developed statistical methods, we studied individual genetic ancestry. We quantified genetic differentiation between the Saami population and the HGDP-CEPH populations by calculating pair-wise FST statistics and by characterizing identity-by-state sharing for pair-wise population comparisons. This study affirms an east Asian contribution to the predominantly European-derived Saami gene pool. Using model-based individual ancestry analysis, the median estimated percentage of the genome with east Asian ancestry was 6% (first and third quartiles: 5 and 8%, respectively). We found that genetic similarity between population pairs roughly correlated with geographic distance. Among the European HGDP-CEPH populations, FST was smallest for the comparison with the Russians (FST=0.0098), and estimates for the other population comparisons ranged from 0.0129 to 0.0263. Our analysis also revealed fine-scale substructure within the Finnish Saami and warns against the confounding effects of both hidden population structure and undocumented relatedness in genetic association studies of isolated populations.
Saami; genetic association studies; population structure; population isolates
We developed a generalized framework for multiplexed resequencing of targeted regions of the human genome on the Illumina Genome Analyzer using degenerate indexed DNA sequence barcodes ligated to fragmented DNA prior to sequencing. Using this method, the DNA of multiple HapMap individuals was simultaneously sequenced at several ENCODE (ENCyclopedia of DNA Elements) regions. We then evaluated the use of Bayes factors for discovering and genotyping polymorphisms from aligned sequenced reads. If we required that predicted polymorphisms be either previously identified by dbSNP or be visually evident upon reinspection of archived ENCODE traces, we observed a false-positive rate of 11.3% using strict thresholds (Ks>1,000) for predicting variants and 69.6% for lax thresholds (Ks>10). Conversely, false-negative rates ranged from 10.8% to 90.8%, with those at stricter cut-offs occurring at lower coverage (< 10 aligned reads). These results suggest that >90% of genetic variants are discoverable using multiplexed sequencing provided sufficient coverage at the polymorphic base.
Amyloid imaging with [11 C]Pittsburgh Compound-B (PiB) provides in vivo data on plaque deposition in those with, or at risk for, Alzheimer’s disease (AD). We performed a gene-based association analysis of 15 quality-controlled amyloid-pathway associated candidate genes in 103 Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative participants. The mean normalized PiB uptake value across four brain regions known to have amyloid deposition in AD was used as a quantitative phenotype. The minor allele of an intronic SNP within DHCR24 was identified and associated with a lower average PiB uptake. Further investigation at whole-brain voxel-wise level indicated that non-carriers of the minor allele had higher PiB uptake in frontal regions compared to carriers. DHCR24 has been previously shown to confer resistance against beta-amyloid and oxidative stress-induced apoptosis, thus our findings support a neuroprotective role. Pathway-based genetic analysis of targeted molecular imaging phenotypes appears promising to help elucidate disease pathophysiology and identify potential therapeutic targets.
Alzheimer’s disease; ADNI; Pathway-based gene analysis; PiB-PET; Endophenotype; Voxel-based analysis
In vivoPET imaging studies of young-adult carriers of the apolipoprotein E ε4 allele (APOEε4), the major Alzheimer's disease (AD) susceptibility gene, have demonstrated declines in glucose metabolism in brain areas later vulnerable to AD, such as posterior cingulate cortex, decades before the possible onset of symptoms. We have previously shown in postmortem studies that such metabolic declines in AD are associated with brain regional mitochondrial dysfunction. To determine whether young adult at-risk individuals demonstrate similar mitochondrial functional decline, we histochemically assessed postmortem tissues from the posterior cingulate cortex of young-adult carriers and noncarriers of APOEε4. At-risk ε4 carriers had lower mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase activity than noncarriers in posterior cingulate cortex, particularly within the superficial cortical lamina, a pattern similar to that seen in AD patients. Except for one 34 year-old ε4 homozygote, the ε4 carriers did not have increased soluble amyloid-β, histologic amyloid-β, or tau pathology in this same region. This functional biomarker may prove useful in early detection and tracking of AD and indicates that mitochondrial mechanisms may contribute to the predisposition to AD before any evidence of amyloid or tau pathology.
Alzheimer's etiology; bioenergetics; biomarkers; cytochrome c oxidase; differential vulnerability; neocortex
Copy number variants (CNVs) are DNA sequence alterations, resulting in gains (duplications) and losses (deletions) of genomic segments. They often overlap genes and may play important roles in disease. Only one published study has examined CNVs in late-onset Alzheimer's disease (AD), and none have examined mild cognitive impairment (MCI). CNV calls were generated in 288 AD, 183 MCI, and 184 healthy control (HC) non-Hispanic Caucasian Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative participants. After quality control, 222 AD, 136 MCI, and 143 HC participants were entered into case/control association analyses, including candidate gene and whole genome approaches. Although no excess CNV burden was observed in cases (AD and/or MCI) relative to controls (HC), gene-based analyses revealed CNVs overlapping the candidate gene CHRFAM7A, as well as CSMD1, SLC35F2, HNRNPCL1, NRXN1, and ERBB4 regions, only in cases. Replication in larger samples is important, after which regions detected here may be promising targets for resequencing.
This study aimed at contributing to the elucidation of the genetic basis of age-related hearing impairment (ARHI), a common multifactorial disease with an important genetic contribution as demonstrated by heritability studies. We conducted a genome-wide association study (GWAS) in the Finnish Saami, a small, ancient, genetically isolated population without evidence of demographic expansion. The choice of this study population was motivated by its anticipated higher extent of LD, potentially offering a substantial power advantage for association mapping. DNA samples and audiometric measurements were collected from 352 Finnish Saami individuals, aged between 50 and 75 years. To reduce the burden of multiple testing, we applied principal component (PC) analysis to the multivariate audiometric phenotype. The first three PCs captured 80% of the variation in hearing thresholds, while maintaining biologically important audiometric features. All subjects were genotyped with the Affymetrix 100 K chip. To account for multiple levels of relatedness among subjects, as well as for population stratification, association testing was performed using a mixed model. We summarised the top-ranking association signals for the three traits under study. The top-ranked SNP, rs457717 (P-value 3.55 × 10−7), was associated with PC3 and was localised in an intron of the IQ motif-containing GTPase-activating-like protein (IQGAP2). Intriguingly, the SNP rs161927 (P-value 0.000149), seventh-ranked for PC1, was positioned immediately downstream from the metabotropic glutamate receptor-7 gene (GRM7). As a previous GWAS of a European and Finnish sample set already suggested a role for GRM7 in ARHI, this study provides further evidence for the involvement of this gene.
Saami; isolated population; mixed model; genome-wide association study; age-related hearing impairment; presbycusis
The Saami from Fennoscandia are believed to represent an ancient, genetically isolated population with no evidence of population expansion. Theoretical work has indicated that under this demographic scenario, extensive linkage disequilibrium (LD) is generated by genetic drift. Therefore, it has been suggested that the Saami would be particularly suited for genetic association studies, offering a substantial power advantage and allowing more economic study designs. However, no study has yet assessed this claim. As part of a GWAS for a complex trait, we evaluated the relative power for association studies of common variants in the Finnish Saami. LD patterns in the Saami were very similar to those in the non-African HapMap reference panels. Haplotype diversity was reduced and, on average, levels of LD were higher in the Saami as compared with those in the HapMap panels. However, using a ‘hidden' SNP approach we show that this does not translate into a power gain in association studies. Contrary to earlier claims, we show that for a given set of common SNPs, genomic coverage attained in the Saami is similar to that in the non-African HapMap panels. Nevertheless, the reduced haplotype diversity could potentially facilitate gene identification, especially if multiple rare variants play a role in disease etiology. Our results further indicate that the HapMap is a useful resource for genetic studies in the Saami.
Saami; genome-wide association studies; linkage disequilibrium; population isolates
A genome-wide, whole brain approach to investigate genetic effects on neuroimaging phenotypes for identifying quantitative trait loci is described. The Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative 1.5 T MRI and genetic dataset was investigated using voxel-based morphometry (VBM) and FreeSurfer parcellation followed by genome-wide association studies (GWAS). One hundred forty-two measures of grey matter (GM) density, volume, and cortical thickness were extracted from baseline scans. GWAS, using PLINK, were performed on each phenotype using quality-controlled genotype and scan data including 530,992 of 620,903 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and 733 of 818 participants (175 AD, 354 amnestic mild cognitive impairment, MCI, and 204 healthy controls, HC). Hierarchical clustering and heat maps were used to analyze the GWAS results and associations are reported at two significance thresholds (p<10−7 and p<10−6). As expected, SNPs in the APOE and TOMM40 genes were confirmed as markers strongly associated with multiple brain regions. Other top SNPs were proximal to the EPHA4, TP63 and NXPH1 genes. Detailed image analyses of rs6463843 (flanking NXPH1) revealed reduced global and regional GM density across diagnostic groups in TT relative to GG homozygotes. Interaction analysis indicated that AD patients homozygous for the T allele showed differential vulnerability to right hippocampal GM density loss. NXPH1 codes for a protein implicated in promotion of adhesion between dendrites and axons, a key factor in synaptic integrity, the loss of which is a hallmark of AD. A genome-wide, whole brain search strategy has the potential to reveal novel candidate genes and loci warranting further investigation and replication.
The structure of the human brain is highly heritable, and is thought to be influenced by many common genetic variants, many of which are currently unknown. Recent advances in neuroimaging and genetics have allowed collection of both highly detailed structural brain scans and genome-wide genotype information. This wealth of information presents a new opportunity to find the genes influencing brain structure. Here we explore the relation between 448,293 single nucleotide polymorphisms in each of 31,622 voxels of the entire brain across 740 elderly subjects (mean age±s.d.: 75.52±6.82 years; 438 male) including subjects with Alzheimer's disease, Mild Cognitive Impairment, and healthy elderly controls from the Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI). We used tensor-based morphometry to measure individual differences in brain structure at the voxel level relative to a study-specific template based on healthy elderly subjects. We then conducted a genome-wide association at each voxel to identify genetic variants of interest. By studying only the most associated variant at each voxel, we developed a novel method to address the multiple comparisons problem and computational burden associated with the unprecedented amount of data. No variant survived the strict significance criterion, but several genes worthy of further exploration were identified, including CSMD2 and CADPS2. These genes have high relevance to brain structure. This is the first voxelwise genome wide association study to our knowledge, and offers a novel method to discover genetic influences on brain structure.
Hereditary hearing loss is a very heterogeneous trait, with 46 gene identifications for nonsyndromic hearing loss. Mutations in GJB2 cause up to half of all cases of severe-to-profound congenital autosomal recessive nonsyndromic hearing loss, with 35delG being the most frequent mutation in Caucasians. Although a genotype-phenotype correlation has been established for most GJB2 genotypes, the hearing loss of 35delG homozygous patients is mild-to-profound. We hypothesize that this phenotypic variability is at least partly caused by the influence of modifier genes. By performing a whole-genome association study on 35delG homozygotes, we sought to identify modifier genes. The association study was performed by comparing the genotypes of mild/moderate cases and profound cases. The first analysis included a pooling-based whole-genome association study of a first set of 255 samples by using both the Illumina 550K and Affymetrix 500K chips. This analysis resulted in a ranking of all analysed SNPs according to their p-values. The top 250 most significantly associated SNPs were genotyped individually in the same sample set. All 192 SNPs that still had significant p-values were genotyped in a second independent set of 297 samples for replication. The significant p-values were replicated in nine SNPs, with combined p-values between 3×10−3 and 1×10−4. This study suggests that the phenotypic variability in 35delG homozygous patients cannot be explained by the effect of one major modifier gene. Significantly associated SNPs may reflect a small modifying effect on the phenotype. Increasing the power of the study will be of the greatest importance to confirm these results.
Hereditary hearing loss; connexin 26; 35delG; association study; modifier gene
In a genome-wide association study of structural brain degeneration, we mapped the 3D profile of temporal lobe volume differences in 742 brain MRI scans of Alzheimer’s disease patients, mildly impaired, and healthy elderly subjects. After searching 546,314 genomic markers, 2 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) were associated with bilateral temporal lobe volume (P < 5×10−7). One SNP, rs10845840, is located in the GRIN2B gene which encodes the N-Methyl-D-Aspartate (NMDA) glutamate receptor NR2B subunit. This protein - involved in learning and memory, and excitotoxic cell death - has age-dependent prevalence in the synapse and is already a therapeutic target in Alzheimer’s disease. Risk alleles for lower temporal lobe volume at this SNP were significantly over-represented in AD and MCI subjects versus controls (odds ratio = 1.273; P = 0.039) and were associated with the mini-mental state exam (MMSE; t = −2.114; P = 0.035) demonstrating a negative effect on global cognitive function. Voxelwise maps of genetic association of this SNP with regional brain volumes, revealed intense temporal lobe effects (FDR correction at q = 0.05; critical P = 0.0257). This study uses large-scale brain mapping for gene discovery with implications for Alzheimer’s disease.
The role of the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative Genetics Core is to facilitate the investigation of genetic influences on disease onset and trajectory as reflected in structural, functional, and molecular imaging changes; fluid biomarkers; and cognitive status. Major goals include (1) blood sample processing, genotyping, and dissemination, (2) genome-wide association studies (GWAS) of longitudinal phenotypic data, and (3) providing a central resource, point of contact and planning group for genetics within Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative. Genome-wide array data have been publicly released and updated, and several neuroimaging GWAS have recently been reported examining baseline magnetic resonance imaging measures as quantitative phenotypes. Other preliminary investigations include copy number variation in mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease and GWAS of baseline cerebrospinal fluid biomarkers and longitudinal changes on magnetic resonance imaging. Blood collection for RNA studies is a new direction. Genetic studies of longitudinal phenotypes hold promise for elucidating disease mechanisms and risk, development of therapeutic strategies, and refining selection criteria for clinical trials.
Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI); Alzheimer’s disease; Mild cognitive impairment (MCI); Genome-wide association studies (GWAS); Copy number variation (CNV); Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI); Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF)
Age-related hearing impairment (ARHI), or presbycusis, is the most prevalent sensory impairment in the elderly. ARHI is a complex disease caused by an interaction between environmental and genetic factors. Here we describe the results of the first whole genome association study for ARHI. The study was performed using 846 cases and 846 controls selected from 3434 individuals collected by eight centers in six European countries. DNA pools for cases and controls were allelotyped on the Affymetrix 500K GeneChip® for each center separately. The 252 top-ranked single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) identified in a non-Finnish European sample group (1332 samples) and the 177 top-ranked SNPs from a Finnish sample group (360 samples) were confirmed using individual genotyping. Subsequently, the 23 most interesting SNPs were individually genotyped in an independent European replication group (138 samples). This resulted in the identification of a highly significant and replicated SNP located in GRM7, the gene encoding metabotropic glutamate receptor type 7. Also in the Finnish sample group, two GRM7 SNPs were significant, albeit in a different region of the gene. As the Finnish are genetically distinct from the rest of the European population, this may be due to allelic heterogeneity. We performed histochemical studies in human and mouse and showed that mGluR7 is expressed in hair cells and in spiral ganglion cells of the inner ear. Together these data indicate that common alleles of GRM7 contribute to an individual's risk of developing ARHI, possibly through a mechanism of altered susceptibility to glutamate excitotoxicity.
Previously, utilizing a series of genome-wide association, brain imaging and gene expression studies we implicated the KIBRA gene and the RhoA/ROCK pathway in hippocampal-mediated human memory. Here we show that peripheral administration of the ROCK inhibitor hydroxyfasudil improves spatial learning and working memory in the rodent model. This study supports the action of ROCK on learning and memory, suggests the potential value of ROCK inhibition for the promotion of cognition in humans and highlights the powerful potential of unbiased genome-wide association studies to inform potential novel uses for existing pharmaceuticals.
learning; memory; ROCK; fasudil; aging
The genetic locus encoding KIBRA, a member of the WWC family of proteins, has recently been shown to be associated with human memory performance through genome-wide single nucleotide polymorphism screening. Gene expression analysis and a variety of functional studies have further indicated that such a role is biologically plausible for KIBRA. Here, we review the existing literature, illustrate connections between the different lines of evidence, and derive models based on KIBRA's function(s) in the brain that can be further tested experimentally.
cognition; memory; hippocampus; genome-wide association study (GWAS); Alzheimer's disease; cognitive impairment; PKCζ
The green anole lizard, Anolis carolinensis, is a key species for both laboratory and field-based studies of evolutionary genetics, development, neurobiology, physiology, behavior, and ecology. As the first non-avian reptilian genome sequenced, A. carolinesis is also a prime reptilian model for comparison with other vertebrate genomes. The public databases of Ensembl and NCBI have provided a first generation gene annotation of the anole genome that relies primarily on sequence conservation with related species. A second generation annotation based on tissue-specific transcriptomes would provide a valuable resource for molecular studies.
Here we provide an annotation of the A. carolinensis genome based on de novo assembly of deep transcriptomes of 14 adult and embryonic tissues. This revised annotation describes 59,373 transcripts, compared to 16,533 and 18,939 currently for Ensembl and NCBI, and 22,962 predicted protein-coding genes. A key improvement in this revised annotation is coverage of untranslated region (UTR) sequences, with 79% and 59% of transcripts containing 5’ and 3’ UTRs, respectively. Gaps in genome sequence from the current A. carolinensis build (Anocar2.0) are highlighted by our identification of 16,542 unmapped transcripts, representing 6,695 orthologues, with less than 70% genomic coverage.
Incorporation of tissue-specific transcriptome sequence into the A. carolinensis genome annotation has markedly improved its utility for comparative and functional studies. Increased UTR coverage allows for more accurate predicted protein sequence and regulatory analysis. This revised annotation also provides an atlas of gene expression specific to adult and embryonic tissues.
Annotation; Lizard; Anolis carolinensis; Transcriptome; Genome; RNA-Seq; Gene; Vertebrate; Embryo; Tissue-specific
For late onset Alzheimer's disease (LOAD), the only confirmed, genetic association is with the apolipoprotein E (APOE) locus on chromosome 19. Meta-analysis is often employed to sort the true associations from the false positives. LOAD research has the advantage of a continuously updated meta-analysis of candidate gene association studies in the web-based AlzGene database. The top 30 AlzGene loci on May 1st, 2007 were investigated in our whole genome association data set consisting of 1411 LOAD cases and neuropathoiogicaiiy verified controls genotyped at 312,316 SNPs using the Affymetrix 500K Mapping Platform. Of the 30 “top AlzGenes", 32 SNPs in 24 genes had odds ratios (OR) whose 95% confidence intervals that did not include 1. Of these 32 SNPs, six were part of the Affymetrix 500K Mapping panel and another ten had proxies on the Affymetrix array that had >80% power to detect an association with α=0.001. Two of these 16 SNPs showed significant association with LOAD in our sample series. One was rs4420638 at the APOE locus (uncorrected p-value=4.58E-37) and the other was rs4293, located in the angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) locus (uncorrected p-value=0.014). Since this result was nominally significant, but did not survive multiple testing correction for 16 independent tests, this association at rs4293 was verified in a geographically distinct German cohort (p-value=0.03). We present the results of our ACE replication aiongwith a discussion of the statistical limitations of multiple test corrections in whole genome studies.
Late-onset Alzheimer disease; single nucleotide polymorphism; genome-wide association study; meta-analysis; ACE
Hereditary hearing loss (HL) is a very heterogeneous trait, with 46 gene identifications for non-syndromic HL. Mutations in GJB2 cause up to half of all cases of severe-to-profound congenital autosomal recessive non-syndromic HL, with 35delG being the most frequent mutation in Caucasians. Although a genotype–phenotype correlation has been established for most GJB2 genotypes, the HL of 35delG homozygous patients is mild to profound. We hypothesise that this phenotypic variability is at least partly caused by the influence of modifier genes. By performing a whole-genome association (WGA) study on 35delG homozygotes, we sought to identify modifier genes. The association study was performed by comparing the genotypes of mild/moderate cases and profound cases. The first analysis included a pooling-based WGA study of a first set of 255 samples by using both the Illumina 550K and Affymetrix 500K chips. This analysis resulted in a ranking of all analysed single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) according to their P-values. The top 250 most significantly associated SNPs were genotyped individually in the same sample set. All 192 SNPs that still had significant P-values were genotyped in a second independent set of 297 samples for replication. The significant P-values were replicated in nine SNPs, with combined P-values between 3 × 10−3 and 1 × 10−4. This study suggests that the phenotypic variability in 35delG homozygous patients cannot be explained by the effect of one major modifier gene. Significantly associated SNPs may reflect a small modifying effect on the phenotype. Increasing the power of the study will be of greatest importance to confirm these results.
hereditary hearing loss; connexin 26; 35delG; association study; modifier gene
The apolipoprotein E (APOE) ε4 allele is the best established genetic risk factor for late-onset Alzheimer’s disease (LOAD). We conducted genome-wide surveys of 502,627 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) to characterize and confirm other LOAD susceptibility genes. In ε4 carriers from neuropathologically verified discovery, neuropathologically verified replication, and clinically characterized replication cohorts of 1411 cases and controls, LOAD was associated with six SNPs from the GRB-associated binding protein 2 (GAB2) gene and a common haplotype encompassing the entire GAB2 gene. SNP rs2373115 (p = 9 × 10−11) was associated with an odds ratio of 4.06 (confidence interval 2.81–14.69), which interacts with APOE ε4 to further modify risk. GAB2 was overexpressed in pathologically vulnerable neurons; the Gab2 protein was detected in neurons, tangle-bearing neurons, and dystrophic neuritis; and interference with GAB2 gene expression increased tau phosphorylation. Our findings suggest that GAB2 modifies LOAD risk in APOE ε4 carriers and influences Alzheimer’s neuropathology.