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1.  Tissue-Specific Effects of Genetic and Epigenetic Variation on Gene Regulation and Splicing 
PLoS Genetics  2015;11(1):e1004958.
Understanding how genetic variation affects distinct cellular phenotypes, such as gene expression levels, alternative splicing and DNA methylation levels, is essential for better understanding of complex diseases and traits. Furthermore, how inter-individual variation of DNA methylation is associated to gene expression is just starting to be studied. In this study, we use the GenCord cohort of 204 newborn Europeans’ lymphoblastoid cell lines, T-cells and fibroblasts derived from umbilical cords. The samples were previously genotyped for 2.5 million SNPs, mRNA-sequenced, and assayed for methylation levels in 482,421 CpG sites. We observe that methylation sites associated to expression levels are enriched in enhancers, gene bodies and CpG island shores. We show that while the correlation between DNA methylation and gene expression can be positive or negative, it is very consistent across cell-types. However, this epigenetic association to gene expression appears more tissue-specific than the genetic effects on gene expression or DNA methylation (observed in both sharing estimations based on P-values and effect size correlations between cell-types). This predominance of genetic effects can also be reflected by the observation that allele specific expression differences between individuals dominate over tissue-specific effects. Additionally, we discover genetic effects on alternative splicing and interestingly, a large amount of DNA methylation correlating to alternative splicing, both in a tissue-specific manner. The locations of the SNPs and methylation sites involved in these associations highlight the participation of promoter proximal and distant regulatory regions on alternative splicing. Overall, our results provide high-resolution analyses showing how genome sequence variation has a broad effect on cellular phenotypes across cell-types, whereas epigenetic factors provide a secondary layer of variation that is more tissue-specific. Furthermore, the details of how this tissue-specificity may vary across inter-relations of molecular traits, and where these are occurring, can yield further insights into gene regulation and cellular biology as a whole.
Author Summary
In order to better understand how genetic differences between individuals can cause diseases, it is crucial to understand how genetic variants affect cellular functions in the different tissues that compose the human body. From the umbilical cord of 195 newborn babies, we previously obtained three different cell-types: fibroblasts, T-cells and immortalized B-cells. From every individual in each cell type we measured four features across the genome: 1) genetic differences, 2) DNA methylation, an epigenetic modification of DNA that can affect its functional state, 3) gene expression—the amount of gene activity, 4) alternative splicing—which of the different versions of a gene is manifested. We find thousands of genetic variants of the DNA sequence that affect methylation, gene expression, and splicing. We show that while these genetic effects often affect multiple cell-types, the strength of these effects varies between cell-types. Also epigenetic methylation marks of DNA associate to gene expression and particularly often to splicing. Since abnormalities in gene expression, DNA methylation and alternative splicing are associated to diseases, it is important to continue studying how these traits are inter-related and affected by genetic variation across cell-types.
PMCID: PMC4310612  PMID: 25634236
2.  Exome Sequencing in 53 Sporadic Cases of Schizophrenia Identifies 18 Putative Candidate Genes 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(11):e112745.
Schizophrenia (SCZ) is a severe, debilitating mental illness which has a significant genetic component. The identification of genetic factors related to SCZ has been challenging and these factors remain largely unknown. To evaluate the contribution of de novo variants (DNVs) to SCZ, we sequenced the exomes of 53 individuals with sporadic SCZ and of their non-affected parents. We identified 49 DNVs, 18 of which were predicted to alter gene function, including 13 damaging missense mutations, 2 conserved splice site mutations, 2 nonsense mutations, and 1 frameshift deletion. The average number of exonic DNV per proband was 0.88, which corresponds to an exonic point mutation rate of 1.7×10−8 per nucleotide per generation. The non-synonymous-to-synonymous mutation ratio of 2.06 did not differ from neutral expectations. Overall, this study provides a list of 18 putative candidate genes for sporadic SCZ, and when combined with the results of similar reports, identifies a second proband carrying a non-synonymous DNV in the RGS12 gene.
PMCID: PMC4242613  PMID: 25420024
3.  Loss of Function Mutation in the Palmitoyl-Transferase HHAT Leads to Syndromic 46,XY Disorder of Sex Development by Impeding Hedgehog Protein Palmitoylation and Signaling 
PLoS Genetics  2014;10(5):e1004340.
The Hedgehog (Hh) family of secreted proteins act as morphogens to control embryonic patterning and development in a variety of organ systems. Post-translational covalent attachment of cholesterol and palmitate to Hh proteins are critical for multimerization and long range signaling potency. However, the biological impact of lipid modifications on Hh ligand distribution and signal reception in humans remains unclear. In the present study, we report a unique case of autosomal recessive syndromic 46,XY Disorder of Sex Development (DSD) with testicular dysgenesis and chondrodysplasia resulting from a homozygous G287V missense mutation in the hedgehog acyl-transferase (HHAT) gene. This mutation occurred in the conserved membrane bound O-acyltransferase (MBOAT) domain and experimentally disrupted the ability of HHAT to palmitoylate Hh proteins such as DHH and SHH. Consistent with the patient phenotype, HHAT was found to be expressed in the somatic cells of both XX and XY gonads at the time of sex determination, and Hhat loss of function in mice recapitulates most of the testicular, skeletal, neuronal and growth defects observed in humans. In the developing testis, HHAT is not required for Sertoli cell commitment but plays a role in proper testis cord formation and the differentiation of fetal Leydig cells. Altogether, these results shed new light on the mechanisms of action of Hh proteins. Furthermore, they provide the first clinical evidence of the essential role played by lipid modification of Hh proteins in human testicular organogenesis and embryonic development.
Author Summary
Disorders of gonadal development represent a clinically and genetically heterogeneous class of DSD caused by defects in gonadal development and/or a failure of testis/ovarian differentiation. Unfortunately, in many cases the genetic aetiology of DSD is unknown, indicating that our knowledge of the factors mediating sex determination is limited. Using exome sequencing on a case of autosomal recessive syndromic 46,XY DSD with testicular dysgenesis and chondrodysplasia, we found a homozygous missense mutation (G287V) within the coding sequence of the O-acetyl-transferase HHAT gene. The HHAT gene encodes an enzyme required for the attachment of palmitoyl residues that are critical for multimerization and long range signaling potency of hedgehog secreted proteins. We found that HHAT is widely expressed in human organs during fetal development, including testes and ovaries around the time of sex determination. In vitro assays show that G287V mutation impairs HHAT palmitoyl-transferase activity and mice lacking functional Hhat exhibit testicular dysgenesis as well as other skeletal, neuronal and growth defects that recapitulate most aspects of the syndromic 46,XY DSD patient. These data provide the first clinical evidence of the essential role played by lipid modification of Hedgehog proteins in human testicular organogenesis and embryonic development.
PMCID: PMC4006744  PMID: 24784881
4.  Cognition and Hippocampal Plasticity in the Mouse Is Altered by Monosomy of a Genomic Region Implicated in Down Syndrome 
Genetics  2014;197(3):899-912.
Down syndrome (DS) is due to increased copy number of human chromosome 21. The contribution of different genetic regions has been tested using mouse models. As shown previously, the Abcg1-U2af1 genetic region contributes to cognitive defects in working and short-term recognition memory in Down syndrome mouse models. Here we analyzed the impact of monosomy of the same genetic interval, using a new mouse model, named Ms2Yah. We used several cognitive paradigms and did not detect defects in the object recognition or the Morris water maze tests. However, surprisingly, Ms2Yah mice displayed increased associative memory in a pure contextual fear-conditioning test and decreased social novelty interaction along with a larger long-term potentiation recorded in the CA1 area following stimulation of Schaffer collaterals. Whole-genome expression studies carried out on hippocampus showed that the transcription of only a small number of genes is affected, mainly from the genetic interval (Cbs, Rsph1, Wdr4), with a few additional ones, including the postsynaptic Gabrr2, Gabbr1, Grid2p, Park2, and Dlg1 and the components of the Ubiquitin-mediated proteolysis (Anapc1, Rnf7, Huwe1, Park2). The Abcg1–U2af1 region is undeniably encompassing dosage-sensitive genes or elements whose change in copy number directly affects learning and memory, synaptic function, and autistic related behavior.
PMCID: PMC4096369  PMID: 24752061
aneuploidy; genetic dosage; mouse model; intellectual disabilities; trisomy 21
5.  Transcriptome and genome sequencing uncovers functional variation in humans 
Nature  2013;501(7468):506-511.
Genome sequencing projects are discovering millions of genetic variants in humans, and interpretation of their functional effects is essential for understanding the genetic basis of variation in human traits. Here we report sequencing and deep analysis of mRNA and miRNA from lymphoblastoid cell lines of 462 individuals from the 1000 Genomes Project – the first uniformly processed RNA-seq data from multiple human populations with high-quality genome sequences. We discovered extremely widespread genetic variation affecting regulation of the majority of genes, with transcript structure and expression level variation being equally common but genetically largely independent. Our characterization of causal regulatory variation sheds light on cellular mechanisms of regulatory and loss-of-function variation, and allowed us to infer putative causal variants for dozens of disease-associated loci. Altogether, this study provides a deep understanding of the cellular mechanisms of transcriptome variation and of the landscape of functional variants in the human genome.
PMCID: PMC3918453  PMID: 24037378
6.  Modelling and rescuing neurodevelopmental defect of Down syndrome using induced pluripotent stem cells from monozygotic twins discordant for trisomy 21 
EMBO Molecular Medicine  2013;6(2):259-277.
Down syndrome (trisomy 21) is the most common viable chromosomal disorder with intellectual impairment and several other developmental abnormalities. Here, we report the generation and characterization of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) derived from monozygotic twins discordant for trisomy 21 in order to eliminate the effects of the variability of genomic background. The alterations observed by genetic analysis at the iPSC level and at first approximation in early development illustrate the developmental disease transcriptional signature of Down syndrome. Moreover, we observed an abnormal neural differentiation of Down syndrome iPSCs in vivo when formed teratoma in NOD-SCID mice, and in vitro when differentiated into neuroprogenitors and neurons. These defects were associated with changes in the architecture and density of neurons, astroglial and oligodendroglial cells together with misexpression of genes involved in neurogenesis, lineage specification and differentiation. Furthermore, we provide novel evidence that dual-specificity tyrosine-(Y)-phosphorylation regulated kinase 1A ( DYRK1A) on chromosome 21 likely contributes to these defects. Importantly, we found that targeting DYRK1A pharmacologically or by shRNA results in a considerable correction of these defects.
PMCID: PMC3927959  PMID: 24375627
disease modelling; Down syndrome; DYRK1A; induced pluripotent stem cells; neurodevelopment
8.  Novel homozygous, heterozygous and hemizygous FRMD7 gene mutations segregated in the same consanguineous family with congenital X-linked nystagmus 
European Journal of Human Genetics  2012;20(10):1032-1036.
Congenital nystagmus (NYS) is characterized by bilateral, spontaneous, and involuntary movements of the eyeballs that most commonly presents between 2 and 6 months of life. To date, 44 different FRMD7 gene mutations have been found to be etiological factors for the NYS1 locus at Xq26-q27. The aim of this study was to find the FRMD7 gene mutations in a large eleven-generation Indian pedigree with 71 members who are affected by NYS. Mutation analysis of the entire coding region and splice junctions of the FRMD7 gene revealed a novel missense mutation, c.A917G, predicts a substitution of Arg for Gln at codon 305 (Q305R) within exon 10 of FRMD7. The mutation was detected in hemizygous males, and in homozygous and heterozygous states in affected female members of the family. This mutation was not detected in unaffected members of the family or in 100 unrelated control subjects. This mutation was found to be at a highly conserved residue within the FERM-adjacent domain in affected members of the family. Structure prediction and energetic analysis of wild-type FRMD7 compared with mutant (Q305R) revealed that this change in amino acid led to a change in secondary structure predicted to be an energetically unstable protein. The present study represents the first confirmation of FRMD7 gene mutations in a multigenerational Indian family and expands the mutation spectrum for this locus.
PMCID: PMC3449080  PMID: 22490987
nystagmus; FRMD7 gene; mutation analysis
9.  Trisomy for Synaptojanin1 in Down syndrome is functionally linked to the enlargement of early endosomes 
Human Molecular Genetics  2012;21(14):3156-3172.
Enlarged early endosomes have been observed in neurons and fibroblasts in Down syndrome (DS). These endosome abnormalities have been implicated in the early development of Alzheimer's disease (AD) pathology in these subjects. Here, we show the presence of enlarged endosomes in blood mononuclear cells and lymphoblastoid cell lines (LCLs) from individuals with DS using immunofluorescence and confocal microscopy. Genotype–phenotype correlations in LCLs carrying partial trisomies 21 revealed that triplication of a 2.56 Mb locus in 21q22.11 is associated with the endosomal abnormalities. This locus contains the gene encoding the phosphoinositide phosphatase synaptojanin 1 (SYNJ1), a key regulator of the signalling phospholipid phosphatidylinositol-4,5-biphosphate that has been shown to regulate clathrin-mediated endocytosis. We found that SYNJ1 transcripts are increased in LCLs from individuals with DS and that overexpression of SYNJ1 in a neuroblastoma cell line as well as in transgenic mice leads to enlarged endosomes. Moreover, the proportion of enlarged endosomes in fibroblasts from an individual with DS was reduced after silencing SYNJ1 expression with RNA interference. In LCLs carrying amyloid precursor protein (APP) microduplications causing autosomal dominant early-onset AD, enlarged endosomes were absent, suggesting that APP overexpression alone is not involved in the modification of early endosomes in this cell type. These findings provide new insights into the contribution of SYNJ1 overexpression to the endosomal changes observed in DS and suggest an attractive new target for rescuing endocytic dysfunction and lipid metabolism in DS and in AD.
PMCID: PMC3384382  PMID: 22511594
10.  Variation in Novel Exons (RACEfrags) of the MECP2 Gene in Rett Syndrome Patients and Controls 
Human mutation  2009;30(9):E866-E879.
The study of transcription using genomic tiling arrays has lead to the identification of numerous additional exons. One example is the MECP2 gene on the X chromosome; using 5’RACE and RT-PCR in human tissues and cell lines, we have found more than 70 novel exons (RACEfrags) connecting to at least one annotated exon.. We sequenced all MECP2-connected exons and flanking sequences in 3 groups: 46 patients with the Rett syndrome and without mutations in the currently annotated exons of the MECP2 and CDKL5 genes; 32 patients with the Rett syndrome and identified mutations in the MECP2 gene; 100 control individuals from the same geoethnic group. Approximately 13kb were sequenced per sample, (2.4Mb of DNA resequencing). A total of 75 individuals had novel rare variants (mostly private variants) but no statistically significant difference was found among the 3 groups. These results suggest that variants in the newly discovered exons may not contribute to Rett syndrome. Interestingly however, there are about twice more variants in the novel exons than in the flanking sequences (44 vs. 21 for approximately 1.3 Mb sequenced for each class of sequences, p = 0.0025). Thus the evolutionary forces that shape these novel exons may be different than those of neighboring sequences.
PMCID: PMC3708316  PMID: 19562714
MECP2; Rett syndrome; RACEfrags; SNP; rare variants; positive selection
11.  Landscape of transcription in human cells 
Djebali, Sarah | Davis, Carrie A. | Merkel, Angelika | Dobin, Alex | Lassmann, Timo | Mortazavi, Ali M. | Tanzer, Andrea | Lagarde, Julien | Lin, Wei | Schlesinger, Felix | Xue, Chenghai | Marinov, Georgi K. | Khatun, Jainab | Williams, Brian A. | Zaleski, Chris | Rozowsky, Joel | Röder, Maik | Kokocinski, Felix | Abdelhamid, Rehab F. | Alioto, Tyler | Antoshechkin, Igor | Baer, Michael T. | Bar, Nadav S. | Batut, Philippe | Bell, Kimberly | Bell, Ian | Chakrabortty, Sudipto | Chen, Xian | Chrast, Jacqueline | Curado, Joao | Derrien, Thomas | Drenkow, Jorg | Dumais, Erica | Dumais, Jacqueline | Duttagupta, Radha | Falconnet, Emilie | Fastuca, Meagan | Fejes-Toth, Kata | Ferreira, Pedro | Foissac, Sylvain | Fullwood, Melissa J. | Gao, Hui | Gonzalez, David | Gordon, Assaf | Gunawardena, Harsha | Howald, Cedric | Jha, Sonali | Johnson, Rory | Kapranov, Philipp | King, Brandon | Kingswood, Colin | Luo, Oscar J. | Park, Eddie | Persaud, Kimberly | Preall, Jonathan B. | Ribeca, Paolo | Risk, Brian | Robyr, Daniel | Sammeth, Michael | Schaffer, Lorian | See, Lei-Hoon | Shahab, Atif | Skancke, Jorgen | Suzuki, Ana Maria | Takahashi, Hazuki | Tilgner, Hagen | Trout, Diane | Walters, Nathalie | Wang, Huaien | Wrobel, John | Yu, Yanbao | Ruan, Xiaoan | Hayashizaki, Yoshihide | Harrow, Jennifer | Gerstein, Mark | Hubbard, Tim | Reymond, Alexandre | Antonarakis, Stylianos E. | Hannon, Gregory | Giddings, Morgan C. | Ruan, Yijun | Wold, Barbara | Carninci, Piero | Guigó, Roderic | Gingeras, Thomas R.
Nature  2012;489(7414):101-108.
Eukaryotic cells make many types of primary and processed RNAs that are found either in specific sub-cellular compartments or throughout the cells. A complete catalogue of these RNAs is not yet available and their characteristic sub-cellular localizations are also poorly understood. Since RNA represents the direct output of the genetic information encoded by genomes and a significant proportion of a cell’s regulatory capabilities are focused on its synthesis, processing, transport, modifications and translation, the generation of such a catalogue is crucial for understanding genome function. Here we report evidence that three quarters of the human genome is capable of being transcribed, as well as observations about the range and levels of expression, localization, processing fates, regulatory regions and modifications of almost all currently annotated and thousands of previously unannotated RNAs. These observations taken together prompt to a redefinition of the concept of a gene.
PMCID: PMC3684276  PMID: 22955620
13.  Passive and active DNA methylation and the interplay with genetic variation in gene regulation 
eLife  2013;2:e00523.
DNA methylation is an essential epigenetic mark whose role in gene regulation and its dependency on genomic sequence and environment are not fully understood. In this study we provide novel insights into the mechanistic relationships between genetic variation, DNA methylation and transcriptome sequencing data in three different cell-types of the GenCord human population cohort. We find that the association between DNA methylation and gene expression variation among individuals are likely due to different mechanisms from those establishing methylation-expression patterns during differentiation. Furthermore, cell-type differential DNA methylation may delineate a platform in which local inter-individual changes may respond to or act in gene regulation. We show that unlike genetic regulatory variation, DNA methylation alone does not significantly drive allele specific expression. Finally, inferred mechanistic relationships using genetic variation as well as correlations with TF abundance reveal both a passive and active role of DNA methylation to regulatory interactions influencing gene expression.
eLife digest
Variations occur throughout our genome. These variations can cause genes to be expressed (switched on) in slightly different ways among individuals. Moreover, the same gene can also be expressed in different ways in different cells within an individual. A third level of variation is supplied by epigenetic markers: these are molecules that bind to the DNA at specific points and can have profound effects on the expression of nearby genes. One such epigenetic marker is the addition of a methyl group to a cytosine base, a process that is known as DNA methylation.
DNA methylation usually happens when a cytosine base is next to a guanine base, forming a CpG site. In mammals, most CpG sites have methyl groups attached, although regions with a lot of CpG sites (called CpG islands) are mostly unmethylated. Initial studies suggested that methylation prevented particular genes from being expressed, but more recent work has indicated that methylation can be associated with both reduced and increased expression of genes. Moreover, it is not clear if this association is active (i.e., changes in methylation drive changes in gene expression) or passive (DNA methylation is the result of gene regulation).
Now, Gutierrez-Arcelus et al. have carried out a large-scale study to clarify the relationships between three different types of gene-related variations among individuals. They extracted fibroblasts, T-cells and lymphoblastoid cells from the umbilical cords of 204 babies, and analysed them for variations in DNA sequence, gene expression and DNA methylation. Their results show that the associations between the three are more complex than was previously thought.
Gutierrez-Arcelus et al. show that the mechanisms that control the association between the variations in DNA methylation and gene expression in individuals are likely to be different to those that are responsible for the establishment of methylation patterns during the process of cell differentiation. They also find that the association between DNA methylation and gene expression can be either active or passive, and can depend on the context in which they occur in our genome. Finally, where the two copies or alleles of a gene are not equally expressed in a given cell, the difference in expression is primarily regulated by DNA sequence variation, with DNA methylation having little or no role on its own. Equally complex interactions and effects are expected in further studies of genetic and epigenetic variation.
PMCID: PMC3673336  PMID: 23755361
methylation; gene regulation; epigenetics; genome variation; Human
14.  Genetic characterization of northeastern Italian population isolates in the context of broader European genetic diversity 
Population genetic studies on European populations have highlighted Italy as one of genetically most diverse regions. This is possibly due to the country's complex demographic history and large variability in terrain throughout the territory. This is the reason why Italy is enriched for population isolates, Sardinia being the best-known example. As the population isolates have a great potential in disease-causing genetic variants identification, we aimed to genetically characterize a region from northeastern Italy, which is known for isolated communities. Total of 1310 samples, collected from six geographically isolated villages, were genotyped at >145 000 single-nucleotide polymorphism positions. Newly genotyped data were analyzed jointly with the available genome-wide data sets of individuals of European descent, including several population isolates. Despite the linguistic differences and geographical isolation the village populations still show the greatest genetic similarity to other Italian samples. The genetic isolation and small effective population size of the village populations is manifested by higher levels of genomic homozygosity and elevated linkage disequilibrium. These estimates become even more striking when the detected substructure is taken into account. The observed level of genetic isolation in Friuli-Venezia Giulia region is more extreme according to several measures of isolation compared with Sardinians, French Basques and northern Finns, thus proving the status of an isolate.
PMCID: PMC3658181  PMID: 23249956
population genetics; isolated population; genetic distance
15.  TNPO3 protects HIV-1 replication from CPSF6-mediated capsid stabilization in the host cell cytoplasm 
Retrovirology  2013;10:20.
Despite intensive investigation the mechanism by which HIV-1 reaches the host cell nucleus is unknown. TNPO3, a karyopherin mediating nuclear entry of SR-proteins, was shown to be required for HIV-1 infectivity. Some investigators have reported that TNPO3 promotes HIV-1 nuclear import, as would be expected for a karyopherin. Yet, an equal number of investigators have failed to obtain evidence that supports this model. Here, a series of experiments were performed to better elucidate the mechanism by which TNPO3 promotes HIV-1 infectivity.
To examine the role of TNPO3 in HIV-1 replication, the 2-LTR circles that are commonly used as a marker for HIV-1 nuclear entry were cloned after infection of TNPO3 knockdown cells. Potential explanation for the discrepancy in the literature concerning the effect of TNPO3 was provided by sequencing hundreds of these clones: a significant fraction resulted from autointegration into sites near the LTRs and therefore were not bona fide 2-LTR circles. In response to this finding, new techniques were developed to monitor HIV-1 cDNA, including qPCR reactions that distinguish 2-LTR circles from autointegrants, as well as massive parallel sequencing of HIV-1 cDNA. With these assays, TNPO3 knockdown was found to reduce the levels of 2-LTR circles. This finding was puzzling, though, since previous work has shown that the HIV-1 determinant for TNPO3-dependence is capsid (CA), an HIV-1 protein that forms a mega-dalton protein lattice in the cytoplasm. TNPO3 imports cellular splicing factors via their SR-domain. Attention was therefore directed towards CPSF6, an SR-protein that binds HIV-1 CA and inhibits HIV-1 nuclear import when the C-terminal SR-domain is deleted. The effect of 27 HIV-1 capsid mutants on sensitivity to TNPO3 knockdown was then found to correlate strongly with sensitivity to inhibition by a C-terminal deletion mutant of CPSF6 (R2 = 0.883, p < 0.0001). TNPO3 knockdown was then shown to cause CPSF6 to accumulate in the cytoplasm. Mislocalization of CPSF6 to the cytoplasm, whether by TNPO3 knockdown, deletion of the CPSF6 nuclear localization signal, or by fusion of CPSF6 to a nuclear export signal, resulted in inhibition of HIV-1 replication. Additionally, targeting CPSF6 to the nucleus by fusion to a heterologous nuclear localization signal rescued HIV-1 from the inhibitory effects of TNPO3 knockdown. Finally, mislocalization of CPSF6 to the cytoplasm was associated with abnormal stabilization of the HIV-1 CA core.
TNPO3 promotes HIV-1 infectivity indirectly, by shifting the CA-binding protein CPSF6 to the nucleus, thus preventing the excessive HIV-1 CA stability that would otherwise result from cytoplasmic accumulation of CPSF6.
PMCID: PMC3599327  PMID: 23414560
HIV-1; TNPO3; CPSF6; Capsid; Nuclear transport
16.  Mouse Models for Down Syndrome-Associated Developmental Cognitive Disabilities 
Developmental Neuroscience  2011;33(5):404-413.
Down syndrome (DS) is mainly caused by the presence of an extra copy of human chromosome 21 (Hsa21) and is a leading genetic cause for developmental cognitive disabilities in humans. The mouse is a premier model organism for DS because the regions on Hsa21 are syntenically conserved with three regions in the mouse genome, which are located on mouse chromosome 10 (Mmu10), Mmu16 and Mmu17. With the advance of chromosomal manipulation technologies, new mouse mutants have been generated to mimic DS at both the genotypic and phenotypic levels. Further mouse-based molecular genetic studies in the future may lead to the unraveling of the mechanisms underlying DS-associated developmental cognitive disabilities, which would lay the groundwork for developing effective treatments for this phenotypic manifestation. In this review, we will discuss recent progress and future challenges in modeling DS-associated developmental cognitive disability in mice with an emphasis on hippocampus-related phenotypes.
PMCID: PMC3254039  PMID: 21865664
Down syndrome; Human trisomy 21; Developmental cognitive disabilities; Mouse models; Targeted chromosome manipulation
17.  Extensive Natural Variation for Cellular Hydrogen Peroxide Release Is Genetically Controlled 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(8):e43566.
Natural variation in DNA sequence contributes to individual differences in quantitative traits. While multiple studies have shown genetic control over gene expression variation, few additional cellular traits have been investigated. Here, we investigated the natural variation of NADPH oxidase-dependent hydrogen peroxide (H2O2 release), which is the joint effect of reactive oxygen species (ROS) production, superoxide metabolism and degradation, and is related to a number of human disorders. We assessed the normal variation of H2O2 release in lymphoblastoid cell lines (LCL) in a family-based 3-generation cohort (CEPH-HapMap), and in 3 population-based cohorts (KORA, GenCord, HapMap). Substantial individual variation was observed, 45% of which were associated with heritability in the CEPH-HapMap cohort. We identified 2 genome-wide significant loci of Hsa12 and Hsa15 in genome-wide linkage analysis. Next, we performed genome-wide association study (GWAS) for the combined KORA-GenCord cohorts (n = 279) using enhanced marker resolution by imputation (>1.4 million SNPs). We found 5 significant associations (p<5.00×10−8) and 54 suggestive associations (p<1.00×10−5), one of which confirmed the linked region on Hsa15. To replicate our findings, we performed GWAS using 58 HapMap individuals and ∼2.1 million SNPs. We identified 40 genome-wide significant and 302 suggestive SNPs, and confirmed genome signals on Hsa1, Hsa12, and Hsa15. Genetic loci within 900 kb from the known candidate gene p67phox on Hsa1 were identified in GWAS in both cohorts. We did not find replication of SNPs across all cohorts, but replication within the same genomic region. Finally, a highly significant decrease in H2O2 release was observed in Down Syndrome (DS) individuals (p<2.88×10−12). Taken together, our results show strong evidence of genetic control of H2O2 in LCL of healthy and DS cohorts and suggest that cellular phenotypes, which themselves are also complex, may be used as proxies for dissection of complex disorders.
PMCID: PMC3430705  PMID: 22952707
18.  From sequence to functional understanding: the difficult road ahead 
Genome Medicine  2011;3(4):21.
DNA sequencing has become cheap, rapid and accurate, allowing us to access thousands of genomes and reveal the extensive variation among individuals. The major problem that arises from this is distinguishing between neutral and pathogenic variants. A recent study by Davis et al., in which a functional screen of all the non-synonymous variants of a newly discovered gene was performed, highlights the value and necessity of characterizing the functional consequences of each genomic variant discovered. This is the main challenge for the advancement of genomic medicine in the years to come.
PMCID: PMC3129637  PMID: 21470392
19.  Refinement of the X-linked Nonsyndromic High-Grade Myopia Locus MYP1 on Xq28 and Exclusion of 13 Known Positional Candidate Genes by Direct Sequencing 
Myopia affects more people worldwide than any other chronic condition, and it is increasing in all populations across the globe. It affects ∼25% of the U.S. general population between the ages of 12 and 54 years. The present study is a genetic investigation of X-linked high-grade myopia that maps to Xq28.
Myopia is a common vision problem affecting almost one third of the world's population. It can occur as an isolated genetic condition or be associated with other anomalies and/or syndromes. Seventeen myopia loci have been identified on various chromosomes; however, no specific gene mutations have yet been identified.
Two large multigeneration Asian Indian pedigrees (UR006 and UR077) with isolated, nonsyndromic myopia were studied, in which the condition appeared to segregate as an X-linked recessive trait (MYP1; MIM 310460). The degree of myopia was variable in both families, ranging from −6 to −23 D (mean, –8.48 D) with the majority >7.0 D. To map the myopia locus in these families, polymorphic microsatellite markers covering the entire X chromosome were used in linkage analyses performed on 42 genomic DNA samples (13 affected and 29 normal) from both families.
Marker DXYS154, which is located within the pseudoautosomal region in distal Xq28 (PAR2; pseudoautosomal region 2), gave a combined maximum LOD score of 5.3 at θ = 0 under an autosomal recessive model. Other markers in the region (near but not within the PAR2 region) that showed no recombination with the phenotype in both the families included DXS1108, DXS8087, and F8i13.
Observation of recombination in family UR006 refined the disease locus to a ∼1.25-Mb region flanked by the proximal marker DXS1073 and distal marker DXYS154. Mutation search in exons and splice junctions of candidate genes CTAG2, GAB3, MPP1, F8Bver, FUNDC2, VBP1, RAB39B, CLIC2, TMLHE, SYBL, IL9R, SPRY3, and CXYorf1 did not detect a pathogenic or predisposing variant.
PMCID: PMC3176007  PMID: 21357393
20.  Evidence for Transcript Networks Composed of Chimeric RNAs in Human Cells 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(1):e28213.
The classic organization of a gene structure has followed the Jacob and Monod bacterial gene model proposed more than 50 years ago. Since then, empirical determinations of the complexity of the transcriptomes found in yeast to human has blurred the definition and physical boundaries of genes. Using multiple analysis approaches we have characterized individual gene boundaries mapping on human chromosomes 21 and 22. Analyses of the locations of the 5′ and 3′ transcriptional termini of 492 protein coding genes revealed that for 85% of these genes the boundaries extend beyond the current annotated termini, most often connecting with exons of transcripts from other well annotated genes. The biological and evolutionary importance of these chimeric transcripts is underscored by (1) the non-random interconnections of genes involved, (2) the greater phylogenetic depth of the genes involved in many chimeric interactions, (3) the coordination of the expression of connected genes and (4) the close in vivo and three dimensional proximity of the genomic regions being transcribed and contributing to parts of the chimeric RNAs. The non-random nature of the connection of the genes involved suggest that chimeric transcripts should not be studied in isolation, but together, as an RNA network.
PMCID: PMC3251577  PMID: 22238572
21.  Systems medicine and integrated care to combat chronic noncommunicable diseases 
Genome Medicine  2011;3(7):43.
We propose an innovative, integrated, cost-effective health system to combat major non-communicable diseases (NCDs), including cardiovascular, chronic respiratory, metabolic, rheumatologic and neurologic disorders and cancers, which together are the predominant health problem of the 21st century. This proposed holistic strategy involves comprehensive patient-centered integrated care and multi-scale, multi-modal and multi-level systems approaches to tackle NCDs as a common group of diseases. Rather than studying each disease individually, it will take into account their intertwined gene-environment, socio-economic interactions and co-morbidities that lead to individual-specific complex phenotypes. It will implement a road map for predictive, preventive, personalized and participatory (P4) medicine based on a robust and extensive knowledge management infrastructure that contains individual patient information. It will be supported by strategic partnerships involving all stakeholders, including general practitioners associated with patient-centered care. This systems medicine strategy, which will take a holistic approach to disease, is designed to allow the results to be used globally, taking into account the needs and specificities of local economies and health systems.
PMCID: PMC3221551  PMID: 21745417
22.  Down Syndrome: From Understanding the Neurobiology to Therapy 
The Journal of Neuroscience  2010;30(45):14943-14945.
Down syndrome (DS) is the most common example of a neurogenetic aneuploid disorder leading to mental retardation. In most cases, DS results from an extra copy of human chromosome 21 producing deregulated gene expression in brain that gives raise to subnormal intellectual functioning. Understanding the consequences of dosage imbalance attributable to trisomy 21 (T21) has accelerated because of recent advances in genome sequencing, comparative genome analysis, functional genome exploration, and the use of model organisms. This has led to new evidence-based therapeutic approaches to prevention or amelioration of T21 effects on brain structure and function (cognition) and has important implications for other areas of research on the neurogenomics of cognition and behavior.
PMCID: PMC3842485  PMID: 21068296
23.  Network-Guided Analysis of Genes with Altered Somatic Copy Number and Gene Expression Reveals Pathways Commonly Perturbed in Metastatic Melanoma 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(4):e18369.
Cancer genomes frequently contain somatic copy number alterations (SCNA) that can significantly perturb the expression level of affected genes and thus disrupt pathways controlling normal growth. In melanoma, many studies have focussed on the copy number and gene expression levels of the BRAF, PTEN and MITF genes, but little has been done to identify new genes using these parameters at the genome-wide scale. Using karyotyping, SNP and CGH arrays, and RNA-seq, we have identified SCNA affecting gene expression (‘SCNA-genes’) in seven human metastatic melanoma cell lines. We showed that the combination of these techniques is useful to identify candidate genes potentially involved in tumorigenesis. Since few of these alterations were recurrent across our samples, we used a protein network-guided approach to determine whether any pathways were enriched in SCNA-genes in one or more samples. From this unbiased genome-wide analysis, we identified 28 significantly enriched pathway modules. Comparison with two large, independent melanoma SCNA datasets showed less than 10% overlap at the individual gene level, but network-guided analysis revealed 66% shared pathways, including all but three of the pathways identified in our data. Frequently altered pathways included WNT, cadherin signalling, angiogenesis and melanogenesis. Additionally, our results emphasize the potential of the EPHA3 and FRS2 gene products, involved in angiogenesis and migration, as possible therapeutic targets in melanoma. Our study demonstrates the utility of network-guided approaches, for both large and small datasets, to identify pathways recurrently perturbed in cancer.
PMCID: PMC3072964  PMID: 21494657
24.  Novel class of human RNAs associated with gene termini suggests an uncharacterized RNA copying mechanism 
Nature  2010;466(7306):642-646.
Short (< 200 nt) RNA (sRNA) profiling of human cells using various technologies demonstrates unexpected complexity of sRNAs with 100’s of thousands of sRNA species present 1,2,3,4. Genetic and in vitro studies argue that these RNAs are not merely degradation products of longer transcripts but could indeed have function1,2,5. Furthermore, profiling of RNAs, including the sRNAs, can reveal not only novel transcripts, but also make clear predictions about the existence and properties of novel biochemical pathways operating in a cell. For example, short RNA profiling in human cells suggested existence of an unknown capping mechanism operating on cleaved RNA 2 a biochemical component of which was later identified6. Here we show that human cells contain a novel type of sRNAs that have non-genomically encoded 5’ polyU tails. Presence of these RNAs at the termini of genes, specifically at the very 3’ ends of known mRNAs strongly argues for the presence of a yet uncharacterized endogenous biochemical pathway in a cell that can copy RNA. We show that this pathway can operate on multiple genes, with specific enrichment towards transcripts encoding components of the translational machinery. Finally we show that genes are also flanked by sense, 3’ polyadenylated sRNAs that are likely to be capped.
PMCID: PMC3058539  PMID: 20671709
25.  Chromosome Conformation Capture Uncovers Potential Genome-Wide Interactions between Human Conserved Non-Coding Sequences 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(3):e17634.
Comparative analyses of various mammalian genomes have identified numerous conserved non-coding (CNC) DNA elements that display striking conservation among species, suggesting that they have maintained specific functions throughout evolution. CNC function remains poorly understood, although recent studies have identified a role in gene regulation. We hypothesized that the identification of genomic loci that interact physically with CNCs would provide information on their functions. We have used circular chromosome conformation capture (4C) to characterize interactions of 10 CNCs from human chromosome 21 in K562 cells. The data provide evidence that CNCs are capable of interacting with loci that are enriched for CNCs. The number of trans interactions varies among CNCs; some show interactions with many loci, while others interact with few. Some of the tested CNCs are capable of driving the expression of a reporter gene in the mouse embryo, and associate with the oligodendrocyte genes OLIG1 and OLIG2. Our results underscore the power of chromosome conformation capture for the identification of targets of functional DNA elements and raise the possibility that CNCs exert their functions by physical association with defined genomic regions enriched in CNCs. These CNC-CNC interactions may in part explain their stringent conservation as a group of regulatory sequences.
PMCID: PMC3049788  PMID: 21408183

Results 1-25 (58)