Genetic factors underlying trait neuroticism, reflecting a tendency towards negative affective states, may overlap genetic susceptibility for anxiety disorders and help explain the extensive comorbidity amongst internalizing disorders. Genome-wide linkage (GWL) data from several studies of neuroticism and anxiety disorders have been published, providing an opportunity to test such hypotheses and identify genomic regions that harbor genes common to these phenotypes. In all, 11 independent GWL studies of either neuroticism (n=8) or anxiety disorders (n=3) were collected, which comprised of 5341 families with 15 529 individuals. The rank-based genome scan meta-analysis (GSMA) approach was used to analyze each trait separately and combined, and global correlations between results were examined. False discovery rate (FDR) analysis was performed to test for enrichment of significant effects. Using 10 cM intervals, bins nominally significant for both GSMA statistics, PSR and POR, were found on chromosomes 9, 11, 12, and 14 for neuroticism and on chromosomes 1, 5, 15, and 16 for anxiety disorders. Genome-wide, the results for the two phenotypes were significantly correlated, and a combined analysis identified additional nominally significant bins. Although none reached genome-wide significance, an excess of significant PSRP-values were observed, with 12 bins falling under a FDR threshold of 0.50. As demonstrated by our identification of multiple, consistent signals across the genome, meta-analytically combining existing GWL data is a valuable approach to narrowing down regions relevant for anxiety-related phenotypes. This may prove useful for prioritizing emerging genome-wide association data for anxiety disorders.
anxiety; neuroticism; panic disorder; linkage; meta-analysis
The function of adult neurogenesis in the rodent brain remains unclear. Ablation of adult born neurons has yielded conflicting results about emotional and cognitive impairments. One hypothesis is that adult neurogenesis in the hippocampus enables spatial pattern separation, allowing animals to distinguish between similar stimuli. We investigated whether spatial pattern separation and other putative hippocampal functions of adult neurogenesis were altered in a novel genetic model of neurogenesis ablation in the rat. In rats engineered to express thymidine kinase (TK) from a promoter of the rat glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), ganciclovir treatment reduced new neurons by 98%. GFAP-TK rats showed no significant difference from controls in spatial pattern separation on the radial maze, spatial learning in the water maze, contextual or cued fear conditioning. Meta-analysis of all published studies found no significant effects for ablation of adult neurogenesis on spatial memory, cue conditioning or ethological measures of anxiety. An effect on contextual freezing was significant at a threshold of 5% (P = 0.04), but not at a threshold corrected for multiple testing. The meta-analysis revealed remarkably high levels of heterogeneity among studies of hippocampal function. The source of this heterogeneity remains unclear and poses a challenge for studies of the function of adult neurogenesis.
Adult neurogenesis occurs in the rodent brain, but its function remains unclear. Current theories support the view that adult neurogenesis in the hippocampus supports pattern separation in the hippocampus, thereby allowing animals to distinguish between similar, overlapping inputs. However the effects of pharmacological, radiation and genetic ablation of adult neurogenesis on putative hippocampal functions have been inconsistent. We developed a novel genetic model to ablate adult neurogenesis in the rat. We found that we could reduce adult neurogenesis by 98%. Rats without adult neurogenesis showed no significant difference from controls in learning and memory tasks nor spatial pattern separation. We investigated the sources of heterogeneity in published results using a meta-analysis. The source of this heterogeneity remains unclear and poses a challenge for studies of the function of adult neurogenesis.
Mutations in whole organisms are powerful ways of interrogating gene function in a realistic context. We describe a program, the Sanger Institute Mouse Genetics Project, that provides a step toward the aim of knocking out all genes and screening each line for a broad range of traits. We found that hitherto unpublished genes were as likely to reveal phenotypes as known genes, suggesting that novel genes represent a rich resource for investigating the molecular basis of disease. We found many unexpected phenotypes detected only because we screened for them, emphasizing the value of screening all mutants for a wide range of traits. Haploinsufficiency and pleiotropy were both surprisingly common. Forty-two percent of genes were essential for viability, and these were less likely to have a paralog and more likely to contribute to a protein complex than other genes. Phenotypic data and more than 900 mutants are openly available for further analysis.
•Large openly available resource of targeted mouse mutants and phenotypic data•Screen for broad range of disease features and traits•Many novel phenotypes suggest functions for both studied and unstudied genes•Haploinsufficiency and pleiotropy are common
More than 900 new mutant mice lines and a multifaceted phenotypic screening platform reveal unanticipated pleiotropies, widespread effects of haploinsufficiency, potential disease models, and functions for unstudied genes.
Variation at regulatory elements, identified through hypersensitivity to digestion by DNase I, is believed to contribute to variation in complex traits, but the extent and consequences of this variation are poorly characterized. Analysis of terminally differentiated erythroblasts in eight inbred strains of mice identified reproducible variation at approximately 6% of DNase I hypersensitive sites (DHS). Only 30% of such variable DHS contain a sequence variant predictive of site variation. Nevertheless, sequence variants within variable DHS are more likely to be associated with complex traits than those in non-variant DHS, and variants associated with complex traits preferentially occur in variable DHS. Changes at a small proportion (less than 10%) of variable DHS are associated with changes in nearby transcriptional activity. Our results show that whilst DNA sequence variation is not the major determinant of variation in open chromatin, where such variants exist they are likely to be causal for complex traits.
Regulatory sites of the genome affect gene expression and complex traits, including disease susceptibility. Variable regulatory sites are potentially interesting because they are a likely cause of phenotypic variation, providing a bridge between sequence and transcriptional variation. In this paper we identify regions of the genome where DNA is not wrapped up in chromatin (hence potentially regulatory) in eight inbred strains of mice. We compare sites that vary among strains and compare them to non-variable sites. We show that more than half of variable sites cannot be attributed to local sequence variation. Functional consequences (in terms of readily detectable changes in gene expression) are associated with less than 10% of variable DNase I hypersensitive sites. We show that variable sites are enriched for sequence variants contributing to complex traits in mice.
Understanding the core set of genes that are necessary for basic developmental functions is one of the central goals in biology. Studies in model organisms identified a significant fraction of essential genes through the analysis of null-mutations that lead to lethality. Recent large-scale next-generation sequencing efforts have provided unprecedented data on genetic variation in human. However, evolutionary and genomic characteristics of human essential genes have never been directly studied on a genome-wide scale. Here we use detailed phenotypic resources available for the mouse and deep genomics sequencing data from human populations to characterize patterns of genetic variation and mutational burden in a set of 2,472 human orthologs of known essential genes in the mouse. Consistent with the action of strong, purifying selection, these genes exhibit comparatively reduced levels of sequence variation, skew in allele frequency towards more rare, and exhibit increased conservation across the primate and rodent lineages relative to the remainder of genes in the genome. In individual genomes we observed ∼12 rare mutations within essential genes predicted to be damaging. Consistent with the hypothesis that mutations in essential genes are risk factors for neurodevelopmental disease, we show that de novo variants in patients with Autism Spectrum Disorder are more likely to occur in this collection of genes. While incomplete, our set of human orthologs shows characteristics fully consistent with essential function in human and thus provides a resource to inform and facilitate interpretation of sequence data in studies of human disease.
Essential genes are necessary for fundamental processes in an organism and lead to pre- or neonatal lethality when disrupted. In this work, we characterize 2,472 human orthologs of mouse essential genes in terms of their evolutionary and population genetics properties using data from recent deep sequencing initiatives in human populations. We find a signature of strong, purifying selection and a reduced load of sequence variants within the putative essential genes when compared to a control-group of non-essential genes. We also show a significant enrichment of variants within essential genes across a set of four recent studies of de novo variants in patients with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Our results establish the catalogue of putative essential genes as an important resource for analysis and interpretation of sequencing studies for human disease.
► Common variants of small effect contribute to psychiatric disease. ► Rare de novo mutations occur in the exons of patients with schizophrenia and autism. ► Effect sizes of loci influencing brain size are comparable to those of other phenotypes. ► The literature of imaging genetic studies contains many false positives. ► Studies on gene by environment interaction are mostly underpowered.
In this review we discuss recent developments in psychiatric genetics: on the one hand, studies using whole genome approaches (genome-wide association studies (GWAS) and exome sequencing) are coming close to finding genes and molecular variants that contribute to disease susceptibility; on the other candidate genes, such as the serotonin transporter, continue to dominate in genetic studies of brain imaging phenotypes and in protracted searches for gene by environment interactions. These two areas intersect, in that new information about genetic effects from whole genome approaches, should (but does not always) inform the single locus analyses.
The ribosome is an evolutionarily conserved organelle essential for cellular function. Ribosome construction requires assembly of approximately 80 different ribosomal proteins (RPs) and four different species of rRNA. As RPs co-assemble into one multi-subunit complex, mutation of the genes that encode RPs might be expected to give rise to phenocopies, in which the same phenotype is associated with loss-of-function of each individual gene. However, a more complex picture is emerging in which, in addition to a group of shared phenotypes, diverse RP gene-specific phenotypes are observed. Here we report the first two mouse mutations (Rps7Mtu and Rps7Zma) of ribosomal protein S7 (Rps7), a gene that has been implicated in Diamond-Blackfan anemia. Rps7 disruption results in decreased body size, abnormal skeletal morphology, mid-ventral white spotting, and eye malformations. These phenotypes are reported in other murine RP mutants and, as demonstrated for some other RP mutations, are ameliorated by Trp53 deficiency. Interestingly, Rps7 mutants have additional overt malformations of the developing central nervous system and deficits in working memory, phenotypes that are not reported in murine or human RP gene mutants. Conversely, Rps7 mouse mutants show no anemia or hyperpigmentation, phenotypes associated with mutation of human RPS7 and other murine RPs, respectively. We provide two novel RP mouse models and expand the repertoire of potential phenotypes that should be examined in RP mutants to further explore the concept of RP gene-specific phenotypes.
Ribosomes are composed of two subunits that each consist of a large number of proteins, and their function of translating mRNA into protein is essential for cell viability. Naturally occurring or genetically engineered mutations within an individual ribosomal protein provide a valuable resource, since the resulting abnormal phenotypes reveal the function of each ribosomal protein. A number of mutations recently identified in mammalian ribosomal subunit genes have confirmed that homozygous loss of function consistently results in lethality; however, haploinsufficiency causes a variety of tissue-specific phenotypes. In this paper, we describe the first mutant alleles of the gene encoding ribosomal protein S7 (Rps7) in mouse. Rps7 haploinsufficiency causes decreased size, abnormal skeletal morphology, mid-ventral white spotting, and eye malformations, phenotypes that also occur with haploinsufficiency for other ribosomal subunits. Additionally, significant apoptosis occurs within the developing central nervous system (CNS) along with subtle behavioral phenotypes, suggesting RPS7 is required for CNS development. Mutation of human RPS7 has been implicated in Diamond-Blackfan anemia (DBA), yet the murine alleles do not present an analogous phenotype. The phenotypes we observe in the Rps7 mouse mutants indicate RPS7 should be considered as a candidate for a broader spectrum of human diseases.
The ability to perceive noxious stimuli is critical for an animal's survival in the face of environmental danger, and thus pain perception is likely to be under stringent evolutionary pressure. Using a neuronal-specific RNAi knock-down strategy in adult Drosophila, we recently completed a genome-wide functional annotation of heat nociception that allowed us to identify α2δ3 as a novel pain gene. Here we report construction of an evolutionary-conserved, system-level, global molecular pain network map. Our systems map is markedly enriched for multiple genes associated with human pain and predicts a plethora of novel candidate pain pathways. One central node of this pain network is phospholipid signaling, which has been implicated before in pain processing. To further investigate the role of phospholipid signaling in mammalian heat pain perception, we analysed the phenotype of PIP5Kα and PI3Kγ mutant mice. Intriguingly, both of these mice exhibit pronounced hypersensitivity to noxious heat and capsaicin-induced pain, which directly mapped through PI3Kγ kinase-dead knock-in mice to PI3Kγ lipid kinase activity. Using single primary sensory neuron recording, PI3Kγ function was mechanistically linked to a negative regulation of TRPV1 channel transduction. Our data provide a systems map for heat nociception and reinforces the extraordinary conservation of molecular mechanisms of nociception across different species.
Nociception is the perception of noxious, potentially damaging stimuli; and this pain or its equivalent behavioral readout is evolutionarily conserved from fruit flies to humans. Using genetic techniques in the fruit fly, we have been able to evaluate the potential functional contribution of every gene in the fruit fly genome for a role in avoidance of high noxious temperatures (heat pain-like responses). Using this functional genomics data set, we have developed a conserved network map of heat pain/nociception that predicts numerous conserved genes and pathways as novel pain pathways, including phospholipid signaling. Studies in multiple mutant mice confirmed a role for lipid signaling in pain perception, and more specifically we identify the critical lipid kinase (PI3Kγ) as a negative regulator of TRPV1 (receptor for noxious heat and capsaicin, the active component in chili peppers) signaling. This finding shows that our fly-based genetic pain network map is a valuable tool for the discovery of novel “nociception genes” in mammals.
Anxiety disorders are common psychiatric conditions that are highly comorbid with each other and related phenotypes such as depression, likely due to a shared genetic basis. Fear-related behaviors in mice have long been investigated as potential models of anxiety disorders, making integration of information from both murine and human genetic data a powerful strategy for identifying potential susceptibility genes for these conditions.
We combined genome-wide association analysis of fear-related behaviours with strain distribution pattern analysis in heterogeneous stock mice to identify a preliminary list of 52 novel candidate genes. We ranked these according to three complementary sources of prior anxiety-related genetic data: (1) extant linkage and knock-out studies in mice, (2) a meta-analysis of human linkage scans, and (3) a preliminary human genomewide association study. We genotyped tagging SNPs covering the nine top-ranked regions in a two-stage association study of 1316 subjects from the Virginia Adult Twin Study of Psychiatric and Substance Use Disorders chosen for high or low genetic loading for anxiety-spectrum phenotypes (anxiety disorders, neuroticism, and major depression).
Multiple SNPs in the PPARGC1A gene demonstrated association in both stages that survived gene-wise correction for multiple testing.
Integration of genetic data across human and murine studies suggests PPARGC1A as a potential susceptibility gene for anxiety-related disorders.
anxiety disorder; depression; internalizing; candidate gene; genetic association; data integration
The genes involved in conferring susceptibility to anxiety remain obscure. We developed a new method to identify genes at quantitative trait loci (QTLs) in a population of heterogeneous stock mice descended from known progenitor strains. QTLs were partitioned into intervals that can be summarized by a single phylogenetic tree among progenitors and intervals tested for consistency with alleles influencing anxiety at each QTL. By searching for common Gene Ontology functions in candidate genes positioned within those intervals, we identified actin depolymerizing factors (ADFs), including cofilin-1 (Cfl1), as genes involved in regulating anxiety in mice. There was no enrichment for function in the totality of genes under each QTL, indicating the importance of phylogenetic filtering. We confirmed experimentally that forebrain-specific inactivation of Cfl1 decreased anxiety in knockout mice. Our results indicate that similarity of function of mammalian genes can be used to recognize key genetic regulators of anxiety and potentially of other emotional behaviours.
Thousands of small effect loci are believed to contribute to behavioural variation in mammals. Their abundance and small size frustrate gene identification and make it difficult to know which among them are central to the responsible biological mechanisms. Using imputed genome sequences from 2,000 outbred mice and by testing for an enrichment of functional annotations, we identify 167 candidate genes involved in anxiety. Unexpectedly, annotations implicate actin depolymerizing factors (ADFs), including cofilin-1 (Cfl1), as being involved with the expression of anxiety phenotypes in mice. We confirmed that forebrain-specific inactivation of Cfl1 decreased anxiety in knockout mice.
Susceptibility to inflammatory arthritis is determined by a complex set of environmental and genetic factors, but only a portion of the genetic effect can be explained. Conventional genome-wide screens of arthritis models using crosses between inbred mice have been hampered by the low resolution of results and by the restricted range of natural genetic variation sampled. We sought to address these limitations by performing a genome-wide screen for determinants of arthritis severity using a genetically heterogeneous cohort of mice.
Heterogeneous Stock (HS) mice derive from eight founder inbred strains by serial intercrossing (N>60), resulting in fine-grained genetic variation. With a cohort of 570 HS mice, we performed a genome-wide screen for determinants of severity in the K/BxN serum-transfer arthritis model.
We mapped regions on chromosomes 1, 2, 4, 6, 7 and 15 that contain QTLs influencing arthritis severity at a resolution of a few Mb. In several instances, these regions proved to contain 2 QTLs: the region on chromosome 2 includes the C5 fraction of complement known to be required for K/BxN arthritis, but also contained a second adjacent QTL, for which an intriguing candidate is Ptgs1 (Cox-1). Interesting candidates on Chr4 include the Padi gene family, encoding peptidyl-arginine-deiminases responsible for citrulline protein modification; suggestively, Padi2 and Padi4 RNA expression was correlated with arthritis severity in HS mice.
These results provide a broad overview of the genetic variation that controls the severity of K/BxN arthritis and suggest intriguing candidate genes for further study.
This review summarizes the first clinical reports from the CONVERGE consortium: China, Oxford and VCU Experimental Research on Genetic Epidemiology. CONVERGE sets out to investigate the nature and mode of action of the genetic and environmental risk factors for major depressive disorder (MDD). CONVERGE aims to collect 6000 cases of recurrent MDD and 6000 controls. The consortium includes hospitals in 30 cities, all with populations exceeding 5 million, and has collected over 2000 cases and controls. High quality phenotype data on MDD collected in China is now available to determine the source and nature of this highly heterogeneous condition. Analyses reported in a series of papers indicate that the clinical features and risk factors of MDD are sufficiently similar to those in the West that we can confidently predict that the results of subsequent analyses will be widely applicable.
Major depressive disorder; China; Co-morbidity; Anxiety
Structural variation is widespread in mammalian genomes1,2 and is an important cause of disease3, but just how abundant and important structural variants (SVs) are in shaping phenotypic variation remains unclear4,5. Without knowing how many SVs there are, and how they arise, it is difficult to discover what they do. Combining experimental with automated analyses, we identified 0.71M SVs at 0.28M sites in the genomes of thirteen classical and four wild-derived inbred mouse strains. The majority of SVs are less than 1 kilobase in size and 98% are deletions or insertions. The breakpoints of 0.16M SVs were mapped to base pair resolution allowing us to infer that insertion of retrotransposons causes more than half of SVs. Yet, despite their prevalence, SVs are less likely than other sequence variants to cause gene-expression or quantitative phenotypic variation. We identified 24 SVs that disrupt coding exons, acting as rare variants of large effect on gene function. One third of the genes so affected have immunological functions.
Molecular tools are very sensitive and specific and could be an alternative for the diagnosis of malaria. The complexity and need for expensive equipment may hamper implementation and, therefore, simplifications to current protocols are warranted.
A PCR detecting the different Plasmodium species and differentiating between Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium vivax was developed and combined with a nucleic acid lateral flow immuno-assay (PCR-NALFIA) for amplicon detection. The assay was thoroughly evaluated for the analytical sensitivity and specificity in the laboratory, the robustness and reproducibility in a ring trial and accuracy and predictive value in a field trial.
The analytical sensitivity and specificity were 0.978 (95% CI: 0.932–0.994) and 0.980 (95% CI: 0.924-0.997), respectively, and were slightly less sensitive for the detection of P. vivax than for P. falciparum. The reproducibility tested in three laboratories was very good (k = 0.83). This evaluation showed that the PCR machine used could influence the results. Accuracy was evaluated in Thailand and compared to expert microscopy and rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs). The overall and P. falciparum-specific sensitivity and specificity was good ranging from 0.86-1 and 0.95-0.98 respectively, compared to microscopy. Plasmodium vivax detection was better than the sensitivity of RDT, but slightly less than microscopy performed in this study.
PCR-NALFIA is a sensitive, specific and robust assay able to identify Plasmodium species with good accuracy. Extensive testing including a ring trial can identify possible bottlenecks before implementation and is therefore essential to perform in additon to other evaluations.
Thousands of loci that contribute to quantitative traits in outbred crosses of mice have been reported over the last two decades. In this review we discuss how outbred mouse populations can be used to map and identify the genes and sequence variants that give rise to quantitative variation. We discuss heterogeneous stocks, the diversity outbred, and commercially available outbred populations of mice. All of these populations are descended from a small number of progenitor strains. The availability of the complete sequence of laboratory strains means that in many cases it will be possible to reconstruct the genomes of the outbred animals so that in a genetic association study we can detect the effect of all variants, a situation that has so far eluded studies in completely outbred populations. These resources constitute a major advance and make it possible to progress from a quantitative trait locus to a gene at an unprecedented speed.
Since the turn of the century the complete genome sequence of just one mouse strain, C57BL/6J, has been available. Knowing the sequence of this strain has enabled large-scale forward genetic screens to be performed, the creation of an almost complete set of embryonic stem (ES) cell lines with targeted alleles for protein-coding genes, and the generation of a rich catalog of mouse genomic variation. However, many experiments that use other common laboratory mouse strains have been hindered by a lack of whole-genome sequence data for these strains. The last 5 years has witnessed a revolution in DNA sequencing technologies. Recently, these technologies have been used to expand the repertoire of fully sequenced mouse genomes. In this article we review the main findings of these studies and discuss how the sequence of mouse genomes is helping pave the way from sequence to phenotype. Finally, we discuss the prospects for using de novo assembly techniques to obtain high-quality assembled genome sequences of these laboratory mouse strains, and what advances in sequencing technologies may be required to achieve this goal.
Transposable element (TE)-derived sequence dominates the landscape of mammalian genomes and can modulate gene function by dysregulating transcription and translation. Our current knowledge of TEs in laboratory mouse strains is limited primarily to those present in the C57BL/6J reference genome, with most mouse TEs being drawn from three distinct classes, namely short interspersed nuclear elements (SINEs), long interspersed nuclear elements (LINEs) and the endogenous retrovirus (ERV) superfamily. Despite their high prevalence, the different genomic and gene properties controlling whether TEs are preferentially purged from, or are retained by, genetic drift or positive selection in mammalian genomes remain poorly defined.
Using whole genome sequencing data from 13 classical laboratory and 4 wild-derived mouse inbred strains, we developed a comprehensive catalogue of 103,798 polymorphic TE variants. We employ this extensive data set to characterize TE variants across the Mus lineage, and to infer neutral and selective processes that have acted over 2 million years. Our results indicate that the majority of TE variants are introduced though the male germline and that only a minority of TE variants exert detectable changes in gene expression. However, among genes with differential expression across the strains there are twice as many TE variants identified as being putative causal variants as expected.
Most TE variants that cause gene expression changes appear to be purged rapidly by purifying selection. Our findings demonstrate that past TE insertions have often been highly deleterious, and help to prioritize TE variants according to their likely contribution to gene expression or phenotype variation.
Previously, we demonstrated that skeletal mass, structure and biomechanical properties vary considerably among 11 different inbred rat strains. Subsequently, we performed quantitative trait loci (QTL) analysis in 4 inbred rat strains (F344, LEW, COP and DA) for different bone phenotypes and identified several candidate genes influencing various bone traits. The standard approach to narrowing QTL intervals down to a few candidate genes typically employs the generation of congenic lines, which is time consuming and often not successful. A potential alternative approach is to use a highly genetically informative animal model resource capable of delivering very high-resolution gene mapping such as Heterogeneous stock (HS) rat. HS rat was derived from eight inbred progenitors: ACI/N, BN/SsN, BUF/N, F344/N, M520/N, MR/N, WKY/N and WN/N. The genetic recombination pattern generated across 50 generations in these rats has been shown to deliver ultra-high even gene-level resolution for complex genetic studies. The purpose of this study is to investigate the usefulness of the HS rat model for fine mapping and identification of genes underlying bone fragility phenotypes. We compared bone geometry, density and strength phenotypes at multiple skeletal sites in HS rats with those obtained from 5 of the 8 progenitor inbred strains. In addition, we estimated the heritability for different bone phenotypes in these rats and employed principal component analysis to explore relationships among bone phenotypes in the HS rats. Our study demonstrates that significant variability exists for different skeletal phenotypes in HS rats compared with their inbred progenitors. In addition, we estimated high heritability for several bone phenotypes and biologically interpretable factors explaining significant overall variability, suggesting that the HS rat model could be a unique genetic resource for rapid and efficient discovery of the genetic determinants of bone fragility.
Heterogeneous stock rat; Bone density; Bone strength; Osteoporosis; Genetics
Hearing and touch are genetically related, and people with excellent hearing are more likely to have a fine sense of touch and vice versa.
In all vertebrates hearing and touch represent two distinct sensory systems that both rely on the transformation of mechanical force into electrical signals. There is an extensive literature describing single gene mutations in humans that cause hearing impairment, but there are essentially none for touch. Here we first asked if touch sensitivity is a heritable trait and second whether there are common genes that influence different mechanosensory senses like hearing and touch in humans. Using a classical twin study design we demonstrate that touch sensitivity and touch acuity are highly heritable traits. Quantitative phenotypic measures of different mechanosensory systems revealed significant correlations between touch and hearing acuity in a healthy human population. Thus mutations in genes causing deafness genes could conceivably negatively influence touch sensitivity. In agreement with this hypothesis we found that a proportion of a cohort of congenitally deaf young adults display significantly impaired measures of touch sensitivity compared to controls. In contrast, blind individuals showed enhanced, not diminished touch acuity. Finally, by examining a cohort of patients with Usher syndrome, a genetically well-characterized deaf-blindness syndrome, we could show that recessive pathogenic mutations in the USH2A gene influence touch acuity. Control Usher syndrome cohorts lacking demonstrable pathogenic USH2A mutations showed no impairment in touch acuity. Our study thus provides comprehensive evidence that there are common genetic elements that contribute to touch and hearing and has identified one of these genes as USH2A.
In humans many genes have been identified that cause deafness when mutated, but no equivalent genes have been identified that are required for touch. Here, we asked whether genes that influence hearing can also influence touch. Using identical and non-identical human twins it was possible to show that touch performance is substantially influenced by genes. Furthermore, people who have excellent hearing are more likely to have a fine sense of touch and vice versa. Interestingly, people who suffer from congenital deafness have a higher chance of having poor touch performance. In a genetically defined form of human deafness, Usher syndrome type II, a single mutated gene was identified that also impairs touch. Touch and hearing are thus intricately intertwined and there may be other touch/hearing genes waiting to be discovered.
Several different interventions improve depressed mood, including medication and environmental factors such as regular physical exercise. The molecular pathways underlying these effects are still not fully understood. In this study, we sought to identify shared mechanisms underlying antidepressant interventions. We studied three groups of mice: mice treated with a widely used antidepressant drug – fluoxetine, mice engaged in voluntary exercise, and mice living in an enriched environment. The hippocampi of treated mice were investigated at the molecular and cellular levels. Mice treated with fluoxetine and mice who exercised daily showed, not only similar antidepressant behavior, but also similar changes in gene expression and hippocampal neurons. These changes were not observed in mice with environmental enrichment. An increase in neurogenesis and dendritic spine density was observed following four weeks of fluoxetine treatment and voluntary exercise. A weighted gene co-expression network analysis revealed four different modules of co-expressed genes that were correlated with the antidepressant effect. This network analysis enabled us to identify genes involved in the molecular pathways underlying the effects of fluoxetine and exercise. The existence of both neuronal and gene expression changes common to antidepressant drug and exercise suggests a shared mechanism underlying their effect. Further studies of these findings may be used to uncover the molecular mechanisms of depression, and to identify new avenues of therapy.
Adenosine-to-inosine (A-to-I) editing is a site-selective post-transcriptional alteration of double-stranded RNA by ADAR deaminases that is crucial for homeostasis and development. Recently the Mouse Genomes Project generated genome sequences for 17 laboratory mouse strains and rich catalogues of variants. We also generated RNA-seq data from whole brain RNA from 15 of the sequenced strains.
Here we present a computational approach that takes an initial set of transcriptome/genome mismatch sites and filters these calls taking into account systematic biases in alignment, single nucleotide variant calling, and sequencing depth to identify RNA editing sites with high accuracy. We applied this approach to our panel of mouse strain transcriptomes identifying 7,389 editing sites with an estimated false-discovery rate of between 2.9 and 10.5%. The overwhelming majority of these edits were of the A-to-I type, with less than 2.4% not of this class, and only three of these edits could not be explained as alignment artifacts. We validated 24 novel RNA editing sites in coding sequence, including two non-synonymous edits in the Cacna1d gene that fell into the IQ domain portion of the Cav1.2 voltage-gated calcium channel, indicating a potential role for editing in the generation of transcript diversity.
We show that despite over two million years of evolutionary divergence, the sites edited and the level of editing at each site is remarkably consistent across the 15 strains. In the Cds2 gene we find evidence for RNA editing acting to preserve the ancestral transcript sequence despite genomic sequence divergence.
Accurate catalogs of structural variants (SVs) in mammalian genomes are necessary to elucidate the potential mechanisms that drive SV formation and to assess their functional impact. Next generation sequencing methods for SV detection are an advance on array-based methods, but are almost exclusively limited to four basic types: deletions, insertions, inversions and copy number gains.
By visual inspection of 100 Mbp of genome to which next generation sequence data from 17 inbred mouse strains had been aligned, we identify and interpret 21 paired-end mapping patterns, which we validate by PCR. These paired-end mapping patterns reveal a greater diversity and complexity in SVs than previously recognized. In addition, Sanger-based sequence analysis of 4,176 breakpoints at 261 SV sites reveal additional complexity at approximately a quarter of structural variants analyzed. We find micro-deletions and micro-insertions at SV breakpoints, ranging from 1 to 107 bp, and SNPs that extend breakpoint micro-homology and may catalyze SV formation.
An integrative approach using experimental analyses to train computational SV calling is essential for the accurate resolution of the architecture of SVs. We find considerable complexity in SV formation; about a quarter of SVs in the mouse are composed of a complex mixture of deletion, insertion, inversion and copy number gain. Computational methods can be adapted to identify most paired-end mapping patterns.
We report genome sequences of 17 inbred strains of laboratory mice and identify almost ten times more variants than previously known. We use these genomes to explore the phylogenetic history of the laboratory mouse and to examine the functional consequences of allele-specific variation on transcript abundance, revealing that at least 12% of transcripts show a significant tissue-specific expression bias. By identifying candidate functional variants at 718 quantitative trait loci we show that the molecular nature of functional variants and their position relative to genes vary according to the effect size of the locus. These sequences provide a starting point for a new era in the functional analysis of a key model organism.
Epistatic genetic interactions are key for understanding the genetic contribution to complex traits. Epistasis is always defined with respect to some trait such as growth rate or fitness. Whereas most existing epistasis screens explicitly test for a trait, it is also possible to implicitly test for fitness traits by searching for the over- or under-representation of allele pairs in a given population. Such analysis of imbalanced allele pair frequencies of distant loci has not been exploited yet on a genome-wide scale, mostly due to statistical difficulties such as the multiple testing problem. We propose a new approach called Imbalanced Allele Pair frequencies (ImAP) for inferring epistatic interactions that is exclusively based on DNA sequence information. Our approach is based on genome-wide SNP data sampled from a population with known family structure. We make use of genotype information of parent-child trios and inspect 3×3 contingency tables for detecting pairs of alleles from different genomic positions that are over- or under-represented in the population. We also developed a simulation setup which mimics the pedigree structure by simultaneously assuming independence of the markers. When applied to mouse SNP data, our method detected 168 imbalanced allele pairs, which is substantially more than in simulations assuming no interactions. We could validate a significant number of the interactions with external data, and we found that interacting loci are enriched for genes involved in developmental processes.
Elucidating non-additive (epistatic) interactions between genes is crucial for understanding the molecular mechanisms of complex diseases. Even though high-throughput, systematic testing of genetic interactions is possible in simple model organisms, such screens have so far not been successful in mammals. Here, we propose a computational screening method that only requires genotype information of family trios for predicting genetic interactions. We tested our framework on a set of more than 2,000 heterozygous mice and found 168 imbalanced allele pairs, which is substantially more than expected by chance. We confirmed many of these interactions using data from recombinant inbred lines. The number of significant allele pair imbalances that we detected is surprisingly large and was not expected based on the published evidence. Our framework sets the stage for similar work in human trios.
Years of education are inversely related to the prevalence of major depressive disorder (MDD), but the relationship between the clinical features of MDD and educational status is poorly understood. We investigated this in 1970 Chinese women with recurrent MDD identified in a clinical setting.
Clinical and demographic features were obtained from 1970 Han Chinese women with DSM-IV major depression between 30 and 60 years of age across China. Analysis of linear, logistic and multiple logistic regression models were used to determine the association between educational level and clinical features of MDD.
Subjects with more years of education are more likely to have MDD, with an odds ratio of 1.14 for those with more than ten years. Low educational status is not associated with an increase in the number of episodes, nor with increased rates of co-morbidity with anxiety disorders. Education impacts differentially on the symptoms of depression: lower educational attainment is associated with more biological symptoms and increased suicidal ideation and plans to commit suicide.
Findings may not generalize to males or to other patient populations. Since the threshold for treatment seeking differs as a function of education there may an ascertainment bias in the sample.
The relationship between symptoms of MDD and educational status in Chinese women is unexpectedly complex. Our findings are inconsistent with the simple hypothesis from European and US reports that low levels of educational attainment increase the risk and severity of MDD.
Major depressive disorder; Education; Socio-economic status; Symptom