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2.  Prenatal maternal immune activation causes epigenetic differences in adolescent mouse brain 
Translational Psychiatry  2014;4(9):e434-.
Epigenetic processes such as DNA methylation have been implicated in the pathophysiology of neurodevelopmental disorders including schizophrenia and autism. Epigenetic changes can be induced by environmental exposures such as inflammation. Here we tested the hypothesis that prenatal inflammation, a recognized risk factor for schizophrenia and related neurodevelopmental conditions, alters DNA methylation in key brain regions linked to schizophrenia, namely the dopamine rich striatum and endocrine regulatory centre, the hypothalamus. DNA methylation across highly repetitive elements (long interspersed element 1 (LINE1) and intracisternal A-particles (IAPs)) were used to proxy global DNA methylation. We also investigated the Mecp2 gene because it regulates transcription of LINE1 and has a known association with neurodevelopmental disorders. Brain tissue was harvested from 6 week old offspring of mice exposed to the viral analog PolyI:C or saline on gestation day 9. We used Sequenom EpiTYPER assay to quantitatively analyze differences in DNA methylation at IAPs, LINE1 elements and the promoter region of Mecp2. In the hypothalamus, prenatal exposure to PolyI:C caused significant global DNA hypomethylation (t=2.44, P=0.019, PolyI:C mean 69.67%, saline mean 70.19%), especially in females, and significant hypomethylation of the promoter region of Mecp2, (t=3.32, P=0.002; PolyI:C mean 26.57%, saline mean 34.63%). IAP methylation was unaltered. DNA methylation in the striatum was not significantly altered. This study provides the first experimental evidence that exposure to inflammation during prenatal life is associated with epigenetic changes, including Mecp2 promoter hypomethylation. This suggests that environmental and genetic risk factors associated with neurodevelopmental disorders may act upon similar pathways. This is important because epigenetic changes are potentially modifiable and their investigation may open new avenues for treatment.
PMCID: PMC4203009  PMID: 25180573
3.  Heroin abuse accelerates biological aging: a novel insight from telomerase and brain imaging interaction 
Translational Psychiatry  2013;3(5):e260-.
Heroin abuse and natural aging exert common influences on immunological cell functioning. This observation led to a recent and untested idea that aging may be accelerated in abusers of heroin. We examined this claim by testing whether heroin use is associated with premature aging at both cellular and brain system levels. A group of abstinent heroin users (n=33) and matched healthy controls (n=30) were recruited and measured on various biological indicators of aging. These measures included peripheral blood telomerase activity, which reflects cellular aging, and both structural and functional measures of brain magnetic resonance imaging. We found that heroin users were characterized by significantly low telomerase activity (0.21 vs 1.78; 88% reduction; t(61)=6.96, P<0.001; 95% confidence interval=1.12–2.02), which interacted with heroin use to affect the structural integrity of gray and white matter of the prefrontal cortex (PFC; AlphaSim corrected P<0.05), a key brain region implicated in aging. Using the PFC location identified from the structural analyses as a ‘seed' region, it was further revealed that telomerase activity interacted with heroin use to impact age-sensitive brain functional networks (AlphaSim corrected P<0.05), which correlated with behavioral performance on executive functioning, memory and attentional control (Pearson correlation, all P<0.05). To our knowledge, this study is the first to attempt a direct integration of peripheral molecular, brain system and behavioral measures in the context of substance abuse. The present finding that heroin abuse is associated with accelerated aging at both cellular and brain system levels is novel and forms a unique contribution to our knowledge in how the biological processes of drug abusers may be disrupted.
PMCID: PMC3669923  PMID: 23695235
addiction; aging; heroin; MRI; prefrontal cortex; resting state; telomerase
4.  Replication study of SNP associations for colorectal cancer in Hong Kong Chinese 
British Journal of Cancer  2010;104(2):369-375.
Recent genome-wide association studies of colorectal cancer (CRC) have identified common single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) mapping to 10 independent loci that confer modest increased risk. These studies have been conducted in European populations and it is unclear whether these observations generalise to populations with different ethnicities and rates of CRC.
An association study was performed on 892 CRC cases and 890 controls recruited from the Hong Kong Chinese population, genotyping 32 SNPs, which were either associated with CRC in previous studies or are in close proximity to previously reported risk SNPs.
Twelve of the SNPs showed evidence of an association. The strongest associations were provided by rs10795668 on 10p14, rs4779584 on 15q14 and rs12953717 on 18q21.2. There was significant linear association between CRC risk and the number of independent risk variants possessed by an individual (P=2.29 × 10−5).
These results indicate that some previously reported SNP associations also impact on CRC risk in the Chinese population. Possible reasons for failure of replication for some loci include inadequate study power, differences in allele frequency, linkage disequilibrium structure or effect size between populations. Our results suggest that many associations for CRC are likely to generalise across populations.
PMCID: PMC3031883  PMID: 21179028
colorectal cancer; genetic; association; replication; Chinese
5.  Association of CDX1 binding site of periostin gene with bone mineral density and vertebral fracture risk 
Osteoporosis International  2012;23(7):1877-1887.
Periostin (POSTN) as a regulator of osteoblast differentiation and bone formation may affect susceptibility to osteoporosis. This study suggests POSTN as a candidate gene for bone mineral density (BMD) variation and vertebral fracture risk, which could better our understanding about the genetic pathogenesis of osteoporosis and will be useful in clinic in the future.
The genetic determination of osteoporosis is complex and ill-defined. Periostin (POSTN), an extracellular matrix secreted by osteoblasts and a regulator of osteoblast differentiation and bone formation, may affect susceptibility to osteoporosis.
We adopted a tag-single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) based association method followed by imputation-based verification and identification of a causal variant. The association was investigated in 1,572 subjects with extreme-BMD and replicated in an independent population of 2,509 subjects. BMD was measured by dual X-ray absorptiometry. Vertebral fractures were identified by assessing vertebral height from X-rays of the thoracolumbar spine. Association analyses were performed with PLINK toolset and imputation analyses with MACH software. The top imputation finding was subsequently validated by genotyping. Interactions between POSTN and another BMD-related candidate gene sclerostin (SOST) were analyzed using MDR program and validated by logistical regression analyses. The putative transcription factor binding with target sequence was confirmed by electrophoretic mobility shift assay (EMSA).
Several SNPs of POSTN were associated with BMD or vertebral fractures. The most significant polymorphism was rs9547970, located at the −2,327 bp upstream (P = 6.8 × 10−4) of POSTN. Carriers of the minor allele G per copy of rs9547970 had 1.33 higher risk of vertebral fracture (P = 0.007). An interactive effect between POSTN and SOST upon BMD variation was suggested (P < 0.01). A specific binding of CDX1 to the sequence of POSTN with the major allele A of rs9547970 but not the variant G allele was confirmed by EMSA.
Our results suggest POSTN as a candidate gene for BMD variation and vertebral fracture risk.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00198-011-1861-1) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC3368110  PMID: 22215184
Association; BMD; CDX1; Periostin; Vertebral fracture
6.  Association of genetic variation in FTO with risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes with data from 96,551 East and South Asians 
Diabetologia  2011;55(4):981-995.
FTO harbours the strongest known obesity-susceptibility locus in Europeans. While there is growing evidence for a role for FTO in obesity risk in Asians, its association with type 2 diabetes, independently of BMI, remains inconsistent. To test whether there is an association of the FTO locus with obesity and type 2 diabetes, we conducted a meta-analysis of 32 populations including 96,551 East and South Asians.
All studies published on the association between FTO-rs9939609 (or proxy [r2 > 0.98]) and BMI, obesity or type 2 diabetes in East or South Asians were invited. Each study group analysed their data according to a standardised analysis plan. Association with type 2 diabetes was also adjusted for BMI. Random-effects meta-analyses were performed to pool all effect sizes.
The FTO-rs9939609 minor allele increased risk of obesity by 1.25-fold/allele (p = 9.0 × 10−19), overweight by 1.13-fold/allele (p = 1.0 × 10−11) and type 2 diabetes by 1.15-fold/allele (p = 5.5 × 10−8). The association with type 2 diabetes was attenuated after adjustment for BMI (OR 1.10-fold/allele, p = 6.6 × 10−5). The FTO-rs9939609 minor allele increased BMI by 0.26 kg/m2 per allele (p = 2.8 × 10−17), WHR by 0.003/allele (p = 1.2 × 10−6), and body fat percentage by 0.31%/allele (p = 0.0005). Associations were similar using dominant models. While the minor allele is less common in East Asians (12–20%) than South Asians (30–33%), the effect of FTO variation on obesity-related traits and type 2 diabetes was similar in the two populations.
FTO is associated with increased risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes, with effect sizes similar in East and South Asians and similar to those observed in Europeans. Furthermore, FTO is also associated with type 2 diabetes independently of BMI.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00125-011-2370-7) contains peer-reviewed but unedited supplementary material, which is available to authorised users.
PMCID: PMC3296006  PMID: 22109280
Asians; FTO; Meta-analysis; Obesity; Type 2 diabetes
7.  Meta-analysis of gene-based genome-wide association studies of bone mineral density in Chinese and European subjects 
Osteoporosis International  2011;23(1):131-142.
Gene-based association approach could be regarded as a complementary analysis to the single SNP association analysis. We meta-analyzed the findings from the gene-based association approach using the genome-wide association studies (GWAS) data from Chinese and European subjects, confirmed several well established bone mineral density (BMD) genes, and suggested several novel BMD genes.
The introduction of GWAS has greatly increased the number of genes that are known to be associated with common diseases. Nonetheless, such a single SNP GWAS has a lower power to detect genes with multiple causal variants. We aimed to assess the association of each gene with BMD variation at the spine and hip using gene-based GWAS approach.
We studied 778 Hong Kong Southern Chinese (HKSC) women and 5,858 Northern Europeans (dCG); age, sex, and weight were adjusted in the model. The main outcome measure was BMD at the spine and hip.
Nine genes showed suggestive p value in HKSC, while 4 and 17 genes showed significant and suggestive p values respectively in dCG. Meta-analysis using weighted Z-transformed test confirmed several known BMD genes and suggested some novel ones at 1q21.3, 9q22, 9q33.2, 20p13, and 20q12. Top BMD genes were significantly associated with connective tissue, skeletal, and muscular system development and function (p < 0.05). Gene network inference revealed that a large number of these genes were significantly connected with each other to form a functional gene network, and several signaling pathways were strongly connected with these gene networks.
Our gene-based GWAS confirmed several BMD genes and suggested several novel BMD genes. Genetic contribution to BMD variation may operate through multiple genes identified in this study in functional gene networks. This finding may be useful in identifying and prioritizing candidate genes/loci for further study.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00198-011-1779-7) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC3249198  PMID: 21927923
Association study; Bone mineral density; Genetic epidemiology; Meta-analysis; Osteoporosis
8.  Fine mapping of the 9q31 Hirschsprung’s disease locus 
Human Genetics  2010;127(6):675-683.
Hirschsprung’s disease (HSCR) is a congenital disorder characterised by the absence of ganglia along variable lengths of the intestine. The RET gene is the major HSCR gene. Reduced penetrance of RET mutations and phenotypic variability suggest the involvement of additional modifying genes in the disease. A RET-dependent modifier locus was mapped to 9q31 in families bearing no coding sequence (CDS) RET mutations. Yet, the 9q31 causative locus is to be identified. To fine-map the 9q31 region, we genotyped 301 tag-SNPs spanning 7 Mb on 137 HSCR Dutch trios. This revealed two HSCR-associated regions that were further investigated in 173 Chinese HSCR patients and 436 controls using the genotype data obtained from a genome-wide association study recently conducted. Within one of the two identified regions SVEP1 SNPs were found associated with Dutch HSCR patients in the absence of RET mutations. This ratifies the reported linkage to the 9q31 region in HSCR families with no RET CDS mutations. However, this finding could not be replicated. In Chinese, HSCR was found associated with IKBKAP. In contrast, this association was stronger in patients carrying RET CDS mutations with p = 5.10 × 10−6 [OR = 3.32 (1.99, 5.59)] after replication. The HSCR-association found for IKBKAP in Chinese suggests population specificity and implies that RET mutation carriers may have an additional risk. Our finding is supported by the role of IKBKAP in the development of the nervous system.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00439-010-0813-8) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC2871095  PMID: 20361209
9.  Association of BANK1 and TNFSF4 with systemic lupus erythematosus in Hong Kong Chinese 
Genes and Immunity  2009;10(5):414-420.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a prototypic autoimmune disease with complex genetic inheritance. Recently, single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in BANK1 and TNFSF4 have been shown to be associated with SLE in Caucasian populations, but it is not known whether they are also involved in the disease in other ethnic groups. Recent data from our genome-wide association study (GWAS) for 314 SLE cases and 920 controls collected in Hong Kong identified SNPs in and around BANK1 and TNFSF4 to be associated with SLE risk. On the basis of the results of the reported studies and our GWAS, SNPs were selected for further genotyping in 949 SLE patients (overlapping with the 314 cases in our GWAS) and non-overlapping 1042 healthy controls. We confirmed the associations of BANK1 and TNFSF4 with SLE in Chinese (BANK1, rs3733197, odds ratio (OR)=0.84, P=0.021; BANK1, rs17266594, OR=0.61, P=4.67 × 10−9; TNFSF4, rs844648, OR=1.22, P=2.47 × 10−3; TNFSF4, rs2205960, OR=1.30, P=2.41 × 10−4). Another SNP located in intron 1 of BANK1, rs4522865, was separately replicated by Sequenom in 360 cases and 360 controls and was also confirmed to be associated with SLE (OR=0.725, P=2.93 × 10−3). Logistic regression analysis showed that rs3733197 (A383T in ankyrin domain) and rs17266594 (a branch point-site SNP) from BANK1 had independent contributions towards the disease association (P=0.037 and 6.63 × 10−8, respectively). In TNFSF4, rs2205960 was associated with SLE independently from the effect of rs844648 (P=6.26 × 10−3), but not vice versa (P=0.55). These findings suggest that multiple independent genetic variants may be present within the gene locus, which exert their effects on SLE pathogenesis through different mechanisms.
PMCID: PMC2834352  PMID: 19357697
SLE; BANK1; TNFSF4; Chinese; genetic association
10.  OpenADAM: an open source genome-wide association data management system for Affymetrix SNP arrays 
BMC Genomics  2008;9:636.
Large scale genome-wide association studies have become popular since the introduction of high throughput genotyping platforms. Efficient management of the vast array of data generated poses many challenges.
We have developed an open source web-based data management system for the large amount of genotype data generated from the Affymetrix GeneChip® Mapping Array and Affymetrix Genome-Wide Human SNP Array platforms. The database supports genotype calling using DM, BRLMM, BRLMM-P or Birdseed algorithms provided by the Affymetrix Power Tools. The genotype and corresponding pedigree data are stored in a relational database for efficient downstream data manipulation and analysis, such as calculation of allele and genotype frequencies, sample identity checking, and export of genotype data in various file formats for analysis using commonly-available software. A novel method for genotyping error estimation is implemented using linkage disequilibrium information from the HapMap project. All functionalities are accessible via a web-based user interface.
OpenADAM provides an open source database system for management of Affymetrix genome-wide association SNP data.
PMCID: PMC2636804  PMID: 19117518

Results 1-11 (11)