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1.  Genetic-based prediction of disease traits: prediction is very difficult, especially about the future† 
Frontiers in Genetics  2014;5:162.
Translation of results from genetic findings to inform medical practice is a highly anticipated goal of human genetics. The aim of this paper is to review and discuss the role of genetics in medically-relevant prediction. Germline genetics presages disease onset and therefore can contribute prognostic signals that augment laboratory tests and clinical features. As such, the impact of genetic-based predictive models on clinical decisions and therapy choice could be profound. However, given that (i) medical traits result from a complex interplay between genetic and environmental factors, (ii) the underlying genetic architectures for susceptibility to common diseases are not well-understood, and (iii) replicable susceptibility alleles, in combination, account for only a moderate amount of disease heritability, there are substantial challenges to constructing and implementing genetic risk prediction models with high utility. In spite of these challenges, concerted progress has continued in this area with an ongoing accumulation of studies that identify disease predisposing genotypes. Several statistical approaches with the aim of predicting disease have been published. Here we summarize the current state of disease susceptibility mapping and pharmacogenetics efforts for risk prediction, describe methods used to construct and evaluate genetic-based predictive models, and discuss applications.
doi:10.3389/fgene.2014.00162
PMCID: PMC4040440  PMID: 24917882
predictive model; genetic risk; human genetics; prognosis; clinical utility
2.  Genome wide association study of SNP-, gene-, and pathway-based approaches to identify genes influencing susceptibility to Staphylococcus aureus infections 
Frontiers in Genetics  2014;5:125.
Background: We conducted a genome-wide association study (GWAS) to identify specific genetic variants that underlie susceptibility to diseases caused by Staphylococcus aureus in humans.
Methods: Cases (n = 309) and controls (n = 2925) were genotyped at 508,921 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). Cases had at least one laboratory and clinician confirmed disease caused by S. aureus whereas controls did not. R-package (for SNP association), EIGENSOFT (to estimate and adjust for population stratification) and gene- (VEGAS) and pathway-based (DAVID, PANTHER, and Ingenuity Pathway Analysis) analyses were performed.
Results: No SNP reached genome-wide significance. Four SNPs exceeded the p < 10−5 threshold including two (rs2455012 and rs7152530) reaching a p-value < 10−7. The nearby genes were PDE4B (rs2455012), TXNRD2 (rs3804047), VRK1 and BCL11B (rs7152530), and PNPLA5 (rs470093). The top two findings from the gene-based analysis were NMRK2 (pgene = 1.20E-05), which codes an integrin binding molecule (focal adhesion), and DAPK3 (pgene = 5.10E-05), a serine/threonine kinase (apoptosis and cytokinesis). The pathway analyses identified epithelial cell responses to mechanical and non-mechanical stress.
Conclusion: We identified potential susceptibility genes for S. aureus diseases in this preliminary study but confirmation by other studies is needed. The observed associations could be relevant given the complexity of S. aureus as a pathogen and its ability to exploit multiple biological pathways to cause infections in humans.
doi:10.3389/fgene.2014.00125
PMCID: PMC4023021  PMID: 24847357
Staphylococcus aureus; skin and soft tissue infection; GWAS; disease susceptibility; integrin and keratin disease pathway
3.  Anorectal atresia and variants at predicted regulatory sites in candidate genes 
Annals of human genetics  2012;77(1):31-46.
SUMMARY
Anorectal atresia is a serious birth defect of largely unknown etiology but candidate genes have been identified in animal studies and human syndromes. Because alterations in the activity of these genes might lead to anorectal atresia, we selected 71 common variants predicted to be in transcription factor binding sites, CpG windows, splice sites, and miRNA target sites of 25 candidate genes, and tested for their association with anorectal atresia. The study population comprised 150 anorectal atresia cases and 623 control infants without major malformations. Variants predicted to affect transcription factor binding, splicing, and DNA methylation in WNT3A, PCSK5, TCF4, MKKS, GLI2, HOXD12, and BMP4 were associated with anorectal atresia based on a nominal P value <0.05. The GLI2 and BMP4 variants are reported to be moderately associated with gene expression changes (Spearman’s rank correlation coefficients between −0.260 and 0.226). We did not find evidence for interaction between maternal pre-pregnancy obesity and variants in MKKS, a gene previously associated with obesity, on the risk of anorectal atresia. Our results for MKKS support previously suggested associations with anorectal malformations. Our findings suggest that more research is needed to determine whether altered GLI2 and BMP4 expression is important in anorectal atresia in humans.
doi:10.1111/j.1469-1809.2012.00734.x
PMCID: PMC3535506  PMID: 23127126
anorectal malformations; imperforate anus; hindgut; congenital abnormalities
4.  Evaluation of Genes Involved in Limb Development, Angiogenesis, and Coagulation as Risk Factors for Congenital Limb Deficiencies 
We conducted a population-based case-control study of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in selected genes to find common variants that play a role in the etiology of limb deficiencies (LD)s. Included in the study were 389 infants with LDs of unknown cause and 980 unaffected controls selected from all births in New York State (NYS) for the years 1998 to 2005. We used cases identified from the NYS Department of Health (DOH) Congenital Malformations Registry. Genotypes were obtained for 132 SNPs in genes involved in limb development (SHH, WNT7A, FGF4, FGF8, FGF10, TBX3, TBX5, SALL4, GREM1, GDF5, CTNNB1, EN1, CYP26A1, CYP26B1), angiogenesis (VEGFA, HIF1A, NOS3), and coagulation (F2, F5, MTHFR). Genotype call rates were >97% and SNPs were tested for departure from Hardy-Weinberg expectations by race/ethnic subgroups. For each SNP, odds ratios (OR)s and confidence intervals (CI)s were estimated and corrected for multiple comparisons for all LDs combined and for LD subtypes. Among non-Hispanic white infants, associations between FGF10 SNPs rs10805683 and rs13170645 and all LDs combined were statistically significant following correction for multiple testing (OR=1.99; 95% CI=1.43-2.77; uncorrected p=0.000043 for rs10805683 heterozygous genotype, and OR=2.37; 95% CI=1.48-3.78; uncorrected p=0.00032 for rs13170645 homozygous minor genotype). We also observed suggestive evidence for associations with SNPs in other genes including CYP26B1 and WNT7A. Animal studies have shown that FGF10 induces formation of the apical ectodermal ridge and is necessary for limb development. Our data suggest that common variants in FGF10 increase the risk for a wide range of non-syndromic limb deficiencies.
doi:10.1002/ajmg.a.35565
PMCID: PMC3448837  PMID: 22965740
limb deficiencies; polymorphisms; FGF10
5.  Hirschsprung’s disease and variants in genes that regulate enteric neural crest cell proliferation, migration and differentiation 
Journal of human genetics  2012;57(8):485-493.
Hirschsprung’s disease (HSCR) results from failed colonization of the embryonic gut by enteric neural crest cells (ENCCs); colonization requires RET proto-oncogene (RET) signaling. We sequenced RET to identify coding and splice-site variants in a population-based case group and we tested for associations between HSCR and common variants in RET and candidate genes (ASCL1, HOXB5, L1CAM, PHOX2B, PROK1, PROKR1) chosen because they are involved in ENCC proliferation, migration, and differentiation in animal models. We conducted a nested case-control study of 304 HSCR cases and 1 215 controls. Among 38 (12.5%) cases with 34 RET coding and splice-site variants, 18 variants were previously unreported. We confirmed associations with common variants in HOXB5 and PHOX2B but the associations with variants in ASCL1, L1CAM, and PROK1 were not significant after multiple comparisons adjustment. RET variants were strongly associated with HSCR (P values between 10−3 and 10−31) but this differed by race/ethnicity: associations were absent in African-Americans. Our population-based study not only identified novel RET variants in HSCR cases, it showed that common RET variants may not contribute to HSCR in all race/ethnic groups. The findings for HOXB5 and PHOX2B provide supportive evidence that genes regulating ENCC proliferation, migration, and differentiation could be risk factors for HSCR.
doi:10.1038/jhg.2012.54
PMCID: PMC3503526  PMID: 22648184
congenital abnormalities; enteric nervous system; Hirschsprung disease; RET
6.  Evaluation of 64 Candidate Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms as Risk Factors for Neural Tube Defects in a Large Irish Study Population 
Individual studies of the genetics of neural tube defects (NTDs) contain results on a small number of genes in each report. To identify genetic risk factors for NTDs, we evaluated potentially functional single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) that are biologically plausible risk factors for NTDs but that have never been investigated for an association with NTDs, examined SNPs that previously showed no association with NTDs in published studies, and tried to confirm previously reported associations in folate-related and non-folate-related genes. We investigated 64 SNPs in 34 genes for association with spina bifida in up to 558 case-families (520 cases, 507 mothers, 457 fathers) and 994 controls in Ireland. Case-control and mother-control comparisons of genotype frequencies, tests of transmission disequilibrium, and log-linear regression models were used to calculate effect estimates. Spina bifida was associated with over-transmission of the LEPR (leptin receptor) rs1805134 minor C allele (genotype relative risk (GRR): 1.5; 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.0, 2.1; P = 0.0264) and the COMT (catechol-O-methyltransferase) rs737865 major T allele (GRR: 1.4; 95% CI: 1.1, 2.0; P = 0.0206). After correcting for multiple comparisons, these individual test P-values exceeded 0.05. Consistent with previous reports, spina bifida was associated with MTHFR 677C>T, T (Brachyury) rs3127334, LEPR K109R, and PDGFRA promoter haplotype combinations. The associations between LEPR SNPs and spina bifida suggest a possible mechanism for the finding that obesity is a NTD risk factor. The association between a variant in COMT and spina bifida implicates methylation and epigenetics in NTDs.
doi:10.1002/ajmg.a.33755
PMCID: PMC3503244  PMID: 21204206
congenital abnormalities; folic acid; neural tube defects; single nucleotide polymorphism; spina bifida
7.  Testing reported associations of genetic risk factors for oral clefts in a large Irish study population 
BACKGROUND
Suggestive, but not conclusive, studies implicate many genetic variants in oral cleft etiology. We used a large, ethnically homogenous study population to test whether reported associations between nonsyndromic oral clefts and 12 genes (CLPTM1, CRISPLD2, FGFR2, GABRB3, GLI2, IRF6, PTCH1, RARA, RYK, SATB2, SUMO1, TGFA) could be confirmed.
METHODS
Thirty-one single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in exons, splice sites, and conserved non-coding regions were studied in 509 patients with cleft lip with or without cleft palate (CLP), 383 with cleft palate only (CP), 838 mothers and 719 fathers of patients with oral clefts, and 902 controls from Ireland. Case-control and family-based statistical tests were performed using isolated oral clefts for the main analyses.
RESULTS
In case-control comparisons, the minor allele of PTCH1 A562A (rs2066836) was associated with reduced odds of CLP (OR: 0.29, 95% CI: 0.13–0.64 for homozygotes) whereas the minor allele of PTCH1 L1315P (rs357564) was associated with increased odds of CLP (OR: 1.36, 95% CI: 1.07–1.74 for heterozygotes and OR: 1.56, 95% CI: 1.09–2.24 for homozygotes). The minor allele of one SUMO1 SNP, rs3769817 located in intron 2, was associated with increased odds of CP (OR: 1.45, 95% CI: 1.06–1.99 for heterozygotes). Transmission disequilibrium was observed for the minor allele of TGFA V159V (rs2166975) which was over-transmitted to CP cases (P=0.041).
CONCLUSIONS
For 10 of the 12 genes, this is the largest candidate gene study of nonsyndromic oral clefts to date. The findings provide further evidence that PTCH1, SUMO1, and TGFA contribute to nonsyndromic oral clefts.
doi:10.1002/bdra.20639
PMCID: PMC3503531  PMID: 19937600
cleft lip; cleft palate; congenital abnormalities
8.  Folate and Vitamin B12 Related Genes and Risk for Omphalocele 
Human Genetics  2011;131(5):739-746.
Both taking folic acid-containing vitamins around conception and consuming food fortified with folic acid have been reported to reduce omphalocele rates. Genetic factors are etiologically important in omphalocele as well; our pilot study showed a relationship with the folate metabolic enzyme gene methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR). We studied 169 non-aneuploid omphalocele cases and 761 unaffected, matched controls from all New York State births occurring between 1998 and 2005 to look for associations with single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) known to be important in folate, vitamin B12, or choline metabolism. In the total study population, variants in the transcobalamin receptor gene (TCblR), rs2232775 (Q8R), and the MTHFR gene, rs1801131 (1298A>C), were significantly associated with omphalocele. In African-Americans significant associations were found with SNPs in genes for the vitamin B12 transporter (TCN2) and the vitamin B12 receptor (TCblR). A SNP in the homocysteine-related gene, betaine-homocysteine S-methyltransferase (BHMT), rs3733890 (R239Q), was significantly associated with omphalocele in both African-Americans and Asians. Only the TCblR association in the total population remained statistically significant if Bonferroni correction was applied. The finding that transcobalamin receptor (TCblR) and transporter (TCN2) SNPs and a BHMT SNP were associated with omphalocele suggests that disruption of methylation reactions, in which folate, vitamin B12, and homocysteine play critical parts, may be a risk factor for omphalocele. Our data, if confirmed, suggest that supplements containing both folic acid and vitamin B12 may be beneficial in preventing omphaloceles.
doi:10.1007/s00439-011-1117-3
PMCID: PMC3374579  PMID: 22116453
omphalocele; folate; vitamin B12; homocysteine; transcobalamin; transcobalamin receptor
9.  Folate and vitamin B12 in idiopathic male infertility 
Asian Journal of Andrology  2011;13(6):856-861.
Although methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase, a folate enzyme gene, has been associated with idiopathic male infertility, few studies have examined other folate-related metabolites and genes. We investigated whether idiopathic male infertility is associated with variants in folate, vitamin B12 (B12) and total homocysteine (tHcy)-related genes and measured these metabolites in blood. We conducted a case–control study that included 153 men with idiopathic infertility and 184 fertile male controls recruited at the Fertility Center and Antenatal Care Center, University Hospital, Malmö and Lund, Sweden. Serum folate, red cell folate (RCF), serum B12, plasma tHcy and semen quality were measured. Subjects were genotyped for 20 common variants in 12 genes related to folate/B12/homocysteine metabolism. Metabolite concentrations and genotype distributions were compared between cases and controls using linear and logistic regression with adjustment for covariates. The phosphatidylethanolamine N-methyltransferase (PEMT) M175V and TCblR rs173665 polymorphisms were significantly associated with infertility (P = 0.01 and P = 0.009, respectively), but not with semen quality. Among non-users of supplements, infertile men had lower serum folate concentrations than fertile men (12.89 vs. 14.73 nmol l−1; P = 0.02), but there were no significant differences in RCF, B12 or tHcy. Folate, B12 and tHcy concentrations were not correlated with any semen parameters. This study provides little support for low folate or B12 status in the pathogenesis of idiopathic male infertility. Although additional data are needed to confirm these initial findings, our results suggest that PEMT and TCblR, genes involved in choline and B12 metabolism, merit further investigation in idiopathic male infertility.
doi:10.1038/aja.2011.96
PMCID: PMC3372894  PMID: 21857689
folate; idiopathic male infertility; semen quality; vitamin B12
10.  Folate and vitamin B12 in idiopathic male infertility 
Asian Journal of Andrology  2011;13(6):856-861.
Although methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase, a folate enzyme gene, has been associated with idiopathic male infertility, few studies have examined other folate-related metabolites and genes. We investigated whether idiopathic male infertility is associated with variants in folate, vitamin B12 (B12) and total homocysteine (tHcy)-related genes and measured these metabolites in blood. We conducted a case–control study that included 153 men with idiopathic infertility and 184 fertile male controls recruited at the Fertility Center and Antenatal Care Center, University Hospital, Malmö and Lund, Sweden. Serum folate, red cell folate (RCF), serum B12, plasma tHcy and semen quality were measured. Subjects were genotyped for 20 common variants in 12 genes related to folate/B12/homocysteine metabolism. Metabolite concentrations and genotype distributions were compared between cases and controls using linear and logistic regression with adjustment for covariates. The phosphatidylethanolamine N-methyltransferase (PEMT) M175V and TCblR rs173665 polymorphisms were significantly associated with infertility (P=0.01 and P=0.009, respectively), but not with semen quality. Among non-users of supplements, infertile men had lower serum folate concentrations than fertile men (12.89 vs. 14.73 nmol l−1; P=0.02), but there were no significant differences in RCF, B12 or tHcy. Folate, B12 and tHcy concentrations were not correlated with any semen parameters. This study provides little support for low folate or B12 status in the pathogenesis of idiopathic male infertility. Although additional data are needed to confirm these initial findings, our results suggest that PEMT and TCblR, genes involved in choline and B12 metabolism, merit further investigation in idiopathic male infertility.
doi:10.1038/aja.2011.96
PMCID: PMC3372894  PMID: 21857689
folate; idiopathic male infertility; semen quality; vitamin B12
11.  Invited Commentary: Preventing Neural Tube Defects and More via Food Fortification? 
American Journal of Epidemiology  2008;169(1):18-21.
Many neural tube defects can be prevented if women take folic acid around the time of conception. However, the majority of women do not take folic acid at the critical time, so the US government required that food be fortified with folic acid effective January 1, 1998. Whether the amount being added was sufficient to prevent all folate-related neural tube defects has been hotly debated. Mosley et al. (Am J Epidemiol. 2008;169(1):9–17) found no evidence that folic acid supplement use or dietary folate intake was related to neural tube defects, indicating that fortified food is probably providing sufficient folic acid to prevent folate-related defects. Because data on the effectiveness of fortification in the United States are scarce, this is an important contribution. There is great interest in the other effects of fortification. Folic acid reduces homocysteine levels, and homocysteine has been linked to cardiovascular disease and cancer. On the basis of current evidence, however, it seems unlikely that fortification will reduce cardiovascular disease rates. Its effect on cancer remains unclear. Folic acid may be useful in primary prevention but may also stimulate the growth of existing malignancies or premalignant lesions. Although these issues remain unresolved, Mosley et al. have provided important data to address the primary question: Does fortification prevent folate-related neural tube defects?
doi:10.1093/aje/kwn329
PMCID: PMC2720707  PMID: 18953060
anencephaly; folic acid; food, fortified; neural tube defects; spinal dysraphism

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