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1.  Complete loss of the DNAJB6 G/F domain and novel missense mutations cause distal-onset DNAJB6 myopathy 
Protein aggregation is a common cause of neuropathology. The protein aggregation myopathy Limb-Girdle Muscular Dystrophy 1D (LGMD1D) is caused by mutations of amino acids Phe89 or Phe93 of DNAJB6, a co-chaperone of the HSP70 anti-aggregation protein. Another DNAJB6 mutation, Pro96Arg, was found to cause a distal-onset myopathy in one family.
We detail the mutational, neuropathological, neurophysiological, neurological and radiological features of five new DNAJB6-myopathy families. One has the known Phe93Leu mutation and classic late-onset slowly progressive LGMD1D. Two have different mutations of Phe91 causing a variant childhood-onset severe limb-girdle myopathy. One has a Phe100Val mutation and distal-onset myopathy, unique early bulbar involvement, and a gender-modified wide age-of-onset range. The last has childhood-onset severe distal-onset myopathy and the first non-missense DNAJB6 mutation, c.346 + 5G > A, causing a splicing defect that entirely eliminates DNAJB6’s G/F domain (ΔG/F), the domain that harbours all other mutations. Clinical and imaging examinations reveal that muscles considered uninvolved in DNAJB6-myopathy, e.g. lateral gastrocnemii, are affected in our patients with new mutations. Mutational modelling based on the known structure of the bacterial DNAJ2 protein indicates that all past and present mutated residues cluster within 15 Å in the G/F domain and all disturb the interface of this domain with the protein’s J domain that confers the interaction with HSP70.
Our patients expand the phenotypic spectrum of DNAJB6-myopathy and allow tentative genotype-phenotype specifications. Combining with previous studies, the clinical severity spectrum is as follows: ΔG/F and Phe91 mutations, most severe; Phe100, Pro96, Phe89 mutations, intermediate; and Phe93, least severe. As it stands presently, proximal G/F domain mutations (Phe89, Phe91, Phe93) cause proximal limb-girdle myopathy, while distal G/F mutations (Pro96, Phe100) cause distal-onset myopathy. While all mutations affect the G/F–J interaction, each likely does so in different unknown extents or ways. One mutation, ΔG/F, causes its associated severe distal-onset myopathy phenotype in a clear way, through generation of a G/F domain-lacking DNAJB6 protein.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s40478-015-0224-0) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4513909  PMID: 26205529
DNAJB6; Vacuolar; Aggregation; Myopathy; TDP-43; Frontotemporal
2.  Modulation of TGFbeta 2 levels by lamin A in U2-OS osteoblast-like cells: understanding the osteolytic process triggered by altered lamins 
Oncotarget  2015;6(10):7424-7437.
Transforming growth factor beta (TGFbeta) plays an essential role in bone homeostasis and deregulation of TGFbeta occurs in bone pathologies. Patients affected by Mandibuloacral Dysplasia (MADA), a progeroid disease linked to LMNA mutations, suffer from an osteolytic process. Our previous work showed that MADA osteoblasts secrete excess amount of TGFbeta 2, which in turn elicits differentiation of human blood precursors into osteoclasts. Here, we sought to determine how altered lamin A affects TGFbeta signaling. Our results show that wild-type lamin A negatively modulates TGFbeta 2 levels in osteoblast-like U2-OS cells, while the R527H mutated prelamin A as well as farnesylated prelamin A do not, ultimately leading to increased secretion of TGFbeta 2. TGFbeta 2 in turn, triggers the Akt/mTOR pathway and upregulates osteoprotegerin and cathepsin K. TGFbeta 2 neutralization rescues Akt/mTOR activation and the downstream transcriptional effects, an effect also obtained by statins or RAD001 treatment. Our results unravel an unexpected role of lamin A in TGFbeta 2 regulation and indicate rapamycin analogs and neutralizing antibodies to TGFbeta 2 as new potential therapeutic tools for MADA.
PMCID: PMC4480690  PMID: 25823658
TGFbeta2; lamin A; osteoclasts; Akt signaling; RAD001
3.  Deletion of REXO1L1 locus in a patient with malabsorption syndrome, growth retardation, and dysmorphic features: a novel recognizable microdeletion syndrome? 
BMC Medical Genetics  2015;16:20.
Copy number variations (CNVs) can contribute to genetic variation among individuals and/or have a significant influence in causing diseases. Many studies consider new CNVs’ effects on protein family evolution giving rise to gene duplicates or losses. “Unsuccessful” duplicates that remain in the genome as pseudogenes often exhibit functional roles. So, changes in gene and pseudogene number may contribute to development or act as susceptibility alleles of diseases.
Case presentation
We report a de novo heterozygous 271 Kb microdeletion at 8q21.2 region which includes the family of REXO1L genes and pseudogenes in a young man affected by global development delay, progeroid signs, and gastrointestinal anomalies. Molecular and cellular analysis showed that the REXO1L1 gene hemizygosity in a patient’s fibroblasts induces genetic instability and increased apoptosis after treatment with different DNA damage-induced agents.
The present results support the hypothesis that low copy gene number within REXO1L1 cluster could play a significant role in this complex clinical and cellular phenotype.
PMCID: PMC4422118  PMID: 25927938
8q21.2 microdeletion; REXO1L1 gene; aCGH; CNV; Facial dysmorphisms; Inflammation and apoptosis of gastrointestinal mucosa
4.  Application of Next Generation Sequencing for personalized medicine for sudden cardiac death 
Sudden cardiac death (SCD) is a serious public health problem. In the United States, more than 300,000 people are affected by SCD every year. Significantly, sudden deaths represent 20% of the total mortality and 50% of cardiovascular mortality in Western countries. In addition, SCD constitutes one of the most important unsolved challenges in the practice of forensic pathology because of the failure to determine the exact cause of sudden death. In young individuals, SCD is frequently caused by cardiomyopathies and channelopathies, that have generally an autosomal dominant pattern of inheritance. The impact of genetics and genetic testing on the clinical management of these diseases is unquestioned. In particular, genetic tests are an important tool for identifying pre-symptomatic individuals carrying genetic variant that predisposes them to SCD. High-throughput sequencing technologies offer novel opportunities to deeper investigate the genetic background underlying these fatal diseases and to early identify individuals at risk for SCD. In this review, we provide an overview of the development of Next-Generation Sequencing (NGS) technologies and of guidelines useful to design an efficient sequencing protocol and to perform an accurate data analysis. We suggest a flow chart to follow for the set up of a genetic screening protocol for the prevention of cardiac pathologies, in particular SCD events, in young athletes.
PMCID: PMC4345839  PMID: 25784923
cardiomyopathies; channelopathies; sudden cardiac death; Next-Generation Sequencing; personalized medicine
5.  A Pharmacogenetics Study in Mozambican Patients Treated with Nevirapine: Full Resequencing of TRAF3IP2 Gene Shows a Novel Association with SJS/TEN Susceptibility 
Steven–Johnson Syndrome (SJS) and Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis (TEN) are severe adverse drug reactions, characterized by extensive epidermal detachment and erosions of mucous membrane. SJS/TEN is one of the most serious adverse reactions to Nevirapine (NVP) treatment, commonly used in developing countries as first-line treatment of human immunodeficiency virus infection. In the last years TRAF3IP2 gene variants had been described as associated with susceptibility to several diseases such as psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. We hypothesized that this gene, involved in immune response and in NF-κB activation, could also be implicated in the SJS/TEN susceptibility. We performed a full resequencing of TRAF3IP2 gene in a population of patients treated with NVP. Twenty-seven patients with NVP-induced SJS/TEN and 78 controls, all from Mozambique, were enrolled. We identified eight exonic and three intronic already described variants. The case/control association analysis highlighted an association between the rs76228616 SNP in exon 2 and the SJS/TEN susceptibility. In particular, the variant allele (C) resulted significantly associated with a higher risk to develop SJS/TEN (p = 0.012 and OR = 3.65 (95% CI 1.33–10.01)). A multivariate analysis by logistic regression confirmed its significant contribution (p = 0.027, OR = 4.39 (95% CI 1.19–16.23)). In conclusion, our study suggests that a variant in TRAF3IP2 gene could be involved in susceptibility to SJS/TEN.
PMCID: PMC4394508  PMID: 25775161
pharmacogenetics; polymorphisms; Steven–Johnson Syndrome (SJS); Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis (TEN); TRAF3IP2 gene
6.  A New Case of Prenatally Diagnosed Pentasomy X: Review of the Literature 
Pentasomy X is a rare chromosomal abnormality probably due to a nondisjunction during the meiosis. Only four cases prenatally diagnosed were described until now. Our case is the fifth one prenatally diagnosed at 20 weeks of gestational age in a 39-years-old woman. She underwent invasive prenatal diagnosis for her advanced maternal age without any other known risk factor. Amniocentesis performed at 17 weeks showed a female 49, XXXXX karyotype. The ultrasonographic examination revealed nonspecific signs of a mild early fetal growth retardation and no significant increased nuchal fold. The fetal autopsy and the X-ray excluded major malformations. Prenatal diagnosis is often difficult due to the lack of indicative ultrasonographic findings and the rarity of described cases. The influence of the mother's age on the occurrence of penta-X syndrome has not been determined. Considering the lack of correlation between advanced maternal age and increased risk for pentasomy X, as well as the absence of typical echographic signs, evaluation of the inclusion of a noninvasive prenatal test (NIPT) that expands clinical coverage to include the X and Y chromosomes in routine prenatal diagnosis should be considered as well as three-dimensional ultrasound to detect any helpful indicative prognostic signs.
PMCID: PMC4325205  PMID: 25699192
7.  Age-Related Macular Degeneration: Insights into Inflammatory Genes 
Journal of Ophthalmology  2014;2014:582842.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects approximately 8.7% of elderly people worldwide (>55 years old). AMD is characterized by a multifactorial aetiology that involves several genetic and environmental risk factors (genes, ageing, smoking, family history, dietary habits, oxidative stress, and hypertension). In particular, ageing and cigarette smoking (including oxidative compounds and reactive oxygen species) have been shown to significantly increase susceptibility to the disease. Furthermore, different genes (CFH, CFI, C2, C3, IL-6, IL-8, and ARMS2) that play a crucial role in the inflammatory pathway have been associated with AMD risk. Several genetic and molecular studies have indicated the participation of inflammatory molecules (cytokines and chemokines), immune cells (macrophages), and complement proteins in the development and progression of the disease. Taking into consideration the genetic and molecular background, this review highlights the genetic role of inflammatory genes involved in AMD pathogenesis and progression.
PMCID: PMC4247975  PMID: 25478207
8.  A Multilocus Genetic Study in a Cohort of Italian SLE Patients Confirms the Association with STAT4 Gene and Describes a New Association with HCP5 Gene 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(11):e111991.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an autoimmune disease with complex pathogenesis in which genes and environmental factors are involved. We aimed at analyzing previously identified loci associated with SLE or with other autoimmune and/or inflammatory disorders (STAT4, IL10, IL23R, IRAK1, PSORS1C1, HCP5, MIR146a, PTPN2, ERAP1, ATG16L1, IRGM) in a sample of Italian SLE patients in order to verify or confirm their possible involvement and relative contribution in the disease.
Materials and methods
Two hundred thirty-nine consecutive SLE patients and 278 matched healthy controls were enrolled. Study protocol included complete physical examination, and clinical and laboratory data collection. Nineteen polymorphisms were genotyped by allelic discrimination assays. A case-control association study and a genotype-phenotype correlation were performed.
STAT4 was the most associated gene [P = 3×10−7, OR = 2.13 (95% CI: 1.59–2.85)]. IL10 confirmed its association with SLE [rs3024505: P = 0.02, OR = 1.52 (95% CI: 1.07–2.16)]. We describe a novel significant association between HCP5 locus and SLE susceptibility [rs3099844: P = 0.01, OR = 2.06 (95% CI: 1.18–3.6)]. The genotype/phenotype correlation analysis showed several associations including a higher risk to develop pericarditis with STAT4, and an association between HCP5 rs3099844 and anti-Ro/SSA antibodies.
STAT4 and IL10 confirm their association with SLE. We found that some SNPs in PSORS1C1, ATG16L1, IL23R, PTPN2 and MIR146a genes can determine particular disease phenotypes. HCP5 rs3099844 is associated with SLE and with anti-Ro/SSA. This polymorphism has been previously found associated with cardiac manifestations of SLE, a condition related with anti-Ro/SSA antibodies. Thus, our results may provide new insights into SLE pathogenesis.
PMCID: PMC4219822  PMID: 25369137
9.  Rapamycin treatment of Mandibuloacral Dysplasia cells rescues localization of chromatin-associated proteins and cell cycle dynamics 
Aging (Albany NY)  2014;6(9):755-769.
Lamin A is a key component of the nuclear lamina produced through post-translational processing of its precursor known as prelamin A. LMNA mutations leading to farnesylated prelamin A accumulation are known to cause lipodystrophy, progeroid and developmental diseases, including Mandibuloacral dysplasia, a mild progeroid syndrome with partial lipodystrophy and altered bone turnover. Thus, degradation of prelamin A is expected to improve the disease phenotype. Here, we show different susceptibilities of prelamin A forms to proteolysis and further demonstrate that treatment with rapamycin efficiently and selectively triggers lysosomal degradation of farnesylated prelamin A, the most toxic processing intermediate. Importantly, rapamycin treatment of Mandibuloacral dysplasia cells, which feature very low levels of the NAD-dependent sirtuin SIRT-1 in the nuclear matrix, restores SIRT-1 localization and distribution of chromatin markers, elicits release of the transcription factor Oct-1 and determines shortening of the prolonged S-phase. These findings indicate the drug as a possible treatment for Mandibuloacral dysplasia.
PMCID: PMC4233654  PMID: 25324471
Mandibuloacral Dysplasia (MADA); Prelamin A; SIRT-1; Oct-1; Rapamycin
10.  Putting Pleiotropy and Selection into Context Defines a New Paradigm for Interpreting Genetic Data 
Natural selection shapes many human genes, including some related to complex diseases. Understanding how selection affects genes, especially pleiotropic ones, may be important in evaluating disease associations and the role played by environmental variation. This may be of particular interest for genes with antagonistic roles that cause divergent patterns of selection. The lectin like low-density lipoprotein 1 receptor (LOX-1), encoded by OLR1, is exemplary. It has antagonistic functions in the cardiovascular and immune systems as the same protein domain binds oxidized LDL and bacterial cell wall proteins - the former contributing to atherosclerosis, the latter presumably protecting from infection. We studied patterns of selection in this gene, in humans and non-human primates, to determine whether variable selection can lead to conflicting results in CVD association studies.
Methods and Results
We analyzed sequences from 11 non-human primate species as well as SNP and sequence data from multiple human populations. Results indicate that the derived allele is favored across primate lineages (probably due to recent positive selection). However, both the derived and ancestral alleles were maintained in human populations, especially European ones (possibly due to balancing selection derived from LOX-1's dual roles). Balancing selection likely reflects response to diverse environmental pressures among humans.
These data indicate that differential selection patterns, within and between species, in OLR1 render association studies difficult to replicate even if the gene is etiologically connected to CVD. Selection analyses can identify genes exhibiting gene-environment interactions critical for unraveling disease association.
PMCID: PMC3889706  PMID: 23616601
lipoproteins; immune system; genetics; LOX-1 receptor; evolution
11.  Human placenta-derived neurospheres are susceptible to transformation after extensive in vitro expansion 
The cancer stem cell model links neoplastic cells with normal stem cell biology, but little is known on how normal stem cells are transformed into cancer stem cells.
To investigate the processes underlying the transformation of normal stem cells we developed in vitro a cancer stem cell model from human amniotic and chorionic placenta membranes. In this model we studied the expression of specific stem cell molecules by flow cytometry, and genes, by real time RT-PCR. Microscopy immunfluorescence was employed to investigate the proliferative and differentiation patterns. Fluorescence microscopy and FACS were employed to investigate the proliferative and differentiation patterns. To evaluate the tumorigenic potential of our model we injected the cells into NOD.CB17-Prkdcscid/NCrHsd mice.
Normal human stem cells from amniotic and chorionic placenta membranes were converted into neural cell lineages, under specific conditions, to form secondary neurospheres with a capacity for self-renewal. After extensive in vitro culture, these cells underwent spontaneous transformations and acquired a neuroblastoma (NB)-like phenotype with an elevated proliferative potential that is comparable to established neuroblastoma cell lines. The ability of these cells to transform their phenotype was evidenced by increased clonogenic ability in vitro; by augmented expression level of certain proliferation- and transformation-related genes (e.g., CCNA2, MYCN, ENPP2, GRIA3, and KIT); by the presence of multinucleated and hyperdiploid cells. We further demonstrated that the transformed phenotype is an NB by measuring the expression of NB-specific markers, disialoganglioside GD2 and N-Myc proteins.
We have developed a cancer stem cell model starting from normal human stem cells derived from amniotic and chorionic placenta membranes. These cells are able to differentiate into neural cell lineages and to undergo spontaneous transformations and acquire an NB-like phenotype.
PMCID: PMC4055136  PMID: 24754904
12.  Common sequence variants in the LOXL1 gene in pigment dispersion syndrome and pigmentary glaucoma 
BMC Ophthalmology  2014;14:52.
Single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) within the LOXL1 gene are associated with pseudoesfoliation syndrome and pseudoesfoliation glaucoma. The aim of our study is to investigate a potential involvement of LOXL1 gene in the pathogenesis of pigment dispersion syndrome (PDS) and pigmentary glaucoma (PG).
A cohort of Caucasian origin of 84 unrelated and clinically well-characterised patients with PDS/PG and 200 control subjects were included in the study. Genomic DNA from whole blood was extracted and the coding and regulatory regions of LOXL1 gene were risequenced in both patients and controls to identify unknown sequence variations. Genotype and haplotype analysis were performed with UNPHASED software. The expression levels of LOXL1 were determined on c-DNA from peripheral blood lymphocytes by quantitative real-time RT-PCR.
A significant allele association was detected for SNP rs2304722 within the fifth intron of LOXL1 (Odds ratio (OR = 2.43, p-value = 3,05e-2). Haplotype analysis revealed the existence of risk and protective haplotypes associated with PG-PDS (OR = 3.35; p-value = 1.00e-5 and OR = 3.35; p-value = 1.00e-4, respectively). Expression analysis suggests that associated haplotypes can regulate the expression level LOXL1.
Haplotypes of LOXL1 are associated with PG-PDS independently from rs1048661, leading to a differential expression of the transcript.
PMCID: PMC4028282  PMID: 24739284
Pigment dispersion syndrome; Pigmentary glaucoma; Genetics; LOXL1
13.  An in-frame deletion at the polymerase active site of POLD1 causes a multisystem disorder with lipodystrophy 
Nature genetics  2013;45(8):947-950.
DNA polymerase delta, whose catalytic subunit is encoded by POLD1, is responsible for lagging strand DNA synthesis during DNA replication1. It achieves this with high fidelity due to its intrinsic 3′ to 5′ exonuclease activity, which confers proofreading ability. Missense mutations in the exonuclease domain of POLD1 have recently been shown to predispose to colorectal and endometrial cancer2. Here we report a recurring heterozygous single amino acid deletion at the polymerase active site of POLD1 that abolishes DNA polymerase activity but only mildly impairs 3′ to 5′ exonuclease activity. This mutation causes a distinct multisystem disorder that includes subcutaneous lipodystrophy, deafness, mandibular hypoplasia and hypogonadism in males. This suggests that perturbation of function of the ubiquitously expressed POLD1 polymerase has surprisingly tissue-specific effects in man, and argues for an important role for POLD1 function in adipose tissue homeostasis.
PMCID: PMC3785143  PMID: 23770608
14.  Overexpression of CUGBP1 in Skeletal Muscle from Adult Classic Myotonic Dystrophy Type 1 but Not from Myotonic Dystrophy Type 2 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e83777.
Myotonic dystrophy type 1 (DM1) and type 2 (DM2) are progressive multisystemic disorders caused by similar mutations at two different genetic loci. The common key feature of DM pathogenesis is nuclear accumulation of mutant RNA which causes aberrant alternative splicing of specific pre-mRNAs by altering the functions of two RNA binding proteins, MBNL1 and CUGBP1. However, DM1 and DM2 show disease-specific features that make them clearly separate diseases suggesting that other cellular and molecular pathways may be involved. In this study we have analysed the histopathological, and biomolecular features of skeletal muscle biopsies from DM1 and DM2 patients in relation to presenting phenotypes to better define the molecular pathogenesis. Particularly, the expression of CUGBP1 protein has been examined to clarify if this factor may act as modifier of disease-specific manifestations in DM. The results indicate that the splicing and muscle pathological alterations observed are related to the clinical phenotype both in DM1 and in DM2 and that CUGBP1 seems to play a role in classic DM1 but not in DM2. In conclusion, our results indicate that multisystemic disease spectrum of DM pathologies may not be explained only by spliceopathy thus confirming that the molecular pathomechanism of DM is more complex than that actually suggested.
PMCID: PMC3869793  PMID: 24376746
15.  Genome-wide association study identifies new psoriasis susceptibility loci and an interaction between HLA-C and ERAP1 
Strange, Amy | Capon, Francesca | Spencer, Chris CA | Knight, Jo | Weale, Michael E | Allen, Michael H | Barton, Anne | Band, Gavin | Bellenguez, Céline | Bergboer, Judith GM | Blackwell, Jenefer M | Bramon, Elvira | Bumpstead, Suzannah J | Casas, Juan P | Cork, Michael J | Corvin, Aiden | Deloukas, Panos | Dilthey, Alexander | Duncanson, Audrey | Edkins, Sarah | Estivill, Xavier | Fitzgerald, Oliver | Freeman, Colin | Giardina, Emiliano | Gray, Emma | Hofer, Angelika | Hüffmeier, Ulrike | Hunt, Sarah E | Irvine, Alan D | Jankowski, Janusz | Kirby, Brian | Langford, Cordelia | Lascorz, Jesús | Leman, Joyce | Leslie, Stephen | Mallbris, Lotus | Markus, Hugh S | Mathew, Christopher G | McLean, WH Irwin | McManus, Ross | Mössner, Rotraut | Moutsianas, Loukas | Naluai, Åsa T | Nestle, Frank O | Novelli, Giuseppe | Onoufriadis, Alexandros | Palmer, Colin NA | Perricone, Carlo | Pirinen, Matti | Plomin, Robert | Potter, Simon C | Pujol, Ramon M | Rautanen, Anna | Riveira-Munoz, Eva | Ryan, Anthony W | Salmhofer, Wolfgang | Samuelsson, Lena | Sawcer, Stephen J | Schalkwijk, Joost | Smith, Catherine H | Ståhle, Mona | Su, Zhan | Tazi-Ahnini, Rachid | Traupe, Heiko | Viswanathan, Ananth C | Warren, Richard B | Weger, Wolfgang | Wolk, Katarina | Wood, Nicholas | Worthington, Jane | Young, Helen S | Zeeuwen, Patrick LJM | Hayday, Adrian | Burden, A David | Griffiths, Christopher EM | Kere, Juha | Reis, André | McVean, Gilean | Evans, David M | Brown, Matthew A | Barker, Jonathan N | Peltonen, Leena | Donnelly, Peter | Trembath, Richard C
Nature genetics  2010;42(11):985-990.
PMCID: PMC3749730  PMID: 20953190
16.  PTX3 genetic variation and dizygotic twinning in The Gambia: could pleiotropy with innate immunity explain common dizygotic twinning in Africa? 
Annals of human genetics  2012;76(6):454-463.
Dizygotic (DZ) twinning has a genetic component and is common among sub-Saharan Africans; in The Gambia its frequency is up to 3% of live births. Variation in Pentraxin 3 (PTX3), a soluble pattern recognition receptor that plays an important role both in humoral innate immunity and in female fertility, has been associated with resistance to M. tuberculosis infection and to P. aeruginosa infection in cystic fibrosis patients. We tested whether PTX3 variants in Gambian women associate with DZ twinning, by genotyping five PTX3 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in 130 sister pairs (96 full sibs and 34 half sibs) who had DZ twins. We found that two, three and five SNP haplotypes differed in frequency between twinning mothers and those without a history of twinning (from p = 0.006 to 3.03e-06 for two SNP and three SNP haplotypes, respectively). Twinning mothers and West African tuberculosis-controls from a previous study shared several frequent haplotypes. Most importantly, our data are consistent with the previously reported association of PTX3 and female fertility in a West African sample from Ghana. Taken together, these results indicate that selective pressure on PTX3 variants that affect the innate immune response to infectious agents, could also produce the observed high incidence of DZ twinning in Gambians.
PMCID: PMC3731069  PMID: 22834944
dizygotic twinning; fertility; innate immunity; Pentraxin 3; The Gambia; Africa
17.  CFTR gene targeting in mouse embryonic stem cells mediated by Small Fragment Homologous Replacement (SFHR) 
Different gene targeting approaches have been developed to modify endogenous genomic DNA in both human and mouse cells. Briefly, the process involves the targeting of a specific mutation in situ leading to the gene correction and the restoration of a normal gene function. Most of these protocols with therapeutic potential are oligonucleotide based, and rely on endogenous enzymatic pathways. One gene targeting approach, “Small Fragment Homologous Replacement (SFHR)”, has been found to be effective in modifying genomic DNA. This approach uses small DNA fragments (SDF) to target specific genomic loci and induce sequence and subsequent phenotypic alterations. This study shows that SFHR can stably introduce a 3-bp deletion (deltaF508, the most frequent cystic fibrosis (CF) mutation) into the Cftr (CF Transmembrane Conductance Regulator) locus in the mouse embryonic stem (ES) cell genome. After transfection of deltaF508-SDF into murine ES cells, SFHR-mediated modification was evaluated at the molecular levels on DNA and mRNA obtained from transfected ES cells. About 12% of transcript corresponding to deleted allele was detected, while 60% of the electroporated cells completely last any measurable CFTR-dependent chloride efflux The data indicate that the SFHR technique can be used to effectively target and modify genomic sequences in ES cells. Once the SFHR-modified ES cells differentiate into different cell lineages they can be useful for elucidating tissue-specific gene function and for the development of transplantation-based cellular and therapeutic protocols.
PMCID: PMC3725395  PMID: 17981772
Homologous Replacement; Real-Time PCR; SFHR; Embryonic Stem Cells; CFTR
19.  Haplotypes in IL-8 Gene Are Associated to Age-Related Macular Degeneration: A Case-Control Study 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e66978.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the main cause of blindness in the developed world. The etiology of AMD is multifactorial due to the interaction between genetic and environmental factors. IL-8 has a role in inflammation and angiogenesis; we report the genetic characterization of IL-8 allele architecture and evaluate the role of SNPs or haplotypes in the susceptibility to wet AMD, case-control study.
Case-control study including 721 AMD patients and 660 controls becoming from Italian population. Genotyping was carried out by Real Time-PCR. Differences in the frequencies were estimated by the chi-square test. Direct sequencing was carried out by capillary electrophoresis trough ABI3130xl.
rs2227306 showed a p–value of 4.15*10−5 and an Odds Ratio (OR) for T allele of 1.39 [1.19–1.62]. After these positive results, we sequenced the entire IL-8 regulatory and coding regions of 60 patients and 30 controls stratified for their genotype at rs2227306. We defined two different haplotypes involving rs4073 (A/T), rs2227306 (C/T), rs2227346 (C/T) and rs1126647 (A/T): A-T-T-T (p-value: 2.08*10−9; OR: 1.68 [1.43–1.97]) and T-C-C-A (p-value: 7.07*10−11; OR: 0.60 [0.51–0.70]). To further investigate a potential functional role of associated haplotypes, we performed an expression study on RNA extracted from whole blood of 75 donors to verify a possible direct correlation between haplotype and gene expression, failing to reveal significant differences.
These results suggest a possible secondary role of IL-8 gene in the development of the disease. This paper outlines the importance of association between inflammation and AMD. Moreover IL-8 is a new susceptibility genomic biomarker of AMD.
PMCID: PMC3686762  PMID: 23840568
20.  Identification of fifteen new psoriasis susceptibility loci highlights the role of innate immunity 
Nature genetics  2012;44(12):1341-1348.
To gain further insight into the genetic architecture of psoriasis, we conducted a meta-analysis of three genome-wide association studies (GWAS) and two independent datasets genotyped on the Immunochip, involving 10,588 cases and 22,806 controls in total. We identified 15 new disease susceptibility regions, increasing the number of psoriasis-associated loci to 36 for Caucasians. Conditional analyses identified five independent signals within previously known loci. The newly identified shared disease regions encompassed a number of genes whose products regulate T-cell function (e.g. RUNX3, TAGAP and STAT3). The new psoriasis-specific regions were notable for candidate genes whose products are involved in innate host defense, encoding proteins with roles in interferon-mediated antiviral responses (DDX58), macrophage activation (ZC3H12C), and NF-κB signaling (CARD14 and CARM1). These results portend a better understanding of shared and distinctive genetic determinants of immune-mediated inflammatory disorders and emphasize the importance of the skin in innate and acquired host defense.
PMCID: PMC3510312  PMID: 23143594
21.  The Pharmacogenomic HLA Biomarker Associated to Adverse Abacavir Reactions: Comparative Analysis of Different Genotyping Methods 
Current Genomics  2012;13(4):314-320.
Many pharmacogenomic biomarkers (PGBM) were identified and translated into clinical practice, affecting the usage of drugs via label updates. In this context, abacavir is one of the most brilliant examples of pharmacogenetic studies translated into clinical practice. Pharmacogenetic studies have revealed that abacavir HSRs are highly associated with the major histocompatibility complex class I. Large studies established the effectiveness of prospective HLA-B*57:01 screening to prevent HSRs to abacavir. Accordingly to these results the abacavir label has been modified: the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the FDA recommend/suggested that the administration of abacavir must be preceded by a specific genotyping test. The HLA locus is extremely polymorphic, exhibiting many closely related alleles, making it difficult to discriminate HLA-B*57:01 from other related alleles, and a number of different molecular techniques have been developed recently to detect the presence of HLA-B*57:01. In this review, we provide a summary of the available techniques used by laboratories to genotype HLA-B*57:01, outlining the scientific and pharmacoeconomics pros and cons.
PMCID: PMC3394119  PMID: 23204921
HLA-B*57:01; abacavir; hypersensitivity reaction (HSR); pharmacogenomics.
23.  Familial partial lipodystrophy, mandibuloacral dysplasia and restrictive dermopathy feature barrier-to-autointegration factor (BAF) nuclear redistribution 
Cell Cycle  2012;11(19):3568-3577.
Prelamin A processing impairment is a common feature of a restricted group of rare genetic alterations/disorders associated with a wide range of clinical phenotypes. Changes in histone posttranslational modifications, alterations in non-histone chromatin proteins and chromatin disorganization have been specifically linked to impairment of specific, distinct prelamin A processing steps, but the molecular mechanism involved in these processes is not yet understood . In this study, we show that the accumulation of wild-type prelamin A detected in restrictive dermopathy (RD), as well as the accumulation of mutated forms of prelamin A identified in familial partial lipodystrophy (FPLD) and mandibuloacral dysplasia (MADA), affect the nuclear localization of barrier-to-autointegration factor (BAF), a protein able to link lamin A precursor to chromatin remodeling functions. Our findings, in accordance with previously described results, support the hypothesis of a prelamin A involvement in BAF nuclear recruitment and suggest BAF-prelamin A complex as a protein platform usually activated in prelamin A-accumulating diseases. Finally, we demonstrate the involvement of the inner nuclear membrane protein emerin in the proper localization of BAF-prelamin A complex.
PMCID: PMC3478308  PMID: 22935701
BAF; BANF1; prelamin A; lamin A/C; laminopathies; emerin; EDMD1
24.  p53 Stabilization Induces Cell Growth Inhibition and Affects IGF2 Pathway in Response to Radiotherapy in Adrenocortical Cancer Cells 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(9):e45129.
Adrenocortical carcinoma (ACC) is a very rare endocrine tumour, with variable prognosis, depending on tumour stage and time of diagnosis. However, it is generally fatal, with an overall survival of 5 years from detection. Radiotherapy usefulness for ACC treatment has been widely debated and seems to be dependent on molecular alterations, which in turn lead to increased radio-resistance. Many studies have shown that p53 loss is an important risk factor for malignant adrenocortical tumour onset and it has been reported that somatic mutations in TP53 gene occur in 27 to 70% of adult sporadic ACCs. In this study, we investigated the role of somatic mutations of the TP53 gene in response to ionizing radiation (IR). We studied the status of p53 in two adrenocortical cell lines, H295R and SW-13, harbouring non-functioning forms of this protein, owing to the lack of exons 8 and 9 and a point mutation in exon 6, respectively. Moreover, these cell lines show high levels of p-Akt and IGF2, especially H295R. We noticed that restoration of p53 activity led to inhibition of growth after transient transfection of cells with wild type p53. Evaluation of their response to IR in terms of cell proliferation and viability was determined by means of cell count and TUNEL assay.wtp53 over-expression also increased cell death by apoptosis following radiation in both cell lines. Moreover, RT-PCR and Western blotting analysis of some p53 target genes, such as BCL2, IGF2 and Akt demonstrated that p53 activation following IR led to a decrease in IGF2 expression. This was associated with a reduction in the active form of Akt. Taken together, these results highlight the role of p53 in response to radiation of ACC cell lines, suggesting its importance as a predictive factor for radiotherapy in malignant adrenocortical tumours cases.
PMCID: PMC3446967  PMID: 23028800
25.  Meta-analysis confirms the LCE3C_LCE3B deletion as a risk factor for psoriasis in several ethnic groups and finds interaction with HLA-Cw6 
A multicenter meta-analysis including data from 9389 psoriasis patients and 9477 control subjects was performed to investigate the contribution of the deletion of genes LCE3C and LCE3B, involved in skin barrier defense, to psoriasis susceptibility in different populations. The study confirms that the deletion of LCE3C and LCE3B is a common genetic factor for susceptibility to psoriasis in European populations [OROverall = 1.21 (1.15–1.27)], and for the first time directly demonstrated the deletion's association with psoriasis in [Chinese OR = 1.27 (1.16–1.34); Mongolian OR = 2.08 (1.44–2.99)] populations. The analysis of the HLA-Cw6 locus showed significant differences in the epistatic interaction with the LCE3C and LCE3B deletion in at least some European populations, indicating epistatic effects between these two major genetic contributors to psoriasis. The study highlights the value of examining genetic risk factors in multiple populations to identify genetic interactions, and indicates the need of further studies to understand the interaction of the skin barrier and the immune system in susceptibility to psoriasis.
PMCID: PMC3386316  PMID: 21107349

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