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1.  Association of TERC and OBFC1 Haplotypes with Mean Leukocyte Telomere Length and Risk for Coronary Heart Disease  
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e83122.
To replicate the associations of leukocyte telomere length (LTL) with variants at four loci and to investigate their associations with coronary heart disease (CHD) and type II diabetes (T2D), in order to examine possible causal effects of telomere maintenance machinery on disease aetiology.
Four SNPs at three loci BICD1 (rs2630578 GγC), 18q12.2 (rs2162440 GγT), and OBFC1 (rs10786775 CγG, rs11591710 AγC) were genotyped in four studies comprised of 2353 subjects out of which 1148 had CHD and 566 T2D. Three SNPs (rs12696304 CγG, rs10936601G>T and rs16847897 GγC) at the TERC locus were genotyped in these four studies, in addition to an offspring study of 765 healthy students. For all samples, LTL had been measured using a real-time PCR-based method.
Only one SNP was associated with a significant effect on LTL, with the minor allele G of OBFC1 rs10786775 SNP being associated with longer LTL (β=0.029, P=0.04). No SNPs were significantly associated with CHD or T2D. For OBFC1 the haplotype carrying both rare alleles (rs10786775G and rs11591710C, haplotype frequency 0.089) was associated with lower CHD prevalence (OR: 0.77; 95% CI: 0.61–0.97; P= 0.03). The TERC haplotype GTC (rs12696304G, rs10936601T and rs16847897C, haplotype frequency 0.210) was associated with lower risk for both CHD (OR: 0.86; 95% CI: 0.75-0.99; P=0.04) and T2D (OR: 0.74; 95% CI: 0.61–0.91; P= 0.004), with no effect on LTL. Only the last association remained after adjusting for multiple testing.
Of reported associations, only that between the OBFC1 rs10786775 SNP and LTL was confirmed, although our study has a limited power to detect modest effects. A 2-SNP OBFC1 haplotype was associated with higher risk of CHD, and a 3-SNP TERC haplotype was associated with both higher risk of CHD and T2D. Further work is required to confirm these results and explore the mechanisms of these effects.
PMCID: PMC3861448  PMID: 24349443
2.  Genetic Variation in SULF2 Is Associated with Postprandial Clearance of Triglyceride-Rich Remnant Particles and Triglyceride Levels in Healthy Subjects 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e79473.
Nonfasting (postprandial) triglyceride concentrations have emerged as a clinically significant cardiovascular disease risk factor that results from accumulation of remnant triglyceride-rich lipoproteins (TRLs) in the circulation. The remnant TRLs are cleared from the circulation by hepatic uptake, but the specific mechanisms involved are unclear. The syndecan-1 heparan sulfate proteoglycan (HSPG) pathway is important for the hepatic clearance of remnant TRLs in mice, but its relevance in humans is unclear.
We sought to determine whether polymorphisms of the genes responsible for HSPG assembly and disassembly contribute to atherogenic dyslipoproteinemias in humans.
Patients And Design
We performed an oral fat load in 68 healthy subjects. Lipoproteins (chylomicrons and very low density lipoproteins 1 and 2) were isolated from blood, and the area under curve and incremental area under curve for postprandial variables were calculated. Single nucleotide polymorphisms in genes encoding syndecan-1 and enzymes involved in the synthesis or degradation of HSPG were genotyped in the study subjects.
Our results indicate that the genetic variation rs2281279 in SULF2 associates with postprandial clearance of remnant TRLs and triglyceride levels in healthy subjects. Furthermore, the SNP rs2281279 in SULF2 associates with hepatic SULF2 mRNA levels.
In humans, mild but clinically relevant postprandial hyperlipidemia due to reduced hepatic clearance of remnant TRLs may result from genetic polymorphisms that affect hepatic HSPG.
PMCID: PMC3835823  PMID: 24278138
3.  Cytokine Profile in a Cohort of Healthy Blood Donors Carrying Polymorphisms in Genes Encoding the NLRP3 Inflammasome 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(10):e75457.
The NLRP3 inflammasome has been recognized as one of the key components of the innate immunity by sensing a diversity of insults. Inflammasome activation results in the maturation of the pro-inflammatory cytokines interleukin (IL)-1β and IL-18. Increased production of IL-1β is found in patients with gain-of-function polymorphisms in genes encoding the NLRP3 inflammasome. Since approximately 5% of the Swedish population are heterozygote carriers of these combined gene variants, their impact on inflammasome status and a relationship on disease development is therefore highly relevant to study. The present study investigates levels of inflammasome-produced cytokines as a measure of inflammasome activation in healthy individuals carrying Q705K polymorphism in the NLRP3 gene combined with C10X in the CARD8 gene.
Materials and Methods
Genotyping of 1006 healthy blood donors was performed for the polymorphisms Q705K in the NLRP3 and C10X in the CARD8 genes. IL-1β, IL-18, IL-33, as well as a number of other pro-inflammatory cytokines, were analyzed by Luminex or ELISA in plasma from individuals carrying the polymorphisms and in age and gender matched non-carrier controls.
Results & Discussion
The prevalence of the polymorphisms was in line with previous studies. Plasma levels of IL-1β and IL-33 were elevated among carriers of combined Q705K+C10X polymorphisms compared to controls, whereas no difference was found for IL-18 and the other cytokines measured. Moreover, carriers of C10X or Q705K per se had similar plasma levels of IL-1β as non-carriers. These data suggest that the combined polymorphisms create inflammasomes with increased basal activation state, which might provide a more favourable innate immune response. In spite of this, it could also represent the mechanisms by which the inflammatory loop is triggered into a long-term inflammatory phenotype.
PMCID: PMC3789710  PMID: 24098386
4.  Impact of Common Variation in Bone-Related Genes on Type 2 Diabetes and Related Traits 
Diabetes  2012;61(8):2176-2186.
Exploring genetic pleiotropy can provide clues to a mechanism underlying the observed epidemiological association between type 2 diabetes and heightened fracture risk. We examined genetic variants associated with bone mineral density (BMD) for association with type 2 diabetes and glycemic traits in large well-phenotyped and -genotyped consortia. We undertook follow-up analysis in ∼19,000 individuals and assessed gene expression. We queried single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) associated with BMD at levels of genome-wide significance, variants in linkage disequilibrium (r2 > 0.5), and BMD candidate genes. SNP rs6867040, at the ITGA1 locus, was associated with a 0.0166 mmol/L (0.004) increase in fasting glucose per C allele in the combined analysis. Genetic variants in the ITGA1 locus were associated with its expression in the liver but not in adipose tissue. ITGA1 variants appeared among the top loci associated with type 2 diabetes, fasting insulin, β-cell function by homeostasis model assessment, and 2-h post–oral glucose tolerance test glucose and insulin levels. ITGA1 has demonstrated genetic pleiotropy in prior studies, and its suggested role in liver fibrosis, insulin secretion, and bone healing lends credence to its contribution to both osteoporosis and type 2 diabetes. These findings further underscore the link between skeletal and glucose metabolism and highlight a locus to direct future investigations.
PMCID: PMC3402303  PMID: 22698912
5.  Impaired Collagen Biosynthesis and Cross‐linking in Aorta of Patients With Bicuspid Aortic Valve 
Patients with bicuspid aortic valve (BAV) have an increased risk of developing ascending aortic aneurysm. In the present study, collagen homeostasis in nondilated and dilated aorta segments from patients with BAV was studied, with normal and dilated aortas from tricuspid aortic valve (TAV) patients as reference.
Methods and Results
Ascending aortas from 56 patients were used for biochemical and morphological analyses of collagen. mRNA expression was analyzed in 109 patients. Collagen turnover rates were similar in nondilated and dilated aortas of BAV patients, showing that aneurysmal formation in BAV is, in contrast to TAV, not associated with an increased collagen turnover. However, BAV in general was associated with an increased aortic collagen turnover compared with nondilated aortas of TAV patients. Importantly, the ratio of hydroxylysyl pyridinoline (HP) to lysyl pyridinoline (LP), 2 distinct forms of collagen cross‐linking, was lower in dilated aortas from patients with BAV, which suggests that BAV is associated with a defect in the posttranslational collagen modification. This suggests a deficiency at the level of lysyl hydroxylase (PLOD1), which was confirmed by mRNA and protein analyses that showed reduced PLOD1 expression but normal lysyl oxidase expression in dilated aortas from patients with BAV. This suggests that impaired collagen cross‐linking in BAV patients may be attributed to changes in the expression and/or activity of PLOD1.
Our results demonstrate an impaired biosynthesis and posttranslational modification of collagen in aortas of patients with BAV, which may explain the increased aortic aneurysm formation in BAV patients.
PMCID: PMC3603268  PMID: 23525417
aneurysm; aorta; bicuspid; collagen; valve
6.  Characterization of Shear-Sensitive Genes in the Normal Rat Aorta Identifies Hand2 as a Major Flow-Responsive Transcription Factor 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(12):e52227.
Shear forces play a key role in the maintenance of vessel wall integrity. Current understanding regarding shear-dependent gene expression is mainly based on in vitro or in vivo observations with experimentally deranged shear, hence reflecting acute molecular events in relation to flow. Our objective was to combine computational fluid dynamic (CFD) simulations with global microarray analysis to study flow-dependent vessel wall biology in the aortic wall under physiological conditions.
Methods and Results
Male Wistar rats were used. Animal-specific wall shear stress (WSS) magnitude and vector direction were estimated using CFD based on aortic geometry and flow information acquired by magnetic resonance imaging. Two distinct flow pattern regions were identified in the normal rat aortic arch; the distal part of the lesser curvature being exposed to low WSS and a non-uniform vector direction, and a region along the greater curvature being subjected to markedly higher levels of WSS and a uniform vector direction. Microarray analysis identified numerous novel mechanosensitive genes, including Trpc4 and Fgf12, and confirmed well-known ones, e.g. Klf2 and Nrf2. Gene ontology analysis revealed an over-representation of genes involved in transcriptional regulation. The most differentially expressed gene, Hand2, is a transcription factor previously shown to be involved in extracellular matrix remodeling. HAND2 protein was endothelial specific and showed higher expression in the regions exposed to low WSS with disturbed flow.
Microarray analysis validated the CFD-defined WSS regions in the rat aortic arch, and identified numerous novel shear-sensitive genes. Defining the functional importance of these genes in relation to atherosusceptibility may provide important insight into the understanding of vascular pathology.
PMCID: PMC3527404  PMID: 23284944
7.  Interleukin-6 receptor pathways in abdominal aortic aneurysm 
European Heart Journal  2012;34(48):3707-3716.
We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of studies reporting circulating IL-6 in AAA, and new investigations of the association between a common non-synonymous functional variant (Asp358Ala) in the IL-6R gene (IL6R) and AAA, followed the analysis of the variant both in vitro and in vivo.
Inflammation may play a role in the development of abdominal aortic aneurysms (AAA). Interleukin-6 (IL-6) signalling through its receptor (IL-6R) is one pathway that could be exploited pharmacologically. We investigated this using a Mendelian randomization approach.
Up to October 2011, we identified seven studies (869 cases, 851 controls). Meta-analysis demonstrated that AAA cases had higher levels of IL-6 than controls [standardized mean difference (SMD) = 0.46 SD, 95% CI = 0.25–0.66, I2 = 70%, P = 1.1 × 10–5 random effects]. Meta-analysis of five studies (4524 cases/15 710 controls) demonstrated that rs7529229 (which tags the non-synonymous variant Asp358Ala, rs2228145) was associated with a lower risk of AAA, per Ala358 allele odds ratio 0.84, 95% CI: 0.80–0.89, I2 = 0%, P = 2.7 × 10–11). In vitro analyses in lymphoblastoid cell lines demonstrated a reduction in the expression of downstream targets (STAT3, MYC and ICAM1) in response to IL-6 stimulation in Ala358 carriers.
A Mendelian randomization approach provides robust evidence that signalling via the IL-6R is likely to be a causal pathway in AAA. Drugs that inhibit IL-6R may play a role in AAA management.
PMCID: PMC3869968  PMID: 23111417
Abdominal aortic aneurysm; Mendelian randomization; Interleukin-6; Polymorphism
8.  Genome-Wide Association Identifies Nine Common Variants Associated With Fasting Proinsulin Levels and Provides New Insights Into the Pathophysiology of Type 2 Diabetes 
Strawbridge, Rona J. | Dupuis, Josée | Prokopenko, Inga | Barker, Adam | Ahlqvist, Emma | Rybin, Denis | Petrie, John R. | Travers, Mary E. | Bouatia-Naji, Nabila | Dimas, Antigone S. | Nica, Alexandra | Wheeler, Eleanor | Chen, Han | Voight, Benjamin F. | Taneera, Jalal | Kanoni, Stavroula | Peden, John F. | Turrini, Fabiola | Gustafsson, Stefan | Zabena, Carina | Almgren, Peter | Barker, David J.P. | Barnes, Daniel | Dennison, Elaine M. | Eriksson, Johan G. | Eriksson, Per | Eury, Elodie | Folkersen, Lasse | Fox, Caroline S. | Frayling, Timothy M. | Goel, Anuj | Gu, Harvest F. | Horikoshi, Momoko | Isomaa, Bo | Jackson, Anne U. | Jameson, Karen A. | Kajantie, Eero | Kerr-Conte, Julie | Kuulasmaa, Teemu | Kuusisto, Johanna | Loos, Ruth J.F. | Luan, Jian'an | Makrilakis, Konstantinos | Manning, Alisa K. | Martínez-Larrad, María Teresa | Narisu, Narisu | Nastase Mannila, Maria | Öhrvik, John | Osmond, Clive | Pascoe, Laura | Payne, Felicity | Sayer, Avan A. | Sennblad, Bengt | Silveira, Angela | Stančáková, Alena | Stirrups, Kathy | Swift, Amy J. | Syvänen, Ann-Christine | Tuomi, Tiinamaija | van 't Hooft, Ferdinand M. | Walker, Mark | Weedon, Michael N. | Xie, Weijia | Zethelius, Björn | Ongen, Halit | Mälarstig, Anders | Hopewell, Jemma C. | Saleheen, Danish | Chambers, John | Parish, Sarah | Danesh, John | Kooner, Jaspal | Östenson, Claes-Göran | Lind, Lars | Cooper, Cyrus C. | Serrano-Ríos, Manuel | Ferrannini, Ele | Forsen, Tom J. | Clarke, Robert | Franzosi, Maria Grazia | Seedorf, Udo | Watkins, Hugh | Froguel, Philippe | Johnson, Paul | Deloukas, Panos | Collins, Francis S. | Laakso, Markku | Dermitzakis, Emmanouil T. | Boehnke, Michael | McCarthy, Mark I. | Wareham, Nicholas J. | Groop, Leif | Pattou, François | Gloyn, Anna L. | Dedoussis, George V. | Lyssenko, Valeriya | Meigs, James B. | Barroso, Inês | Watanabe, Richard M. | Ingelsson, Erik | Langenberg, Claudia | Hamsten, Anders | Florez, Jose C.
Diabetes  2011;60(10):2624-2634.
Proinsulin is a precursor of mature insulin and C-peptide. Higher circulating proinsulin levels are associated with impaired β-cell function, raised glucose levels, insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes (T2D). Studies of the insulin processing pathway could provide new insights about T2D pathophysiology.
We have conducted a meta-analysis of genome-wide association tests of ∼2.5 million genotyped or imputed single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and fasting proinsulin levels in 10,701 nondiabetic adults of European ancestry, with follow-up of 23 loci in up to 16,378 individuals, using additive genetic models adjusted for age, sex, fasting insulin, and study-specific covariates.
Nine SNPs at eight loci were associated with proinsulin levels (P < 5 × 10−8). Two loci (LARP6 and SGSM2) have not been previously related to metabolic traits, one (MADD) has been associated with fasting glucose, one (PCSK1) has been implicated in obesity, and four (TCF7L2, SLC30A8, VPS13C/C2CD4A/B, and ARAP1, formerly CENTD2) increase T2D risk. The proinsulin-raising allele of ARAP1 was associated with a lower fasting glucose (P = 1.7 × 10−4), improved β-cell function (P = 1.1 × 10−5), and lower risk of T2D (odds ratio 0.88; P = 7.8 × 10−6). Notably, PCSK1 encodes the protein prohormone convertase 1/3, the first enzyme in the insulin processing pathway. A genotype score composed of the nine proinsulin-raising alleles was not associated with coronary disease in two large case-control datasets.
We have identified nine genetic variants associated with fasting proinsulin. Our findings illuminate the biology underlying glucose homeostasis and T2D development in humans and argue against a direct role of proinsulin in coronary artery disease pathogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3178302  PMID: 21873549
9.  Expression of ceramide-metabolising enzymes in subcutaneous and intra-abdominal human adipose tissue 
Inflammation and increased ceramide concentrations characterise adipose tissue of obese women with high liver fat content compared to equally obese women with normal liver fat content. The present study characterises enzymes involved in ceramide metabolism in subcutaneous and intra-abdominal adipose tissue.
Pathways leading to increased ceramide concentrations in inflamed versus non-inflamed adipose tissue were investigated by quantifying expression levels of key enzymes involved in ceramide metabolism. Sphingomyelinases (sphingomyelin phosphodiesterases SMPD1-3) were investigated further using immunohistochemistry to establish their location within adipose tissue, and their mRNA expression levels were determined in subcutaneous and intra-abdominal adipose tissue from both non-obese and obese subject.
Gene expression levels of sphingomyelinases, enzymes that hydrolyse sphingomyelin to ceramide, rather than enzymes involved in de novo ceramide synthesis, were higher in inflamed compared to non-inflamed adipose tissue of obese women (with high and normal liver fat contents respectively). Sphingomyelinases were localised to both macrophages and adipocytes, but also to blood vessels and to extracellular regions surrounding vessels within adipose tissue. Expression levels of SMPD3 mRNA correlated significantly with concentrations of different ceramides and sphingomyelins. In both non-obese and obese subjects SMPD3 mRNA levels were higher in the more inflamed intra-abdominal compared to the subcutaneous adipose tissue depot.
Generation of ceramides within adipose tissue as a result of sphingomyelinase action may contribute to inflammation in human adipose tissue.
PMCID: PMC3478226  PMID: 22974251
Adipose tissue; Ceramide; Human; Inflammation; Sphingomyelinase
10.  Identification of a novel flow-mediated gene expression signature in patients with bicuspid aortic valve 
Individuals with bicuspid aortic valve (BAV) are at significantly higher risk of developing serious aortic complications than individuals with tricuspid aortic valves (TAV). Studies have indicated an altered aortic blood flow in patients with BAV; however, the extent to which altered flow influences the pathological state of BAV aorta is unclear. In the present study, we dissected flow-mediated aortic gene expression in patients undergoing elective open heart surgery. A large collection of public microarray data sets were firstly screened for consistent co-expression with five well-characterized flow-regulated genes (query genes). Genes with co-expression probability of >0.5 were selected and further analysed in expression profiles (127 arrays) from ascending aorta of BAV and TAV patients. Forty-four genes satisfied two filtering criteria: a significant correlation with one or more of the query genes (R > 0.40) and differential expression between patients with BAV and TAV. No gene fulfilled the criteria in mammary artery (88 arrays), an artery not in direct contact with the valve. Fifty-five percent of the genes significantly altered between BAV and TAV patients showed differential expression between two identified flow regions in the rat aorta. A large proportion of the identified genes were related to angiogenesis and/or wound healing, with pro-angiogenesis genes downregulated and inhibitory genes upregulated in patients with BAV. Moreover, differential expression of ZFP36, GRP116 and PKD2 was confirmed using immunohistochemistry. Implementing a new strategy, we have demonstrated an angiostatic gene expression signature in patients with BAV, indicating impaired wound healing in these patients, potentially involved in BAV-associated aortopathy.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00109-012-0942-8) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC3536974  PMID: 22903503
Aortic aneurysm; Transcriptome; Wound healing; Aorta; Thoracic; Congenital heart defects
11.  Use of Allele-Specific FAIRE to Determine Functional Regulatory Polymorphism Using Large-Scale Genotyping Arrays 
PLoS Genetics  2012;8(8):e1002908.
Following the widespread use of genome-wide association studies (GWAS), focus is turning towards identification of causal variants rather than simply genetic markers of diseases and traits. As a step towards a high-throughput method to identify genome-wide, non-coding, functional regulatory variants, we describe the technique of allele-specific FAIRE, utilising large-scale genotyping technology (FAIRE-gen) to determine allelic effects on chromatin accessibility and regulatory potential. FAIRE-gen was explored using lymphoblastoid cells and the 50,000 SNP Illumina CVD BeadChip. The technique identified an allele-specific regulatory polymorphism within NR1H3 (coding for LXR-α), rs7120118, coinciding with a previously GWAS-identified SNP for HDL-C levels. This finding was confirmed using FAIRE-gen with the 200,000 SNP Illumina Metabochip and verified with the established method of TaqMan allelic discrimination. Examination of this SNP in two prospective Caucasian cohorts comprising 15,000 individuals confirmed the association with HDL-C levels (combined beta = 0.016; p = 0.0006), and analysis of gene expression identified an allelic association with LXR-α expression in heart tissue. Using increasingly comprehensive genotyping chips and distinct tissues for examination, FAIRE-gen has the potential to aid the identification of many causal SNPs associated with disease from GWAS.
Author Summary
The identification of genetic variants associated with complex diseases has rapidly grown through lowering costs of genome sequencing and the use of large-scale genotyping chips based on this sequencing data. There have not been corresponding advances in the identification of causal genetic variants compared to variants simply associated with diseases or traits. Most of these causal variants are thought to be located not within regions coding for proteins, but within genomic regions that regulate the level of protein. We have combined the use of large-scale gene chips with functional analysis, to determine regions of the genome that confer a greater potential for controlling gene regulation dependent on the genotype of that individual. Combining this data with population data and gene expression data, we identify a potential causal variant that alters regulation of LXR-α, a key mediator in lipid metabolism, and show that this variant is associated with HDL-C levels. This methodology provides a model for future analyses to identify further causal variants for disease.
PMCID: PMC3420950  PMID: 22916038
12.  Functional Analysis of Two PLA2G2A Variants Associated with Secretory Phospholipase A2-IIA Levels 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(7):e41139.
Secretory phospholipase A2 group IIA (sPLA2-IIA) has been identified as a biomarker of atherosclerosis in observational and animal studies. The protein is encoded by the PLA2G2A gene and the aim of this study was to test the functionality of two PLA2G2A non-coding SNPs, rs11573156 C>G and rs3767221 T>G where the rare alleles have been previously associated with higher and lower sPLA2-IIA levels respectively.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Luciferase assays, electrophoretic mobility shift assays (EMSA), and RNA expression by RT-PCR were used to examine allelic differences. For rs3767221 the G allele showed ∼55% lower luciferase activity compared to the T allele (T = 62.1 (95% CI 59.1 to 65.1) G = 27.8 (95% CI 25.0 to 30.6), p = 1.22×10−35, and stronger EMSA binding of a nuclear protein compared to the T-allele. For rs11573156 C >G there were no luciferase or EMSA allelic differences seen. In lymphocyte cell RNA, from individuals of known rs11573156 genotype, there was no allelic RNA expression difference for exons 5 and 6, but G allele carriers (n = 7) showed a trend to lower exon 1–2 expression compared to CC individuals. To take this further, in the ASAP study (n = 223), an rs11573156 proxy (r2 = 0.91) showed ∼25% higher liver expression of PLA2G2A (1.67×10−17) associated with the G allele. However, considering exon specific expression, the association was greatly reduced for exon 2 (4.5×10−5) compared to exons 3–6 (10−10 to 10−20), suggesting rs11573156 G allele-specific exon 2 skipping.
Both SNPs are functional and provide useful tools for Mendelian Randomisation to determine whether the relationship between sPLA2-IIA and coronary heart disease is causal.
PMCID: PMC3412631  PMID: 22879865
13.  Comparison of Dorsocervical With Abdominal Subcutaneous Adipose Tissue in Patients With and Without Antiretroviral Therapy–Associated Lipodystrophy 
Diabetes  2011;60(7):1894-1900.
Combination antiretroviral therapy (cART) is associated with lipodystrophy, i.e., loss of subcutaneous adipose tissue in the abdomen, limbs, and face and its accumulation intra-abdominally. No fat is lost dorsocervically and it can even accumulate in this region (buffalo hump). It is unknown how preserved dorsocervical fat differs from abdominal subcutaneous fat in HIV-1–infected cART-treated patients with (cART+LD+) and without (cART+LD−) lipodystrophy.
We used histology, microarray, PCR, and magnetic resonance imaging to compare dorsocervical and abdominal subcutaneous adipose tissue in cART+LD+ (n = 21) and cART+LD− (n = 11).
Albeit dorsocervical adipose tissue in cART+LD+ seems spared from lipoatrophy, its mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA; copies/cell) content was significantly lower (by 62%) than that of the corresponding tissue in cART+LD−. Expression of CD68 mRNA, a marker of macrophages, and numerous inflammatory genes in microarray were significantly lower in dorsocervical versus abdominal subcutaneous adipose tissue. Genes with the greatest difference in expression between the two depots were those involved in regulation of transcription and regionalization (homeobox genes), irrespective of lipodystrophy status. There was negligible mRNA expression of uncoupling protein 1, a gene characteristic of brown adipose tissue, in either depot.
Because mtDNA is depleted even in the nonatrophic dorsocervical adipose tissue, it is unlikely that the cause of lipoatrophy is loss of mtDNA. Dorsocervical adipose tissue is less inflamed than lipoatrophic adipose tissue. It does not resemble brown adipose tissue. The greatest difference in gene expression between dorsocervical and abdominal subcutaneous adipose tissue is in expression of homeobox genes.
PMCID: PMC3121420  PMID: 21602514
14.  The Chromosome 9p21.3 Coronary Heart Disease Risk Allele Is Associated with Altered Gene Expression in Normal Heart and Vascular Tissues 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(6):e39574.
Genome-wide association studies have identified a coronary artery disease (CAD) risk locus in a non-coding region at 9p21.3, the nearest genes being CDKN2A and CDKN2B. To understand the pathways by which this locus might influence CAD susceptibility, we investigated associations between the 9p21.3 risk genotype and global gene expression in heart tissue from donors with no diagnosed heart disease (n = 108, predominant cause of death, cerebral vascular accident) and in carotid plaque (n = 106), aorta (n = 104) and mammary artery (n = 88) tissues from heart valve and carotid endarterectomy patients. Genotyping was performed with Taqman assays and Illumina arrays, and gene expression profiles generated with Affymetrix microarrays. Associations were analyzed with an additive genetic model. In heart tissue, 46 genes were putatively altered in association with the 9p21.3 risk allele (70% down-regulated, fold-change >1.1 per allele, p<0.05 adjusted for age, gender, ethnicity, cause of death). These genes were enriched for biomarkers of myocardial infarction (p = 1.53×10−9), response to wounding (p = 2.65×10−10) and inflammatory processes (p<1.97×10−7). Among the top 10 most down-regulated genes, 7 genes shared a set of transcription factor binding sites within conserved promoter regions (p<1.14×10−5), suggesting they may be co-regulated. Canonical pathway modelling of the most differentially expressed transcripts across all tissues (154 genes, 60% down-regulated, fold-change >1.1 per allele, p<0.01) showed that 75% of the genes could be transcriptionally regulated through the cell cycle G1 phase progression pathway (p<1.08×10−258), in which CDKN2A and CDKN2B play a regulatory role. These data suggest that the cell cycle G1 phase progression pathway is activated in individuals with the 9p21.3 risk allele. This may contribute to a proliferative phenotype that promotes adverse cardiac hypertrophy and vascular remodeling, leading to an increased CAD risk.
PMCID: PMC3387158  PMID: 22768093
15.  The Q705K Polymorphism in NLRP3 Is a Gain-of-Function Alteration Leading to Excessive Interleukin-1β and IL-18 Production 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(4):e34977.
The Q705K polymorphism in NLRP3 has been implicated in several chronic inflammatory diseases. In this study we determine the functional role of this commonly occurring polymorphism using an in-vitro system.
Principal Findings
NLRP3-WT and NLRP3-Q705K were retrovirally transduced into the human monocytic cell line THP-1, followed by the assessment of IL-1β and IL-18 levels in the cell culture supernatant. THP-1 cells expressing the above NLRP3 variants were sorted based upon Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP) expression. Cytokine response to alum (one of the most widely used adjuvants in vaccines) in the cells stably expressing NLRP3-WT and NLRP3-Q705K were determined. IL-1β and IL-18 levels were found to be elevated in THP-1 cells transduced with NLRP3-Q705K compared to the NLRP3-WT. Upon exposure to alum, THP-1 cells stably expressing NLRP3-Q705K displayed an increased release of IL-1β, IL-18 and TNF-α, in a caspase-1 and IL-1 receptor-dependent manner.
Collectively, these findings show that the Q705K polymorphism in NLRP3 is a gain-of-function alteration leading to an overactive NLRP3 inflammasome. The option of IL-1β blockade may be considered in patients with chronic inflammatory disorders that are unresponsive to conventional treatments.
PMCID: PMC3328489  PMID: 22529966
17.  A CYP26B1 Polymorphism Enhances Retinoic Acid Catabolism and May Aggravate Atherosclerosis 
Molecular Medicine  2012;18(1):712-718.
All-trans retinoic acid, controlled by cytochrome P450, family 26 (CYP26) enzymes, potentially has beneficial effects in atherosclerosis treatment. This study investigates CYP26 subfamily B, polypeptide 1 (CYP26B1) in atherosclerosis and the effects of a genetic polymorphism in CYP26B1 on retinoid catabolism. We found that CYP26B1 mRNA was induced by retinoic acid in human atherosclerotic arteries, and CYP26B1 and the macrophage marker CD68 were colocalized in human atherosclerotic lesions. In mice, Cyp26B1 mRNA was higher in atherosclerotic arteries than in normal arteries. Databases were queried for nonsynonymous CYP26B1 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and rs2241057 selected for further studies. Constructs of the CYP26B1 variants were created and used for production of purified proteins and transfection of macrophagelike cells. The minor variant catabolized retinoic acid with significantly higher efficiency, indicating that rs2241057 is functional and suggesting reduced retinoid availability in tissues with the minor variant. rs2241057 was investigated in a Stockholm Coronary Atherosclerosis Risk Factor (SCARF) subgroup. The minor allele was associated with slightly larger lesions, as determined by angiography. In summary, this study identifies the first CYP26B1 polymorphism that alters CYP26B1 capacity to metabolize retinoic acid. CYP26B1 was expressed in macrophage-rich areas of human atherosclerotic lesions, induced by retinoic acid and increased in murine atherosclerosis. Taken together, the results indicate that CYP26B1 capacity is genetically regulated and suggest that local CYP26B1 activity may influence atherosclerosis.
PMCID: PMC3388133  PMID: 22415012
18.  Common Genetic Variations in the NALP3 Inflammasome Are Associated with Delayed Apoptosis of Human Neutrophils 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(3):e31326.
Neutrophils are key-players in the innate host defense and their programmed cell death and removal are essential for efficient resolution of inflammation. These cells recognize a variety of pathogens, and the NOD-like receptors (NLRs) have been suggested as intracellular sensors of microbial components and cell injury/stress. Some NLR will upon activation form multi-protein complexes termed inflammasomes that result in IL-1β production. NLR mutations are associated with auto-inflammatory syndromes, and our previous data propose NLRP3 (Q705K)/CARD-8 (C10X) polymorphisms to contribute to increased risk and severity of inflammatory disease by acting as genetic susceptibility factors. These gene products are components of the NALP3 inflammasome, and approximately 6.5% of the Swedish population are heterozygote carriers of these combined gene variants. Since patients carrying the Q705K/C10X polymorphisms display leukocytosis, the aim of the present study was to find out whether the inflammatory phenotype was related to dysfunctional apoptosis and impaired clearance of neutrophils by macrophages.
Methods and Findings
Patients carrying the Q705K/C10X polymorphisms displayed significantly delayed spontaneous as well as microbe-induced apoptosis compared to matched controls. Western blotting revealed increased levels and phosphorylation of Akt and Mcl-1 in the patients' neutrophils. In contrast to macrophages from healthy controls, macrophages from the patients produced lower amounts of TNF; suggesting impaired macrophage clearance response.
The Q705K/C10X polymorphisms are associated with delayed apoptosis of neutrophils. These findings are explained by altered involvement of different regulators of apoptosis, resulting in an anti-apoptotic profile. Moreover, the macrophage response to ingestion of microbe-induced apoptotic neutrophils is altered in the patients. Taken together, the patients display impaired turnover and clearance of apoptotic neutrophils, pointing towards a dysregulated innate immune response that influences the resolution of inflammation. The future challenge is to understand how microbes affect the activation of inflammasomes, and why this interaction will develop into severe inflammatory disease in certain individuals.
PMCID: PMC3293864  PMID: 22403613
19.  Combined Chromatin and Expression Analysis Reveals Specific Regulatory Mechanisms within Cytokine Genes in the Macrophage Early Immune Response 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(2):e32306.
Macrophages play a critical role in innate immunity, and the expression of early response genes orchestrate much of the initial response of the immune system. Macrophages undergo extensive transcriptional reprogramming in response to inflammatory stimuli such as Lipopolysaccharide (LPS).
To identify gene transcription regulation patterns involved in early innate immune responses, we used two genome-wide approaches - gene expression profiling and chromatin immunoprecipitation-sequencing (ChIP-seq) analysis. We examined the effect of 2 hrs LPS stimulation on early gene expression and its relation to chromatin remodeling (H3 acetylation; H3Ac) and promoter binding of Sp1 and RNA polymerase II phosphorylated at serine 5 (S5P RNAPII), which is a marker for transcriptional initiation. Our results indicate novel and alternative gene regulatory mechanisms for certain proinflammatory genes. We identified two groups of up-regulated inflammatory genes with respect to chromatin modification and promoter features. One group, including highly up-regulated genes such as tumor necrosis factor (TNF), was characterized by H3Ac, high CpG content and lack of TATA boxes. The second group, containing inflammatory mediators (interleukins and CCL chemokines), was up-regulated upon LPS stimulation despite lacking H3Ac in their annotated promoters, which were low in CpG content but did contain TATA boxes. Genome-wide analysis showed that few H3Ac peaks were unique to either +/−LPS condition. However, within these, an unpacking/expansion of already existing H3Ac peaks was observed upon LPS stimulation. In contrast, a significant proportion of S5P RNAPII peaks (approx 40%) was unique to either condition. Furthermore, data indicated a large portion of previously unannotated TSSs, particularly in LPS-stimulated macrophages, where only 28% of unique S5P RNAPII peaks overlap annotated promoters. The regulation of the inflammatory response appears to occur in a very specific manner at the chromatin level for specific genes and this study highlights the level of fine-tuning that occurs in the immune response.
PMCID: PMC3288078  PMID: 22384210
20.  Unraveling Divergent Gene Expression Profiles in Bicuspid and Tricuspid Aortic Valve Patients with Thoracic Aortic Dilatation: The ASAP Study 
Molecular Medicine  2011;17(11-12):1365-1373.
Thoracic aortic aneurysm (TAA) is a common complication in patients with a bicuspid aortic valve (BAV), the most frequent congenital heart disorder. For unknown reasons TAA occurs at a younger age, with a higher frequency in BAV patients than in patients with a tricuspid aortic valve (TAV), resulting in an increased risk for aortic dissection and rupture. To investigate the increased TAA incidence in BAV patients, we obtained tissue biopsy samples from nondilated and dilated aortas of 131 BAV and TAV patients. Global gene expression profiles were analyzed from controls and from aortic intima-media and adventitia of patients (in total 345 samples). Of the genes found to be differentially expressed with dilation, only a few (<4%) were differentially expressed in both BAV and TAV patients. With the use of gene set enrichment analysis, the cell adhesion and extracellular region gene ontology sets were identified as common features of TAA in both BAV and TAV patients. Immune response genes were observed to be particularly overexpressed in the aortic media of dilated TAV samples. The divergent gene expression profiles indicate that there are fundamental differences in TAA etiology in BAV and TAV patients. Immune response activation solely in the aortic media of TAV patients suggests that inflammation is involved in TAA formation in TAV but not in BAV patients. Conversely, genes were identified that were only differentially expressed with dilation in BAV patients. The result has bearing on future clinical studies in which separate analysis of BAV and TAV patients is recommended.
PMCID: PMC3321821  PMID: 21968790
21.  Diverging Alternative Splicing Fingerprints in the Transforming Growth Factor-β Signaling Pathway Identified in Thoracic Aortic Aneurysms 
Molecular Medicine  2011;17(7-8):665-675.
Impaired regulation of the transforming growth factor-β (TGFβ) signaling pathway has been linked to thoracic aortic aneurysm (TAA). Previous work has indicated that differential splicing is a common phenomenon, potentially influencing the function of proteins. In the present study we investigated the occurrence of differential splicing in the TGFβ pathway associated with TAA in patients with bicuspid aortic valve (BAV) and tricuspid aortic valve (TAV). Affymetrix human exon arrays were applied to 81 intima/media tissue samples from dilated (n = 51) and nondilated (n = 30) aortas of TAV and BAV patients. To analyze the occurrence of alternative splicing in the TGFβ pathway, multivariate techniques, including principal component analysis and OPLS-DA (orthogonal partial least squares to latent structures discriminant analysis), were applied on all exons (n = 614) of the TGFβ pathway. The scores plot, based on the splice index of individual exons, showed separate clusters of patients with both dilated and nondilated aorta, thereby illustrating the potential importance of alternative splicing in TAA. In total, differential splicing was detected in 187 exons. Furthermore, the pattern of alternative splicing is clearly differs between TAV and BAV patients. Differential splicing was specific for BAV and TAV patients in 40 and 86 exons, respectively, and splicings of 61 exons were shared between the two phenotypes. The occurrence of differential splicing was demonstrated in selected genes by reverse transcription–polymerase chain reaction. In summary, alternative splicing is a common feature of TAA formation. Our results suggest that dilatation in TAV and BAV patients has different alternative splicing fingerprints in the TGFβ pathway.
PMCID: PMC3146609  PMID: 21448509
22.  A Common Polymorphism in the Promoter Region of the TNFSF4 Gene Is Associated with Lower Allele-Specific Expression and Risk of Myocardial Infarction 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(3):e17652.
The TNFSF4/TNFRSF4 system, along with several other receptor-ligand pairs, is involved in the recruitment and activation of T-cells and is therefore tentatively implicated in atherosclerosis and acute coronary syndromes. We have previously shown that genetic variants in TNFSF4 are associated with myocardial infarction (MI) in women. This prompted functional studies of TNFSF4 expression.
Methods and Results
Based on a screening of the TNFSF4 genomic region, a promoter polymorphism (rs45454293) and a haplotype were identified, conceivably involved in gene regulation. The rs45454293T-allele, in agreement with the linked rs3850641G-allele, proved to be associated with increased risk of MI in women. Haplotype-specific chromatin immunoprecipitation of activated polymerase II, as a measure of transcriptional activity in vivo, suggested that the haplotype including the rs45454293 and rs3850641 polymorphisms is functionally important, the rs45454293T- and rs3850641G-alleles being associated with lower transcriptional activity in cells heterozygous for both polymorphisms. The functional role of rs45454293 on transcriptional levels of TNFSF4 was clarified by luciferase reporter assays, where the rs45454293T-allele decreased gene expression when compared with the rs45454293C-allele, while the rs3850641 SNP did not have any effect on TNFSF4 promoter activity. Electromobility shift assay showed that the rs45454293 polymorphism, but not rs3850641, affects the binding of nuclear factors, thus suggesting that the lower transcriptional activity is attributed to binding of one or more transcriptional repressor(s) to the T-allele.
Our data indicate that the TNFSF4 rs45454293T-allele is associated with lower TNFSF4 expression and increased risk of MI.
PMCID: PMC3060868  PMID: 21445270
23.  Relationship between CAD Risk Genotype in the Chromosome 9p21 Locus and Gene Expression. Identification of Eight New ANRIL Splice Variants 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(11):e7677.
Several genome-wide association studies have recently linked a group of single nucleotide polymorphisms in the 9p21 region with cardiovascular disease. The molecular mechanisms of this link are not fully understood. We investigated five different expression microarray datasets in order to determine if the genotype had effect on expression of any gene transcript in aorta, mammary artery, carotid plaque and lymphoblastoid cells.
Methodology/Principal Findings
After multiple testing correction, no genes were found to have relation to the rs2891168 risk genotype, either on a genome-wide scale or on a regional (8 MB) scale. The neighbouring ANRIL gene was found to have eight novel transcript variants not previously known from literature and these varied by tissue type. We therefore performed a detailed probe-level analysis and found small stretches of significant relation to genotype but no consistent associations. In all investigated tissues we found an inverse correlation between ANRIL and the MTAP gene and a positive correlation between ANRIL and CDKN2A and CDKN2B.
Investigation of relation of the risk genotype to gene expression is complicated by the transcript complexity of the locus. With our investigation of a range of relevant tissue we wish to underscore the need for careful attention to the complexity of the alternative splicing issues in the region and its implications to the design of future gene expression studies.
PMCID: PMC2765615  PMID: 19888323
24.  Infection with Human Cytomegalovirus Alters the MMP-9/TIMP-1 Balance in Human Macrophages▿  
Journal of Virology  2008;83(2):830-835.
Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) has been suggested to contribute to the development of vascular diseases. Since matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) have been implicated in atherosclerosis and plaque rupture, we investigated the effect of HCMV infection on MMP expression in human macrophages. We used quantitative real-time PCR, Western blotting, and gelatin zymography to study the expression and activity of MMP-2, -3, -7, -9, -12, -13, and -14 and of tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase 1 (TIMP-1), -2, -3, and -4. HCMV infection reduced MMP-9 mRNA, protein, and activity levels but increased TIMP-1 mRNA and protein levels. Furthermore, a decrease in MMP-12, MMP-14, TIMP-2, and TIMP-3 mRNA levels could be detected. The MMP-9 and TIMP-1 mRNA alterations required viral replication. MMP-9 mRNA expression was affected by an immediate-early or early viral gene product, whereas TIMP-1 mRNA expression was affected by late viral gene products. We conclude that HCMV infection specifically alters the MMP-9/TIMP-1 balance in human macrophages, which in turn reduces MMP-9 activity in infected cells. Since MMP-9 prevents atherosclerotic plaque development in mice, these results suggest that HCMV may contribute to atherogenesis through specific effects on MMP-9 activity.
PMCID: PMC2612361  PMID: 18945772
25.  GeneRegionScan: a Bioconductor package for probe-level analysis of specific, small regions of the genome 
Bioinformatics  2009;25(15):1978-1979.
Summary: Whole-genome microarrays allow us to interrogate the entire transcriptome of a cell. Affymetrix microarrays are constructed using several probes that match to different regions of a gene and a summarization step reduces this complexity into a single value, representing the expression level of the gene or the expression level of an exon in the case of exon arrays. However, this simplification eliminates information that might be useful when focusing on specific genes of interest. To address these limitations, we present a software package for the R platform that allows detailed analysis of expression at the probe level. The package matches the probe sequences against a target gene sequence (either mRNA or DNA) and shows the expression levels of each probe along the gene. It also features functions to fit a linear regression based on several genetic models that enables study of the relationship between gene expression and genotype.
Availability and implementation: The software is implemented as a platform-independent R package available through the Bioconductor repository at It is licensed as GPL 2.0.
Supplementary Information: Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.
PMCID: PMC2712334  PMID: 19398447

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