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1.  Studying micro RNA Function and Dysfunction in Alzheimer’s Disease 
Frontiers in Genetics  2013;3:327.
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a tragic, progressive, age-related neurological dysfunction, representing one of the most prevalent neurodegenerative disorders in industrialized societies. Globally, 5 million new cases of AD are diagnosed annually, with one new AD case being reported every 7 s. Most recently there has been a surge in the study of the regulatory mechanisms of the AD process, and the particular significance of small non-coding ∼22 ribonucleotide RNAs called micro RNAs (miRNAs). Abundant data have profiled miRNA patterns in healthy, aging brain, in mild cognitive impairment (MCI), and in the moderate- and late-stages of AD. The major mode of action of miRNA is to interact, via base-pair complementarity, with ribonucleotides located within the 3′ untranslated region (3′-UTR) of multiple target messenger RNAs (mRNAs), and in doing so decrease the capability of that specific mRNA to be expressed. Many miRNAs are highly cell- and tissue-specific. The human brain appears to use only a highly specific fraction of all known human miRNAs, whose speciation and complexity are defined as a discrete subset of all known small non-coding RNAs (sncRNAs) in the brain. In general, in contrast to normally, aging human brain, in AD a family of pathogenically up-regulated miRNAs appear to be down-regulating the expression certain brain-essential mRNA targets, including key regulatory genes involved interactively in neuroinflammation, synaptogenesis, neurotrophic functions, and amyloidogenesis. These up-regulated, NF-kB-sensitive miRNAs, involved in the innate immune and inflammatory response and synaptic, neurotrophic, and amyloidogenic functions include miRNA-9, miRNA-125b, miRNA-146a, and miRNA-155. Other miRNAs of the miRNA-15/107 family, miRNA-153 and miRNA-190, and others, will be discussed. Overall, this manuscript will review the known contribution of miRNAs to aging brain function and the role they appear to play in the incidence and progression of AD.
PMCID: PMC3565163  PMID: 23390425
aging; Alzheimer’s disease; amyloidogenesis; inflammation; miRNA; neurotrophism; presenilin; synaptogenesis
2.  Decreased Rate of Evolution in Y Chromosome STR Loci of Increased Size of the Repeat Unit 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(9):e7276.
Polymorphic Y chromosome short tandem repeats (STRs) have been widely used in population genetic and evolutionary studies. Compared to di-, tri-, and tetranucleotide repeats, STRs with longer repeat units occur more rarely and are far less commonly used.
Principal Findings
In order to study the evolutionary dynamics of STRs according to repeat unit size, we analysed variation at 24 Y chromosome repeat loci: 1 tri-, 14 tetra-, 7 penta-, and 2 hexanucleotide loci. According to our results, penta- and hexanucleotide repeats have approximately two times lower repeat variance and diversity than tri- and tetranucleotide repeats, indicating that their mutation rate is about half of that of tri- and tetranucleotide repeats. Thus, STR markers with longer repeat units are more robust in distinguishing Y chromosome haplogroups and, in some cases, phylogenetic splits within established haplogroups.
Our findings suggest that Y chromosome STRs of increased repeat unit size have a lower rate of evolution, which has significant relevance in population genetic and evolutionary studies.
PMCID: PMC2748704  PMID: 19789645
3.  Exome Sequencing from Nanogram Amounts of Starting DNA: Comparing Three Approaches 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(7):e101154.
Hybridization-based target enrichment protocols require relatively large starting amounts of genomic DNA, which is not always available. Here, we tested three approaches to pre-capture library preparation starting from 10 ng of genomic DNA: (i and ii) whole-genome amplification of DNA samples with REPLI-g (Qiagen) and GenomePlex (Sigma) kits followed by standard library preparation, and (iii) library construction with a low input oriented ThruPLEX kit (Rubicon Genomics). Exome capture with Agilent SureSelectXT2 Human AllExon v4+UTRs capture probes, and HiSeq2000 sequencing were performed for test libraries along with the control library prepared from 1 µg of starting DNA. Tested protocols were characterized in terms of mapping efficiency, enrichment ratio, coverage of the target region, and reliability of SNP genotyping. REPLI-g- and ThruPLEX-FD-based protocols seem to be adequate solutions for exome sequencing of low input samples.
PMCID: PMC4081514  PMID: 24992588
4.  Human-Specific Histone Methylation Signatures at Transcription Start Sites in Prefrontal Neurons 
PLoS Biology  2012;10(11):e1001427.
Mapping histone methylation landscapes in neurons from human, chimpanzee, and macaque brains reveals coordinated, human-specific epigenetic regulation at hundreds of regulatory sequences.
Cognitive abilities and disorders unique to humans are thought to result from adaptively driven changes in brain transcriptomes, but little is known about the role of cis-regulatory changes affecting transcription start sites (TSS). Here, we mapped in human, chimpanzee, and macaque prefrontal cortex the genome-wide distribution of histone H3 trimethylated at lysine 4 (H3K4me3), an epigenetic mark sharply regulated at TSS, and identified 471 sequences with human-specific enrichment or depletion. Among these were 33 loci selectively methylated in neuronal but not non-neuronal chromatin from children and adults, including TSS at DPP10 (2q14.1), CNTN4 and CHL1 (3p26.3), and other neuropsychiatric susceptibility genes. Regulatory sequences at DPP10 and additional loci carried a strong footprint of hominid adaptation, including elevated nucleotide substitution rates and regulatory motifs absent in other primates (including archaic hominins), with evidence for selective pressures during more recent evolution and adaptive fixations in modern populations. Chromosome conformation capture at two neurodevelopmental disease loci, 2q14.1 and 16p11.2, revealed higher order chromatin structures resulting in physical contact of multiple human-specific H3K4me3 peaks spaced 0.5–1 Mb apart, in conjunction with a novel cis-bound antisense RNA linked to Polycomb repressor proteins and downregulated DPP10 expression. Therefore, coordinated epigenetic regulation via newly derived TSS chromatin could play an important role in the emergence of human-specific gene expression networks in brain that contribute to cognitive functions and neurological disease susceptibility in modern day humans.
Author Summary
Primate and human genomes comprise billions of base pairs, but we are unlikely to gain a deeper understanding of brain functions unique to human (including cognitive abilities and psychiatric diseases) merely by comparing linear DNA sequences. Such determinants of species-specific function might instead be found in the so-called “epigenetic” characteristics of genomic regions; differences in the protein-packaged chromatin state in which genomic DNA exists in the cell. Here, we examine neurons from the prefrontal cortex, a brain region closely associated with the evolution of the primate brain, and identify hundreds of short DNA sequences defined by human-specific changes in chromatin structure and function when compared to non-human primates. These changes included species-specific regulation of methylation marks on the histone proteins around which genomic DNA is wrapped. Sequences subject to human-specific epigenetic regulation showed significant spatial clustering, and despite being separated by hundreds of thousands of base pairs on the linear genome, were in direct physical contact with each other through chromosomal looping and other higher order chromatin features. This observation raises the intriguing possibility that coordinated epigenetic regulation via newly derived chromatin features at gene transcription start sites could play an important role in the emergence of human-specific gene expression networks in the brain. Finally, we identified a strong genetic footprint of hominid evolution in a small subset of transcription start sites defined by human-specific gains in histone methylation, with particularly strong enrichment in prefrontal cortex neurons. For example, the base pair sequence of DPP10 (a gene critically important for normal human brain development) not only showed distinct human-specific changes, but also evidence for more recent selective pressures within the human population.
PMCID: PMC3502543  PMID: 23185133
5.  Genomics of Behavioral Diseases 
PMCID: PMC3316938  PMID: 22485117
7.  Separating the post-Glacial coancestry of European and Asian Y chromosomes within haplogroup R1a 
Human Y-chromosome haplogroup structure is largely circumscribed by continental boundaries. One notable exception to this general pattern is the young haplogroup R1a that exhibits post-Glacial coalescent times and relates the paternal ancestry of more than 10% of men in a wide geographic area extending from South Asia to Central East Europe and South Siberia. Its origin and dispersal patterns are poorly understood as no marker has yet been described that would distinguish European R1a chromosomes from Asian. Here we present frequency and haplotype diversity estimates for more than 2000 R1a chromosomes assessed for several newly discovered SNP markers that introduce the onset of informative R1a subdivisions by geography. Marker M434 has a low frequency and a late origin in West Asia bearing witness to recent gene flow over the Arabian Sea. Conversely, marker M458 has a significant frequency in Europe, exceeding 30% in its core area in Eastern Europe and comprising up to 70% of all M17 chromosomes present there. The diversity and frequency profiles of M458 suggest its origin during the early Holocene and a subsequent expansion likely related to a number of prehistoric cultural developments in the region. Its primary frequency and diversity distribution correlates well with some of the major Central and East European river basins where settled farming was established before its spread further eastward. Importantly, the virtual absence of M458 chromosomes outside Europe speaks against substantial patrilineal gene flow from East Europe to Asia, including to India, at least since the mid-Holocene.
PMCID: PMC2987245  PMID: 19888303
Y chromosome; haplogroup R1a; human evolution; population genetics
8.  Complete Mitochondrial Genome and Phylogeny of Pleistocene MammothMammuthus primigenius 
PLoS Biology  2006;4(3):e73.
Phylogenetic relationships between the extinct woolly mammoth(Mammuthus primigenius), and the Asian(Elephas maximus) and African savanna(Loxodonta africana) elephants remain unresolved. Here, we report the sequence of the complete mitochondrial genome (16,842 base pairs) of a woolly mammoth extracted from permafrost-preserved remains from the Pleistocene epoch—the oldest mitochondrial genome sequence determined to date. We demonstrate that well-preserved mitochondrial genome fragments, as long as ~1,600–1700 base pairs, can be retrieved from pre-Holocene remains of an extinct species. Phylogenetic reconstruction of the Elephantinae clade suggests thatM. primigenius andE. maximus are sister species that diverged soon after their common ancestor split from theL. africana lineage. Low nucleotide diversity found between independently determined mitochondrial genomic sequences of woolly mammoths separated geographically and in time suggests that north-eastern Siberia was occupied by a relatively homogeneous population ofM. primigenius throughout the late Pleistocene.
The complete mitochondrial genome of a 33,000-year-old Mammoth confirms its close relationship with the Asian elephant and suggests that genetic diversity among mammoths in Siberia during the late Pleistocene was low
PMCID: PMC1360101  PMID: 16448217

Results 1-8 (8)