Alpha synuclein is increased in dopamine neurons of cocaine abusers and in rats whose alcohol preference is inbred. Recent studies have shown increased alpha-synuclein protein expression in serum of alcoholic patients that is linked with severity of alcohol craving. The aim of this study was to analyze the serum levels of alpha synuclein in healthy subjects and in recently abstinent cocaine abusers. Alpha synuclein protein expression was measured by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay in serum specimens obtained from 38 recently abstinent cocaine dependent patients and 14 control subjects. The presence of cocaine dependence disorder was based on the Structured Clinical Interview (DSM-IV). Drug severity was assessed by the Addiction Severity Index ratings and composite measures. Scores of the intensity and frequency of cocaine craving episodes were obtained from the Minnesota Cocaine Craving Questionnaire. The serum concentrations of alpha synuclein in cocaine dependent patients were significantly higher as compared with age-matched drug-free controls (p < 0.001). Alpha synuclein levels in blood were significantly correlated with the intensity (r = 0.60, p < 0.001) and frequency (r = 0.64. p < 0.001) of cocaine craving and with thirty days of cocaine use in the prior month before entry to treatment (r = 0.56, p < 0.005). However, there was no correlation between the serum protein levels of alpha synuclein and age in either group. This report is the first demonstration of altered alpha synuclein levels in peripheral blood from cocaine abusers. These data agree with previous reports in postmortem brain of cocaine abusers and provide support for an association between alpha synuclein and cocaine dependence.
Cocaine; serum; dopamine; craving; synuclein
The dopamine receptor D2 (encoded by DRD2) is implicated in susceptibility to mental disorders and cocaine abuse, but mechanisms responsible for this relationship remain uncertain. DRD2 mRNA exists in two main splice isoforms with distinct functions: D2 long (D2L) and D2 short (D2S, lacking exon 6), expressed mainly postsynaptically and presynaptically, respectively. Two intronic single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs rs2283265 (intron 5) and rs1076560 (intron 6)) in high linkage disequilibrium (LD) with each other have been reported to alter D2S/D2L splicing and several behavioral traits in human subjects, such as memory processing. To assess the role of DRD2 variants in cocaine abuse, we measured levels of D2S and D2L mRNA in human brain autopsy tissues (prefrontal cortex and putamen) obtained from cocaine abusers and controls, and genotyped a panel of DRD2 SNPs (119 abusers and 95 controls). Robust effects of rs2283265 and rs1076560 on reducing formation of D2S relative to D2L were confirmed. The minor alleles of rs2283265/rs1076560 were considerably more frequent in Caucasians (18%) compared with African Americans (7%). Also, in Caucasians, rs2283265/rs1076560 minor alleles were significantly overrepresented in cocaine abusers compared with controls (rs2283265: 25 to 9%, respectively; p=0.001; OR=3.4 (1.7–7.1)). Several SNPs previously implicated in diverse clinical association studies are in high LD with rs2283265/rs1076560 and could have served as surrogate markers. Our results confirm the role of rs2283265/rs1076560 in D2 alternative splicing and support a strong role in susceptibility to cocaine abuse.
alternative splicing; cocaine; dopamine; DRD2; D2S; human; addiction and substance abuse; dopamine; neurogenetics; psychostimulants; drd2; d2s; human; alternative splicing; cocaine
Sharks are among the most threatened groups of marine species. Populations are declining globally to support the growing demand for shark fin soup. Sharks are known to bioaccumulate toxins that may pose health risks to consumers of shark products. The feeding habits of sharks are varied, including fish, mammals, crustaceans and plankton. The cyanobacterial neurotoxin β-N-methylamino-L-alanine (BMAA) has been detected in species of free-living marine cyanobacteria and may bioaccumulate in the marine food web. In this study, we sampled fin clips from seven different species of sharks in South Florida to survey the occurrence of BMAA using HPLC-FD and Triple Quadrupole LC/MS/MS methods. BMAA was detected in the fins of all species examined with concentrations ranging from 144 to 1836 ng/mg wet weight. Since BMAA has been linked to neurodegenerative diseases, these results may have important relevance to human health. We suggest that consumption of shark fins may increase the risk for human exposure to the cyanobacterial neurotoxin BMAA.
β-N-methylamino-L-alanine; neurotoxin; neurodegenerative disease; cyanobacteria; elasmobranch; conservation
By performing identical studies in humans and rats, we attempted to distinguish vulnerability factors for addiction from neurobiological effects of chronic drug exposure. We focused on the GABAergic system within the hippocampus, a brain region that is a constituent of the memory/conditioning neuronal circuitry of addiction that is considered to be important in drug reinforcement behaviors in animals and craving and relapse in humans.
Using RNA-Seq we quantified mRNA transcripts in postmortem total hippocampus from alcoholics, cocaine addicts and controls and also from alcohol-naïve, alcohol preferring (P) and non-preferring (NP) rats selectively bred for extremes of alcohol-seeking behavior that also show a general addictive tendency. A pathway-targeted analysis of 25 GABAergic genes encoding proteins implicated in GABA synthesis, metabolism, synaptic transmission and re-uptake was undertaken.
Directionally consistent and biologically plausible overlapping and specific changes were detected: 14/25 of the human genes and 12/25 of the rat genes showed nominally significant differences in gene expression (global p values: 9×10−14, 7×10−11 respectively). Principal FDR-corrected findings were that GABBR1 was down-regulated in alcoholics, cocaine addicts and P rats with congruent findings in NSF, implicated in GABAB signaling efficacy, potentially resulting in increased synaptic GABA. GABRG2, encoding the gamma2 subunit required for postsynaptic clustering of GABAA receptors together with GPHN, encoding the associated scaffolding protein gephryin, were both down-regulated in alcoholics and cocaine addicts but were both up-regulated in P rats. There were also expression changes specific to cocaine addicts (GAD1, GAD2), alcoholics (GABRA2) and P rats (ABAT, GABRG3).
Our study confirms the involvement of the GABAergic system in alcoholism but also reveals a hippocampal GABA input in cocaine addiction. Congruent findings in human addicts and P rats provide clues to predisposing factors for alcohol and drug addiction. Finally, the results of this study have therapeutic implications.
CHRNA5, encoding the nicotinic α5 subunit, is implicated in multiple disorders, including nicotine addiction and lung cancer. Previous studies demonstrate significant associations between promoter polymorphisms and CHRNA5 mRNA expression, but the responsible sequence variants remain uncertain. To search for cis-regulatory variants, we measured allele-specific mRNA expression of CHRNA5 in human prefrontal cortex autopsy tissues and scanned the CHRNA5 locus for regulatory variants. A cluster of six frequent single nucleotide polymorphisms (rs1979905, rs1979906, rs1979907, rs880395, rs905740, and rs7164030), in complete linkage disequilibrium, fully account for a >2.5-fold allelic expression difference and a fourfold increase in overall CHRNA5 mRNA expression. This proposed enhancer region resides more than 13 kilobases upstream of the CHRNA5 transcription start site. The same upstream variants failed to affect CHRNA5 mRNA expression in peripheral blood lymphocytes, indicating tissue-specific gene regulation. Other promoter polymorphisms were also correlated with overall CHRNA5 mRNA expression in the brain, but were inconsistent with allelic mRNA expression ratios, a robust and proximate measure of cis-regulatory variants. The enhancer region and the nonsynonymous polymorphism rs16969968 generate three main haplotypes that alter the risk of developing nicotine dependence. Ethnic differences in linkage disequilibrium across the CHRNA5 locus require consideration of the upstream enhancer variants when testing clinical associations.
Nicotinic receptor; alpha5 subunit; gene expression; nicotine dependence; lung cancer; enhancer
CHRNA5, encoding the nicotinic α5 subunit, is implicated in multiple disorders, including nicotine addiction and lung cancer. Previous studies demonstrate significant associations between promoter polymorphisms and CHRNA5 mRNA expression, but the responsible sequence variants remain uncertain. To search for cis-regulatory variants, we measured allele-specific mRNA expression of CHRNA5 in human prefrontal cortex autopsy tissues and scanned the CHRNA5 locus for regulatory variants. A cluster of six frequent single-nucleotide polymorphisms (rs1979905, rs1979906, rs1979907, rs880395, rs905740, and rs7164030), in complete linkage disequilibrium (LD), fully account for a >2.5-fold allelic expression difference and a fourfold increase in overall CHRNA5 mRNA expression. This proposed enhancer region resides more than 13 kilobases upstream of the CHRNA5 transcription start site. The same upstream variants failed to affect CHRNA5 mRNA expression in peripheral blood lymphocytes, indicating tissue-specific gene regulation. Other promoter polymorphisms were also correlated with overall CHRNA5 mRNA expression in the brain, but were inconsistent with allelic mRNA expression ratios, a robust and proximate measure of cis-regulatory variants. The enhancer region and the nonsynonymous polymorphism rs16969968 generate three main haplotypes that alter the risk of developing nicotine dependence. Ethnic differences in LD across the CHRNA5 locus require consideration of upstream enhancer variants when testing clinical associations.
nicotinic receptor; α5 subunit; gene expression; nicotine dependence; lung cancer; enhancer
Recent studies demonstrate that most cyanobacteria produce the neurotoxin beta-N-methylamino-L-alanine (BMAA) and that it can biomagnify in at least one terrestrial food chain. BMAA has been implicated as a significant environmental risk in the development of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). We examined several blooms of cyanobacteria in South Florida, and the BMAA content of resident animals, including species used as human food. A wide range of BMAA concentrations were found, ranging from below assay detection limits to approximately 7000 μg/g, a concentration associated with a potential long-term human health hazard.
BMAA; cyanobacteria; Florida; harmful algal blooms; neurodegenerative disease; toxin
It has been proposed that there is an increased frequency of glucosidase-β mutations in Lewy body disorders. Our comprehensive DNA sequencing approach found a small number of glucosidase-β mutations in 101 neuropathologically defined Lewy body disease cases (3%) compared to 99 healthy post-mortem controls (1%); odds ratio 3.0 (95% CI: 0.3 – 29, p=0.3). All three affected carriers were classified as diffuse Lewy body disease (n=3/50; 6%). Our study suggests glucosidase-β variants have a limited role in susceptibility to Lewy body disease in North America.
Gaucher; Parkinson; Genetic; Lewy body
Recessively inherited mutations in ATP13A2 result in Kufor-Rakeb syndrome, whereas genetic variability and elevated ATP13A2 expression have been implicated in Parkinson disease (PD). Given this background, ATP13A2 was comprehensively assessed to support or refute its contribution to PD. Sequencing of ATP13A2 exons and intron-exon boundaries was performed in 89 probands with familial parkinsonism from Tunisia. The segregation of mutations with parkinsonism was subsequently assessed within pedigrees. The frequency of genetic variants and evidence for association was also examined in 240 patients with non-familial PD and 372 healthy controls. ATP13A2 mRNA expression was also quantified in brain tissues from 38 patients with non-familial PD and 38 healthy subjects from the US. Sequencing analysis revealed 37 new variants; seven missense, six silent and 24 that were noncoding. However, no single ATP13A2 mutation segregated with familial parkinsonism in either a dominant or recessive manner. Four markers showed marginal association with non-familial PD, prior to correction for multiple testing. ATP13A2 mRNA expression was marginally decreased in PD brains compared with tissue from control subjects. In conclusion, neither ATP13A2 genetic variability nor quantitative gene expression in brain appears to contribute to familial parkinsonism or non-familial PD.
Parkinson/Parkinsonism; Kufor-Rakeb syndrome; ATP13A2
Understanding inter-individual differences in stress response requires the explanation of genetic influences at multiple phenotypic levels, including complex behaviours and the metabolic responses of brain regions to emotional stimuli. Neuropeptide Y (NPY) is anxiolytic1,2 and its release is induced by stress3. NPY is abundantly expressed in regions of the limbic system that are implicated in arousal and in the assignment of emotional valences to stimuli and memories4–6. Here we show that haplotype-driven NPY expression predicts brain responses to emotional and stress challenges and also inversely correlates with trait anxiety. NPY haplotypes predicted levels of NPY messenger RNA in postmortem brain and lymphoblasts, and levels of plasma NPY. Lower haplotype-driven NPY expression predicted higher emotion-induced activation of the amygdala, as well as diminished resiliency as assessed by pain/stress-induced activations of endogenous opioid neurotransmission in various brain regions. A single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP rs16147) located in the promoter region alters NPY expression in vitro and seems to account for more than half of the variation in expression in vivo. These convergent findings are consistent with the function of NPY as an anxiolytic peptide and help to explain inter-individual variation in resiliency to stress, a risk factor for many diseases.
Multiple system atrophy (MSA) is by nature a ‘sporadic’ disease with no evidence of familial aggregation observed. However the SNCA multiplication families have clinically displayed parkinsonism and autonomic dysfunction. The present study did not find any SNCA multiplications in a series of 58 pathologically confirmed MSA cases excluding this event as a common cause of MSA. The question of a genetic component in MSA remains to be answered.
Semi-quantitative PCR; alpha-synuclein; genomic multiplication; multiple system atropy
The chronic effects of cocaine abuse on brain structure and function are blamed for the inability of most addicts to remain abstinent. Part of the difficulty in preventing relapse is the persisting memory of the intense euphoria or cocaine “rush”. Most abused drugs and alcohol induce neuroplastic changes in brain pathways subserving emotion and cognition. Such changes may account for the consolidation and structural reconfiguration of synaptic connections with exposure to cocaine. Adaptive hippocampal plasticity could be related to specific patterns of gene expression with chronic cocaine abuse. Here, we compare gene expression profiles in the human hippocampus from cocaine addicts and age-matched drug-free control subjects. Cocaine abusers had 151 gene transcripts upregulated, while 91 gene transcripts were downregulated. Topping the list of cocaine-regulated transcripts was RECK in the human hippocampus (FC = 2.0; p<0.05). RECK is a membrane-anchored MMP inhibitor that is implicated in the coordinated regulation of extracellular matrix integrity and angiogenesis. In keeping with elevated RECK expression, active MMP9 protein levels were decreased in the hippocampus from cocaine abusers. Pathway analysis identified other genes regulated by cocaine that code for proteins involved in the remodeling of the cytomatrix and synaptic connections and the inhibition of blood vessel proliferation (PCDH8, LAMB1, ITGB6, CTGF and EphB4). The observed microarray phenotype in the human hippocampus identified RECK and other region-specific genes that may promote long-lasting structural changes with repeated cocaine abuse. Extracellular matrix remodeling in the hippocampus may be a persisting effect of chronic abuse that contributes to the compulsive and relapsing nature of cocaine addiction.
While major inroads have been made in identifying the genetic causes of rare Mendelian disorders, little progress has been made in the discovery of common gene variations that predispose to complex diseases. The single gene variants that have been shown to associate reproducibly with complex diseases typically have small effect sizes or attributable risks. However, the joint actions of common gene variants within pathways may play a major role in predisposing to complex diseases (the paradigm of complex genetics). The goal of this study was to determine whether polymorphism in a candidate pathway (axon guidance) predisposed to a complex disease (Parkinson disease [PD]). We mined a whole-genome association dataset and identified single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) that were within axon-guidance pathway genes. We then constructed models of axon-guidance pathway SNPs that predicted three outcomes: PD susceptibility (odds ratio = 90.8, p = 4.64 × 10−38), survival free of PD (hazards ratio = 19.0, p = 5.43 × 10−48), and PD age at onset (R2 = 0.68, p = 1.68 × 10−51). By contrast, models constructed from thousands of random selections of genomic SNPs predicted the three PD outcomes poorly. Mining of a second whole-genome association dataset and mining of an expression profiling dataset also supported a role for many axon-guidance pathway genes in PD. These findings could have important implications regarding the pathogenesis of PD. This genomic pathway approach may also offer insights into other complex diseases such as Alzheimer disease, diabetes mellitus, nicotine and alcohol dependence, and several cancers.
Complex diseases are common disorders that are believed to have many causes. Examples include Alzheimer disease, diabetes mellitus, nicotine and alcohol dependence, and several cancers. This study represents a paradigm shift from single gene to pathway studies of complex diseases. We present the example of Parkinson disease (PD) and a complex array of chemical signals that wires the brain during fetal development (the axon guidance pathway). We mined a dataset that studied hundreds of thousands of DNA variations (single nucleotide polymorphisms [SNPs]) in persons with and without PD and identified SNPs that were assigned to axon-guidance pathway genes. We then identified sets of SNPs that were highly predictive of PD susceptibility, survival free of PD, and age at onset of PD. The effect sizes and the statistical significance observed for the pathway were far greater than for any single gene. We validated our findings for the pathway using a second SNP dataset for PD and also a dataset for PD that studied RNA variations. There is prior evidence that the axon guidance pathway might play a role in other brain disorders (e.g., Alzheimer disease, Tourette syndrome, dyslexia, epilepsy, and schizophrenia). A genomic pathway approach may lead to important breakthroughs for many complex diseases.
As a model organism in biomedicine, the rhesus macaque (Macaca mulatta) is the most widely used nonhuman primate. Although a draft genome sequence was completed in 2007, there has been no systematic genome-wide comparison of genetic variation of this species to humans. Comparative analysis of functional and nonfunctional diversity in this highly abundant and adaptable non-human primate could inform its use as a model for human biology, and could reveal how variation in population history and size alters patterns and levels of sequence variation in primates.
We sequenced the mRNA transcriptome and H3K4me3-marked DNA regions in hippocampus from 14 humans and 14 rhesus macaques. Using equivalent methodology and sampling spaces, we identified 462,802 macaque SNPs, most of which were novel and disproportionately located in the functionally important genomic regions we had targeted in the sequencing. At least one SNP was identified in each of 16,797 annotated macaque genes. Accuracy of macaque SNP identification was conservatively estimated to be >90%. Comparative analyses using SNPs equivalently identified in the two species revealed that rhesus macaque has approximately three times higher SNP density and average nucleotide diversity as compared to the human. Based on this level of diversity, the effective population size of the rhesus macaque is approximately 80,000 which contrasts with an effective population size of less than 10,000 for humans. Across five categories of genomic regions, intergenic regions had the highest SNP density and average nucleotide diversity and CDS (coding sequences) the lowest, in both humans and macaques. Although there are more coding SNPs (cSNPs) per individual in macaques than in humans, the ratio of dN/dS is significantly lower in the macaque. Furthermore, the number of damaging nonsynonymous cSNPs (have damaging effects on protein functions from PolyPhen-2 prediction) in the macaque is more closely equivalent to that of the human.
This large panel of newly identified macaque SNPs enriched for functionally significant regions considerably expands our knowledge of genetic variation in the rhesus macaque. Comparative analysis reveals that this widespread, highly adaptable species is approximately three times as diverse as the human but more closely equivalent in damaging variation.
Rhesus macaque; Human; Single nucleotide polymorphism; Diversity; Comparative genomics
Parkinson's disease (PD) has had six genome-wide association studies (GWAS) conducted as well as several gene expression studies. However, only variants in MAPT and SNCA have been consistently replicated. To improve the utility of these approaches, we applied pathway analyses integrating both GWAS and gene expression. The top 5000 SNPs (p<0.01) from a joint analysis of three existing PD GWAS were identified and each assigned to a gene. For gene expression, rather than the traditional comparison of one anatomical region between sets of patients and controls, we identified differentially expressed genes between adjacent Braak regions in each individual and adjusted using average control expression profiles. Over-represented pathways were calculated using a hyper-geometric statistical comparison. An integrated, systems meta-analysis of the over-represented pathways combined the expression and GWAS results using a Fisher's combined probability test. Four of the top seven pathways from each approach were identical. The top three pathways in the meta-analysis, with their corrected p-values, were axonal guidance (p = 2.8E-07), focal adhesion (p = 7.7E-06) and calcium signaling (p = 2.9E-05). These results support that a systems biology (pathway) approach will provide additional insight into the genetic etiology of PD and that these pathways have both biological and statistical support to be important in PD.