Several genome-wide association and candidate gene studies have linked chromosome 15q24–q25.1 (a region including the CHRNA5-CHRNA3-CHRNB4 gene cluster) with alcohol dependence, nicotine dependence and smoking-related illnesses such as lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. To further examine the impact of these genes on the development of substance use disorders, we tested whether variants within and flanking the CHRNA5-CHRNA3-CHRNB4 gene cluster affect the transition to daily smoking (individuals who smoked cigarettes 4 or more days per week) in a cross sectional sample of adolescents and young adults from the COGA (Collaborative Study of the Genetics of Alcoholism) families. Subjects were recruited from families affected with alcoholism (either as a first or second degree relative) and the comparison families. Participants completed the SSAGA interview, a comprehensive assessment of alcohol and other substance use and related behaviors. Using the Quantitative trait disequilibrium test (QTDT) significant association was detected between age at onset of daily smoking and variants located upstream of CHRNB4. Multivariate analysis using a Cox proportional hazards model further revealed that these variants significantly predict the age at onset of habitual smoking among daily smokers. These variants were not in high linkage disequilibrium (0.28
Recent large-scale genetic studies of late-onset Alzheimer’s disease (LOAD) have identified risk variants in CALHM1, GAB2 and SORL1. The mechanisms by which these genes might modulate risk are not definitively known. CALHM1 and SORL1 may alter amyloid-beta (Aβ) levels and GAB2 may influence phosphorylation of the tau protein. In this study we have analyzed disease associated genetic variants in each of these genes for association with cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) Aβ or tau levels in 602 samples from two independent CSF series. We failed to detect association between CSF Aβ42 levels and SNPs in SORL1 despite substantial statistical power to detect association. While we also failed to detect association between variants in GAB2 and CSF tau levels, power to detect this association was limited. Finally, our data suggest that the minor allele of rs2986017, in CALHM1, is marginally associated with CSF Aβ42 levels. This association is consistent with previous reports that this non-synonymous coding substitution results in increased Aβ levels in vitro and provides support for an Aβ-related mechanism for modulating risk for AD.
Alzheimer’s disease; genetics; association; endophenotypes; amyloid; tau; CALHM1; SORL1; GAB2
Alzheimer's Disease (AD) is a complex and multifactorial disease. While large genome-wide association studies have had some success in identifying novel genetic risk factors for AD, case-control studies are less likely to uncover genetic factors that influence progression of disease. An alternative approach to identifying genetic risk for AD is the use of quantitative traits or endophenotypes. The use of endophenotypes has proven to be an effective strategy, implicating genetic risk factors in several diseases, including anemia, osteoporosis and heart disease. In this study we identify a genetic factor associated with the rate of decline in AD patients and present a methodology for identification of other such factors. We have used an established biomarker for AD, cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) tau phosphorylated at threonine 181 (ptau181) levels as an endophenotype for AD, identifying a SNP, rs1868402, in the gene encoding the regulatory sub-unit of protein phosphatase B, associated with CSF ptau181 levels in two independent CSF series . We show no association of rs1868402 with risk for AD or age at onset, but detected a very significant association with rate of progression of disease that is consistent in two independent series . Our analyses suggest that genetic variants associated with CSF ptau181 levels may have a greater impact on rate of progression, while genetic variants such as APOE4, that are associated with CSF Aβ42 levels influence risk and onset but not the rate of progression. Our results also suggest that drugs that inhibit or decrease tau phosphorylation may slow cognitive decline in individuals with very mild dementia or delay the appearance of memory problems in elderly individuals with low CSF Aβ42 levels. Finally, we believe genome-wide association studies of CSF tau/ptau181 levels should identify novel genetic variants which will likely influence rate of progression of AD.
Alzheimer's disease (AD) is the most common neurodegenerative disease affecting more than 4.5 million people in the US. Genetic studies of AD have previously identified pathogenic mutations in three genes (APP, PSEN1 and PSEN2) and polymorphisms in APOE as risk factors. These findings have led to a better understanding of the underlying disease mechanisms. However, half of all AD cases have no known genetic risk factors for disease. Most studies are designed to identify variants associated with risk or age at onset, but rarely cover other important facets of AD, such as disease progression or duration. In this study we have used an established AD biomarker (cerebrospinal fluid tau phosphorylated at threonine 181, ptau181) to find genetic variants that influence levels of ptau181 in the cerebrospinal fluid. This novel and powerful approach has allowed us to identify a genetic factor located in the regulatory subunit of the calcineurin that is also strongly associated with rate of progression of AD. This study is important because it defines a strategy to find novel genetic factors influencing different facets of AD pathobiology including risk, onset and progression.
Nicotine dependence risk and lung cancer risk are associated with variants in a region of chromosome 15 encompassing genes encoding the nicotinic receptor subunits CHRNA5, CHRNA3 and CHRNB4. To identify potential biological mechanisms that underlie this risk, we tested for cis-acting eQTLs for CHRNA5, CHRNA3 and CHRNB4 in human brain. Using gene expression and disease association studies, we provide evidence that both nicotine-dependence risk and lung cancer risk are influenced by functional variation in CHRNA5. We demonstrated that the risk allele of rs16969968 primarily occurs on the low mRNA expression allele of CHRNA5. The non-risk allele at rs16969968 occurs on both high and low expression alleles tagged by rs588765 within CHRNA5. When the non-risk allele occurs on the background of low mRNA expression of CHRNA5, the risk for nicotine dependence and lung cancer is significantly lower compared to those with the higher mRNA expression. Together, these variants identify three levels of risk associated with CHRNA5. We conclude that there are at least two distinct mechanisms conferring risk for nicotine dependence and lung cancer: altered receptor function caused by a D398N amino acid variant in CHRNA5 (rs16969968) and variability in CHRNA5 mRNA expression.
Dependence on alcohol and illicit drugs frequently co-occur. Results from a number of twin studies suggest that heritable influences on alcohol dependence and drug dependence may substantially overlap. Using large, genetically informative pedigrees from the Collaborative Study on the Genetics of Alcoholism (COGA), we performed quantitative linkage analyses using a panel of 1717 SNPs. Genome-wide linkage analyses were conducted for quantitative measures of DSM-IV alcohol dependence criteria, cannabis dependence criteria and dependence criteria across any illicit drug (including cannabis) individually and in combination as an average score across alcohol and illicit drug dependence criteria. For alcohol dependence, LOD scores exceeding 2.0 were noted on chromosome 1 (2.0 at 213 cM), 2 (3.4 at 234 cM) and 10 (3.7 at 60 cM). For cannabis dependence, a maximum LOD of 1.9 was noted at 95 cM on chromosome 14. For any illicit drug dependence, LODs of 2.0 and 2.4 were observed on chromosome 10 (116 cM) and 13 (64 cM) respectively. Finally, the combined alcohol and/or drug dependence symptoms yielded LODs > 2.0 on chromosome 2 (3.2, 234 cM), 10 (2.4 and 2.6 at 60 cM and 116 cM) and 13 (2.1 at 64 cM). These regions may harbor genes that contribute to the biological basis of alcohol and drug dependence.
Linkage; alcohol; cannabis; illicit drugs; dependence; COGA
A non-synonymous coding polymorphism, rs16969968, of the CHRNA5 gene which encodes the alpha-5 subunit of the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) has been found to be associated with nicotine dependence (20). The goal of the present study is to examine the association of this variant with cocaine dependence.
Genetic association analysis in two, independent samples of unrelated cases and controls; 1.) 504 European-American participating in the Family Study on Cocaine Dependence (FSCD); 2.) 814 European Americans participating in the Collaborative Study on the Genetics of Alcoholsim (COGA).
In the FSCD, there was a significant association between the CHRNA5 variant and cocaine dependence (OR = 0.67 per allele, p = 0.0045, assuming an additive genetic model), but in the reverse direction compared to that previously observed for nicotine dependence. In multivariate analyses that controlled for the effects of nicotine dependence, both the protective effect for cocaine dependence and the previously documented risk effect for nicotine dependence were statistically significant. The protective effect for cocaine dependence was replicated in the COGA sample. In COGA, effect sizes for habitual smoking, a proxy phenotype for nicotine dependence, were consistent with those observed in FSCD.
The minor (A) allele of rs16969968, relative to the major G allele, appears to be both a risk factor for nicotine dependence and a protective factor for cocaine dependence. The biological plausibility of such a bidirectional association stems from the involvement of nAChRs with both excitatory and inhibitory modulation of dopamine-mediated reward pathways.
Smoking; Nicotine dependence; Addiction; Substance-use disorders; Genetics; Receptors; nicotinic; Cocaine
A recent study provisionally identified numerous genetic variants as risk factors for the transition from smoking to the development of nicotine dependence, including an amino acid change in the α5 nicotinic cholinergic receptor (CHRNA5). The purpose of this study is to replicate these findings in an independent dataset and more thoroughly investigate the role of genetic variation in the cluster of physically linked nicotinic receptors, CHRNA5-CHRNA3-CHRNB4, and the risk of smoking.
Individuals from 219 European American families (N=2,284) were genotyped across this gene cluster to test the genetic association with smoking. The frequency of the amino acid variant (rs16969968) was studied in 995 individuals from diverse ethnic populations. In vitro studies were performed to directly test whether the amino acid variant in the CHRNA5 influenced receptor function.
A genetic variant marking an amino acid change showed association with the smoking phenotype (p=0.007). This variant is within a highly conserved region across non-human species, but its frequency varied across human populations (0% in African populations to 37% in European populations). Furthermore, functional studies demonstrated that the risk allele decreased response to a nicotine agonist. A second independent finding was seen at rs578776 (p=0.003), and the functional significance of this association remains unknown.
This study confirms that at least two independent variants in this nicotinic receptor gene cluster contribute to the development of habitual smoking in some populations, and it underscores the importance of multiple genetic variants contributing to the development of common diseases in various populations.
Tobacco use is a leading contributor to disability and death worldwide, and genetic factors contribute in part to the development of nicotine dependence. To identify novel genes for which natural variation contributes to the development of nicotine dependence, we performed a comprehensive genome wide association study using nicotine dependent smokers as cases and non-dependent smokers as controls. To allow the efficient, rapid, and cost effective screen of the genome, the study was carried out using a two-stage design. In the first stage, genotyping of over 2.4 million SNPs was completed in case and control pools. In the second stage, we selected SNPs for individual genotyping based on the most significant allele frequency differences between cases and controls from the pooled results. Individual genotyping was performed in 1050 cases and 879 controls using 31,960 selected SNPs. The primary analysis, a logistic regression model with covariates of age, gender, genotype and gender by genotype interaction, identified 35 SNPs with p-values less than 10-4 (minimum p-value 1.53 × 10-6). Although none of the individual findings is statistically significant after correcting for multiple tests, additional statistical analyses support the existence of true findings in this group. Our study nominates several novel genes, such as Neurexin 1 (NRXN1), in the development of nicotine dependence while also identifying a known candidate gene, the β3 nicotinic cholinergic receptor. This work anticipates the future directions of large-scale genome wide association studies with state-of-the-art methodological approaches and sharing of data with the scientific community.
Nicotine dependence is one of the world’s leading causes of preventable death. To discover genetic variants that influence risk for nicotine dependence, we targeted over 300 candidate genes and analyzed 3713 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in 1050 cases and 879 controls. The Fagerström test for nicotine dependence (FTND) was used to assess dependence, in which cases were required to have an FTND of 4 or more. The control criterion was strict: control subjects must have smoked at least 100 cigarettes in their lifetimes and had an FTND of 0 during the heaviest period of smoking. After correcting for multiple testing by controlling the false discovery rate, several cholinergic nicotinic receptor genes dominated the top signals. The strongest association was from an SNP representing CHRNB3, the β3 nicotinic receptor subunit gene (P = 9.4 × 10−5). Biologically, the most compelling evidence for a risk variant came from a non-synonymous SNP in the α5 nicotinic receptor subunit gene CHRNA5 (P = 6.4 × 10−4). This SNP exhibited evidence of a recessive mode of inheritance, resulting in individuals having a 2-fold increase in risk of developing nicotine dependence once exposed to cigarette smoking. Other genes among the top signals were KCNJ6 and GABRA4. This study represents one of the most powerful and extensive studies of nicotine dependence to date and has found novel risk loci that require confirmation by replication studies.
Alzheimer's disease (AD) pathology is associated with two proteins, the microtubule-binding protein tau and the amyloid-precursor protein (APP). When tau becomes hyperphosphorylated, it forms neuritic aggregates, called neurofibrillary tangles. APP is cleaved by several enzymes to generate Aβ peptides, which are - depending on their length - more or less amyloidogenic and form senile plaques. Pin1, a peptidyl-propyl cis/trans-isomerase, seems to be involved in both pathologies. Pin1 may facilitate dephosphorylation of tau by PP2A phosphatase, while cellular overexpression of Pin1 causes a reduction in the amyloidogenic processing of APP, making this enzyme an interesting target for pharmaceutical intervention. The gene encoding Pin1 maps to 19p13.2, a region previously linked to LOAD. Therefore Pin1 is an excellent positional and functional candidate for LOAD. In this study, we investigated whether common SNPs in Pin1 can influence the risk for developing late-Onset Alzheimer's disease (LOAD). No association was observed with any of six polymorphisms or their resulting haplotypes. A meta-analysis of two promoter SNPs, which combined the data from this study with two previous ones, did not show any association either suggesting that common SNPs in Pin1 do not increase the risk for LOAD.
Pin1; late-onset Alzheimer's disease; genotyping
Genetic maps based on single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP) are increasingly being used as an alternative to microsatellite maps. This study compares linkage results for both types of maps for a neurophysiology phenotype and for an alcohol dependence phenotype. Our analysis used two SNP maps on the Illumina and Affymetrix platforms. We also considered the effect of high linkage disequilibrium (LD) in regions near the linkage peaks by analysing a "sparse" SNP map obtained by dropping some markers in high LD with other markers in those regions.
The neurophysiology phenotype at the main linkage peak near 130 MB gave LOD scores of 2.76, 2.53, 3.22, and 2.68 for the microsatellite, Affymetrix, Illumina, and Illumina-sparse maps, respectively. The alcohol dependence phenotype at the main linkage peak near 101 MB gave LOD scores of 3.09, 3.69, 4.08, and 4.11 for the microsatellite, Affymetrix, Illumina, and Illumina-sparse maps, respectively.
The linkage results were stronger overall for SNPs than for microsatellites for both phenotypes. However, LOD scores may be artificially elevated in regions of high LD. Our analysis indicates that appropriately thinning a SNP map in regions of high LD should give more accurate LOD scores. These results suggest that SNPs can be an efficient substitute for microsatellites for linkage analysis of both quantitative and qualitative phenotypes.
We used the LOKI software to generate multipoint identity-by-descent matrices for a microsatellite map (with 31 markers) and two single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) maps to examine information content across chromosome 7 in the Collaborative Study on the Genetics of Alcoholism dataset. Despite the lower information provided by a single SNP, SNP maps overall had higher and more uniform information content across the chromosome. The Affymetrix map (578 SNPs) and the Illumina map (271 SNPs) provided almost identical information. However, increased information has a computational cost: SNP maps require 100 times as many iterations as microsatellites to produce stable estimates.
The overlap of 94 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP) among the 4,720 and 11,120 SNPs contained in the linkage panels of Illumina and Affymetrix, respectively, allows an assessment of the discrepancy rate produced by these two platforms. Although the no-call rate for the Affymetrix platform is approximately 8.6 times greater than for the Illumina platform, when both platforms make a genotypic call, the agreement is an impressive 99.85%. To determine if disputed genotypes can be resolved without sequencing, we studied recombination in the region of the discrepancy for the most discrepant SNP rs958883 (typed by Illumina) and tsc02060848 (typed by Affymetrix). We find that the number of inferred recombinants is substantially higher for the Affymetrix genotypes compared to the Illumina genotypes. We illustrate this with pedigree 10043, in which 3 of 7 versus 0 of 7 offspring must be double recombinants using the genotypes from the Affymetrix and the Illumina platforms, respectively. Of the 36 SNPs with one or more discrepancies, we identified a subset that appears to cluster in families. Some of this clustering may be due to the presence of a second segregating SNP that obliterates a XbaI site (the restriction enzyme used in the Affymetrix platform), resulting in a fragment too long (>1,000 bp) to be amplified.
Accurately resolving population structure in a sample is important for both linkage and association studies. In this study we investigated the power of single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in detecting population structure in a sample of 286 unrelated individuals. We varied the number of SNPs to determine how many are required to approach the degree of resolution obtained with the Collaborative Study on the Genetics of Alcoholism (COGA) short tandem repeat polymorphisms (STRPs). In addition, we selected SNPs with varying minor allele frequencies (MAFs) to determine whether low or high frequency SNPs are more efficient in resolving population structure. We conclude that a set of at least 100 evenly spaced SNPs with MAFs of 40–50% is required to resolve population structure in this dataset. If SNPs with lower MAFs are used, then more than 250 SNPs may be required to obtain reliable results.
Compared to model-based approaches, nonparametric methods for quantitative trait loci mapping are more robust to deviations in distributional assumptions. In this study, we modify a nonparametric regression method and the "contrast function"- based regression method to analyze total cholesterol level in the younger cohort (the offspring generation) of the Genetic Analysis Workshop 13 simulated data set.
We obtained significant evidence of linkage near four of the six non-sex-specific genes in at least 30% of the replicates.
The proposed nonparametric method seems to be a powerful robust alternative to distribution-based methods.