Search tips
Search criteria

Results 1-25 (37)

Clipboard (0)

Select a Filter Below

more »
Year of Publication
more »
Document Types
1.  Chitinase-3-like 1 protein (CHI3L1) locus influences cerebrospinal fluid levels of YKL-40 
BMC Neurology  2016;16:217.
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) pathology appears several years before clinical symptoms, so identifying ways to detect individuals in the preclinical stage is imperative. The cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) Tau/Aβ42 ratio is currently the best known predictor of AD status and cognitive decline, and the ratio of CSF levels of chitinase-3-like 1 protein (CHI3L1, YKL-40) and amyloid beta (Aβ42) were reported as predictive, but individual variability and group overlap inhibits their utility for individual diagnosis making it necessary to find ways to improve sensitivity of these biomarkers.
We used linear regression to identify genetic loci associated with CSF YKL-40 levels in 379 individuals (80 cognitively impaired and 299 cognitively normal) from the Charles F and Joanne Knight Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center. We tested correlations between YKL-40 and CSF Tau/Aβ42 ratio, Aβ42, tau, and phosphorylated tau (ptau181). We used studentized residuals from a linear regression model of the log-transformed, standardized protein levels and the additive reference allele counts from the most significant locus to adjust YKL-40 values and tested the differences in correlations with CSF Tau/Aβ42 ratio, Aβ42, tau, and ptau181.
We found that genetic variants on the CH13L1 locus were significantly associated with CSF YKL-40 levels, but not AD risk, age at onset, or disease progression. The most significant variant is a reported expression quantitative trait locus for CHI3L1, the gene which encodes YKL-40, and explained 12.74 % of the variance in CSF YKL-40 in our study. YKL-40 was positively correlated with ptau181 (r = 0.521) and the strength of the correlation significantly increased with the addition of genetic information (r = 0.573, p = 0.006).
CSF YKL-40 levels are likely a biomarker for AD, but we found no evidence that they are an AD endophenotype. YKL-40 levels are highly regulated by genetic variation, and by including genetic information the strength of the correlation between YKL-40 and ptau181 levels is significantly improved. Our results suggest that studies of potential biomarkers may benefit from including genetic information.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12883-016-0742-9) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC5105244  PMID: 27832767
CHI3L1; YKL-40; Cerebrospinal fluid; Alzheimer disease
2.  Rare, low frequency, and common coding variants in CHRNA5 and their contribution to nicotine dependence in European and African Americans 
Molecular psychiatry  2015;21(5):601-607.
The common nonsynonymous variant rs16969968 in the α5 nicotinic receptor subunit gene (CHRNA5) is the strongest genetic risk factor for nicotine dependence in European Americans and contributes to risk in African Americans. To comprehensively examine whether other CHRNA5 coding variation influences nicotine dependence risk, we performed targeted sequencing on 1582 nicotine dependent cases (Fagerström Test for Nicotine Dependence score≥4) and 1238 non-dependent controls, with independent replication of common and low frequency variants using 12 studies with exome chip data. Nicotine dependence was examined using logistic regression with individual common variants (MAF≥0.05), aggregate low frequency variants (0.05>MAF≥0.005), and aggregate rare variants (MAF<0.005). Meta-analysis of primary results was performed with replication studies containing 12 174 heavy and 11 290 light smokers. Next-generation sequencing with 180X coverage identified 24 nonsynonymous variants and 2 frameshift deletions in CHRNA5, including 9 novel variants in the 2820 subjects. Meta-analysis confirmed the risk effect of the only common variant (rs16969968, European ancestry: OR=1.3, p=3.5×10−11; African ancestry: OR=1.3, p=0.01) and demonstrated that 3 low frequency variants contributed an independent risk (aggregate term, European ancestry: OR=1.3, p=0.005; African ancestry: OR=1.4, p=0.0006). The remaining 22 rare coding variants were associated with increased risk of nicotine dependence in the European American primary sample (OR=12.9, p=0.01) and in the same risk direction in African Americans (OR=1.5, p=0.37). Our results indicate that common, low frequency and rare CHRNA5 coding variants are independently associated with nicotine dependence risk. These newly identified variants likely influence risk for smoking-related diseases such as lung cancer.
PMCID: PMC4740321  PMID: 26239294
3.  Association of substance dependence phenotypes in the COGA sample 
Addiction biology  2014;20(3):617-627.
Alcohol and drug use disorders are individually heritable (50%). Twin studies indicate that alcohol and substance use disorders share common genetic influences, and therefore may represent a more heritable form of addiction and thus be more powerful for genetic studies. This study utilized data from 2,322 subjects from 118 European-American families in the COGA sample to conduct genomewide association analysis of a binary and a continuous index of general substance dependence liability. The binary phenotype (ANYDEP) was based on meeting lifetime criteria for any DSM-IV dependence on alcohol, cannabis, cocaine or opioids. The quantitative trait (QUANTDEP) was constructed from factor analysis based on endorsement across the 7 DSM-IV criteria for each of the 4 substances. Heritability was estimated to be 54% for ANYDEP and 86% for QUANTDEP. One SNP, rs2952621 in the uncharacterized gene LOC151121 on chromosome 2, was associated with ANYDEP (p=1.8×10−8), with support from surrounding imputed SNPs and replication in an independent sample (SAGE; p=0.02). One SNP, rs2567261 in ARHGAP28 (Rho GTPase activating protein 28), was associated with QUANTDEP (p=3.8×10−8), and supported by imputed SNPs in the region, but did not replicate in an independent sample (SAGE; p=0.29). The results of this study provide evidence that there are common variants that contribute to the risk for a general liability to substance dependence.
PMCID: PMC4233207  PMID: 24832863
alcohol dependence; cannabis dependence; cocaine dependence; common genetic liability; drug dependence; opioid dependence
4.  Alzheimer’s Disease Risk Polymorphisms Regulate Gene Expression in the ZCWPW1 and the CELF1 Loci 
PLoS ONE  2016;11(2):e0148717.
Late onset Alzheimer’s disease (LOAD) is a genetically complex and clinically heterogeneous disease. Recent large-scale genome wide association studies (GWAS) have identified more than twenty loci that modify risk for AD. Despite the identification of these loci, little progress has been made in identifying the functional variants that explain the association with AD risk. Thus, we sought to determine whether the novel LOAD GWAS single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) alter expression of LOAD GWAS genes and whether expression of these genes is altered in AD brains. The majority of LOAD GWAS SNPs occur in gene dense regions under large linkage disequilibrium (LD) blocks, making it unclear which gene(s) are modified by the SNP. Thus, we tested for brain expression quantitative trait loci (eQTLs) between LOAD GWAS SNPs and SNPs in high LD with the LOAD GWAS SNPs in all of the genes within the GWAS loci. We found a significant eQTL between rs1476679 and PILRB and GATS, which occurs within the ZCWPW1 locus. PILRB and GATS expression levels, within the ZCWPW1 locus, were also associated with AD status. Rs7120548 was associated with MTCH2 expression, which occurs within the CELF1 locus. Additionally, expression of several genes within the CELF1 locus, including MTCH2, were highly correlated with one another and were associated with AD status. We further demonstrate that PILRB, as well as other genes within the GWAS loci, are most highly expressed in microglia. These findings together with the function of PILRB as a DAP12 receptor supports the critical role of microglia and neuroinflammation in AD risk.
PMCID: PMC4769299  PMID: 26919393
5.  Genetic studies of plasma analytes identify novel potential biomarkers for several complex traits 
Scientific Reports  2016;6:18092.
Genome-wide association studies of 146 plasma protein levels in 818 individuals revealed 56 genome-wide significant associations (28 novel) with 47 analytes. Loci associated with plasma levels of 39 proteins tested have been previously associated with various complex traits such as heart disease, inflammatory bowel disease, Type 2 diabetes, and multiple sclerosis. These data suggest that these plasma protein levels may constitute informative endophenotypes for these complex traits. We found three potential pleiotropic genes: ABO for plasma SELE and ACE levels, FUT2 for CA19-9 and CEA plasma levels, and APOE for ApoE and CRP levels. We also found multiple independent signals in loci associated with plasma levels of ApoH, CA19-9, FetuinA, IL6r, and LPa. Our study highlights the power of biological traits for genetic studies to identify genetic variants influencing clinically relevant traits, potential pleiotropic effects, and complex disease associations in the same locus.
PMCID: PMC4698720
6.  Coding variants in TREM2 increase risk for Alzheimer's disease 
Human Molecular Genetics  2014;23(21):5838-5846.
The triggering receptor expressed on myeloid 2 (TREM2) is an immune phagocytic receptor expressed on brain microglia known to trigger phagocytosis and regulate the inflammatory response. Homozygous mutations in TREM2 cause Nasu–Hakola disease, a rare recessive form of dementia. A heterozygous TREM2 variant, p.R47H, was recently shown to increase Alzheimer’'s disease (AD) risk. We hypothesized that if TREM2 is truly an AD risk gene, there would be additional rare variants in TREM2 that substantially affect AD risk. To test this hypothesis, we performed pooled sequencing of TREM2 coding regions in 2082 AD cases and 1648 cognitively normal elderly controls of European American descent. We identified 16 non-synonymous variants, six of which were not identified in previous AD studies. Two variants, p.R47H [P = 9.17 × 10−4, odds ratio (OR) = 2.63 (1.44–4.81)] and p.R62H [P = 2.36 × 10−4, OR = 2.36 (1.47–3.80)] were significantly associated with disease risk in single-variant analyses. Gene-based tests demonstrate variants in TREM2 are genome-wide significantly associated with AD [PSKAT-O = 5.37 × 10−7; OR = 2.55 (1.80–3.67)]. The association of TREM2 variants with AD is still highly significant after excluding p.R47H [PSKAT-O = 7.72 × 10−5; OR = 2.47 (1.62–3.87)], indicating that additional TREM2 variants affect AD risk. Genotyping in available family members of probands suggested that p.R47H (P = 4.65 × 10−2) and p.R62H (P = 6.87 × 10−3) were more frequently seen in AD cases versus controls within these families. Gel electrophoresis analysis confirms that at least three TREM2 transcripts are expressed in human brains, including one encoding a soluble form of TREM2.
PMCID: PMC4189899  PMID: 24899047
7.  Genome-wide survival analysis of age at onset of alcohol dependence in extended high-risk COGA families* 
Drug and alcohol dependence  2014;142:56-62.
The age at onset of alcohol dependence (AD) is a critical moderator of genetic associations for alcohol dependence. The present study evaluated whether single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) can influence the age at onset of AD in large high-risk families from the Collaborative Study on the Genetics of Alcoholism (COGA).
Genomewide SNP genotyping was performed in 1788 regular drinkers from 118 large European American families densely affected with alcoholism. We used a genome-wide Cox proportional hazards regression model to test for association between age at onset of AD and SNPs.
This family-based analysis identified an intergenic SNP, rs2168784 on chromosome 3 that showed strong evidence of association (p= 5 × 10−9) with age at onset of AD among regular drinkers. Carriers of the minor allele of rs2168784 had 1.5 times the hazard of AD onset as compared with those homozygous for the major allele. By the age of 20 years, nearly 30% of subjects homozygous for the minor allele were alcohol dependent while only 19% of those homozygous for the major allele were. We also identified intronic SNPs in the ADP-ribosylation factor like 15 (ARL15) gene on chromosome 5 (P = 1.11 × 10−8) and the UTP20 small subunit (UTP20) gene on chromosome 12 (P = 4.32 × 10−8) that were associated with age at onset of AD.
This extended family based genome-wide cox-proportional hazards analysis identified several loci that might be associated with age at onset of AD.
PMCID: PMC4127128  PMID: 24962325
GWAS; alcohol dependence; age at onset; survival analysis; SNP
8.  Missense variant in TREML2 protects against Alzheimer’s Disease 
Neurobiology of aging  2013;35(6):1510.e19-1510.e26.
TREM and TREM-like receptors are a structurally similar protein family encoded by genes clustered on chromosome 6p21.11. Recent studies have identified a rare coding variant (p.R47H) in TREM2 that confers a high risk for Alzheimer’s disease (AD). In addition, common SNPs in this genomic region are associated with cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) biomarkers for AD and a common intergenic variant found near the TREML2 gene has been identified to be protective for AD. However, little is known about the functional variant underlying the latter association or its relationship with the p.R47H. Here, we report comprehensive analyses using whole-exome sequencing data, CSF biomarker analyses, meta-analyses (16,254 cases and 20,052 controls) and cell-based functional studies to support the role of the TREML2 coding missense variant p.S144G (rs3747742) as a potential driver of the meta-analysis AD-associated GWAS signal. Additionally, we demonstrate that the protective role of TREML2 in AD is independent of the role of TREM2 gene as a risk factor for AD.
PMCID: PMC3961557  PMID: 24439484
9.  Ptau-Aβ42 ratio as a continuous trait for biomarker discovery for early stage Alzheimer’s disease in multiplex immunoassay panels of Cerebrospinal fluid 
Biological psychiatry  2014;75(9):723-731.
Identification of the physiological changes that occur during the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) may provide critical insights for the diagnosis, prognosis and treatment of disease. Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) biomarkers are a rich source of information that reflect the brain proteome.
We applied a novel approach to screen a panel of ~190 CSF analytes quantified by multiplex immunoassay and detected common associations in the Knight- Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center (ADRC;N=311) and the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI;N=293) cohorts. CSF ptau181-Aβ42 ratio was used as a continuous trait, rather than case control status in these analyses.
We demonstrate the ptau181-Aβ42 ratio has more statistical power than traditional modeling approaches and that the levels of CSF Fatty Acid Binding Protein (H-FABP) and 12 other correlated analytes increase as the disease progresses. These results were validated using the traditional case control status model. Stratification of our dataset demonstrated that increases in these analytes occur very early in the disease course and were apparent even in non-demented individuals with AD pathology (low ptau181, low Aβ42) compared to pathology-negative elderly control subjects (low ptau181, high Aβ42). FABP-Aβ42 ratio demonstrates a similar hazard ratio for disease conversion to ptau181-Aβ42 even though the overlap in classification is incomplete suggesting that FABP contributes independent information as a predictor
Our results clearly indicate that the approach presented here can be employed to correctly identify novel biomarkers for AD, and that CSF H-FABP levels start to increase at very early stages of the disease.
PMCID: PMC4007142  PMID: 24548642
Alzheimer’s disease; Biomarkers; cerebrospinal fluid (CSF); Ptau-Aβ42 ratio; Heart Fatty Acid binding protein; Brain Proteome - Rules Based Medicine Discovery Multi-Analyte Profile 1.0
10.  Genome-Wide Association Study of CSF Levels of 59 Alzheimer's Disease Candidate Proteins: Significant Associations with Proteins Involved in Amyloid Processing and Inflammation 
PLoS Genetics  2014;10(10):e1004758.
Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) 42 amino acid species of amyloid beta (Aβ42) and tau levels are strongly correlated with the presence of Alzheimer's disease (AD) neuropathology including amyloid plaques and neurodegeneration and have been successfully used as endophenotypes for genetic studies of AD. Additional CSF analytes may also serve as useful endophenotypes that capture other aspects of AD pathophysiology. Here we have conducted a genome-wide association study of CSF levels of 59 AD-related analytes. All analytes were measured using the Rules Based Medicine Human DiscoveryMAP Panel, which includes analytes relevant to several disease-related processes. Data from two independently collected and measured datasets, the Knight Alzheimer's Disease Research Center (ADRC) and Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI), were analyzed separately, and combined results were obtained using meta-analysis. We identified genetic associations with CSF levels of 5 proteins (Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE), Chemokine (C-C motif) ligand 2 (CCL2), Chemokine (C-C motif) ligand 4 (CCL4), Interleukin 6 receptor (IL6R) and Matrix metalloproteinase-3 (MMP3)) with study-wide significant p-values (p<1.46×10−10) and significant, consistent evidence for association in both the Knight ADRC and the ADNI samples. These proteins are involved in amyloid processing and pro-inflammatory signaling. SNPs associated with ACE, IL6R and MMP3 protein levels are located within the coding regions of the corresponding structural gene. The SNPs associated with CSF levels of CCL4 and CCL2 are located in known chemokine binding proteins. The genetic associations reported here are novel and suggest mechanisms for genetic control of CSF and plasma levels of these disease-related proteins. Significant SNPs in ACE and MMP3 also showed association with AD risk. Our findings suggest that these proteins/pathways may be valuable therapeutic targets for AD. Robust associations in cognitively normal individuals suggest that these SNPs also influence regulation of these proteins more generally and may therefore be relevant to other diseases.
Author Summary
The use of quantitative endophenotypes from cerebrospinal fluid has led to the identification of several genetic variants that alter risk or rate of progression of Alzheimer's disease. Here we have analyzed the levels of 58 disease-related proteins in the cerebrospinal fluid for association with millions of variants across the human genome. We have identified significant, replicable associations with 5 analytes, Angiotensin-converting enzyme, Chemokine (C-C motif) ligand 2, Chemokine (C-C motif) ligand 4, Interleukin 6 receptor and Matrix metalloproteinase-3. Our results suggest that these variants play a regulatory role in the respective protein levels and are relevant to the inflammatory and amyloid processing pathways. Variants in associated with ACE and those associated with MMP3 levels also show association with risk for Alzheimer's disease in the expected directions. These associations are consistent in cerebrospinal fluid and plasma and in samples with only cognitively normal individuals suggesting that they are relevant in the regulation of these protein levels beyond the context of Alzheimer's disease.
PMCID: PMC4207667  PMID: 25340798
11.  A meta-analysis of two genome-wide association studies to identify novel loci for maximum number of alcoholic drinks 
Human genetics  2013;132(10):1141-1151.
Maximum number of alcoholic drinks consumed in a 24-h period (maxdrinks) is a heritable (> 50%) trait and is strongly correlated with vulnerability to excessive alcohol consumption and subsequent alcohol dependence (AD). Several genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have studied alcohol dependence, but few have concentrated on excessive alcohol consumption. We performed two GWAS using maxdrinks as an excessive alcohol consumption phenotype: one in 118 extended families (N=2322) selected from the Collaborative Study on the Genetics of Alcoholism (COGA), and the other in a case-control sample (N=2593) derived from the Study of Addiction: Genes and Environment (SAGE). The strongest association in the COGA families was detected with rs9523562 (p = 2.1×10−6) located in an intergenic region on chromosome 13q31.1; the strongest association in the SAGE dataset was with rs67666182 (p = 7.1×10−7), located in an intergenic region on chromosome 8. We also performed a meta-analysis with these two GWAS and demonstrated evidence of association in both datasets for the LMO1 (p = 7.2×10−7) and PLCL1 genes (p = 4.1×10−6) with increased maxdrinks. A variant in AUTS2 and variants in INADL, C15orf32 and HIP1 that were associated with measures of alcohol consumption in a meta-analysis of GWAS studies and a GWAS of alcohol consumption factor score also showed nominal association in the current meta-analysis. The present study has identified several loci that warrant further examination in independent samples. Among the top SNPs in each of the dataset (p≤10−4) far more showed the same direction of effect in the other dataset than would be expected by chance (p = 2×10−3, 3×10−6), suggesting that there are true signals among these top SNPs, even though no SNP reached genome-wide levels of significance.
PMCID: PMC3776011  PMID: 23743675
Alcohol consumption; maximum number of alcoholic drinks; GWAS; COGA; SAGE
12.  Rare coding variants in Phospholipase D3 (PLD3) confer risk for Alzheimer's disease 
Nature  2013;505(7484):550-554.
Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified several risk variants for late-onset Alzheimer's disease (LOAD)1,2. These common variants have replicable but small effects on LOAD risk and generally do not have obvious functional effects. Low-frequency coding variants, not detected by GWAS, are predicted to include functional variants with larger effects on risk. To identify low frequency coding variants with large effects on LOAD risk, we performed whole exome-sequencing (WES) in 14 large LOAD families and follow-up analyses of the candidate variants in several large case-control datasets. A rare variant in PLD3 (phospholipase-D family, member 3, rs145999145; V232M) segregated with disease status in two independent families and doubled risk for AD in seven independent case-control series (V232M meta-analysis; OR= 2.10, CI=1.47-2.99; p= 2.93×10-5, 11,354 cases and controls of European-descent). Gene-based burden analyses in 4,387 cases and controls of European-descent and 302 African American cases and controls, with complete sequence data for PLD3, indicate that several variants in this gene increase risk for AD in both populations (EA: OR= 2.75, CI=2.05-3.68; p=1.44×10-11, AA: OR= 5.48, CI=1.77-16.92; p=1.40×10-3). PLD3 is highly expressed in brain regions vulnerable to AD pathology, including hippocampus and cortex, and is expressed at lower levels in neurons from AD brains compared to control brains (p=8.10×10-10). Over-expression of PLD3 leads to a significant decrease in intracellular APP and extracellular Aβ42 and Aβ40, while knock-down of PLD3 leads to a significant increase in extracellular Aβ42 and Aβ40. Together, our genetic and functional data indicate that carriers of PLD3 coding variants have a two-fold increased risk for LOAD and that PLD3 influences APP processing. This study provides an example of how densely affected families may be used to identify rare variants with large effects on risk for disease or other complex traits.
PMCID: PMC4050701  PMID: 24336208
13.  Missense variant in TREML2 protects against Alzheimer's disease 
Neurobiology of Aging  2014;35(6):1510.e19-1510.e26.
TREM and TREM-like receptors are a structurally similar protein family encoded by genes clustered on chromosome 6p21.11. Recent studies have identified a rare coding variant (p.R47H) in TREM2 that confers a high risk for Alzheimer's disease (AD). In addition, common single nucleotide polymorphisms in this genomic region are associated with cerebrospinal fluid biomarkers for AD and a common intergenic variant found near the TREML2 gene has been identified to be protective for AD. However, little is known about the functional variant underlying the latter association or its relationship with the p.R47H. Here, we report comprehensive analyses using whole-exome sequencing data, cerebrospinal fluid biomarker analyses, meta-analyses (16,254 cases and 20,052 controls) and cell-based functional studies to support the role of the TREML2 coding missense variant p.S144G (rs3747742) as a potential driver of the meta-analysis AD-associated genome-wide association studies signal. Additionally, we demonstrate that the protective role of TREML2 in AD is independent of the role of TREM2 gene as a risk factor for AD.
PMCID: PMC3961557  PMID: 24439484
TREM2; Genome-wide association studies; Conditional analysis; Endophenotype; Gene; Alzheimer's disease; Association
14.  A genome wide association study of alcohol dependence symptom counts in extended pedigrees identifies C15orf53 
Molecular psychiatry  2012;18(11):10.1038/mp.2012.143.
Several studies have identified genes associated with alcohol use disorders, but the variation in each of these genes explains only a small portion of the genetic vulnerability. The goal of the present study was to perform a genome-wide association study (GWAS) in extended families from the Collaborative Study on the Genetics of Alcoholism (COGA) to identify novel genes affecting risk for alcohol dependence. To maximize the power of the extended family design we used a quantitative endophenotype, measured in all individuals: number of alcohol dependence symptoms endorsed (symptom count). Secondary analyses were performed to determine if the single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) associated with symptom count were also associated with the dichotomous phenotype, DSM-IV alcohol dependence. This family-based GWAS identified SNPs in C15orf53 that are strongly associated with DSM-IV alcohol (p=4.5×10−8, inflation corrected p=9.4×10−7). Results with DSM-IV alcohol dependence in the regions of interest support our findings with symptom count, though the associations were less significant. Attempted replications of the most promising association results were conducted in two independent samples: non-overlapping subjects from the Study of Addiction: Genes and Environment (SAGE) and the Australian twin-family study of alcohol use disorders (OZALC). Nominal association of C15orf53 with symptom count was observed in SAGE. The variant that showed strongest association with symptom count, rs12912251 and its highly correlated variants (D′=1, r2≥ 0.95), has previously been associated with risk for bipolar disorder.
PMCID: PMC3752321  PMID: 23089632
DSM-IV alcohol dependence symptoms; Family-based GWAS; C15orf53; Quantitative traits
15.  GWAS of cerebrospinal fluid tau levels identifies novel risk variants for Alzheimer’s disease 
Neuron  2013;78(2):256-268.
Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) tau, tau phosphorylated at threonine 181 (ptau) and Aβ42 are established biomarkers for Alzheimer’s Disease (AD), and have been used as quantitative traits for genetic analyses. We performed the largest genome-wide association study for cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) tau/ptau levels published to date (n=1,269), identifying three novel genome-wide significant loci for CSF tau and ptau: rs9877502 (P=4.89×10−9 for tau) located at 3q28 between GEMC1 and OSTN, rs514716 (P=1.07×10−8 and P=3.22×10−9 for tau and ptau respectively), located at 9p24.2 within GLIS3 and rs6922617 (P = 3.58×10−8 for CSF ptau) at 6p21.1 within the TREM gene cluster, a region recently reported to harbor rare variants that increase AD risk. In independent datasets rs9877502 showed a strong association with risk for AD, tangle pathology and global cognitive decline (P=2.67×10−4, 0.039, 4.86×10−5 respectively) illustrating how this endophenotype-based approach can be used to identify new AD risk loci.
PMCID: PMC3664945  PMID: 23562540
16.  Cis-Regulatory Variants Affect CHRNA5 mRNA Expression in Populations of African and European Ancestry 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e80204.
Variants within the gene cluster encoding α3, α5, and β4 nicotinic receptor subunits are major risk factors for substance dependence. The strongest impact on risk is associated with variation in the CHRNA5 gene, where at least two mechanisms are at work: amino acid variation and altered mRNA expression levels. The risk allele of the non-synonymous variant (rs16969968; D398N) primarily occurs on the haplotype containing the low mRNA expression allele. In populations of European ancestry, there are approximately 50 highly correlated variants in the CHRNA5-CHRNA3-CHRNB4 gene cluster and the adjacent PSMA4 gene region that are associated with CHRNA5 mRNA levels. It is not clear which of these variants contribute to the changes in CHRNA5 transcript level. Because populations of African ancestry have reduced linkage disequilibrium among variants spanning this gene cluster, eQTL mapping in subjects of African ancestry could potentially aid in defining the functional variants that affect CHRNA5 mRNA levels. We performed quantitative allele specific gene expression using frontal cortices derived from 49 subjects of African ancestry and 111 subjects of European ancestry. This method measures allele-specific transcript levels in the same individual, which eliminates other biological variation that occurs when comparing expression levels between different samples. This analysis confirmed that substance dependence associated variants have a direct cis-regulatory effect on CHRNA5 transcript levels in human frontal cortices of African and European ancestry and identified 10 highly correlated variants, located in a 9 kb region, that are potential functional variants modifying CHRNA5 mRNA expression levels.
PMCID: PMC3841173  PMID: 24303001
17.  A Systematic SNP Screen to Fine-Map Alcohol Dependence Genes on Chromosome 7 Identifies Association with a Novel Susceptibility Gene ACN9 
Biological psychiatry  2007;63(11):10.1016/j.biopsych.2007.11.005.
Chromosome 7 has shown consistent evidence of linkage with a variety of phenotypes related to alcohol dependence in the Collaborative Study on the Genetics of Alcoholism (COGA) project. Using a sample of 262 densely affected families, a peak lod score for alcohol dependence of 2.9 was observed at D7S1799 (Wang et al., 2004, Hum Mol Genet). The lod score in the region increased to 4.1 when a subset of the sample was genotyped with the Illumina Linkage III panel for the Genetic Analysis Workshop 14 (GAW14; Dunn et al., 2005, BMC Genetics). To follow-up on this linkage region, we systematically screened SNPs across a 2 LOD support interval surrounding the alcohol dependence peak.
SNPs were selected from the HapMap Phase I CEPH data to tag linkage disequilibrium bins across the region. 1340 across the 18Mb region, genotyped by the Center for Inherited Disease Research (CIDR), were analyzed. Family-based association analyses were performed on a sample of 1172 individuals from 217 Caucasian families. Results: Eight SNPs showed association with alcohol dependence at p<0.01. Four of the eight most significant SNPs were located in or very near the ACN9 gene. We conducted additional genotyping across ACN9 and identified multiple variants with significant evidence of association with alcohol dependence.
These analyses suggest that ACN9 is involved in the predisposition to alcohol dependence. Data from yeast suggest that ACN9 is involved in gluconeogenesis and the assimilation of ethanol or acetate into carbohydrate.
PMCID: PMC3823371  PMID: 18163977
genetics; association; linkage disequilibrium; alcohol dependence; ACN9
18.  Cerebrospinal fluid APOE levels: an endophenotype for genetic studies for Alzheimer's disease 
Human Molecular Genetics  2012;21(20):4558-4571.
The apolipoprotein E (APOE) genotype is the major genetic risk factor for Alzheimer's disease (AD). We have access to cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and plasma APOE protein levels from 641 individuals and genome-wide genotyped data from 570 of these samples. The aim of this study was to test whether CSF or plasma APOE levels could be a useful endophenotype for AD and to identify genetic variants associated with APOE levels. We found that CSF (P = 8.15 × 10−4) but not plasma (P = 0.071) APOE protein levels are significantly associated with CSF Aβ42 levels. We used Mendelian randomization and genetic variants as instrumental variables to confirm that the association of CSF APOE with CSF Aβ42 levels and clinical dementia rating (CDR) is not because of a reverse causation or confounding effect. In addition the association of CSF APOE with Aβ42 levels was independent of the APOE ɛ4 genotype, suggesting that APOE levels in CSF may be a useful endophenotype for AD. We performed a genome-wide association study to identify genetic variants associated with CSF APOE levels: the APOE ɛ4 genotype was the strongest single-genetic factor associated with CSF APOE protein levels (P = 6.9 × 10−13). In aggregate, the Illumina chip single nucleotide polymorphisms explain 72% of the variability in CSF APOE protein levels, whereas the APOE ɛ4 genotype alone explains 8% of the variability. No other genetic variant reached the genome-wide significance threshold, but nine additional variants exhibited a P-value <10−6. Pathway mining analysis indicated that these nine additional loci are involved in lipid metabolism (P = 4.49 × 10−9).
PMCID: PMC3459471  PMID: 22821396
19.  The PSEN1, p.E318G Variant Increases the Risk of Alzheimer's Disease in APOE-ε4 Carriers 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(8):e1003685.
The primary constituents of plaques (Aβ42/Aβ40) and neurofibrillary tangles (tau and phosphorylated forms of tau [ptau]) are the current leading diagnostic and prognostic cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) biomarkers for AD. In this study, we performed deep sequencing of APP, PSEN1, PSEN2, GRN, APOE and MAPT genes in individuals with extreme CSF Aβ42, tau, or ptau levels. One known pathogenic mutation (PSEN1 p.A426P), four high-risk variants for AD (APOE p.L46P, MAPT p.A152T, PSEN2 p.R62H and p.R71W) and nine novel variants were identified. Surprisingly, a coding variant in PSEN1, p.E318G (rs17125721-G) exhibited a significant association with high CSF tau (p = 9.2×10−4) and ptau (p = 1.8×10−3) levels. The association of the p.E318G variant with Aβ deposition was observed in APOE-ε4 allele carriers. Furthermore, we found that in a large case-control series (n = 5,161) individuals who are APOE-ε4 carriers and carry the p.E318G variant are at a risk of developing AD (OR = 10.7, 95% CI = 4.7–24.6) that is similar to APOE-ε4 homozygous (OR = 9.9, 95% CI = 7.2.9–13.6), and double the risk for APOE-ε4 carriers that do not carry p.E318G (OR = 3.9, 95% CI = 3.4–4.4). The p.E318G variant is present in 5.3% (n = 30) of the families from a large clinical series of LOAD families (n = 565) and exhibited a higher frequency in familial LOAD (MAF = 2.5%) than in sporadic LOAD (MAF = 1.6%) (p = 0.02). Additionally, we found that in the presence of at least one APOE-ε4 allele, p.E318G is associated with more Aβ plaques and faster cognitive decline. We demonstrate that the effect of PSEN1, p.E318G on AD susceptibility is largely dependent on an interaction with APOE-ε4 and mediated by an increased burden of Aβ deposition.
Author Summary
Alzheimer's disease (AD) is the most common neurodegenerative disease affecting more than 5.3 million people in the US. AD-causing mutations have been identified in APP, PSEN1 and PSEN2 genes. Heterozygous carriers of APOE-ε4 allele exhibit a 3-fold increased risk for developing AD, while homozygous carriers show a 10-fold greater risk than non-carriers. Here, we sequenced individuals with extreme levels of well-established AD cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) biomarkers in order to identify variants in APOE, APP, PSEN1, PSEN2, GRN and MAPT genes associated with AD risk. This approach allowed us to identify known pathogenic variants, additional AD risk genetic factors and identify a low frequency variant in PSEN1, p.E318G (rs17125721-G) that increases risk for AD in a gene-gene interaction with APOE. These findings were replicated in three large (>4,000 individuals) and independent datasets. This finding is particularly important because we demonstrated that a currently considered non-pathogenic variant is associated with higher levels of neuronal degeneration, and with Aβ deposition, more Aβ plaques and faster cognitive decline in an APOE-ε4-dependent fashion. APOE-ε4 heterozygous individuals who carry this variant are at similar AD risk as APOE-ε4 homozygous individuals.
PMCID: PMC3750021  PMID: 23990795
20.  ADH1B is associated with alcohol dependence and alcohol consumption in populations of European and African ancestry 
Molecular psychiatry  2011;17(4):445-450.
A coding variant in ADH1B (rs1229984) that leads to the replacement of Arg48 with His48 is common in Asian populations and reduces their risk for alcoholism, but because of very low allele frequencies the effects in European or African populations have been difficult to detect. We genotyped and analyzed this variant in three large European and African-American case-control studies in which alcohol dependence was defined by DSM-IV criteria, and demonstrated a strong protective effect of the His48 variant (odds ratio of 0.34, 95% confidence interval 0.24, 0.48) for alcohol dependence, with genome-wide significance (6.6 × 10−10). The hypothesized mechanism of action involves an increased aversive reaction to alcohol; in keeping with this hypothesis, the same allele is strongly associated with a lower maximum number of drinks in a 24 hour period (lifetime), with p = 3×10−13. We also tested the effects of this allele on the development of alcoholism in adolescents and young adults and demonstrated a significant protective effect. This variant has the strongest effect on risk for alcohol dependence of any tested in European populations.
PMCID: PMC3252425  PMID: 21968928
alcohol dependence; ADH1B; alcohol dehydrogenase; protective allele; genetics; association study
21.  Association and Expression analyses with SNPs in TOMM40 in Alzheimer’s Disease 
Archives of neurology  2011;68(8):1013-1019.
Apolipoprotein E (APOE) is the most statistically significant genetic risk factor for late-onset Alzheimer’s disease (LOAD). The linkage disequilibrium pattern around the APOE gene has made it difficult to determine whether all of the association signal is derived from APOE or if there is an independent signal from a nearby gene. In this study we attempted to replicate a recently reported association of APOE 3-TOMM40 haplotypes with risk and age at onset.
We used standard techniques to genotype several polymorphisms in the APOE-TOMM40 region in a large case-control series, in a series with cerebrospinal fluid biomarker data and in brain tissue.
We failed to replicate the previously reported association of the polyT polymorphism (rs10524523) with risk and age at onset. We found a significant association between rs10524523 and risk for LOAD among APOE 33 homozygotes but in the opposite direction to the previously reported association (the very-long allele was underrepresented in cases compared to controls in our study (allele frequency: 0.41 vs. 0.48 respectively; p=0.004)). We found no association between rs10524523 and CSF tau or Aβ42 levels or TOMM40 or APOE gene expression.
Although we were not able to replicate the earlier association between the APOE 3-TOMM40 haplotypes and age at onset, we did observe that the polyT polymorphism is associated with risk for LOAD among APOE 33 homozygotes in a large case-control series, but in the opposite direction to the previous report. Additional studies in very large samples will be needed to confirm this association.
PMCID: PMC3204798  PMID: 21825236
22.  TMEM106B gene polymorphism is associated with age at onset in granulin mutation carriers and plasma granulin protein levels 
Archives of neurology  2011;68(5):581-586.
A recent genome-wide association study for frontotemporal lobar degeneration with TAR DNA-binding protein inclusions (FTLD-TDP), identified rs1990622 (TMEM106B) as a risk factor for FTLD-TDP. In this study we tested whether rs1990622 is associated with age at onset (AAO) in granulin (GRN) mutation carriers and with plasma GRN levels in mutation carriers and healthy elderly individuals.
Rs1990622 was genotyped in GRN mutation carriers and tested for association with AAO using the Kaplan-Meier and a Cox proportional hazards model.
We analyzed 50 affected and unaffected GRN mutation carriers from four previously reported FTLD-TDP families (HDDD1, FD1, HDDD2 and the Karolinska family). GRN plasma levels were also measured in 73 healthy, elderly individuals.
The risk allele of rs1990622 is associated with a mean decrease of the age at onset of thirteen years (p=9.9×10−7), with lower plasma granulin levels in both healthy older adults (p = 4×10−4) and GRN mutation carriers (p=0.0027). Analysis of the HAPMAP database identified a non-synonymous single nucleotide polymorphism, rs3173615 (T185S) in perfect linkage disequilibrium with rs1990622.
The association of rs1990622 with AAO explains, in part, the wide range in the age at onset of disease among GRN mutation carriers. We hypothesize that rs1990622 or another variant in linkage disequilibrium could act in a manner similar to APOE in Alzheimer’s disease, increasing risk for disease in the general population and modifying AAO in mutation carriers. Our results also suggest that genetic variation in TMEM106B may influence risk for FTLD-TDP by modulating secreted levels of GRN.
PMCID: PMC3090529  PMID: 21220649
23.  Variants Located Upstream of CHRNB4 on Chromosome 15q25.1 Are Associated with Age at Onset of Daily Smoking and Habitual Smoking 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(3):e33513.
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
PMCID: PMC3306405  PMID: 22438940
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.
PMCID: PMC3032214  PMID: 20634593
Alzheimer’s disease; genetics; association; endophenotypes; amyloid; tau; CALHM1; SORL1; GAB2
PLoS Genetics  2010;6(9):e1001101.
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.
Author Summary
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.
PMCID: PMC2940763  PMID: 20862329

Results 1-25 (37)