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1.  Calcium phosphatase calcineurin influences tau metabolism 
Neurobiology of aging  2012;34(2):10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2012.05.003.
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is characterized by neuronal loss and the accumulation of β-amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles in the brain. Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) levels of β-amyloid and tau/ptau181 are also associated with AD. We have previously demonstrated that a single nucleotide polymorphism in calcineurin is associated with CSF ptau181 levels and AD progression. In this study, we demonstrate that calcineurin protein levels are inversely correlated with dementia severity and Braak tangle stage in AD brains, and calcineurin activity is globally reduced in AD brains. We then sought to model the observed changes in CSF tau by measuring extracellular tau in cultured cells. SH-SY5Y cells treated with calcineurin inhibitors produced reduced calcineurin activity and a corresponding increase in extracellular ptau181. These findings are consistent with our observations in AD patients, who have elevated CSF ptau181 and reduced calcineurin activity in brain extracts. Thus, we have identified a gene that contributes to AD pathology and has functional consequences on tau metabolism in cultured cells.
PMCID: PMC3879081  PMID: 22676853
Calcineurin; tau; Alzheimer’s disease; phosphorylation
2.  CHRNB3 is more strongly associated with FTCD-based nicotine dependence than cigarettes per day: phenotype definition changes GWAS results 
Addiction (Abingdon, England)  2012;107(11):2019-2028.
Nicotine dependence is a highly heritable disorder associated with severe medical morbidity and mortality. Recent meta-analyses have found novel genetic loci associated with cigarettes per day (CPD), a proxy for nicotine dependence. The aim of this paper is to evaluate the importance of phenotype definition (i.e. CPD versus Fagerström Test for Cigarette Dependence (FTCD) score as a measure of nicotine dependence) on genome-wide association studies of nicotine dependence.
Genome-wide association study
Community sample
A total of 3,365 subjects who had smoked at least one cigarette were selected from the Study of Addiction: Genetics and Environment (SAGE). Of the participants, 2,267 were European Americans,999 were African Americans.
Nicotine dependence defined by FTCD score ≥4, CPD
The genetic locus most strongly associated with nicotine dependence was rs1451240 on chromosome 8 in the region of CHRNB3 (OR=0.65, p=2.4×10−8). This association was further strengthened in a meta-analysis with a previously published dataset (combined p=6.7 ×10−16, total n=4,200).When CPD was used as an alternate phenotype, the association no longer reached genome-wide significance (β=−0.08, p=0.0007).
Daily cigarette consumption and the Fagerstrom Test for Cigarette Dependence (FTCD) show different associations with polymorphisms in genetic loci.
PMCID: PMC3427406  PMID: 22524403
3.  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
4.  Developing an international network for Alzheimer research: The Dominantly Inherited Alzheimer Network 
Clinical investigation  2012;2(10):975-984.
The Dominantly Inherited Alzheimer Network (DIAN) is a collaborative effort of international Alzheimer disease (AD) centers that are conducting a multifaceted prospective biomarker study in individuals at-risk for autosomal dominant AD (ADAD). DIAN collects comprehensive information and tissue in accordance with standard protocols from asymptomatic and symptomatic ADAD mutation carriers and their non-carrier family members to determine the pathochronology of clinical, cognitive, neuroimaging, and fluid biomarkers of AD. This article describes the structure, implementation, and underlying principles of DIAN, as well as the demographic features of the initial DIAN cohort.
PMCID: PMC3489185  PMID: 23139856
Alzheimer disease; autosomal dominant; biomarkers of Alzheimer disease; PSEN1; PSEN2; APP; amyloid-beta; preclinical Alzheimer disease
5.  Characterizing the Role of Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor Genetic Variation in Alzheimer’s Disease Neurodegeneration 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(9):e76001.
There is accumulating evidence that neurotrophins, like brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), may impact aging and Alzheimer’s Disease. However, traditional genetic association studies have not found a clear relationship between BDNF and AD. Our goal was to test whether BDNF single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) impact Alzheimer’s Disease-related brain imaging and cognitive markers of disease. We completed an imaging genetics study on 645 Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative participants (ND=175, MCI=316, AD=154) who had cognitive, brain imaging, and genetics data at baseline and a subset of those with brain imaging data at two years. Samples were genotyped using the Illumina Human610-Quad BeadChip. 13 SNPs in BDNF were identified in the dataset following quality control measures (rs6265(Val66Met), rs12273363, rs11030094, rs925946, rs1050187, rs2203877, rs11030104, rs11030108, rs10835211, rs7934165, rs908867, rs1491850, rs1157459). We analyzed a subgroup of 8 SNPs that were in low linkage disequilibrium with each other. Automated brain morphometric measures were available through ADNI investigators, and we analyzed baseline cognitive scores, hippocampal and whole brain volumes, and rates of hippocampal and whole brain atrophy and rates of change in the ADAS-Cog over one and two years. Three out of eight BDNF SNPs analyzed were significantly associated with measures of cognitive decline (rs1157659, rs11030094, rs11030108). No SNPs were significantly associated with baseline brain volume measures, however six SNPs were significantly associated with hippocampal and/or whole brain atrophy over two years (rs908867, rs11030094, rs6265, rs10501087, rs1157659, rs1491850). We also found an interaction between the BDNF Val66Met SNP and age with whole brain volume. Our imaging-genetics analysis in a large dataset suggests that while BDNF genetic variation is not specifically associated with a diagnosis of AD, it appears to play a role in AD-related brain neurodegeneration.
PMCID: PMC3784423  PMID: 24086677
6.  The Genetics of Substance Dependence 
A large segment of the population suffers from addiction to alcohol, smoking, or illicit drugs. Not only do substance abuse and addiction pose a threat to health, but the consequences of addiction also impose a social and economic burden on families, communities, and nations. Genome-wide linkage and association studies have been used for addiction research with varying degrees of success. The most well-established genetic factors associated with alcohol dependence are in the genes encoding alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH), which oxidizes alcohol to acetaldehyde, and aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH2), which oxidizes acetaldehyde to acetate. Recently emerging genetic studies have linked variants in the genes encoding the α3, α5, and β4 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor subunits to smoking risk. However, the influence of these well-established genetic variants accounts for only a small portion of the heritability of alcohol and nicotine addiction, and it is likely that there are both common and rare risk variants yet to be identified. Newly developed DNA sequencing technologies could potentially advance the detection of rare variants with a larger impact on addiction risk.
PMCID: PMC3474605  PMID: 22703173
addiction; alcoholism; smoking; nicotinic acetylcholine receptors; alcohol metabolizing genes
8.  The aggregate effect of dopamine genes on dependence symptoms among cocaine users: Cross-validation of a candidate system scoring approach 
Behavior genetics  2012;42(4):626-635.
Genome-wide studies of psychiatric conditions frequently fail to explain a substantial proportion of variance, and replication of individual SNP effects is rare. We demonstrate a selective scoring approach, in which variants from several genes known to directly affect the dopamine system are considered concurrently to explain individual differences in cocaine dependence symptoms. 273 SNPs from eight dopamine-related genes were tested for association with cocaine dependence symptoms in an initial training sample. We identified a four-SNP score that accounted for 0.55% of the variance in a separate testing sample (p = 0.037). These findings suggest that 1) limiting investigated SNPs to those located in genes of theoretical importance improves the chances of identifying replicable effects by reducing statistical penalties for multiple testing, and 2) considering top-associated SNPs in the aggregate can reveal replicable effects that are too small to be identified at the level of individual SNPs.
PMCID: PMC3416038  PMID: 22358648
candidate gene; cocaine dependence; dopamine
9.  Exercise engagement as a moderator of APOE effects on amyloid deposition 
Archives of neurology  2012;69(5):636-643.
APOE ε4 status has been associated with greater cortical amyloid deposition whereas exercise has been associated with less in cognitively normal adults. The primary objective here was to examine whether physical exercise moderates the association between APOE genotype and amyloid deposition in cognitively normal adults.
APOE genotyping and a questionnaire on physical exercise engagement over the last decade were obtained in conjunction with cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) samples and amyloid imaging with PET-PIB. Participants were classified as either low or high exercisers based on exercise guidelines of the American Heart Association.
201 cognitively normal adults (135 females) aged 45–88 were recruited from the Knight Alzheimer Disease Research Center at Washington University. CSF samples were collected from 165 participants. Amyloid imaging was performed on 163 participants.
APOE ε4 carriers evidenced higher PIB binding (p<.001) and lower CSF Aβ42 levels (p<.001) than non-carriers. Our previous findings of higher PIB binding (p=.005) and lower CSF Aβ42 levels (p=.009) in more sedentary individuals were replicated. Most importantly, we observed a novel interaction between APOE status and exercise engagement for PIB binding (p=.008) such that a more sedentary lifestyle was significantly associated with higher PIB binding for ε4 carriers (p=.013) but not for ε4 non-carriers (p=.208). All findings remained significant after controlling for age, gender, education, hypertension, body mass index, diabetes, heart problems, history of depression and interval between assessments.
Collectively, these results suggest that cognitively normal sedentary APOE ε4+ individuals may be at augmented risk for cerebral amyloid deposition.
PMCID: PMC3583203  PMID: 22232206
10.  Rare missense variants in CHRNB4 are associated with reduced risk of nicotine dependence 
Human Molecular Genetics  2011;21(3):647-655.
Genome-wide association studies have identified common variation in the CHRNA5–CHRNA3–CHRNB4 and CHRNA6–CHRNB3 gene clusters that contribute to nicotine dependence. However, the role of rare variation in risk for nicotine dependence in these nicotinic receptor genes has not been studied. We undertook pooled sequencing of the coding regions and flanking sequence of the CHRNA5, CHRNA3, CHRNB4, CHRNA6 and CHRNB3 genes in African American and European American nicotine-dependent smokers and smokers without symptoms of dependence. Carrier status of individuals harboring rare missense variants at conserved sites in each of these genes was then compared in cases and controls to test for an association with nicotine dependence. Missense variants at conserved residues in CHRNB4 are associated with lower risk for nicotine dependence in African Americans and European Americans (AA P = 0.0025, odds-ratio (OR) = 0.31, 95% confidence-interval (CI) = 0.31–0.72; EA P = 0.023, OR = 0.69, 95% CI = 0.50–0.95). Furthermore, these individuals were found to smoke fewer cigarettes per day than non-carriers (AA P = 6.6 × 10−5, EA P = 0.021). Given the possibility of stochastic differences in rare allele frequencies between groups replication of this association is necessary to confirm these findings. The functional effects of the two CHRNB4 variants contributing most to this association (T375I and T91I) and a missense variant in CHRNA3 (R37H) in strong linkage disequilibrium with T91I were examined in vitro. The minor allele of each polymorphism increased cellular response to nicotine (T375I P = 0.01, T91I P = 0.02, R37H P = 0.003), but the largest effect on in vitro receptor activity was seen in the presence of both CHRNB4 T91I and CHRNA3 R37H (P = 2 × 10−6).
PMCID: PMC3259016  PMID: 22042774
11.  Expression of Novel Alzheimer’s Disease Risk Genes in Control and Alzheimer’s Disease Brains 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(11):e50976.
Late onset Alzheimer’s disease (LOAD) etiology is influenced by complex interactions between genetic and environmental risk factors. Large-scale genome wide association studies (GWAS) for LOAD have identified 10 novel risk genes: ABCA7, BIN1, CD2AP, CD33, CLU, CR1, EPHA1, MS4A6A, MS4A6E, and PICALM. We sought to measure the influence of GWAS single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and gene expression levels on clinical and pathological measures of AD in brain tissue from the parietal lobe of AD cases and age-matched, cognitively normal controls. We found that ABCA7, CD33, and CR1 expression levels were associated with clinical dementia rating (CDR), with higher expression being associated with more advanced cognitive decline. BIN1 expression levels were associated with disease progression, where higher expression was associated with a delayed age at onset. CD33, CLU, and CR1 expression levels were associated with disease status, where elevated expression levels were associated with AD. Additionally, MS4A6A expression levels were associated with Braak tangle and Braak plaque scores, with elevated expression levels being associated with more advanced brain pathology. We failed to detect an association between GWAS SNPs and gene expression levels in our brain series. The minor allele of rs3764650 in ABCA7 is associated with age at onset and disease duration, and the minor allele of rs670139 in MS4A6E was associated with Braak tangle and Braak plaque score. These findings suggest that expression of some GWAS genes, namely ABCA7, BIN1, CD33, CLU, CR1 and the MS4A family, are altered in AD brains.
PMCID: PMC3511432  PMID: 23226438
12.  Amyloid-Beta Plaque Growth in Cognitively Normal Adults: Longitudinal PIB Data 
Annals of neurology  2011;70(5):857-861.
Amyloid-beta (Aβ) accumulation was evaluated with two PIB PET scans about 2.5 years apart in 146 cognitively normal adults. Seventeen of 21 participants with initially elevated Aβ deposition demonstrated subsequent Aβ plaque growth (approximately 8.0% per year) and none reverted to a state of no Aβ deposits. Ten individuals converted from negative to positive PIB status, based on a threshold of the mean cortical binding potential, representing a conversion rate of 3.1% per year. Individuals with an ε4 allele of apolipoprotein E demonstrated increased incidence of conversion (7.0% per year). Our findings suggest that the major growth in Aβ burden occurs during a preclinical stage of AD, prior to the onset of AD-related symptoms.
PMCID: PMC3243969  PMID: 22162065
preclinical Alzheimer disease; amyloid-beta accumulation; apolipoprotein E; positron emission tomography; [11C]PIB
13.  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
14.  A quantitative-trait genome-wide association study of alcoholism risk in the community: findings and implications 
Biological psychiatry  2011;70(6):513-518.
Given moderately strong genetic contributions to variation in alcoholism and heaviness of drinking (50–60% heritability), with high correlation of genetic influences, we have conducted a quantitative trait genomewide association study for phenotypes related to alcohol use and dependence.
Diagnostic interview and blood/buccal samples were obtained from sibships ascertained through the Australian Twin Registry. Genomewide SNP genotyping was performed with 8754 individuals [2062 alcohol dependent cases] selected for informativeness for alcohol use disorder and associated quantitative traits. Family-based association tests were performed for alcohol dependence, dependence factor score and heaviness of drinking factor score, with confirmatory case-population control comparisons using an unassessed population control series of 3393 Australians with genomewide SNP data.
No findings reached genomewide significance (p=8.4×10−8 for this study), with lowest p-value for primary phenotypes of 1.2×10−7. Convergent findings for quantitative consumption and diagnostic and quantitative dependence measures suggest possible roles for a transmembrane protein gene (TMEM108) and for ANKS1A. The major finding, however, was small effect sizes estimated for individual SNPs, suggesting that hundreds of genetic variants make modest contributions (1/4% of variance or less) to alcohol dependence risk.
We conclude that (i) meta-analyses of consumption data may contribute usefully to gene-discovery; (ii) translation of human alcoholism GWAS results to drug discovery or clinically useful prediction of risk will be challenging; (iii) through accumulation across studies, GWAS data may become valuable for improved genetic risk differentiation in research in biological psychiatry (e.g. prospective high-risk or resilience studies).
PMCID: PMC3210694  PMID: 21529783
Alcoholism; genome-wide association; quantitative-trait; non-replication
15.  Elevated cortisol in older adults with Generalized Anxiety Disorder is reduced by treatment: a placebo-controlled evaluation of escitalopram 
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is a common disorder in older adults which has been linked to hyperactivity of the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) axis in this age group. We examined whether treatment of GAD in older adults with a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) corrects this HPA axis hyperactivity.
We examined adults aged 60 and above with GAD in a 12-week randomized controlled trial comparing the SSRI escitalopram to placebo. We collected salivary cortisol at six daily timepoints for two consecutive days to assess peak and total (area under the curve) cortisol, both at baseline and post-treatment.
Compared with placebo-treated subjects, SSRI-treated subjects had a significantly greater reduction in both peak and total cortisol. This reduction in cortisol was limited to subjects with elevated (above the median) baseline cortisol, in whom SSRI-treated subjects showed substantially greater reduction in cortisol than did placebo-treated subjects. Reductions in cortisol were associated with improvements in anxiety. Additionally, genetic variability at the serotonin transporter promoter predicted cortisol changes.
SSRI treatment of GAD in older adults reduces HPA axis hyperactivity. Further research should determine whether these treatment-attributable changes are sustained and beneficial.
PMCID: PMC3424606  PMID: 20808146
anxiety; cortisol; aging; health; stress; antidepressant
16.  A Genomewide Association Study of DSM-IV Cannabis Dependence 
Addiction biology  2010;16(3):514-518.
Despite twin studies showing that 50–70% of variation in DSM-IV cannabis dependence is attributable to heritable influences, little is known of specific genotypes that influence vulnerability to cannabis dependence. We conducted a genomewide association study of DSM-IV cannabis dependence. Association analyses of 708 DSM-IV cannabis dependent cases with 2,346 cannabis exposed nondependent controls was conducted using logistic regression in PLINK. None of the 948,142 SNPs met genomewide significance (p < E−8). The lowest p-values were obtained for polymorphisms on chromosome 17 (rs1019238 and rs1431318, p-values at E−7) in the ANKFN1 gene. While replication is required, this study represents an important first step towards clarifying the biological underpinnings of cannabis dependence.
PMCID: PMC3117436  PMID: 21668797
17.  Human apoE isoforms differentially regulate brain amyloid-β peptide clearance 
Science translational medicine  2011;3(89):89ra57.
The apolipoprotein E (APOE) ε4 allele is the strongest genetic risk factor for late-onset, sporadic Alzheimer’s disease (AD). The APOE ε4 allele dramatically increases AD risk and decreases age of onset, likely through its strong effect on the accumulation of amyloid-β (Aβ) peptide. In contrast, the APOE ε2 allele appears to decrease AD risk. Most rare, early-onset forms of familial AD are caused by autosomal dominant mutations that often lead to overproduction of Aβ42 peptide. However, the mechanism by which APOE alleles differentially modulate Aβ accumulation in sporadic, late-onset AD is less clear. In a cohort of cognitively normal individuals, we report that reliable molecular and neuroimaging biomarkers of cerebral Aβ deposition vary in an apoE isoform-dependent manner. We hypothesized that human apoE isoforms differentially affect Aβ clearance or synthesis in vivo, resulting in an apoE isoform-dependent pattern of Aβ accumulation later in life. Performing in vivo microdialysis in a mouse model of β-amyloidosis expressing human apoE isoforms (PDAPP/TRE), we find that the concentration and clearance of soluble Aβ in the brain interstitial fluid depends on the isoform of apoE expressed. This pattern parallels the extent of Aβ deposition observed in aged PDAPP/TRE mice. Importantly, apoE isoform-dependent differences in soluble Aβ metabolism are observed not only in aged PDAPP/TRE mice but also in young PDAPP/TRE mice, well before the onset of Aβ deposition in amyloid plaques. Additionally, amyloidogenic processing of amyloid precursor protein and Aβ synthesis, as assessed by in vivo stable isotopic labeling kinetics, do not vary according to apoE isoform in young PDAPP/TRE mice. Our results suggest that APOE alleles contribute to AD risk by differentially regulating clearance of Aβ from the brain, suggesting that Aβ clearance pathways may be useful therapeutic targets for AD prevention.
PMCID: PMC3192364  PMID: 21715678
18.  FUS immunogold labelling TEM analysis of the neuronal cytoplasmic inclusions of neuronal intermediate filament inclusion disease: a frontotemporal lobar degeneration with FUS proteinopathy 
Fused in sarcoma (FUS)-immunoreactive neuronal and glial inclusions define a novel molecular pathology called FUS proteinopathy. FUS has been shown to be a component of inclusions of familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis with FUS mutation and three FTLD entities, including neuronal intermediate filament inclusion disease (NIFID). The pathogenic role of FUS is unknown. In addition to FUS, many neuronal cytoplasmic inclusions (NCI) of NIFID contain aggregates of α-internexin and neurofilament proteins. Herein, we have: (1) shown that FUS becomes relatively insoluble in NIFID and there are no post-translational modifications; (2) shown there are no pathogenic abnormalities in the FUS gene in NIFID; (3) performed an immunoelectron microscopy analysis of the precise localizations of FUS in NIFID, as this has not previously been described. FUS localized to euchromatin, and strongly with paraspeckles, in nuclei, consistent with its RNA/DNA-binding functions. NCI of varying morphologies were observed. Most frequent were the ‘loosely aggregated cytoplasmic inclusions’ (LACI), 81% of which had moderate or high levels of FUS-immunoreactivity. Much rarer ‘compact cytoplasmic inclusions’ (CCI) and ‘Tangled twine ball inclusions’ (TTBI) were FUS-immunoreactive at their granular peripheries, or heavily FUS-positive throughout, respectively. Thus FUS may aggregate in the cytoplasm and then admix with neuronal intermediate filament accumulations.
PMCID: PMC3374931  PMID: 21603978
Neuronal intermediate filament inclusion disease; frontotemporal lobar degeneration; FUS; neurofilament; α-internexin; immunoelectron microscopy
20.  Relation of serotonin transporter genetic variation to efficacy of escitalopram for Generalized Anxiety Disorder in older adults 
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is common in older adults and can be treated with SSRIs. Genetic variation in the serotonin transporter gene promoter region is posited to be associated with SSRI efficacy: two polymorphisms (5HTTLPR s/l and rs25531 g/a) form a haplotype with the La combination having higher transcription activity than other haplotypes. We hypothesized that GAD patients with no La haplotypes (La-) have lower SSRI treatment efficacy than those with 1-2 La haplotypes (La+).
The study enrolled subjects aged 60 and older with a principal diagnosis of GAD, into a twelve-week, randomized trial of escitalopram vs. placebo. One hundred-fifty subjects were genotyped for the serotonin transporter promoter region haplotype and were divided into La- and La+ genotype groups; the primary analyses were done in European-Americans only (N=125; 59 escitalopram and 66 placebo).
Escitalopram had no efficacy in the La- group versus moderate efficacy in the La+ group. This genetic moderation of SSRI efficacy was due to a higher placebo response in La- subjects, compared to La+ subjects. Drug concentration did not affect the genetic results. Exploratory analyses suggest that La- subjects had greater variability of anxiety symptoms unrelated to treatment.
The serotonin transporter promoter haplotype is associated with variability in SSRI efficacy for late-life GAD. The variability may result from a genetic effect on anxiety symptom variability unrelated to treatment, rather than a pharmacodynamic effect that has been previously assumed. Further research is needed to understand the pharmacogenetic mechanism of this haplotype.
PMCID: PMC3059101  PMID: 21105279
21.  Multiple cholinergic nicotinic receptor genes affect nicotine dependence risk in African and European Americans 
Genes, brain, and behavior  2010;9(7):741-750.
Several independent studies show that the chromosome 15q25.1 region, which contains the CHRNA5-CHRNA3-CHRNB4 gene cluster, harbors variants strongly associated with nicotine dependence, other smoking behaviors, lung cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
We investigated whether variants in other cholinergic nicotinic receptor subunit (CHRN) genes affect risk for nicotine dependence in a new sample of African-Americans (N = 710). We also analyzed this African-American sample together with a European-American sample (N=2062, 1608 of which have been previously studied), allowing for differing effects in the two populations. Cases are current nicotine-dependent smokers and controls are non-dependent smokers.
Variants in or near CHRND-CHRNG, CHRNA7, and CHRNA10 show modest association with nicotine dependence risk in the African-American sample. In addition, CHRNA4, CHRNB3-CHRNA6, and CHRNB1 show association in at least one population. CHRNG and CHRNA4 harbor SNPs that have opposite directions of effect in the two populations. In each of the population samples, these loci substantially increase the trait variation explained, although no loci meet Bonferroni-corrected significance in the African-American sample alone. The trait variation explained by three key associated SNPs in CHRNA5-CHRNA3-CHRNB4 is 1.9% in European-Americans and also 1.9% in African-Americans; this increases to 4.5% in EAs and 7.3% in AAs when we add six variants representing associations at other CHRN genes.
Multiple nicotinic receptor subunit genes outside of chromosome 15q25 are likely to be important in the biological processes and development of nicotine dependence, and some of these risks may be shared across diverse populations.
PMCID: PMC2970751  PMID: 20584212
genetic association; smoking; cholinergic nicotinic receptors; nicotinic acetylcholine receptors
22.  Exercise and Alzheimer's Disease Biomarkers in Cognitively Normal Older Adults 
Annals of neurology  2010;68(3):311-318.
In addition to the increasingly recognized role of physical exercise in maintaining cognition, exercise may influence Alzheimer's disease (AD) pathology as transgenic mouse studies show lowered levels of AD pathology in exercise groups. The objective of this study was to elucidate the association between exercise and AD pathology in humans using Pittsburgh Compound B (PIB), amyloid-β (Aβ)42, tau, and phosphorylated tau (ptau)181 biomarkers.
Sixty-nine older adults (17 males, 52 females) aged 55–88 were recruited and confirmed to be cognitively normal. A questionnaire on physical exercise levels over the last decade was administered to all. Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) samples were collected from 56 participants, and amyloid imaging with PIB was performed on 54 participants.
Participants were classified based on biomarker levels. Those with elevated PIB (p=.030), tau (p=.040) and ptau181 ((p=.044) had significantly lower exercise with a non-significant trend for lower Aβ42 (p=.135) to be associated with less exercise. Results were similar for PIB after controlling for covariates; tau (p=.115) and ptau181 (p=.123) differences were reduced to non-significant trends. Additional analyses also demonstrated that active individuals who met the exercise guidelines set by the American Heart Association (AHA) had significantly lower PIB binding and higher Aβ42 levels with and without controlling for covariates (PIB: p=.006 and p=.001; Aβ42: p=.042 and p=.046). Lastly, the associations between exercise engagement and PIB levels were more prominent in APOE epsilon 4 non-carriers.
Collectively, these results are supportive of an association between exercise engagement and AD biomarkers in cognitively normal older adults.
PMCID: PMC2936720  PMID: 20818789
23.  MAOA uVNTR and Early Physical Discipline Interact to Influence Delinquent Behavior 
A functional polymorphism in the promoter region of the monoamine oxidizing gene monoamine oxidase A (MAOA) has been associated with behavioral sensitivity to adverse environmental conditions in multiple studies (e.g., Caspi et al. 2002, Kim-Cohen et al. 2006). The present study investigates the effects of genotype and early physical discipline on externalizing behavior. We expand on the current literature in our assessment of externalizing, incorporating information across multiple reporters and over a broad developmental time period, and in our understanding of environmental risk.
This study uses data from the Child Development Project, an ongoing longitudinal study following a community sample of children beginning at age 5. Physical discipline before age 6 was quantified using a subset of questions from the Conflict Tactics Scale (Straus 1979). Externalizing behavior was assessed in the male, European-American sub-sample (N=250) by parent, teacher, and self report using Achenbach’s Child Behavior Checklist, Teacher Report Form, and Youth Self-Report (Achenbach 1991), at 17 time points from ages 6 to 22. Regression analyses tested the influence of genotype, physical discipline, and their interaction on externalizing behavior, and its subscales, delinquency and aggression.
We found a significant interaction effect between genotype and physical discipline on levels of delinquent behavior. Similar trends were observed for aggression and overall externalizing behavior, although these did not reach statistical significance. Main effects of physical discipline held for all outcome variables, and no main effects held for genotype.
The adverse consequences of physical discipline on forms of externalizing behavior are exacerbated by an underlying biological risk conferred by MAOA genotype.
PMCID: PMC3035042  PMID: 19951362
Externalizing behavior; genetics; physical discipline; maltreatment
24.  Cortical binding of Pittsburgh compound B, an endophenotype for genetic studies of Alzheimer's disease 
Biological psychiatry  2009;67(6):581-583.
To date, all known Alzheimer's disease genes influence amyloid beta (Aβ). The development of in vivo imaging of Aβ deposition in the human brain using Pittsburgh compound B (PIB) offers the possibility of using cortical PIB binding as a quantitative endophenotype for genetic studies of late-onset Alzheimer's disease (LOAD).
Heritability of Aβ deposition was determined using 82 elderly siblings from 35 families. Correlation with other Aβ related traits was determined using an unrelated sample of 112 individuals. For both samples, APOE ε4 was genotyped and PET imaging was performed using the PIB ligand. Mean cortical binding potential (MCBP) was computed from several regions-of-interest.
MCBP has a high heritability (0.61, p=0.043). Furthermore, most of the heritable component (74%) cannot be explained by APOE ε4 genotype. Analysis of the unrelated sample reveals that a third of the variance of MCBP cannot be predicted by other biological traits, including CSF Aβ42 levels.
These findings demonstrate that MCBP is a genetic trait and that other more easily measured Aβ related traits such as CSF Aβ42 do not fully explain the variance in MCBP. Thus, mean cortical PIB binding is a useful trait for large-scale genetic studies of LOAD.
PMCID: PMC2866645  PMID: 19892322
25.  Validating predicted biological effects of Alzheimer’s disease associated SNPs using CSF biomarker levels 
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

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