Background and Aims
In a mixed-ploidy population, strong frequency-dependent mating will lead to the elimination of the less common cytotype, unless prezygotic barriers enhance assortative mating. However, such barriers favouring cytotype coexistence have only rarely been explored. Here, an assessment is made of the mechanisms involved in formation of mixed-ploidy populations and coexistence of diploid plants and their closely related allotetraploid derivates from the Centaurea stoebe complex (Asteraceae).
An investigation was made of microspatial and microhabitat distribution, life-history and fitness traits, flowering phenology, genetic relatedness of cytotypes and intercytotype gene flow (cpDNA and microsatellites) in six mixed-ploidy populations in Central Europe.
Diploids and tetraploids were genetically differentiated, thus corroborating the secondary origin of contact zones. The cytotypes were spatially segregated at all sites studied, with tetraploids colonizing preferentially drier and open microhabitats created by human-induced disturbances. Conversely, they were rare in more natural microsites and microsites with denser vegetation despite their superior persistence ability (polycarpic life cycle). The seed set of tetraploid plants was strongly influenced by their frequency in mixed-ploidy populations. Triploid hybrids originated from bidirectional hybridizations were extremely rare and almost completely sterile, indicating a strong postzygotic barrier between cytotypes.
The findings suggest that tetraploids are later immigrants into already established diploid populations and that anthropogenic activities creating open niches favouring propagule introductions were the major factor shaping the non-random distribution and habitat segregation of cytotypes at fine spatial scale. Establishment and spread of tetraploids was further facilitated by their superior persistence through the perennial life cycle. The results highlight the importance of non-adaptive spatio-temporal processes in explaining microhabitat and microspatial segregation of cytotypes.
Assortative mating; Asteraceae; Centaurea stoebe; cpDNA; cytotype coexistence; disturbance; flow cytometry; microsatellites; polyploidy; reproductive isolation; triploid block
The negative consequences of olfactory dysfunction for the quality of life are not widely appreciated and the condition is therefore often ignored or trivialized.
1,000 patients with olfactory dysfunction participated in an online study by submitting accounts of their subjective experiences of how they have been affected by their condition. In addition, they were given the chance to answer 43 specific questions about the consequences of their olfactory dysfunction.
Although there are less practical problems associated with impaired or distorted odor perception than with impairments in visual or auditory perception, many affected individuals report experiencing olfactory dysfunction as a debilitating condition. Smell loss-induced social isolation and smell loss-induced anhedonia can severely affect quality of life.
Olfactory dysfunction is a serious condition for those affected by it and it deserves more attention from doctors who treat affected patients as well as from scientist who research treatment options.
Olfaction; Quality of life; Anosmia; Phantosmia; Parosmia; Anhedonia
Salmonella are able to modulate host cell functions facilitating both uptake and resistance to cellular host defence mechanisms. While interactions between bacterial modulators and cellular proteins have been the main focus of Salmonella research, relatively little is known about mammalian gene regulation in response to Salmonella infection. A major class of mammalian gene modulators consists of microRNAs. For our study we examined interactions of microRNAs and regulated mRNAs in mammalian intestinal Salmonella infections using a piglet model.
After performing microRNA as well as mRNA specific microarray analysis of ileal samples from Salmonella infected as well as control piglets, we integrated expression analysis with target prediction identifying microRNAs that mainly regulate focal adhesion as well as actin cytoskeleton pathways. Particular attention was given to miR-29a, which was involved in most interactions including Caveolin 2. RT-qPCR experiments verified up-regulation of miR-29a after infection while its predicted target Caveolin 2 was significantly down-regulated as examined by transcript and protein detection. Reporter gene assays as well as RNAi experiments confirmed Caveolin 2 to be a miR-29a target. Knock-down of Caveolin 2 in intestinal epithelial cells resulted in retarded proliferation as well as increased bacterial uptake. In addition, our experiments showed that Caveolin 2 regulates the activation of the small Rho GTPase CDC42 but apparently not RAC1 in human intestinal cells.
Our study outlines for the first time important regulation pathways in intestinal Salmonella infection pointing out that focal adhesion and organisation of actin cytoskeleton are regulated by microRNAs. Functional relevance is shown by miR-29a mediated Caveolin 2 regulation, modulating the activation state of CDC42. Further analysis of examined interactions may support the discovery of novel strategies impairing the uptake of intracellular pathogens.
Myasthenia gravis is a disorder of neuromuscular transmission associated with autoantibodies against the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor. We have previously developed a customized protein macroarray comprising 1827 potential human autoantigens, which permitted to discriminate sera of patients with different cancers from sera of healthy controls, but has not yet been evaluated in antibody-mediated autoimmune diseases.
To determine whether autoantibody signatures obtained by protein macroarray separate sera of patients with myasthenia gravis from healthy controls.
Sera of patients with acetylcholine receptor antibody-positive myasthenia gravis (n = 25) and healthy controls (n = 32) were analyzed by protein macroarrays comprising 1827 peptide clones.
Autoantibody signatures did not separate patients with myasthenia gravis from controls with sufficient sensitivity, specificity, and accuracy. Intensity values of one antigen (poly A binding protein cytoplasmic 1, p = 0.0045) were higher in patients with myasthenia gravis, but the relevance of this and two further antigens, 40S ribosomal protein S13 (20.8% vs. 0%, p = 0.011) and proteasome subunit alpha type 1 (25% vs. 3.1%, p = 0.035), which were detected more frequently by myasthenia gravis than by control sera, currently remains uncertain.
Seroreactivity profiles of patients with myasthenia gravis detected by a customized protein macroarray did not allow discrimination from healthy controls, compatible with the notion that the autoantibody response in myasthenia gravis is highly focussed against the acetylcholine receptor.
Smell identification deficits are associated with negative symptoms in schizophrenia, particularly in males. Far less information is known about the relationship of odor detection sensitivity (acuity) and negative symptoms in schizophrenia, and currently there is a dearth in sex-stratified research specifically examining odor sensitivity and smell identification.
Fifty-eight individuals with schizophrenia and 42 healthy comparison subjects were assessed on tests of odor sensitivity, smell identification and cognition. Negative symptoms were assessed with the Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale and the Schedule for the Deficit Syndrome.
In healthy males, increased odor detection sensitivity predicted better smell identification scores. In contrast, male schizophrenia patients showed a significant inverse relationship, in which increased odor sensitivity predicted lower smell identification scores. Odor sensitivity and smell identification were unrelated in both schizophrenia and healthy females. Olfactory processing was strongly linked to negative symptoms, but the relationships differed by sex. Emotional expression deficits were related to odor detection hypersensitivity in female patients, whereas smell identification deficits predicted these emotional deficits in male cases.
Sex differences in olfactory functioning were identified in healthy subjects and in schizophrenia patients. Smell identification was related to negative symptoms in males with schizophrenia, whereas odor detection sensitivity predicted these features in females. Sex differences should be considered in future analyses that employ odor stimuli for neuropsychiatric research.
Schizophrenia; sex differences; negative symptoms; odor sensitivity; smell identification
Dilated cardiomyopathies (DCM) show remarkable variability in their age of onset, phenotypic presentation, and clinical course. Hence, disease mechanisms must exist that modify the occurrence and progression of DCM, either by genetic or epigenetic factors that may interact with environmental stimuli. In the present study, we examined genome-wide cardiac DNA methylation in patients with idiopathic DCM and controls. We detected methylation differences in pathways related to heart disease, but also in genes with yet unknown function in DCM or heart failure, namely Lymphocyte antigen 75 (LY75), Tyrosine kinase-type cell surface receptor HER3 (ERBB3), Homeobox B13 (HOXB13) and Adenosine receptor A2A (ADORA2A). Mass-spectrometric analysis and bisulphite-sequencing enabled confirmation of the observed DNA methylation changes in independent cohorts. Aberrant DNA methylation in DCM patients was associated with significant changes in LY75 and ADORA2A mRNA expression, but not in ERBB3 and HOXB13. In vivo studies of orthologous ly75 and adora2a in zebrafish demonstrate a functional role of these genes in adaptive or maladaptive pathways in heart failure.
biomarker; dilated cardiomyopathy; DNA methylation; epigenetics; heart failure
The setup of synthetic biological systems involving millions of bases is still limited by the required high quality of synthetic DNA. Important drivers to further open up the field are the accuracy and scale of chemical DNA synthesis and the downstream processing of longer DNA assembled from short fragments. We developed a new, highly parallel and miniaturized method for the preparation of high quality DNA termed “Megacloning” by using Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) technology in a preparative way. We demonstrate our method by processing both conventional and microarray-derived DNA oligonucleotides in combination with a bead-based high throughput pyrosequencing platform, gaining a 500-fold error reduction for microarray oligonucleotides in a first embodiment. We also show the assembly of synthetic genes as part of the Megacloning process. In principle, up to millions of DNA fragments can be sequenced, characterized and sorted in a single Megacloner run, enabling many new applications.
Human perception of the odour environment is highly variable. People vary both in their general olfactory acuity as well as in if and how they perceive specific odours. In recent years, it has been shown that genetic differences contribute to variability in both general olfactory acuity and the perception of specific odours. Odour perception also depends on other factors such as age and gender. Here we investigate the influence of these factors on both general olfactory acuity and on the perception of 66 structurally and perceptually different odours in a diverse subject population.
We carried out a large human olfactory psychophysics study of 391 adult subjects in metropolitan New York City, an ethnically and culturally diverse North American metropolis. 210 of the subjects were women and the median age was 34.6 years (range 19–75). We recorded ~2,300 data points per subject to obtain a comprehensive perceptual phenotype, comprising multiple perceptual measures of 66 diverse odours. We show that general olfactory acuity correlates with gender, age, race, smoking habits, and body type. Young, female, non-smoking subjects had the highest average olfactory acuity. Deviations from normal body type in either direction were associated with decreased olfactory acuity. Beyond these factors we also show that, surprisingly, there are many odour-specific influences of race, age, and gender on olfactory perception. We show over 100 instances in which the intensity or pleasantness perception of an odour is significantly different between two demographic groups.
These data provide a comprehensive snapshot of the olfactory sense of a diverse population. Olfactory acuity in the population is most strongly influenced by age, followed by gender. We also show a large number of diverse correlations between demographic factors and the perception of individual odours that may reflect genetic differences as well as different prior experiences with these odours between demographic groups.
Olfaction; Psychophysics; Demographics
Scientists working with single-nucleotide variants (SNVs), inferred by next-generation sequencing software, often need further information regarding true variants, artifacts and sequence coverage gaps. In clinical diagnostics, e.g. SNVs must usually be validated by visual inspection or several independent SNV-callers. We here demonstrate that 0.5–60% of relevant SNVs might not be detected due to coverage gaps, or might be misidentified. Even low error rates can overwhelm the true biological signal, especially in clinical diagnostics, in research comparing healthy with affected cells, in archaeogenetic dating or in forensics. For these reasons, we have developed a package called pibase, which is applicable to diploid and haploid genome, exome or targeted enrichment data. pibase extracts details on nucleotides from alignment files at user-specified coordinates and identifies reproducible genotypes, if present. In test cases pibase identifies genotypes at 99.98% specificity, 10-fold better than other tools. pibase also provides pair-wise comparisons between healthy and affected cells using nucleotide signals (10-fold more accurately than a genotype-based approach, as we show in our case study of monozygotic twins). This comparison tool also solves the problem of detecting allelic imbalance within heterozygous SNVs in copy number variation loci, or in heterogeneous tumor sequences.
Compared to classical genotyping, targeted next-generation sequencing (tNGS) can be custom-designed to interrogate entire genomic regions of interest, in order to detect novel as well as known variants. To bring down the per-sample cost, one approach is to pool barcoded NGS libraries before sample enrichment. Still, we lack a complete understanding of how this multiplexed tNGS approach and the varying performance of the ever-evolving analytical tools can affect the quality of variant discovery. Therefore, we evaluated the impact of different software tools and analytical approaches on the discovery of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in multiplexed tNGS data. To generate our own test model, we combined a sequence capture method with NGS in three experimental stages of increasing complexity (E. coli genes, multiplexed E. coli, and multiplexed HapMap BRCA1/2 regions).
We successfully enriched barcoded NGS libraries instead of genomic DNA, achieving reproducible coverage profiles (Pearson correlation coefficients of up to 0.99) across multiplexed samples, with <10% strand bias. However, the SNP calling quality was substantially affected by the choice of tools and mapping strategy. With the aim of reducing computational requirements, we compared conventional whole-genome mapping and SNP-calling with a new faster approach: target-region mapping with subsequent ‘read-backmapping’ to the whole genome to reduce the false detection rate. Consequently, we developed a combined mapping pipeline, which includes standard tools (BWA, SAMtools, etc.), and tested it on public HiSeq2000 exome data from the 1000 Genomes Project. Our pipeline saved 12 hours of run time per Hiseq2000 exome sample and detected ~5% more SNPs than the conventional whole genome approach. This suggests that more potential novel SNPs may be discovered using both approaches than with just the conventional approach.
We recommend applying our general ‘two-step’ mapping approach for more efficient SNP discovery in tNGS. Our study has also shown the benefit of computing inter-sample SNP-concordances and inspecting read alignments in order to attain more confident results.
Two-stage mapping; Read-backmapping; Software performance; SNP discovery; Multiplexed targeted next-generation sequencing
Chemosensory receptor genes encode G protein-coupled receptors with which animals sense their chemical environment. The large number of chemosensory receptor genes in the genome and their extreme genetic variability pose unusual challenges for understanding their evolution and function. Two articles in BMC Genomics explore the genetic variation of chemosensory receptor gene repertoires in humans and mice and provide unparalleled insight into the causes and consequences of this variability.
See research articles http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2164/13/414 and http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2164/13/415
Blood-born miRNA signatures have recently been reported for various tumor diseases. Here, we compared the miRNA signature in Wilms tumor patients prior and after preoperative chemotherapy according to SIOP protocol 2001.
We did not find a significant difference between miRNA signature of both groups. However both, Wilms tumor patients prior and after chemotherapy showed a miRNA signature different from healthy controls. The signature of Wilms tumor patients prior to chemotherapy showed an accuracy of 97.5% and of patients after chemotherapy an accuracy of 97.0%, each as compared to healthy controls.
Our results provide evidence for a blood-born Wilms tumor miRNA signature largely independent of four weeks preoperative chemotherapy treatment.
DNA sequence amplification is a phenomenon that occurs predictably at defined stages during normal development in some organisms. Developmental gene amplification was first described in amphibians during gametogenesis and has not yet been described in humans. To date gene amplification in humans is a hallmark of many tumors. We used array-CGH (comparative genomic hybridization) and FISH (fluorescence in situ hybridization) to discover gene amplifications during in vitro differentiation of human neural progenitor cells. Here we report a complex gene amplification pattern two and five days after induction of differentiation of human neural progenitor cells. We identified several amplified genes in neural progenitor cells that are known to be amplified in malignant tumors. There is also a striking overlap of amplified chromosomal regions between differentiating neural progenitor cells and malignant tumor cells derived from astrocytes. Gene amplifications in normal human cells as physiological process has not been reported yet and may bear resemblance to developmental gene amplifications in amphibians and insects.
A solid process for diagnosis could have a substantial impact on the successful treatment of pancreatic cancer, for which currently mortality is nearly identical to incidence. Variations in the abundance of all microRNA molecules from peripheral blood cells and pancreas tissues were analyzed on microarrays and in part validated by real-time PCR assays. In total, 245 samples from two clinical centers were studied that were obtained from patients with pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma or chronic pancreatitis and from healthy donors. Utilizing the minimally invasive blood test, receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curves and the corresponding area under the curve (AUC) analysis demonstrated very high sensitivity and specificity of a distinction between healthy people and patients with either cancer or chronic pancreatitis; respective AUC values of 0.973 and 0.950 were obtained. Confirmative and partly even more discriminative diagnosis could be performed on tissue samples with AUC values of 1.0 and 0.937, respectively. In addition, discrimination between cancer and chronic pancreatitis was achieved (AUC = 0.875). Also, several miRNAs were identified that exhibited abundance variations in both tissue and blood samples. The results could have an immediate diagnostic value for the evaluation of tumor reoccurrence in patients, who have undergone curative surgical resection, and for people with a familial risk of pancreatic cancer.
MicroRNA (miRNA) expression profiles have been described in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC), but these have not been compared with pre-malignant pancreatic tumors. We wished to compare the miRNA expression signatures in pancreatic benign cystic tumors (BCT) of low and high malignant potential with PDAC, in order to identify miRNAs deregulated during PDAC development. The mechanistic consequences of miRNA dysregulation were further evaluated.
Tissue samples were obtained at a tertiary pancreatic unit from individuals with BCT and PDAC. MiRNA profiling was performed using a custom microarray and results were validated using RT-qPCR prior to evaluation of miRNA targets.
Widespread miRNA down-regulation was observed in PDAC compared to low malignant potential BCT. We show that amongst those miRNAs down-regulated, miR-16, miR-126 and let-7d regulate known PDAC oncogenes (targeting BCL2, CRK and KRAS respectively). Notably, miR-126 also directly targets the KRAS transcript at a “seedless” binding site within its 3′UTR. In clinical specimens, miR-126 was strongly down-regulated in PDAC tissues, with an associated elevation in KRAS and CRK proteins. Furthermore, miR-21, a known oncogenic miRNA in pancreatic and other cancers, was not elevated in PDAC compared to serous microcystic adenoma (SMCA), but in both groups it was up-regulated compared to normal pancreas, implicating early up-regulation during malignant change.
Expression profiling revealed 21 miRNAs down-regulated in PDAC compared to SMCA, the most benign lesion that rarely progresses to invasive carcinoma. It appears that miR-21 up-regulation is an early event in the transformation from normal pancreatic tissue. MiRNA expression has the potential to distinguish PDAC from normal pancreas and BCT. Mechanistically the down-regulation of miR-16, miR-126 and let-7d promotes PDAC transformation by post-transcriptional up-regulation of crucial PDAC oncogenes. We show that miR-126 is able to directly target KRAS; re-expression has the potential as a therapeutic strategy against PDAC and other KRAS-driven cancers.
Expression profiling provides new insights into regulatory and metabolic processes and in particular into pathogenic mechanisms associated with diseases. Besides genes, non-coding transcripts as microRNAs (miRNAs) gained increasing relevance in the last decade. To understand the regulatory processes of miRNAs on genes, integrative computer-aided approaches are essential, especially in the light of complex human diseases as cancer.
Here, we present miRTrail, an integrative tool that allows for performing comprehensive analyses of interactions of genes and miRNAs based on expression profiles. The integrated analysis of mRNA and miRNA data should generate more robust and reliable results on deregulated pathogenic processes and may also offer novel insights into the regulatory interactions between miRNAs and genes. Our web-server excels in carrying out gene sets analysis, analysis of miRNA sets as well as the combination of both in a systems biology approach. To this end, miRTrail integrates information on 20.000 genes, almost 1.000 miRNAs, and roughly 280.000 putative interactions, for Homo sapiens and accordingly for Mus musculus and Danio rerio. The well-established, classical Chi-squared test is one of the central techniques of our tool for the joint consideration of miRNAs and their targets. For interactively visualizing obtained results, it relies on the network analyzers and viewers BiNA or Cytoscape-web, also enabling direct access to relevant literature. We demonstrated the potential of miRTrail by applying our tool to mRNA and miRNA data of malignant melanoma. MiRTrail identified several deregulated miRNAs that target deregulated mRNAs including miRNAs hsa-miR-23b and hsa-miR-223, which target the highest numbers of deregulated mRNAs and regulate the pathway "basal cell carcinoma". In addition, both miRNAs target genes like PTCH1 and RASA1 that are involved in many oncogenic processes.
The application on melanoma samples demonstrates that the miRTrail platform may open avenues for investigating the regulatory interactions between genes and miRNAs for a wide range of human diseases. Moreover, miRTrail cannot only be applied to microarray based expression profiles, but also to NGS-based transcriptomic data. The program is freely available as web-server at mirtrail.bioinf.uni-sb.de.
MicroRNAs (miRNA) are important regulators of gene expression. They are involved in many physiological processes ensuring the cellular homeostasis of human cells. Alterations of the miRNA expression have increasingly been associated with pathophysiologic changes of cancer cells making miRNAs currently to one of the most analyzed molecules in cancer research. Here, we provide an overview of miRNAs in lung cancer. Specifically, we address biological functions of miRNAs in lung cancer cells, miRNA signatures generated from tumor tissue and from patients’ body fluids, the potential of miRNAs as diagnostic and prognostic biomarker for lung cancer, and its role as therapeutic target.
microRNA; lung cancer; body fluids; blood; biomarker; diagnosis; prognosis; therapy
The trefoil peptide family, consisting in mammals of three members namely TFF1, 2 and 3, plays a cytoprotective role in epithelial cells of various tissues, mainly in the digestive tract. Tff1, Tff2 or Tff3 knock-out mouse models developed various kinds of gastrointestinal impairment. microRNAs are known to be novel gene regulators. We aimed to investigate the physiological role of such miRNAs in Tff2 knock-out mice. Whole miRNome profiling and in silico analysis were performed for Tff2-KO and WT mice. Our latest data explored the role of miRNAs in the regulatory cascades and molecular processes of Tff2−/− mice. As much as 6% of the Tff2-KO mice miRNome was significantly dys-regulated. Further in silico analysis suggests that the respective dys-regulated part of the miRNome is involved in human pathological processes, including pancreatic, colorectal and basal cell cancer. Additionally, the dys-regulated miRNome targets pathways involved in carbohydrate metabolism and adipocytokine signaling. The latter links deficient caloric maintenance in Tff2 and previous observation in Tff3-KO mice with miRNAs. In summary, our proof-of-concept study indicates that miRNAs may play an important role in the regulatory processes of the trefoil peptide family, especially in the regulation of cancer-related cascades.
caloric maintenance; gastrointestinal tract; knock-out mouse; microRNA; transcriptional profiling; trefoil peptides
Deregulation of cell signaling pathways plays a crucial role in the development of tumors. The identification of such pathways requires effective analysis tools that facilitate the interpretation of expression differences. Here, we present a novel and highly efficient method for identifying deregulated subnetworks in a regulatory network. Given a score for each node that measures the degree of deregulation of the corresponding gene or protein, the algorithm computes the heaviest connected subnetwork of a specified size reachable from a designated root node. This root node can be interpreted as a molecular key player responsible for the observed deregulation. To demonstrate the potential of our approach, we analyzed three gene expression data sets. In one scenario, we compared expression profiles of non-malignant primary mammary epithelial cells derived from BRCA1 mutation carriers and of epithelial cells without BRCA1 mutation. Our results suggest that oxidative stress plays an important role in epithelial cells of BRCA1 mutation carriers and that the activation of stress proteins may result in avoidance of apoptosis leading to an increased overall survival of cells with genetic alterations. In summary, our approach opens new avenues for the elucidation of pathogenic mechanisms and for the detection of molecular key players.
Several studies report autoantibody signatures in cancer. The majority of these studies analyzed adult tumors and compared the seroreactivity pattern of tumor patients with the pattern in healthy controls. Here, we compared the autoimmune response in patients with neuroblastoma and patients with Wilms tumor representing two different childhood tumors. We were able to differentiate untreated neuroblastoma patients from untreated Wilms tumor patients with an accuracy of 86.8%, a sensitivity of 87.0% and a specificity of 86.7%. The separation of treated neuroblastoma patients from treated Wilms tumor patients' yielded comparable results with an accuracy of 83.8%. We furthermore identified the antigens that contribute most to the differentiation between both tumor types. The analysis of these antigens revealed that neuroblastoma was considerably more immunogenic than Wilms tumor. The reported antigens have not been found to be relevant for comparative analyses between other tumors and controls. In summary, neuroblastoma appears as a highly immunogenic tumor as demonstrated by the extended number of antigens that separate this tumor from Wilms tumor.
Understanding the relation between attention and consciousness is an important part of our understanding of consciousness. Attention, unlike consciousness, can be systematically manipulated in psychophysical experiments and a law-like relation between attention and consciousness is waiting to be discovered. Most attempts to discover the nature of this relation are focused on a special type of attention: spatial visual attention. In this review I want to introduce another type of attention to the discussion: attention to the olfactory modality. I will first clarify the position of attention to smells in a general taxonomy of attention. I will then review the mechanisms and neuroanatomy of attention and consciousness in the olfactory system before using the newly introduced system to provide evidence that attention is necessary for consciousness.
olfaction; attention; consciousness; odor; orbitofrontal cortex; piriform cortex
Autoantibodies against self-antigens have been associated not only with autoimmune diseases, but also with cancer and are even found in healthy individuals. The mechanism causing the autoantibody response remains elusive for the majority of the immunogenic antigens. To deepen the understanding of autoantibody responses, we ask whether natural-occurring, autoimmunity-associated and tumor-associated antigens have structural or biological features related to the immune response. To this end, we have carried out the most comprehensive in-silicio study of different groups of autoantigens including large antigen sets identified by our groups combined with publicly available antigen sets.
We found evidence for an enrichment of genes with a larger exon length increasing the probability of the occurrence of potential immunogenic features such as mutations, SNPs, immunogenic sequence patterns and structural epitopes, or alternative splicing events. While SNPs seem to play a more central role in autoimmunity, somatic mutations seem to be stronger enriched in tumor-associated antigens. In addition, antigens of autoimmune diseases are different from other antigen sets in that they appear preferentially secreted, have frequently an extracellular location, and they are enriched in pathways associated with the immune system. Furthermore, for autoantibodies in general, we found enrichment of sequence-based properties including coiled-coils motifs, ELR motifs, and Zinc finger DNA-binding motifs. Moreover, we found enrichment of proteins binding to proteins or nucleic acids including RNA and enrichment of proteins that are part of ribosome or spliceosome. Both, homologies to proteins of other species and an enrichment of ancient protein domains indicate that immunogenic proteins are evolutionary conserved and that mimicry might play a central role.
Our results provide evidence that proteins which i) are evolutionary conserved, ii) show specific sequence motifs, and iii) are part of cellular structures show an increased likelihood to become autoimmunogenic.
High-throughput sequencing opens avenues to find genetic variations that may be indicative of an increased risk for certain diseases. Linking these genomic data to other “omics” approaches bears the potential to deepen our understanding of pathogenic processes at the molecular level. To detect novel single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) for glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), we used a combination of specific target selection and next generation sequencing (NGS). We generated a microarray covering the exonic regions of 132 GBM associated genes to enrich target sequences in two GBM tissues and corresponding leukocytes of the patients. Enriched target genes were sequenced with Illumina and the resulting reads were mapped to the human genome. With this approach we identified over 6000 SNPs, including over 1300 SNPs located in the targeted genes. Integrating the genome-wide association study (GWAS) catalog and known disease associated SNPs, we found that several of the detected SNPs were previously associated with smoking behavior, body mass index, breast cancer and high-grade glioma. Particularly, the breast cancer associated allele of rs660118 SNP in the gene SART1 showed a near doubled frequency in glioblastoma patients, as verified in an independent control cohort by Sanger sequencing. In addition, we identified SNPs in 20 of 21 GBM associated antigens providing further evidence that genetic variations are significantly associated with the immunogenicity of antigens.
High-throughput technologies have opened new avenues to study biological processes and pathways. The interpretation of the immense amount of data sets generated nowadays needs to be facilitated in order to enable biologists to identify complex gene networks and functional pathways. To cope with this task multiple computer-based programs have been developed. GeneTrail is a freely available online tool that screens comparative transcriptomic data for differentially regulated functional categories and biological pathways extracted from common data bases like KEGG, Gene Ontology (GO), TRANSPATH and TRANSFAC. Additionally, GeneTrail offers a feature that allows screening of individually defined biological categories that are relevant for the respective research topic.
We have set up GeneTrail for the use of Arabidopsis thaliana. To test the functionality of this tool for plant analysis, we generated transcriptome data of root and leaf responses to Fe deficiency and the Arabidopsis metal homeostasis mutant nas4x-1. We performed Gene Set Enrichment Analysis (GSEA) with eight meaningful pairwise comparisons of transcriptome data sets. We were able to uncover several functional pathways including metal homeostasis that were affected in our experimental situations. Representation of the differentially regulated functional categories in Venn diagrams uncovered regulatory networks at the level of whole functional pathways. Over-Representation Analysis (ORA) of differentially regulated genes identified in pairwise comparisons revealed specific functional plant physiological categories as major targets upon Fe deficiency and in nas4x-1.
Here, we obtained supporting evidence, that the nas4x-1 mutant was defective in metal homeostasis. It was confirmed that nas4x-1 showed Fe deficiency in roots and signs of Fe deficiency and Fe sufficiency in leaves. Besides metal homeostasis, biotic stress, root carbohydrate, leaf photosystem and specific cell biological categories were discovered as main targets for regulated changes in response to - Fe and nas4x-1. Among 258 differentially expressed genes in response to - Fe and nas4x-1 five functional categories were enriched covering metal homeostasis, redox regulation, cell division and histone acetylation. We proved that GeneTrail offers a flexible and user-adapted way to identify functional categories in large-scale plant transcriptome data sets. The distinguished feature that allowed analysis of individually assembled functional categories facilitated the study of the Arabidopsis thaliana transcriptome.
MicroRNA (miRNA) signatures are not only found in cancer tissue but also in blood of cancer patients. Specifically, miRNA detection in blood offers the prospect of a non-invasive analysis tool.
Using a microarray based approach we screened almost 900 human miRNAs to detect miRNAs that are deregulated in their expression in blood cells of melanoma patients. We analyzed 55 blood samples, including 20 samples of healthy individuals, 24 samples of melanoma patients as test set, and 11 samples of melanoma patients as independent validation set.
A hypothesis test based approch detected 51 differentially regulated miRNAs, including 21 miRNAs that were downregulated in blood cells of melanoma patients and 30 miRNAs that were upregulated in blood cells of melanoma patients as compared to blood cells of healthy controls. The tets set and the independent validation set of the melanoma samples showed a high correlation of fold changes (0.81). Applying hierarchical clustering and principal component analysis we found that blood samples of melanoma patients and healthy individuals can be well differentiated from each other based on miRNA expression analysis. Using a subset of 16 significant deregulated miRNAs, we were able to reach a classification accuracy of 97.4%, a specificity of 95% and a sensitivity of 98.9% by supervised analysis. MiRNA microarray data were validated by qRT-PCR.
Our study provides strong evidence for miRNA expression signatures of blood cells as useful biomarkers for melanoma.