Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder with increasing evidence of heterogeneous genetic etiology including de novo and inherited copy number variants (CNVs). We performed array comparative genomic hybridization using a custom Agilent 1 M oligonucleotide array intended to cover 197 332 unique exons in RefSeq genes; 98% were covered by at least one probe and 95% were covered by three or more probes with the focus on detecting relatively small CNVs that would implicate a single protein-coding gene. The study group included 99 trios from the Simons Simplex Collection. The analysis identified and validated 55 potentially pathogenic CNVs, categorized as de novo autosomal heterozygous, inherited homozygous autosomal, complex autosomal and hemizygous deletions on the X chromosome of probands. Twenty percent (11 of 55) of these CNV calls were rare when compared with the Database of Genomic Variants. Thirty-six percent (20 of 55) of the CNVs were also detected in the same samples in an independent analysis using the 1 M Illumina single-nucleotide polymorphism array. Findings of note included a common and sometimes homozygous 61 bp exonic deletion in SLC38A10, three CNVs found in lymphoblast-derived DNA but not present in whole-blood derived DNA and, most importantly, in a male proband, an exonic deletion of the TMLHE (trimethyllysine hydroxylase epsilon) that encodes the first enzyme in the biosynthesis of carnitine. Data for CNVs present in lymphoblasts but absent in fresh blood DNA suggest that these represent clonal outgrowth of individual B cells with pre-existing somatic mutations rather than artifacts arising in cell culture. GEO accession number GSE23765 (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/geo/, date last accessed on 30 August 2011). Genboree accession: http://genboree.org/java-bin/gbrowser.jsp?refSeqId=1868&entryPointId=chr17&from=53496072&to=53694382&isPublic=yes, date last accessed on 30 August 2011.
BACKGROUND AND AIMS
The intestinal microbiomes of healthy children and pediatric patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are not well defined. Studies in adults have indicated that the gastrointestinal microbiota could be involved in IBS.
We analyzed 71 samples from 22 children with IBS (pediatric Rome III criteria) and 22 healthy children, ages 7–12 years, by 16S rRNA gene sequencing, with an average of 54,287 reads/stool sample (average 454 read length = 503 bases). Data were analyzed using phylogenetic-based clustering (Unifrac), or an operational taxonomic unit (OTU) approach using a supervised machine learning tool (randomForest). Most samples were also hybridized to a microarray that can detect 8,741 bacterial taxa (16S rRNA PhyloChip).
Microbiomes associated with pediatric IBS were characterized by a significantly greater percentage of the class Gammaproteobacteria (0.07% vs 0.89% of total bacteria; P <.05); one prominent component of this group was Haemophilus parainfluenzae. Differences highlighted by 454 sequencing were confirmed by high-resolution PhyloChip analysis. Using supervised learning techniques, we were able to classify different subtypes of IBS with a success rate of 98.5%, using limited sets of discriminant bacterial species. A novel Ruminococcus-like microbe was associated with IBS, indicating the potential utility of microbe discovery for gastrointestinal disorders. A greater frequency of pain correlated with an increased abundance of several bacterial taxa from the genus Alistipes.
Using16S metagenomics by Phylochip DNA hybridization and deep 454 pyrosequencing, we associated specific microbiome signatures with pediatric IBS. These findings indicate the important association between gastrointestinal microbes and IBS in children; these approaches might be used in diagnosis of functional bowel disorders in pediatric patients.
Until recently, sequencing has primarily been carried out in large genome centers which have invested heavily in developing the computational infrastructure that enables genomic sequence analysis. The recent advancements in next generation sequencing (NGS) have led to a wide dissemination of sequencing technologies and data, to highly diverse research groups. It is expected that clinical sequencing will become part of diagnostic routines shortly. However, limited accessibility to computational infrastructure and high quality bioinformatic tools, and the demand for personnel skilled in data analysis and interpretation remains a serious bottleneck. To this end, the cloud computing and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) technologies can help address these issues.
We successfully enabled the Atlas2 Cloud pipeline for personal genome analysis on two different cloud service platforms: a community cloud via the Genboree Workbench, and a commercial cloud via the Amazon Web Services using Software-as-a-Service model. We report a case study of personal genome analysis using our Atlas2 Genboree pipeline. We also outline a detailed cost structure for running Atlas2 Amazon on whole exome capture data, providing cost projections in terms of storage, compute and I/O when running Atlas2 Amazon on a large data set.
We find that providing a web interface and an optimized pipeline clearly facilitates usage of cloud computing for personal genome analysis, but for it to be routinely used for large scale projects there needs to be a paradigm shift in the way we develop tools, in standard operating procedures, and in funding mechanisms.
Microbial metagenomic analyses rely on an increasing number of publicly available tools. Installation, integration, and maintenance of the tools poses significant burden on many researchers and creates a barrier to adoption of microbiome analysis, particularly in translational settings.
To address this need we have integrated a rich collection of microbiome analysis tools into the Genboree Microbiome Toolset and exposed them to the scientific community using the Software-as-a-Service model via the Genboree Workbench. The Genboree Microbiome Toolset provides an interactive environment for users at all bioinformatic experience levels in which to conduct microbiome analysis. The Toolset drives hypothesis generation by providing a wide range of analyses including alpha diversity and beta diversity, phylogenetic profiling, supervised machine learning, and feature selection.
We validate the Toolset in two studies of the gut microbiota, one involving obese and lean twins, and the other involving children suffering from the irritable bowel syndrome.
By lowering the barrier to performing a comprehensive set of microbiome analyses, the Toolset empowers investigators to translate high-volume sequencing data into valuable biomedical discoveries.
Cancer genomes frequently undergo genomic instability resulting in accumulation of chromosomal rearrangement. To date, one of the main challenges has been to confidently and accurately identify these rearrangements using short-read massively parallel sequencing. We were able to improve cancer rearrangement detection by combining two distinct massively parallel sequencing strategies: fosmid-sized (36 Kilobases on average) and standard 5 Kilobase mate pair libraries. We applied this strategy to map rearrangements in two breast cancer cell lines, MCF7 and HCC1954. We detect and validate a total of 91 somatic rearrangements in MCF7 and 25 in HCC1954, including genomic alterations corresponding to previously reported transcript aberrations in these two cell lines. Each of the genomes contains two types of breakpoints – clustered and dispersed. In both cell lines, the dispersed breakpoints show enrichment for low copy repeats, while the clustered breakpoints associate with high-copy number amplifications. Comparing the two genomes, we observe highly similar structural mutational spectra affecting different sets of genes, pointing to similar histories of genomic instability against the background of very different gene network perturbations.
fosmid ditag; massively parallel sequencing; gene fusion; copy number variation; genomic instability
Dynamic changes to the epigenome play a critical role in establishing and maintaining cellular phenotype during differentiation, but little is known about the normal methylomic differences that occur between functionally distinct areas of the brain. We characterized intra- and inter-individual methylomic variation across whole blood and multiple regions of the brain from multiple donors.
Distinct tissue-specific patterns of DNA methylation were identified, with a highly significant over-representation of tissue-specific differentially methylated regions (TS-DMRs) observed at intragenic CpG islands and low CG density promoters. A large proportion of TS-DMRs were located near genes that are differentially expressed across brain regions. TS-DMRs were significantly enriched near genes involved in functional pathways related to neurodevelopment and neuronal differentiation, including BDNF, BMP4, CACNA1A, CACA1AF, EOMES, NGFR, NUMBL, PCDH9, SLIT1, SLITRK1 and SHANK3. Although between-tissue variation in DNA methylation was found to greatly exceed between-individual differences within any one tissue, we found that some inter-individual variation was reflected across brain and blood, indicating that peripheral tissues may have some utility in epidemiological studies of complex neurobiological phenotypes.
This study reinforces the importance of DNA methylation in regulating cellular phenotype across tissues, and highlights genomic patterns of epigenetic variation across functionally distinct regions of the brain, providing a resource for the epigenetics and neuroscience research communities.
While current major national research efforts (i.e., the NIH Human Microbiome Project) will enable comprehensive metagenomic characterization of the adult human microbiota, how and when these diverse microbial communities take up residence in the host and during reproductive life are unexplored at a population level. Because microbial abundance and diversity might differ in pregnancy, we sought to generate comparative metagenomic signatures across gestational age strata. DNA was isolated from the vagina (introitus, posterior fornix, midvagina) and the V5V3 region of bacterial 16S rRNA genes were sequenced (454FLX Titanium platform). Sixty-eight samples from 24 healthy gravidae (18 to 40 confirmed weeks) were compared with 301 non-pregnant controls (60 subjects). Generated sequence data were quality filtered, taxonomically binned, normalized, and organized by phylogeny and into operational taxonomic units (OTU); principal coordinates analysis (PCoA) of the resultant beta diversity measures were used for visualization and analysis in association with sample clinical metadata. Altogether, 1.4 gigabytes of data containing >2.5 million reads (averaging 6,837 sequences/sample of 493 nt in length) were generated for computational analyses. Although gravidae were not excluded by virtue of a posterior fornix pH >4.5 at the time of screening, unique vaginal microbiome signature encompassing several specific OTUs and higher-level clades was nevertheless observed and confirmed using a combination of phylogenetic, non-phylogenetic, supervised, and unsupervised approaches. Both overall diversity and richness were reduced in pregnancy, with dominance of Lactobacillus species (L. iners crispatus, jensenii and johnsonii, and the orders Lactobacillales (and Lactobacillaceae family), Clostridiales, Bacteroidales, and Actinomycetales. This intergroup comparison using rigorous standardized sampling protocols and analytical methodologies provides robust initial evidence that the vaginal microbial 16S rRNA gene catalogue uniquely differs in pregnancy, with variance of taxa across vaginal subsite and gestational age.
Fuelled by new sequencing technologies, epigenome mapping projects are revealing epigenomic variation at all levels of biological complexity, from species to cells. Comparisons of methylation profiles among species reveal evolutionary conservation of gene body methylation patterns, pointing to the fundamental role of epigenomes in gene regulation. At the human population level, epigenomic changes provide footprints of the effects of genomic variants within the vast non-protein coding fraction of the genome while comparisons of the epigenomes of parents and their offspring point to quantitative epigenomic parent-of-origin effects confounding classical Mendelian genetics. At the organismal level, comparisons of epigenomes from diverse cell types provide insights into cellular differentiation. Finally, comparisons of epigenomes from monozygotic twins help dissect genetic and environmental influences on human phenotypes and longitudinal comparisons reveal aging-associated epigenomic drift. The development of new bioinformatic frameworks for comparative epigenome analysis is putting epigenome maps within reach of researchers across a wide spectrum of biological disciplines.
The hotspots of structural polymorphisms and structural mutability in the human genome remain to be explained mechanistically. We examine associations of structural mutability with germline DNA methylation and with non-allelic homologous recombination (NAHR) mediated by low-copy repeats (LCRs). Combined evidence from four human sperm methylome maps, human genome evolution, structural polymorphisms in the human population, and previous genomic and disease studies consistently points to a strong association of germline hypomethylation and genomic instability. Specifically, methylation deserts, the ∼1% fraction of the human genome with the lowest methylation in the germline, show a tenfold enrichment for structural rearrangements that occurred in the human genome since the branching of chimpanzee and are highly enriched for fast-evolving loci that regulate tissue-specific gene expression. Analysis of copy number variants (CNVs) from 400 human samples identified using a custom-designed array comparative genomic hybridization (aCGH) chip, combined with publicly available structural variation data, indicates that association of structural mutability with germline hypomethylation is comparable in magnitude to the association of structural mutability with LCR–mediated NAHR. Moreover, rare CNVs occurring in the genomes of individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and developmental delay and de novo CNVs occurring in those diagnosed with autism are significantly more concentrated within hypomethylated regions. These findings suggest a new connection between the epigenome, selective mutability, evolution, and human disease.
The human genome contains many loci with high incidence of structural mutations, including insertions and deletions of chromosomal segments. This excessive mutability has accelerated evolution and contributed to human disease but has yet to be explained. Segments of DNA repeated in low-copy numbers (LCRs) have been previously implicated in promoting structural mutability in specific disease-associated loci. Lack of methylation (hypomethylation) of genomic DNA has been previously associated with high structural mutability in gibbons and in human cancer cells, but the association with structural mutability in the human germline has not been explored prior to this study. Our analyses confirm the role of LCRs in promoting structural mutability on the genome scale but also reveal a surprisingly strong association of genomic instability with hypomethylation. Specifically, evolutionary analyses reveal that methylation deserts, the ∼1% fraction of the human genome with the lowest methylation in human sperm, harbor a tenfold higher number of structural mutations than genome-wide average. Moreover, the structural mutations in individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, developmental delay, and autism are significantly more concentrated within hypomethylated regions. Our findings suggest a new connection between methylation of genomic DNA, selective structural mutability, evolution, and human disease.
Whole exome capture sequencing allows researchers to cost-effectively sequence the coding regions of the genome. Although the exome capture sequencing methods have become routine and well established, there is currently a lack of tools specialized for variant calling in this type of data.
Using statistical models trained on validated whole-exome capture sequencing data, the Atlas2 Suite is an integrative variant analysis pipeline optimized for variant discovery on all three of the widely used next generation sequencing platforms (SOLiD, Illumina, and Roche 454). The suite employs logistic regression models in conjunction with user-adjustable cutoffs to accurately separate true SNPs and INDELs from sequencing and mapping errors with high sensitivity (96.7%).
We have implemented the Atlas2 Suite and applied it to 92 whole exome samples from the 1000 Genomes Project. The Atlas2 Suite is available for download at http://sourceforge.net/projects/atlas2/. In addition to a command line version, the suite has been integrated into the Genboree Workbench, allowing biomedical scientists with minimal informatics expertise to remotely call, view, and further analyze variants through a simple web interface. The existing genomic databases displayed via the Genboree browser also streamline the process from variant discovery to functional genomics analysis, resulting in an off-the-shelf toolkit for the broader community.
Small non-coding RNAs, such as microRNAs (miRNAs), are involved in diverse biological processes including organ development and tissue differentiation. Global disruption of miRNA biogenesis in Dicer knockout mice disrupts early embryogenesis and primordial germ cell formation. However, the role of miRNAs in early folliculogenesis is poorly understood. In order to identify a full transcriptome set of small RNAs expressed in the newborn (NB) ovary, we extracted small RNA fraction from mouse NB ovary tissues and subjected it to massive parallel sequencing using the Genome Analyzer from Illumina. Massive sequencing produced 4 655 992 reads of 33 bp each representing a total of 154 Mbp of sequence data. The Pash alignment algorithm mapped 50.13% of the reads to the mouse genome. Sequence reads were clustered based on overlapping mapping coordinates and intersected with known miRNAs, small nucleolar RNAs (snoRNAs), piwi-interacting RNA (piRNA) clusters and repetitive genomic regions; 25.2% of the reads mapped to known miRNAs, 25.5% to genomic repeats, 3.5% to piRNAs and 0.18% to snoRNAs. Three hundred and ninety-eight known miRNA species were among the sequenced small RNAs, and 118 isomiR sequences that are not in the miRBase database. Let-7 family was the most abundantly expressed miRNA, and mmu-mir-672, mmu-mir-322, mmu-mir-503 and mmu-mir-465 families are the most abundant X-linked miRNA detected. X-linked mmu-mir-503, mmu-mir-672 and mmu-mir-465 family showed preferential expression in testes and ovaries. We also identified four novel miRNAs that are preferentially expressed in gonads. Gonadal selective miRNAs may play important roles in ovarian development, folliculogenesis and female fertility.
miRNA; ovary; oocyte; microRNA; ncRNA
Rhesus macaques are the most widely utilized nonhuman primate model in biomedical research. Previous efforts have validated fewer than 900 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in this species, which limits opportunities for genetic studies related to health and disease. Extensive information about SNPs and other genetic variation in rhesus macaques would facilitate valuable genetic analyses, as well as provide markers for genome-wide linkage analysis and the genetic management of captive breeding colonies.
We used the available rhesus macaque draft genome sequence, new sequence data from unrelated individuals and existing published sequence data to create a genome-wide SNP resource for Indian-origin rhesus monkeys. The original reference animal and two additional Indian-origin individuals were resequenced to low coverage using SOLiD™ sequencing. We then used three strategies to validate SNPs: comparison of potential SNPs found in the same individual using two different sequencing chemistries, and comparison of potential SNPs in different individuals identified with either the same or different sequencing chemistries. Our approach validated approximately 3 million SNPs distributed across the genome. Preliminary analysis of SNP annotations suggests that a substantial number of these macaque SNPs may have functional effects. More than 700 non-synonymous SNPs were scored by Polyphen-2 as either possibly or probably damaging to protein function and these variants now constitute potential models for studying functional genetic variation relevant to human physiology and disease.
Resequencing of a small number of animals identified greater than 3 million SNPs. This provides a significant new information resource for rhesus macaques, an important research animal. The data also suggests that overall genetic variation is high in this species. We identified many potentially damaging non-synonymous coding SNPs, providing new opportunities to identify rhesus models for human disease.
single nucleotide polymorphism; common variants; SOLiD™; genetic variation; rhesus macaque
In an important model for neuroscience, songbirds learn to discriminate songs they hear during tape-recorded playbacks, as demonstrated by song-specific habituation of both behavioral and neurogenomic responses in the auditory forebrain. We hypothesized that microRNAs (miRNAs or miRs) may participate in the changing pattern of gene expression induced by song exposure. To test this, we used massively parallel Illumina sequencing to analyse small RNAs from auditory forebrain of adult zebra finches exposed to tape-recorded birdsong or silence.
In the auditory forebrain, we identified 121 known miRNAs conserved in other vertebrates. We also identified 34 novel miRNAs that do not align to human or chicken genomes. Five conserved miRNAs showed significant and consistent changes in copy number after song exposure across three biological replications of the song-silence comparison, with two increasing (tgu-miR-25, tgu-miR-192) and three decreasing (tgu-miR-92, tgu-miR-124, tgu-miR-129-5p). We also detected a locus on the Z sex chromosome that produces three different novel miRNAs, with supporting evidence from Northern blot and TaqMan qPCR assays for differential expression in males and females and in response to song playbacks. One of these, tgu-miR-2954-3p, is predicted (by TargetScan) to regulate eight song-responsive mRNAs that all have functions in cellular proliferation and neuronal differentiation.
The experience of hearing another bird singing alters the profile of miRNAs in the auditory forebrain of zebra finches. The response involves both known conserved miRNAs and novel miRNAs described so far only in the zebra finch, including a novel sex-linked, song-responsive miRNA. These results indicate that miRNAs are likely to contribute to the unique behavioural biology of learned song communication in songbirds.
Assays of multiple tumor samples frequently reveal recurrent genomic aberrations, including point mutations and copy-number alterations, that affect individual genes. Analyses that extend beyond single genes are often restricted to examining pathways, interactions and functional modules that are already known.
We present a method that identifies functional modules without any information other than patterns of recurrent and mutually exclusive aberrations (RME patterns) that arise due to positive selection for key cancer phenotypes. Our algorithm efficiently constructs and searches networks of potential interactions and identifies significant modules (RME modules) by using the algorithmic significance test.
We apply the method to the TCGA collection of 145 glioblastoma samples, resulting in extension of known pathways and discovery of new functional modules. The method predicts a role for EP300 that was previously unknown in glioblastoma. We demonstrate the clinical relevance of these results by validating that expression of EP300 is prognostic, predicting survival independent of age at diagnosis and tumor grade.
We have developed a sensitive, simple, and fast method for automatically detecting functional modules in tumors based solely on patterns of recurrent genomic aberration. Due to its ability to analyze very large amounts of diverse data, we expect it to be increasingly useful when applied to the many tumor panels scheduled to be assayed in the near future.
Sequencing-based DNA methylation profiling methods are comprehensive and, as accuracy and affordability improve, will increasingly supplant microarrays for genome-scale analyses. Here, four sequencing-based methodologies were applied to biological replicates of human embryonic stem cells to compare their CpG coverage genome-wide and in transposons, resolution, cost, concordance and its relationship with CpG density and genomic context. The two bisulfite methods reached concordance of 82% for CpG methylation levels and 99% for non-CpG cytosine methylation levels. Using binary methylation calls, two enrichment methods were 99% concordant, while regions assessed by all four methods were 97% concordant. To achieve comprehensive methylome coverage while reducing cost, an approach integrating two complementary methods was examined. The integrative methylome profile along with histone methylation, RNA, and SNP profiles derived from the sequence reads allowed genome-wide assessment of allele-specific epigenetic states, identifying most known imprinted regions and new loci with monoallelic epigenetic marks and monoallelic expression.
DNA methylation; Sequencing; Bisulfite
Copy number alterations are important contributors to many genetic diseases, including cancer. We present the readDepth package for R, which can detect these aberrations by measuring the depth of coverage obtained by massively parallel sequencing of the genome. In addition to achieving higher accuracy than existing packages, our tool runs much faster by utilizing multi-core architectures to parallelize the processing of these large data sets. In contrast to other published methods, readDepth does not require the sequencing of a reference sample, and uses a robust statistical model that accounts for overdispersed data. It includes a method for effectively increasing the resolution obtained from low-coverage experiments by utilizing breakpoint information from paired end sequencing to do positional refinement. We also demonstrate a method for inferring copy number using reads generated by whole-genome bisulfite sequencing, thus enabling integrative study of epigenomic and copy number alterations. Finally, we apply this tool to two genomes, showing that it performs well on genomes sequenced to both low and high coverage. The readDepth package runs on Linux and MacOSX, is released under the Apache 2.0 license, and is available at http://code.google.com/p/readdepth/.
Only thirteen microRNAs are conserved between D. melanogaster and the mouse; however, conditional loss of miRNA function through mutation of Dicer causes defects in proliferation of premeiotic germ cells in both species. This highlights the potentially important, but uncharacterized, role of miRNAs during early spermatogenesis. The goal of this study was to characterize on postnatal day 7, 10, and 14 the content and editing of murine testicular miRNAs, which predominantly arise from spermatogonia and spermatocytes, in contrast to prior descriptions of miRNAs in the adult mouse testis which largely reflects the content of spermatids. Previous studies have shown miRNAs to be abundant in the mouse testis by postnatal day 14; however, through Next Generation Sequencing of testes from a B6;129 background we found abundant earlier expression of miRNAs and describe shifts in the miRNA signature during this period. We detected robust expression of miRNAs encoded on the X chromosome in postnatal day 14 testes, consistent with prior studies showing their resistance to meiotic sex chromosome inactivation. Unexpectedly, we also found a similar positional enrichment for most miRNAs on chromosome 2 at postnatal day 14 and for those on chromosome 12 at postnatal day 7. We quantified in vivo developmental changes in three types of miRNA variation including 5′ heterogeneity, editing, and 3′ nucleotide addition. We identified eleven putative novel pubertal testis miRNAs whose developmental expression suggests a possible role in early male germ cell development. These studies provide a foundation for interpretation of miRNA changes associated with testicular pathology and identification of novel components of the miRNA editing machinery in the testis.
Massively parallel sequencing readouts of epigenomic assays are enabling integrative genome-wide analyses of genomic and epigenomic variation. Pash 3.0 performs sequence comparison and read mapping and can be employed as a module within diverse configurable analysis pipelines, including ChIP-Seq and methylome mapping by whole-genome bisulfite sequencing.
Pash 3.0 generally matches the accuracy and speed of niche programs for fast mapping of short reads, and exceeds their performance on longer reads generated by a new generation of massively parallel sequencing technologies. By exploiting longer read lengths, Pash 3.0 maps reads onto the large fraction of genomic DNA that contains repetitive elements and polymorphic sites, including indel polymorphisms.
We demonstrate the versatility of Pash 3.0 by analyzing the interaction between CpG methylation, CpG SNPs, and imprinting based on publicly available whole-genome shotgun bisulfite sequencing data. Pash 3.0 makes use of gapped k-mer alignment, a non-seed based comparison method, which is implemented using multi-positional hash tables. This allows Pash 3.0 to run on diverse hardware platforms, including individual computers with standard RAM capacity, multi-core hardware architectures and large clusters.
Gibbon species have accumulated an unusually high number of chromosomal changes since diverging from the common hominoid ancestor 15–18 million years ago. The cause of this increased rate of chromosomal rearrangements is not known, nor is it known if genome architecture has a role. To address this question, we analyzed sequences spanning 57 breaks of synteny between northern white-cheeked gibbons (Nomascus l. leucogenys) and humans. We find that the breakpoint regions are enriched in segmental duplications and repeats, with Alu elements being the most abundant. Alus located near the gibbon breakpoints (<150 bp) have a higher CpG content than other Alus. Bisulphite allelic sequencing reveals that these gibbon Alus have a lower average density of methylated cytosine that their human orthologues. The finding of higher CpG content and lower average CpG methylation suggests that the gibbon Alu elements are epigenetically distinct from their human orthologues. The association between undermethylation and chromosomal rearrangement in gibbons suggests a correlation between epigenetic state and structural genome variation in evolution.
Mammalian genomes are remarkably stable (with few exceptions). In humans, wrong recombination events occur quite rarely, manifesting themselves in genomic disorders or cancer. On exceptional occasions, the rate of genome evolution has been accelerated by genome-wide reshuffling events giving rise to some highly derivative karyotypes. The genomes of gibbon species (Hylobatidae) are an example of accelerated genome structural evolution; gibbons display a rate of chromosome evolution 10–20 fold higher than the default rate found in mammals (one chromosome change every 4 million years). As we are interested in investigating the possible genetic causes of this phenomenon, we sequenced a considerable number of chromosomal breakpoints in the northern white-cheeked gibbon genome and analyzed the genomic features of these sites. We observe that the gibbon breakpoints are mostly associated with endogenous retrotransposons called Alus, which are normally abundant in the genomes of primates. Furthermore, our analysis revealed that gibbon Alus have a lower content of methylated CpG when compared to the orthologous human Alus. In mammals, CpG methylation is known to be responsible for keeping retrotransposons in a repressed state and protect genome integrity. We therefore suggest that a glitch in the methylation apparatus might have driven the higher genome recombination in gibbons.
Determining the genetic basis of cancer requires comprehensive analyses of large collections of histopathologically well-classified primary tumours. Here we report the results of a collaborative study to discover somatic mutations in 188 human lung adenocarcinomas. DNA sequencing of 623 genes with known or potential relationships to cancer revealed more than 1,000 somatic mutations across the samples. Our analysis identified 26 genes that are mutated at significantly high frequencies and thus are probably involved in carcinogenesis. The frequently mutated genes include tyrosine kinases, among them the EGFR homologue ERBB4; multiple ephrin receptor genes, notably EPHA3; vascular endothelial growth factor receptor KDR; and NTRK genes. These data provide evidence of somatic mutations in primary lung adenocarcinoma for several tumour suppressor genes involved in other cancers—including NF1, APC, RB1 and ATM—and for sequence changes in PTPRD as well as the frequently deleted gene LRP1B. The observed mutational profiles correlate with clinical features, smoking status and DNA repair defects. These results are reinforced by data integration including single nucleotide polymorphism array and gene expression array. Our findings shed further light on several important signalling pathways involved in lung adenocarcinoma, and suggest new molecular targets for treatment.
Gibbons are part of the same superfamily (Hominoidea) as humans and great apes, but their karyotype has diverged faster from the common hominoid ancestor. At least 24 major chromosome rearrangements are required to convert the presumed ancestral karyotype of gibbons into that of the hominoid ancestor. Up to 28 additional rearrangements distinguish the various living species from the common gibbon ancestor. Using the northern white-cheeked gibbon (2n = 52) (Nomascus leucogenys leucogenys) as a model, we created a high-resolution map of the homologous regions between the gibbon and human. The positions of 100 synteny breakpoints relative to the assembled human genome were determined at a resolution of about 200 kb. Interestingly, 46% of the gibbon–human synteny breakpoints occur in regions that correspond to segmental duplications in the human lineage, indicating a common source of plasticity leading to a different outcome in the two species. Additionally, the full sequences of 11 gibbon BACs spanning evolutionary breakpoints reveal either segmental duplications or interspersed repeats at the exact breakpoint locations. No specific sequence element appears to be common among independent rearrangements. We speculate that the extraordinarily high level of rearrangements seen in gibbons may be due to factors that increase the incidence of chromosome breakage or fixation of the derivative chromosomes in a homozygous state.
It is commonly accepted that mammalian chromosomes have undergone a limited number of rearrangements during the course of more than 100 million years of evolution. Surprisingly, some species have experienced a large increase in the incidence of rearrangements, including translocations (exchange between two non-homologous chromosomes), inversions (change of orientation of one chromosomal segment), fissions, and fusions. Within the primate order, gibbons exhibit the most strikingly unstable chromosome pattern. Gibbon chromosomal structure greatly differs from that of their most recent common ancestor with humans from which they diverged over 15 million years ago. The authors are interested in the mechanisms causing this extraordinary instability. In this study, they employed modern techniques to compare the human and white-cheeked gibbon chromosomes and to localize all the regions of disrupted homology between the two species. Their findings indicate that the molecular mechanism of gibbon chromosomal reshuffling is based on the same principles as in other mammalian species. To explain the 10-fold higher incidence of gibbon chromosomal rearrangements, it will be necessary to pursue future studies into other biological factors such as inbreeding and population dynamics.