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1.  Inferring mechanisms of copy number change from haplotype structures at the human DEFA1A3 locus 
BMC Genomics  2014;15(1):614.
The determination of structural haplotypes at copy number variable regions can indicate the mechanisms responsible for changes in copy number, as well as explain the relationship between gene copy number and expression. However, obtaining spatial information at regions displaying extensive copy number variation, such as the DEFA1A3 locus, is complex, because of the difficulty in the phasing and assembly of these regions. The DEFA1A3 locus is intriguing in that it falls within a region of high linkage disequilibrium, despite its high variability in copy number (n = 3–16); hence, the mechanisms responsible for changes in copy number at this locus are unclear.
In this study, a region flanking the DEFA1A3 locus was sequenced across 120 independent haplotypes with European ancestry, identifying five common classes of DEFA1A3 haplotype. Assigning DEFA1A3 class to haplotypes within the 1000 Genomes project highlights a significant difference in DEFA1A3 class frequencies between populations with different ancestry. The features of each DEFA1A3 class, for example, the associated DEFA1A3 copy numbers, were initially assessed in a European cohort (n = 599) and replicated in the 1000 Genomes samples, showing within-class similarity, but between-class and between-population differences in the features of the DEFA1A3 locus. Emulsion haplotype fusion-PCR was used to generate 61 structural haplotypes at the DEFA1A3 locus, showing a high within-class similarity in structure.
Structural haplotypes across the DEFA1A3 locus indicate that intra-allelic rearrangement is the predominant mechanism responsible for changes in DEFA1A3 copy number, explaining the conservation of linkage disequilibrium across the locus. The identification of common structural haplotypes at the DEFA1A3 locus could aid studies into how DEFA1A3 copy number influences expression, which is currently unclear.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/1471-2164-15-614) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4117965  PMID: 25048054
DEFA1A3; CNV; Defensin; Structural haplotype
2.  CCL3L1 copy number, CCR5 genotype and susceptibility to tuberculosis 
BMC Medical Genetics  2014;15:5.
Tuberculosis is a major infectious disease and functional studies have provided evidence that both the chemokine MIP-1α and its receptor CCR5 play a role in susceptibility to TB. Thus by measuring copy number variation of CCL3L1, one of the genes that encode MIP-1α, and genotyping a functional promoter polymorphism -2459A > G in CCR5 (rs1799987) we investigate the influence of MIP-1α and CCR5, independently and combined, in susceptibility to clinically active TB in three populations, a Peruvian population (n = 1132), a !Xhosa population (n = 605) and a South African Coloured population (n = 221). The three populations include patients with clinically diagnosed pulmonary TB, as well as other, less prevalent forms of extrapulmonary TB.
Methods and results
Copy number of CCL3L1 was measured using the paralogue ratio test and exhibited ranges between 0–6 copies per diploid genome (pdg) in Peru, between 0–12 pdg in !Xhosa samples and between 0–10 pdg in South African Coloured samples. The CCR5 promoter polymorphism was observed to differ significantly in allele frequency between populations (*A; Peru f = 0.67, !Xhosa f = 0.38, Coloured f = 0.48).
The case–control association studies performed however find, surprisingly, no evidence for an influence of variation in genes coding for MIP-1α or CCR5 individually or together in susceptibility to clinically active TB in these populations.
PMCID: PMC3897992  PMID: 24405814
CCL3L1; Mycobacterium tuberculosis; Association; CCR5; MIP-1α
3.  Accurate measurement of gene copy number for human alpha-defensin DEFA1A3 
BMC Genomics  2013;14(1):719.
Multi-allelic copy number variants include examples of extensive variation between individuals in the copy number of important genes, most notably genes involved in immune function. The definition of this variation, and analysis of its impact on function, has been hampered by the technical difficulty of large-scale but accurate typing of genomic copy number. The copy-variable alpha-defensin locus DEFA1A3 on human chromosome 8 commonly varies between 4 and 10 copies per diploid genome, and presents considerable challenges for accurate high-throughput typing.
In this study, we developed two paralogue ratio tests and three allelic ratio measurements that, in combination, provide an accurate and scalable method for measurement of DEFA1A3 gene number. We combined information from different measurements in a maximum-likelihood framework which suggests that most samples can be assigned to an integer copy number with high confidence, and applied it to typing 589 unrelated European DNA samples. Typing the members of three-generation pedigrees provided further reassurance that correct integer copy numbers had been assigned. Our results have allowed us to discover that the SNP rs4300027 is strongly associated with DEFA1A3 gene copy number in European samples.
We have developed an accurate and robust method for measurement of DEFA1A3 copy number. Interrogation of rs4300027 and associated SNPs in Genome-Wide Association Study SNP data provides no evidence that alpha-defensin copy number is a strong risk factor for phenotypes such as Crohn’s disease, type I diabetes, HIV progression and multiple sclerosis.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/1471-2164-14-719) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4046698  PMID: 24138543
CNV; Defensin; GWAS; DEFA1A3; PRT
4.  Association of β-defensin copy number and psoriasis in three cohorts of European origin 
A single previous study has demonstrated significant association of psoriasis with copy number of beta-defensin genes, using DNA from psoriasis cases and controls from Nijmegen and Erlangen. In this study we attempted to replicate that finding in larger new cohorts from Erlangen (N = 2017) and Michigan (N = 5412), using improved methods for beta-defensin copy number determination based on the paralog ratio test (PRT), and enhanced methods of analysis and association testing implemented in the CNVtools resource. We demonstrate that the association with psoriasis found in the discovery sample is maintained after applying improved typing and analysis methods (p = 5.5 × 10−4, OR = 1.25). We also find that the association is replicated in 2616 cases and 2526 controls from Michigan, although at reduced significance (p = 0.014), but not in new samples from Erlangen (1396 cases and 621 controls, p = 0.38). Meta-analysis across all cohorts suggests a nominally significant association (p = 6.6 × 10−3/2 × 10−4) with an effect size (OR = 1.081) much lower than found in the discovery study (OR = 1.32). This reduced effect size and significance on replication is consistent with a genuine but weak association.
PMCID: PMC3447111  PMID: 22739795
5.  Functional effects of CCL3L1 copy number 
Genes and immunity  2012;13(5):374-379.
Copy number variation (CNV) is becoming increasingly important as a feature of human variation in disease susceptibility studies. However, the consequences of copy number variation are not so well understood. Here we present data exploring the functional consequences of copy number variation of CCL3L1 in 55 independent UK samples with no known clinical phenotypes. Copy number of CCL3L1 was determined by the paralogue ratio test (PRT), and expression levels of MIP-1α and mRNA from stimulated monocytes were measured and analysed. The data show no statistically significant association of MIP-1α protein levels with copy number. However, there was a significant correlation between copy number and CCL3L1:CCL3 mRNA ratio. The data also provide evidence that expression of CCL3 predominates in both protein and mRNA, and therefore the observed variation of CCL3 is potentially more important biologically than that of copy number variation of CCL3L1.
PMCID: PMC3409875  PMID: 22476153
CCL3L1; MIP-1α; gene expression; copy number
6.  Accuracy and differential bias in copy number measurement of CCL3L1 in association studies with three auto-immune disorders 
BMC Genomics  2011;12:418.
Copy number variation (CNV) contributes to the variation observed between individuals and can influence human disease progression, but the accurate measurement of individual copy numbers is technically challenging. In the work presented here we describe a modification to a previously described paralogue ratio test (PRT) method for genotyping the CCL3L1/CCL4L1 copy variable region, which we use to ascertain CCL3L1/CCL4L1 copy number in 1581 European samples. As the products of CCL3L1 and CCL4L1 potentially play a role in autoimmunity we performed case control association studies with Crohn's disease, rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis clinical cohorts.
We evaluate the PRT methodology used, paying particular attention to accuracy and precision, and highlight the problems of differential bias in copy number measurements. Our PRT methods for measuring copy number were of sufficient precision to detect very slight but systematic differential bias between results from case and control DNA samples in one study. We find no evidence for an association between CCL3L1 copy number and Crohn's disease, rheumatoid arthritis or psoriasis.
Differential bias of this small magnitude, but applied systematically across large numbers of samples, would create a serious risk of false positive associations in copy number, if measured using methods of lower precision, or methods relying on single uncorroborated measurements. In this study the small differential bias detected by PRT in one sample set was resolved by a simple pre-treatment by restriction enzyme digestion.
PMCID: PMC3166952  PMID: 21851606
7.  Evolution of haplotypes at CCL3L1/CCL4L1 
Genome Biology  2010;11(Suppl 1):P20.
PMCID: PMC3026249
8.  Quadruplex MAPH: improvement of throughput in high-resolution copy number screening 
BMC Genomics  2009;10:453.
Copy number variation (CNV) in the human genome is recognised as a widespread and important source of human genetic variation. Now the challenge is to screen for these CNVs at high resolution in a reliable, accurate and cost-effective way.
Multiplex Amplifiable Probe Hybridisation (MAPH) is a sensitive, high-resolution technology appropriate for screening for CNVs in a defined region, for a targeted population. We have developed MAPH to a highly multiplexed format ("QuadMAPH") that allows the user a four-fold increase in the number of loci tested simultaneously. We have used this method to analyse a genomic region of 210 kb, including the MSH2 gene and 120 kb of flanking DNA. We show that the QuadMAPH probes report copy number with equivalent accuracy to simplex MAPH, reliably demonstrating diploid copy number in control samples and accurately detecting deletions in Hereditary Non-Polyposis Colorectal Cancer (HNPCC) samples.
QuadMAPH is an accurate, high-resolution method that allows targeted screening of large numbers of subjects without the expense of genome-wide approaches. Whilst we have applied this technique to a region of the human genome, it is equally applicable to the genomes of other organisms.
PMCID: PMC2761424  PMID: 19785739
9.  Directional and balancing selection in human beta-defensins 
In primates, infection is an important force driving gene evolution, and this is reflected in the importance of infectious disease in human morbidity today. The beta-defensins are key components of the innate immune system, with antimicrobial and cell signalling roles, but also reproductive functions. Here we examine evolution of beta-defensins in catarrhine primates and variation within different human populations.
We show that five beta-defensin genes that do not show copy number variation in humans show evidence of positive selection in catarrhine primates, and identify specific codons that have been under selective pressure. Direct haplotyping of DEFB127 in humans suggests long-term balancing selection: there are two highly diverged haplotype clades carrying different variants of a codon that, in primates, is positively selected. For DEFB132, we show that extensive diversity, including a four-state amino acid polymorphism (valine, isoleucine, alanine and threonine at position 93), is present in hunter-gatherer populations, both African and non-African, but not found in samples from agricultural populations.
Some, but not all, beta-defensin genes show positive selection in catarrhine primates. There is suggestive evidence of different selective pressures on these genes in humans, but the nature of the selective pressure remains unclear and is likely to differ between populations.
PMCID: PMC2373304  PMID: 18416833
10.  Beta-defensin genomic copy number is not a modifier locus for cystic fibrosis 
Human beta-defensin 2 (DEFB4, also known as DEFB2 or hBD-2) is a salt-sensitive antimicrobial protein that is expressed in lung epithelia. Previous work has shown that it is encoded in a cluster of beta-defensin genes at 8p23.1, which varies in copy number between 2 and 12 in different individuals. We determined the copy number of this locus in 355 patients with cystic fibrosis (CF), and tested for correlation between beta-defensin cluster genomic copy number and lung disease associated with CF. No significant association was found.
PMCID: PMC1318481  PMID: 16336654
11.  A 4q35.2 subtelomeric deletion identified in a screen of patients with co-morbid psychiatric illness and mental retardation 
BMC Medical Genetics  2004;5:21.
Cryptic structural abnormalities within the subtelomeric regions of chromosomes have been the focus of much recent research because of their discovery in a percentage of people with mental retardation (UK terminology: learning disability). These studies focused on subjects (largely children) with various severities of intellectual impairment with or without additional physical clinical features such as dysmorphisms. However it is well established that prevalence of schizophrenia is around three times greater in those with mild mental retardation. The rates of bipolar disorder and major depressive disorder have also been reported as increased in people with mental retardation. We describe here a screen for telomeric abnormalities in a cohort of 69 patients in which mental retardation co-exists with severe psychiatric illness.
We have applied two techniques, subtelomeric fluorescence in situ hybridisation (FISH) and multiplex amplifiable probe hybridisation (MAPH) to detect abnormalities in the patient group.
A subtelomeric deletion was discovered involving loss of 4q in a patient with co-morbid schizoaffective disorder and mental retardation.
The precise region of loss has been defined allowing us to identify genes that may contribute to the clinical phenotype through hemizygosity. Interestingly, the region of 4q loss exactly matches that linked to bipolar affective disorder in a large multiply affected Australian kindred.
PMCID: PMC515177  PMID: 15310400

Results 1-11 (11)