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1.  Intramuscular Therapeutic Vaccination Targeting HPV16 Induces T Cell Responses That Localize in Mucosal Lesions 
Science translational medicine  2014;6(221):221ra13.
About 25% of high-grade cervical intraepithelial neoplasias (CIN2/3) caused by human papillomavirus serotype 16 (HPV16) undergo complete spontaneous regression. However, to date, therapeutic vaccination strategies for HPV disease have yielded limited success when measured by their ability to induce robust peripheral blood T cell responses to vaccine antigen. We report marked immunologic changes in the target lesion microenvironment after intramuscular therapeutic vaccination targeting HPV16 E6/E7 antigens, in subjects with CIN2/3 who had modest detectable responses in circulating T lymphocytes. Histologic and molecular changes, including markedly (average threefold) increased intensity of CD8+ T cell infiltrates in both the stromal and epithelial compartments, suggest an effector response to vaccination. Postvaccination cervical tissue immune infiltrates included organized tertiary lymphoid-like structures in the stroma subjacent to residual intraepithelial lesions and, unlike infiltrates in unvaccinated lesions, showed evidence of proliferation induced by recognition of cognate antigen. At a molecular level, these histologic changes in the stroma were characterized by increased expression of genes associated with immune activation (CXCR3) and effector function (Tbet and IFNβ), and were also associated with an immunologic signature in the overlying dysplastic epithelium. High-throughput T cell receptor sequencing of unmanipulated specimens identified clonal expansions in the tissue that were not readily detectable in peripheral blood. Together, these findings indicate that peripheral therapeutic vaccination to HPV antigens can induce a robust tissue-localized effector immune response, and that analyses of immune responses at sites of antigen are likely to be much more informative than analyses of cells that remain in the circulation.
PMCID: PMC4086631  PMID: 24477000
2.  Creation and characterization of BAC-transgenic mice with physiological over-expression of epitope-tagged RCAN1 (DSCR1) 
The chromosome 21 gene RCAN1, encoding a modulator of the calcineurin (CaN) phosphatase, is a candidate gene for contributing to cognitive disability in people with Down syndrome (DS; trisomy 21). To develop a physiologically relevant model for studying the biochemistry of RCAN1 and its contribution to DS, we generated bacterial artificial chromosome-transgenic (BAC-Tg) mouse lines containing the human RCAN1 gene with a C-terminal HA-FLAG epitope tag incorporated by recombineering. The BAC-Tg was expressed at levels only moderately higher than the native Rcan1 gene; approximately 1.5-fold in RCAN1BAC-Tg1 and 2-fold in RCAN1BAC-Tg2. Affinity purification of the RCAN1 protein complex from brains of these mice revealed a core complex of RCAN1 with calcineurin (CaN), glycogen synthase kinase 3-beta (Gsk3b), and calmodulin, with sub-stoichiometric components including LOC73419. The BAC-Tg mice are fully viable, but long-term synaptic potentiation (LTP) is impaired in proportion to BAC-Tg dosage in hippocampal brain slices from these mice. RCAN1 can act as a tumor suppressor in some systems, but we found that the RCAN1 BAC-Tg did not reduce mammary cancer growth when present at a low copy number in Tp53;WAP-Cre mice. This work establishes a useful mouse model for investigating the biochemistry and dose-dependent functions of the RCAN1 protein in vivo.
PMCID: PMC3562396  PMID: 23096997
3.  Hypomethylating therapy in an aggressive stroma-rich model of pancreatic carcinoma 
Cancer research  2012;73(2):885-896.
Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is a lethal malignancy that resists current treatments. To test epigenetic therapy against this cancer, we used the DNA demethylating drug 5-aza-2′-deoxycytidine (DAC) in an aggressive mouse model of stromal rich PDAC (KPC-Brca1 mice). In untreated tumors, we found globally decreased 5-methyl-cytosine (5mC) in malignant epithelial cells and in cancer-associated myofibroblasts (CAFs), along with increased amounts of 5-hydroxymethyl-cytosine (5HmC) in CAFs, in progression from pancreatic intraepithelial neoplasia (PanIN) to PDAC. DAC further reduced DNA methylation and slowed PDAC progression, markedly extending survival in an early treatment protocol and significantly though transiently inhibiting tumor growth when initiated later, without adverse side effects. Escaping tumors contained areas of sarcomatoid transformation with disappearance of CAFs. Mixing-allografting experiments and proliferation indices showed that DAC efficacy was due to inhibition of both the malignant epithelial cells and the CAFs. Expression profiling and immunohistochemistry highlighted DAC-induction of STAT1 in the tumors, and DAC plus gamma-interferon produced an additive anti-proliferative effect on PDAC cells. DAC induced strong expression of the testis antigen DAZL in CAFs. These data show that DAC is effective against PDAC in vivo and provide a rationale for future studies combining hypomethylating agents with cytokines and immunotherapy.
PMCID: PMC3548986  PMID: 23204224
4.  Stromal Protein Ecm1 Regulates Ureteric Bud Patterning and Branching 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e84155.
The interactions between the nephrogenic mesenchyme and the ureteric bud during kidney development are well documented. While recent studies have shed some light on the importance of the stroma during renal development, many of the signals generated in the stroma, the genetic pathways and interaction networks involving the stroma are yet to be identified. Our previous studies demonstrate that retinoids are crucial for branching of the ureteric bud and for patterning of the cortical stroma. In the present study we demonstrate that autocrine retinoic acid (RA) signaling in stromal cells is critical for their survival and patterning, and show that Extracellular matrix 1, Ecm1, a gene that in humans causes irritable bowel syndrome and lipoid proteinosis, is a novel RA-regulated target in the developing kidney, which is secreted from the cortical stromal cells surrounding the cap mesenchyme and ureteric bud. Our studies suggest that Ecm1 is required in the ureteric bud for regulating the distribution of Ret which is normally restricted to the tips, as inhibition of Ecm1 results in an expanded domain of Ret expression and reduced numbers of branches. We propose a model in which retinoid signaling in the stroma activates expression of Ecm1, which in turn down-regulates Ret expression in the ureteric bud cleft, where bifurcation normally occurs and normal branching progresses.
PMCID: PMC3877229  PMID: 24391906
5.  Comparative Anatomy of Chromosomal Domains with Imprinted and Non-Imprinted Allele-Specific DNA Methylation 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(8):e1003622.
Allele-specific DNA methylation (ASM) is well studied in imprinted domains, but this type of epigenetic asymmetry is actually found more commonly at non-imprinted loci, where the ASM is dictated not by parent-of-origin but instead by the local haplotype. We identified loci with strong ASM in human tissues from methylation-sensitive SNP array data. Two index regions (bisulfite PCR amplicons), one between the C3orf27 and RPN1 genes in chromosome band 3q21 and the other near the VTRNA2-1 vault RNA in band 5q31, proved to be new examples of imprinted DMRs (maternal alleles methylated) while a third, between STEAP3 and C2orf76 in chromosome band 2q14, showed non-imprinted haplotype-dependent ASM. Using long-read bisulfite sequencing (bis-seq) in 8 human tissues we found that in all 3 domains the ASM is restricted to single differentially methylated regions (DMRs), each less than 2kb. The ASM in the C3orf27-RPN1 intergenic region was placenta-specific and associated with allele-specific expression of a long non-coding RNA. Strikingly, the discrete DMRs in all 3 regions overlap with binding sites for the insulator protein CTCF, which we found selectively bound to the unmethylated allele of the STEAP3-C2orf76 DMR. Methylation mapping in two additional genes with non-imprinted haplotype-dependent ASM, ELK3 and CYP2A7, showed that the CYP2A7 DMR also overlaps a CTCF site. Thus, two features of imprinted domains, highly localized DMRs and allele-specific insulator occupancy by CTCF, can also be found in chromosomal domains with non-imprinted ASM. Arguing for biological importance, our analysis of published whole genome bis-seq data from hES cells revealed multiple genome-wide association study (GWAS) peaks near CTCF binding sites with ASM.
Author Summary
Allele-specific DNA methylation (ASM) is a central mechanism of gene regulation in humans, which can influence inter-individual differences in physical and mental traits and disease susceptibility. ASM is mediated either by parental imprinting, in which the repressed copy (allele) of the gene is determined by which type of parent (mother or father) transmitted it or, for a larger number of genes, by the local DNA sequence, independent of which parent transmitted it. Chromosomal regions with imprinted ASM have been well studied, and certain mechanistic principles, including the role of discrete differentially methylated regions (DMRs) and involvement of the insulator protein CTCF, have emerged. However, the molecular mechanisms underlying non-imprinted sequence-dependent ASM are not yet understood. Here we describe our detailed mapping of ASM across 5 gene regions, including two novel examples of imprinted ASM and three gene regions with non-imprinted, sequence-dependent ASM. Our data uncover shared molecular features – small discrete DMRs, and the binding of CTCF to these DMRs, in examples of both types of ASM. Combining ASM mapping with genetic association data suggests that sequence-dependent ASM at CTCF binding sites influences diverse human traits.
PMCID: PMC3757050  PMID: 24009515
6.  Estrogen Receptor-Beta Variants Are Associated with Increased Risk of Alzheimer's Disease in Women with Down Syndrome 
Genetic variants that affect estrogen activity may influence the risk of Alzheimer's disease (AD). We examined the relation of polymorphisms in the gene for the estrogen receptor-beta (ESR2) to the risk of AD in women with Down syndrome.
Two hundred and forty-nine women with Down syndrome, 31–70 years of age and nondemented at baseline, were followed at 14- to 18-month intervals for 4 years. Women were genotyped for 13 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the ESR2 gene, and their association with AD incidence was examined.
Among postmenopausal women, we found a 2-fold increase in the risk of AD for women carrying 1 or 2 copies of the minor allele at 3 SNPs in introns seven (rs17766755) and six (rs4365213 and rs12435857) and 1 SNP in intron eight (rs4986938) of ESR2.
These findings support a role for estrogen and its major brain receptors in modulating susceptibility to AD in women.
PMCID: PMC3250648  PMID: 22156442
Estrogen; Estrogen receptor-beta; Down syndrome; Alzheimer's disease
7.  Variants in CYP17 and CYP19 Cytochrome P450 genes are associated with onset of Alzheimer’s disease in women with Down syndrome 
Journal of Alzheimer's Disease  2012;28(3):601-612.
CYP17and CYP19 are involved in the peripheral synthesis of estrogens, and polymorphisms in CYP17 and CYP19 have been associated with increased risk of estrogen-related disorders. Women with Down syndrome (DS) have early onset and high risk for Alzheimer’s disease (AD). We conducted a prospective community-based cohort study to examine the relationship between SNPs in CYP17 and CYP19 and cumulative incidence of AD, hormone levels and sex hormone binding globulin in women with DS. Two hundred and thirty-five women with DS, 31 to 67 years of age and nondemented at initial examination, were assessed for cognitive and functional abilities, behavioral/psychiatric conditions and health status at 14–20 month intervals over five assessment cycles. We genotyped these individuals for single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in CYP17 and CYP19. Four SNPs in CYP17 were associated with a two and one half-fold increased risk of AD, independent of APOE genotype. Four SNPs in CYP19 were associated with a two-fold increased risk of AD, although three were significant only in those without an APOE ε4 allele. Further, carrying high risk alleles in both CYP17 and CYP19 was associated with an almost four-fold increased risk of AD (OR=3.8, 95% CI, 1.6–9.5) and elevated sex hormone binding globulin in postmenopausal women. The main effect of the CYP17 and CYP19 variants was to decrease the age at onset. These findings suggest that genes contributing to estrogen bioavailability influence risk of AD in women with DS.
PMCID: PMC3276705  PMID: 22057025
Estrogen; Down syndrome; Alzheimer’s disease; CYP17; CYP19; aromatase; genetics
8.  Molecular biology of cancer-associated fibroblasts: can these cells be targeted in anti-cancer therapy? 
It is increasingly recognized that the non-neoplastic stromal compartment in most solid cancers plays an active role in tumor proliferation, invasion and metastasis. Cancer associated fibroblasts (CAFs) are one of the most abundant cell types in the tumor stroma, and these cells are pro-tumorigenic. Evidence that CAFs are epigenetically and possibly also genetically distinct from normal fibroblasts is beginning to define these cells as potential targets of anti-cancer therapy. Here, we review the cell of origin and molecular biology of CAFs, arguing that such knowledge provides a rational basis for designing therapeutic strategies to coordinately and synergistically target both the stromal and malignant epithelial component of human cancers.
PMCID: PMC3531978  PMID: 19840860
9.  Epigenomic insights into common disease 
Genome Medicine  2011;3(11):71.
A report on the Wellcome Trust Scientific Conference 'Epigenomics of Common Diseases', Hinxton, Cambridge, UK, September 13-16, 2011.
PMCID: PMC3308026  PMID: 22085423
10.  Polymorphisms in HSD17B1: Early Onset and Increased Risk of Alzheimer's Disease in Women with Down Syndrome 
Background/Aims. Genetic variants that affect estrogen activity may influence the risk of Alzheimer's disease (AD). In women with Down syndrome, we examined the relation of polymorphisms in hydroxysteroid-17beta-dehydrogenase (HSD17B1) to age at onset and risk of AD. HSD17B1 encodes the enzyme 17β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase (HSD1), which catalyzes the conversion of estrone to estradiol. Methods. Two hundred and thirty-eight women with DS, nondemented at baseline, 31–78 years of age, were followed at 14–18-month intervals for 4.5 years. Women were genotyped for 5 haplotype-tagging single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the HSD17B1 gene region, and their association with incident AD was examined. Results. Age at onset was earlier, and risk of AD was elevated from two- to threefold among women homozygous for the minor allele at 3 SNPs in intron 4 (rs676387), exon 6 (rs605059), and exon 4 in COASY (rs598126). Carriers of the haplotype TCC, based on the risk alleles for these three SNPs, had an almost twofold increased risk of developing AD (hazard ratio = 1.8, 95% CI, 1.1–3.1). Conclusion. These findings support experimental and clinical studies of the neuroprotective role of estrogen.
PMCID: PMC3310186  PMID: 22474448
11.  Bone marrow-derived myofibroblasts contribute to the mesenchymal stem cell niche and promote tumor growth 
Cancer cell  2011;19(2):257-272.
Carcinoma associated fibroblasts (CAFs) that express α-smooth-muscle-actin (αSMA) contribute to cancer progression, but their precise origin and role is unclear. Using mouse models of inflammation-induced gastric cancer, we show that at least 20% of CAFs originate from bone marrow (BM) and derive from mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs). αSMA+ myofibroblasts (MF) are niche cells normally present in BM and increase markedly during cancer progression. MSC-derived CAFs that are recruited to the dysplastic stomach express IL-6, Wnt5α and BMP4, show DNA-hypomethylation, and promote tumor growth. Moreover, CAFs are generated from MSCs and are recruited to the tumor in TGF-β- and SDF-1α-dependent manner. Carcinogenesis therefore involves expansion and relocation of BM-niche cells to the tumor to create a niche to sustain cancer progression.
PMCID: PMC3060401  PMID: 21316604
Tumor microenvironment; Stem Cells; Bone Marrow-derived Cells (BMDC); MSC; CAF; MF; Carcinogenesis
12.  Allele-specific DNA methylation: beyond imprinting 
Human Molecular Genetics  2010;19(R2):R210-R220.
Allele-specific DNA methylation (ASM) and allele-specific gene expression (ASE) have long been studied in genomic imprinting and X chromosome inactivation. But these types of allelic asymmetries, along with allele-specific transcription factor binding (ASTF), have turned out to be far more pervasive—affecting many non-imprinted autosomal genes in normal human tissues. ASM, ASE and ASTF have now been mapped genome-wide by microarray-based methods and NextGen sequencing. Multiple studies agree that all three types of allelic asymmetries, as well as the related phenomena of expression and methylation quantitative trait loci, are mostly accounted for by cis-acting regulatory polymorphisms. The precise mechanisms by which this occurs are not yet understood, but there are some testable hypotheses and already a few direct clues. Future challenges include achieving higher resolution maps to locate the epicenters of cis-regulated ASM, using this information to test mechanistic models, and applying genome-wide maps of ASE/ASM/ASTF to pinpoint functional regulatory polymorphisms influencing disease susceptibility.
PMCID: PMC2953749  PMID: 20855472
13.  The caBIG® Life Science Business Architecture Model 
Bioinformatics  2011;27(10):1429-1435.
Motivation: Business Architecture Models (BAMs) describe what a business does, who performs the activities, where and when activities are performed, how activities are accomplished and which data are present. The purpose of a BAM is to provide a common resource for understanding business functions and requirements and to guide software development. The cancer Biomedical Informatics Grid (caBIG®) Life Science BAM (LS BAM) provides a shared understanding of the vocabulary, goals and processes that are common in the business of LS research.
Results: LS BAM 1.1 includes 90 goals and 61 people and groups within Use Case and Activity Unified Modeling Language (UML) Diagrams. Here we report on the model's current release, LS BAM 1.1, its utility and usage, and plans for future use and continuing development for future releases.
Availability and Implementation: The LS BAM is freely available as UML, PDF and HTML (
Supplementary information: Supplementary data) are avaliable at Bioinformatics online.
PMCID: PMC3087952  PMID: 21450709
14.  Altered PET Functional Brain Responses in Cognitively Intact Elderly Persons at Risk for Alzheimer Disease (Carriers of the ε4 Allele) 
Few previous studies have investigated the association between APOE genotype and brain activation during performance of cognitive tasks in healthy middle-aged and elderly subjects, and the results have been mixed. The authors investigated APOE-mediated differential brain activation in a group of healthy elderly subjects.
Using H2 15O positron emission tomography (PET), they imaged 32 healthy subjects (26 non-ε4 carriers and 6 ε4 carriers) performing a serial shape-recognition memory task under two conditions: Simple Demand (SD), in which one shape was presented in each study trial, and Titrated Demand (TD), in which study list length was adjusted so that each subject recognized words at approximately 75% accuracy. Multiple-regression analyses were performed, with the “activation” difference (TD–SD PET counts) as the dependent variable and the APOE genotype (presence versus absence of the ε4 allele) as the independent variable.
Compared with non-carriers, ε4 carriers exhibited significantly decreased TD–SD activation differences in the left superior temporal, right superior frontal, left postcental, left precuneus, and posterior cingulate gyrus because ε4 carriers (versus non-carriers) showed increased activation during the SD and decreased activation during the TD condition.
Patterns of brain activation during a nonverbal memory task differed as a function of APOE genotype and, therefore, of genetic risk for Alzheimer disease (AD). Differences in activation were not a reflection of task difficulty, but indicate memory-related altered cognitive processing. Brain regions with decreased activation in the ε4 subjects may result from subclinical incipient AD pathology and/or APOE-related neurophysiologic heterogeneity.
PMCID: PMC3025285  PMID: 15545327
15.  Altered DNA Methylation in Leukocytes with Trisomy 21 
PLoS Genetics  2010;6(11):e1001212.
The primary abnormality in Down syndrome (DS), trisomy 21, is well known; but how this chromosomal gain produces the complex DS phenotype, including immune system defects, is not well understood. We profiled DNA methylation in total peripheral blood leukocytes (PBL) and T-lymphocytes from adults with DS and normal controls and found gene-specific abnormalities of CpG methylation in DS, with many of the differentially methylated genes having known or predicted roles in lymphocyte development and function. Validation of the microarray data by bisulfite sequencing and methylation-sensitive Pyrosequencing (MS-Pyroseq) confirmed strong differences in methylation (p<0.0001) for each of 8 genes tested: TMEM131, TCF7, CD3Z/CD247, SH3BP2, EIF4E, PLD6, SUMO3, and CPT1B, in DS versus control PBL. In addition, we validated differential methylation of NOD2/CARD15 by bisulfite sequencing in DS versus control T-cells. The differentially methylated genes were found on various autosomes, with no enrichment on chromosome 21. Differences in methylation were generally stable in a given individual, remained significant after adjusting for age, and were not due to altered cell counts. Some but not all of the differentially methylated genes showed different mean mRNA expression in DS versus control PBL; and the altered expression of 5 of these genes, TMEM131, TCF7, CD3Z, NOD2, and NPDC1, was recapitulated by exposing normal lymphocytes to the demethylating drug 5-aza-2′deoxycytidine (5aza-dC) plus mitogens. We conclude that altered gene-specific DNA methylation is a recurrent and functionally relevant downstream response to trisomy 21 in human cells.
Author Summary
Down syndrome (DS; trisomy 21) is caused by the gain of a single extra chromosome 21. However, the mechanisms by which this extra chromosome produces the medical abnormalities seen in DS, including not only mental retardation but also susceptibility to autoimmune diseases and recurrent infections, are still not understood. DNA methylation is a mechanism that might contribute to these abnormalities. To test this possibility, we profiled DNA methylation in white blood cells from adults with DS and normal controls and found recurrent abnormalities of gene methylation in DS, with several of the differentially methylated genes having roles in blood cells. Among the genes with hypo- or hyper-methylation in white blood cells or purified T-lymphocytes from adults with DS, compared to these same types of cells from normal adults, were TMEM131, TCF7, CD3Z, SH3BP2, EIF4E, SUMO3, CPT1B, NOD2/CARD15, NPDC1, and PLD6. Several of these genes showed not only different methylation but also different expression in DS versus control blood cells, which was recapitulated by exposing normal white blood cells to a demethylating drug. These findings show that altered DNA methylation of a specific group of genes is a fundamental cellular response to the gain of an extra chromosome 21 in humans. The abnormally methylated genes identified here may contribute to immune system abnormalities in people with DS.
PMCID: PMC2987931  PMID: 21124956
16.  Methods in DNA methylation profiling 
Epigenomics  2009;1(2):331-345.
Metastable and somatically heritable patterns of DNA methylation provide an important level of genomic regulation. In this article, we review methods for analyzing these genome-wide epigenetic patterns and offer a perspective on the ever-expanding literature, which we hope will be useful for investigators who are new to this area. The historical aspects that we cover will be helpful in interpreting this literature and we hope that our discussion of the newest analytical methods will stimulate future progress. We emphasize that no single approach can provide a complete view of the overall methylome, and that combinations of several modalities applied to the same sample set will give the clearest picture. Given the unexpected epigenomic patterns and new biological principles, as well as new disease markers, that have been uncovered in recent studies, it is likely that important discoveries will continue to be made using genome-wide DNA methylation profiling.
PMCID: PMC2880494  PMID: 20526417
bisulfite sequencing; CpG island; differential methylation hybridization; DNA methylation; methylation profiling; methylated CpG island recovery assay; methylated DNA immunoprecipitation; methylation-sensitive SNP chip analysis; next-generation DNA sequencing
17.  Genome-Wide Divergence of DNA Methylation Marks in Cerebral and Cerebellar Cortices 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(6):e11357.
Emerging evidence suggests that DNA methylation plays an expansive role in the central nervous system (CNS). Large-scale whole genome DNA methylation profiling of the normal human brain offers tremendous potential in understanding the role of DNA methylation in brain development and function.
Methodology/Significant Findings
Using methylation-sensitive SNP chip analysis (MSNP), we performed whole genome DNA methylation profiling of the prefrontal, occipital, and temporal regions of cerebral cortex, as well as cerebellum. These data provide an unbiased representation of CpG sites comprising 377,509 CpG dinucleotides within both the genic and intergenic euchromatic region of the genome. Our large-scale genome DNA methylation profiling reveals that the prefrontal, occipital, and temporal regions of the cerebral cortex compared to cerebellum have markedly different DNA methylation signatures, with the cerebral cortex being hypermethylated and cerebellum being hypomethylated. Such differences were observed in distinct genomic regions, including genes involved in CNS function. The MSNP data were validated for a subset of these genes, by performing bisulfite cloning and sequencing and confirming that prefrontal, occipital, and temporal cortices are significantly more methylated as compared to the cerebellum.
These findings are consistent with known developmental differences in nucleosome repeat lengths in cerebral and cerebellar cortices, with cerebrum exhibiting shorter repeat lengths than cerebellum. Our observed differences in DNA methylation profiles in these regions underscores the potential role of DNA methylation in chromatin structure and organization in CNS, reflecting functional specialization within cortical regions.
PMCID: PMC2893206  PMID: 20596539
Cancer research  2008;68(23):9900-9908.
Global loss of methylation has long been recognized as a feature of the malignant epithelial component in human carcinomas. Here we show evidence for this same type of epigenetic alteration in cancer-associated stromal myofibroblasts. We used methylation-sensitive SNP array analysis (MSNP) to profile DNA methylation in early passage cultures of stromal myofibroblasts isolated from human gastric cancers. The MSNP data indicated widespread loss of methylation in these cells, with rare focal gains of methylation, conclusions that were independently validated by bisulfite sequencing and by a methylation-sensitive cytosine incorporation assay. Immunohistochemistry (IHC) using anti-methylcytosine (anti-methyl-C) in a series of gastrectomy specimens showed frequent loss of methylation in nuclei of both the malignant epithelial cells and the alpha smooth muscle actin (ASMA)-positive stromal myofibroblasts of both intestinal type and diffuse carcinomas. We confirmed this phenomenon and established its onset at the stage of non-invasive dysplastic lesions by IHC for anti-methyl-C in a transgenic mouse model of multi-stage gastric carcinogenesis. These findings indicate similar general classes of epigenetic alterations in carcinoma cells and their accompanying reactive stromal cells and add to accumulating evidence for biological differences between normal and cancer-associated myofibroblasts.
PMCID: PMC2670548  PMID: 19047171
19.  Age-At-Onset Linkage Analysis in Caribbean Hispanics with Familial Late-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease 
Neurogenetics  2007;9(1):51-60.
The aim of the study was to identify chromosomal regions containing putative genetic variants influencing age-at-onset in familial late-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Data from a genome-wide scan that included genotyping of APOE was analyzed in 1,161 individuals from 209 families of Caribbean Hispanic ancestry with a mean age-at-onset of 73.3 years multiply affected by late-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Two-point and multipoint analyses were conducted using variance component methods from 376 microsatellite markers with an average inter-marker distance of 9.3 cM. Family-based test of association were also conducted for the same set of markers. Age-at-onset of symptoms among affected individuals was used as the quantitative trait. Our results showed that the presence of APOE-ε4 lowered the age-at-onset by three years. Using linkage analysis strategy, the highest LOD scores were obtained using a conservative definition of LOAD at 5q15 (LOD 3.1) 17q25.1 (LOD=2.94) and 14q32.12 (LOD=2.36) and 7q36.3 (LOD=2.29) in covariate adjusted models that included APOE-ε4. Both linkage and family-based association identified 17p13 as a candidate region. In addition, family-based association analysis showed markers at 12q13 (p=0.00002), 13q (p=0.00043) and 14q23 (p=0.00046) to be significantly associated with age at onset. The current study supports the hypothesis that there are additional genetic loci that could influence age-at-onset of late onset Alzheimer’s disease. The novel loci at 5q15, 17q25.1, 13q and 17p13, and the previously reported loci at 7q36.3, 12q13, 14q23 and 14q32 need further investigation.
PMCID: PMC2701253  PMID: 17940814
Alzheimer’s disease; age-at-onset; linkage analysis; family-based association analysis; APOE
20.  The Association Between Genetic Variants in SORL1 and Alzheimer’s Disease in an Urban, Multiethnic, Community-Based Cohort 
Archives of neurology  2007;64(4):501-506.
Variants in 3′ and 5′ regions of SORL1, the neuronal sorting protein-related receptor, were recently found to be associated with late onset familial and sporadic Alzheimer’s disease in several datasets that were selected for familial aggregation or were ethnically diverse or clinic-based selected series.
To investigate the association between Alzheimer’s disease and variant alleles in SORL1 using a series of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in an urban, multiethnic community-based population.
Design & Setting
We used a nested case-control analysis in a population-based, prospective study of aging and dementia in Medicare recipients, 65 years and older, residing in northern Manhattan.
There were 296 patients with probable Alzheimer’s disease and 428 healthy elderly controls. The participants were of African American (34%), Caribbean Hispanic (51%) or non-Hispanic whites (15%).
Main Outcome Measures
We genotyped all 29 SNPs in SORL1 that were examined in the earlier report. We assessed allelic association with AD using standard case-control methods which included APOE genotype as a covariate.
Several individual SNPs and SNP haplotypes were significantly associated with AD in this prospectively collected community-based cohort, confirming the previously reported positive association of SORL1 with Alzheimer’s disease. SNP 12 near the 5′ region was associated with AD in African-Americans and Hispanics. Two SNPs in the 3′ region were also associated with AD in African-Americans (SNP 26) and Whites (SNP 20). A single haplotype in the 3′ region was associated with AD in Hispanics. However, several different haplotypes were associated with AD in the African-Americans and Whites, including the “TTC” haplotypes at SNPs 23–25 (p=0.035) that was significantly associated with AD in the North European Whites in the previous report.
This study confirms the association between genetic variants in SORL1 and AD. While the associations observed in these datasets overlap with those previously reported, the finding of novel SNP and haplotype associations suggest that there may be extensive allelic heterogeneity in SORL1. Broad regions of the SORL1 gene will therefore need to be scrutinized for functional pathogenic variants.
PMCID: PMC2639214  PMID: 17420311
SORL1; Alzheimer’s disease; sporadic; African American; Caribbean Hispanic
21.  Estrogen Receptor-α variants increase risk of Alzheimer’s Disease in women with Down syndrome 
Genetic variants that affect estrogen activity may influence the risk of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Two tightly linked polymorphisms (PvuII and XbaI) in the first intron of estrogen receptor 1 (ESR1), the gene for ER-α, have been reported to influence estrogen receptor expression and may influence the risk of AD.
We examined the relation of polymorphisms in ESR1 to the risk of AD in women with Down syndrome. The subjects (181 women with DS, 41–78 years of age) were followed at 14- to 18-month intervals. Information from cognitive assessments, caregiver interviews, medical record reviews and neurological examinations was used to classify dementia. Genomic DNA was genotyped for 5 single-nucleotide polymorphisms in the upstream region and the first exon/intron of the ESR1 gene. Their association with dementia risk was evaluated, adjusting for covariates.
Women with at least 1 copy of the C allele at rs2234693 (PvuII) and those homozygous for the C allele at rs2077647 had an almost 3-fold increase in the risk of AD, compared with women without the C allele. The increased risks were independent of the apolipoprotein E genotype.
These findings support a role for estrogen receptor activity in the development of AD in women with Down syndrome.
PMCID: PMC2430887  PMID: 18408366
Estrogen; Estrogen receptor-α; Down syndrome; Alzheimer’s disease
22.  Cholesterol Level, Statin Use and Alzheimer's Disease in Adults with Down Syndrome 
Neuroscience letters  2007;416(3):279-284.
Adults with Down syndrome (DS) are at significantly higher risk of Alzheimer's disease (AD) than the general population, but there is considerable variability in age at onset. This study tested the hypothesis that total cholesterol (TC) levels are related to vulnerability, and that the use of statins may decrease risk. The relation of TC level and statin use to risk of AD was investigated in 123 Caucasian adults with DS. Evaluations included serial assessments of cognitive, adaptive and maladaptive behavior, medical records, and neurological examinations. Mean length of follow-up was 5.5 years [1.2-7.1] for the entire sample, 5.1 years [1.2-7.1] for subjects who developed dementia, and 5.6 years [1.5-7.1] for those who did not develop dementia. Controlling for covariates, participants with TC ≥ 200mg/dL were more than two times as likely to develop AD than subjects with lower TC [Hazard Rate (HR) = 2.59, p = .029, 95% CI: 1.1,6.1]. In contrast, participants with higher TC levels who used statins during the study, had less than half the risk of developing AD than participants with higher TC levels who did not use statins (HR = .402, p = .095, 95% CI: .138, 1.173). If the protective effects of statins can be further validated, these findings suggest that their use may delay or prevent AD onset in vulnerable populations.
PMCID: PMC1892238  PMID: 17353095
Statins; Alzheimer's disease; Down syndrome; cholesterol
23.  A Pathologic Link between Wilms Tumor Suppressor Gene, WT1, and IFI1612 
Neoplasia (New York, N.Y.)  2008;10(1):69-78.
The Wilms tumor gene (WT1) is mutated or deleted in patients with heredofamilial syndromes associated with the development of Wilms tumors, but is infrequently mutated in sporadic Wilms tumors. By comparing the microarray profiles of syndromic versus sporadic Wilms tumors and WT1-inducible Saos-2 osteosarcoma cells, we identified interferon-inducible protein 16 (IFI16), a transcriptional modulator, as a differentially expressed gene and a candidate WT1 target gene. WT1 induction in Saos-2 osteosarcoma cells led to strong induction of IFI16 expression and its promoter activity was responsive to the WT1 protein. Immunohistochemical analysis showed that IFI16 and WT1 colocalized in WT1-replete Wilms tumors, but not in normal human midgestation fetal kidneys, suggesting that the ability of WT1 to regulate IFI16 in tumors represented an aberrant pathologic relationship. In addition, endogenous IFI16 and WT1 interacted in vivo in two Wilms tumor cell lines. Furthermore, IFI16 augmented the transcriptional activity of WT1 on both synthetic and physiological promoters. Strikingly, short hairpin RNA (shRNA)-mediated knockdown of either IFI16 or WT1 led to decreased growth of Wilms tumor cells. These data suggest that IFI16 and WT1, in certain cellular context including sporadic Wilms tumors, may support cell survival.
PMCID: PMC2213901  PMID: 18231640
24.  Wnt5a Signaling Induces Proliferation and Survival of Endothelial Cells In Vitro and Expression of MMP-1 and Tie-2 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2006;17(12):5163-5172.
Wnts are lipid-modified secreted glycoproteins that regulate diverse biological processes. We report that Wnt5a, which functions in noncanonical Wnt signaling, has activity on endothelial cells. Wnt5a is endogenously expressed in human primary endothelial cells and is expressed in murine vasculature at several sites in mouse embryos and tissues. Expression of exogenous Wnt5a in human endothelial cells promoted angiogenesis. Wnt5a induced noncanonical Wnt signaling in endothelial cells, as measured by Dishevelled and ERK1/2 phosphorylation, and inhibition of canonical Wnt signaling, a known property of Wnt5a. Wnt5a induced endothelial cell proliferation and enhanced cell survival under serum-deprived conditions. The Wnt5a-mediated proliferation was blocked by Frizzled-4 extracellular domain. Wnt5a expression enhanced capillary-like network formation, whereas reduction of Wnt5a expression decreased network formation. Reduced Wnt5a expression inhibited endothelial cell migration. Screening for Wnt5a-regulated genes in cultured endothelial cells identified several encoding angiogenic regulators, including matrix metalloproteinase-1, an interstitial collagenase, and Tie-2, a receptor for angiopoietins. Thus, Wnt5a acts through noncanonical Wnt signaling to promote angiogenesis.
PMCID: PMC1679681  PMID: 17035633
25.  Cell type-specific over-expression of chromosome 21 genes in fibroblasts and fetal hearts with trisomy 21 
BMC Medical Genetics  2006;7:24.
Down syndrome (DS) is caused by trisomy 21 (+21), but the aberrations in gene expression resulting from this chromosomal aneuploidy are not yet completely understood.
We used oligonucleotide microarrays to survey mRNA expression in early- and late-passage control and +21 fibroblasts and mid-gestation fetal hearts. We supplemented this analysis with northern blotting, western blotting, real-time RT-PCR, and immunohistochemistry.
We found chromosome 21 genes consistently over-represented among the genes over-expressed in the +21 samples. However, these sets of over-expressed genes differed across the three cell/tissue types. The chromosome 21 gene MX1 was strongly over-expressed (mean 16-fold) in senescent +21 fibroblasts, a result verified by northern and western blotting. MX1 is an interferon target gene, and its mRNA was induced by interferons present in +21 fibroblast conditioned medium, suggesting an autocrine loop for its over-expression. By immunohistochemistry the p78MX1 protein was induced in lesional tissue of alopecia areata, an autoimmune disorder associated with DS. We found strong over-expression of the purine biosynthesis gene GART (mean 3-fold) in fetal hearts with +21 and verified this result by northern blotting and real-time RT-PCR.
Different subsets of chromosome 21 genes are over-expressed in different cell types with +21, and for some genes this over-expression is non-linear (>1.5X). Hyperactive interferon signaling is a candidate pathway for cell senescence and autoimmune disorders in DS, and abnormal purine metabolism should be investigated for a potential role in cardiac defects.
PMCID: PMC1435874  PMID: 16539728

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