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1.  Imputation and quality control steps for combining multiple genome-wide datasets 
Frontiers in Genetics  2014;5:370.
The electronic MEdical Records and GEnomics (eMERGE) network brings together DNA biobanks linked to electronic health records (EHRs) from multiple institutions. Approximately 51,000 DNA samples from distinct individuals have been genotyped using genome-wide SNP arrays across the nine sites of the network. The eMERGE Coordinating Center and the Genomics Workgroup developed a pipeline to impute and merge genomic data across the different SNP arrays to maximize sample size and power to detect associations with a variety of clinical endpoints. The 1000 Genomes cosmopolitan reference panel was used for imputation. Imputation results were evaluated using the following metrics: accuracy of imputation, allelic R2 (estimated correlation between the imputed and true genotypes), and the relationship between allelic R2 and minor allele frequency. Computation time and memory resources required by two different software packages (BEAGLE and IMPUTE2) were also evaluated. A number of challenges were encountered due to the complexity of using two different imputation software packages, multiple ancestral populations, and many different genotyping platforms. We present lessons learned and describe the pipeline implemented here to impute and merge genomic data sets. The eMERGE imputed dataset will serve as a valuable resource for discovery, leveraging the clinical data that can be mined from the EHR.
PMCID: PMC4263197  PMID: 25566314
imputation; genome-wide association; eMERGE; electronic health records
2.  Novel pathways in the pathobiology of human abdominal aortic aneurysms 
Abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA), a dilatation of the infrarenal aorta, typically affects males > 65 years. The pathobiological mechanisms of human AAA are poorly understood. The goal of this study was to identify novel pathways involved in the development of AAAs.
A custom-designed “AAA-chip” was used to assay 43 of the differentially expressed genes identified in a previously published microarray study between AAA (n = 15) and control (n = 15) infrarenal abdominal aorta. Protein analyses were performed on selected genes.
Altogether 38 of the 43 genes on the “AAA-chip” showed significantly different expression. Novel validated genes in AAA pathobiology included ADCY7, ARL4C, BLNK, FOSB, GATM, LYZ, MFGE8, PRUNE2, PTPRC, SMTN, TMODI and TPM2. These genes represent a wide range of biological functions, such as calcium signaling, development and differentiation, as well as cell adhesion not previously implicated in AAA pathobiology. Protein analyses for GATM, CD4, CXCR4, BLNK, PLEK, LYZ, FOSB, DUSP6, ITGA5 and PTPRC confirmed the mRNA findings.
The results provide new directions for future research into AAA pathogenesis to study the role of novel genes confirmed here. New treatments and diagnostic tools for AAA could potentially be identified by studying these novel pathways.
PMCID: PMC3782105  PMID: 22797469
gene expression; vascular biology; aorta; abdominal aortic aneurysm
3.  Role of Complement Cascade in Abdominal Aortic Aneurysms 
The goal of this study was to investigate the role of complement cascade genes in the pathobiology of human abdominal aortic aneurysms (AAAs).
Methods and Results
Results of a genome-wide microarray expression profiling revealed 3,274 differentially expressed genes between aneurysmal and control aortic tissue. Interestingly, 13 genes in the complement cascade were significantly differentially expressed between AAA and the controls. In silico analysis of the promoters of the 13 complement cascade genes showed enrichment for transcription factor binding sites for STAT5A. Chromatin-immunoprecipitation experiments demonstrated binding of transcription factor STAT5A to the promoters of the majority of the complement cascade genes. Immunohistochemical analysis showed strong staining for C2 in AAA tissues.
These results provide strong evidence that the complement cascade plays a role in human AAA. Based on our microarray studies, the pathway is activated in AAA, particularly via the lectin and classical pathways. The overrepresented binding sites of transcription factor STAT5A in the complement cascade gene promoters suggest a role for STAT5A in the coordinated regulation of complement cascade gene expression.
PMCID: PMC3712630  PMID: 21493888
Abdominal aortic aneurysm; complement cascade; genetic association study; STAT5; chromatin immunoprecipitation
4.  MicroRNA expression signature in human abdominal aortic aneurysms 
BMC Medical Genomics  2012;5:25.
Abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) is a dilatation of the aorta affecting most frequently elderly men. Histologically AAAs are characterized by inflammation, vascular smooth muscle cell apoptosis, and extracellular matrix degradation. The mechanisms of AAA formation, progression, and rupture are currently poorly understood. A previous mRNA expression study revealed a large number of differentially expressed genes between AAA and non-aneurysmal control aortas. MicroRNAs (miRNAs), small non-coding RNAs that are post-transcriptional regulators of gene expression, could provide a mechanism for the differential expression of genes in AAA.
To determine differences in miRNA levels between AAA (n = 5) and control (n = 5) infrarenal aortic tissues, a microarray study was carried out. Results were adjusted using Benjamini-Hochberg correction (adjusted p < 0.05). Real-time quantitative RT-PCR (qRT-PCR) assays with an independent set of 36 AAA and seven control tissues were used for validation. Potential gene targets were retrieved from miRNA target prediction databases Pictar, TargetScan, and MiRTarget2. Networks from the target gene set were generated and examined using the network analysis programs, CytoScape® and Ingenuity Pathway Core Analysis®.
A microarray study identified eight miRNAs with significantly different expression levels between AAA and controls (adjusted p < 0.05). Real-time qRT-PCR assays validated the findings for five of the eight miRNAs. A total of 222 predicted miRNA target genes known to be differentially expressed in AAA based on a prior mRNA microarray study were identified. Bioinformatic analyses revealed that several target genes are involved in apoptosis and activation of T cells.
Our genome-wide approach revealed several differentially expressed miRNAs in human AAA tissue suggesting that miRNAs play a role in AAA pathogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3507654  PMID: 22704053
Apoptosis; Microarray analysis; Vascular biology; miRNA-mRNA analysis; Network analysis
5.  Regional expression of HOXA4 along the aorta and its potential role in human abdominal aortic aneurysms 
BMC Physiology  2011;11:9.
The infrarenal abdominal aorta exhibits increased disease susceptibility relative to other aortic regions. Allograft studies exchanging thoracic and abdominal segments showed that regional susceptibility is maintained regardless of location, suggesting substantial roles for embryological origin, tissue composition and site-specific gene expression.
We analyzed gene expression with microarrays in baboon aortas, and found that members of the HOX gene family exhibited spatial expression differences. HOXA4 was chosen for further study, since it had decreased expression in the abdominal compared to the thoracic aorta. Western blot analysis from 24 human aortas demonstrated significantly higher HOXA4 protein levels in thoracic compared to abdominal tissues (P < 0.001). Immunohistochemical staining for HOXA4 showed nuclear and perinuclear staining in endothelial and smooth muscle cells in aorta. The HOXA4 transcript levels were significantly decreased in human abdominal aortic aneurysms (AAAs) compared to age-matched non-aneurysmal controls (P < 0.00004). Cultured human aortic endothelial and smooth muscle cells stimulated with INF-γ (an important inflammatory cytokine in AAA pathogenesis) showed decreased levels of HOXA4 protein (P < 0.0007).
Our results demonstrated spatial variation in expression of HOXA4 in human aortas that persisted into adulthood and that downregulation of HOXA4 expression was associated with AAAs, an important aortic disease of the ageing population.
PMCID: PMC3125234  PMID: 21627813

Results 1-5 (5)