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1.  Identification of a Novel Gene for Diabetic Traits in Rats, Mice, and Humans 
Genetics  2014;198(1):17-29.
The genetic basis of type 2 diabetes remains incompletely defined despite the use of multiple genetic strategies. Multiparental populations such as heterogeneous stocks (HS) facilitate gene discovery by allowing fine mapping to only a few megabases, significantly decreasing the number of potential candidate genes compared to traditional mapping strategies. In the present work, we employed expression and sequence analysis in HS rats (Rattus norvegicus) to identify Tpcn2 as a likely causal gene underlying a 3.1-Mb locus for glucose and insulin levels. Global gene expression analysis on liver identified Tpcn2 as the only gene in the region that is differentially expressed between HS rats with glucose intolerance and those with normal glucose regulation. Tpcn2 also maps as a cis-regulating expression QTL and is negatively correlated with fasting glucose levels. We used founder sequence to identify variants within this region and assessed association between 18 variants and diabetic traits by conducting a mixed-model analysis, accounting for the complex family structure of the HS. We found that two variants were significantly associated with fasting glucose levels, including a nonsynonymous coding variant within Tpcn2. Studies in Tpcn2 knockout mice demonstrated a significant decrease in fasting glucose levels and insulin response to a glucose challenge relative to those in wild-type mice. Finally, we identified variants within Tpcn2 that are associated with fasting insulin in humans. These studies indicate that Tpcn2 is a likely causal gene that may play a role in human diabetes and demonstrate the utility of multiparental populations for positionally cloning genes within complex loci.
PMCID: PMC4174929  PMID: 25236446
Tpcn2; heterogeneous stock rats; expression QTL mapping; type 2 diabetes; glucose; insulin; Multiparent Advanced Generation Inter-Cross (MAGIC); multiparental populations; MPP; gene mapping
2.  IreB, a Ser/Thr Kinase Substrate, Influences Antimicrobial Resistance in Enterococcus faecalis 
Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy  2013;57(12):6179-6186.
Enterococcus faecalis is a Gram-positive bacterium that is a major cause of hospital-acquired infections, in part due to its intrinsic resistance to cephalosporins. The mechanism that confers intrinsic cephalosporin resistance in enterococci remains incompletely defined. Previously, we have shown that the Ser/Thr protein kinase and phosphatase pair IreK and IreP act antagonistically to regulate cephalosporin resistance in E. faecalis. We hypothesize that IreK senses antibiotic-induced cell wall damage and activates a signaling pathway leading to antibiotic resistance. However, the factors downstream of IreK have not yet been identified. To discover such factors, suppressor mutations that restored resistance to a ΔireK kinase mutant were identified. Mutations were found in IreB, a highly conserved gene of unknown function that is widespread among low-GC Gram-positive bacteria. We show that IreB plays a negative regulatory role in cephalosporin resistance and is an endogenous substrate of both IreK and IreP. IreB is phosphorylated on conserved threonine residues, and mutations at these sites impair cephalosporin resistance. Our results are consistent with a model in which the activity of IreB is modulated by IreK-dependent phosphorylation in a signaling pathway required for cephalosporin resistance and begin to shed light on the function of this previously uncharacterized protein.
PMCID: PMC3837872  PMID: 24080657
3.  Genome Sequencing Reveals Loci under Artificial Selection that Underlie Disease Phenotypes in the Laboratory Rat 
Cell  2013;154(3):691-703.
Large numbers of inbred laboratory rat strains have been developed for a range of complex disease phenotypes. To gain insights into the evolutionary pressures underlying selection for these phenotypes, we sequenced the genomes of 27 rat strains, including 11 models of hypertension, diabetes, and insulin resistance, along with their respective control strains. Altogether, we identified more than 13 million single-nucleotide variants, indels, and structural variants across these rat strains. Analysis of strain-specific selective sweeps and gene clusters implicated genes and pathways involved in cation transport, angiotensin production, and regulators of oxidative stress in the development of cardiovascular disease phenotypes in rats. Many of the rat loci that we identified overlap with previously mapped loci for related traits in humans, indicating the presence of shared pathways underlying these phenotypes in rats and humans. These data represent a step change in resources available for evolutionary analysis of complex traits in disease models.
Graphical Abstract
•Genomes of 27 rat strains were sequenced; >13 million sequence variants identified•Selective sweeps and coevolved gene clusters were detected in 11 disease models•Previously identified and new disease genes and pathways were identified•This is first evolutionary analysis of artificial selection for disease phenotypes
Evolution analysis of artificial selection for disease phenotypes, such as hypertension and diabetes, in 27 rat strains reveals disease-related variants and loci.
PMCID: PMC3732391  PMID: 23890820
4.  Identification of somatic mutations in non-small cell lung carcinomas using whole-exome sequencing 
Carcinogenesis  2012;33(7):1270-1276.
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related death, with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) being the predominant form of the disease. Most lung cancer is caused by the accumulation of genomic alterations due to tobacco exposure. To uncover its mutational landscape, we performed whole-exome sequencing in 31 NSCLCs and their matched normal tissue samples. We identified both common and unique mutation spectra and pathway activation in lung adenocarcinomas and squamous cell carcinomas, two major histologies in NSCLC. In addition to identifying previously known lung cancer genes (TP53, KRAS, EGFR, CDKN2A and RB1), the analysis revealed many genes not previously implicated in this malignancy. Notably, a novel gene CSMD3 was identified as the second most frequently mutated gene (next to TP53) in lung cancer. We further demonstrated that loss of CSMD3 results in increased proliferation of airway epithelial cells. The study provides unprecedented insights into mutational processes, cellular pathways and gene networks associated with lung cancer. Of potential immediate clinical relevance, several highly mutated genes identified in our study are promising druggable targets in cancer therapy including ALK, CTNNA3, DCC, MLL3, PCDHIIX, PIK3C2B, PIK3CG and ROCK2.
PMCID: PMC3499051  PMID: 22510280
5.  Characterization of human plasma-derived exosomal RNAs by deep sequencing 
BMC Genomics  2013;14:319.
Exosomes, endosome-derived membrane microvesicles, contain specific RNA transcripts that are thought to be involved in cell-cell communication. These RNA transcripts have great potential as disease biomarkers. To characterize exosomal RNA profiles systemically, we performed RNA sequencing analysis using three human plasma samples and evaluated the efficacies of small RNA library preparation protocols from three manufacturers. In all we evaluated 14 libraries (7 replicates).
From the 14 size-selected sequencing libraries, we obtained a total of 101.8 million raw single-end reads, an average of about 7.27 million reads per library. Sequence analysis showed that there was a diverse collection of the exosomal RNA species among which microRNAs (miRNAs) were the most abundant, making up over 42.32% of all raw reads and 76.20% of all mappable reads. At the current read depth, 593 miRNAs were detectable. The five most common miRNAs (miR-99a-5p, miR-128, miR-124-3p, miR-22-3p, and miR-99b-5p) collectively accounted for 48.99% of all mappable miRNA sequences. MiRNA target gene enrichment analysis suggested that the highly abundant miRNAs may play an important role in biological functions such as protein phosphorylation, RNA splicing, chromosomal abnormality, and angiogenesis. From the unknown RNA sequences, we predicted 185 potential miRNA candidates. Furthermore, we detected significant fractions of other RNA species including ribosomal RNA (9.16% of all mappable counts), long non-coding RNA (3.36%), piwi-interacting RNA (1.31%), transfer RNA (1.24%), small nuclear RNA (0.18%), and small nucleolar RNA (0.01%); fragments of coding sequence (1.36%), 5′ untranslated region (0.21%), and 3′ untranslated region (0.54%) were also present. In addition to the RNA composition of the libraries, we found that the three tested commercial kits generated a sufficient number of DNA fragments for sequencing but each had significant bias toward capturing specific RNAs.
This study demonstrated that a wide variety of RNA species are embedded in the circulating vesicles. To our knowledge, this is the first report that applied deep sequencing to discover and characterize profiles of plasma-derived exosomal RNAs. Further characterization of these extracellular RNAs in diverse human populations will provide reference profiles and open new doors for the development of blood-based biomarkers for human diseases.
PMCID: PMC3653748  PMID: 23663360
Exosome; microRNA; Next generation sequencing; Plasma; Biomarker
7.  Utilization of a labeled tracking oligonucleotide for visualization and quality control of spotted 70-mer arrays 
BMC Genomics  2004;5:12.
Spotted 70-mer oligonucleotide arrays offer potentially greater specificity and an alternative to expensive cDNA library maintenance and amplification. Since microarray fabrication is a considerable source of data variance, we previously directly tagged cDNA probes with a third fluorophore for prehybridization quality control. Fluorescently modifying oligonucleotide sets is cost prohibitive, therefore, a co-spotted Staphylococcus aureus-specific fluorescein-labeled "tracking" oligonucleotide is described to monitor fabrication variables of a Mycobacterium tuberculosis oligonucleotide microarray.
Significantly (p < 0.01) improved DNA retention was achieved printing in 15% DMSO/1.5 M betaine compared to the vendor recommended buffers. Introduction of tracking oligonucleotide did not effect hybridization efficiency or introduce ratio measurement bias in hybridizations between M. tuberculosis H37Rv and M. tuberculosis mprA. Linearity between the mean log Cy3/Cy5 ratios of genes differentially expressed from arrays either possessing or lacking the tracking oligonucleotide was observed (R2 = 0.90, p < 0.05) and there were no significant differences in Pearson's correlation coefficients of ratio data between replicates possessing (0.72 ± 0.07), replicates lacking (0.74 ± 0.10), or replicates with and without (0.70 ± 0.04) the tracking oligonucleotide. ANOVA analysis confirmed the tracking oligonucleotide introduced no bias. Titrating target-specific oligonucleotide (40 μM to 0.78 μM) in the presence of 0.5 μM tracking oligonucleotide, revealed a fluorescein fluorescence inversely related to target-specific oligonucleotide molarity, making tracking oligonucleotide signal useful for quality control measurements and differentiating false negatives (synthesis failures and mechanical misses) from true negatives (no gene expression).
This novel approach enables prehybridization array visualization for spotted oligonucleotide arrays and sets the stage for more sophisticated slide qualification and data filtering applications.
PMCID: PMC362869  PMID: 15018646
Spotted oligonucleotide arrays; 70-mers; gene expression analysis
8.  Genetically Hypertensive Brown Norway Congenic Rat Strains Suggest Intermediate Traits Underlying Genetic Hypertension 
Croatian Medical Journal  2008;49(5):586-599.
To determine the independent and combined effects of three quantitative trait loci (QTL) for blood pressure in the Genetically Hypertensive (GH/Omr) rat by generating and characterizing single and combined congenic strains that have QTL on rat chromosomes (RNO) 2, 6, and 18 from the GH rat introduced into a hypertension resistant Brown Norway (BN) background.
Linkage analysis and QTL identification (genome wide QTL scan) were performed with MapMaker/EXP to build the genetic maps and MapMaker/QTL for linking the phenotypes to the genetic map. The congenic strains were derived using marker-assisted selection strategy from a single male F1 offspring of an intercross between the male GH/Omr and female BN/Elh, followed by 10 generations of selective backcrossing to the female BN progenitor strain. Single congenic strains generated were BN.GH-(D2Rat22-D2Mgh11)/Mcwi (BN.GH2); BN.GH-(D6Mit12-D6Rat15)/Mcwi (BN.GH6); and BN.GH-(D18Rat41-D18Mgh4)/Mcwi (BN.GH18). Blood pressure measurements were obtained either via a catheter placed in the femoral artery or by radiotelemetry in the single and combined congenics. Responses to angiotensin II (ANGII), norepinephrine (NE), and baroreceptor sensitivity were measured in the single congenics.
Transferring one or more QTL from the hypertensive GH into normotensive BN strain was not sufficient to cause hypertension in any of the developed congenic strains. There were no differences between the parental and congenic strains in their response to NE. However, BN.GH18 rats demonstrated significantly lower baroreceptor sensitivity (β = -1.25 ± 0.17), whereas BN.GH2 (β = 0.66 ± 0.09) and BN.GH18 (β = 0.71 ± 0.07) had significantly decreased responses to ANGII from those observed in the BN (β = 0.88 ± 0.08).
The failure to alter blood pressure levels by introducing the hypertensive QTL from the GH into the hypertension resistant BN background suggests that the QTL effects are genome background-dependent in the GH rat. BN.GH2 and BN.GH18 rats reveal significant differences in response to ANGII and impaired baroreflex sensitivity, suggesting that we may have captured a locus responsible for the genetic control of baroreceptor sensitivity, which would be considered an intermediate phenotype of blood pressure.
PMCID: PMC2582351  PMID: 18925692

Results 1-8 (8)