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1.  A-Subclass ATP-Binding Cassette Proteins in Brain Lipid Homeostasis and Neurodegeneration 
The A-subclass of ATP-binding cassette (ABC) transporters comprises 12 structurally related members of the evolutionarily highly conserved superfamily of ABC transporters. ABCA transporters represent a subgroup of “full-size” multispan transporters of which several members have been shown to mediate the transport of a variety of physiologic lipid compounds across membrane barriers. The importance of ABCA transporters in human disease is documented by the observations that so far four members of this protein family (ABCA1, ABCA3, ABCA4, ABCA12) have been causatively linked to monogenetic disorders including familial high-density lipoprotein deficiency, neonatal surfactant deficiency, degenerative retinopathies, and congenital keratinization disorders. Recent research also point to a significant contribution of several A-subfamily ABC transporters to neurodegenerative diseases, in particular Alzheimer’s disease (AD). This review will give a summary of our current knowledge of the A-subclass of ABC transporters with a special focus on brain lipid homeostasis and their involvement in AD.
PMCID: PMC3293240  PMID: 22403555
ATP-binding cassette transporter; Alzheimer’s disease
2.  RNA-Sequencing Analysis of HepG2 Cells Treated with Atorvastatin 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(8):e105836.
The cholesterol-lowering drug atorvastatin is among the most prescribed drug in the world. Alternative splicing in a number of genes has been reported to be associated with variable statin response. RNA-seq has proven to be a powerful technique for genome-wide splice variant analysis. In the present study, we sought to investigate atorvastatin responsive splice variants in HepG2 cells using RNA-seq analysis to identify novel candidate genes implicated in cholesterol homeostasis and in the statin response. HepG2 cells were treated with 10 µM atorvastatin for 24 hours. RNA-seq and exon array analyses were performed. The validation of selected genes was performed using Taqman gene expression assays. RNA-seq analysis identified 121 genes and 98 specific splice variants, of which four were minor splice variants to be differentially expressed, 11 were genes with potential changes in their splicing patterns (SYCP3, ZNF195, ZNF674, MYD88, WHSC1, KIF16B, ZNF92, AGER, FCHO1, SLC6A12 and AKAP9), and one was a gene (RAP1GAP) with differential promoter usage. The IL21R transcript was detected to be differentially expressed via RNA-seq and RT-qPCR, but not in the exon array. In conclusion, several novel candidate genes that are affected by atorvastatin treatment were identified in this study. Further studies are needed to determine the biological significance of the atorvastatin responsive splice variants that have been uniquely identified using RNA-seq.
PMCID: PMC4143339  PMID: 25153832
3.  Serum Bilirubin Concentration in Healthy Adult North-Europeans Is Strictly Controlled by the UGT1A1 TA-Repeat Variants 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(2):e90248.
The major enzyme responsible for the glucuronidation of bilirubin is the uridine 5′-diphosphoglucose glucuronosyltransferase A1 (UGT1A1) enzyme, and genetic variation in the UGT1A1 gene is reported to influence the bilirubin concentration in the blood. In this study, we have investigated which gene-/haplotype variants may be useful for genetic testing of Gilbert's syndrome. Two groups of samples based on serum bilirubin concentrations were obtained from the Nordic Reference Interval Project Bio-bank and Database (NOBIDA): the 150 individuals with the highest bilirubin (>17.5 µmol/L) and the 150 individuals with normal bilirubin concentrations (<17.5 µmol/L). The individuals were examined for the TA6>TA7 variant in the UGT1A1 promoter and 7 tag-SNPs in an extended promoter region of UGT1A1 (haplotype analysis) and in selected SNPs in candidate genes (SLCO1B3, ABCC2 and NUP153). We found significant odds ratios for high bilirubin level for all the selected UGT1A1 variants. However, in stepwise multivariate logistic regression analysis of all genetic variants together with age, sex, country of origin and fasting time, the repeat variants of UGT1A1 TA6>TA7 and SLCO1B3 rs2117032 T>C were the only variants significantly associated with higher bilirubin concentrations. Most individuals with high bilirubin levels were homozygous for the TA7-repeat (74%) while only 3% were homozygous for the TA7-repeat in individuals with normal bilirubin levels. Among individuals heterozygous for the TA7-repeat, a low frequent UGT1A1-diplotype harboring the rs7564935 G-variant was associated with higher bilirubin levels. In conclusion, our results demonstrate that in testing for Gilbert's syndrome, analyzing for the homozygous TA7/TA7-genotype would be appropriate.
PMCID: PMC3938665  PMID: 24587300
4.  Rapid and reliable detection of α-globin copy number variations by quantitative real-time PCR 
BMC Hematology  2014;14:4.
Alpha-thalassemia is the most common human genetic disease worldwide. Copy number variations in the form of deletions of α-globin genes lead to α-thalassemia while duplications of α-globin genes can cause a severe phenotype in β-thalassemia carriers due to accentuation of globin chain imbalance. It is important to have simple and reliable methods to identify unknown or rare deletions and duplications in cases in which thalassemia is suspected but cannot be confirmed by multiplex gap-PCR. Here we describe a copy number variation assay to detect deletions and duplications in the α-globin gene cluster (HBA-CNV).
Quantitative real-time PCR was performed using four TaqMan® assays which specifically amplify target sequences representing both the α-globin genes, the –α3.7 deletion and the HS-40 region. The copy number for each target was determined by the 2-ΔΔCq method. To validate our method, we compared the HBA-CNV method with traditional gap-PCR in 108 samples from patients referred to our laboratory for hemoglobinopathy evaluation. To determine the robustness of the four assays, we analyzed samples with and without deletions diluted to obtain different DNA concentrations. The HBA-CNV method identified the correct copy numbers in all 108 samples. All four assays showed the correct copy number within a wide range of DNA concentrations (3.2-100 ng/μL), showing that it is a robust and reliable method. By using the method in routine diagnostics of hemoglobinopathies we have also identified several deletions and duplications that are not detected with conventional gap-PCR.
HBA-CNV is able to detect all known large deletions and duplications affecting the α-globin genes, providing a flexible and simple workflow with rapid and reliable results.
PMCID: PMC3904007  PMID: 24456650
α-thalassemia; Copy number variation; Quantitative real-time PCR; α-globin gene cluster; HS-40; Unknown deletions
5.  Metabolic Changes in Urine during and after Pregnancy in a Large, Multiethnic Population-Based Cohort Study of Gestational Diabetes 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(12):e52399.
This study aims to identify novel markers for gestational diabetes (GDM) in the biochemical profile of maternal urine using NMR metabolomics. It also catalogs the general effects of pregnancy and delivery on the urine profile. Urine samples were collected at three time points (visit V1: gestational week 8–20; V2: week 28±2; V3∶10–16 weeks post partum) from participants in the STORK Groruddalen program, a prospective, multiethnic cohort study of 823 healthy, pregnant women in Oslo, Norway, and analyzed using 1H-NMR spectroscopy. Metabolites were identified and quantified where possible. PCA, PLS-DA and univariate statistics were applied and found substantial differences between the time points, dominated by a steady increase of urinary lactose concentrations, and an increase during pregnancy and subsequent dramatic reduction of several unidentified NMR signals between 0.5 and 1.1 ppm. Multivariate methods could not reliably identify GDM cases based on the WHO or graded criteria based on IADPSG definitions, indicating that the pattern of urinary metabolites above micromolar concentrations is not influenced strongly and consistently enough by the disease. However, univariate analysis suggests elevated mean citrate concentrations with increasing hyperglycemia. Multivariate classification with respect to ethnic background produced weak but statistically significant models. These results suggest that although NMR-based metabolomics can monitor changes in the urinary excretion profile of pregnant women, it may not be a prudent choice for the study of GDM.
PMCID: PMC3528643  PMID: 23285025
6.  A novel 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-coenzyme A reductase (HMGCR) splice variant with an alternative exon 1 potentially encoding an extended N-terminus 
BMC Molecular Biology  2012;13:29.
The major rate-limiting enzyme for de novo cholesterol synthesis is 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-coenzyme A reductase (HMGCR). HMGCR is sterically inhibited by statins, the most commonly prescribed drugs for the prevention of cardiovascular events. Alternative splicing of HMGCR has been implicated in the control of cholesterol homeostasis. The aim of this study was to identify novel alternatively spliced variants of HMGCR with potential physiological importance.
Bioinformatic analyses predicted three novel HMGCR transcripts containing an alternative exon 1 (HMGCR-1b, -1c, -1d) compared with the canonical transcript (HMGCR-1a). The open reading frame of the HMGCR-1b transcript potentially encodes 20 additional amino acids at the N-terminus, compared with HMGCR-1a. Reverse transcription quantitative polymerase chain reaction (RT-qPCR) was used to examine the mRNA levels of HMGCR in different tissues; HMGCR-1a was the most highly expressed variant in most tissues, with the exception of the skin, esophagus, and uterine cervix, in which HMGCR-1b was the most highly expressed transcript. Atorvastatin treatment of HepG2 cells resulted in increased HMGCR-1b mRNA levels, but unaltered proximal promoter activity compared to untreated cells. In contrast, HMGCR-1c showed a more restricted transcription pattern, but was also induced by atorvastatin treatment.
The gene encoding HMGCR uses alternative, mutually exclusive exon 1 sequences. This contributes to an increased complexity of HMGCR transcripts. Further studies are needed to investigate whether HMGCR splice variants identified in this study are physiologically functional.
PMCID: PMC3526503  PMID: 22989091
3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-coenzyme A reductase; HMG-CoA; Transcription; Alternative splicing; Statin; Cholesterol
7.  Copy number variations of the ATP-binding cassette transporter ABCC6 gene and its pseudogenes 
BMC Research Notes  2012;5:425.
The ATP-binding cassette transporter ABCC6 gene is located on chromosome 16 between its two pseudogenes (ABCC6P1 and ABCC6P2). Previously, we have shown that ABCC6P1 is transcribed and affects ABCC6 at the transcriptional level. In this study we aimed to determine copy number variations of ABCC6, ABCC6P1 and ABCC6P2 in different populations. Moreover, we sought to study the transcription pattern of ABCC6 and ABCC6 pseudogenes in 39 different human tissues.
Genomic DNA from healthy individuals from five populations, Chinese (n = 24), Middle East (n = 20), Mexicans (n = 24), Caucasians (n = 50) and Africans (n = 24), were examined for copy number variations of ABCC6 and its pseudogenes by pyrosequencing and quantitative PCR. Copy number variation of ABCC6 was very rare (2/142; 1.4%). However, one or three copies of ABCC6P1 were relatively common (3% and 8%, respectively). Only one person had a single copy of ABCC6P2 while none had three copies. In Chinese, deletions or duplications of ABCC6P1 were more frequent than in any other population (9/24; 37.5%). The transcription pattern of ABCC6P2 was highly similar to ABCC6 and ABCC6P1, with highest transcription in liver and kidney. Interestingly, the total transcription level of pseudogenes, ABCC6P1 + ABCC6P2, was higher than ABCC6 in most tissues, including liver and kidney.
Copy number variations of the ABCC6 pseudogenes are quite common, especially in populations of Chinese ancestry. The expression pattern of ABCC6P2 in 39 human tissues was highly similar to that of ABCC6 and ABCC6P1 suggesting similar regulatory mechanisms for ABCC6 and its pseudogenes.
PMCID: PMC3434077  PMID: 22873774
Copy number variation; ABCC6; Pseudogenes; Pyrosequencing; Transcription
8.  Evolutionary History and Functional Characterization of Three Large Genes Involved in Sporulation in Bacillus cereus Group Bacteria▿† 
Journal of Bacteriology  2011;193(19):5420-5430.
The Bacillus cereus group of bacteria is a group of closely related species that are of medical and economic relevance, including B. anthracis, B. cereus, and B. thuringiensis. Bacteria from the Bacillus cereus group encode three large, highly conserved genes of unknown function (named crdA, crdB, and crdC) that are composed of 16 to 35 copies of a repeated domain of 132 amino acids at the protein level. Bioinformatic analysis revealed that there is a phylogenetic bias in the genomic distribution of these genes and that strains harboring all three large genes mainly belong to cluster III of the B. cereus group phylogenetic tree. The evolutionary history of the three large genes implicates gain, loss, duplication, internal deletion, and lateral transfer. Furthermore, we show that the transcription of previously identified antisense open reading frames in crdB is simultaneously regulated with its host gene throughout the life cycle in vitro, with the highest expression being at the onset of sporulation. In B. anthracis, different combinations of double- and triple-knockout mutants of the three large genes displayed slower and less efficient sporulation processes than the parental strain. Altogether, the functional studies suggest an involvement of these three large genes in the sporulation process.
PMCID: PMC3187416  PMID: 21821775
9.  Genetic Variation of VKORC1 and CYP4F2 Genes Related to Warfarin Maintenance Dose in Patients with Myocardial Infarction 
The aim of this study was to investigate whether the VKORC1*3 (rs7294/9041 G > A), VKORC1*4 (rs17708472/6009 C > T), and CYP4F2 (rs2108622/1347 C > T) polymorphisms were associated with elevated warfarin maintenance dose requirements in patients with myocardial infarction (n = 105) from the Warfarin Aspirin Reinfarction Study (WARIS-II). We found significant associations between elevated warfarin dose requirements and VKORC1*3 and VKORC1*4 polymorphisms (P = .001 and P = .004, resp.), whereas CYP4F2 (1347 C > T) showed a weak association on higher warfarin dose requirements (P = .09). However, analysing these variant alleles in a regression analysis together with our previously reported data on VKORC1*2, CYP2C9*2 and CYP2C9*3 polymorphisms, gave no significant associations for neither VKORC1*3, VKORC1*4 nor CYP4F2 (1347 C > T). In conclusion, in patients with myocardial infarction, the individual contribution to warfarin dose requirements from VKORC1*3, VKORC1*4, and CYP4F2 (1347 C > T) polymorphisms was negligible. Our results indicate that pharmacogenetic testing for VKORC1*2, CYP2C9*2 and CYP2C9*3 is more informative regarding warfarin dose requirements than testing for VKORC1*3, VKORC1*4, and CYP4F2 (1347 C > T) polymorphisms.
PMCID: PMC2992873  PMID: 21127708
10.  Gene expression results in lipopolysaccharide-stimulated monocytes depend significantly on the choice of reference genes 
BMC Immunology  2010;11:21.
Gene expression in lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-stimulated monocytes is mainly studied by quantitative real-time reverse transcription PCR (RT-qPCR) using GAPDH (glyceraldehyde 3-phosphate dehydrogenase) or ACTB (beta-actin) as reference gene for normalization. Expression of traditional reference genes has been shown to vary substantially under certain conditions leading to invalid results. To investigate whether traditional reference genes are stably expressed in LPS-stimulated monocytes or if RT-qPCR results are dependent on the choice of reference genes, we have assessed and evaluated gene expression stability of twelve candidate reference genes in this model system.
Twelve candidate reference genes were quantified by RT-qPCR in LPS-stimulated, human monocytes and evaluated using the programs geNorm, Normfinder and BestKeeper. geNorm ranked PPIB (cyclophilin B), B2M (beta-2-microglobulin) and PPIA (cyclophilin A) as the best combination for gene expression normalization in LPS-stimulated monocytes. Normfinder suggested TBP (TATA-box binding protein) and B2M as the best combination. Compared to these combinations, normalization using GAPDH alone resulted in significantly higher changes of TNF-α (tumor necrosis factor-alpha) and IL10 (interleukin 10) expression. Moreover, a significant difference in TNF-α expression between monocytes stimulated with equimolar concentrations of LPS from N. meningitides and E. coli, respectively, was identified when using the suggested combinations of reference genes for normalization, but stayed unrecognized when employing a single reference gene, ACTB or GAPDH.
Gene expression levels in LPS-stimulated monocytes based on RT-qPCR results differ significantly when normalized to a single gene or a combination of stably expressed reference genes. Proper evaluation of reference gene stabiliy is therefore mandatory before reporting RT-qPCR results in LPS-stimulated monocytes.
PMCID: PMC2884165  PMID: 20441576
11.  The human ABC transporter pseudogene family: Evidence for transcription and gene-pseudogene interference 
BMC Genomics  2008;9:165.
Pseudogenes are an integral component of the human genome. Little attention, however, has so far been paid to the phenomenon that some pseudogenes are transcriptionally active. Recently, we demonstrated that the human ortholog of the rodent testis-specific ATP-binding cassette (ABC) transporter Abca17 is a ubiquitously transcribed pseudogene (ABCA17P). The aim of the present study was to establish a complete inventory of all ABC transporter pseudogenes in the human genome and to identify transcriptionally active ABC transporter pseudogenes. Moreover, we tested the hypothesis that a regulatory interdependency exists between ABC transporter pseudogenes and their parental protein coding equivalents.
Systematic bioinformatic analysis revealed the existence of 22 ABC transporter pseudogenes within the human genome. We identified two clusters on chromosomes 15 and 16, respectively, which harbor almost half of all pseudogenes (n = 10). Available information from EST and mRNA databases and RT-PCR expression profiling indicate that a large portion of the ABC transporter pseudogenes (45%, n = 10) are transcriptionally active and some of them are expressed as alternative splice variants. We demonstrate that both pseudogenes of the pseudoxanthoma elasticum gene ABCC6, ABCC6P1 and ABCC6P2, are transcribed. ABCC6P1 and ABCC6 possess near-identical promoter sequences and their tissue-specific expression profiles are strikingly similar raising the possibility that they form a gene-pseudogene dual transcription unit. Intriguingly, targeted knockdown of the transcribed pseudogene ABCC6P1 resulted in a significant reduction of ABCC6 mRNA expression levels.
The human genome contains a surprisingly small number of ABC transporter pseudogenes relative to other known gene families. They are unevenly distributed across the chromosomes. Importantly, a significant portion of the ABC transporter pseudogenes is transcriptionally active. The downregulation of ABCC6 mRNA levels by targeted suppression of the expression of its pseudogene ABCC6P1 provides evidence, for the first time, for a regulatory interdependence of a transcribed pseudogene and its protein coding counterpart in the human genome.
PMCID: PMC2329642  PMID: 18405356
12.  The human ortholog of the rodent testis-specific ABC transporter Abca17 is a ubiquitously expressed pseudogene (ABCA17P) and shares a common 5' end with ABCA3 
During the past years, we and others discovered a series of human ATP-binding cassette (ABC) transporters, now referred to as ABC A-subfamily transporters. Recently, a novel testis-specific ABC A transporter, Abca17, has been cloned in rodent. In this study, we report the identification and characterization of the human ortholog of rodent Abca17.
The novel human ABC A-transporter gene on chromosome 16p13.3 is ubiquitously expressed with highest expression in glandular tissues and the heart. The new ABC transporter gene exhibits striking nucleotide sequence homology with the recently cloned mouse (58%) and rat Abca17 (51%), respectively, and is located in the syntenic region of mouse Abca17 indicating that it represents the human ortholog of rodent Abca17. However, unlike in the mouse, the full-length ABCA17 transcript (4.3 kb) contains numerous mutations that preclude its translation into a bona fide ABC transporter protein strongly suggesting that the human ABCA17 gene is a transcribed pseudogene (ABCA17P). We identified numerous alternative ABCA17P splice variants which are transcribed from two distinct transcription initiation sites. Genomic analysis revealed that ABCA17P borders on another ABC A-subfamily transporter – the lung surfactant deficiency gene ABCA3. Surprisingly, we found that both genes overlap at their first exons and are transcribed from opposite strands. This genomic colocalization and the observation that the ABCA17P and ABCA3 genes share significant homologies in several exons (up to 98%) suggest that both genes have evolved by gene duplication.
Our results demonstrate that ABCA17P and ABCA3 form a complex of overlapping genes in the human genome from which both non-coding and protein-coding ABC A-transporter RNAs are expressed. The fact that both genes overlap at their 5' ends suggests interdependencies in their regulation and may have important implications for the functional analysis of the disease gene ABCA3. Moreover, this is the first demonstration of the expression of a pseudogene and its parent gene from a common overlapping DNA region in the human genome.
PMCID: PMC1579226  PMID: 16968533

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