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1.  Combining in silico prediction and ribosome profiling in a genome-wide search for novel putatively coding sORFs 
BMC Genomics  2013;14:648.
It was long assumed that proteins are at least 100 amino acids (AAs) long. Moreover, the detection of short translation products (e.g. coded from small Open Reading Frames, sORFs) is very difficult as the short length makes it hard to distinguish true coding ORFs from ORFs occurring by chance. Nevertheless, over the past few years many such non-canonical genes (with ORFs < 100 AAs) have been discovered in different organisms like Arabidopsis thaliana, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, and Drosophila melanogaster. Thanks to advances in sequencing, bioinformatics and computing power, it is now possible to scan the genome in unprecedented scrutiny, for example in a search of this type of small ORFs.
Using bioinformatics methods, we performed a systematic search for putatively functional sORFs in the Mus musculus genome. A genome-wide scan detected all sORFs which were subsequently analyzed for their coding potential, based on evolutionary conservation at the AA level, and ranked using a Support Vector Machine (SVM) learning model. The ranked sORFs are finally overlapped with ribosome profiling data, hinting to sORF translation. All candidates are visually inspected using an in-house developed genome browser. In this way dozens of highly conserved sORFs, targeted by ribosomes were identified in the mouse genome, putatively encoding micropeptides.
Our combined genome-wide approach leads to the prediction of a comprehensive but manageable set of putatively coding sORFs, a very important first step towards the identification of a new class of bioactive peptides, called micropeptides.
PMCID: PMC3852105  PMID: 24059539
Micropeptide; Small open reading frame; Mus musculus; Genome-wide; Ribosome profiling; LincRNA; sORF; ncRNA; Bioactive peptide
2.  Genome-wide promoter methylation analysis in neuroblastoma identifies prognostic methylation biomarkers 
Genome Biology  2012;13(10):R95.
Accurate outcome prediction in neuroblastoma, which is necessary to enable the optimal choice of risk-related therapy, remains a challenge. To improve neuroblastoma patient stratification, this study aimed to identify prognostic tumor DNA methylation biomarkers.
To identify genes silenced by promoter methylation, we first applied two independent genome-wide methylation screening methodologies to eight neuroblastoma cell lines. Specifically, we used re-expression profiling upon 5-aza-2'-deoxycytidine (DAC) treatment and massively parallel sequencing after capturing with a methyl-CpG-binding domain (MBD-seq). Putative methylation markers were selected from DAC-upregulated genes through a literature search and an upfront methylation-specific PCR on 20 primary neuroblastoma tumors, as well as through MBD- seq in combination with publicly available neuroblastoma tumor gene expression data. This yielded 43 candidate biomarkers that were subsequently tested by high-throughput methylation-specific PCR on an independent cohort of 89 primary neuroblastoma tumors that had been selected for risk classification and survival. Based on this analysis, methylation of KRT19, FAS, PRPH, CNR1, QPCT, HIST1H3C, ACSS3 and GRB10 was found to be associated with at least one of the classical risk factors, namely age, stage or MYCN status. Importantly, HIST1H3C and GNAS methylation was associated with overall and/or event-free survival.
This study combines two genome-wide methylation discovery methodologies and is the most extensive validation study in neuroblastoma performed thus far. We identified several novel prognostic DNA methylation markers and provide a basis for the development of a DNA methylation-based prognostic classifier in neuroblastoma.
PMCID: PMC3491423  PMID: 23034519
3.  A tissue biopsy-based epigenetic multiplex PCR assay for prostate cancer detection 
BMC Urology  2012;12:16.
PSA-directed prostate cancer screening leads to a high rate of false positive identifications and an unnecessary biopsy burden. Epigenetic biomarkers have proven useful, exhibiting frequent and abundant inactivation of tumor suppressor genes through such mechanisms. An epigenetic, multiplex PCR test for prostate cancer diagnosis could provide physicians with better tools to help their patients. Biomarkers like GSTP1, APC and RASSF1 have demonstrated involvement with prostate cancer, with the latter two genes playing prominent roles in the field effect. The epigenetic states of these genes can be used to assess the likelihood of cancer presence or absence.
An initial test cohort of 30 prostate cancer-positive samples and 12 cancer-negative samples was used as basis for the development and optimization of an epigenetic multiplex assay based on the GSTP1, APC and RASSF1 genes, using methylation specific PCR (MSP). The effect of prostate needle core biopsy sample volume and age of formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded (FFPE) samples was evaluated on an independent follow-up cohort of 51 cancer-positive patients. Multiplexing affects copy number calculations in a consistent way per assay. Methylation ratios are therefore altered compared to the respective singleplex assays, but the correlation with patient outcome remains equivalent. In addition, tissue-biopsy samples as small as 20 μm can be used to detect methylation in a reliable manner. The age of FFPE-samples does have a negative impact on DNA quality and quantity.
The developed multiplex assay appears functionally similar to individual singleplex assays, with the benefit of lower tissue requirements, lower cost and decreased signal variation. This assay can be applied to small biopsy specimens, down to 20 microns, widening clinical applicability. Increasing the sample volume can compensate the loss of DNA quality and quantity in older samples.
PMCID: PMC3431995  PMID: 22672250
GSTP1; APC; RASSF1; Methylation; Epigenetics; Prostate cancer; Diagnosis; Multiplex; Singleplex; MSP
4.  Colorectal adenoma to carcinoma progression is accompanied by changes in gene expression associated with ageing, chromosomal instability, and fatty acid metabolism 
Cellular Oncology (Dordrecht)  2012;35(1):53-63.
Colorectal cancer develops in a multi-step manner from normal epithelium, through a pre-malignant lesion (so-called adenoma), into a malignant lesion (carcinoma), which invades surrounding tissues and eventually can spread systemically (metastasis). It is estimated that only about 5% of adenomas do progress to a carcinoma.
The present study aimed to unravel the biology of adenoma to carcinoma progression by mRNA expression profiling, and to identify candidate biomarkers for adenomas that are truly at high risk of progression.
Genome-wide mRNA expression profiles were obtained from a series of 37 colorectal adenomas and 31 colorectal carcinomas using oligonucleotide microarrays. Differentially expressed genes were validated in an independent colorectal gene expression data set. Gene Set Enrichment Analysis (GSEA) was used to identify altered expression of sets of genes associated with specific biological processes, in order to better understand the biology of colorectal adenoma to carcinoma progression.
mRNA expression of 248 genes was significantly different, of which 96 were upregulated and 152 downregulated in carcinomas compared to adenomas. Classification of adenomas and carcinomas using the expression of these genes showed to be very accurate, also when tested in an independent expression data set. Gene-sets associated with ageing (which is related to senescence) and chromosomal instability were upregulated, and a gene-set associated with fatty acid metabolism was downregulated in carcinomas compared to adenomas. Moreover, gene-sets associated with chromosomal location revealed chromosome 4q22 loss and chromosome 20q gain of gene-set expression as being relevant in this progression.
Concluding remark
These data are consistent with the notion that adenomas and carcinomas are distinct biological entities. Disruption of specific biological processes like senescence (ageing), maintenance of chromosomal instability and altered metabolism, are key factors in the progression from adenoma to carcinoma.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s13402-011-0065-1) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC3308003  PMID: 22278361
Colorectal cancer; Progression; Gene expression; Ageing; Chromosomal instability; Fatty acid metabolism
5.  Cancer -related Epigenome Changes Associated with Reprogramming to Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells 
Cancer research  2010;70(19):7662-7673.
The ability to induce pluripotent stem cells from committed, somatic, human cells provides tremendous potential for regenerative medicine. However, there is a defined neoplastic potential inherent to such reprogramming that must be understood and may provide a model for understanding key events in tumorigenesis. Using genome wide assays we identify cancer-related epigenetic abnormalities that arise early during reprogramming and persist in induced pluripotent stem cell (iPS) clones. These include hundreds of abnormal gene silencing events, patterns of aberrant responses to epigenetic modifying drugs resembling those for cancer cells, and presence in iPS and partially reprogrammed cells of cancer-specific, gene promoter, DNA methylation alterations. Our findings suggest that by studying the process of induced reprogramming we may gain significant insight into the origins of epigenetic gene silencing associated with human tumorigenesis and add to means of assessing iPS for safety.
PMCID: PMC2980296  PMID: 20841480
reprogramming; induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS); embryonic stem cells (ESC); DNA methylation; chromatin; cancer
6.  Genome-Wide Promoter Analysis Uncovers Portions of the Cancer Methylome 
Cancer research  2008;68(8):2661-2670.
DNA methylation has a role in mediating epigenetic silencing of CpG island genes in cancer and other diseases. Identification of all gene promoters methylated in cancer cells “the cancer methylome” would greatly advance our understanding of gene regulatory networks in tumorigenesis. We previously described a new method of identifying methylated tumor suppressor genes based on pharmacologic unmasking of the promoter region and detection of re-expression on microarray analysis. In this study, we modified and greatly improved the selection of candidates based on new promoter structure algorithm and microarray data generated from 20 cancer cell lines of 5 major cancer types. We identified a set of 200 candidate genes that cluster throughout the genome of which 25 were previously reported as harboring cancer-specific promoter methylation. The remaining 175 genes were tested for promoter methylation by bisulfite sequencing or methylation-specific PCR (MSP). Eighty-two of 175 (47%) genes were found to be methylated in cell lines, and 53 of these 82 genes (65%) were methylated in primary tumor tissues. From these 53 genes, cancer-specific methylation was identified in 28 genes (28 of 53; 53%). Furthermore, we tested 8 of the 28 newly identified cancer-specific methylated genes with quantitative MSP in a panel of 300 primary tumors representing 13 types of cancer. We found cancer-specific methylation of at least one gene with high frequency in all cancer types. Identification of a large number of genes with cancer-specific methylation provides new targets for diagnostic and therapeutic intervention, and opens fertile avenues for basic research in tumor biology.
PMCID: PMC3102297  PMID: 18413733
7.  ssDNA-Binding Protein 2 Is Frequently Hypermethylated and Suppresses Cell Growth in Human Prostate Cancer 
Prostate cancer is a major cause of cancer death among men and the development of new biomarkers is important to augment current detection approaches.
Experimental Design
We identified hypermethylation of the ssDNA-binding protein 2 (SSBP2) promoter as a potential DNA marker for human prostate cancer based on previous bioinformatics results and pharmacologic unmasking microarray.We then did quantitative methylation-specific PCR in primary prostate cancer tissues to confirm hypermethylation of the SSBP2 promoter, and analyzed its correlation with clinicopathologic data. We further examined SSBP2 expression in primary prostate cancer and studied its role in cell growth.
Quantitative methylation-specific PCR results showed that the SSBP2 promoter was hypermethylated in 54 of 88 (61.4%) primary prostate cancers versus 0 of 23 (0%) in benign prostatic hyperplasia using a cutoff value of 120. Furthermore, we found that expression of SSBP2 was down-regulated in primary prostate cancers and cancer cell lines. Hypermethylation of the SSBP2 promoter and its expression were closely associated with higher stages of prostate cancer. Reactivation of SSBP2 expression by the demethylating agent 5-aza-2′-deoxycytidine in prostate cancer cell lines confirmed epigenetic inactivation as one major mechanism of SSBP2 regulation. Moreover, forced expression of SSBP2 inhibited prostate cancer cell proliferation in the colony formation assay and caused cell cycle arrest.
SSBP2 inhibits prostate cancer cell proliferation and seems to represent a novel prostate cancer – specific DNA marker, especially in high stages of human prostate cancer.
PMCID: PMC3082869  PMID: 18559593
8.  Pharmacologic Unmasking of Epigenetically Silenced Genes in Breast Cancer 
Aberrant promoter hypermethylation of several known or putative tumor suppressor genes occurs frequently during the pathogenesis of various cancers including breast cancer. Many epigenetically inactivated genes involved in breast cancer development remain to be identified. Therefore, in this study we used a pharmacologic unmasking approach in breast cancer cell lines with 5-aza-2′-deoxycytidine (5-aza-dC) followed by microarray expression analysis to identify epigenetically inactivated genes in breast cancer.
Experimental Design
Breast cancer cell lines were treated with 5-aza-dC followed by microarray analysis to identify epigenetically inactivated genes in breast cancer. We then used bisulfite DNA sequencing, conventional methylation-specific PCR, and quantitative fluorogenic real-time methylation-specific PCR to confirm cancer-specific methylation in novel genes.
Forty-nine genes were up-regulated in breast cancer cells lines after 5-aza-dC treatment, as determined by microarray analysis. Five genes (MAL, FKBP4, VGF, OGDHL, and KIF1A) showed cancer-specific methylation in breast tissues. Methylation of at least two was found at high frequency only in breast cancers (40 of 40) as compared with normal breast tissue (0 of 10; P < 0.0001, Fisher’s exact test).
This study identified new cancer-specific methylated genes to help elucidate the biology of breast cancer and as candidate diagnostic markers for the disease.
PMCID: PMC3082476  PMID: 19228724
9.  Genome sequence of Helicobacter suis supports its role in gastric pathology 
Veterinary Research  2011;42(1):51.
Helicobacter (H.) suis has been associated with chronic gastritis and ulcers of the pars oesophagea in pigs, and with gastritis, peptic ulcer disease and gastric mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue lymphoma in humans. In order to obtain better insight into the genes involved in pathogenicity and in the specific adaptation to the gastric environment of H. suis, a genome analysis was performed of two H. suis strains isolated from the gastric mucosa of swine. Homologs of the vast majority of genes shown to be important for gastric colonization of the human pathogen H. pylori were detected in the H. suis genome. H. suis encodes several putative outer membrane proteins, of which two similar to the H. pylori adhesins HpaA and HorB. H. suis harbours an almost complete comB type IV secretion system and members of the type IV secretion system 3, but lacks most of the genes present in the cag pathogenicity island of H. pylori. Homologs of genes encoding the H. pylori neutrophil-activating protein and γ-glutamyl transpeptidase were identified in H. suis. H. suis also possesses several other presumptive virulence-associated genes, including homologs for mviN, the H. pylori flavodoxin gene, and a homolog of the H. pylori vacuolating cytotoxin A gene. It was concluded that although genes coding for some important virulence factors in H. pylori, such as the cytotoxin-associated protein (CagA), are not detected in the H. suis genome, homologs of other genes associated with colonization and virulence of H. pylori and other bacteria are present.
PMCID: PMC3065412  PMID: 21414191
10.  Defining a Chromatin Pattern That Characterizes DNA Hypermethylated Genes in Colon Cancer Cells 
Cancer research  2008;68(14):5753-5759.
Epigenetic gene regulation is a key determinant of heritable gene expression patterns and is critical for normal cellular function. Dysregulation of epigenetic transcriptional control is a fundamental feature of cancer, particularly manifesting as increased promoter DNA methylation with associated aberrant gene silencing which plays a significant role in tumor progression. We now globally map key chromatin parameters for genes with promoter CpG island DNA hypermethylation in colon cancer cells by combining micraoarray gene expression analyses with ChIP on chip technology. We first show that the silent state of such genes universally correlates with a broad, low level distribution of the PcG mediated histone modification, methylation of lysine 27 of histone 3 (H3K27me) and a very low level of the active mark, H3K4me2. This chromatin pattern, and particularly H3K4me2 levels, crisply separates DNA hypermethylated genes from those where histone deacetylation is responsible for transcriptional silencing. Moreover, the chromatin pattern can markedly enhance identification of truly silent and DNA hypermethylated genes. We additionally find that when DNA hypermethylated genes are de-methylated and re-expressed, they adopt a “bivalent” chromatin pattern which is associated with the poised gene expression state of a large group of ES cell genes, and is characterized by an increase in levels of both the H3K27me3 and H3K4me2 marks. Our data have great relevance for the increasing interest in re-expression of DNA hypermethylated genes for the treatment of cancer.
PMCID: PMC2706536  PMID: 18632628
DNA methylation; chromatin; histone modifications; cancer; epigenetic
11.  Discovery of DNA methylation markers in cervical cancer using relaxation ranking 
BMC Medical Genomics  2008;1:57.
To discover cancer specific DNA methylation markers, large-scale screening methods are widely used. The pharmacological unmasking expression microarray approach is an elegant method to enrich for genes that are silenced and re-expressed during functional reversal of DNA methylation upon treatment with demethylation agents. However, such experiments are performed in in vitro (cancer) cell lines, mostly with poor relevance when extrapolating to primary cancers. To overcome this problem, we incorporated data from primary cancer samples in the experimental design. A strategy to combine and rank data from these different data sources is essential to minimize the experimental work in the validation steps.
To apply a new relaxation ranking algorithm to enrich DNA methylation markers in cervical cancer.
The application of a new sorting methodology allowed us to sort high-throughput microarray data from both cervical cancer cell lines and primary cervical cancer samples. The performance of the sorting was analyzed in silico. Pathway and gene ontology analysis was performed on the top-selection and gives a strong indication that the ranking methodology is able to enrich towards genes that might be methylated. Terms like regulation of progression through cell cycle, positive regulation of programmed cell death as well as organ development and embryonic development are overrepresented. Combined with the highly enriched number of imprinted and X-chromosome located genes, and increased prevalence of known methylation markers selected from cervical (the highest-ranking known gene is CCNA1) as well as from other cancer types, the use of the ranking algorithm seems to be powerful in enriching towards methylated genes.
Verification of the DNA methylation state of the 10 highest-ranking genes revealed that 7/9 (78%) gene promoters showed DNA methylation in cervical carcinomas. Of these 7 genes, 3 (SST, HTRA3 and NPTX1) are not methylated in normal cervix tissue.
The application of this new relaxation ranking methodology allowed us to significantly enrich towards methylation genes in cancer. This enrichment is both shown in silico and by experimental validation, and revealed novel methylation markers as proof-of-concept that might be useful in early cancer detection in cervical scrapings.
PMCID: PMC2605750  PMID: 19025626
12.  PubMeth: a cancer methylation database combining text-mining and expert annotation 
Nucleic Acids Research  2007;36(Database issue):D842-D846.
Epigenetics, and more specifically DNA methylation is a fast evolving research area. In almost every cancer type, each month new publications confirm the differentiated regulation of specific genes due to methylation and mention the discovery of novel methylation markers. Therefore, it would be extremely useful to have an annotated, reviewed, sorted and summarized overview of all available data. PubMeth is a cancer methylation database that includes genes that are reported to be methylated in various cancer types. A query can be based either on genes (to check in which cancer types the genes are reported as being methylated) or on cancer types (which genes are reported to be methylated in the cancer (sub) types of interest). The database is freely accessible at
PubMeth is based on text-mining of Medline/PubMed abstracts, combined with manual reading and annotation of preselected abstracts. The text-mining approach results in increased speed and selectivity (as for instance many different aliases of a gene are searched at once), while the manual screening significantly raises the specificity and quality of the database. The summarized overview of the results is very useful in case more genes or cancer types are searched at the same time.
PMCID: PMC2238841  PMID: 17932060
13.  The Zinc Finger Protein A20 Inhibits TNF-induced NF-κB–dependent Gene Expression by Interfering with an RIP- or TRAF2-mediated Transactivation Signal and Directly Binds to a Novel NF-κB–inhibiting Protein ABIN  
The Journal of Cell Biology  1999;145(7):1471-1482.
The zinc finger protein A20 is a tumor necrosis factor (TNF)– and interleukin 1 (IL-1)-inducible protein that negatively regulates nuclear factor-kappa B (NF-κB)–dependent gene expression. However, the molecular mechanism by which A20 exerts this effect is still unclear. We show that A20 does not inhibit TNF- induced nuclear translocation and DNA binding of NF-κB, although it completely prevents the TNF- induced activation of an NF-κB–dependent reporter gene, as well as TNF-induced IL-6 and granulocyte macrophage–colony stimulating factor gene expression. Moreover, NF-κB activation induced by overexpression of the TNF receptor–associated proteins TNF receptor–associated death domain protein (TRADD), receptor interacting protein (RIP), and TNF recep- tor–associated factor 2 (TRAF2) was also inhibited by expression of A20, whereas NF-κB activation induced by overexpression of NF-κB–inducing kinase (NIK) or the human T cell leukemia virus type 1 (HTLV-1) Tax was unaffected. These results demonstrate that A20 inhibits NF-κB–dependent gene expression by interfering with a novel TNF-induced and RIP- or TRAF2-mediated pathway that is different from the NIK–IκB kinase pathway and that is specifically involved in the transactivation of NF-κB. Via yeast two-hybrid screening, we found that A20 binds to a novel protein, ABIN, which mimics the NF-κB inhibiting effects of A20 upon overexpression, suggesting that the effect of A20 is mediated by its interaction with this NF-κB inhibiting protein, ABIN.
PMCID: PMC2133159  PMID: 10385526
A20; ABIN; nuclear factor-κB; tumor necrosis factor; TRAF
14.  Yeast Two-Hybrid: State of the Art 
Genome projects are approaching completion and are saturating sequence databases. This paper discusses the role of the two-hybrid system as a generator of hypotheses. Apart from this rather exhaustive, financially and labour intensive procedure, more refined functional studies can be undertaken. Indeed, by making hybrids of two-hybrid systems, customised approaches can be developed in order to attack specific function-related problems. For example, one could set-up a "differential" screen by combining a forward and a reverse approach in a three-hybrid set-up. Another very interesting project is the use of peptide libraries in two-hybrid approaches. This could enable the identification of peptides with very high specificity comparable to "real" antibodies. With the technology available, the only limitation is imagination.
PMCID: PMC140126  PMID: 12734586
yeasts; hybrid cells
15.  Staphylococcal enterotoxin B influences the DNA methylation pattern in nasal polyp tissue: a preliminary study 
Staphylococcal enterotoxins may influence the pro-inflammatory pattern of chronic sinus diseases via epigenetic events. This work intended to investigate the potential of staphylococcal enterotoxin B (SEB) to induce changes in the DNA methylation pattern. Nasal polyp tissue explants were cultured in the presence and absence of SEB; genomic DNA was then isolated and used for whole genome methylation analysis. Results showed that SEB stimulation altered the methylation pattern of gene regions when compared with non stimulated tissue. Data enrichment analysis highlighted two genes: the IKBKB and STAT-5B, both playing a crucial role in T- cell maturation/activation and immune response.
PMCID: PMC3867657  PMID: 24341752
Staphylococcus aureus enterotoxin B; Chronic rhinosinusitis and nasal polyps; DNA methylation; MBD2; Whole genome methylation analysis; Hypermethylation
16.  Quality Evaluation of Methyl Binding Domain Based Kits for Enrichment DNA-Methylation Sequencing 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(3):e59068.
DNA-methylation is an important epigenetic feature in health and disease. Methylated sequence capturing by Methyl Binding Domain (MBD) based enrichment followed by second-generation sequencing provides the best combination of sensitivity and cost-efficiency for genome-wide DNA-methylation profiling. However, existing implementations are numerous, and quality control and optimization require expensive external validation. Therefore, this study has two aims: 1) to identify a best performing kit for MBD-based enrichment using independent validation data, and 2) to evaluate whether quality evaluation can also be performed solely based on the characteristics of the generated sequences. Five commercially available kits for MBD enrichment were combined with Illumina GAIIx sequencing for three cell lines (HCT15, DU145, PC3). Reduced representation bisulfite sequencing data (all three cell lines) and publicly available Illumina Infinium BeadChip data (DU145 and PC3) were used for benchmarking. Consistent large-scale differences in yield, sensitivity and specificity between the different kits could be identified, with Diagenode's MethylCap kit as overall best performing kit under the tested conditions. This kit could also be identified with the Fragment CpG-plot, which summarizes the CpG content of the captured fragments, implying that the latter can be used as a tool to monitor data quality. In conclusion, there are major quality differences between kits for MBD-based capturing of methylated DNA, with the MethylCap kit performing best under the used settings. The Fragment CpG-plot is able to monitor data quality based on inherent sequence data characteristics, and is therefore a cost-efficient tool for experimental optimization, but also to monitor quality throughout routine applications.
PMCID: PMC3598902  PMID: 23554971
17.  Molecular diagnostics for congenital hearing loss including 15 deafness genes using a next generation sequencing platform 
BMC Medical Genomics  2012;5:17.
Hereditary hearing loss (HL) can originate from mutations in one of many genes involved in the complex process of hearing. Identification of the genetic defects in patients is currently labor intensive and expensive. While screening with Sanger sequencing for GJB2 mutations is common, this is not the case for the other known deafness genes (> 60). Next generation sequencing technology (NGS) has the potential to be much more cost efficient. Published methods mainly use hybridization based target enrichment procedures that are time saving and efficient, but lead to loss in sensitivity. In this study we used a semi-automated PCR amplification and NGS in order to combine high sensitivity, speed and cost efficiency.
In this proof of concept study, we screened 15 autosomal recessive deafness genes in 5 patients with congenital genetic deafness. 646 specific primer pairs for all exons and most of the UTR of the 15 selected genes were designed using primerXL. Using patient specific identifiers, all amplicons were pooled and analyzed using the Roche 454 NGS technology. Three of these patients are members of families in which a region of interest has previously been characterized by linkage studies. In these, we were able to identify two new mutations in CDH23 and OTOF. For another patient, the etiology of deafness was unclear, and no causal mutation was found. In a fifth patient, included as a positive control, we could confirm a known mutation in TMC1.
We have developed an assay that holds great promise as a tool for screening patients with familial autosomal recessive nonsyndromal hearing loss (ARNSHL). For the first time, an efficient, reliable and cost effective genetic test, based on PCR enrichment, for newborns with undiagnosed deafness is available.
PMCID: PMC3443074  PMID: 22607986
Deafness; Next generation sequencing; PCR based enrichment; Genetic diagnostics
18.  Practical Tools to Implement Massive Parallel Pyrosequencing of PCR Products in Next Generation Molecular Diagnostics 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(9):e25531.
Despite improvements in terms of sequence quality and price per basepair, Sanger sequencing remains restricted to screening of individual disease genes. The development of massively parallel sequencing (MPS) technologies heralded an era in which molecular diagnostics for multigenic disorders becomes reality. Here, we outline different PCR amplification based strategies for the screening of a multitude of genes in a patient cohort. We performed a thorough evaluation in terms of set-up, coverage and sequencing variants on the data of 10 GS-FLX experiments (over 200 patients). Crucially, we determined the actual coverage that is required for reliable diagnostic results using MPS, and provide a tool to calculate the number of patients that can be screened in a single run. Finally, we provide an overview of factors contributing to false negative or false positive mutation calls and suggest ways to maximize sensitivity and specificity, both important in a routine setting. By describing practical strategies for screening of multigenic disorders in a multitude of samples and providing answers to questions about minimum required coverage, the number of patients that can be screened in a single run and the factors that may affect sensitivity and specificity we hope to facilitate the implementation of MPS technology in molecular diagnostics.
PMCID: PMC3184136  PMID: 21980484
19.  A hybrid, de novo based, genome-wide database search approach applied to the sea urchin neuropeptidome 
Journal of proteome research  2010;9(2):990-996.
Peptidomics is the identification and study of the in vivo biologically active peptide profile. A combination of high performance liquid chromatography, mass spectrometry, and bioinformatics tools such as database search engines are commonly used to perform the analysis. We report a methodology based on a database system holding the completed translated genome, whereby de novo sequencing and genome-wide database searching are combined. The methodology was applied to the sea urchin neuropeptidome resulting in a 30 percent increase in identification rate.
PMCID: PMC2845465  PMID: 20000637
Neuropeptide; peptidomics; sea urchin; de novo sequencing; genome-wide database search; indexed genome
20.  Analysing 454 amplicon resequencing experiments using the modular and database oriented Variant Identification Pipeline 
BMC Bioinformatics  2010;11:269.
Next-generation amplicon sequencing enables high-throughput genetic diagnostics, sequencing multiple genes in several patients together in one sequencing run. Currently, no open-source out-of-the-box software solution exists that reliably reports detected genetic variations and that can be used to improve future sequencing effectiveness by analyzing the PCR reactions.
We developed an integrated database oriented software pipeline for analysis of 454/Roche GS-FLX amplicon resequencing experiments using Perl and a relational database. The pipeline enables variation detection, variation detection validation, and advanced data analysis, which provides information that can be used to optimize PCR efficiency using traditional means. The modular approach enables customization of the pipeline where needed and allows researchers to adopt their analysis pipeline to their experiments. Clear documentation and training data is available to test and validate the pipeline prior to using it on real sequencing data.
We designed an open-source database oriented pipeline that enables advanced analysis of 454/Roche GS-FLX amplicon resequencing experiments using SQL-statements. This modular database approach allows easy coupling with other pipeline modules such as variant interpretation or a LIMS system. There is also a set of standard reporting scripts available.
PMCID: PMC2880033  PMID: 20487544
21.  Promoter DNA Methylation of Oncostatin M receptor-β as a Novel Diagnostic and Therapeutic Marker in Colon Cancer 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(8):e6555.
In addition to genetic changes, the occurrence of epigenetic alterations is associated with accumulation of both genetic and epigenetic events that promote the development and progression of human cancer. Previously, we reported a set of candidate genes that comprise part of the emerging “cancer methylome”. In the present study, we first tested 23 candidate genes for promoter methylation in a small number of primary colon tumor tissues and controls. Based on these results, we then examined the methylation frequency of Oncostatin M receptor-β (OSMR) in a larger number of tissue and stool DNA samples collected from colon cancer patients and controls. We found that OSMR was frequently methylated in primary colon cancer tissues (80%, 80/100), but not in normal tissues (4%, 4/100). Methylation of OSMR was also detected in stool DNA from colorectal cancer patients (38%, 26/69) (cut-off in TaqMan-MSP, 4). Detection of other methylated markers in stool DNA improved sensitivity with little effect on specificity. Promoter methylation mediated silencing of OSMR in cell lines, and CRC cells with low OSMR expression were resistant to growth inhibition by Oncostatin M. Our data provide a biologic rationale for silencing of OSMR in colon cancer progression and highlight a new therapeutic target in this disease. Moreover, detection and quantification of OSMR promoter methylation in fecal DNA is a highly specific diagnostic biomarker for CRC.
PMCID: PMC2717211  PMID: 19662090

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