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1.  Early-onset Crohn’s disease and autoimmunity associated with a variant in CTLA-4 
Gut  2014;64(12):1889-1897.
IBD is a group of complex, systemic disorders associated with intestinal inflammation and extraintestinal manifestations. Recent studies revealed Mendelian forms of IBD, which contributed significantly to our understanding of disease pathogenesis and the heritability of IBD.
We performed exome sequencing in a family with Crohn’s disease (CD) and severe autoimmunity, analysed immune cell phenotype and function in affected and non-affected individuals, and performed in silico and in vitro analyses of cytotoxic T lymphocyte-associated protein 4 (CTLA-4) structure and function.
A novel missense variant was identified in CTLA4 encoding CTLA-4, a coinhibitory protein expressed by T cells and required for regulation of T cell activation. The residue affected by the mutation, CTLA-4 Tyr60, is evolutionarily highly conserved, and the identified Y60C variant is predicted to affect protein folding and structural stability and demonstrated to cause impaired CTLA-4 dimerisation and CD80 binding. Intestinal inflammation and autoimmunity in carriers of CTLA-4 Y60C exhibit incomplete penetrance with a spectrum of clinical presentations ranging from asymptomatic carrier status to fatal autoimmunity and intestinal inflammation. In a clinically affected CTLA-4 Y60C carrier, T cell proliferation was increased in vitro and associated with an increased ratio of memory to naive T cells in vivo, consistent with impaired regulation of T cell activation.
Our results support the concept that variants in CTLA4 provide the basis for a novel Mendelian form of early-onset CD associated with systemic autoimmunity. Incomplete penetrance of autoimmunity further indicates the presence of other genetic and/or environmental modifiers.
PMCID: PMC4512923  PMID: 25367873
2.  Male-specific association between MT-ND4 11719 A/G polymorphism and ulcerative colitis: a mitochondria-wide genetic association study 
BMC Gastroenterology  2016;16:118.
Ulcerative colitis (UC) is a chronic inflammatory disorder of still unknown pathogenesis. Increasing evidence indicates that alterations in mitochondrial respiration and thus adenosine triphosphate (ATP) production are involved. This may contribute to mucosal energy deficiency and subsequently intestinal barrier malfunction, which is accepted to be a major hallmark of UC. Genetic alterations of the mitochondrial genome are one cause of mitochondrial dysfunction. However, less is known about mitochondrial gene polymorphisms in UC. Therefore, we aimed at identifying genetic associations between mitochondrial polymorphisms and UC.
German UC cases (n = 1062) and German healthy controls (n = 3030) were genotyped using the Affymetrix Genome-Wide Human SNP Array 6.0. The primary association analysis was to test for associations between mitochondrial single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and UC using Fisher’s exact test in the total sample and stratified by sex. In addition, we tested for associations between mitochondrial haplogroups and UC and for interactions between the most promising mitochondrial SNPs and nuclear SNPs. An independent set of German subjects with 1625 UC cases and 3575 controls was used for replication.
We identified a genetic association between the MT-ND4 11719 A/G polymorphism and UC in the subgroup of males (rs2853495; odds ratio, 1.40; 95 % confidence interval, 1.13 to 1.73; p = 0.002). This association was replicated in the second independent cohort. In the association analysis based on mitochondrial haplogroups the lowest p values were reached for haplogroups HV and T (p = 0.029 and 0.035). Haplogroup HV is determined by the mitochondrial 11719 A/G polymorphism. Accordingly, this association was only found in the subgroup of males (p = 0.009).
For the first time, we observed an association between the MT-ND4 11719 A/G polymorphism and UC. The gene MT-ND4 encodes for a subunit of the mitochondrial electron transport chain complex I, which is pivotal for ATP production and might therefore contribute to mucosal energy deficiency. The male-specific association indicates differences between males and females concerning the impact of mitochondrial gene polymorphisms on the development of UC. Further investigations of the functional mechanism underlying this association and the relevance of the gender-specificity are highly warranted.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12876-016-0509-1) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC5048482  PMID: 27716073
Mitochondrial gene polymorphism; Ulcerative colitis; Male-specific association; Mucosal energy deficiency; Mitochondria-wide association study; MT-ND4; rs2853495; ATP; Haplogroup HV
3.  Identification of Immune-Relevant Factors Conferring Sarcoidosis Genetic Risk 
Rationale: Genetic variation plays a significant role in the etiology of sarcoidosis. However, only a small fraction of its heritability has been explained so far.
Objectives: To define further genetic risk loci for sarcoidosis, we used the Immunochip for a candidate gene association study of immune-associated loci.
Methods: Altogether the study population comprised over 19,000 individuals. In a two-stage design, 1,726 German sarcoidosis cases and 5,482 control subjects were genotyped for 128,705 single-nucleotide polymorphisms using the Illumina Immunochip for the screening step. The remaining 3,955 cases, 7,514 control subjects, and 684 parents of affected offspring were used for validation and replication of 44 candidate and two established risk single-nucleotide polymorphisms.
Measurements and Main Results: Four novel susceptibility loci were identified with genome-wide significance in the European case-control populations, located on chromosomes 12q24.12 (rs653178; ATXN2/SH2B3), 5q33.3 (rs4921492; IL12B), 4q24 (rs223498; MANBA/NFKB1), and 2q33.2 (rs6748088; FAM117B). We further defined three independent association signals in the HLA region with genome-wide significance, peaking in the BTNL2 promoter region (rs5007259), at HLA-B (rs4143332/HLA-B*0801) and at HLA-DPB1 (rs9277542), and found another novel independent signal near IL23R (rs12069782) on chromosome 1p31.3.
Conclusions: Functional predictions and protein network analyses suggest a prominent role of the drug-targetable IL23/Th17 signaling pathway in the genetic etiology of sarcoidosis. Our findings reveal a substantial genetic overlap of sarcoidosis with diverse immune-mediated inflammatory disorders, which could be of relevance for the clinical application of modern therapeutics
PMCID: PMC4595678  PMID: 26051272
Immunochip; HLA; IL23; BTNL2; association
4.  Analysis of five chronic inflammatory diseases identifies 27 new associations and highlights disease-specific patterns at shared loci 
Nature genetics  2016;48(5):510-518.
We simultaneously investigated the genetic landscape of ankylosing spondylitis, Crohn's disease, psoriasis, primary sclerosing cholangitis and ulcerative colitis to investigate pleiotropy and the relationship between these clinically related diseases. Using high-density genotype data from more than 86,000 individuals of European-ancestry we identified 244 independent multi-disease signals including 27 novel genome-wide significant susceptibility loci and 3 unreported shared risk loci. Complex pleiotropy was supported when contrasting multi-disease signals with expression data sets from human, rat and mouse, and epigenetic and expressed enhancer profiles. The comorbidities among the five immune diseases were best explained by biological pleiotropy rather than heterogeneity (a subgroup of cases that is genetically identical to another disease, possibly due to diagnostic misclassification, molecular subtypes, or excessive comorbidity). In particular, the strong comorbidity between primary sclerosing cholangitis and inflammatory bowel disease is likely the result of a unique disease, which is genetically distinct from classical inflammatory bowel disease phenotypes.
PMCID: PMC4848113  PMID: 26974007
5.  Pooled Resequencing of 122 Ulcerative Colitis Genes in a Large Dutch Cohort Suggests Population-Specific Associations of Rare Variants in MUC2 
PLoS ONE  2016;11(8):e0159609.
Genome-wide association studies have revealed several common genetic risk variants for ulcerative colitis (UC). However, little is known about the contribution of rare, large effect genetic variants to UC susceptibility. In this study, we performed a deep targeted re-sequencing of 122 genes in Dutch UC patients in order to investigate the contribution of rare variants to the genetic susceptibility to UC. The selection of genes consists of 111 established human UC susceptibility genes and 11 genes that lead to spontaneous colitis when knocked-out in mice. In addition, we sequenced the promoter regions of 45 genes where known variants exert cis-eQTL-effects. Targeted pooled re-sequencing was performed on DNA of 790 Dutch UC cases. The Genome of the Netherlands project provided sequence data of 500 healthy controls. After quality control and prioritization based on allele frequency and pathogenicity probability, follow-up genotyping of 171 rare variants was performed on 1021 Dutch UC cases and 1166 Dutch controls. Single-variant association and gene-based analyses identified an association of rare variants in the MUC2 gene with UC. The associated variants in the Dutch population could not be replicated in a German replication cohort (1026 UC cases, 3532 controls). In conclusion, this study has identified a putative role for MUC2 on UC susceptibility in the Dutch population and suggests a population-specific contribution of rare variants to UC.
PMCID: PMC4973970  PMID: 27490946
6.  Reinduction with Certolizumab Pegol in Patients with Crohn's Disease Experiencing Disease Exacerbation: 7-Year Data from the PRECiSE 4 Study 
Inflammatory Bowel Diseases  2016;22(8):1870-1880.
Patients with Crohn's disease in whom tumor necrosis factor antagonist therapy fails have limited treatment options, and the benefit of reintroducing the same therapy remains unclear. Here, we report results from PRECiSE 4 (NCT00160706), an open-label extension study of certolizumab pegol in patients who withdrew from the placebo-controlled studies PRECiSE 1 or 2.
Patients eligible for PRECiSE 4 had Crohn's disease exacerbation on placebo or primary or secondary failure to certolizumab pegol in PRECiSE 1 or 2, and received 400 mg certolizumab pegol subcutaneously at weeks 0, 2, and 4 and every 4 weeks thereafter up to 360 weeks. We assessed safety (adverse events) and efficacy (clinical remission) of extended certolizumab pegol therapy.
Patients enrolled in PRECiSE 4 (N = 310; mean age, 37 yr; 58% female; 95% white) had a mean Crohn's disease duration of 8.5 years before entering the qualifying studies. At weeks 52, 104, and 156, remission rates were 28.5%, 17.5%, and 12.6% by nonremitter imputation, and 63.8%, 60.0%, and 63.5% by observed cases, with 47.4%, 31.9%, and 23.2% of patients, respectively, remaining on therapy. By study end (7.5 yr), 92.3% of patients discontinued therapy, 49% on account of adverse events. No new safety signals emerged. Incidence rate (new cases)/100 patient-years was 6.11 for serious infections and 1.29 for malignancies.
Certolizumab pegol was effective in many patients who previously discontinued certolizumab pegol for lack or loss of response. Thus, discontinuation of therapy may not always be necessary. Safety was consistent with previous findings.
PMCID: PMC4949014  PMID: 27400222
Crohn's disease; certolizumab pegol; efficacy
7.  Dynamic changes of the luminal and mucosa-associated gut microbiota during and after antibiotic therapy with paromomycin 
Gut Microbes  2015;6(4):243-254.
Gut microbiota play a key role in the host's health system. Broad antibiotic therapy is known to disrupt the microbial balance affecting pathogenic as well as host-associated microbes. The aim of the present study was to investigate the influence of antibiotic paromomycin on the luminal and mucosa-associated microbiota at the DNA (abundance) and RNA (potential activity) level as well as to identify possible differences. The influence of antibiotic treatment on intestinal microbiota was investigated in 5 healthy individuals (age range: 20–22 years). All participants received the antibiotic paromomycin for 3 d. Fecal samples as well as sigmoidal biopsies were collected before and immediately after cessation of antibiotic treatment as well as after a recovery phase of 42 d. Compartment- and treatment status-specific indicator operational taxonomic units (OTUs) as well as abundance- and activity-specific patterns were identified by 16S rRNA and 16S rRNA gene amplicon libraries and high-throughput pyrosequencing. Microbial composition of lumen and mucosa were significantly different at the DNA compared to the RNA level. Antibiotic treatment resulted in changes of the microbiota, affecting the luminal and mucosal bacteria in a similar way. Several OTUs were identified as compartment- and/or treatment status-specific. Abundance and activity patterns of some indicator OTUs differed considerably. The study shows fundamental changes in composition of gut microbiota under antibiotic therapy at both the potential activity and the abundance level at different treatment status. It may help to understand the complex processes of gut microbiota changes involved in resilience mechanisms and on development of antibiotic-associated clinical diseases.
PMCID: PMC4615565  PMID: 26178862
16S rRNA gene; antibiotics; lumen; microbiota; mucosa
8.  Immunochip analysis identifies association of the RAD50/IL13 region with human longevity 
Aging Cell  2016;15(3):585-588.
Human longevity is characterized by a remarkable lack of confirmed genetic associations. Here, we report on the identification of a novel locus for longevity in the RAD50/IL13 region on chromosome 5q31.1 using a combined European sample of 3208 long‐lived individuals (LLI) and 8919 younger controls. First, we performed a large‐scale association study on 1458 German LLI (mean age 99.0 years) and 6368 controls (mean age 57.2 years) by targeting known immune‐associated loci covered by the Immunochip. The analysis of 142 136 autosomal single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) revealed an Immunochip‐wide significant signal (PI mmunochip = 7.01 × 10–9) for the SNP rs2075650 in the TOMM40/APOE region, which has been previously described in the context of human longevity. To identify novel susceptibility loci, we selected 15 markers with PI mmunochip < 5 × 10–4 for replication in two samples from France (1257 LLI, mean age 102.4 years; 1811 controls, mean age 49.1 years) and Denmark (493 LLI, mean age 96.2 years; 740 controls, mean age 63.1 years). The association at SNP rs2706372 replicated in the French study collection and showed a similar trend in the Danish participants and was also significant in a meta‐analysis of the combined French and Danish data after adjusting for multiple testing. In a meta‐analysis of all three samples, rs2706372 reached a P‐value of PI mmunochip+Repl = 5.42 × 10−7 (OR = 1.20; 95% CI = 1.12–1.28). SNP rs2706372 is located in the extended RAD50/IL13 region. RAD50 seems a plausible longevity candidate due to its involvement in DNA repair and inflammation. Further studies are needed to identify the functional variant(s) that predispose(s) to a long and healthy life.
PMCID: PMC4854908  PMID: 27004735
5q31.1; genetic association; human longevity; IL13; Immunochip; RAD50
9.  Genome-wide rare copy number variation screening in ulcerative colitis identifies potential susceptibility loci 
BMC Medical Genetics  2016;17:26.
Ulcerative colitis (UC), a complex polygenic disorder, is one of the main subphenotypes of inflammatory bowel disease. A comprehensive dissection of the genetic etiology of UC needs to assess the contribution of rare genetic variants including copy number variations (CNVs) to disease risk. In this study, we performed a multi-step genome-wide case-control analysis to interrogate the presence of disease-relevant rare copy number variants.
One thousand one hundred twenty-one German UC patients and 1770 healthy controls were initially screened for rare deletions and duplications employing SNP-array data. Quantitative PCR and high density custom array-CGH were used for validation of identified CNVs and fine mapping. Two main follow-up panels consisted of an independent cohort of 451 cases and 1274 controls, in which CNVs were assayed through quantitative PCR, and a British cohort of 2396 cases versus 4886 controls with CNV genotypes based on array data. Additional sample sets were assessed for targeted and in silico replication.
Twenty-four rare copy number variants (14 deletions and 10 duplications), overrepresented in UC patients were identified in the initial screening panel. Follow-up of these CNV regions in four independent case-control series as well as an additional public in silico control group (totaling 4439 UC patients and 15,961 healthy controls) revealed three copy number variants enriched in UC patients; a 15.8 kb deletion upstream of ABCC4 and CLDN10 at13q32.1 (0.43 % cases, 0.11 % controls), a 119 kb duplication at 7p22.1, overlapping RNF216, ZNF815, OCM and CCZ1 (0.13 % cases, 0.01 % controls) and a 134 kb large duplication upstream of the KCNK9 gene at 8q24.3 (0.22 % carriers among cases, 0.03 % carriers among controls). The trend of association with UC was present after the P-values were corrected for combining data from different subpopulations. Break-point mapping of the deleted region suggested non-allelic homologous recombination as the mechanism underlying its formation.
Our study presents a pragmatic approach for effective rare CNV screening of SNP-array data sets and implicates the potential contribution of rare structural variants in the pathogenesis of UC.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12881-016-0289-z) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4818401  PMID: 27037036
Ulcerative colitis; Copy number variation; Rare variants; SNP array; Case-control association
10.  Genomics and drug profiling of fatal TCF3-HLF-positive acute lymphoblastic leukemia identifies recurrent mutation patterns and therapeutic options 
Nature genetics  2015;47(9):1020-1029.
TCF3-HLF-fusion positive acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is currently incurable. Employing an integrated approach, we uncovered distinct mutation, gene expression, and drug response profiles in TCF3-HLF-positive and treatment-responsive TCF3-PBX1-positive ALL. Recurrent intragenic deletions of PAX5 or VPREB1 were identified in constellation with TCF3-HLF. Moreover somatic mutations in the non-translocated allele of TCF3 and a reduction of PAX5 gene dosage in TCF3-HLF ALL suggest cooperation within a restricted genetic context. The enrichment for stem cell and myeloid features in the TCF3-HLF signature may reflect reprogramming by TCF3-HLF of a lymphoid-committed cell of origin towards a hybrid, drug-resistant hematopoietic state. Drug response profiling of matched patient-derived xenografts revealed a distinct profile for TCF3-HLF ALL with resistance to conventional chemotherapeutics, but sensitivity towards glucocorticoids, anthracyclines and agents in clinical development. Striking on-target sensitivity was achieved with the BCL2-specific inhibitor venetoclax (ABT-199). This integrated approach thus provides alternative treatment options for this deadly disease.
PMCID: PMC4603357  PMID: 26214592
acute lymphoblastic leukemia; leukemia xenograft model; next generation sequencing; drug resistance; drug activity profiling; TCF3-PBX1; TCF3-HLF; leukemic stem cell; integrative; genomics; BCL2; BH3-mimetics; venetoclax; ABT-199; cytarabine; vincristine; glucocorticoids; prednisone; dexamethasone; mTOR inhibitor; anthracycline; bortezomib; HSP90; AUY922; panobinostat
11.  Sirolimus Use in Liver Transplant Recipients With Hepatocellular Carcinoma: A Randomized, Multicenter, Open-Label Phase 3 Trial 
Transplantation  2015;100(1):116-125.
We investigated whether sirolimus-based immunosuppression improves outcomes in liver transplantation (LTx) candidates with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC).
In a prospective-randomized open-label international trial, 525 LTx recipients with HCC initially receiving mammalian target of rapamycin inhibitor–free immunosuppression were randomized 4 to 6 weeks after transplantation into a group on mammalian target of rapamycin inhibitor–free immunosuppression (group A: 264 patients) or a group incorporating sirolimus (group B: 261). The primary endpoint was recurrence-free survival (RFS); intention-to-treat (ITT) analysis was conducted after 8 years. Overall survival (OS) was a secondary endpoint.
Recurrence-free survival was 64.5% in group A and 70.2% in group B at study end, this difference was not significant (P = 0.28; hazard ratio [HR], 0.84; 95% confidence interval [95% CI], 0.62; 1.15). In a planned analysis of RFS rates at yearly intervals, group B showed better outcomes 3 years after transplantation (HR, 0.7; 95% CI, 0.48-1.00). Similarly, OS (P = 0.21; HR, 0.81; 95% CI, 0.58-1.13) was not statistically better in group B at study end, but yearly analyses showed improvement out to 5 years (HR, 0.7; 95% CI, 0.49-1.00). Interestingly, subgroup (Milan Criteria-based) analyses revealed that low-risk, rather than high-risk, patients benefited most from sirolimus; furthermore, younger recipients (age ≤60) also benefited, as well sirolimus monotherapy patients. Serious adverse event numbers were alike in groups A (860) and B (874).
Sirolimus in LTx recipients with HCC does not improve long-term RFS beyond 5 years. However, a RFS and OS benefit is evident in the first 3 to 5 years, especially in low-risk patients. This trial provides the first high-level evidence base for selecting immunosuppression in LTx recipients with HCC.
In a large prospective randomized open-label international trial, liver transplant recipients for HCC were randomized to receive non-mTOR-inhibitor-based-treatment or mTOR-inhibitor-based-treatment. Results indicate overall sirolimus does not improve long-term recurrence-free survival beyond 5 years while a benefit was seen in low-risk patients. Supplemental digital content is available in the text.
PMCID: PMC4683033  PMID: 26555945
12.  Quantifying the heritability of glioma using genome-wide complex trait analysis 
Scientific Reports  2015;5:17267.
Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have successfully identified a number of common single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) influencing glioma risk. While these SNPs only explain a small proportion of the genetic risk it is unclear how much is left to be detected by other, yet to be identified, common SNPs. Therefore, we applied Genome-Wide Complex Trait Analysis (GCTA) to three GWAS datasets totalling 3,373 cases and 4,571 controls and performed a meta-analysis to estimate the heritability of glioma. Our results identify heritability estimates of 25% (95% CI: 20–31%, P = 1.15 × 10−17) for all forms of glioma - 26% (95% CI: 17–35%, P = 1.05 × 10−8) for glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) and 25% (95% CI: 17–32%, P = 1.26 × 10−10) for non-GBM tumors. This is a substantial increase from the genetic variance identified by the currently identified GWAS risk loci (~6% of common heritability), indicating that most of the heritable risk attributable to common genetic variants remains to be identified.
PMCID: PMC4667278  PMID: 26625949
13.  Psoriasis and cardiometabolic traits: modest association but distinct genetic architectures 
Psoriasis has been linked to cardiometabolic diseases, but epidemiological findings are inconsistent. We investigated the association between psoriasis and cardiometabolic outcomes in a German cross-sectional study (n=4.185) and a prospective cohort of German Health Insurance beneficiaries (n=1.811.098). A potential genetic overlap was explored using genome-wide data from >22.000 coronary artery disease (CAD) and >4.000 psoriasis cases, and with a dense genotyping study of cardiometabolic risk loci on 927 psoriasis cases and 3.717 controls. Controlling for major confounders, in the cross-sectional analysis psoriasis was significantly associated with type 2 diabetes (T2D, adjusted odd’s ratio OR=2.36; 95% confidence interval CI=1.26–4.41) and myocardial infarction (MI, OR=2.26, 95% CI=1.03–4.96). In the longitudinal study, psoriasis slightly increased the risk for incident T2D (adjusted relative risk RR=1.11; 95%CI=1.08–1.14) and MI (RR=1.14; 95%CI=1.06–1.22), with highest risk increments in systemically treated psoriasis, which accounted for 11 and 17 excess cases of T2D and MI per 10,000 person-years. Except for weak signals from within the MHC, there was no evidence for genetic risk loci shared between psoriasis and cardiometabolic traits. Our findings suggest that psoriasis, in particular severe psoriasis, increases risk for T2D and MI, and that the genetic architecture of psoriasis and cardiometabolic traits is largely distinct.
PMCID: PMC4402117  PMID: 25599394
14.  Association of CLEC16A with human common variable immunodeficiency disorder and role in murine B cells 
Nature communications  2015;6:6804.
Common variable immunodeficiency disorder (CVID) is the most common symptomatic primary immunodeficiency in adults, characterized by B cell abnormalities and inadequate antibody response. CVID patients have considerable autoimmune comorbidity and we therefore hypothesized that genetic susceptibility to CVID may overlap with autoimmune disorders. Here, in the largest genetic study performed in CVID to date, we compare 778 CVID cases with 10,999 controls across 123,127 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) on the Immunochip. We identify the first non-HLA genome-wide significant risk locus at CLEC16A (rs17806056, P=2.0×10−9) and confirm the previously reported human leukocyte antigen (HLA) associations on chromosome 6p21 (rs1049225, P =4.8×10−16). Clec16a knock down (KD) mice showed reduced number of B cells and elevated IgM levels compared to controls, suggesting that CLEC16A may be involved in immune regulatory pathways of relevance to CVID. In conclusion, the CLEC16A associations in CVID represent the first robust evidence of non-HLA associations in this immunodeficiency condition.
PMCID: PMC4444044  PMID: 25891430
15.  Sparse Modeling Reveals miRNA Signatures for Diagnostics of Inflammatory Bowel Disease 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(10):e0140155.
The diagnosis of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) still remains a clinical challenge and the most accurate diagnostic procedure is a combination of clinical tests including invasive endoscopy. In this study we evaluated whether systematic miRNA expression profiling, in conjunction with machine learning techniques, is suitable as a non-invasive test for the major IBD phenotypes (Crohn's disease (CD) and ulcerative colitis (UC)). Based on microarray technology, expression levels of 863 miRNAs were determined for whole blood samples from 40 CD and 36 UC patients and compared to data from 38 healthy controls (HC). To further discriminate between disease-specific and general inflammation we included miRNA expression data from other inflammatory diseases (inflammation controls (IC): 24 chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), 23 multiple sclerosis, 38 pancreatitis and 45 sarcoidosis cases) as well as 70 healthy controls from previous studies. Classification problems considering 2, 3 or 4 groups were solved using different types of penalized support vector machines (SVMs). The resulting models were assessed regarding sparsity and performance and a subset was selected for further investigation. Measured by the area under the ROC curve (AUC) the corresponding median holdout-validated accuracy was estimated as ranging from 0.75 to 1.00 (including IC) and 0.89 to 0.98 (excluding IC), respectively. In combination, the corresponding models provide tools for the distinction of CD and UC as well as CD, UC and HC with expected classification error rates of 3.1 and 3.3%, respectively. These results were obtained by incorporating not more than 16 distinct miRNAs. Validated target genes of these miRNAs have been previously described as being related to IBD. For others we observed significant enrichment for IBD susceptibility loci identified in earlier GWAS. These results suggest that the proposed miRNA signature is of relevance for the etiology of IBD. Its diagnostic value, however, should be further evaluated in large, independent, clinically well characterized cohorts.
PMCID: PMC4605644  PMID: 26466382
16.  Genome-wide association study identifies multiple susceptibility loci for glioma 
Nature Communications  2015;6:8559.
Previous genome-wide association studies (GWASs) have shown that common genetic variation contributes to the heritable risk of glioma. To identify new glioma susceptibility loci, we conducted a meta-analysis of four GWAS (totalling 4,147 cases and 7,435 controls), with imputation using 1000 Genomes and UK10K Project data as reference. After genotyping an additional 1,490 cases and 1,723 controls we identify new risk loci for glioblastoma (GBM) at 12q23.33 (rs3851634, near POLR3B, P=3.02 × 10−9) and non-GBM at 10q25.2 (rs11196067, near VTI1A, P=4.32 × 10−8), 11q23.2 (rs648044, near ZBTB16, P=6.26 × 10−11), 12q21.2 (rs12230172, P=7.53 × 10−11) and 15q24.2 (rs1801591, near ETFA, P=5.71 × 10−9). Our findings provide further insights into the genetic basis of the different glioma subtypes.
Using meta-analysis of previous genome-wide association studies against the latest reference variant databases, this work identifies five new risk loci for glioblastoma and non-glioblastoma type of glioma.
PMCID: PMC4600760  PMID: 26424050
17.  Human longevity and variation in DNA damage response and repair: study of the contribution of sub-processes using competitive gene-set analysis 
European Journal of Human Genetics  2014;22(9):1131-1136.
DNA-damage response and repair are crucial to maintain genetic stability, and are consequently considered central to aging and longevity. Here, we investigate whether this pathway overall associates to longevity, and whether specific sub-processes are more strongly associated with longevity than others. Data were applied on 592 SNPs from 77 genes involved in nine sub-processes: DNA-damage response, base excision repair (BER), nucleotide excision repair, mismatch repair, non-homologous end-joining, homologous recombinational repair (HRR), RecQ helicase activities (RECQ), telomere functioning and mitochondrial DNA processes. The study population was 1089 long-lived and 736 middle-aged Danes. A self-contained set-based test of all SNPs displayed association with longevity (P-value=9.9 × 10−5), supporting that the overall pathway could affect longevity. Investigation of the nine sub-processes using the competitive gene-set analysis by Wang et al indicated that BER, HRR and RECQ associated stronger with longevity than the respective remaining genes of the pathway (P-values=0.004–0.048). For HRR and RECQ, only one gene contributed to the significance, whereas for BER several genes contributed. These associations did, however, generally not pass correction for multiple testing. Still, these findings indicate that, of the entire pathway, variation in BER might influence longevity the most. These modest sized P-values were not replicated in a German sample. This might, though, be due to differences in genotyping procedures and investigated SNPs, potentially inducing differences in the coverage of gene regions. Specifically, five genes were not covered at all in the German data. Therefore, investigations in additional study populations are needed before final conclusion can be drawn.
PMCID: PMC4135411  PMID: 24518833
competitive gene-set analysis; human longevity; SNPs; case-control data; DNA-damage response and DNA repair
18.  Family-Based Benchmarking of Copy Number Variation Detection Software 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(7):e0133465.
The analysis of structural variants, in particular of copy-number variations (CNVs), has proven valuable in unraveling the genetic basis of human diseases. Hence, a large number of algorithms have been developed for the detection of CNVs in SNP array signal intensity data. Using the European and African HapMap trio data, we undertook a comparative evaluation of six commonly used CNV detection software tools, namely Affymetrix Power Tools (APT), QuantiSNP, PennCNV, GLAD, R-gada and VEGA, and assessed their level of pair-wise prediction concordance. The tool-specific CNV prediction accuracy was assessed in silico by way of intra-familial validation. Software tools differed greatly in terms of the number and length of the CNVs predicted as well as the number of markers included in a CNV. All software tools predicted substantially more deletions than duplications. Intra-familial validation revealed consistently low levels of prediction accuracy as measured by the proportion of validated CNVs (34-60%). Moreover, up to 20% of apparent family-based validations were found to be due to chance alone. Software using Hidden Markov models (HMM) showed a trend to predict fewer CNVs than segmentation-based algorithms albeit with greater validity. PennCNV yielded the highest prediction accuracy (60.9%). Finally, the pairwise concordance of CNV prediction was found to vary widely with the software tools involved. We recommend HMM-based software, in particular PennCNV, rather than segmentation-based algorithms when validity is the primary concern of CNV detection. QuantiSNP may be used as an additional tool to detect sets of CNVs not detectable by the other tools. Our study also reemphasizes the need for laboratory-based validation, such as qPCR, of CNVs predicted in silico.
PMCID: PMC4510559  PMID: 26197066
19.  Protective mucosal immunity mediated by epithelial CD1d and IL-10 
Nature  2014;509(7501):497-502.
The mechanisms by which mucosal homeostasis is maintained are of central importance to inflammatory bowel disease. Critical to these processes is the intestinal epithelial cell (IEC), which regulates immune responses at the interface between the commensal microbiota and the host1,2. CD1d presents self and microbial lipid antigens to natural killer T (NKT) cells, which are involved in the pathogenesis of colitis in animal models and human inflammatory bowel disease3–8. As CD1d crosslinking on model IECs results in the production of the important regulatory cytokine interleukin (IL)-10 (ref.9), decreased epithelial CD1d expression—as observed in inflammatory bowel disease10,11—may contribute substantially to intestinal inflammation. Here we show in mice that whereas bone-marrow-derived CD1d signals contribute to NKT-cell-mediated intestinal inflammation, engagement of epithelial CD1d elicits protective effects through the activation of STAT3 and STAT3-dependent transcription of IL-10, heat shock protein 110 (HSP110; also known as HSP105), and CD1d itself. All of these epithelial elements are critically involved in controlling CD1d-mediated intestinal inflammation. This is demonstrated by severe NKT-cell-mediated colitis upon IEC-specific deletion of IL-10, CD1d, and its critical regulator microsomal triglyceride transfer protein (MTP)12,13, as well as deletion of HSP110 in the radioresistant compartment. Our studies thus uncover a novel pathway of IEC-dependent regulation of mucosal homeostasis and highlight a critical role of IL-10 in the intestinal epithelium, with broad implications for diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease.
PMCID: PMC4132962  PMID: 24717441
20.  Optimising the Inflammatory Bowel Disease Unit to Improve Quality of Care: Expert Recommendations 
Journal of Crohn's & Colitis  2015;9(8):685-691.
The best care setting for patients with inflammatory bowel disease [IBD] may be in a dedicated unit. Whereas not all gastroenterology units have the same resources to develop dedicated IBD facilities and services, there are steps that can be taken by any unit to optimise patients’ access to interdisciplinary expert care. A series of pragmatic recommendations relating to IBD unit optimisation have been developed through discussion among a large panel of international experts.
Suggested recommendations were extracted through systematic search of published evidence and structured requests for expert opinion. Physicians [n = 238] identified as IBD specialists by publications or clinical focus on IBD were invited for discussion and recommendation modification [Barcelona, Spain; 2014]. Final recommendations were voted on by the group. Participants also completed an online survey to evaluate their own experience related to IBD units.
A total of 60% of attendees completed the survey, with 15% self-classifying their centre as a dedicated IBD unit. Only half of respondents indicated that they had a defined IBD treatment algorithm in place. Key recommendations included the need to develop a multidisciplinary team covering specifically-defined specialist expertise in IBD, to instil processes that facilitate cross-functional communication and to invest in shared care models of IBD management.
Optimising the setup of IBD units will require progressive leadership and willingness to challenge the status quo in order to provide better quality of care for our patients. IBD units are an important step towards harmonising care for IBD across Europe and for establishing standards for disease management programmes.
PMCID: PMC4584566  PMID: 25987349
Crohn’s disease; decision making; delivery of healthcare; interdisciplinary communication; tertiary care centres; ulcerative colitis
21.  Adjustment for smoking does not alter the FOXO3A association with longevity 
Age  2013;36(2):911-921.
Human longevity is a multifactorial phenotype influenced by both genetic and environmental factors. Despite its heritability of 25–32 %, the genetic background of longevity is as yet largely unexplained. Apart from APOE status, variation in the FOXO3A gene is the only confirmed genetic contributor to survival into old age. On the other hand, FOXO3A activity is known to be downregulated in various cancers, and the gene was recently identified as a novel deletion hotspot in human lung adenocarcinoma. In view of the strong association between smoking and lung cancer, we set out to explore whether smoking modifies the known association between FOXO3A variation and longevity. To this end, we conducted a case–control study in two different populations, drawing upon extensive collections of old-aged individuals and younger controls available to us (1,613 German centenarians/nonagenarians and 1,104 controls; 1,088 Danish nonagenarians and 736 controls). In the German sample, 21 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) from the FOXO3A gene region were genotyped, whereas 15 FOXO3A SNPs were analyzed in the Danish sample. Eight SNPs were typed in both populations. Logistic regression analysis revealed that adjustment for smoking does not systematically alter the association between FOXO3A variation and longevity in neither population. Our analysis therefore suggests that the said association is not largely due to the confounding effects of lung cancer.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s11357-013-9578-z) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4039245  PMID: 24014251
Longevity; Aging; Smoking; Lung cancer; Confounder; Heritability
22.  Genome-wide association analysis in primary sclerosing cholangitis identifies two non-HLA susceptibility loci 
Nature genetics  2010;43(1):17-19.
Primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC) is a chronic bile duct disease affecting 2.4–7.5% of individuals with inflammatory bowel disease. We performed a genome-wide association analysis of 2,466,182 SNPs in 715 individuals with PSC and 2,962 controls, followed by replication in 1,025 PSC cases and 2,174 controls. We detected non-HLA associations at rs3197999 in MST1 and rs6720394 near BCL2L11 (combined P = 1.1 × 10−16 and P = 4.1 × 10−8, respectively).
PMCID: PMC4354850  PMID: 21151127
23.  A genome-wide association study of anorexia nervosa 
Boraska, Vesna | Franklin, Christopher S | Floyd, James AB | Thornton, Laura M | Huckins, Laura M | Southam, Lorraine | Rayner, N William | Tachmazidou, Ioanna | Klump, Kelly L | Treasure, Janet | Lewis, Cathryn M | Schmidt, Ulrike | Tozzi, Federica | Kiezebrink, Kirsty | Hebebrand, Johannes | Gorwood, Philip | Adan, Roger AH | Kas, Martien JH | Favaro, Angela | Santonastaso, Paolo | Fernández-Aranda, Fernando | Gratacos, Monica | Rybakowski, Filip | Dmitrzak-Weglarz, Monika | Kaprio, Jaakko | Keski-Rahkonen, Anna | Raevuori, Anu | Van Furth, Eric F | Landt, Margarita CT Slof-Op t | Hudson, James I | Reichborn-Kjennerud, Ted | Knudsen, Gun Peggy S | Monteleone, Palmiero | Kaplan, Allan S | Karwautz, Andreas | Hakonarson, Hakon | Berrettini, Wade H | Guo, Yiran | Li, Dong | Schork, Nicholas J. | Komaki, Gen | Ando, Tetsuya | Inoko, Hidetoshi | Esko, Tõnu | Fischer, Krista | Männik, Katrin | Metspalu, Andres | Baker, Jessica H | Cone, Roger D | Dackor, Jennifer | DeSocio, Janiece E | Hilliard, Christopher E | O'Toole, Julie K | Pantel, Jacques | Szatkiewicz, Jin P | Taico, Chrysecolla | Zerwas, Stephanie | Trace, Sara E | Davis, Oliver SP | Helder, Sietske | Bühren, Katharina | Burghardt, Roland | de Zwaan, Martina | Egberts, Karin | Ehrlich, Stefan | Herpertz-Dahlmann, Beate | Herzog, Wolfgang | Imgart, Hartmut | Scherag, André | Scherag, Susann | Zipfel, Stephan | Boni, Claudette | Ramoz, Nicolas | Versini, Audrey | Brandys, Marek K | Danner, Unna N | de Kovel, Carolien | Hendriks, Judith | Koeleman, Bobby PC | Ophoff, Roel A | Strengman, Eric | van Elburg, Annemarie A | Bruson, Alice | Clementi, Maurizio | Degortes, Daniela | Forzan, Monica | Tenconi, Elena | Docampo, Elisa | Escaramís, Geòrgia | Jiménez-Murcia, Susana | Lissowska, Jolanta | Rajewski, Andrzej | Szeszenia-Dabrowska, Neonila | Slopien, Agnieszka | Hauser, Joanna | Karhunen, Leila | Meulenbelt, Ingrid | Slagboom, P Eline | Tortorella, Alfonso | Maj, Mario | Dedoussis, George | Dikeos, Dimitris | Gonidakis, Fragiskos | Tziouvas, Konstantinos | Tsitsika, Artemis | Papezova, Hana | Slachtova, Lenka | Martaskova, Debora | Kennedy, James L. | Levitan, Robert D. | Yilmaz, Zeynep | Huemer, Julia | Koubek, Doris | Merl, Elisabeth | Wagner, Gudrun | Lichtenstein, Paul | Breen, Gerome | Cohen-Woods, Sarah | Farmer, Anne | McGuffin, Peter | Cichon, Sven | Giegling, Ina | Herms, Stefan | Rujescu, Dan | Schreiber, Stefan | Wichmann, H-Erich | Dina, Christian | Sladek, Rob | Gambaro, Giovanni | Soranzo, Nicole | Julia, Antonio | Marsal, Sara | Rabionet, Raquel | Gaborieau, Valerie | Dick, Danielle M | Palotie, Aarno | Ripatti, Samuli | Widén, Elisabeth | Andreassen, Ole A | Espeseth, Thomas | Lundervold, Astri | Reinvang, Ivar | Steen, Vidar M | Le Hellard, Stephanie | Mattingsdal, Morten | Ntalla, Ioanna | Bencko, Vladimir | Foretova, Lenka | Janout, Vladimir | Navratilova, Marie | Gallinger, Steven | Pinto, Dalila | Scherer, Stephen | Aschauer, Harald | Carlberg, Laura | Schosser, Alexandra | Alfredsson, Lars | Ding, Bo | Klareskog, Lars | Padyukov, Leonid | Finan, Chris | Kalsi, Gursharan | Roberts, Marion | Logan, Darren W | Peltonen, Leena | Ritchie, Graham RS | Barrett, Jeffrey C | Estivill, Xavier | Hinney, Anke | Sullivan, Patrick F | Collier, David A | Zeggini, Eleftheria | Bulik, Cynthia M
Molecular psychiatry  2014;19(10):1085-1094.
Anorexia nervosa (AN) is a complex and heritable eating disorder characterized by dangerously low body weight. Neither candidate gene studies nor an initial genome wide association study (GWAS) have yielded significant and replicated results. We performed a GWAS in 2,907 cases with AN from 14 countries (15 sites) and 14,860 ancestrally matched controls as part of the Genetic Consortium for AN (GCAN) and the Wellcome Trust Case Control Consortium 3 (WTCCC3). Individual association analyses were conducted in each stratum and meta-analyzed across all 15 discovery datasets. Seventy-six (72 independent) SNPs were taken forward for in silico (two datasets) or de novo (13 datasets) replication genotyping in 2,677 independent AN cases and 8,629 European ancestry controls along with 458 AN cases and 421 controls from Japan. The final global meta-analysis across discovery and replication datasets comprised 5,551 AN cases and 21,080 controls. AN subtype analyses (1,606 AN restricting; 1,445 AN binge-purge) were performed. No findings reached genome-wide significance. Two intronic variants were suggestively associated: rs9839776 (P=3.01×10-7) in SOX2OT and rs17030795 (P=5.84×10-6) in PPP3CA. Two additional signals were specific to Europeans: rs1523921 (P=5.76×10-6) between CUL3 and FAM124B and rs1886797 (P=8.05×10-6) near SPATA13. Comparing discovery to replication results, 76% of the effects were in the same direction, an observation highly unlikely to be due to chance (P=4×10-6), strongly suggesting that true findings exist but that our sample, the largest yet reported, was underpowered for their detection. The accrual of large genotyped AN case-control samples should be an immediate priority for the field.
PMCID: PMC4325090  PMID: 24514567
anorexia nervosa; eating disorders; GWAS; genome-wide association study; body mass index; metabolic
24.  Refinement of the MHC Risk Map in a Scandinavian Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis Population 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(12):e114486.
Genetic variants within the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) represent the strongest genetic susceptibility factors for primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC). Identifying the causal variants within this genetic complex represents a major challenge due to strong linkage disequilibrium and an overall high physical density of candidate variants. We aimed to refine the MHC association in a geographically restricted PSC patient panel.
Methodology/Principal Findings
A total of 365 PSC cases and 368 healthy controls of Scandinavian ancestry were included in the study. We incorporated data from HLA typing (HLA-A, -B, -C, -DRB3, -DRB1, -DQB1) and single nucleotide polymorphisms across the MHC (n = 18,644; genotyped and imputed) alongside previously suggested PSC risk determinants in the MHC, i.e. amino acid variation of DRβ, a MICA microsatellite polymorphism and HLA-C and HLA-B according to their ligand properties for killer immunoglobulin-like receptors. Breakdowns of the association signal by unconditional and conditional logistic regression analyses demarcated multiple PSC associated MHC haplotypes, and for eight of these classical HLA class I and II alleles represented the strongest association. A novel independent risk locus was detected near NOTCH4 in the HLA class III region, tagged by rs116212904 (odds ratio [95% confidence interval] = 2.32 [1.80, 3.00], P = 1.35×10−11).
Our study shows that classical HLA class I and II alleles, predominantly at HLA-B and HLA-DRB1, are the main risk factors for PSC in the MHC. In addition, the present assessments demonstrated for the first time an association near NOTCH4 in the HLA class III region.
PMCID: PMC4270690  PMID: 25521205
25.  Genome-wide association study of alcohol dependence 
Archives of general psychiatry  2009;66(7):773-784.
Identification of genes contributing to alcohol dependence will improve our understanding of the mechanisms underlying this disorder.
To identify susceptibility genes for alcohol dependence through a genome-wide association study (GWAS) and follow-up study in a population of German male inpatients with an early age at onset.
The GWAS included 487 male inpatients with DSM-IV alcohol dependence with an age at onset below 28 years and 1,358 population based control individuals. The follow-up study included 1,024 male inpatients and 996 age-matched male controls. All subjects were of German descent. The GWAS tested 524,396 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). All SNPs with p<10-4 were subjected to the follow-up study. In addition, nominally significant SNPs from those genes that had also shown expression changes in rat brains after chronic alcohol consumption were selected for the follow-up step.
The GWAS produced 121 SNPs with nominal p<10-4. These, together with 19 additional SNPs from homologs of rat genes showing differential expression, were genotyped in the follow-up sample. Fifteen SNPs showed significant association with the same allele as in the GWAS. In the combined analysis, two closely linked intergenic SNPs met genome-wide significance (rs7590720 p=9.72×10-9; rs1344694 p=1.69×10-8). They are located on chromosome 2q35, a region which has been implicated in linkage studies for alcohol phenotypes. Nine SNPs were located in genes, including CDH13 and ADH1C genes which have been reported to be associated with alcohol dependence.
This is the first GWAS and follow-up study to identify a genome-wide significant association in alcohol dependence. Further independent studies are required to confirm these findings.
PMCID: PMC4229246  PMID: 19581569

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