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1.  miRNAs can be generally associated with human pathologies as exemplified for miR-144* 
BMC Medicine  2014;12(1):224.
miRNA profiles are promising biomarker candidates for a manifold of human pathologies, opening new avenues for diagnosis and prognosis. Beyond studies that describe miRNAs frequently as markers for specific traits, we asked whether a general pattern for miRNAs across many diseases exists.
We evaluated genome-wide circulating profiles of 1,049 patients suffering from 19 different cancer and non-cancer diseases as well as unaffected controls. The results were validated on 319 individuals using qRT-PCR.
We discovered 34 miRNAs with strong disease association. Among those, we found substantially decreased levels of hsa-miR-144* and hsa-miR-20b with AUC of 0.751 (95% CI: 0.703–0.799), respectively. We also discovered a set of miRNAs, including hsa-miR-155*, as rather stable markers, offering reasonable control miRNAs for future studies. The strong downregulation of hsa-miR-144* and the less variable pattern of hsa-miR-155* has been validated in a cohort of 319 samples in three different centers. Here, breast cancer as an additional disease phenotype not included in the screening phase has been included as the 20th trait.
Our study on 1,368 patients including 1,049 genome-wide miRNA profiles and 319 qRT-PCR validations further underscores the high potential of specific blood-borne miRNA patterns as molecular biomarkers. Importantly, we highlight 34 miRNAs that are generally dysregulated in human pathologies. Although these markers are not specific to certain diseases they may add to the diagnosis in combination with other markers, building a specific signature. Besides these dysregulated miRNAs, we propose a set of constant miRNAs that may be used as control markers.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12916-014-0224-0) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4268797  PMID: 25465851
Bioinformatics; Biomarker; Microarray; miRNA
2.  Targeted enrichment of genomic DNA regions for next-generation sequencing 
Briefings in Functional Genomics  2011;10(6):374-386.
In this review, we discuss the latest targeted enrichment methods and aspects of their utilization along with second-generation sequencing for complex genome analysis. In doing so, we provide an overview of issues involved in detecting genetic variation, for which targeted enrichment has become a powerful tool. We explain how targeted enrichment for next-generation sequencing has made great progress in terms of methodology, ease of use and applicability, but emphasize the remaining challenges such as the lack of even coverage across targeted regions. Costs are also considered versus the alternative of whole-genome sequencing which is becoming ever more affordable. We conclude that targeted enrichment is likely to be the most economical option for many years to come in a range of settings.
PMCID: PMC3245553  PMID: 22121152
targeted enrichment; next-generation sequencing; genome partitioning; exome; genetic variation
3.  Accurate variant detection across non-amplified and whole genome amplified DNA using targeted next generation sequencing 
BMC Genomics  2012;13:500.
Many hypothesis-driven genetic studies require the ability to comprehensively and efficiently target specific regions of the genome to detect sequence variations. Often, sample availability is limited requiring the use of whole genome amplification (WGA). We evaluated a high-throughput microdroplet-based PCR approach in combination with next generation sequencing (NGS) to target 384 discrete exons from 373 genes involved in cancer. In our evaluation, we compared the performance of six non-amplified gDNA samples from two HapMap family trios. Three of these samples were also preamplified by WGA and evaluated. We tested sample pooling or multiplexing strategies at different stages of the tested targeted NGS (T-NGS) workflow.
The results demonstrated comparable sequence performance between non-amplified and preamplified samples and between different indexing strategies [sequence specificity of 66.0% ± 3.4%, uniformity (coverage at 0.2× of the mean) of 85.6% ± 0.6%]. The average genotype concordance maintained across all the samples was 99.5% ± 0.4%, regardless of sample type or pooling strategy. We did not detect any errors in the Mendelian patterns of inheritance of genotypes between the parents and offspring within each trio. We also demonstrated the ability to detect minor allele frequencies within the pooled samples that conform to predicted models.
Our described PCR-based sample multiplex approach and the ability to use WGA material for NGS may enable researchers to perform deep resequencing studies and explore variants at very low frequencies and cost.
PMCID: PMC3534403  PMID: 22994565
High-throughput targeted next-generation resequencing; Microdroplet-based multiplex PCR; Sample pooling or multiplexing; Whole-genome amplified DNA samples; Cost reduction
4.  From next-generation sequencing alignments to accurate comparison and validation of single-nucleotide variants: the pibase software 
Nucleic Acids Research  2012;41(1):e16.
Scientists working with single-nucleotide variants (SNVs), inferred by next-generation sequencing software, often need further information regarding true variants, artifacts and sequence coverage gaps. In clinical diagnostics, e.g. SNVs must usually be validated by visual inspection or several independent SNV-callers. We here demonstrate that 0.5–60% of relevant SNVs might not be detected due to coverage gaps, or might be misidentified. Even low error rates can overwhelm the true biological signal, especially in clinical diagnostics, in research comparing healthy with affected cells, in archaeogenetic dating or in forensics. For these reasons, we have developed a package called pibase, which is applicable to diploid and haploid genome, exome or targeted enrichment data. pibase extracts details on nucleotides from alignment files at user-specified coordinates and identifies reproducible genotypes, if present. In test cases pibase identifies genotypes at 99.98% specificity, 10-fold better than other tools. pibase also provides pair-wise comparisons between healthy and affected cells using nucleotide signals (10-fold more accurately than a genotype-based approach, as we show in our case study of monozygotic twins). This comparison tool also solves the problem of detecting allelic imbalance within heterozygous SNVs in copy number variation loci, or in heterogeneous tumor sequences.
PMCID: PMC3592472  PMID: 22965131
5.  Improving mapping and SNP-calling performance in multiplexed targeted next-generation sequencing 
BMC Genomics  2012;13:417.
Compared to classical genotyping, targeted next-generation sequencing (tNGS) can be custom-designed to interrogate entire genomic regions of interest, in order to detect novel as well as known variants. To bring down the per-sample cost, one approach is to pool barcoded NGS libraries before sample enrichment. Still, we lack a complete understanding of how this multiplexed tNGS approach and the varying performance of the ever-evolving analytical tools can affect the quality of variant discovery. Therefore, we evaluated the impact of different software tools and analytical approaches on the discovery of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in multiplexed tNGS data. To generate our own test model, we combined a sequence capture method with NGS in three experimental stages of increasing complexity (E. coli genes, multiplexed E. coli, and multiplexed HapMap BRCA1/2 regions).
We successfully enriched barcoded NGS libraries instead of genomic DNA, achieving reproducible coverage profiles (Pearson correlation coefficients of up to 0.99) across multiplexed samples, with <10% strand bias. However, the SNP calling quality was substantially affected by the choice of tools and mapping strategy. With the aim of reducing computational requirements, we compared conventional whole-genome mapping and SNP-calling with a new faster approach: target-region mapping with subsequent ‘read-backmapping’ to the whole genome to reduce the false detection rate. Consequently, we developed a combined mapping pipeline, which includes standard tools (BWA, SAMtools, etc.), and tested it on public HiSeq2000 exome data from the 1000 Genomes Project. Our pipeline saved 12 hours of run time per Hiseq2000 exome sample and detected ~5% more SNPs than the conventional whole genome approach. This suggests that more potential novel SNPs may be discovered using both approaches than with just the conventional approach.
We recommend applying our general ‘two-step’ mapping approach for more efficient SNP discovery in tNGS. Our study has also shown the benefit of computing inter-sample SNP-concordances and inspecting read alignments in order to attain more confident results.
PMCID: PMC3563481  PMID: 22913592
Two-stage mapping; Read-backmapping; Software performance; SNP discovery; Multiplexed targeted next-generation sequencing
6.  Mutational Characterization of the Bile Acid Receptor TGR5 in Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(8):e12403.
TGR5, the G protein-coupled bile acid receptor 1 (GPBAR1), has been linked to inflammatory pathways as well as bile homeostasis, and could therefore be involved in primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC) a chronic inflammatory bile duct disease. We aimed to extensively investigate TGR5 sequence variation in PSC, as well as functionally characterize detected variants.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Complete resequencing of TGR5 was performed in 267 PSC patients and 274 healthy controls. Six nonsynonymous mutations were identified in addition to 16 other novel single-nucleotide polymorphisms. To investigate the impact from the nonsynonymous variants on TGR5, we created a receptor model, and introduced mutated TGR5 constructs into human epithelial cell lines. By using confocal microscopy, flow cytometry and a cAMP-sensitive luciferase assay, five of the nonsynonymous mutations (W83R, V178M, A217P, S272G and Q296X) were found to reduce or abolish TGR5 function. Fine-mapping of the previously reported PSC and UC associated locus at chromosome 2q35 in large patient panels revealed an overall association between the TGR5 single-nucleotide polymorphism rs11554825 and PSC (odds ratio  = 1.14, 95% confidence interval: 1.03–1.26, p = 0.010) and UC (odds ratio  = 1.19, 95% confidence interval 1.11–1.27, p = 8.5×10−7), but strong linkage disequilibrium precluded demarcation of TGR5 from neighboring genes.
Resequencing of TGR5 along with functional investigations of novel variants provided unique insight into an important candidate gene for several inflammatory and metabolic conditions. While significant TGR5 associations were detected in both UC and PSC, further studies are needed to conclusively define the role of TGR5 variation in these diseases.
PMCID: PMC2928275  PMID: 20811628
7.  Systematic Association Mapping Identifies NELL1 as a Novel IBD Disease Gene 
PLoS ONE  2007;2(8):e691.
Crohn disease (CD), a sub-entity of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), is a complex polygenic disorder. Although recent studies have successfully identified CD-associated genetic variants, these susceptibility loci explain only a fraction of the heritability of the disease. Here, we report on a multi-stage genome-wide scan of 393 German CD cases and 399 controls. Among the 116,161 single-nucleotide polymorphisms tested, an association with the known CD susceptibility gene NOD2, the 5q31 haplotype, and the recently reported CD locus at 5p13.1 was confirmed. In addition, SNP rs1793004 in the gene encoding nel-like 1 precursor (NELL1, chromosome 11p15.1) showed a consistent disease-association in independent German population- and family-based samples (942 cases, 1082 controls, 375 trios). Subsequent fine mapping and replication in an independent sample of 454 French/Canadian CD trios supported the authenticity of the NELL1 association. Further confirmation in a large German ulcerative colitis (UC) sample indicated that NELL1 is a ubiquitous IBD susceptibility locus (combined p<10−6; OR = 1.66, 95% CI: 1.30–2.11). The novel 5p13.1 locus was also replicated in the French/Canadian sample and in an independent UK CD patient panel (453 cases, 521 controls, combined p<10−6 for SNP rs1992660). Several associations were replicated in at least one independent sample, point to an involvement of ITGB6 (upstream), GRM8 (downstream), OR5V1 (downstream), PPP3R2 (downstream), NM_152575 (upstream) and HNF4G (intron).
PMCID: PMC1933598  PMID: 17684544

Results 1-7 (7)