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1.  Relationship between genome and epigenome - challenges and requirements for future research 
BMC Genomics  2014;15(1):487.
Understanding the links between genetic, epigenetic and non-genetic factors throughout the lifespan and across generations and their role in disease susceptibility and disease progression offer entirely new avenues and solutions to major problems in our society. To overcome the numerous challenges, we have come up with nine major conclusions to set the vision for future policies and research agendas at the European level.
PMCID: PMC4073504  PMID: 24942464
Genome; Epigenome; Microbiome; Environment
2.  Analysis of Expressed Genes of the Bacterium ‘Candidatus Phytoplasma Mali’ Highlights Key Features of Virulence and Metabolism 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(4):e94391.
‘Candidatus Phytoplasma mali’ is a phytopathogenic bacterium of the family Acholeplasmataceae assigned to the class Mollicutes. This causative agent of the apple proliferation colonizes in Malus domestica the sieve tubes of the plant phloem resulting in a range of symptoms such as witches’- broom formation, reduced vigor and affecting size and quality of the crop. The disease is responsible for strong economical losses in Europe. Although the genome sequence of the pathogen is available, there is only limited information on expression of selected genes and metabolic key features that have not been examined on the transcriptomic or proteomic level so far. This situation is similar to many other phytoplasmas. In the work presented here, RNA-Seq and mass spectrometry shotgun techniques were applied on tissue samples from Nicotiana occidentalis infected by ‘Ca. P. mali’ strain AT providing insights into transcriptome and proteome of the pathogen. Data analysis highlights expression of 208 genes including 14 proteins located in the terminal inverted repeats of the linear chromosome. Beside a high portion of house keeping genes, the recently discussed chaperone GroES/GroEL is expressed. Furthermore, gene expression involved in formation of a type IVB and of the Sec-dependent secretion system was identified as well as the highly expressed putative pathogenicity–related SAP11-like effector protein. Metabolism of phytoplasmas depends on the uptake of spermidine/putescine, amino acids, co-factors, carbohydrates and in particular malate/citrate. The expression of these transporters was confirmed and the analysis of the carbohydrate cycle supports the suggested alternative energy-providing pathway for phytoplasmas releasing acetate and providing ATP. The phylogenetic analyses of malate dehydrogenase and acetate kinase in phytoplasmas show a closer relatedness to the Firmicutes in comparison to Mycoplasma species indicating an early divergence of the Acholeplasmataceae from the Mollicutes.
PMCID: PMC3984173  PMID: 24728201
3.  Antidiabetic Effects of Chamomile Flowers Extract in Obese Mice through Transcriptional Stimulation of Nutrient Sensors of the Peroxisome Proliferator-Activated Receptor (PPAR) Family 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e80335.
Given the significant increases in the incidence of metabolic diseases, efficient strategies for preventing and treating of these common disorders are urgently needed. This includes the development of phytopharmaceutical products or functional foods to prevent or cure metabolic diseases. Plant extracts from edible biomaterial provide a potential resource of structurally diverse molecules that can synergistically interfere with complex disorders. In this study we describe the safe application of ethanolic chamomile (Matricaria recutita) flowers extract (CFE) for the treatment and prevention of type 2 diabetes and associated disorders. We show in vitro that this extract activates in particular nuclear receptor peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma (PPARγ) and its isotypes. In a cellular context, in human primary adipocytes CFE administration (300 µg/ml) led to specific expression of target genes of PPARγ, whereas in human hepatocytes CFE-induced we detected expression changes of genes that were regulated by PPARα. In vivo treatment of insulin-resistant high-fat diet (HFD)-fed C57BL/6 mice with CFE (200 mg/kg/d) for 6 weeks considerably reduced insulin resistance, glucose intolerance, plasma triacylglycerol, non-esterified fatty acids (NEFA) and LDL/VLDL cholesterol. Co-feeding of lean C57BL/6 mice a HFD with 200 mg/kg/d CFE for 20 weeks showed effective prevention of fatty liver formation and hepatic inflammation, indicating additionally hepatoprotective effects of the extract. Moreover, CFE treatment did not reveal side effects, which have otherwise been associated with strong synthetic PPAR-targeting molecules, such as weight gain, liver disorders, hemodilution or bone cell turnover. Taken together, modulation of PPARs and other factors by chamomile flowers extract has the potential to prevent or treat type 2 diabetes and related disorders.
PMCID: PMC3827197  PMID: 24265809
4.  Foam Cell Specific LXRα Ligand 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(2):e57311.
The liver X receptor α (LXRα) is a ligand-dependent nuclear receptor and the major regulator of reverse cholesterol transport in macrophages. This makes it an interesting target for mechanistic study and treatment of atherosclerosis.
Methods and Results
We optimized a promising stilbenoid structure (STX4) in order to reach nanomolar effective concentrations in LXRα reporter-gene assays. STX4 displayed the unique property to activate LXRα effectively but not its subtype LXRβ. The potential of STX4 to increase transcriptional activity as an LXRα ligand was tested with gene expression analyses in THP1-derived human macrophages and oxLDL-loaded human foam cells. Only in foam cells but not in macrophage cells STX4 treatment showed athero-protective effects with similar potency as the synthetic LXR ligand T0901317 (T09). Surprisingly, combinatorial treatment with STX4 and T09 resulted in an additive effect on reporter-gene activation and target gene expression. In physiological tests the cellular content of total and esterified cholesterol was significantly reduced by STX4 without the undesirable increase in triglyceride levels as observed for T09.
STX4 is a new LXRα-ligand to study transcriptional regulation of anti-atherogenic processes in cell or ex vivo models, and provides a promising lead structure for pharmaceutical development.
PMCID: PMC3581588  PMID: 23451202
5.  Genome-wide analysis of LXRα activation reveals new transcriptional networks in human atherosclerotic foam cells 
Nucleic Acids Research  2013;41(6):3518-3531.
Increased physiological levels of oxysterols are major risk factors for developing atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease. Lipid-loaded macrophages, termed foam cells, are important during the early development of atherosclerotic plaques. To pursue the hypothesis that ligand-based modulation of the nuclear receptor LXRα is crucial for cell homeostasis during atherosclerotic processes, we analysed genome-wide the action of LXRα in foam cells and macrophages. By integrating chromatin immunoprecipitation-sequencing (ChIP-seq) and gene expression profile analyses, we generated a highly stringent set of 186 LXRα target genes. Treatment with the nanomolar-binding ligand T0901317 and subsequent auto-regulatory LXRα activation resulted in sequence-dependent sharpening of the genome-binding patterns of LXRα. LXRα-binding loci that correlated with differential gene expression revealed 32 novel target genes with potential beneficial effects, which in part explained the implications of disease-associated genetic variation data. These observations identified highly integrated LXRα ligand-dependent transcriptional networks, including the APOE/C1/C4/C2-gene cluster, which contribute to the reversal of cholesterol efflux and the dampening of inflammation processes in foam cells to prevent atherogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3616743  PMID: 23393188
6.  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
7.  DNA polymorphisms and haplotype patterns of transcription factors involved in barley endosperm development are associated with key agronomic traits 
BMC Plant Biology  2010;10:5.
Association mapping is receiving considerable attention in plant genetics for its potential to fine map quantitative trait loci (QTL), validate candidate genes, and identify alleles of interest. In the present study association mapping in barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) is investigated by associating DNA polymorphisms with variation in grain quality traits, plant height, and flowering time to gain further understanding of gene functions involved in the control of these traits. We focused on the four loci BLZ1, BLZ2, BPBF and HvGAMYB that play a role in the regulation of B-hordein expression, the major fraction of the barley storage protein. The association was tested in a collection of 224 spring barley accessions using a two-stage mixed model approach.
Within the sequenced fragments of four candidate genes we observed different levels of nucleotide diversity. The effect of selection on the candidate genes was tested by Tajima's D which revealed significant values for BLZ1, BLZ2, and BPBF in the subset of two-rowed barleys. Pair-wise LD estimates between the detected SNPs within each candidate gene revealed different intra-genic linkage patterns. On the basis of a more extensive examination of genomic regions surrounding the four candidate genes we found a sharp decrease of LD (r2<0.2 within 1 cM) in all but one flanking regions.
Significant marker-trait associations between SNP sites within BLZ1 and flowering time, BPBF and crude protein content and BPBF and starch content were detected. Most haplotypes occurred at frequencies <0.05 and therefore were rejected from the association analysis. Based on haplotype information, BPBF was associated to crude protein content and starch content, BLZ2 showed association to thousand-grain weight and BLZ1 was found to be associated with flowering time and plant height.
Differences in nucleotide diversity and LD pattern within the candidate genes BLZ1, BLZ2, BPBF, and HvGAMYB reflect the impact of selection on the nucleotide sequence of the four candidate loci.
Despite significant associations, the analysed candidate genes only explained a minor part of the total genetic variation although they are known to be important factors influencing the expression of seed quality traits. Therefore, we assume that grain quality as well as plant height and flowering time are influenced by many factors each contributing a small part to the expression of the phenotype. A genome-wide association analysis could provide a more comprehensive picture of loci involved in the regulation of grain quality, thousand grain weight and the other agronomic traits that were analyzed in this study. However, despite available high-throughput genotyping arrays the marker density along the barely genome is still insufficient to cover all associations in a whole genome scan. Therefore, the candidate gene-based approach will further play an important role in barley association studies.
PMCID: PMC2822787  PMID: 20064201
8.  High level of conservation between genes coding for the GAMYB transcription factor in barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) and bread wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) collections 
The transcription factor GAMYB is involved in gibberellin signalling in cereal aleurone cells and in plant developmental processes. Nucleotide diversity of HvGAMYB and TaGAMYB was investigated in 155 barley (Hordeum vulgare) and 42 wheat (Triticum aestivum) accessions, respectively. Polymorphisms defined 18 haplotypes in the barley collection and 1, 7 and 3 haplotypes for the A, B, and D genomes of wheat, respectively. We found that (1) Hv- and TaGAMYB genes have identical structures. (2) Both genes show a high level of nucleotide identity (>95%) in the coding sequences and the distribution of polymorphisms is similar in both collections. At the protein level the functional domain is identical in both species. (3) GAMYB genes map to a syntenic position on chromosome 3. GAMYB genes are different in both collections with respect to the Tajima D statistic and linkage disequilibrium (LD). A moderate level of LD was observed in the barley collection. In wheat, LD is absolute between polymorphic sites, mostly located in the first intron, while it decays within the gene. Differences in Tajima D values might be due to a lower selection pressure on HvGAMYB, compared to its wheat orthologue. Altogether our results provide evidence that there have been only few evolutionary changes in Hv- and TaGAMYB. This confirms the close relationship between these species and also highlights the functional importance of this transcription factor.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00122-008-0777-4) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC2755743  PMID: 18488187
9.  Identification of novel transcriptional regulators involved in macrophage differentiation and activation in U937 cells 
BMC Immunology  2009;10:18.
Monocytes and macrophages play essential role in innate immunity. Understanding the underlying mechanism of macrophage differentiation and the identification of regulatory mechanisms will help to find new strategies to prevent their harmful effects in chronic inflammatory diseases and sepsis.
Maturation of blood monocytes into tissue macrophages and subsequent inflammatory response was mimicked in U937 cells of human histocytic lymphoma origin. Whole genome array analysis was employed to evaluate gene expression profile to identify underlying transcriptional networks implicated during the processes of differentiation and inflammation. In addition to already known transcription factors (i.e. MAFB, EGR, IRF, BCL6, NFkB, AP1, Nur77), gene expression analysis further revealed novel genes (i.e. MEF2, BRI, HLX, HDAC5, H2AV, TCF7L2, NFIL3) previously uncharacterized to be involved in the differentiation process. A total of 58 selected genes representing cytokines, chemokines, surface antigens, signaling molecules and transcription factors were validated by real time PCR and compared to primary monocyte-derived macrophages. Beside the verification of several new genes, the comparison reveals individual heterogeneity of blood donors.
Up regulation of MEF2 family, HDACs, and H2AV during cell differentiation and inflammation sheds new lights onto regulation events on transcriptional and epigenetic level controlling these processes. Data generated will serve as a source for further investigation of macrophages differentiation pathways and related biological responses.
PMCID: PMC2674038  PMID: 19341462
10.  Classification and Identification of Bacteria by Mass Spectrometry and Computational Analysis 
PLoS ONE  2008;3(7):e2843.
In general, the definite determination of bacterial species is a tedious process and requires extensive manual labour. Novel technologies for bacterial detection and analysis can therefore help microbiologists in minimising their efforts in developing a number of microbiological applications.
We present a robust, standardized procedure for automated bacterial analysis that is based on the detection of patterns of protein masses by MALDI mass spectrometry. We particularly applied the approach for classifying and identifying strains in species of the genus Erwinia. Many species of this genus are associated with disastrous plant diseases such as fire blight. Using our experimental procedure, we created a general bacterial mass spectra database that currently contains 2800 entries of bacteria of different genera. This database will be steadily expanded. To support users with a feasible analytical method, we developed and tested comprehensive software tools that are demonstrated herein. Furthermore, to gain additional analytical accuracy and reliability in the analysis we used genotyping of single nucleotide polymorphisms by mass spectrometry to unambiguously determine closely related strains that are difficult to distinguish by only relying on protein mass pattern detection.
With the method for bacterial analysis, we could identify fire blight pathogens from a variety of biological sources. The method can be used for a number of additional bacterial genera. Moreover, the mass spectrometry approach presented allows the integration of data from different biological levels such as the genome and the proteome.
PMCID: PMC2475672  PMID: 18665227
11.  MALDI mass spectrometry analysis of single nucleotide polymorphisms by photocleavage and charge-tagging 
Nucleic Acids Research  2003;31(11):e63.
High-throughput procedures are an important requirement for future large-scale genetic studies such as genotyping of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). Matrix-assisted laser desorption/ ionisation mass spectrometry (MALDI-MS) has revolutionised the analysis of biomolecules and, in particular, provides a very attractive solution for the rapid typing of DNA. The analysis of DNA by MALDI can be significantly facilitated by a procedure termed ‘charge-tagging’. We show here a novel approach for the generation of charge-tagged DNA using a photocleavable linker and its implementation in a molecular biological procedure for SNP genotyping consisting of PCR, primer extension, photocleavage and a chemical reaction prior to MALDI target preparation and analysis. The reaction sequence is amenable to liquid handling automation and requires no stringent purification procedures. We demonstrate this new method on SNPs in two genes involved in complex traits.
PMCID: PMC156740  PMID: 12771227
12.  Facile method for automated genotyping of single nucleotide polymorphisms by mass spectrometry 
Nucleic Acids Research  2002;30(5):e22.
In the future, analysis of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) should become a powerful tool for many genetic applications in areas such as association studies, pharmacogenetics and traceability in the agro-alimentary sector. A number of technologies have been developed for high-throughput genotyping of SNPs. Here we present the simplified GOOD assay for SNP genotyping by matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry (MALDI). The simplified GOOD assay is a single-tube, purification-free, three-step procedure consisting of PCR, primer extension and phosphodiesterase II digestion followed by mass spectrometric analysis. Due to the application of charge-tag technology, no sample purification is required prior to the otherwise very impurity-sensitive MALDI analysis. The use of methylphosphonate containing primers and ddNTPs or α-S-ddNTPs together with a novel DNA polymerase derived from Thermotoga maritima for primer extension allow the fluent preparation of negatively charge-tagged, allele-specific products. A key feature of this polymerase is its preference for ddNTPs and α-S-ddNTPs over dNTPs. The simplified GOOD assay was run with automatic liquid handling at the lowest manageable volumes, automatic data acquisition and interpretation. We applied this novel procedure to genotyping SNPs of candidate genes for hypertension and cardiovascular disease.
PMCID: PMC101258  PMID: 11861927
13.  Full flexibility genotyping of single nucleotide polymorphisms by the GOOD assay 
Nucleic Acids Research  2000;28(23):e100.
Recently a facile method for genotyping single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) using MALDI mass spectrometry, termed the GOOD assay, was developed. It does not require any purification and is performed with simple liquid handling, thermal incubation and cycling steps. Although this method is well suited to automation and high-throughput analysis of SNPs, it did not allow full flexibility due to lack of certain reagents. A complete set of β-cyanoethyl phosphoramidites is presented herein that give this SNP genotyping method full sequence and multiplex capabilities. Applications to SNP genotyping in the prion protein gene, the β-2-adrenergic receptor gene and the angiotensin converting enzyme gene using the GOOD assay are demonstrated. Because SNP genotyping technologies are generally very sensitive to varying DNA quality, the GOOD assay has been stabilised and optimised for low quality DNA. A template extraction method is introduced that allows genotyping from tissue that was taken while placing an ear tag on an animal. This dramatically facilitates the application of genotyping to animal agricultural applications, as it demonstrates that expensive and cumbersome DNA extraction procedures prior to genotyping can be avoided.
PMCID: PMC115184  PMID: 11095696
14.  A novel procedure for efficient genotyping of single nucleotide polymorphisms 
Nucleic Acids Research  2000;28(5):e13.
Due to the surge in interest in using single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) for genotyping a facile and affordable method for this is an absolute necessity. Here we introduce a procedure that combines an easily automatable single tube sample preparation with an efficient high throughput mass spectrometric analysis technique. Known point mutations or single nucleotide polymorphisms are easily analysed by this procedure. It starts with PCR amplification of a short stretch of genomic DNA, for example an exon of a gene containing a SNP. By shrimp alkaline phosphatase digest residual dNTPs are destroyed. Allele-specific products are generated using a special primer, a conditioned set of α-S-dNTPs and α-S-ddNTPs and a fresh DNA polymerase in a primer extension reaction. Unmodified DNA is removed by 5′-phosphodiesterase digestion and the modified products are alkylated to increase the detection sensitivity in the mass spectrometric analysis. All steps of the preparation are simple additions of solutions and incubations. The procedure operates at the lowest practical sample volumes and in contrast to other genotyping protocols with mass spectrometric detection requires no purification. This reduces the cost and makes it easy to implement. Here it is demonstrated in a version using positive ion detection on described mutations in exon 17 of the amyloid precursor protein gene and in a version using negative ion detection on three SNPs of the granulocyte-macrophage colony stimulating factor gene. Preparation and analysis of SNPs is shown separately and simultaneously, thus demonstrating the multiplexibility of this genotyping procedure. The preparation protocol for genotyping is adapted to the conditions used for the SNP discovery method by denaturing HPLC, thus demonstrating a facile link between protocols for SNP discovery and SNP genotyping. Results corresponded unanimously with the control sequencing. The procedure is useful for high throughput genotyping as it is required for gene identification and pharmacogenomics where large numbers of DNA samples have to be analysed. We have named this procedure the ‘GOOD Assay’ for SNP analysis.
PMCID: PMC102624  PMID: 10666474

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