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1.  Human-specific epigenetic variation in the immunological Leukotriene B4 Receptor (LTB4R/BLT1) implicated in common inflammatory diseases 
Genome Medicine  2014;6(3):19.
Common human diseases are caused by the complex interplay of genetic susceptibility as well as environmental factors. Due to the environment’s influence on the epigenome, and therefore genome function, as well as conversely the genome’s facilitative effect on the epigenome, analysis of this level of regulation may increase our knowledge of disease pathogenesis.
In order to identify human-specific epigenetic influences, we have performed a novel genome-wide DNA methylation analysis comparing human, chimpanzee and rhesus macaque.
We have identified that the immunological Leukotriene B4 receptor (LTB4R, BLT1 receptor) is the most epigenetically divergent human gene in peripheral blood in comparison with other primates. This difference is due to the co-ordinated active state of human-specific hypomethylation in the promoter and human-specific increased gene body methylation. This gene is significant in innate immunity and the LTB4/LTB4R pathway is involved in the pathogenesis of the spectrum of human inflammatory diseases. This finding was confirmed by additional neutrophil-only DNA methylome and lymphoblastoid H3K4me3 chromatin comparative data. Additionally we show through functional analysis that this receptor has increased expression and a higher response to the LTB4 ligand in human versus rhesus macaque peripheral blood mononuclear cells. Genome-wide we also find human species-specific differentially methylated regions (human s-DMRs) are more prevalent in CpG island shores than within the islands themselves, and within the latter are associated with the CTCF motif.
This result further emphasises the exclusive nature of the human immunological system, its divergent adaptation even from very closely related primates, and the power of comparative epigenomics to identify and understand human uniqueness.
PMCID: PMC4062055  PMID: 24598577
2.  Genome-wide DNA methylation analysis for diabetic nephropathy in type 1 diabetes mellitus 
BMC Medical Genomics  2010;3:33.
Diabetic nephropathy is a serious complication of diabetes mellitus and is associated with considerable morbidity and high mortality. There is increasing evidence to suggest that dysregulation of the epigenome is involved in diabetic nephropathy. We assessed whether epigenetic modification of DNA methylation is associated with diabetic nephropathy in a case-control study of 192 Irish patients with type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1D). Cases had T1D and nephropathy whereas controls had T1D but no evidence of renal disease.
We performed DNA methylation profiling in bisulphite converted DNA from cases and controls using the recently developed Illumina Infinium® HumanMethylation27 BeadChip, that enables the direct investigation of 27,578 individual cytosines at CpG loci throughout the genome, which are focused on the promoter regions of 14,495 genes.
Singular Value Decomposition (SVD) analysis indicated that significant components of DNA methylation variation correlated with patient age, time to onset of diabetic nephropathy, and sex. Adjusting for confounding factors using multivariate Cox-regression analyses, and with a false discovery rate (FDR) of 0.05, we observed 19 CpG sites that demonstrated correlations with time to development of diabetic nephropathy. Of note, this included one CpG site located 18 bp upstream of the transcription start site of UNC13B, a gene in which the first intronic SNP rs13293564 has recently been reported to be associated with diabetic nephropathy.
This high throughput platform was able to successfully interrogate the methylation state of individual cytosines and identified 19 prospective CpG sites associated with risk of diabetic nephropathy. These differences in DNA methylation are worthy of further follow-up in replication studies using larger cohorts of diabetic patients with and without nephropathy.
PMCID: PMC2924253  PMID: 20687937
3.  Advances in the identification and analysis of allele-specific expression 
Genome Medicine  2009;1(5):56.
Allele-specific expression (ASE) is essential for normal development and many cellular processes but, if impaired, can result in disease. ASE is a feature of organisms with genomes consisting of more than one set of homologous chromosomes. The higher the number of chromosome sets (ploidy) per cell, the higher the potential complexity of ASE. Humans, for instance, are diploid (except germ cells, which are haploid), resulting in multiple possible expression states in time and space for each set of alleles. ASE is invoked and modulated by both genetic and epigenetic changes, affecting the underlying DNA sequence or chromatin of each allele, respectively. Although numerous methods have been developed to assay ASE, they usually require RNA to be available and are dependent upon genetic polymorphisms (such as single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs)) to differentiate between allelic transcripts. The rapid convergence to second-generation sequencing as the method of choice to examine genomic, epigenomic and transcriptomic data enables an integrated and more general approach to define and predict ASE, independent of SNPs. This 'Omni-Seq' approach has the potential to advance our understanding of the biology and pathophysiology of ASE-mediated processes by elucidating subtle combinatorial effects, leading to the accurate delineation of sub-phenotypes with consequential benefit for improved insight into disease etiology.
PMCID: PMC2689448  PMID: 19490587

Results 1-3 (3)