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1.  Genetic variants affecting alternative splicing of human cholesteryl ester transfer protein 
Cholesteryl ester transfer protein (CETP) plays an important role in reverse cholesterol transport, with decreased CETP activity increasing HDL levels. Formation of an alternative splice form lacking exon 9 (Δ9-CETP) has been associated with two single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in high linkage disequilibrium with each other, namely rs9930761 T>C located in intron 8 in a putative splicing branch site and rs5883 C>T in a possible exonic splicing enhancer (ESE) site in exon 9. To assess the relative effect of rs9930761 and rs5883 on splicing, mini-gene constructs spanning CETP exons 8 to 10, carrying all four possible allele combinations, were transfected into HEK293 and HepG2 cells. The minor T allele of rs5883 enhanced splicing significantly in both cell lines whereas the minor C allele of rs9930761 did not. In combination, the two alleles did not yield greater splicing than the rs5883 T allele alone in HepG2 cells. These results indicate that the genetic effect on CETP splicing is largely attributable to rs5883. We also confirm that Δ9-CETP protein is expressed in the liver but fails to circulate in the blood.
PMCID: PMC3929938  PMID: 24393849
Cholesteryl ester transfer protein; coronary artery disease; statin; alternative splicing; CETP levels in liver and plasma
2.  Allelic mRNA expression imbalance in C-type lectins reveals a frequent regulatory SNP in the human surfactant protein A (SP-A) gene 
Genes and immunity  2013;14(2):99-106.
Genetic variation in C-type lectins influences infectious disease susceptibility but remains poorly understood. We employed allelic mRNA expression imbalance (AEI) technology for SP-A1, SP-A2, SP-D, DC-SIGN, MRC1, and Dectin-1, expressed in human macrophages and/or lung tissues. Frequent AEI, an indicator of regulatory polymorphisms, was observed in SP-A2, SP-D, and DC-SIGN. AEI was measured for SP-A2 in 38 lung tissues using four marker SNPs and was confirmed by next generation sequencing of one lung RNA sample. Genomic DNA at the SP-A2 DNA locus was sequenced by Ion Torrent technology in 16 samples. Correlation analysis of genotypes with AEI identified a haplotype block, and, specifically, the intronic SNP rs1650232 (30% MAF); the only variant consistently associated with an approximately two-fold change in mRNA allelic expression. Previously shown to alter a NAGNAG splice acceptor site with likely effects on SP-A2 expression, rs1650232 generates an alternative splice variant with three additional bases at the start of exon 3. Validated as a regulatory variant, rs1650232 is in partial LD with known SP-A2 marker SNPs previously associated with risk for respiratory diseases including tuberculosis. Applying functional DNA variants in clinical association studies, rather than marker SNPs, will advance our understanding of genetic susceptibility to infectious diseases.
PMCID: PMC3594410  PMID: 23328842
C-type lectin; marker SNP; regulatory variant; SP-A2; allelic expression imbalance
3.  Flavopiridol Pharmacogenetics: Clinical and Functional Evidence for the Role of SLCO1B1/OATP1B1 in Flavopiridol Disposition 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(11):e13792.
Flavopiridol is a cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor in phase II clinical development for treatment of various forms of cancer. When administered with a pharmacokinetically (PK)-directed dosing schedule, flavopiridol exhibited striking activity in patients with refractory chronic lymphocytic leukemia. This study aimed to evaluate pharmacogenetic factors associated with inter-individual variability in pharmacokinetics and outcomes associated with flavopiridol therapy.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Thirty-five patients who received single-agent flavopiridol via the PK-directed schedule were genotyped for 189 polymorphisms in genes encoding 56 drug metabolizing enzymes and transporters. Genotypes were evaluated in univariate and multivariate analyses as covariates in a population PK model. Transport of flavopiridol and its glucuronide metabolite was evaluated in uptake assays in HEK-293 and MDCK-II cells transiently transfected with SLCO1B1. Polymorphisms in ABCC2, ABCG2, UGT1A1, UGT1A9, and SLCO1B1 were found to significantly correlate with flavopiridol PK in univariate analysis. Transport assay results indicated both flavopiridol and flavopiridol-glucuronide are substrates of the SLCO1B1/OATP1B1 transporter. Covariates incorporated into the final population PK model included bilirubin, SLCO1B1 rs11045819 and ABCC2 rs8187710. Associations were also observed between genotype and response. To validate these findings, a second set of data with 51 patients was evaluated, and overall trends for associations between PK and PGx were found to be consistent.
Polymorphisms in transport genes were found to be associated with flavopiridol disposition and outcomes. Observed clinical associations with SLCO1B1 were functionally validated indicating for the first time its relevance as a transporter of flavopiridol and its glucuronide metabolite. A second 51-patient dataset indicated similar trends between genotype in the SLCO1B1 and other candidate genes, thus providing support for these findings. Further study in larger patient populations will be necessary to fully characterize and validate the clinical impact of polymorphisms in SLCO1B1 and other transporter and metabolizing enzyme genes on outcomes from flavopiridol therapy.
PMCID: PMC2967470  PMID: 21072184
4.  A Multi-institutional Phase II study of the efficacy and tolerability of Lapatinib in patients with advanced hepatocellular carcinomas 
Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is on the rise worldwide. HCC responds poorly to chemotherapy. Lapatinib is an inhibitor of EGFR and HER2/NEU both implicated in hepatocarcinogenesis. This trial was designed to determine the safety and efficacy of lapatinib in HCC.
A Fleming phase II design with a single stage of 25 patients with a 90% power to exclude a true response rate of < 10% and detect a true response rate of ≥30% was utilized. The dose of lapatinib was 1,500 mg/d administered orally in 28-day cycles. Tumor and blood specimens were analyzed for expression of HER2/NEU/CEP17 and status of downstream signal pathway proteins.
Twenty-six patients with HCC enrolled on this study. 19% had one prior therapy. Most common toxicities were diarrhea (73%), nausea (54%) and rash (42%). No objective responses were observed. Ten (40%) patients had stable disease (SD) as their best response including 6 (23%) with SD lasting > 120 days. Median progression-free-survival was 1.9 months and median overall survival 12.6 months. Patients who developed a rash had a borderline statistically significant longer survival. Tissue and blood specimens were available on >90% of patients. No somatic mutations in EGFR (exons 18–21) were found. In contrast to our previous findings, we did not find evidence of HER2/NEU somatic mutations. PTEN, P-AKT and P70S6K expression did not correlate with survival.
Lapatinib is well-tolerated but appears to benefit only a subgroup of patients for whom predictive molecular or clinical characteristics are not yet fully defined.
PMCID: PMC2774354  PMID: 19737952
5.  Functional variation of the dopamine D2 receptor gene is associated with emotional control as well as brain activity and connectivity during emotion processing in humans 
Personality traits related to emotion processing are, at least in part, heritable and genetically determined. Dopamine D2 receptor signaling is involved in modulation of emotional behavior and activity of associated brain regions such as the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex. An intronic single nucleotide polymorphism within the D2 receptor gene (DRD2, rs1076560, guanine>thymine - G>T) shifts splicing of the two protein isoforms (D2 short, D2S, mainly presynaptic, and D2 long, D2L) and has been associated with modulation of memory performance and brain activity. Here, our aim was to investigate the association of DRD2 rs1076560 genotype with personality traits of emotional stability and with brain physiology during processing of emotionally relevant stimuli. DRD2 genotype and Big Five Questionnaire scores were evaluated in 134 healthy subjects demonstrating that GG subjects have reduced ‘emotion control’ compared with GT subjects. fMRI in a sample of 24 individuals indicated greater amygdala activity during implicit processing and greater dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) response during explicit processing of facial emotional stimuli in GG subjects compared with GT. Other results also demonstrate an interaction between DRD2 genotype and facial emotional expression on functional connectivity of both amygdala and dorsolateral prefrontal regions with overlapping medial prefrontal areas. Moreover, rs1076560 genotype is associated with differential relationships between amygdala/DLPFC functional connectivity and emotion control scores. These results suggest that genetically determined D2 signaling may explain part of personality traits related to emotion processing and individual variability in specific brain responses to emotionally relevant inputs.
PMCID: PMC2834475  PMID: 19940176
amygdala; DRD2; dopamine; emotion; fMRI; prefrontal cortex
6.  Genetically Determined Measures of Striatal D2 Signaling Predict Prefrontal Activity during Working Memory Performance 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(2):e9348.
Variation of the gene coding for D2 receptors (DRD2) has been associated with risk for schizophrenia and with working memory deficits. A functional intronic SNP (rs1076560) predicts relative expression of the two D2 receptors isoforms, D2S (mainly pre-synaptic) and D2L (mainly post-synaptic). However, the effect of functional genetic variation of DRD2 on striatal dopamine D2 signaling and on its correlation with prefrontal activity during working memory in humans is not known.
Thirty-seven healthy subjects were genotyped for rs1076560 (G>T) and underwent SPECT with [123I]IBZM (which binds primarily to post-synaptic D2 receptors) and with [123I]FP-CIT (which binds to pre-synaptic dopamine transporters, whose activity and density is also regulated by pre-synaptic D2 receptors), as well as BOLD fMRI during N-Back working memory.
Subjects carrying the T allele (previously associated with reduced D2S expression) had striatal reductions of [123I]IBZM and of [123I]FP-CIT binding. DRD2 genotype also differentially predicted the correlation between striatal dopamine D2 signaling (as identified with factor analysis of the two radiotracers) and activity of the prefrontal cortex during working memory as measured with BOLD fMRI, which was positive in GG subjects and negative in GT.
Our results demonstrate that this functional SNP within DRD2 predicts striatal binding of the two radiotracers to dopamine transporters and D2 receptors as well as the correlation between striatal D2 signaling with prefrontal cortex activity during performance of a working memory task. These data are consistent with the possibility that the balance of excitatory/inhibitory modulation of striatal neurons may also affect striatal outputs in relationship with prefrontal activity during working memory performance within the cortico-striatal-thalamic-cortical pathway.
PMCID: PMC2825256  PMID: 20179754
7.  Functional variants of the dopamine receptor D2 gene modulate prefronto-striatal phenotypes in schizophrenia 
Brain  2008;132(2):417-425.
Dopamine D2 receptor signalling is strongly implicated in the aetiology of schizophrenia. We have recently characterized the function of three DRD2 SNPs: rs12364283 in the promoter affecting total D2 mRNA expression; rs2283265 and rs1076560, respectively in introns 5 and 6, shifting mRNA splicing to two functionally distinct isoforms, the short form of D2 (D2S) and the long form (D2L). These two isoforms differentially contribute to dopamine signalling in prefrontal cortex and in striatum. We performed a case–control study to determine association of these variants and of their main haplotypes with several schizophrenia-related phenotypes. We demonstrate that the minor allele in the intronic variants is associated with reduced expression of %D2S of total mRNA in post-mortem prefrontal cortex, and with impaired working memory behavioural performance, both in patients and controls. However, the fMRI results show opposite effects in patients compared with controls: enhanced engagement of prefronto-striatal pathways in controls and reduced activity in patients. Moreover, the promoter variant is also associated with working memory activity in prefrontal cortex and striatum of patients, and less robustly with negative symptoms scores. Main haplotypes formed by the three DRD2 variants showed significant associations with these phenotypes consistent with those of the individual SNPs. Our results indicate that the three functional DRD2 variants modulate schizophrenia phenotypes possibly by modifying D2S/D2L ratios in the context of different total D2 density.
PMCID: PMC2640212  PMID: 18829695
dopamine; D2 receptor; working memory; prefrontal cortex; striatum
8.  Allelic mRNA expression of sortilin-1 (SORL1) mRNA in Alzheimer’s autopsy brain tissues 
Neuroscience letters  2008;448(1):120-124.
Polymorphisms in the gene encoding SORL1, involved in cellular trafficking of APP, have been implicated in late-onset Alzheimer’s disease, by a mechanism thought to affect mRNA expression. To search for regulatory polymorphisms, we have measured allele-specific mRNA expression of SORL1 in human autopsy tissues from the prefrontal cortex of 26 Alzheimer’s patients, and 51 controls, using two synonymous marker SNPs (rs3824968 in exon 34 (11 heterozygous AD subjects and 16 controls), and rs12364988 in exon 6 (8 heterozygous AD subjects)). Significant allelic expression imbalance (AEI), indicative of the presence of cis-acting regulatory factors, was detected in a single control subject, while allelic ratios were near unity for all other subjects. We genotyped 7 SNPs in two haplotype blocks that had previously been implicated in Alzheimer’s disease. Since each of these SNPs was heterozygous in several subjects lacking AEI, this study fails to support a regulatory role for SORL1 polymorphisms in mRNA expression.
PMCID: PMC2612539  PMID: 18938222
Alzheimer’s disease; SORL1; Allelic expression imbalance
9.  Genetically determined interaction between the dopamine transporter and the D2 receptor on prefronto-striatal activity and volume in humans 
Dopamine modulation of neuronal activity during memory tasks identifies a non-linear inverted-U shaped function. Both the dopamine transporter (DAT) and dopamine D2 receptors (encoded by DRD2) critically regulate dopamine signaling in the striatum and in prefrontal cortex during memory. Moreover, in vitro studies have demonstrated that DAT and D2 proteins reciprocally regulate each other presynaptically. Therefore, we have evaluated the genetic interaction between a DRD2 polymorphism (rs1076560) causing reduced presynaptic D2 receptor expression and the DAT 3’-VNTR variant (affecting DAT expression) in a large sample of healthy subjects undergoing BOLD - fMRI during memory tasks and structural MRI. Results indicated a significant DRD2/DAT interaction in prefrontal cortex and striatum BOLD activity during both working memory and encoding of recognition memory. The differential effect on BOLD activity of the DAT variant was mostly manifest in the context of the DRD2 allele associated with lower presynaptic expression. Similar results were also evident for gray matter volume in caudate. These interactions describe a non-linear relationship between compound genotypes and brain activity or gray matter volume. Complementary data from striatal protein extracts from wild-type and D2 knock-out animals (D2R−/−) indicate that DAT and D2 proteins interact in vivo. Taken together, our results demonstrate that the interaction between genetic variants in DRD2 and DAT critically modulates the non-linear relationship between dopamine and neuronal activity during memory processing.
PMCID: PMC2686116  PMID: 19176830
working memory; Recognition Memory; FMRI; Dopamine; Transport; D2; Receptor

Results 1-9 (9)