Inherited and age-related macular degenerations (AMDs) are important causes of vision loss. An early hallmark of these disorders is the formation of sub-retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) basal deposits. A role for the complement system in MDs was suggested by genetic association studies, but direct functional connections between alterations in the complement system and the pathogenesis of MD remain to be defined. We used primary RPE cells from a mouse model of inherited MD due to a p.R345W mutation in EGF-containing fibulin-like extracellular matrix protein 1 (EFEMP1) to investigate the role of the RPE in early MD pathogenesis. Efemp1(R345W) RPE cells recapitulate the basal deposit formation observed in vivo by producing sub-RPE deposits in vitro. The deposits share features with basal deposits, and their formation was mediated by EFEMP1(R345W) or complement component 3a (C3a), but not by complement component 5a (C5a). Increased activation of complement appears to occur in response to an abnormal extracellular matrix (ECM), generated by the mutant EFEMP1(R345W) protein and reduced ECM turnover due to inhibition of matrix metalloproteinase 2 by EFEMP1(R345W) and C3a. Increased production of C3a also stimulated the release of cytokines such as interleukin (IL)-6 and IL-1B, which appear to have a role in deposit formation, albeit downstream of C3a. These studies provide the first direct indication that complement components produced locally by the RPE are involved in the formation of basal deposits. Furthermore, these results suggest that C3a generated by RPE is a potential therapeutic target for the treatment of EFEMP1-associated MD as well as AMD.
Pathogenic variants in the X-linked gene ZC4H2, which encodes a zinc-finger protein, cause an infrequently described syndromic form of arthrogryposis multiplex congenita (AMC) with central and peripheral nervous system involvement. We present genetic and detailed phenotypic information on 23 newly identified families and simplex cases that include 19 affected females from 18 families and 14 affected males from nine families. Of note, the 15 females with deleterious de novo ZC4H2 variants presented with phenotypes ranging from mild to severe, and their clinical features overlapped with those seen in affected males. By contrast, of the nine carrier females with inherited ZC4H2 missense variants that were deleterious in affected male relatives, four were symptomatic. We also compared clinical phenotypes with previously published cases of both sexes and provide an overview on 48 males and 57 females from 42 families. The spectrum of ZC4H2 defects comprises novel and recurrent mostly inherited missense variants in affected males, and de novo splicing, frameshift, nonsense, and partial ZC4H2 deletions in affected females. Pathogenicity of two newly identified missense variants was further supported by studies in zebrafish. We propose ZC4H2 as a good candidate for early genetic testing of males and females with a clinical suspicion of fetal hypo-/akinesia and/or (neurogenic) AMC.
Fritsche LG, Igl W, Bailey JCN, Grassmann F, Sengupta S, Bragg-Gresham JL, Burdon KP, Hebbring SJ, Wen C, Gorski M, Kim IK, Cho D, Zack D, Souied E, Scholl HPN, Bala E, Lee KE, Hunter DJ, Sardell RJ, Mitchell P, Merriam JE, Cipriani V, Hoffman JD, Schick T, Lechanteur YTE, Guymer RH, Johnson MP, Jiang Y, Stanton CM, Buitendijk GHS, Zhan X, Kwong AM, Boleda A, Brooks M, Gieser L, Ratnapriya R, Branham KE, Foerster JR, Heckenlively JR, Othman MI, Vote BJ, Liang HH, Souzeau E, McAllister IL, Isaacs T, Hall J, Lake S, Mackey DA, Constable IJ, Craig JE, Kitchner TE, Yang Z, Su Z, Luo H, Chen D, Ouyang H, Flagg K, Lin D, Mao G, Ferreyra H, Stark K, von Strachwitz CN, Wolf A, Brandl C, Rudolph G, Olden M, Morrison MA, Morgan DJ, Schu M, Ahn J, Silvestri G, Tsironi EE, Park KH, Farrer LA, Orlin A, Brucker A, Li M, Curcio CA, Mohand-Saïd S, Sahel J-A, Audo I, Benchaboune M, Cree AJ, Rennie CA, Goverdhan SV, Grunin M, Hagbi-Levi S, Campochiaro P, Katsanis N, Holz FG, Blond F, Blanché H, Deleuze J-F, Igo RP, Truitt B, Peachey NS, Meuer SM, Myers CE, Moore EL, Klein R, Hauser MA, Postel EA, Courtenay MD, Schwartz SG, Kovach JL, Scott WK, Liew G, Tan AG, Gopinath B, Merriam JC, Smith TR, Khan JC, Shahid H, Moore AT, McGrath AJ, Laux R, Brantley MA, Agarwal A, Ersoy L, Caramoy A, Langmann T, Saksens NTM, de Jong EK, Hoyng CB, Cain MS, Richardson AJ, Martin TM, Blangero J, Weeks DE, Dhillon B, van Duijn CM, Doheny KF, Romm J, Klaver CCW, Hayward C, Gorin MB, Klein ML, Baird PN, den Hollander AI, Fauser S, Yates JRW, Allikmets R, Wang JJ, Schaumberg DA, Klein BEK, Hagstrom SA, Chowers I, Lotery AJ, Léveillard T, Zhang K, Brilliant MH, Hewitt AW, Swaroop A, Chew EY, Pericak-Vance MA, DeAngelis M, Stambolian D, Haines JL, Iyengar SK, Weber BHF, Abecasis GR, Heid IM. A large genome-wide association study of age-related macular degeneration highlights contributions of rare and common variants. Nat Genet 2016;48(2):134-43.Abstract
Advanced age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of blindness in the elderly, with limited therapeutic options. Here we report on a study of >12 million variants, including 163,714 directly genotyped, mostly rare, protein-altering variants. Analyzing 16,144 patients and 17,832 controls, we identify 52 independently associated common and rare variants (P < 5 × 10(-8)) distributed across 34 loci. Although wet and dry AMD subtypes exhibit predominantly shared genetics, we identify the first genetic association signal specific to wet AMD, near MMP9 (difference P value = 4.1 × 10(-10)). Very rare coding variants (frequency <0.1%) in CFH, CFI and TIMP3 suggest causal roles for these genes, as does a splice variant in SLC16A8. Our results support the hypothesis that rare coding variants can pinpoint causal genes within known genetic loci and illustrate that applying the approach systematically to detect new loci requires extremely large sample sizes.
Disruption of the MECP2 gene leads to Rett syndrome (RTT), a severe neurological disorder with features of autism. MECP2 encodes a methyl-DNA-binding protein that has been proposed to function as a transcriptional repressor, but despite numerous mouse studies examining neuronal gene expression in Mecp2 mutants, no clear model has emerged for how MeCP2 protein regulates transcription. Here we identify a genome-wide length-dependent increase in gene expression in MeCP2 mutant mouse models and human RTT brains. We present evidence that MeCP2 represses gene expression by binding to methylated CA sites within long genes, and that in neurons lacking MeCP2, decreasing the expression of long genes attenuates RTT-associated cellular deficits. In addition, we find that long genes as a population are enriched for neuronal functions and selectively expressed in the brain. These findings suggest that mutations in MeCP2 may cause neurological dysfunction by specifically disrupting long gene expression in the brain.
: To describe and distinguish clinical phenotypes with the overlapping feature of optic atrophy caused by distinct mutations in the same gene, OPA3. We report 3 affected siblings in a consanguineous family harboring a novel OPA3 mutation causing 3-methylglutaconic aciduria type III with optic atrophy.: Retrospective case series.: Three siblings (2 male, 1 female) among 6 children in a consanguineous Afghani family developed decreased vision from early childhood. Both parents and all extended family members were unaffected. All 3 affected siblings suffered from severe visual impairment ranging from visual acuities of 20/150 to counting fingers. All had spastic lower extremity weakness and ataxia. Two of the three affected siblings also had a history of seizures, and the female sibling had limited cognition with diffuse atrophic changes on brain MRI. Two of the three individuals also had migraine-like headaches. Urine organic acid analysis revealed mildly elevated 3-methylglutaconic acid for the male siblings. Whole exome sequencing and subsequent PCR confirmation revealed a novel variant in OPA3 (intron1, c.142 + 2_142 + 3dupTG), affecting the consensus sequence of the splice site, for which all 3 clinically affected siblings were homozygous.: Mutations in OPA3 can cause optic atrophy in a dominant pattern of inheritance associated with cataract or in a recessive pattern associated with spastic paresis and ataxia. The novel recessive mutation and clinical presentations described herein further support how different mutation types affecting OPA3 can produce distinct clinical phenotypes and underscore the critical and susceptible role of mitochondrial health in optic nerve function.
We apply integrative approaches to expression quantitative loci (eQTLs) from 44 tissues from the Genotype-Tissue Expression project and genome-wide association study data. About 60% of known trait-associated loci are in linkage disequilibrium with a cis-eQTL, over half of which were not found in previous large-scale whole blood studies. Applying polygenic analyses to metabolic, cardiovascular, anthropometric, autoimmune, and neurodegenerative traits, we find that eQTLs are significantly enriched for trait associations in relevant pathogenic tissues and explain a substantial proportion of the heritability (40-80%). For most traits, tissue-shared eQTLs underlie a greater proportion of trait associations, although tissue-specific eQTLs have a greater contribution to some traits, such as blood pressure. By integrating information from biological pathways with eQTL target genes and applying a gene-based approach, we validate previously implicated causal genes and pathways, and propose new variant and gene associations for several complex traits, which we replicate in the UK BioBank and BioVU.
A genomic region located on chromosome 9p21 is associated with primary open-angle glaucoma and normal tension glaucoma in genome-wide association studies. The genomic region contains the gene for a long noncoding RNA called CDKN2B-AS, two genes that code for cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitors 2A and 2B (CDKN2A/p16(INK4A) and CDKN2B/p15(INK4B)) and an additional protein (p14(ARF)). We used a transgenic mouse model in which 70 kb of murine chromosome 4, syntenic to human chromosome 9p21, are deleted to study whether this deletion leads to a discernible phenotype in ocular structures implicated in glaucoma. Homozygous mice of this strain were previously reported to show persistent hyperplastic primary vitreous. Fundus photography and optical coherence tomography confirmed that finding but showed no abnormalities for heterozygous mice. Optokinetic response, eletroretinogram, and histology indicated that the heterozygous and mutant retinas were normal functionally and morphologically, whereas glial cells were activated in the retina and optic nerve head of mutant eyes. In quantitative PCR, CDKN2B expression was reduced by approximately 50% in the heterozygous mice and by 90% in the homozygous mice, which suggested that the CDKN2B knock down had no deleterious consequences for the retina under normal conditions. However, compared with wild-type and heterozygous animals, the homozygous mice are more vulnerable to retinal ganglion cell loss in response to elevated intraocular pressure.
The cornea is the outermost layer of the eye and is a vital component of focusing incoming light on the retina. Central corneal thickness (CCT) is now recognized to have a significant role in ocular health and is a risk factor for various ocular diseases, such as keratoconus and primary open angle glaucoma. Most previous genetic studies utilized European and Asian subjects to identify genetic loci associated with CCT. Minority populations, such as Latinos, may aid in identifying additional loci and improve our understanding of the genetic architecture of CCT. In this study, we conducted a genome-wide association study (GWAS) in Latinos, a traditionally understudied population in genetic research, to further identify loci contributing to CCT. Study participants were genotyped using either the Illumina OmniExpress BeadChip (∼730K markers) or the Illumina Hispanic/SOL BeadChip (∼2.5 million markers). All study participants were 40 years of age and older. We assessed the association between individual single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and CCT using linear regression, adjusting for age, gender, and principal components of genetic ancestry. To expand genomic coverage and to interrogate additional SNPs, we imputed SNPs from the 1000 Genomes Project reference panels. We identified a novel SNP, rs10453441 (P = 6.01E-09), in an intron of WNT7B that is associated with CCT. Furthermore, WNT7B is expressed in the human cornea. We also replicated 11 previously reported loci, including IBTK, RXRA-COL5A1, COL5A1, FOXO1, LRRK1, and ZNF469 (P < 1.25E-3). These findings provide further insight into the genetic architecture of CCT and illustrate that the use of minority groups in GWAS will help identify additional loci.
In vivo delivery of genome-modifying enzymes holds significant promise for therapeutic applications and functional genetic screening. Delivery to endogenous tissue stem cells, which provide an enduring source of cell replacement during homeostasis and regeneration, is of particular interest. Here, we use a sensitive Cre/lox fluorescent reporter system to test the efficiency of genome modification following in vivo transduction by adeno-associated viruses (AAVs) in tissue stem and progenitor cells. We combine immunophenotypic analyses with in vitro and in vivo assays of stem cell function to reveal effective targeting of skeletal muscle satellite cells, mesenchymal progenitors, hematopoietic stem cells, and dermal cell subsets using multiple AAV serotypes. Genome modification rates achieved through this system reached >60%, and modified cells retained key functional properties. This study establishes a powerful platform to genetically alter tissue progenitors within their physiological niche while preserving their native stem cell properties and regulatory interactions.
Seven unrelated individuals (four pediatric, three adults) with the TUBB3 E410K syndrome, harboring identical de novo heterozygous TUBB3 c.1228 G>A mutations, underwent neuropsychological testing and neuroimaging. Despite the absence of cortical malformations, they have intellectual and social disabilities. To search for potential etiologies for these deficits, we compared their brain's structural and white matter organization to 22 controls using structural and diffusion magnetic resonance imaging. Diffusion images were processed to calculate fractional anisotropy (FA) and perform tract reconstructions. Cortical parcellation-based network analysis and gyral topology-based FA analyses were performed. Major interhemispheric, projection and intrahemispheric tracts were manually segmented. Subjects had decreased corpus callosum volume and decreased network efficiency. While only pediatric subjects had diffuse decreases in FA predominantly affecting mid- and long-range tracts, only adult subjects had white matter volume loss associated with decreased cortical surface area. All subjects showed aberrant corticospinal tract trajectory and bilateral absence of the dorsal language network long segment. Furthermore, pediatric subjects had more tracts with decreased FA compared with controls than did adult subjects. These findings define a TUBB3 E410K neuroimaging endophenotype and lead to the hypothesis that the age-related changes are due to microscopic intrahemispheric misguided axons that are pruned during maturation.
The nicotinamide nucleotide adenylyltransferase 1 (NMNAT1) enzyme is essential for regenerating the nuclear pool of NAD(+) in all nucleated cells in the body, and mounting evidence also suggests that it has a separate role in neuroprotection. Recently, mutations in the NMNAT1 gene were associated with Leber congenital amaurosis, a severe retinal degenerative disease that causes blindness during infancy. Availability of a reliable mammalian model of NMNAT1-Leber congenital amaurosis would assist in determining the mechanisms through which disruptions in NMNAT1 lead to retinal cell degeneration and would provide a resource for testing treatment options. To this end, we identified two separate N-ethyl-N-nitrosourea-generated mouse lines that harbor either a p.V9M or a p.D243G mutation. Both mouse models recapitulate key aspects of the human disease and confirm the pathogenicity of mutant NMNAT1. Homozygous Nmnat1 mutant mice develop a rapidly progressing chorioretinal disease that begins with photoreceptor degeneration and includes attenuation of the retinal vasculature, optic atrophy, and retinal pigment epithelium loss. Retinal function deteriorates in both mouse lines, and, in the more rapidly progressing homozygous Nmnat1(V9M) mutant mice, the electroretinogram becomes undetectable and the pupillary light response weakens. These mouse models offer an opportunity for investigating the cellular mechanisms underlying disease pathogenesis, evaluating potential therapies for NMNAT1-Leber congenital amaurosis, and conducting in situ studies on NMNAT1 function and NAD(+) metabolism.
More than 98% of a typical vertebrate genome does not code for proteins. Although non-coding regions are sprinkled with short (<200 bp) islands of evolutionarily conserved sequences, the function of most of these unannotated conserved islands remains unknown. One possibility is that unannotated conserved islands could encode non-coding RNAs (ncRNAs); alternatively, unannotated conserved islands could serve as promoter-distal regulatory factor binding sites (RFBSs) like enhancers. Here we assess these possibilities by comparing unannotated conserved islands in the human and mouse genomes to transcribed regions and to RFBSs, relying on a detailed case study of one human and one mouse cell type. We define transcribed regions by applying a novel transcript-calling algorithm to RNA-Seq data obtained from total cellular RNA, and we define RFBSs using ChIP-Seq and DNAse-hypersensitivity assays. We find that unannotated conserved islands are four times more likely to coincide with RFBSs than with unannotated ncRNAs. Thousands of conserved RFBSs can be categorized as insulators based on the presence of CTCF or as enhancers based on the presence of p300/CBP and H3K4me1. While many unannotated conserved RFBSs are transcriptionally active to some extent, the transcripts produced tend to be unspliced, non-polyadenylated and expressed at levels 10 to 100-fold lower than annotated coding or ncRNAs. Extending these findings across multiple cell types and tissues, we propose that most conserved non-coding genomic DNA in vertebrate genomes corresponds to promoter-distal regulatory elements.
Angiogenesis, in which vascular endothelial growth factor receptor (VEGFR) 2 plays an essential role, is associated with a variety of human diseases including proliferative diabetic retinopathy and wet age-related macular degeneration. Here we report that a system of adeno-associated virus (AAV)-mediated clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR)-associated endonuclease (Cas)9 from Streptococcus pyogenes (SpCas9) is used to deplete VEGFR2 in vascular endothelial cells (ECs), whereby the expression of SpCas9 is driven by an endothelial-specific promoter of intercellular adhesion molecule 2. We further show that recombinant AAV serotype 1 (rAAV1) transduces ECs of pathologic vessels, and that editing of genomic VEGFR2 locus using rAAV1-mediated CRISPR/Cas9 abrogates angiogenesis in the mouse models of oxygen-induced retinopathy and laser-induced choroid neovascularization. This work establishes a strong foundation for genome editing as a strategy to treat angiogenesis-associated diseases.Abnormal angiogenesis causes many ocular diseases. Here the authors employ CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing technology to silence VEGFR2, a major regulator of angiogenesis, in retinal endothelium and abrogate angiogenesis in the mouse models of oxygen-induced retinopathy and laser-induced choroid neovascularization.
BACKGROUND: A growing amount of data suggests that n-3 (ω-3) polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) intake may modify the genetic association with weight change. OBJECTIVES: We aimed to prospectively test interactions of habitual consumption of n-3 PUFAs or fish, the major food source, with overall genetic susceptibility on long-term weight change. DESIGN: Gene-diet interactions were examined in 11,330 women from the Nurses' Health Study (NHS), 6773 men from the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study (HPFS), and 6254 women from the Women's Health Initiative (WHI). RESULTS: In the NHS and HPFS cohorts, food-sourced long-chain n-3 PUFA intake showed directionally consistent interactions with genetic risk score on long-term changes in BMI (P-interaction = 0.01 in the HPFS, 0.15 in the NHS, and 0.01 in both cohorts combined). Such interactions were successfully replicated in the WHI, an independent cohort (P-interaction = 0.02 in the WHI and 0.01 in the combined 3 cohorts). The genetic associations with changes in BMI (in kg/m2) consistently decreased (0.15, 0.10, 0.07, and -0.14 per 10 BMI-increasing alleles) across the quartiles of long-chain n-3 PUFAs in the combined cohorts. In addition, high fish intake also attenuated the genetic associations with long-term changes in BMI in the HPFS (P-interaction = 0.01), NHS (P-interaction = 0.03), WHI (P-interaction = 0.10), and the combined cohorts (P-interaction = 0.01); and the differences in BMI changes per 10 BMI-increasing alleles were 0.16, 0.06, -0.08, and -0.18, respectively, across the categories (≤1, 1∼4, 4∼6, and ≥7 servings/wk) of total fish intake. Similar interactions on body weight were observed for fish intake (P-interaction = 0.003) and long-chain n-3 PUFA intake (P-interaction = 0.12). CONCLUSION: Our study provides replicable evidence to show that high intakes of fish and long-chain n-3 PUFAs are associated with an attenuation of the genetic association with long-term weight gain based on results from 3 prospective cohorts of Caucasians.
The first epigenome-wide association study of BMI identified DNA methylation at an HIF3A locus associated with BMI. We tested the hypothesis that DNA methylation variants are associated with BMI according to intake of B vitamins. In two large cohorts, we found significant interactions between the DNA methylation-associated HIF3A single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) rs3826795 and intake of B vitamins on 10-year changes in BMI. The association between rs3826795 and BMI changes consistently increased across the tertiles of total vitamin B2 and B12 intake (all P for interaction <0.01). The differences in the BMI changes per increment of minor allele were -0.10 (SE 0.06), -0.01 (SE 0.06), and 0.12 (SE 0.07) within subgroups defined by increasing tertiles of total vitamin B2 intake and -0.10 (SE 0.06), -0.01 (SE 0.06), and 0.10 (SE 0.07) within subgroups defined by increasing tertiles of total vitamin B12 intake. In two independent cohorts, a DNA methylation variant in HIF3A was associated with BMI changes through interactions with total or supplemental vitamin B2, vitamin B12, and folate. These findings suggest a potential causal relation between DNA methylation and adiposity.
Gene transfer has long been a compelling yet elusive therapeutic modality. First mainly considered for rare inherited disorders, gene therapy may open treatment opportunities for more challenging and complex diseases such as Alzheimer's or Parkinson's disease. Today, examples of striking clinical proof of concept, the first gene therapy drugs coming onto the market, and the emergence of powerful new molecular tools have broadened the number of avenues to target neurological disorders but have also highlighted safety concerns and technology gaps. The vector of choice for many nervous system targets currently is the adeno-associated viral (AAV) vector due to its desirable safety profile and strong neuronal tropism. In aggregate, the clinical success, the preclinical potential, and the technological innovation have made therapeutic AAV drug development a reality, particularly for nervous system disorders. Here, we discuss the rationale, opportunities, limitations, and progress in clinical AAV gene therapy.
Adeno-associated viral vectors (AAVs) have demonstrated potential in applications for neurologic disorders, and the discovery that some AAVs can cross the blood-brain barrier (BBB) after intravenous injection has further expanded these opportunities for non-invasive brain delivery. Anc80L65, a novel AAV capsid designed from reconstruction of the viral evolutionary lineage, has previously demonstrated robust transduction capabilities after local delivery in various tissues such as liver, retina, or cochlea, compared with conventional AAVs. Here, we compared the transduction efficacy of Anc80L65 with conventional AAV9 in the CNS after intravenous, intracerebroventricular (i.c.v.), or intraparenchymal injections. Anc80L65 was more potent at targeting the brain and spinal cord after intravenous injection than AAV9, and mostly transduced astrocytes and a wide range of neuronal subpopulations. Although the efficacy of Anc80L65 and AAV9 is similar after direct intraparenchymal injection in the striatum, Anc80L65's diffusion throughout the CNS was more extensive than AAV9 after i.c.v. infusion, leading to widespread expression in the cerebellum. These findings demonstrate that Anc80L65 is a highly efficient gene transfer vector for the murine CNS. Systemic injection of Anc80L65 leads to notable expression in the CNS that does not rely on a self-complementary genome. These data warrant further testing in larger animal models.
Refractive errors, in particular myopia, are a leading cause of morbidity and disability worldwide. Genetic investigation can improve understanding of the molecular mechanisms that underlie abnormal eye development and impaired vision. We conducted a meta-analysis of genome-wide association studies (GWAS) that involved 542,934 European participants and identified 336 novel genetic loci associated with refractive error. Collectively, all associated genetic variants explain 18.4% of heritability and improve the accuracy of myopia prediction (area under the curve (AUC) = 0.75). Our results suggest that refractive error is genetically heterogeneous, driven by genes that participate in the development of every anatomical component of the eye. In addition, our analyses suggest that genetic factors controlling circadian rhythm and pigmentation are also involved in the development of myopia and refractive error. These results may enable the prediction of refractive error and the development of personalized myopia prevention strategies in the future.