Genomics

Brownstein CA, Kleiman RJ, Engle EC, Towne MC, D'Angelo EJ, Yu TW, Beggs AH, Picker J, Fogler JM, Carroll D, Schmitt RCO, Wolff RR, Shen Y, Lip V, Bilguvar K, Kim A, Tembulkar S, O'Donnell K, Gonzalez-Heydrich J. Overlapping 16p13.11 deletion and gain of copies variations associated with childhood onset psychosis include genes with mechanistic implications for autism associated pathways: Two case reports. Am J Med Genet A 2016;170(5):1165-73.Abstract

Copy number variability at 16p13.11 has been associated with intellectual disability, autism, schizophrenia, epilepsy, and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Adolescent/adult- onset psychosis has been reported in a subset of these cases. Here, we report on two children with CNVs in 16p13.11 that developed psychosis before the age of 7. The genotype and neuropsychiatric abnormalities of these patients highlight several overlapping genes that have possible mechanistic relevance to pathways previously implicated in Autism Spectrum Disorders, including the mTOR signaling and the ubiquitin-proteasome cascades. A careful screening of the 16p13.11 region is warranted in patients with childhood onset psychosis. © 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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.

Jun G, Ibrahim-Verbaas CA, Vronskaya M, Lambert J-C, Chung J, Naj AC, Kunkle BW, Wang L-S, Bis JC, Bellenguez C, Harold D, Lunetta KL, Destefano AL, Grenier-Boley B, Sims R, Beecham GW, Smith AV, Chouraki V, Hamilton-Nelson KL, Ikram MA, Fievet N, Denning N, Martin ER, Schmidt H, Kamatani Y, Dunstan ML, Valladares O, Laza AR, Zelenika D, Ramirez A, Foroud TM, Choi S-H, Boland A, Becker T, Kukull WA, van der Lee SJ, Pasquier F, Cruchaga C, Beekly D, Fitzpatrick AL, Hanon O, Gill M, Barber R, Gudnason V, Campion D, Love S, Bennett DA, Amin N, Berr C, Tsolaki M, Buxbaum JD, Lopez OL, Deramecourt V, Fox NC, Cantwell LB, Tárraga L, Dufouil C, Hardy J, Crane PK, Eiriksdottir G, Hannequin D, Clarke R, Evans D, Mosley TH, Letenneur L, Brayne C, Maier W, De Jager P, Emilsson V, Dartigues J-F, Hampel H, Kamboh MI, de Bruijn RFAG, Tzourio C, Pastor P, Larson EB, Rotter JI, O'Donovan MC, Montine TJ, Nalls MA, Mead S, Reiman EM, Jonsson PV, Holmes C, St George-Hyslop PH, Boada M, Passmore P, Wendland JR, Schmidt R, Morgan K, Winslow AR, Powell JF, Carasquillo M, Younkin SG, Jakobsdóttir J, Kauwe JSK, Wilhelmsen KC, Rujescu D, Nöthen MM, Hofman A, Jones L, Jones L, Haines JL, Psaty BM, Van Broeckhoven C, Holmans P, Launer LJ, Mayeux R, Lathrop M, Goate AM, Escott-Price V, Seshadri S, Pericak-Vance MA, Amouyel P, Williams J, van Duijn CM, Schellenberg GD, Farrer LA. A novel Alzheimer disease locus located near the gene encoding tau protein. Mol Psychiatry 2016;21(1):108-117.Abstract

APOE ɛ4, the most significant genetic risk factor for Alzheimer disease (AD), may mask effects of other loci. We re-analyzed genome-wide association study (GWAS) data from the International Genomics of Alzheimer's Project (IGAP) Consortium in APOE ɛ4+ (10 352 cases and 9207 controls) and APOE ɛ4- (7184 cases and 26 968 controls) subgroups as well as in the total sample testing for interaction between a single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) and APOE ɛ4 status. Suggestive associations (P<1 × 10(-4)) in stage 1 were evaluated in an independent sample (stage 2) containing 4203 subjects (APOE ɛ4+: 1250 cases and 536 controls; APOE ɛ4-: 718 cases and 1699 controls). Among APOE ɛ4- subjects, novel genome-wide significant (GWS) association was observed with 17 SNPs (all between KANSL1 and LRRC37A on chromosome 17 near MAPT) in a meta-analysis of the stage 1 and stage 2 data sets (best SNP, rs2732703, P=5·8 × 10(-9)). Conditional analysis revealed that rs2732703 accounted for association signals in the entire 100-kilobase region that includes MAPT. Except for previously identified AD loci showing stronger association in APOE ɛ4+ subjects (CR1 and CLU) or APOE ɛ4- subjects (MS4A6A/MS4A4A/MS4A6E), no other SNPs were significantly associated with AD in a specific APOE genotype subgroup. In addition, the finding in the stage 1 sample that AD risk is significantly influenced by the interaction of APOE with rs1595014 in TMEM106B (P=1·6 × 10(-7)) is noteworthy, because TMEM106B variants have previously been associated with risk of frontotemporal dementia. Expression quantitative trait locus analysis revealed that rs113986870, one of the GWS SNPs near rs2732703, is significantly associated with four KANSL1 probes that target transcription of the first translated exon and an untranslated exon in hippocampus (P⩽1.3 × 10(-8)), frontal cortex (P⩽1.3 × 10(-9)) and temporal cortex (P⩽1.2 × 10(-11)). Rs113986870 is also strongly associated with a MAPT probe that targets transcription of alternatively spliced exon 3 in frontal cortex (P=9.2 × 10(-6)) and temporal cortex (P=2.6 × 10(-6)). Our APOE-stratified GWAS is the first to show GWS association for AD with SNPs in the chromosome 17q21.31 region. Replication of this finding in independent samples is needed to verify that SNPs in this region have significantly stronger effects on AD risk in persons lacking APOE ɛ4 compared with persons carrying this allele, and if this is found to hold, further examination of this region and studies aimed at deciphering the mechanism(s) are warranted.

Bailey JCN, Loomis SJ, Kang JH, Allingham RR, Gharahkhani P, Khor CC, Burdon KP, Aschard H, Chasman DI, Igo RP, Hysi PG, Glastonbury CA, Ashley-Koch A, Brilliant M, Brown AA, Budenz DL, Buil A, Cheng C-Y, Choi H, Christen WG, Curhan G, De Vivo I, Fingert JH, Foster PJ, Fuchs C, Gaasterland D, Gaasterland T, Hewitt AW, Hu F, Hunter DJ, Khawaja AP, Lee RK, Li Z, Lichter PR, Mackey DA, McGuffin P, Mitchell P, Moroi SE, Perera SA, Pepper KW, Qi Q, Realini T, Richards JE, Ridker PM, Rimm E, Ritch R, Ritchie M, Schuman JS, Scott WK, Singh K, Sit AJ, Song YE, Tamimi RM, Topouzis F, Viswanathan AC, Verma SS, Vollrath D, Wang JJ, Weisschuh N, Wissinger B, Wollstein G, Wong TY, Yaspan BL, Zack DJ, Zhang K, Study E-NE, Study E-NE, Weinreb RN, Pericak-Vance MA, Small K, Hammond CJ, Aung T, Liu Y, Vithana EN, Macgregor S, Craig JE, Kraft P, Howell G, Hauser MA, Pasquale LR, Haines JL, Wiggs JL. Genome-wide association analysis identifies TXNRD2, ATXN2 and FOXC1 as susceptibility loci for primary open-angle glaucoma. Nat Genet 2016;48(2):189-94.Abstract

Primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG) is a leading cause of blindness worldwide. To identify new susceptibility loci, we performed meta-analysis on genome-wide association study (GWAS) results from eight independent studies from the United States (3,853 cases and 33,480 controls) and investigated the most significantly associated SNPs in two Australian studies (1,252 cases and 2,592 controls), three European studies (875 cases and 4,107 controls) and a Singaporean Chinese study (1,037 cases and 2,543 controls). A meta-analysis of the top SNPs identified three new associated loci: rs35934224[T] in TXNRD2 (odds ratio (OR) = 0.78, P = 4.05 × 10(-11)) encoding a mitochondrial protein required for redox homeostasis; rs7137828[T] in ATXN2 (OR = 1.17, P = 8.73 × 10(-10)); and rs2745572[A] upstream of FOXC1 (OR = 1.17, P = 1.76 × 10(-10)). Using RT-PCR and immunohistochemistry, we show TXNRD2 and ATXN2 expression in retinal ganglion cells and the optic nerve head. These results identify new pathways underlying POAG susceptibility and suggest new targets for preventative therapies.

Castle MJ, Turunen HT, Vandenberghe LH, Wolfe JH. Controlling AAV Tropism in the Nervous System with Natural and Engineered Capsids. Methods Mol Biol 2016;1382:133-49.Abstract

More than one hundred naturally occurring variants of adeno-associated virus (AAV) have been identified, and this library has been further expanded by an array of techniques for modification of the viral capsid. AAV capsid variants possess unique antigenic profiles and demonstrate distinct cellular tropisms driven by differences in receptor binding. AAV capsids can be chemically modified to alter tropism, can be produced as hybrid vectors that combine the properties of multiple serotypes, and can carry peptide insertions that introduce novel receptor-binding activity. Furthermore, directed evolution of shuffled genome libraries can identify engineered variants with unique properties, and rational modification of the viral capsid can alter tropism, reduce blockage by neutralizing antibodies, or enhance transduction efficiency. This large number of AAV variants and engineered capsids provides a varied toolkit for gene delivery to the CNS and retina, with specialized vectors available for many applications, but selecting a capsid variant from the array of available vectors can be difficult. This chapter describes the unique properties of a range of AAV variants and engineered capsids, and provides a guide for selecting the appropriate vector for specific applications in the CNS and retina.

Xiong W, Cepko C. Distinct Expression Patterns of AAV8 Vectors with Broadly Active Promoters from Subretinal Injections of Neonatal Mouse Eyes at Two Different Ages. Adv Exp Med Biol 2016;854:501-7.Abstract

The retinal expression patterns were analyzed following the injection of serotype 8 adeno-associated virus (AAV8) vectors that utilize two broadly active and commonly used sets of transcription regulatory sequences. These include the human cytomegalovirus (CMV) immediate early (IE) enhancer/promoter and the hybrid CAG element (also known as CAGGS or CBA) composed of a partial human CMV IE enhancer and the chicken β-actin promoter and intron. Subretinal delivery to postnatal day 0 (P0) or 6 (P6) mouse eyes resulted in efficient labeling of retinal cells, but with very distinct patterns. With P0 delivery, AAV8-CMV-GFP selectively labelled photoreceptors, while AAV8-CAG-GFP efficiently labeled both outer and inner retinal neurons, including photoreceptors, horizontal cells, amacrine cells and retinal ganglion cells. With P6 delivery, both vectors led to efficient labeling of photoreceptors and Müller glia cells, but not of inner retinal neurons. Our results suggest that the cell types that express the genes encoded by subretinally delivered AAV8 vectors are determined by both the timing of the injection and the regulatory sequences.

Whitman MC, Andrews C, Chan W-M, Tischfield MA, Stasheff SF, Brancati F, Ortiz-Gonzalez X, Nuovo S, Garaci F, MacKinnon SE, Hunter DG, Grant EP, Engle EC. Two unique TUBB3 mutations cause both CFEOM3 and malformations of cortical development. Am J Med Genet A 2016;170(2):297-305.Abstract

One set of missense mutations in the neuron specific beta tubulin isotype 3 (TUBB3) has been reported to cause malformations of cortical development (MCD), while a second set has been reported to cause isolated or syndromic Congenital Fibrosis of the Extraocular Muscles type 3 (CFEOM3). Because TUBB3 mutations reported to cause CFEOM had not been associated with cortical malformations, while mutations reported to cause MCD had not been associated with CFEOM or other forms of paralytic strabismus, it was hypothesized that each set of mutations might alter microtubule function differently. Here, however, we report two novel de novo heterozygous TUBB3 amino acid substitutions, G71R and G98S, in four patients with both MCD and syndromic CFEOM3. These patients present with moderately severe CFEOM3, nystagmus, torticollis, and developmental delay, and have intellectual and social disabilities. Neuroimaging reveals defective cortical gyration, as well as hypoplasia or agenesis of the corpus callosum and anterior commissure, malformations of hippocampi, thalami, basal ganglia and cerebella, and brainstem and cranial nerve hypoplasia. These new TUBB3 substitutions meld the two previously distinct TUBB3-associated phenotypes, and implicate similar microtubule dysfunction underlying both. © 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Olivares AM, Moreno-Ramos OA, Haider NB. Role of Nuclear Receptors in Central Nervous System Development and Associated Diseases. J Exp Neurosci 2015;9(Suppl 2):93-121.Abstract

The nuclear hormone receptor (NHR) superfamily is composed of a wide range of receptors involved in a myriad of important biological processes, including development, growth, metabolism, and maintenance. Regulation of such wide variety of functions requires a complex system of gene regulation that includes interaction with transcription factors, chromatin-modifying complex, and the proper recognition of ligands. NHRs are able to coordinate the expression of genes in numerous pathways simultaneously. This review focuses on the role of nuclear receptors in the central nervous system and, in particular, their role in regulating the proper development and function of the brain and the eye. In addition, the review highlights the impact of mutations in NHRs on a spectrum of human diseases from autism to retinal degeneration.

Tabebordbar M, Zhu K, Cheng JKW, Chew WL, Widrick JJ, Yan WX, Maesner C, Wu EY, Xiao R, Ran AF, Cong L, Zhang F, Vandenberghe LH, Church GM, Wagers AJ. In vivo gene editing in dystrophic mouse muscle and muscle stem cells. Science 2015;Abstract

Frame-disrupting mutations in the DMD gene, encoding dystrophin, compromise myofiber integrity and drive muscle deterioration in Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). Removing one or more exons from the mutated transcript can produce an in-frame mRNA and a truncated, but still functional, protein. In this study, we develop and test a direct gene-editing approach to induce exon deletion and recover dystrophin expression in the mdx mouse model of DMD. Delivery by adeno-associated virus (AAV) of clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR)-Cas9 endonucleases coupled with paired guide RNAs flanking the mutated Dmd exon23 resulted in excision of intervening DNA and restored Dystrophin reading frame in myofibers, cardiomyocytes, and muscle stem cells following local or systemic delivery. AAV-Dmd CRISPR-treatment partially recovered muscle functional deficiencies and generated a pool of endogenously corrected myogenic precursors in mdx mouse muscle.

Moreno-Ramos OA, Olivares AM, Haider NB, de Autismo LC, Lattig MC. Whole-Exome Sequencing in a South American Cohort Links ALDH1A3, FOXN1 and Retinoic Acid Regulation Pathways to Autism Spectrum Disorders. PLoS One 2015;10(9):e0135927.Abstract

Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are a range of complex neurodevelopmental conditions principally characterized by dysfunctions linked to mental development. Previous studies have shown that there are more than 1000 genes likely involved in ASD, expressed mainly in brain and highly interconnected among them. We applied whole exome sequencing in Colombian-South American trios. Two missense novel SNVs were found in the same child: ALDH1A3 (RefSeq NM_000693: c.1514T>C (p.I505T)) and FOXN1 (RefSeq NM_003593: c.146C>T (p.S49L)). Gene expression studies reveal that Aldh1a3 and Foxn1 are expressed in ~E13.5 mouse embryonic brain, as well as in adult piriform cortex (PC; ~P30). Conserved Retinoic Acid Response Elements (RAREs) upstream of human ALDH1A3 and FOXN1 and in mouse Aldh1a3 and Foxn1 genes were revealed using bioinformatic approximation. Chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) assay using Retinoid Acid Receptor B (Rarb) as the immunoprecipitation target suggests RA regulation of Aldh1a3 and Foxn1 in mice. Our results frame a possible link of RA regulation in brain to ASD etiology, and a feasible non-additive effect of two apparently unrelated variants in ALDH1A3 and FOXN1 recognizing that every result given by next generation sequencing should be cautiously analyzed, as it might be an incidental finding.

Fan BJ, Pasquale LR, Kang JH, Levkovitch-Verbin H, Haines JL, Wiggs JL. Association of clusterin (CLU) variants and exfoliation syndrome: An analysis in two Caucasian studies and a meta-analysis. Exp Eye Res 2015;139:115-22.Abstract

Exfoliation syndrome (XFS) is an important risk factor for glaucoma (XFG) worldwide. LOXL1 variants are highly associated with XFS in most populations; however, the high frequency of risk alleles in normal individuals and the reversal of risk alleles in different ethnic populations suggest that other factors contribute to XFS pathogenesis. Clusterin (CLU) is an extracellular matrix chaperone that prevents protein aggregation and is highly expressed in ocular tissues affected by XFS. Studies examining common CLU variants for association with XFS have been inconsistent. The purpose of this study was to evaluate CLU variants for association with XFS in two independent datasets from the United States (222 cases and 344 controls) and Israel (92 cases and 102 controls). Seven tag SNPs that captured >95% of alleles at r(2) greater than 0.8 across the CLU genomic region were genotyped using TaqMan assays. Genotypes for an additional SNP, rs2279590, were imputed using phased haplotypes of HapMap reference CEU samples. Of the 8 CLU SNPs selected for the study, none were significantly associated with XFS in either case-control group (age and sex adjusted P > 0.14 and 0.36, respectively, in the US and Israeli datasets), or when they were meta-analyzed together (age and sex adjusted P > 0.13). Haplotype analysis using all 8 SNPs or only the promoter region SNPs also did not show significant associations of CLU with XFS in the combined US and Israeli dataset (P > 0.28). Meta-analysis of the data from this study and previous studies in Caucasian populations (1184 cases and 978 controls) resulted in statistically significant association of rs2279590 with XFS (summary OR = 1.18, 95% CI: 1.03-1.33, P = 0.01). Significant association between rs2279590 and XFS was also found in Indian populations (summary OR = 0.76, 95% CI: 0.61-0.96; P = 0.02); however, significant heterogeneity between the Caucasian and Indian populations possibly due to reversal of the risk allele precluded an overall meta-analysis for rs2279590 (Q = 0.001, I(2) = 91%). No significant association was identified for rs3087554 in either Caucasian populations (summary OR = 0.90, 95% CI: 0.77-1.05, P = 0.17) or Indian populations (summary OR = 0.89, 95% CI: 0.72-1.10, P = 0.28), or in both populations combined (1705 cases and 3713 controls; summary OR = 0.90, 95% CI: 0.79-1.01, P = 0.08). Significant heterogeneity precluded the addition of the Japanese data to the meta-analysis for rs3087554 (Q = 0.006, I(2) = 87%). Our results suggest that common CLU variants may contribute to modest XFS risk but even larger datasets are required to confirm these findings.

Fernandez-Godino R, Garland DL, Pierce EA. A local complement response by RPE causes early-stage macular degeneration. Hum Mol Genet 2015;24(19):5555-69.Abstract

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.

Zhang C, Zhang Q, Wang F, Liu Q. Knockdown of poc1b causes abnormal photoreceptor sensory cilium and vision impairment in zebrafish. Biochem Biophys Res Commun 2015;465(4):651-7.Abstract

Proteomic analysis of the mouse photoreceptor sensory cilium identified a set of cilia proteins, including Poc1 centriolar protein b (Poc1b). Previous functional studies in human cells and zebrafish embryos implicated that Poc1b plays important roles in centriole duplication and length control, as well as ciliogenesis. To study the function of Poc1b in photoreceptor sensory cilia and other primary cilia, we expressed a tagged recombinant Poc1b protein in cultured renal epithelial cells and rat retina. Poc1b was localized to the centrioles and spindle bundles during cell cycle progression, and to the basal body of photoreceptor sensory cilia. A morpholino knockdown and complementation assay of poc1b in zebrafish showed that loss of poc1b led to a range of morphological anomalies of cilia commonly associated with human ciliopathies. In the retina, the development of retinal laminae was significantly delayed and the length of photoreceptor outer segments was shortened. Visual behavior studies revealed impaired visual function in the poc1b morphants. In addition, ciliopathy-associated developmental defects, such as small eyes, curved body axis, heart defects, and shortened cilia in Kupffer's vesicle, were observed as well. These data suggest that poc1b is required for normal development and ciliogenesis of retinal photoreceptor sensory cilia and other cilia. Furthermore, this conclusion is supported by recent findings that mutations in POC1B gene have been identified in patients with inherited retinal dystrophy and syndromic retinal ciliopathy.

Morrison MA, Magalhaes TR, Ramke J, Smith SE, Ennis S, Simpson CL, Portas L, Murgia F, Ahn J, Dardenne C, Mayne K, Robinson R, Morgan DJ, Brian G, Lee L, Woo SJ, Zacharaki F, Tsironi EE, Miller JW, Kim IK, Park KH, Bailey-Wilson JE, Farrer LA, Stambolian D, Deangelis MM. Ancestry of the Timorese: age-related macular degeneration associated genotype and allele sharing among human populations from throughout the world. Front Genet 2015;6:238.Abstract

We observed that the third leading cause of blindness in the world, age-related macular degeneration (AMD), occurs at a very low documented frequency in a population-based cohort from Timor-Leste. Thus, we determined a complete catalog of the ancestry of the Timorese by analysis of whole exome chip data and haplogroup analysis of SNP genotypes determined by sequencing the Hypervariable I and II regions of the mitochondrial genome and 17 genotyped YSTR markers obtained from 535 individuals. We genotyped 20 previously reported AMD-associated SNPs in the Timorese to examine their allele frequencies compared to and between previously documented AMD cohorts of varying ethnicities. For those without AMD (average age > 55 years), genotype and allele frequencies were similar for most SNPs with a few exceptions. The major risk allele of HTRA1 rs11200638 (10q26) was at a significantly higher frequency in the Timorese, as well as 3 of the 5 protective CFH (1q32) SNPs (rs800292, rs2284664, and rs12066959). Additionally, the most commonly associated AMD-risk SNP, CFH rs1061170 (Y402H), was also seen at a much lower frequency in the Korean and Timorese populations than in the assessed Caucasian populations (C ~7 vs. ~40%, respectively). The difference in allele frequencies between the Timorese population and the other genotyped populations, along with the haplogroup analysis, also highlight the genetic diversity of the Timorese. Specifically, the most common ancestry groupings were Oceanic (Melanesian and Papuan) and Eastern Asian (specifically Han Chinese). The low prevalence of AMD in the Timorese population (2 of 535 randomly selected participants) may be due to the enrichment of protective alleles in this population at the 1q32 locus.

Nassi JJ, Cepko CL, Born RT, Beier KT. Neuroanatomy goes viral!. Front Neuroanat 2015;9:80.Abstract

The nervous system is complex not simply because of the enormous number of neurons it contains but by virtue of the specificity with which they are connected. Unraveling this specificity is the task of neuroanatomy. In this endeavor, neuroanatomists have traditionally exploited an impressive array of tools ranging from the Golgi method to electron microscopy. An ideal method for studying anatomy would label neurons that are interconnected, and, in addition, allow expression of foreign genes in these neurons. Fortuitously, nature has already partially developed such a method in the form of neurotropic viruses, which have evolved to deliver their genetic material between synaptically connected neurons while largely eluding glia and the immune system. While these characteristics make some of these viruses a threat to human health, simple modifications allow them to be used in controlled experimental settings, thus enabling neuroanatomists to trace multi-synaptic connections within and across brain regions. Wild-type neurotropic viruses, such as rabies and alpha-herpes virus, have already contributed greatly to our understanding of brain connectivity, and modern molecular techniques have enabled the construction of recombinant forms of these and other viruses. These newly engineered reagents are particularly useful, as they can target genetically defined populations of neurons, spread only one synapse to either inputs or outputs, and carry instructions by which the targeted neurons can be made to express exogenous proteins, such as calcium sensors or light-sensitive ion channels, that can be used to study neuronal function. In this review, we address these uniquely powerful features of the viruses already in the neuroanatomist's toolbox, as well as the aspects of their biology that currently limit their utility. Based on the latter, we consider strategies for improving viral tracing methods by reducing toxicity, improving control of transsynaptic spread, and extending the range of species that can be studied.

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