Homozygosity has long been associated with rare, often devastating, Mendelian disorders, and Darwin was one of the first to recognize that inbreeding reduces evolutionary fitness. However, the effect of the more distant parental relatedness that is common in modern human populations is less well understood. Genomic data now allow us to investigate the effects of homozygosity on traits of public health importance by observing contiguous homozygous segments (runs of homozygosity), which are inferred to be homozygous along their complete length. Given the low levels of genome-wide homozygosity prevalent in most human populations, information is required on very large numbers of people to provide sufficient power. Here we use runs of homozygosity to study 16 health-related quantitative traits in 354,224 individuals from 102 cohorts, and find statistically significant associations between summed runs of homozygosity and four complex traits: height, forced expiratory lung volume in one second, general cognitive ability and educational attainment (P < 1 × 10(-300), 2.1 × 10(-6), 2.5 × 10(-10) and 1.8 × 10(-10), respectively). In each case, increased homozygosity was associated with decreased trait value, equivalent to the offspring of first cousins being 1.2 cm shorter and having 10 months' less education. Similar effect sizes were found across four continental groups and populations with different degrees of genome-wide homozygosity, providing evidence that homozygosity, rather than confounding, directly contributes to phenotypic variance. Contrary to earlier reports in substantially smaller samples, no evidence was seen of an influence of genome-wide homozygosity on blood pressure and low density lipoprotein cholesterol, or ten other cardio-metabolic traits. Since directional dominance is predicted for traits under directional evolutionary selection, this study provides evidence that increased stature and cognitive function have been positively selected in human evolution, whereas many important risk factors for late-onset complex diseases may not have been.
Seminal studies showed that CRISPR-Cas systems provide adaptive immunity in prokaryotes and promising gene-editing tools from bacteria to humans. Yet, reports diverged on whether some CRISPR systems naturally target DNA or RNA. Here, Samai and colleagues unify the studies, showing that a single type III CRISPR-Cas system cleaves both DNA and RNA targets, independently.
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.
We report the whole-genome sequence (WGS) of an in vitro susceptible derivative revertant mutant from a bloodstream isolate involved in a nosocomial outbreak in Brazil. The WGS comprises 2.5 Mb with 2,500 protein-coding sequences, 16rRNA genes, and 60 tRNA genes.
The field of gene therapy for retinal blinding disorders is experiencing incredible momentum, justified by hopeful results in early stage clinical trials for inherited retinal degenerations. The premise of the use of the gene as a drug has come a long way, and may have found its niche in the treatment of retinal disease. Indeed, with only limited treatment options available for retinal indications, gene therapy has been proven feasible, safe, and effective and may lead to durable effects following a single injection. Here, we aim at putting into context the promise and potential, the technical, clinical, and economic boundaries limiting its application and development, and speculate on a future in which gene therapy is an integral component of ophthalmic clinical care.
Primary open angle glaucoma (POAG), a major cause of blindness worldwide, is a complex disease with a significant genetic contribution. We performed Exome Array (Illumina) analysis on 3504 POAG cases and 9746 controls with replication of the most significant findings in 9173 POAG cases and 26 780 controls across 18 collections of Asian, African and European descent. Apart from confirming strong evidence of association at CDKN2B-AS1 (rs2157719 [G], odds ratio [OR] = 0.71, P = 2.81 × 10(-33)), we observed one SNP showing significant association to POAG (CDC7-TGFBR3 rs1192415, ORG-allele = 1.13, Pmeta = 1.60 × 10(-8)). This particular SNP has previously been shown to be strongly associated with optic disc area and vertical cup-to-disc ratio, which are regarded as glaucoma-related quantitative traits. Our study now extends this by directly implicating it in POAG disease pathogenesis.
PURPOSE: Retinitis pigmentosa is a Mendelian disease with a very elevated genetic heterogeneity. Most mutations are responsible for less than 1% of cases, making molecular diagnosis a multigene screening procedure. In this study, we assessed whether direct testing of specific alleles could be a valuable screening approach in cases characterized by prevalent founder mutations. METHODS: We screened 275 North American patients with recessive/isolate retinitis pigmentosa for two mutations: an Alu insertion in the MAK gene and the p.Lys42Glu missense in the DHDDS gene. All patients were unrelated; 35 reported Jewish ancestry and the remainder reported mixed ethnicity. RESULTS: We identified the MAK and DHDDS mutations homozygously in only 2.1% and 0.8%, respectively, of patients of mixed ethnicity, but in 25.7% and 8.6%, respectively, of cases reporting Jewish ancestry. Haplotype analyses revealed that inheritance of the MAK mutation was attributable to a founder effect. CONCLUSION: In contrast to most mutations associated with retinitis pigmentosa-which are, in general, extremely rare-the two alleles investigated here cause disease in approximately one-third of North American patients reporting Jewish ancestry. Therefore, their screening constitutes an alternative procedure to large-scale tests for patients belonging to this ethnic group, especially in time-sensitive situations.Genet Med 17 4, 285-290.
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.
Organismal development requires the precise coordination of genetic programs to regulate cell fate and function. MEF2 transcription factors (TFs) play essential roles in this process but how these broadly expressed factors contribute to the generation of specific cell types during development is poorly understood. Here we show that despite being expressed in virtually all mammalian tissues, in the retina MEF2D binds to retina-specific enhancers and controls photoreceptor cell development. MEF2D achieves specificity by cooperating with a retina-specific factor CRX, which recruits MEF2D away from canonical MEF2 binding sites and redirects it to retina-specific enhancers that lack the consensus MEF2-binding sequence. Once bound to retina-specific enhancers, MEF2D and CRX co-activate the expression of photoreceptor-specific genes that are critical for retinal function. These findings demonstrate that broadly expressed TFs acquire specific functions through competitive recruitment to enhancers by tissue-specific TFs and through selective activation of these enhancers to regulate tissue-specific genes.
Over the past several years, rapid technological advances have allowed for a dramatic increase in our knowledge and understanding of the transcriptional landscape, because of the ability to study gene expression in greater depth and with more detail than previously possible. To this end, RNA-Seq has quickly become one of the most widely used methods for studying transcriptomes of tissues and individual cells. Unlike previously favored analysis methods, RNA-Seq is extremely high-throughput, and is not dependent on an annotated transcriptome, laying the foundation for novel genetic discovery. Additionally, RNA-Seq derived transcriptomes provide a basis for widening the scope of research to identify potential targets in the treatment of retinal disease.
Current limitations in technology have prevented an extensive analysis of the connections among neurons, particularly within nonmammalian organisms. We developed a transsynaptic viral tracer originally for use in mice, and then tested its utility in a broader range of organisms. By engineering the vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) to encode a fluorophore and either the rabies virus glycoprotein (RABV-G) or its own glycoprotein (VSV-G), we created viruses that can transsynaptically label neuronal circuits in either the retrograde or anterograde direction, respectively. The vectors were investigated for their utility as polysynaptic tracers of chicken and zebrafish visual pathways. They showed patterns of connectivity consistent with previously characterized visual system connections, and revealed several potentially novel connections. Further, these vectors were shown to infect neurons in several other vertebrates, including Old and New World monkeys, seahorses, axolotls, and Xenopus. They were also shown to infect two invertebrates, Drosophila melanogaster, and the box jellyfish, Tripedalia cystophora, a species previously intractable for gene transfer, although no clear evidence of transsynaptic spread was observed in these species. These vectors provide a starting point for transsynaptic tracing in most vertebrates, and are also excellent candidates for gene transfer in organisms that have been refractory to other methods.
CONTEXT: A heterozygous de novo c.1228G>A mutation (E410K) in the TUBB3 gene encoding the neuronal-specific β-tubulin isotype 3 (TUBB3) causes the TUBB3 E410K syndrome characterized by congenital fibrosis of the extraocular muscles (CFEOM), facial weakness, intellectual and social disabilities, and Kallmann syndrome (anosmia with hypogonadotropic hypogonadism). All TUBB3 E410K subjects reported to date are sporadic cases. OBJECTIVE: This study aimed to report the clinical, genetic, and molecular features of a familial presentation of the TUBB3 E410K syndrome. DESIGN: Case report of a mother and three affected children with clinical features of the TUBB3 E410K syndrome. SETTING: Academic Medical Center. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Genetic analysis of the TUBB3 gene and clinical evaluation of endocrine and nonendocrine phenotypes. RESULTS: A de novo TUBB3 c.1228G>A mutation arose in a female proband who displayed CFEOM, facial weakness, intellectual and social disabilities, and anosmia. However, she underwent normal sexual development at puberty and had three spontaneous pregnancies with subsequent autosomal-dominant inheritance of the mutation by her three boys. All sons displayed nonendocrine features of the TUBB3 E410K syndrome similar to their mother but, in addition, had variable features suggestive of additional endocrine abnormalities. CONCLUSIONS: This first report of an autosomal-dominant inheritance of the TUBB3 c.1228G>A mutation in a family provides new insights into the spectrum and variability of endocrine phenotypes associated with the TUBB3 E410K syndrome. These observations emphasize the need for appropriate clinical evaluation and complicate genetic counseling of patients and families with this syndrome.