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.
Analyses of genome-wide association study (GWAS) data have revealed that detectable genetic mosaicism involving large (>2 Mb) structural autosomal alterations occurs in a fraction of individuals. We present results for a set of 24,849 genotyped individuals (total GWAS set II [TGSII]) in whom 341 large autosomal abnormalities were observed in 168 (0.68%) individuals. Merging data from the new TGSII set with data from two prior reports (the Gene-Environment Association Studies and the total GWAS set I) generated a large dataset of 127,179 individuals; we then conducted a meta-analysis to investigate the patterns of detectable autosomal mosaicism (n = 1,315 events in 925 [0.73%] individuals). Restricting to events >2 Mb in size, we observed an increase in event frequency as event size decreased. The combined results underscore that the rate of detectable mosaicism increases with age (p value = 5.5 × 10(-31)) and is higher in men (p value = 0.002) but lower in participants of African ancestry (p value = 0.003). In a subset of 47 individuals from whom serial samples were collected up to 6 years apart, complex changes were noted over time and showed an overall increase in the proportion of mosaic cells as age increased. Our large combined sample allowed for a unique ability to characterize detectable genetic mosaicism involving large structural events and strengthens the emerging evidence of non-random erosion of the genome in the aging population.
Exfoliation syndrome (XFS) is the most common recognizable cause of open-angle glaucoma worldwide. To better understand the etiology of XFS, we conducted a genome-wide association study (GWAS) of 1,484 cases and 1,188 controls from Japan and followed up the most significant findings in a further 6,901 cases and 20,727 controls from 17 countries across 6 continents. We discovered a genome-wide significant association between a new locus (CACNA1A rs4926244) and increased susceptibility to XFS (odds ratio (OR) = 1.16, P = 3.36 × 10(-11)). Although we also confirmed overwhelming association at the LOXL1 locus, the key SNP marker (LOXL1 rs4886776) demonstrated allelic reversal depending on the ancestry group (Japanese: ORA allele = 9.87, P = 2.13 × 10(-217); non-Japanese: ORA allele = 0.49, P = 2.35 × 10(-31)). Our findings represent the first genetic locus outside of LOXL1 surpassing genome-wide significance for XFS and provide insight into the biology and pathogenesis of the disease.
Recent studies have revealed that active enhancers are transcribed, producing a class of noncoding RNAs called enhancer RNAs (eRNAs). eRNAs are distinct from long noncoding RNAs (lncRNAs), but these two species of noncoding RNAs may share a similar role in the activation of mRNA transcription. Emerging studies, showing that eRNAs function in controlling mRNA transcription, challenge the idea that enhancers are merely sites of transcription factor assembly. Instead, communication between promoters and enhancers can be bidirectional with promoters required to activate enhancer transcription. Reciprocally, eRNAs may then facilitate enhancer-promoter interaction or activate promoter-driven transcription.
Several groups have reported the results of clinical trials of gene augmentation therapy for Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA) because of mutations in the RPE65 gene. These studies have used subretinal injection of adeno-associated virus (AAV) vectors to deliver the human RPE65 cDNA to the retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells of the treated eyes. In all of the studies reported to date, this approach has been shown to be both safe and effective. The successful clinical trials of gene augmentation therapy for retinal degeneration caused by mutations in the RPE65 gene sets the stage for broad application of gene therapy to treat retinal degenerative disorders.
MOTIVATION: All current mitochondrial haplogroup classification tools require variants to be detected from an alignment with the reference sequence and to be properly named according to the canonical nomenclature standards for describing mitochondrial variants, before they can be compared with the haplogroup determining polymorphisms. With the emergence of high-throughput sequencing technologies and hence greater availability of mitochondrial genome sequences, there is a strong need for an automated haplogroup classification tool that is alignment-free and agnostic to reference sequence. RESULTS: We have developed a novel mitochondrial genome haplogroup-defining algorithm using a k-mer approach namely Phy-Mer. Phy-Mer performs equally well as the leading haplogroup classifier, HaploGrep, while avoiding the errors that may occur when preparing variants to required formats and notations. We have further expanded Phy-Mer functionality such that next-generation sequencing data can be used directly as input. AVAILABILITY AND IMPLEMENTATION: Phy-Mer is publicly available under the GNU Affero General Public License v3.0 on GitHub (https://github.com/danielnavarrogomez/phy-mer). CONTACT: Xiaowu_Gai@meei.harvard.edu SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.
PURPOSE: Next-generation sequencing-based methods are being adopted broadly for genetic diagnostic testing, but the performance characteristics of these techniques with regard to test accuracy and reproducibility have not been fully defined. METHODS: We developed a targeted enrichment and next-generation sequencing approach for genetic diagnostic testing of patients with inherited eye disorders, including inherited retinal degenerations, optic atrophy, and glaucoma. In preparation for providing this genetic eye disease (GEDi) test on a CLIA-certified basis, we performed experiments to measure the sensitivity, specificity, and reproducibility, as well as the clinical sensitivity, of the test. RESULTS: The GEDi test is highly reproducible and accurate, with sensitivity and specificity of 97.9 and 100%, respectively, for single-nucleotide variant detection. The sensitivity for variant detection was notably better than the 88.3% achieved by whole-exome sequencing using the same metrics, because of better coverage of targeted genes in the GEDi test as compared with a commercially available exome capture set. Prospective testing of 192 patients with inherited retinal degenerations indicated that the clinical sensitivity of the GEDi test is high, with a diagnostic rate of 51%. CONCLUSION: Based on quantified performance metrics, the data suggest that selective targeted enrichment is preferable to whole-exome sequencing for genetic diagnostic testing.Genet Med 17 4, 253-261.