Chronic stress is a risk factor for psychiatric disorders but does not necessarily lead to uniform long-term effects on mental health, suggesting modulating factors such as genetic predispositions. Here we address the question whether natural genetic variations in the mouse CRH receptor 1 (Crhr1) locus modulate the effects of adolescent chronic social stress (ACSS) on long-term stress hormone dysregulation in outbred CD1 mice, which allows a better understanding of the currently reported genes × environment interactions of early trauma and CRHR1 in humans. We identified 2 main haplotype variants in the mouse Crhr1 locus that modulate the long-term effects of ACSS on basal hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis activity. This effect is likely mediated by higher levels of CRHR1, because Crhr1 mRNA expression and CRHR1 binding were enhanced in risk haplotype carriers. Furthermore, a CRHR1 receptor antagonist normalized these long-term effects. Deep sequencing of the Crhr1 locus in CD1 mice revealed a large number of linked single-nucleotide polymorphisms with some located in important regulatory regions, similar to the location of human CRHR1 variants implicated in modulating gene × stress exposure interactions. Our data support that the described gene × stress exposure interaction in this animal model is based on naturally occurring genetic variations in the Crhr1 gene associated with enhanced CRHR1-mediated signaling. Our results suggest that patients with a specific genetic predisposition in the CRHR1 gene together with an exposure to chronic stress may benefit from a treatment selectively antagonizing CRHR1 hyperactivity.
The APOE4 allele is the strongest genetic risk factor for sporadic Alzheimer disease (AD). Case-control studies suggest the APOE4 link to AD is stronger in women. We examined the APOE4-by-sex interaction in conversion risk (from healthy aging to mild cognitive impairment (MCI)/AD or from MCI to AD) and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) biomarker levels.
Recent advances in massively parallel sequencing (MPS) have had an extensive impact on research in medical genomics. In particular, the analysis of rare variants using MPS promises to lead to a better understanding of complex disorders. Nevertheless, for meaningful studies that address the genetic basis for neuropsychiatric disorders, at least hundreds of patient samples have to be analyzed. This undertaking is still not feasible for single research groups on a whole-genome scale and in individual samples. Thus, researchers increasingly employ strategies for reducing the amount of sequencing efforts, such as target enrichment and non-barcoded sample pooling. This review provides an overview of current technologies, discusses options for reduced experimental designs, and illustrates the successful application of the presented methodologies in a recent study of panic disorder patients. Thereby, it aims to introduce the emerging field of MPS into neuropsychiatric research and might serve as a guide for further studies.
Childhood maltreatment is likely to influence fundamental biological processes and engrave long-lasting epigenetic marks, leading to adverse health outcomes in adulthood. We aimed to elucidate the impact of different early environment on disease-related genome-wide gene expression and DNA methylation in peripheral blood cells in patients with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Compared with the same trauma-exposed controls (n = 108), gene-expression profiles of PTSD patients with similar clinical symptoms and matched adult trauma exposure but different childhood adverse events (n = 32 and 29) were almost completely nonoverlapping (98%). These differences on the level of individual transcripts were paralleled by the enrichment of several distinct biological networks between the groups. Moreover, these gene-expression changes were accompanied and likely mediated by changes in DNA methylation in the same loci to a much larger proportion in the childhood abuse (69%) vs. the non-child abuse-only group (34%). This study is unique in providing genome-wide evidence of distinct biological modifications in PTSD in the presence or absence of exposure to childhood abuse. The findings that nonoverlapping biological pathways seem to be affected in the two PTSD groups and that changes in DNA methylation appear to have a much greater impact in the childhood-abuse group might reflect differences in the pathophysiology of PTSD, in dependence of exposure to childhood maltreatment. These results contribute to a better understanding of the extent of influence of differences in trauma exposure on pathophysiological processes in stress-related psychiatric disorders and may have implications for personalized medicine.
SLC6A15 is a neuron-specific neutral amino acid transporter that belongs to the solute carrier 6 gene family. This gene family is responsible for presynaptic re-uptake of the majority of neurotransmitters. Convergent data from human studies, animal models and pharmacological investigations suggest a possible role of SLC6A15 in major depressive disorder. In this work, we explored potential functional variants in this gene that could influence the activity of the amino acid transporter and thus downstream neuronal function and possibly the risk for stress-related psychiatric disorders. DNA from 400 depressed patients and 400 controls was screened for genetic variants using a pooled targeted re-sequencing approach. Results were verified by individual re-genotyping and validated non-synonymous coding variants were tested in an independent sample (N = 1934). Nine variants altering the amino acid sequence were then assessed for their functional effects by measuring SLC6A15 transporter activity in a cellular uptake assay. In total, we identified 405 genetic variants, including twelve non-synonymous variants. While none of the non-synonymous coding variants showed significant differences in case-control associations, two rare non-synonymous variants were associated with a significantly increased maximal (3)H proline uptake as compared to the wildtype sequence. Our data suggest that genetic variants in the SLC6A15 locus change the activity of the amino acid transporter and might thus influence its neuronal function and the risk for stress-related psychiatric disorders. As statistically significant association for rare variants might only be achieved in extremely large samples (N >70,000) functional exploration may shed light on putatively disease-relevant variants.
High-throughput-sequencing (HTS) technologies are the method of choice for screening the human genome for rare sequence variants causing susceptibility to complex diseases. Unfortunately, preparation of samples for a large number of individuals is still very cost- and labor intensive. Thus, recently, screens for rare sequence variants were carried out in samples of pooled DNA, in which equimolar amounts of DNA from multiple individuals are mixed prior to sequencing with HTS. The resulting sequence data, however, poses a bioinformatics challenge: the discrimination of sequencing errors from real sequence variants present at a low frequency in the DNA pool.
Genotype-derived drug resistance profiles are a valuable asset in HIV-1 therapy decisions. Therapy decisions could be further improved, both in terms of predicting length of current therapy success and in preserving followup therapy options, through better knowledge of mutational pathways- here defined as specific locations on the viral genome which, when mutant, alter the risk that additional specific mutations arise. We limit the search to locations in the reverse transcriptase region of the HIV-1 genome which host resistance mutations to nucleoside (NRTI) and non-nucleoside (NNRTI) reverse transcriptase inhibitors (as listed in the 2008 International AIDS Society report), or which were mutant at therapy start in 5% or more of the therapies studied.
Infections with the human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) are treated with combinations of drugs. Unfortunately, HIV responds to the treatment by developing resistance mutations. Consequently, the genome of the viral target proteins is sequenced and inspected for resistance mutations as part of routine diagnostic procedures for ensuring an effective treatment. For predicting response to a combination therapy, currently available computer-based methods rely on the genotype of the virus and the composition of the regimen as input. However, no available tool takes full advantage of the knowledge about the order of and the response to previously prescribed regimens. The resulting high-dimensional feature space makes existing methods difficult to apply in a straightforward fashion. The machine learning system proposed in this work, sequence boosting, is tailored to exploiting such high-dimensional information, i.e. the extraction of longitudinal features, by utilizing the recent advancements in data mining and boosting. When applied to predicting the latest treatment outcome for 3,759 treatment-experienced patients from the EuResist integrated database, sequence boosting achieved superior performance compared to SVMs with RBF kernels. Moreover, sequence boosting allows an easy access to the discriminative treatment information. Analysis of feature importance values provided by our model confirmed known facts regarding HIV treatment. For instance, application of potent and recently licensed drugs was beneficial for patients, and, conversely, the patient group that was subject to NRTI mono-therapies in the past had poor treatment perspectives today. Furthermore, our model revealed novel biological insights. More precisely, the combination of previously used drugs with their in vivo response is more informative than the information of previously used drugs alone. Using this information improves the performance of systems for predicting therapy outcome.
As there exists no cure or vaccine for the infection with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the standard approach to treating HIV patients is to repeatedly administer different combinations of several antiretroviral drugs. Because of the large number of possible drug combinations, manually finding a successful regimen becomes practically impossible. This presents a major challenge for HIV treatment. The application of machine learning methods for predicting virological responses to potential therapies is a possible approach to solving this problem. However, due to evolving trends in treating HIV patients the available clinical datasets have a highly unbalanced representation, which might negatively affect the usefulness of derived statistical models.
Although genotypic resistance testing (GRT) is recommended to guide combination antiretroviral therapy (cART), funding and/or facilities to perform GRT may not be available in low to middle income countries. Since treatment history (TH) impacts response to subsequent therapy, we investigated a set of statistical learning models to optimise cART in the absence of GRT information.
In life sciences, interpretability of machine learning models is as important as their prediction accuracy. Linear models are probably the most frequently used methods for assessing feature relevance, despite their relative inflexibility. However, in the past years effective estimators of feature relevance have been derived for highly complex or non-parametric models such as support vector machines and RandomForest (RF) models. Recently, it has been observed that RF models are biased in such a way that categorical variables with a large number of categories are preferred.
Replication capacity (RC) of specific HIV isolates is occasionally blamed for unexpected treatment responses. However, the role of viral RC in response to antiretroviral therapy is not yet fully understood.
The extreme flexibility of the HIV type-1 (HIV-1) genome makes it challenging to build the ideal antiretroviral treatment regimen. Interpretation of HIV-1 genotypic drug resistance is evolving from rule-based systems guided by expert opinion to data-driven engines developed through machine learning methods.
Inferring response to antiretroviral therapy from the viral genotype alone is challenging. The utility of an intermediate step of predicting in vitro drug susceptibility is currently controversial. Here, we provide a retrospective comparison of approaches using either genotype or predicted phenotypes alone, or in combination.
Expert-based genotypic interpretation systems are standard methods for guiding treatment selection for patients infected with human immunodeficiency virus type 1. We previously introduced the software pipeline geno2pheno-THEO (g2p-THEO), which on the basis of viral sequence predicts the response to treatment with a combination of antiretroviral compounds by applying methods from statistical learning and the estimated potential of the virus to escape from drug pressure.
Due to recent advances in genotyping technologies, mapping phenotypes to single loci in the genome has become a standard technique in statistical genetics. However, one-locus mapping fails to explain much of the phenotypic variance in complex traits. Here, we present GLIDE, which maps phenotypes to pairs of genetic loci and systematically searches for the epistatic interactions expected to reveal part of this missing heritability. GLIDE makes use of the computational power of consumer-grade graphics cards to detect such interactions via linear regression. This enabled us to conduct a systematic two-locus mapping study on seven disease data sets from the Wellcome Trust Case Control Consortium and on in-house hippocampal volume data in 6 h per data set, while current single CPU-based approaches require more than a years time to complete the same task.
Genome-wide association studies have identified common variants associated with common diseases. Most variants, however, explain only a small proportion of the estimated heritability, suggesting that rare variants might contribute to a larger extent to common diseases than assumed to date. Here, we use next-generation sequencing to test whether such variants contribute to the risk for anxiety disorders by re-sequencing 40?kb including all exons of the TMEM132D locus which we have previously shown to be associated with panic disorder and anxiety severity measures. DNA from 300 patients suffering from anxiety disorders, mostly panic disorder (84.7%), and 300 healthy controls was screened for the presence of genetic variants using next-generation re-sequencing in a pooled approach. Results were verified by individual re-genotyping. We identified 371 variants of which 247 had not been reported before, including 15 novel non-synonymous variants. The majority, 76% of these variants had a minor allele frequency less than 5%. While we did not identify additional common variants in TMEM132D associated with panic disorders, we observed an overrepresentation of presumably functional coding variants in healthy controls as compared to cases as well as a higher rate of private coding variants in cases, with one non-synonymous coding variant present in four patients but not in any of the matched controls nor in over 5,500 individuals of different ethnic origins from publicly available re-sequencing datasets. Our data suggest that not only common but also putatively functional and/or rare variants within TMEM132D might contribute to the risk to develop anxiety disorders.
High-throughput DNA sequencing (HTS) is of increasing importance in the life sciences. One of its most prominent applications is the sequencing of whole genomes or targeted regions of the genome such as all exonic regions (i.e., the exome). Here, the objective is the identification of genetic variants such as single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). The extraction of SNPs from the raw genetic sequences involves many processing steps and the application of a diverse set of tools. We review the essential building blocks for a pipeline that calls SNPs from raw HTS data. The pipeline includes quality control, mapping of short reads to the reference genome, visualization and post-processing of the alignment including base quality recalibration. The final steps of the pipeline include the SNP calling procedure along with filtering of SNP candidates. The steps of this pipeline are accompanied by an analysis of a publicly available whole-exome sequencing dataset. To this end, we employ several alignment programs and SNP calling routines for highlighting the fact that the choice of the tools significantly affects the final results.
For a long time, the clinical management of antiretroviral drug resistance was based on sequence analysis of the HIV genome followed by estimating drug susceptibility from the mutational pattern that was detected. The large number of anti-HIV drugs and HIV drug resistance mutations has prompted the development of computer-aided genotype interpretation systems, typically comprising rules handcrafted by experts via careful examination of in vitro and in vivo resistance data. More recently, machine learning approaches have been applied to establish data-driven engines able to indicate the most effective treatments for any patient and virus combination. Systems of this kind, currently including the Resistance Response Database Initiative and the EuResist engine, must learn from the large data sets of patient histories and can provide an objective and accurate estimate of the virological response to different antiretroviral regimens. The EuResist engine was developed by a European consortium of HIV and bioinformatics experts and compares favorably with the most commonly used genotype interpretation systems and HIV drug resistance experts. Next-generation treatment response prediction engines may valuably assist the HIV specialist in the challenging task of establishing effective regimens for patients harboring drug-resistant virus strains. The extensive collection and accurate processing of increasingly large patient data sets are eagerly awaited to further train and translate these systems from prototype engines into real-life treatment decision support tools.
Alzheimers disease (AD) is an increasingly prevalent, fatal neurodegenerative disease that has proven resistant, thus far, to all attempts to prevent it, forestall it, or slow its progression. The ?4 allele of the Apolipoprotein E gene (APOE4) is a potent genetic risk factor for sporadic and late-onset familial AD. While the link between APOE4 and AD is strong, many expected effects, like increasing the risk of conversion from MCI to AD, have not been widely replicable. One critical, and commonly overlooked, feature of the APOE4 link to AD is that several lines of evidence suggest it is far more pronounced in women than in men. Here we review previous literature on the APOE4 by gender interaction with a particular focus on imaging-related studies.
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