There is substantial genetic and epidemiological evidence implicating vitamin D in the pathogenesis of many common diseases. A number of studies have sought to define an association for disease with sequence variation in the VDR gene, encoding the ligand-activated nuclear hormone receptor for vitamin D. The results of such studies have been difficult to replicate and are likely to need to account for specific environmental exposures. Here, we review recent work that has begun to study the interactions between VDR gene polymorphisms, vitamin D blood levels, and complex disease susceptibility, notably in the context of major clinical outcomes. We highlight the challenges moving forward in this area and its importance for effective clinical translation of current research.
There is little understanding of how genetic variants discovered in recent genome-wide association studies are involved in the pathogenesis of multiple sclerosis (MS). We aimed to investigate which chromatin states and cell types explain genetic risk in MS. We used genotype data from 1854 MS patients and 5164 controls produced by the International Multiple Sclerosis Genetics Consortium and Wellcome Trust Case Control Consortium. We estimated the proportion of phenotypic variance between cases and controls explained by cell-specific chromatin state and DNase I hypersensitivity sites (DHSs) using the Genome-wide Complex Trait Analysis software. A large proportion of variance was explained by single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in strong enhancer (SE) elements of immortalized B lymphocytes (5.39%). Three independent SNPs located within SE showed suggestive evidence of association with MS: rs12928822 (odds ratio (OR)=0.81, 95% confidence interval (CI)=0.73-0.89, P=2.48E-05), rs727263 (OR=0.75, 95% CI=0.66-0.85, P=3.26E-06) and rs4674923 (OR=0.85, 95% CI=0.79-0.92, P=1.63E-05). Genetic variants located within DHSs of CD19+ B cells explained the greatest proportion of variance. Genetic variants influencing the risk of MS are located within regulatory elements active in immune cells. This study also identifies a number of immune cell types likely to be involved in the causal cascade and that carry important implications for future studies of therapeutic design.
Computational genomics seeks to draw biological inferences from genomic datasets, often by integrating and contextualizing next-generation sequencing data. CGAT provides an extensive suite of tools designed to assist in the analysis of genome scale data from a range of standard file formats. The toolkit enables filtering, comparison, conversion, summarization and annotation of genomic intervals, gene sets and sequences. The tools can both be run from the Unix command line and installed into visual workflow builders, such as Galaxy.
Genome-wide association studies (GWASs) have shown that approximately 60 genetic variants influence the risk of developing multiple sclerosis (MS). Our aim was to identify the cell types in which these variants are active. We used available data on MS-associated single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and deoxyribonuclease I hypersensitive sites (DHSs) from 112 different cell types. Genomic intervals were tested for overlap using the Genomic Hyperbrowser. The expression profile of the genes located nearby MS-associated SNPs was assessed using the software GRAIL (Gene Relationships Across Implicated Loci). Genomic regions associated with MS were significantly enriched for a number of immune DHSs and in particular T helper (Th) 1, Th17, CD8+ cytotoxic T cells, CD19+ B cells and CD56+ natural killer (NK) cells (enrichment = 2.34, 2.19, 2.27, 2.05 and 1.95, respectively; P < 0.0001 for all of them). Similar results were obtained when genomic regions with suggestive association with MS and additional immune-mediated traits were investigated. Several new candidate MS-associated genes located within regions of suggestive association were identified by GRAIL (CARD11, FCRL2, CHST12, SYK, TCF7, SOCS1, NFKBIZ and NPAS1). Genetic data indicate that Th1, Th17, cytotoxic T, B and NK cells play a prominent role in the etiology of MS. Regions with confirmed and suggestive association have a similar immunological profile, indicating that many SNPs truly influencing the risk of MS actually fail to reach genome-wide significance. Finally, similar cell types are involved in the etiology of other immune-mediated diseases.
Evidence for a causal role for vitamin D in multiple sclerosis (MS) is being gathered. Epidemiological, molecular and animal model studies have paved the way in our understanding of the effects of vitamin D in demyelinating disease. Several clinical trials have been completed and more are under way to understand the full extent and value of vitamin D supplementation on disease progression. Many questions remain unanswered however and careful study design is increasingly pertinent. Timing of exposure, dosage and transgenerational effects are some of the several important questions that need to be addressed. In this issue, Carlson and Rose highlight these points and provide a review of vitamin D and MS with an emphasis on the most recent clinical studies. Further evidence of vitamin D deficiency as a causal factor, its molecular targets in MS and its prospect as a therapeutic and preventative agent are questions that warrant further study.
Gene-environment interactions may shed light on the mechanisms underlying multiple sclerosis (MS). We pooled data from two case-control studies on incident demyelination and used different methods to assess interaction between HLA-DRB1*15 (DRB1-15) and history of infectious mononucleosis (IM). Individuals exposed to both factors were at substantially increased risk of disease (OR=7.32, 95% CI=4.92-10.90). In logistic regression models, DRB1-15 and IM status were independent predictors of disease while their interaction term was not (DRB1-15*IM: OR=1.35, 95% CI=0.79-2.23). However, interaction on an additive scale was evident (Synergy index=2.09, 95% CI=1.59-2.59; excess risk due to interaction=3.30, 95%CI=0.47-6.12; attributable proportion due to interaction=45%, 95% CI=22-68%). This suggests, if the additive model is appropriate, the DRB1-15 and IM may be involved in the same causal process leading to MS and highlights the benefit of reporting gene-environment interactions on both a multiplicative and additive scale.
Vitamin D insufficiency has been implicated in autoimmunity. ChIP-seq experiments using immune cell lines have shown that vitamin D receptor (VDR) binding sites are enriched near regions of the genome associated with autoimmune diseases. We aimed to investigate VDR binding in primary CD4+ cells from healthy volunteers.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a complex neurological disease. Genetic linkage analysis and genotyping of candidate genes in families with 4 or more affected individuals more heavily loaded for susceptibility genes has not fully explained familial disease clustering.
Vitamin D has been studied for over a century and its functions related to calcium homeostasis are well established. Over the last 30 years or so it has become increasingly clear that it has a wider role in physiology and, importantly, also in disease. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to multiple sclerosis (MS); however the molecular mechanisms of this association were poorly understood. Recent technological advances have provided major insights as to how vitamin D may exert its role, particularly through the actions of the vitamin D receptor (VDR). In this review we aim to highlight the importance of the interaction between vitamin D and MS associated genes which provide a biological basis for the association between vitamin D and MS risk.
Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is the most common demyelinating disease of the central nervous system. Although the etiology and the pathogenesis of MS has been extensively investigated, no single pathway, reliable biomarker, diagnostic test, or specific treatment have yet been identified for all MS patients. One of the reasons behind this failure is likely to be the wide heterogeneity observed within the MS population. The clinical course of MS is highly variable and includes several subcategories and variants. Moreover, apart from the well-established association with the HLA-class II DRB1*15:01 allele, other genetic variants have been shown to vary significantly across different populations and individuals. Finally both pathological and immunological studies suggest that different pathways may be active in different MS patients. We conclude that these "MS subtypes" should still be considered as part of the same disease but hypothesize that spatiotemporal effects of genetic and environmental agents differentially influence MS course. These considerations are extremely relevant, as outcome prediction and personalised medicine represent the central aim of modern research.
Initially thought to play a restricted role in calcium homeostasis, the pleiotropic actions of vitamin D in biology and their clinical significance are only now becoming apparent. However, the mode of action of vitamin D, through its cognate nuclear vitamin D receptor (VDR), and its contribution to diverse disorders, remain poorly understood. We determined VDR binding throughout the human genome using chromatin immunoprecipitation followed by massively parallel DNA sequencing (ChIP-seq). After calcitriol stimulation, we identified 2776 genomic positions occupied by the VDR and 229 genes with significant changes in expression in response to vitamin D. VDR binding sites were significantly enriched near autoimmune and cancer associated genes identified from genome-wide association (GWA) studies. Notable genes with VDR binding included IRF8, associated with MS, and PTPN2 associated with Crohns disease and T1D. Furthermore, a number of single nucleotide polymorphism associations from GWA were located directly within VDR binding intervals, for example, rs13385731 associated with SLE and rs947474 associated with T1D. We also observed significant enrichment of VDR intervals within regions of positive selection among individuals of Asian and European descent. ChIP-seq determination of transcription factor binding, in combination with GWA data, provides a powerful approach to further understanding the molecular bases of complex diseases.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a complex neurological disorder. Its aetiology involves both environmental and genetic factors. Recent genome-wide association studies have identified a number of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) associated with susceptibility to (MS). We investigated whether these genetic variations were associated with alteration in gene expression.
Both genetic and environmental factors contribute to the aetiology of multiple sclerosis (MS). More than 50 genomic regions have been associated with MS susceptibility and vitamin D status also influences the risk of this complex disease. However, how these factors interact in disease causation is unclear. We aimed to investigate the relationship between vitamin D receptor (VDR) binding in lymphoblastoid cell lines (LCLs), chromatin states in LCLs and MS-associated genomic regions. Using the Genomic Hyperbrowser, we found that VDR-binding regions overlapped with active regulatory regions [active promoter (AP) and strong enhancer (SE)] in LCLs more than expected by chance [45.3-fold enrichment for SE (P < 2.0e-05) and 63.41-fold enrichment for AP (P < 2.0e-05)]. Approximately 77% of VDR regions were covered by either AP or SE elements. The overlap between VDR binding and regulatory elements was significantly greater in LCLs than in non-immune cells (P < 2.0e-05). VDR binding also occurred within MS regions more than expected by chance (3.7-fold enrichment, P < 2.0e-05). Furthermore, regions of joint overlap SE-VDR and AP-VDR were even more enriched within MS regions and near to several disease-associated genes. These findings provide relevant insights into how vitamin D influences the immune system and the risk of MS through VDR interactions with the chromatin state inside MS regions. Furthermore, the data provide additional evidence for an important role played by B cells in MS. Further analyses in other immune cell types and functional studies are warranted to fully elucidate the role of vitamin D in the immune system.
More than 50 genomic regions have now been shown to influence the risk of multiple sclerosis (MS). However, the mechanisms of action, and the cell types in which these associated variants act at the molecular level remain largely unknown. This is especially true for associated regions containing no known genes. Given the evidence for a role for B cells in MS, we hypothesized that MS associated genomic regions co-localized with regions which are functionally active in B cells. We used publicly available data on 1) MS associated regions and single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and 2) chromatin profiling in B cells as well as three additional cell types thought to be unrelated to MS (hepatocytes, fibroblasts and keratinocytes). Genomic intervals and SNPs were tested for overlap using the Genomic Hyperbrowser. We found that MS associated regions are significantly enriched in strong enhancer, active promoter and strong transcribed regions (p?=?0.00005) and that this overlap is significantly higher in B cells than control cells. In addition, MS associated SNPs also land in active promoter (p?=?0.00005) and enhancer regions more than expected by chance (strong enhancer p?=?0.0006; weak enhancer p?=?0.00005). These results confirm the important role of the immune system and specifically B cells in MS and suggest that MS risk variants exert a gene regulatory role. Previous studies assessing MS risk variants in T cells may be missing important effects in B cells. Similar analyses in other immunological cell types relevant to MS and functional studies are necessary to fully elucidate how genes contribute to MS pathogenesis.
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