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.
Chromosomal copy number association studies in patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) using blood DNA have so far been inconclusive. We employed genome-wide screening to look for copy number imbalances (CNIs) between blood and hair DNA from three ALS-discordant monozygotic twin pairs and two phenotypically normal monozygotic twin pairs. Genome-wide chromosomal copy number was estimated using AffyMetrix 6.0 GeneChips. CNIs were sought both between twin pairs and between blood and hair DNA from the same individuals. Two blood CNIs were found in one ALS-discordant twin pair. In another ALS-discordant twin pair, seven hair CNIs were detected. CNIs were also found between blood and hair in three individuals. Imbalances in blood copy number appear to be rare in monozygotic twin pairs, but hair may harbour more CNIs than blood. Copy number differences between blood and hair from the same individuals appear to be common. Since brain and hair share a common ectodermal origin, hair may be a more suitable tissue than blood to estimate somatic copy number variation in the brain.
Sporadic Parkinsons disease (PD) is thought to have a major genetic component, but the variants involved remain mostly unknown. One possible reason for the difficulty in finding mutations underlying PD is that rare predominantly brain-situated somatic mutations underlie the disease; these mutations would be missed by analysing blood DNA only. To test the feasibility of looking for somatic mutations in PD brain tissue, we compared copy number variants (CNVs) between 8 PD and 26 control brains using Affymetrix 6.0 arrays. The median number of CNVs per brain, and the overall proportion of amplifications and deletions, were similar in PD and control brains. In 7 of the 8 PD brains, however, a total of 45 CNVs were found that were not present in control brains. Twelve of these CNVs overlapped with one or more genes, some of which are involved in pathways suspected in the pathogenesis of PD, or are rare. This study shows that PD brain CNVs can be detected, and raises the possibility that brain-situated mutations could underlie some cases of PD. A method of undertaking a definitive study of brain somatic mutations in PD, using massively parallel sequencing and multiple tissues, is suggested.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a complex disorder of the central nervous system characterized by demyelination, axonal loss, and inflammation. The cause of MS is currently unknown although genetic and environmental factors contribute to etiology. The relative importance of each has been disputed; however, now it is clear that much of the disease results from the interaction of the environment and the genetics. Epigenetic modifications within the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) likely mediate interactions at this locus with current known environmental risk factors--vitamin D, Epstein-Barr virus, and smoking. Maternal parent-of-origin effects, month of birth effects and transgenerational differences in allele frequency are also evident in MS and may be mediated by sex-specific epigenetic mechanisms. Differences in epigenetic marks characterize monozygotic twin pairs and may explain discordance. There is promise of potential therapeutic strategies to be found in the epigenetic mechanisms at work in MS.
Most analyses of blood DNA in sporadic neuromuscular disorders have been inconclusive. This may be because some genetic variants occur only in brain tissue. We therefore looked for copy number variants (CNVs) in both blood and brain in patients with sporadic amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (SALS).
Rare de novo genetic variants have been detected in a number of diseases using case-parent trios. So far, trio studies have largely been confined to early-onset diseases where parent DNA samples are readily available. To test the feasibility of finding rare de novo variants in a typical late-onset neurodegenerative disease, we compared genome-wide copy number variants (CNVs) between patients with sporadic amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (SALS) and their unaffected parents. DNA from 12 SALS patients and their 24 parents was analysed for CNVs using AffyMetrix SNP 6.0 microarrays and Partek software. De novo CNVs (present in patients but not their parents) considered likely candidates for SALS were those that overlapped with CNS-related genes, were rare, or were found in multiple patients. All SALS patients had de novo CNVs. In 11 patients, 37 de novo CNVs fulfilled one or more criteria for a candidate region. Eleven de novo CNVs overlapped with genes, some of which are in pathways suspected in the pathogenesis of SALS. In conclusion, this pilot study shows that trios can be used to look for rare de novo genetic variants in patients with late adult-onset neurodegenerative disease. The results suggest that further studies of this nature with larger numbers of trios are warranted, but it is unusual to find surviving parents of offspring who have a late-onset neurodegenerative disease. An international collaborative effort will therefore be needed to collect sufficient numbers of such trios to reliably detect de novo mutations underlying these diseases.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is determined by interactions between genes and environment and the influence of vitamin D adequacy has been proposed. Previous studies have shown that serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25(OH)D) levels are genetically influenced. Polymorphisms in vitamin D pathway genes are candidates for association with MS susceptibility.
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.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a complex neurological disease with huge variability in disease outcome. The majority of MS genetic susceptibility is determined by major histocompatibility complex (MHC) alleles, in particular haplotypes carrying HLA-DRB1*1501. HLA-DRB1*1501 also affects the clinical outcome of the disease and animal research has suggested that HLA-DRB5 interacts with HLA-DRB1*1501 to influence disease severity. We used an extremes-of-outcome design with 48 benign and 20 malignant MS patients to assess whether or not DNA methylation at HLA-DRB1*1501 and/or HLA-DRB5 also contributes to MS phenotypic heterogeneity. We found no significant effect of DNA methylation across HLA-DRB1*1501 and HLA-DRB5 on severity, although we cannot rule out time- or tissue-specific effects of DNA methylation.
Genetic variants may underlie sporadic amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (SALS), but in only a few percent of patients have causative mutations been found. This is possibly because SALS is more often due to a variation in DNA methylation, an epigenetic phenomenon involved in gene silencing. Methylation across the whole genome was examined in brain DNA of 10 SALS patients and 10 neurologically-normal controls. Methylated DNA was immunoprecipitated and interrogated by Affymetrix GeneChip Human Tiling 2.0R Arrays. Methylation levels were compared between SALS patients and controls at each region of methylation across the genome. SALS patients had either hypo- or hyper-methylation at 38 methylation sites (p = 0.01). Of these, 23 were associated with genes and three with CpG islands. Pathway analysis showed that genes with different methylation in SALS were particularly involved in calcium homeostasis, neurotransmission and oxidative stress. In conclusion, a number of genes, either unsuspected in SALS or in potential cell death pathways, showed altered methylation in SALS brains. The possibility of epigenetic therapy for SALS should encourage confirmation of these initial results in a future larger whole-genome DNA methylation study.
Genetic-epidemiological studies on monozygotic (MZ) twins have been used for decades to tease out the relative contributions of genes and the environment to a trait. Phenotypic discordance in MZ twins has traditionally been ascribed to non-shared environmental factors acting after birth, however recent data indicate that this explanation is far too simple. In this paper, we review other reasons for discordance, including differences in the in utero environment, genetic mosaicism, and stochastic factors, focusing particularly on epigenetic discordance. Epigenetic differences are gaining increasing recognition. Although it is clear that in specific cases epigenetic alterations provide a causal factor in disease etiology, the overall significance of epigenetics in twin discordance remains unclear. It is also challenging to determine the causality and relative contributions of environmental, genetic, and stochastic factors to epigenetic variability. Epigenomic profiling studies have recently shed more light on the dynamics of temporal methylation change and methylome heritability, yet have not given a definite answer regarding their relevance to disease, because of limitations in establishing causality. Here, we explore the subject of epigenetics as another component in human phenotypic variability and its links to disease focusing particularly on evidence from MZ twin studies.
Several lines of evidence support a role for Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) in the aetiology of multiple sclerosis (MS). This includes the observation that nearly all MS patients show serological markers of past EBV infection. Given the well-known association between MS prevalence and latitude, we investigated whether EBV seropositivity also increases with distance from the equator. We found that the proportion of EBV positive individuals is positively associated with latitude independently of MS status (odds ratio = 1.06, 95% CI = 1.02-1.09, p = 0.002). Latitude-related factors may be implicated in the immune response to EBV and its role in MS aetiology.
ABSTRACT: BACKGROUND: A season of birth effect in immune-mediated diseases (ID) such as multiple sclerosis and type 1 diabetes has been consistently reported. We aimed to investigate whether season of birth influences the risk of rheumatoid arthritis, Crohns disease, ulcerative colitis and systemic lupus erythematosus in addition to multiple sclerosis, and to explore the correlation between the risk of ID and predicted ultraviolet B (UVB) light exposure and vitamin D status during gestation. METHODS: The monthly distribution of births of patients with ID from the UK (n = 115,172) was compared to that of the general population using the Cosinor test. Predicted UVB radiation and vitamin D status in different time windows during pregnancy were calculated for each month of birth and correlated with risk of ID using the Spearmans correlation coefficient. RESULTS: The distributions of ID births significantly differed from that of the general population (P = 5e-12) with a peak in April (odds ratio = 1.045, 95% confidence interval = 1.024, 1.067, P <0.0001) and a trough in October (odds ratio = 0.945, 95% confidence interval = 0.925, 0.966, P <0.0001). Stratification by disease subtype showed seasonality in all ID but Crohns disease. The risk of ID was inversely correlated with predicted second trimester UVB exposure (Spearmans rho = -0.49, P = 0.00005) and third trimester vitamin D status (Spearmans rho = -0.44, P = 0.0003). CONCLUSIONS: The risk of different ID in the UK is significantly influenced by the season of birth, suggesting the presence of a shared seasonal risk factor or factors predisposing to ID. Gestational UVB and vitamin D exposure may be implicated in the aetiology of ID.
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.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a highly debilitating immune mediated disorder of the central nervous system and represents a substantial burden to the developed world. Despite the recent advances in MS research, which risk factors are implicated and how they contribute to MS pathogenesis is largely unknown. However, in line with older studies investigating the genetic and geographical epidemiology of this complex disease, more recent studies have highlighted how MS arises from a combination of genetic susceptibility and environmental exposures acting from gestation to early adulthood. Vitamin D deficiency, season of birth, Epstein Barr virus infection, and smoking behaviour are strongly implicated and able to influence genetic predisposition to MS. Furthermore, these factors appear to act synergistically and the risk of MS in individuals exposed to more than one factor combines multiplicatively. Current evidence suggests that a large part of MS could be prevented and understanding how and when during life risk factors act will ultimately aid the development of prevention strategies.
There is general consensus that season of birth influences the risk of developing psychiatric conditions later in life. We aimed to investigate whether the risk of schizophrenia (SC), bipolar affective disorder (BAD) and recurrent depressive disorder (RDD) is influenced by month of birth in England to a similar extent as other countries using the largest cohort of English patients collected to date (n = 57,971). When cases were compared to the general English population (n = 29,183,034) all diseases showed a seasonal distribution of births (SC p = 2.48E-05; BAD p = 0.019; RDD p = 0.015). This data has implications for future strategies of disease prevention.
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.
A loss of function mutation in the TRESK K2P potassium channel (KCNK18), has recently been linked with typical familial migraine with aura. We now report the functional characterisation of additional TRESK channel missense variants identified in unrelated patients. Several variants either had no apparent functional effect, or they caused a reduction in channel activity. However, the C110R variant was found to cause a complete loss of TRESK function, yet is present in both sporadic migraine and control cohorts, and no variation in KCNK18 copy number was found. Thus despite the previously identified association between loss of TRESK channel activity and migraine in a large multigenerational pedigree, this finding indicates that a single non-functional TRESK variant is not alone sufficient to cause typical migraine and highlights the genetic complexity of this disorder.
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