Peptidases, their substrates and inhibitors are of great relevance to biology, medicine and biotechnology. The MEROPS database (http://merops.sanger.ac.uk) aims to fulfill the need for an integrated source of information about these. The database has hierarchical classifications in which homologous sets of peptidases and protein inhibitors are grouped into protein species, which are grouped into families, which are in turn grouped into clans. Recent developments include the following. A community annotation project has been instigated in which acknowledged experts are invited to contribute summaries for peptidases. Software has been written to provide an Internet-based data entry form. Contributors are acknowledged on the relevant web page. A new display showing the intron/exon structures of eukaryote peptidase genes and the phasing of the junctions has been implemented. It is now possible to filter the list of peptidases from a completely sequenced bacterial genome for a particular strain of the organism. The MEROPS filing pipeline has been altered to circumvent the restrictions imposed on non-interactive blastp searches, and a HMMER search using specially generated alignments to maximize the distribution of organisms returned in the search results has been added.
Schizophrenia is an idiopathic mental disorder with a heritable component and a substantial public health impact. We conducted a multi-stage genome-wide association study (GWAS) for schizophrenia beginning with a Swedish national sample (5,001 cases and 6,243 controls) followed by meta-analysis with previous schizophrenia GWAS (8,832 cases and 12,067 controls) and finally by replication of SNPs in 168 genomic regions in independent samples (7,413 cases, 19,762 controls and 581 parent-offspring trios). We identified 22 loci associated at genome-wide significance; 13 of these are new, and 1 was previously implicated in bipolar disorder. Examination of candidate genes at these loci suggests the involvement of neuronal calcium signaling. We estimate that 8,300 independent, mostly common SNPs (95% credible interval of 6,300-10,200 SNPs) contribute to risk for schizophrenia and that these collectively account for at least 32% of the variance in liability. Common genetic variation has an important role in the etiology of schizophrenia, and larger studies will allow more detailed understanding of this disorder.
Ankylosing spondylitis is a common form of inflammatory arthritis predominantly affecting the spine and pelvis that occurs in approximately 5 out of 1,000 adults of European descent. Here we report the identification of three variants in the RUNX3, LTBR-TNFRSF1A and IL12B regions convincingly associated with ankylosing spondylitis (P < 5 × 10(-8) in the combined discovery and replication datasets) and a further four loci at PTGER4, TBKBP1, ANTXR2 and CARD9 that show strong association across all our datasets (P < 5 × 10(-6) overall, with support in each of the three datasets studied). We also show that polymorphisms of ERAP1, which encodes an endoplasmic reticulum aminopeptidase involved in peptide trimming before HLA class I presentation, only affect ankylosing spondylitis risk in HLA-B27-positive individuals. These findings provide strong evidence that HLA-B27 operates in ankylosing spondylitis through a mechanism involving aberrant processing of antigenic peptides.
Multiple sclerosis is a common disease of the central nervous system in which the interplay between inflammatory and neurodegenerative processes typically results in intermittent neurological disturbance followed by progressive accumulation of disability. Epidemiological studies have shown that genetic factors are primarily responsible for the substantially increased frequency of the disease seen in the relatives of affected individuals, and systematic attempts to identify linkage in multiplex families have confirmed that variation within the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) exerts the greatest individual effect on risk. Modestly powered genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have enabled more than 20 additional risk loci to be identified and have shown that multiple variants exerting modest individual effects have a key role in disease susceptibility. Most of the genetic architecture underlying susceptibility to the disease remains to be defined and is anticipated to require the analysis of sample sizes that are beyond the numbers currently available to individual research groups. In a collaborative GWAS involving 9,772 cases of European descent collected by 23 research groups working in 15 different countries, we have replicated almost all of the previously suggested associations and identified at least a further 29 novel susceptibility loci. Within the MHC we have refined the identity of the HLA-DRB1 risk alleles and confirmed that variation in the HLA-A gene underlies the independent protective effect attributable to the class I region. Immunologically relevant genes are significantly overrepresented among those mapping close to the identified loci and particularly implicate T-helper-cell differentiation in the pathogenesis of multiple sclerosis.
We describe a novel approach to genetic association analyses with proteins sub-divided into biologically relevant smaller sequence features (SFs), and their variant types (VTs). SFVT analyses are particularly informative for study of highly polymorphic proteins such as the human leukocyte antigen (HLA), given the nature of its genetic variation: the high level of polymorphism, the pattern of amino acid variability, and that most HLA variation occurs at functionally important sites, as well as its known role in organ transplant rejection, autoimmune disease development and response to infection. Further, combinations of variable amino acid sites shared by several HLA alleles (shared epitopes) are most likely better descriptors of the actual causative genetic variants. In a cohort of systemic sclerosis patients/controls, SFVT analysis shows that a combination of SFs implicating specific amino acid residues in peptide binding pockets 4 and 7 of HLA-DRB1 explains much of the molecular determinant of risk.
Ulcerative colitis is a common form of inflammatory bowel disease with a complex etiology. As part of the Wellcome Trust Case Control Consortium 2, we performed a genome-wide association scan for ulcerative colitis in 2,361 cases and 5,417 controls. Loci showing evidence of association at P < 1 x 10(-5) were followed up by genotyping in an independent set of 2,321 cases and 4,818 controls. We find genome-wide significant evidence of association at three new loci, each containing at least one biologically relevant candidate gene, on chromosomes 20q13 (HNF4A; P = 3.2 x 10(-17)), 16q22 (CDH1 and CDH3; P = 2.8 x 10(-8)) and 7q31 (LAMB1; P = 3.0 x 10(-8)). Of note, CDH1 has recently been associated with susceptibility to colorectal cancer, an established complication of longstanding ulcerative colitis. The new associations suggest that changes in the integrity of the intestinal epithelial barrier may contribute to the pathogenesis of ulcerative colitis.
It is 10 years since the IMGT/HLA database was released, providing the HLA community with a searchable repository of highly curated HLA sequences. The HLA complex is located within the 6p21.3 region of human chromosome 6 and contains more than 220 genes of diverse function. Many of the genes encode proteins of the immune system and are highly polymorphic. The naming of these HLA genes and alleles, and their quality control is the responsibility of the WHO Nomenclature Committee for Factors of the HLA System. Through the work of the HLA Informatics Group and in collaboration with the European Bioinformatics Institute, we are able to provide public access to this data through the website http://www.ebi.ac.uk/imgt/hla/. The first release contained 964 sequences, the most recent release 3300 sequences, with around 450 new sequences been added each year. The tools provided on the website have been updated to allow more complex alignments, which include genomic sequence data, as well as the development of tools for probe and primer design and the inclusion of data from the HLA Dictionary. Regular updates to the website ensure that new and confirmatory sequences are dispersed to the HLA community, and the wider research and clinical communities.
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