In a large Scottish pedigree, a balanced translocation t (1;11)(q42.1;q14.3) disrupting the DISC1 and DISC2 genes segregates with major mental illness, including schizophrenia and depression. A frame-shift carboxyl-terminal deletion was reported in DISC1 in an American family with schizophrenia, but subsequently found in two controls. Herein, we test one hypothesis utilizing a large scale case-control mutation analysis: uncommon DISC1 variants are associated with high risk for bipolar spectrum disorder. We have analyzed the regions of likely functional significance in the DISC1 gene in 504 patients with bipolar spectrum disorder and 576 ethnically similar controls. Five patients were heterozygous for ultra-rare protein structural variants not found in the 576 controls (p=0.02, one-sided Fishers exact test) and shown to be ultra-rare by their absence in a pool of 10,000 control alleles. In our sample, ultra-rare (private) protein structural variants in DISC1 are associated with an estimated attributable risk of about 0.5% in bipolar spectrum disorder. These data are consistent with: (i) the high frequency of depression in the large Scottish family with a translocation disrupting DISC1; (ii) linkage disequilibrium analysis demonstrating haplotypes associated with relatively small increases in risk for bipolar disorder (<3-fold odds ratio). The data illustrate how low/moderate risk haplotypes that might be found by the HapMap project can be followed up by resequencing to identify protein structural variants with high risk, low frequency and of potential clinical utility.
We describe three statistical results that we have found to be useful in case-control genetic association testing. All three involve combining the discovery of novel genetic variants, usually by sequencing, with genotyping methods that recognize previously discovered variants. We first consider expanding the list of known variants by concentrating variant-discovery in cases. Although the naive inclusion of cases-only sequencing data would create a bias, we show that some sequencing data may be retained, even if controls are not sequenced. Furthermore, for alleles of intermediate frequency, cases-only sequencing with bias-correction entails little if any loss of power, compared to dividing the same sequencing effort among cases and controls. Secondly, we investigate more strongly focused variant discovery to obtain a greater enrichment for disease-related variants. We show how case status, family history, and marker sharing enrich the discovery set by increments that are multiplicative with penetrance, enabling the preferential discovery of high-penetrance variants. A third result applies when sequencing is the primary means of counting alleles in both cases and controls, but a supplementary pooled genotyping sample is used to identify the variants that are very rare. We show that this raises no validity issues, and we evaluate a less expensive and more adaptive approach to judging rarity, based on group-specific variants. We demonstrate the important and unusual caveat that this method requires equal sample sizes for validity. These three results can be used to more efficiently detect the association of rare genetic variants with disease.
Fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS), a common, chronic, widespread musculoskeletal pain disorder found in 2% of the general population and with a preponderance of 85% in females, has both genetic and environmental contributions. Patients and their parents have high plasma levels of the chemokines MCP-1 and eotaxin, providing evidence for both a genetic and an immunological/inflammatory origin for the syndrome (Zhang et al., 2008, Exp. Biol. Med. 233: 1171-1180).
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are 21-25-nucleotide-long, noncoding RNAs that are involved in translational regulation. Most miRNAs derive from a two-step sequential processing: the generation of pre-miRNA from pri-miRNA by the Drosha/DGCR8 complex in the nucleus, and the generation of mature miRNAs from pre-miRNAs by the Dicer/TRBP complex in the cytoplasm. Sequence variation around the processing sites, and sequence variations in the mature miRNA, especially the seed sequence, may have profound affects on miRNA biogenesis and function. In the context of analyzing the roles of miRNAs in Schizophrenia and Autism, we defined at least 24 human X-linked miRNA variants. Functional assays were developed and performed on these variants. In this study we investigate the affects of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) on the generation of mature miRNAs and their function, and report that naturally occurring SNPs can impair or enhance miRNA processing as well as alter the sites of processing. Since miRNAs are small functional units, single base changes in both the precursor elements as well as the mature miRNA sequence may drive the evolution of new microRNAs by altering their biological function. Finally, the miRNAs examined in this study are X-linked, suggesting that the mutant alleles could be determinants in the etiology of diseases.
Tumor DNA has been shown to be present both in circulating tumor cells in blood and as fragments in the plasma of metastatic cancer patients. The identification of ultra-rare tumor-specific mutations in blood would be the ultimate marker to measure efficacy of cancer therapy and/or early recurrence. Herein we present a method for detecting microinsertions/deletions/indels (MIDIs) at ultra-high analytical selectivity. MIDIs comprise about 15% of mutations.
Schizophrenia is a severe disabling brain disease affecting about 1% of the population. Individual microRNAs (miRNAs) affect moderate downregulation of gene expression. In addition, components required for miRNA processing and/or function have also been implicated in X-linked mental retardation, neurological and neoplastic diseases, pointing to the wide ranging involvement of miRNAs in disease.
Clinical diagnostic and epidemiological assays would benefit from accurate detection of duplications and deletions commonly missed by conventional methods of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) amplification and sequencing of individual exons. Robust dosage-PCR (RD-PCR) is a quantitative PCR method that co-amplifies a target template and an endogenous internal control (an autosomal and an X-chromosomal segment) for detection of these mutations. RD-PCR has the advantage of high accuracy and consistency, rapid assay development, widely available controls, and gene dosage over a wide dynamic range.
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