June 1, 2021  |  

Mitochondrial DNA sequencing using PacBio SMRT technology

Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is a compact, double-stranded circular genome of 16,569 bp with a cytosine-rich light (L) chain and a guanine-rich heavy (H) chain. mtDNA mutations have been increasingly recognized as important contributors to an array of human diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, colorectal cancer and Kearns–Sayre syndrome. mtDNA mutations can affect all of the 1000-10,000 copies of the mitochondrial genome present in a cell (homoplasmic mutation) or only a subset of copies (heteroplasmic mutation). The ratio of normal to mutant mtDNAs within cells is a significant factor in whether mutations will result in disease, as well as the clinical presentation, penetrance, and severity of the phenotype. Over time, heteroplasmic mutations can become homoplastic due to differential replication and random assortment. Full characterization of the mitochondrial genome would involve detection of not only homoplastic but heteroplasmic mutations, as well as complete phasing. Previously, we sequenced human mtDNA on the PacBio RS II System with two partially overlapping amplicons. Here, we present amplification-free, full-length sequencing of linearized mtDNA using the Sequel System. Full-length sequencing allows variant phasing along the entire mitochondrial genome, identification of heteroplasmic variants, and detection of epigenetic modifications that are lost in amplicon-based methods.

September 22, 2019  |  

Gut microbiota, nitric oxide, and microglia as prerequisites for neurodegenerative disorders.

Regulating fluctuating endogenous nitric oxide (NO) levels is necessary for proper physiological functions. Aberrant NO pathways are implicated in a number of neurological disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and Parkinson’s disease. The mechanism of NO in oxidative and nitrosative stress with pathological consequences involves reactions with reactive oxygen species (e.g., superoxide) to form the highly reactive peroxynitrite, hydrogen peroxide, hypochloride ions and hydroxyl radical. NO levels are typically regulated by endogenous nitric oxide synthases (NOS), and inflammatory iNOS is implicated in the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative diseases, in which elevated NO mediates axonal degeneration and activates cyclooxygenases to provoke neuroinflammation. NO also instigates a down-regulated secretion of brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which is essential for neuronal survival, development and differentiation, synaptogenesis, and learning and memory. The gut-brain axis denotes communication between the enteric nervous system (ENS) of the GI tract and the central nervous system (CNS) of the brain, and the modes of communication include the vagus nerve, passive diffusion and carrier by oxyhemoglobin. Amyloid precursor protein that forms amyloid beta plaques in AD is normally expressed in the ENS by gut bacteria, but when amyloid beta accumulates, it compromises CNS functions. Escherichia coli and Salmonella enterica are among the many bacterial strains that express and secrete amyloid proteins and contribute to AD pathogenesis. Gut microbiota is essential for regulating microglia maturation and activation, and activated microglia secrete significant amounts of iNOS. Pharmacological interventions and lifestyle modifications to rectify aberrant NO signaling in AD include NOS inhibitors, NMDA receptor antagonists, potassium channel modulators, probiotics, diet, and exercise.

July 19, 2019  |  

Parkinson’s disease associated with pure ATXN10 repeat

Large, non-coding pentanucleotide repeat expansions of ATTCT in intron 9 of the ATXN10 gene typically cause progressive spinocerebellar ataxia with or without seizures and present neuropathologically with Purkinje cell loss resulting in symmetrical cerebellar atrophy. These ATXN10 repeat expansions can be interrupted by sequence motifs which have been attributed to seizures and are likely to act as genetic modifiers. We identified a Mexican kindred with multiple affected family members with ATXN10 expansions. Four affected family members showed clinical features of spinocerebellar ataxia type 10 (SCA10). However, one affected individual presented with early-onset levodopa-responsive parkinsonism, and one family member carried a large repeat ATXN10 expansion, but was clinically unaffected. To characterize the ATXN10 repeat, we used a novel technology of single-molecule real-time (SMRT) sequencing and CRISPR/Cas9-based capture. We sequenced the entire span of ~5.3–7.0kb repeat expansions. The Parkinson’s patient carried an ATXN10 expansion with no repeat interruption motifs as well as an unaffected sister. In the siblings with typical SCA10, we found a repeat pattern of ATTCC repeat motifs that have not been associated with seizures previously. Our data suggest that the absence of repeat interruptions is likely a genetic modifier for the clinical presentation of L-Dopa responsive parkinsonism, whereas repeat interruption motifs contribute clinically to epilepsy. Repeat interruptions are important genetic modifiers of the clinical phenotype in SCA10. Advanced sequencing techniques now allow to better characterize the underlying genetic architecture for determining accurate phenotype–genotype correlations.

July 7, 2019  |  

Identification of low allele frequency mosaic mutations in Alzheimer disease

Germline mutations ofAPP,PSEN1, andPSEN2 genes cause autosomal dominant Alzheimer disease (AD). Somatic variants of the same genes may underlie pathogenesis in sporadic AD, which is the most prevalent form of the disease. Importantly, such somatic variants may be present at very low allelic frequency, confined to the brain, and are thus very difficult or impossible to detect in blood-derived DNA. Ever-refined methodologies to identify mutations present in a fraction of the DNA of the original tissue are rapidly transforming our understanding of DNA mutation and their role in complex pathologies such as tumors. These methods stand poised to test to what extend somatic variants may play a role in AD and other neurodegenerative diseases.

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