April 21, 2020  |  

Non-coding variability at the APOE locus contributes to the Alzheimer’s risk.

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a leading cause of mortality in the elderly. While the coding change of APOE-e4 is a key risk factor for late-onset AD and has been believed to be the only risk factor in the APOE locus, it does not fully explain the risk effect conferred by the locus. Here, we report the identification of AD causal variants in PVRL2 and APOC1 regions in proximity to APOE and define common risk haplotypes independent of APOE-e4 coding change. These risk haplotypes are associated with changes of AD-related endophenotypes including cognitive performance, and altered expression of APOE and its nearby genes in the human brain and blood. High-throughput genome-wide chromosome conformation capture analysis further supports the roles of these risk haplotypes in modulating chromatin states and gene expression in the brain. Our findings provide compelling evidence for additional risk factors in the APOE locus that contribute to AD pathogenesis.


April 21, 2020  |  

Systematic analysis of dark and camouflaged genes reveals disease-relevant genes hiding in plain sight.

The human genome contains “dark” gene regions that cannot be adequately assembled or aligned using standard short-read sequencing technologies, preventing researchers from identifying mutations within these gene regions that may be relevant to human disease. Here, we identify regions with few mappable reads that we call dark by depth, and others that have ambiguous alignment, called camouflaged. We assess how well long-read or linked-read technologies resolve these regions.Based on standard whole-genome Illumina sequencing data, we identify 36,794 dark regions in 6054 gene bodies from pathways important to human health, development, and reproduction. Of these gene bodies, 8.7% are completely dark and 35.2% are =?5% dark. We identify dark regions that are present in protein-coding exons across 748 genes. Linked-read or long-read sequencing technologies from 10x Genomics, PacBio, and Oxford Nanopore Technologies reduce dark protein-coding regions to approximately 50.5%, 35.6%, and 9.6%, respectively. We present an algorithm to resolve most camouflaged regions and apply it to the Alzheimer’s Disease Sequencing Project. We rescue a rare ten-nucleotide frameshift deletion in CR1, a top Alzheimer’s disease gene, found in disease cases but not in controls.While we could not formally assess the association of the CR1 frameshift mutation with Alzheimer’s disease due to insufficient sample-size, we believe it merits investigating in a larger cohort. There remain thousands of potentially important genomic regions overlooked by short-read sequencing that are largely resolved by long-read technologies.


September 22, 2019  |  

Proteomic detection of immunoglobulin light chain variable region peptides from amyloidosis patient biopsies.

Immunoglobulin light chain (LC) amyloidosis (AL) is caused by deposition of clonal LCs produced by an underlying plasma cell neoplasm. The clonotypic LC sequences are unique to each patient, and they cannot be reliably detected by either immunoassays or standard proteomic workflows that target the constant regions of LCs. We addressed this issue by developing a novel sequence template-based workflow to detect LC variable (LCV) region peptides directly from AL amyloid deposits. The workflow was implemented in a CAP/CLIA compliant clinical laboratory dedicated to proteomic subtyping of amyloid deposits extracted from either formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded tissues or subcutaneous fat aspirates. We evaluated the performance of the workflow on a validation cohort of 30 AL patients, whose amyloidogenic clone was identified using a novel proteogenomics method, and 30 controls. The recall and negative predictive values of the workflow, when identifying the gene family of the AL clone, were 93 and 98%, respectively. Application of the workflow on a clinical cohort of 500 AL amyloidosis samples highlighted a bias in the LCV gene families used by the AL clones. We also detected similarity between AL clones deposited in multiple organs of systemic AL patients. In summary, AL proteomic data sets are rich in LCV region peptides of potential clinical significance that are recoverable with advanced bioinformatics.


September 22, 2019  |  

A genomic case study of mixed fibrolamellar hepatocellular carcinoma.

Mixed fibrolamellar hepatocellular carcinoma (mFL-HCC) is a rare liver tumor defined by the presence of both pure FL-HCC and conventional HCC components, represents up to 25% of cases of FL-HCC, and has been associated with worse prognosis. Recent genomic characterization of pure FL-HCC identified a highly recurrent transcript fusion (DNAJB1:PRKACA) not found in conventional HCC.We performed exome and transcriptome sequencing of a case of mFL-HCC. A novel BAC-capture approach was developed to identify a 400 kb deletion as the underlying genomic mechanism for a DNAJB1:PRKACA fusion in this case. A sensitive Nanostring Elements assay was used to screen for this transcript fusion in a second case of mFL-HCC, 112 additional HCC samples and 44 adjacent non-tumor liver samples.We report the first comprehensive genomic analysis of a case of mFL-HCC. No common HCC-associated mutations were identified. The very low mutation rate of this case, large number of mostly single-copy, long-range copy number variants, and high expression of ERBB2 were more consistent with previous reports of pure FL-HCC than conventional HCC. In particular, the DNAJB1:PRKACA fusion transcript specifically associated with pure FL-HCC was detected at very high expression levels. Subsequent analysis revealed the presence of this fusion in all primary and metastatic samples, including those with mixed or conventional HCC pathology. A second case of mFL-HCC confirmed our finding that the fusion was detectable in conventional components. An expanded screen identified a third case of fusion-positive HCC, which upon review, also had both conventional and fibrolamellar features. This screen confirmed the absence of the fusion in all conventional HCC and adjacent non-tumor liver samples.These results indicate that mFL-HCC is similar to pure FL-HCC at the genomic level and the DNAJB1:PRKACA fusion can be used as a diagnostic tool for both pure and mFL-HCC.© The Author 2016. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the European Society for Medical Oncology.


September 22, 2019  |  

Avian genomics lends insights into endocrine function in birds.

The genomics era has brought along the completed sequencing of a large number of bird genomes that cover a broad range of the avian phylogenetic tree (>30 orders), leading to major novel insights into avian biology and evolution. Among recent findings, the discovery that birds lack a large number of protein coding genes that are organized in highly conserved syntenic clusters in other vertebrates is very intriguing, given the physiological importance of many of these genes. A considerable number of them play prominent endocrine roles, suggesting that birds evolved compensatory genetic or physiological mechanisms that allowed them to survive and thrive in spite of these losses. While further studies are needed to establish the exact extent of avian gene losses, these findings point to birds as potentially highly relevant model organisms for exploring the genetic basis and possible therapeutic approaches for a wide range of endocrine functions and disorders. Copyright © 2017 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


September 22, 2019  |  

Relationship between Alzheimer’s disease-associated SNPs within the CLU gene, local DNA methylation and episodic verbal memory in healthy and schizophrenia subjects.

Genetic variation may impact on local DNA methylation patterns. Therefore, information about allele-specific DNA methylation (ASM) within disease-related loci has been proposed to be useful for the interpretation of GWAS results. To explore mechanisms that may underlie associations between Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and schizophrenia risk CLU gene and verbal memory, one of the most affected cognitive domains in both conditions, we studied DNA methylation in a region between AD-associated SNPs rs9331888 and rs9331896 in 72 healthy individuals and 73 schizophrenia patients. Using single-molecule real-time bisulfite sequencing we assessed the haplotype-dependent ASM in this region. We then investigated whether its methylation could influence episodic verbal memory measured with the Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test in these two cohorts. The region showed a complex methylation pattern, which was similar in healthy and schizophrenia individuals and unrelated to haplotypes. The pattern predicted memory scores in controls. The results suggest that epigenetic modifications within the CLU locus may play a role in memory variation, independent of ASM. Copyright © 2018 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


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