September 22, 2019  |  

Searching for convergent pathways in autism spectrum disorders: insights from human brain transcriptome studies.

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is one of the most heritable neuropsychiatric conditions. The complex genetic landscape of the disorder includes both common and rare variants at hundreds of genetic loci. This marked heterogeneity has thus far hampered efforts to develop genetic diagnostic panels and targeted pharmacological therapies. Here, we give an overview of the current literature on the genetic basis of ASD, and review recent human brain transcriptome studies and their role in identifying convergent pathways downstream of the heterogeneous genetic variants. We also discuss emerging evidence on the involvement of non-coding genomic regions and non-coding RNAs in ASD.

September 22, 2019  |  

Elevated expression of a minor isoform of ANK3 is a risk factor for bipolar disorder.

Ankyrin-3 (ANK3) is one of the few genes that have been consistently identified as associated with bipolar disorder by multiple genome-wide association studies. However, the exact molecular basis of the association remains unknown. A rare loss-of-function splice-site SNP (rs41283526*G) in a minor isoform of ANK3 (incorporating exon ENSE00001786716) was recently identified as protective of bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. This suggests that an elevated expression of this isoform may be involved in the etiology of the disorders. In this study, we used novel approaches and data sets to test this hypothesis. First, we strengthen the statistical evidence supporting the allelic association by replicating the protective effect of the minor allele of rs41283526 in three additional large independent samples (meta-analysis p-values: 6.8E-05 for bipolar disorder and 8.2E-04 for schizophrenia). Second, we confirm the hypothesis that both bipolar and schizophrenia patients have a significantly higher expression of this isoform than controls (p-values: 3.3E-05 for schizophrenia and 9.8E-04 for bipolar type I). Third, we determine the transcription start site for this minor isoform by Pacific Biosciences sequencing of full-length cDNA and show that it is primarily expressed in the corpus callosum. Finally, we combine genotype and expression data from a large Norwegian sample of psychiatric patients and controls, and show that the risk alleles in ANK3 identified by bipolar disorder GWAS are located near the transcription start site of this isoform and are significantly associated with its elevated expression. Together, these results point to the likely molecular mechanism underlying ANK3´s association with bipolar disorder.

September 22, 2019  |  

Methylation of the reelin gene promoter in peripheral blood and its relationship with the cognitive function of schizophrenia patients.

There is a decrease in the expression of the reelin gene (RELN) in the brain of schizophrenia patients, which can underlie observed cognitive abnormalities. It is suggested that this decrease is caused by the hypermethylation of the RELN promoter. The aim of the study was to investigate methylation of the RELN promoter in the peripheral blood of schizophrenia patients and its association with their cognitive deficits. A modified SMRT-BS (single-molecule real-time bisulfite sequencing) was used. We determined the methylation rate of 170 CpG sites within a 1465 bp DNA region containing the entire CpG island in the RELN promoter in 51 schizophrenia patients and 52 healthy controls. All subjects completed a battery of neuropsychological tests. There were no DNA methylation changes associated with schizophrenia. Most CpGs sites were unmethylated in both groups. At the same time, there was a variability in the methylation level of different regions within the promoter. The methylation level in the area from -258 to -151 bp relative to RELN transcription start site was a significant predictor of the index of patients’ cognitive functioning if sex, age, smoking, education, and polymorphism rsl858815 had been considered. The positive correlation between the methylation rate in this region and cognitive index suggests that the hypomethylation of the RELN promoter could contribute to the development of cognitive deficits in schizophrenia.

September 22, 2019  |  

Targeted genotyping of variable number tandem repeats with adVNTR.

Whole-genome sequencing is increasingly used to identify Mendelian variants in clinical pipelines. These pipelines focus on single-nucleotide variants (SNVs) and also structural variants, while ignoring more complex repeat sequence variants. Here, we consider the problem of genotyping Variable Number Tandem Repeats (VNTRs), composed of inexact tandem duplications of short (6-100 bp) repeating units. VNTRs span 3% of the human genome, are frequently present in coding regions, and have been implicated in multiple Mendelian disorders. Although existing tools recognize VNTR carrying sequence, genotyping VNTRs (determining repeat unit count and sequence variation) from whole-genome sequencing reads remains challenging. We describe a method, adVNTR, that uses hidden Markov models to model each VNTR, count repeat units, and detect sequence variation. adVNTR models can be developed for short-read (Illumina) and single-molecule (Pacific Biosciences [PacBio]) whole-genome and whole-exome sequencing, and show good results on multiple simulated and real data sets.© 2018 Bakhtiari et al.; Published by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press.

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