Manuela Sironi

King Saud University, Ar Riyāḑ, Ar Riyāḑ, Saudi Arabia

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Publications (93)592.4 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: In previous studies, we identified a locus for schizophrenia on 6q23.3 and proposed the Abelson helper integration site 1 (AHI1) as the candidate gene. AHI1 is expressed in the brain and plays a key role in neurodevelopment, is involved in Joubert syndrome, and has been recently associated with autism. The neurodevelopmental role of AHI1 fits with etiological hypotheses of schizophrenia. To definitively confirm our hypothesis, we searched for associations using a dense map of the region. Our strongest findings lay within the AHI1 gene: single-nucleotide polymorphisms rs11154801 and rs7759971 showed significant associations (P=6.23E-06; P=0.84E-06) and haplotypes gave P values in the 10E-8 to 10E-10 range. The second highest significant region maps close to AHI1 and includes the intergenic region between BC040979 and PDE7B (rs2038549 at P=9.70E-06 and rs1475069 at P=6.97E-06), and PDE7B and MAP7. Using a sample of Palestinian Arab families to confirm these findings, we found isolated signals. While these results did not retain their significance after correction for multiple testing, the joint analysis across the 2 samples supports the role of AHI1, despite the presence of heterogeneity. Given the hypothesis of positive selection of schizophrenia genes, we resequenced a 11 kb region within AHI1 in ethnically defined populations and found evidence for a selective sweep. Network analysis indicates 2 haplotype clades, with schizophrenia-susceptibility haplotypes clustering within the major clade. In conclusion, our data support the role of AHI1 as a susceptibility gene for schizophrenia and confirm it has been subjected to positive selection, also shedding light on new possible candidate genes, MAP7 and PDE7B.
    The FASEB Journal 04/2010; 24(8):3066-82. · 5.70 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Protozoa exert a strong selective pressure in humans. The selection signatures left by these pathogens can be exploited to identify genetic modulators of infection susceptibility. We show that protozoa diversity in different geographic locations is a good measure of protozoa-driven selective pressure; protozoa diversity captured selection signatures at known malaria resistance loci and identified several selected single nucleotide polymorphisms in immune and hemolytic anemia genes. A genome-wide search enabled us to identify 5180 variants mapping to 1145 genes that are subjected to protozoa-driven selective pressure. We provide a genome-wide estimate of protozoa-driven selective pressure and identify candidate susceptibility genes for protozoa-borne diseases.
    Trends in Genetics 03/2010; 26(3):95-9. · 9.77 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The CPB2 gene encodes thrombin-activatable fibrinolysis inhibitor (TAFI), a hepatically secreted zymogen acting as a molecular link among coagulation, fibrinolysis, and inflammation. Variants in CPB2 have been associated with several human conditions. We resequenced and analyzed the two regions carrying previously known nonsynonimous single-nucleotide polymorphisms (Ala147Thr and Ile325Thr) and variants affecting transcript stability. Our data indicate that whereas the gene portion extending from exon 9 to the 3' untranslated region fits a model of neutral evolution, variants in the region encompassing exons 6-7 have been maintained by balancing selection. Indeed, we verified that the region displays high nucleotide diversity, many intermediate frequency variants, and an excess of polymorphism compared with interspecific divergence. Consistently, haplotype analysis indicated the presence of two major haplotype clades separated by deep branches. Transcript analysis revealed that in both HepG2 cells and human liver samples, CPB2 exon 7 undergoes haplotype-preferential skipping. Therefore, we indicate that balancing selection has been maintaining functional variants that promote alternative exon 7 splicing. Although transcripts lacking exon 7 represent a minority of total CPB2 products, the effect on antifibrinolytic activity might be much greater as the intrinsic instability of TAFI is a major determinant of its antifibrinolytic potential. These data highlight the contribution of population genetics approaches to the analysis of functional genetic variation and may orient further biochemical and genetics studies on the pathophysiologic role of CPB2 gene products.
    Molecular Biology and Evolution 03/2010; 27(8):1945-54. · 10.35 Impact Factor
  • The American Journal of Human Genetics 03/2010; 86(3):493-5. · 11.20 Impact Factor
  • Manuela Sironi, Mario Clerici
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    ABSTRACT: The hygiene hypothesis relies on the assumption that humans have adapted to a pathogen-rich environment that no longer exists in industrialized societies. Recent advances in molecular immunology and population genetics allow deeper insight into the evolution and co-evolution of host-pathogen interactions and, therefore, into the foundations of the hygiene hypothesis.
    Microbes and Infection 02/2010; 12(6):421-7. · 2.92 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Angiotensin-converting enzyme plays a critical role in the maintenance of cardiovascular homeostasis. Extensive research has aimed at identifying ACE genetic variants responsible for variation in enzyme plasma concentrations and associated with human diseases. These efforts have been hampered by the extensive linkage disequilibrium across the gene and the identity or location of the functional polymorphism(s) is at presently unknown. The aim of our study was to verify whether the Alu insertion/deletion (Alu I/D) polymorphism or any linked variant has been maintained by natural selection in human populations. We resequenced a gene region surrounding the Alu I/D polymorphism in four human populations; we applied population neutrality tests and performed haplotype analysis for this region. We observed high levels of nucleotide diversity, an excess of intermediate frequency alleles and, at least in African populations, a higher level of within-species diversity compared with interspecific divergence. Analysis of haplotype genealogy indicated the presence of two major clades separated by deep branches with a coalescence time older than 1.5 million years. All these features strongly suggest the action of balancing selection and we verified that the selection signature is restricted to the gene region surrounding the Alu I/D. Our data imply the presence of a functional polymorphism in the Alu I/D region and illustrate the contribution of evolutionary models to classic single nucleotide polymorphism-phenotype association approaches by providing information about the localization of candidate functional variants.
    Pharmacogenetics and Genomics 02/2010; 20(2):131-4. · 3.61 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: More than 2 billion individuals worldwide suffer from helminth infections. The highest parasite burdens occur in children and helminth infection during pregnancy is a risk factor for preterm delivery and reduced birth weight. Therefore, helminth infections can be regarded as a strong selective pressure. Here we propose that candidate susceptibility genes for parasitic worm infections can be identified by searching for SNPs that display a strong correlation with the diversity of helminth species/genera transmitted in different geographic areas. By a genome-wide search we identified 3478 variants that correlate with helminth diversity. These SNPs map to 810 distinct human genes including loci involved in regulatory T cell function and in macrophage activation, as well as leukocyte integrins and co-inhibitory molecules. Analysis of functional relationships among these genes identified complex interaction networks centred around Th2 cytokines. Finally, several genes carrying candidate targets for helminth-driven selective pressure also harbour susceptibility alleles for asthma/allergy or are involved in airway hyper-responsiveness, therefore expanding the known parallelism between these conditions and parasitic infections. Our data provide a landscape of human genes that modulate susceptibility to helminths and indicate parasitic worms as one of the major selective forces in humans.
    BMC Evolutionary Biology 01/2010; 10:264. · 3.29 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Viruses have exerted a constant and potent selective pressure on human genes throughout evolution. We utilized the marks left by selection on allele frequency to identify viral infection-associated allelic variants. Virus diversity (the number of different viruses in a geographic region) was used to measure virus-driven selective pressure. Results showed an excess of variants correlated with virus diversity in genes involved in immune response and in the biosynthesis of glycan structures functioning as viral receptors; a significantly higher than expected number of variants was also seen in genes encoding proteins that directly interact with viral components. Genome-wide analyses identified 441 variants significantly associated with virus-diversity; these are more frequently located within gene regions than expected, and they map to 139 human genes. Analysis of functional relationships among genes subjected to virus-driven selective pressure identified a complex network enriched in viral products-interacting proteins. The novel approach to the study of infectious disease epidemiology presented herein may represent an alternative to classic genome-wide association studies and provides a large set of candidate susceptibility variants for viral infections.
    PLoS Genetics 01/2010; 6(2):e1000849. · 8.52 Impact Factor
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    Genome Biology 01/2010; · 10.30 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Familial Mediterranean Fever (FMF) is a recessively inherited systemic autoinflammatory disease caused by mutations in the MEFV gene. The frequency of different disease alleles is extremely high in multiple populations from the Mediterranean region, suggesting heterozygote advantage. Here, we characterize the sequence variation and haplotype structure of the MEFV 3' gene region (from exon 5 to the 3' UTR) in seven human populations. In non-African populations, we observed high levels of nucleotide variation, an excess of intermediate-frequency alleles, reduced population differentiation and a genealogy with two common haplotypes separated by deep branches. These features are suggestive of balancing selection having acted on this region to maintain one or more selected alleles. In line with this finding, an excess of heterozygotes was observed in Europeans and Asians, suggesting an overdominance regime. Our data, together with the earlier demonstration that the MEFV exon 10 has been subjected to episodic positive selection over primate evolution, provide evidence for an adaptive role of nucleotide variation in this gene region. Our data suggest that further studies aimed at clarifying the role of MEFV variants might benefit from the integration of molecular evolutionary and functional analyses.
    Genes and immunity 09/2009; 10(8):678-86. · 4.22 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: In humans, three genes--ADRB1, ADRB2 and ADRB3--encode beta-adrenoreceptors (ADRB); these molecules mediate the action of catecholamines in multiple tissues and play pivotal roles in cardiovascular, respiratory, metabolic, and immunological functions. Genetic variants in ADRB genes have been associated with widespread diseases and conditions, but inconsistent results have often been obtained. Here, we addressed the recent evolutionary history of ADRB genes in human populations. Although ADRB1 is neutrally evolving, most tests rejected neutral evolution for ADRB2 in European, African, and Asian population samples. Analysis of inferred haplotypes for ADRB2 revealed three major clades with a coalescence time of 1-1.5 million years, suggesting that the gene is either subjected to balancing selection or undergoing a selective sweep. Haplotype analysis also revealed ethnicity-specific differences. Additionally, we observed significant deviations from Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium (HWE) for ADRB2 genotypes in distinct European cohorts; HWE deviation depends on sex (only females are in disequilibrium), and genotypes displaying maximum and minimum relative fitness differ across population samples, suggesting a complex situation possibly involving epistasis or maternal selection. Overall, our data indicate that future association studies involving ADRB2 will benefit from taking into account ethnicity-specific haplotype distributions and sex-based effects. With respect to ADRB3, our data indicate that the gene has been subjected to a selective sweep in African populations, the Trp64 variant possibly representing the selection target. Given the previous association of the ancestral ADRB3 Arg64 allele with obesity and type 2 diabetes, dietary adaptations might represent the underlying selective force.
    The American Journal of Human Genetics 08/2009; 85(1):64-75. · 11.20 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Many human genes have adapted to the constant threat of exposure to infectious agents; according to the "hygiene hypothesis," lack of exposure to parasites in modern settings results in immune imbalances, augmenting susceptibility to the development of autoimmune and allergic conditions. Here, by estimating the number of pathogen species/genera in a specific geographic location (pathogen richness) for 52 human populations and analyzing 91 interleukin (IL)/IL receptor genes (IL genes), we show that helminths have been a major selective force on a subset of these genes. A population genetics analysis revealed that five IL genes, including IL7R and IL18RAP, have been a target of balancing selection, a selection process that maintains genetic variability within a population. Previous identification of polymorphisms in some of these loci, and their association with autoimmune conditions, prompted us to investigate the relationship between adaptation and disease. By searching for variants in IL genes identified in genome-wide association studies, we verified that six risk alleles for inflammatory bowel (IBD) or celiac disease are significantly correlated with micropathogen richness. These data support the hygiene hypothesis for IBD and provide a large set of putative targets for susceptibility to helminth infections.
    Journal of Experimental Medicine 07/2009; 206(6):1395-408. · 13.21 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Hereditary spastic paraplegia (HSP) with thin corpus callosum (HSP-TCC) is a frequent subtype of complicated HSP clinically characterised by slowly progressive spastic paraparesis with cognitive impairment and thin corpus callosum (TCC). SPG11, the gene associated with the major locus involved, encodes spatacsin, a protein of unknown function. Different types of mutations were identified in patients with the complex form of HSP (cHSP) including TCC. We screened a series of 45 index patients with different types of cHSP with (n = 10) and without (n = 35) TCC. Ten mutations, of which five are novel, were detected in seven patients. Of importance, three out of seven mutated patients present with cHSP without TCC. Among the novel mutations identified, we characterised a large intragenic rearrangement deleting 2.6 kb of the SPG11 gene. The rearrangement is due to non-allelic homologous recombination between Alu sequences flanking the breakpoints. These findings expand the mutation spectrum of SPG11 and suggest that SPG11 mutations may occur more frequently in familial than sporadic forms of cHSP without TCC. This helps to define further clinical and molecular criteria for a correct diagnosis of the SPG11 related form of cHSP. In addition, the intragenic deletion detected here, and the mechanism involved, both provide clues to address the issue of SPG11 missing mutant alleles previously reported.
    Journal of Medical Genetics 03/2009; 46(5):345-51. · 5.70 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The vasopressin receptor type 1b (AVPR1B) is mainly expressed by pituitary corticotropes and it mediates the stimulatory effects of AVP on ACTH release; common AVPR1B haplotypes have been involved in mood and anxiety disorders in humans, while rodents lacking a functional receptor gene display behavioral defects and altered stress responses. Here we have analyzed the two exons of the gene and the data we present suggest that AVPR1B has been subjected to natural selection in humans. In particular, analysis of exon 2 strongly suggests the action of balancing selection in African populations and Europeans: the region displays high nucleotide diversity, an excess of intermediate-frequency alleles, a higher level of within-species diversity compared to interspecific divergence and a genealogy with common haplotypes separated by deep branches. This relatively unambiguous situation coexists with unusual features across exon 1, raising the possibility that a nonsynonymous variant (Gly191Arg) in this region has been subjected to directional selection. Although the underlying selective pressure(s) remains to be identified, we consider this to be among the first documented examples of a gene involved in mood disorders and subjected to natural selection in humans; this observation might add support to the long-debated idea that depression/low mood might have played an adaptive role during human evolution.
    BMC Evolutionary Biology 02/2009; 9:123. · 3.29 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Historically, allelic variations in blood group antigen (BGA) genes have been regarded as possible susceptibility factors for infectious diseases. Since host-pathogen interactions are major determinants in evolution, BGAs can be thought of as selection targets. In order to verify this hypothesis, we obtained an estimate of pathogen richness for geographic locations corresponding to 52 populations distributed worldwide; after correction for multiple tests and for variables different from selective forces, significant correlations with pathogen richness were obtained for multiple variants at 11 BGA loci out of 26. In line with this finding, we demonstrate that three BGA genes, namely CD55, CD151, and SLC14A1, have been subjected to balancing selection, a process, rare outside MHC genes, which maintains variability at a locus. Moreover, we identified a gene region immediately upstream the transcription start site of FUT2 which has undergone non-neutral evolution independently from the coding region. Finally, in the case of BSG, we describe the presence of a highly divergent haplotype clade and the possible reasons for its maintenance, including frequency-dependent balancing selection, are discussed. These data indicate that BGAs have been playing a central role in the host-pathogen arms race during human evolutionary history and no other gene category shows similar levels of widespread selection, with the only exception of loci involved in antigen recognition.
    Genome Research 12/2008; 19(2):199-212. · 14.40 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Defensins, small endogenous peptides with antimicrobial activity, are pivotal components of the innate immune response. A large cluster of defensin genes is located on human chromosome 8p; among them the beta defensin 1 (DEFB1) promoterhas been extensively studied since discovery that specific polymorphisms and haplotypes associate with asthma and atopy, susceptibility to severe sepsis, as well as HIV and Candida infection predisposition. Here, we characterize the sequence variation and haplotype structure of the DEFB1 promoter region in six human populations. In all of them, we observed high levels of nucleotide variation, an excess of intermediate-frequency alleles, reduced population differentiation and a genealogy with common haplotypes separated by deep branches. Indeed, a significant departure from the expectation of evolutionary neutrality was observed in all populations and the possibility that this is due to demographic history alone was ruled out. Also, we verified that the selection signature is restricted to the promoter region and not due to a linked balanced polymorphism. A phylogeny-based estimation indicated that the two major haplotype clades separated around 4.5 million years ago, approximately the time when the human and chimpanzee lineages split. Altogether, these features represent strong molecular signatures of long-term balancing selection, a process that is thought to be extremely rare outside major histocompatibility complex genes. Our data indicate that the DEFB1 promoter region carries functional variants and support previous hypotheses whereby alleles predisposing to atopic disorders are widespread in modern societies because they conferred resistance to pathogens in ancient settings.
    Genome biology 10/2008; 9(9):R143. · 10.30 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Mutations in the SPG7 gene encoding a mitochondrial protein termed paraplegin, are responsible for a recessive form of hereditary spastic paraparesis. Only few studies have so far been performed in large groups of hereditary spastic paraplegia (HSP) patients to determine the frequency of SPG7 mutations. Here, we report the result of a mutation screening conducted in a large cohort of 135 Italian HSP patients with the identification of six novel point mutations and one large intragenic deletion. Sequence analysis of the deletion breakpoint, together with secondary structure predictions of the deleted region, indicate that a complex rearrangement, likely caused by extensive secondary structure formation mediated by the short interspersed nuclear element (SINE) retrotransposons, is responsible for the deletion event. Biochemical studies performed on fibroblasts from three mutant patients revealed mild and heterogeneous mitochondrial dysfunctions that would exclude a specific association of a complex I defect with the pathology at the fibroblast level. Overall, our data confirm that SPG7 point mutations are rare causes of HSP, in both sporadic and familial forms, while underlying the puzzling and intriguing aspects of histological and biochemical consequences of paraplegin loss.
    Human Mutation 05/2008; 29(4):522-31. · 5.21 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Mammalian genomes consist of regions differing in GC content, referred to as isochores or GC-content domains. The scientific debate is still open as to whether such compositional heterogeneity is a selected or neutral trait. Here we analyze SNP allele frequencies, retrotransposon insertion polymorphisms (RIPs), as well as fixed substitutions accumulated in the human lineage since its divergence from chimpanzee to indicate that biased gene conversion (BGC) has been playing a role in within-genome GC content variation. Yet, a distinct contribution to GC content evolution is accounted for by a selective process. Accordingly, we searched for independent evidences that GC content distribution does not conform to neutral expectations. Indeed, after correcting for possible biases, we show that intron GC content and size display isochore-specific correlations. We consider that the more parsimonious explanation for our results is that GC content is subjected to the action of both weak selection and BGC in the human genome with features such as nucleosome positioning or chromatin conformation possibly representing the final target of selective processes. This view might reconcile previous contrasting findings and add some theoretical background to recent evidences suggesting that GC content domains display different behaviors with respect to highly regulated biological processes such as developmentally-stage related gene expression and programmed replication timing during neural stem cell differentiation.
    BMC Evolutionary Biology 02/2008; 8:99. · 3.29 Impact Factor
  • Neuromuscular Disorders - NEUROMUSCULAR DISORD. 01/2008; 18(9):777-778.
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    ABSTRACT: Different and contrasting models have been proposed to explain intron size evolution in mammals. Here, we demonstrate that intron and intergenic size per se has no adaptive role in gene expression regulation but reflects the need to preserve conserved intronic elements. Although the amount of non-coding functional elements explains the within-genome size variation of intergenic spacers, we show that an additional, additive pressure has been acting on highly expressed introns to reduce the cost of their transcription.
    Trends in Genetics 02/2007; 23(1):20-4. · 9.77 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

1k Citations
592.40 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 2013
    • King Saud University
      • Department of Biochemistry
      Ar Riyāḑ, Ar Riyāḑ, Saudi Arabia
  • 2001–2013
    • IRCCS Eugenio Medea
      Bosisio Parini, Lombardy, Italy
    • Ospedale di San Raffaele Istituto di Ricovero e Cura a Carattere Scientifico
      Milano, Lombardy, Italy
  • 2002
    • Fondazione IRCCS Ca' Granda - Ospedale Maggiore Policlinico
      Milano, Lombardy, Italy