Daniela Contu

Università degli Studi di Sassari, Sassari, Sardinia, Italy

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Publications (12)47.84 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Two alternative models have been proposed to explain the spread of agriculture in Europe during the Neolithic period. The demic diffusion model postulates the spreading of farmers from the Middle East along a Southeast to Northeast axis. Conversely, the cultural diffusion model assumes transmission of agricultural techniques without substantial movements of people. Support for the demic model derives largely from the observation of frequency gradients among some genetic variants, in particular haplogroups defined by single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the Y-chromosome. A recent network analysis of the R-M269 Y chromosome lineage has purportedly corroborated Neolithic expansion from Anatolia, the site of diffusion of agriculture. However, the data are still controversial and the analyses so far performed are prone to a number of biases. In the present study we show that the addition of a single marker, DYSA7.2, dramatically changes the shape of the R-M269 network into a topology showing a clear Western-Eastern dichotomy not consistent with a radial diffusion of people from the Middle East. We have also assessed other Y-chromosome haplogroups proposed to be markers of the Neolithic diffusion of farmers and compared their intra-lineage variation--defined by short tandem repeats (STRs)--in Anatolia and in Sardinia, the only Western population where these lineages are present at appreciable frequencies and where there is substantial archaeological and genetic evidence of pre-Neolithic human occupation. The data indicate that Sardinia does not contain a subset of the variability present in Anatolia and that the shared variability between these populations is best explained by an earlier, pre-Neolithic dispersal of haplogroups from a common ancestral gene pool. Overall, these results are consistent with the cultural diffusion and do not support the demic model of agriculture diffusion.
    PLoS ONE 01/2010; 5(4):e10419. · 3.53 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The island of Sardinia shows a unique high incidence of several autoimmune diseases with multifactorial inheritance, particularly type 1 diabetes and multiple sclerosis. The prior knowledge of the genetic structure of this population is fundamental to establish the optimal design for association studies in these diseases. Previous work suggested that the Sardinians are a relatively homogenous population, but some reports were contradictory and data were largely based on variants subject to selection. For an unbiased assessment of genetic structure, we studied a combination of neutral Y-chromosome variants, 21 biallelic and 8 short tandem repeats (STRs) in 930 Sardinian males. We found a high degree of interindividual variation but a homogenous distribution of the detected variability in samples from three separate regions of the island. One haplogroup, I-M26, is rare or absent outside Sardinia and is very common (0.37 frequency) throughout the island, consistent with a founder effect. A Bayesian full likelihood analysis (BATWING) indicated that the time from the most recent common ancestor (TMRCA) of I-M26, was 21.0 (16.0-25.5) thousand years ago (KYA) and that the population began to expand 14.0 (7.8-22.0) KYA. These results suggest a largely pre-Neolithic settlement of the island with little subsequent gene flow from outside populations. Consequently, Sardinia is an especially attractive venue for case-control genome wide association scans in common multifactorial diseases. Concomitantly, the high degree of interindividual variation in the current population facilitates fine mapping efforts to pinpoint the aetiologic polymorphisms.
    PLoS ONE 02/2008; 3(1):e1430. · 3.53 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The Mediterranean island of Sardinia has a strikingly high incidence of the autoimmune disorders Type 1 Diabetes (T1D) and Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Furthermore, the two diseases tend to be co-inherited in the same individuals and in the same families. These observations suggest that some unknown autoimmunity variant with relevant effect size could be fairly common in this founder population and could be detected using linkage analysis. To search for T1D and MS loci as well as any that predispose to both diseases, we performed a whole genome linkage scan, sequentially genotyping 593 microsatellite marker loci in 954 individuals distributed in 175 Sardinian families. In total, 413 patients were studied; 285 with T1D, 116 with MS and 12 with both disorders. Model-free linkage analysis was performed on the genotyped samples using the Kong and Cox logarithm of odds (LOD) score statistic. In T1D, aside from the HLA locus, we found four regions showing a lod-score > or =1; 1p31.1, 6q26, 10q21.2 and 22q11.22. In MS we found three regions showing a lod-score > or =1; 1q42.2, 18p11.21 and 20p12.3. In the combined T1D-MS scan for shared autoimmunity loci, four regions showed a LOD >1, including 6q26, 10q21.2, 20p12.3 and 22q11.22. When we typed more markers in these intervals we obtained suggestive evidence of linkage in the T1D scan at 10q21.2 (LOD = 2.1), in the MS scan at 1q42.2 (LOD = 2.5) and at 18p11.22 (LOD = 2.6). When all T1D and MS families were analysed jointly we obtained suggestive evidence in two regions: at 10q21.1 (LOD score = 2.3) and at 20p12.3 (LOD score = 2.5). This suggestive evidence of linkage with T1D, MS and both diseases indicates critical chromosome intervals to be followed up in downstream association studies.
    BMC Medical Genetics 02/2008; 9:3. · 2.54 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: According to Nelson's (1976) criteria, the MCST (MWCST) is a simplification of the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test (WCST). As the MCST is particularly suitable for children, the aim of this study was to establish the normative data presently lacking for that group. The MCST was administered to 1126 normal children aged 4 to 13 years. Scoring was based on all the classical parameters, according to existing criteria, plus two new ones that we propose ("categorizing efficiency" and "categorizing efficiency plus"). Strong correlation (or inverse correlation) with age is found for most parameters, including all criteria used for perseverative responses. This does not occur for "failure to maintain set," calculated according to the usual criteria. "Categorizing efficiency" and "categorizing efficiency plus" avoid the ceiling effect occurring at higher ages in the parameter categories. The MCST may be used in children 4 years of age and above. Most, but not all, of its parameters show regular improvement with age, demonstrating their validity. However, our data suggest that a participant's performance on the MCST may be based essentially on two parameters: categorizing efficiency (or categorizing efficiency plus), measuring the participant's ability to categorize, and perseverative errors (or percent perseverative errors), measuring his or her difficulty in shifting, both considered typical executive functions.
    The Clinical Neuropsychologist 06/2007; 21(3):456-78. · 1.68 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The donor-recipient sex-related mismatch has been reported as a risk factor for acute graft-versus-host disease (GVHD). However, the results obtained in previous studies appear to be contradictory. Here we evaluate the impact of donor-recipient sex-related mismatch in a series of 204 Sardinian individuals (92.1% of them affected by Beta- Thalassemia major) who underwent bone marrow transplantation (BMT) from human leukocyte antigen (HLA) identical siblings. In all, 78 of these patients had acute GVHD (aGVHD). We found that also in this homogenous group of patients from a homogenous population, the donor-female/recipient-male pair provided an increased risk for aGVHD when compared with a reference donor-male/recipient-male pair (POR=2.3, P=0.042). This data could be consistent with a role of variation in the male-specific portion of the Y chromosome in aGVHD. To assess this, we compared the distribution of the main Y-chromosome haplogroups in 28 male patients, who had aGVHD and underwent BMT from HLA-identical sisters, and 366 ethnically-matched controls. No significant differences were observed. These findings do not support the presence of Y chromosome founder variants contributing significantly to aGVHD in the Sardinian population.
    Transplantation 01/2007; 82(11):1529-32. · 3.78 Impact Factor
  • Daniela Contu, Francesco Cucca
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    ABSTRACT: Autoimmune diabetes can occur in rare monogenic disorders such as APECED (autoimmune polyendocrinopathy-candidiasis-ectodermal dystrophy) and IPEX (immune dysregulation, polyendocrinopathy, enteropathy, X-linked), but it is more frequently inherited as a common multifactorial trait. The molecular bases of the two rare Mendelian forms of autoimmune diabetes, both characterized by a severe autoimmune pathology of several organs and tissues, have recently been clarified, providing key insights into some mechanisms leading to autoimmunity in humans and in mice.
    01/2005;
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    ABSTRACT: There is still uncertainty concerning the joint action of the two established type 1 diabetes susceptibility loci, the HLA class II DQB1 and DRB1 genes (IDDM1) and the insulin gene (INS) promoter (IDDM2). Some previous studies reported independence, whereas others suggested heterogeneity in the relative effects of the genotypes at these disease loci. In this study, we have assessed the combined effects of the HLA-DQB1/DRB1 and INS genotypes in 944 type 1 diabetic patients and 1,023 control subjects, all from Sardinia. Genotype variation at INS significantly influenced disease susceptibility in all HLA genotype risk categories. However, there was a significant heterogeneity (P = 2.4 x 10(-4)) in the distribution of the INS genotypes in patients with different HLA genotypes. The INS predisposing genotype was less frequent (74.9%) in high-risk HLA genotype-positive patients than in those with HLA intermediate-risk (86.1%) and low-risk (84.8%) categories. Gene-gene interaction modeling led to rejection of the additive model, whereas a multiplicative model showed a better, albeit still partial, fit to the observed data. These genetic results are consistent with an interaction between the protein products of the HLA and INS alleles, in which both the affinity of the various HLA class II molecules for a preproinsulin-derived peptide and the levels of this peptide in the thymus act jointly as key regulators of type 1 diabetes autoimmunity.
    Diabetes 01/2005; 53(12):3286-91. · 7.90 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Type 1 diabetes (T1D) and multiple sclerosis (MS) are two autoimmune diseases which exhibit a considerably higher incidence in Sardinia compared with the surrounding southern European populations. Surprisingly, a 5-fold increased prevalence of T1D has also been observed in Sardinian MS patients. Susceptibility to both disorders is associated with common variants of the HLA-DRB1 and -DQB1 loci. In this study, we determined the relative contribution of genotype variation of these loci to the co-occurrence of the two disorders in Sardinia. We genotyped 1052 T1D patients and 1049 MS patients (31 of whom also had T1D) together with 1917 ethnically matched controls. On the basis of the absolute risks for T1D of the HLA-DRB1-DQB1 genotypes, we established that these loci would only contribute to a 2-fold increase in T1D prevalence in MS patients. From this evidence, we conclude that shared disease associations due to the HLA-DRB1-DQB1 loci provide only a partial explanation for the observed increased prevalence of T1D in Sardinian MS patients. The data suggest that variation at other non-HLA class II loci, and/or unknown environmental factors contribute significantly to the co-occurrence of these two traits.
    Human Molecular Genetics 01/2005; 13(23):2919-24. · 7.69 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Mutations of the forkhead/winged helix transcription factor FOXP3 gene on chromosome Xp11.23 cause a rare recessive monogenic disorder called IPEX (immune dysregulation, polyendocrinopathy, including type 1 diabetes, enteropathy, and X-linked syndrome). FOXP3 is necessary for the differentiation of a key immune suppressive subset of T-cells, the CD4+CD25+ regulatory T-cells. Previously, we reported a significant male-female bias in the common, multifactorial form of type 1 diabetes in Sardinia and evidence of linkage of chromosome Xp11 to the disease. These findings indicate that FOXP3 is a prime functional and positional candidate locus for the common form of type 1 diabetes. In the present study, we initially scanned 82 kb of the FOXP3 region for common polymorphisms, including sequencing all of the coding and functionally relevant portions of the gene in 64 Sardinian individuals. Then the most informative polymorphisms in 418 type 1 diabetic families and in 268 male case and 326 male control subjects were sequentially genotyped and tested for disease association. There is no evidence that variants in the FOXP3 regions analyzed are associated with type 1 diabetes and account for the male-female bias observed in Sardinia. Our data indicate that allelic variation in or near the coding regions of the FOXP3 gene does not have a major role in the inherited susceptibility to the common form of type 1 diabetes.
    Diabetes 08/2004; 53(7):1911-4. · 7.90 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The autoimmune disease type 1 diabetes (T1D) results from a T lymphocyte-dependent, selective destruction of the insulin-producing pancreatic beta-cells and subsequent irreversible insulin deficiency. The disease is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Numerous genetic, structural and biological studies have provided a convincing case that in human T1D and in its murine model, the non obese diabetes (NOD) mouse, the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class II molecules, HLA-DQB1 and -DRB1 and their murine orthologues, IA and IE, are the major genetic determinants. The two loci act as a complex superlocus, with both haplotype- and genotype-specific effects. In humans the HLA class II molecule-association with the disease is constituted by a two-sided gradient from positively associated-high risk to negatively associated-low risk molecules. Very low risk corresponds to dominant protection from the disease. The protein structure of DQ/IA and DR/IE molecules have been established. Molecular modeling work revealed that there are marked similarities both within, and cross species between T1D protective class II molecules. Likewise, the T1D predisposing molecules show conserved similarities that differ with the shared structural patterns observed between the protective molecules. The available data provide evidence for a joint action of the class II peptide-binding pockets P1, P4 and P9 in disease susceptibility and resistance with a main role for P9 in DQ/IA and for P1 and P4 in DR/IE. Overall these observations suggest shared pathways in human and murine T1D.
    Minerva endocrinologica 07/2003; 28(2):111-22. · 1.40 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: A male excess in Sardinian type 1 diabetic cases has previously been reported and was largely restricted to those patients carrying the HLA-DR3/nonDR4 genotype. In the present study, we have measured the male- to-female (M:F) ratio in a sample set of 542 newly collected, early-onset type 1 diabetic Sardinian patients. This data not only confirm the excess of male type 1 diabetic patients overall (M:F ratio = 1.3, P = 3.9 x 10(-3)) but also that the bias in male incidence is largely confined to patients with the DR3/nonDR4 genotype (M:F ratio = 1.6, P = 2.0 x 10(-4)). These sex effects could be due to a role for allelic variation of the Y chromosome in the susceptibility to type 1 diabetes, but to date this chromosome has not been evaluated in type 1 diabetes. We, therefore, established the frequencies of the various chromosome Y lineages and haplotypes in 325 Sardinian male patients, which included 180 cases with the DR3/nonDR4 genotype, and 366 Sardinian male control subjects. Our results do not support a significant involvement of the Y chromosome in DR3/nonDR4 type 1 diabetic cases nor in early-onset type 1 diabetes as a whole. Other explanations, such as X chromosome-linked inheritance, are thus required for the male bias in incidence in type 1 diabetes in Sardinia.
    Diabetes 01/2003; 51(12):3573-6. · 7.90 Impact Factor
  • Source
    Daniela Contu
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    ABSTRACT: The island of Sardinia shows a unique high incidence of several autoimmune diseases with multifactorial inheritance, particularly type 1 diabetes and multiple sclerosis. The prior knowledge of the genetic structure of this population is fundamental to establish the optimal design for association studies in these diseases. Previous work suggested that the Sardinians are a relatively homogenous population, but some reports were contradictory and data were largely based on variants subject to selection. For an unbiased assessment of genetic structure, we studied a combination of neutral Y-chromosome variants, 21 biallelic and 8 short tandem repeats (STRs) in 930 Sardinian males. We found a high degree of interindividual variation but a homogenous distribution of the detected variability in samples from three separate regions of the island. One haplogroup, I-M26, is rare or absent outside Sardinia and is very common (0.37 frequency) throughout the island, consistent with a founder effect. A Bayesian full likelihood analysis (BATWING) indicated that the time from the most recent common ancestor (TMRCA) of I-M26, was 21.0 (16.0-25.5) thousand years ago (KYA) and that the population began to expand 14.0 (7.8-22.0) KYA. These results suggest a largely pre-Neolithic settlement of the island with little subsequent gene flow from outside populations. Consequently, Sardinia is an especially attractive venue for case-control genome wide association scans in common multifactorial diseases. Concomitantly, the high degree of interindividual variation in the current population facilitates fine mapping efforts to pinpoint the aetiologic polymorphisms.