Garvan Institute of Medical Research
Recent publications
Background The majority of clinical genetic testing focuses almost exclusively on regions of the genome that directly encode proteins. The important role of variants in non-coding regions in penetrant disease is, however, increasingly being demonstrated, and the use of whole genome sequencing in clinical diagnostic settings is rising across a large range of genetic disorders. Despite this, there is no existing guidance on how current guidelines designed primarily for variants in protein-coding regions should be adapted for variants identified in other genomic contexts. Methods We convened a panel of nine clinical and research scientists with wide-ranging expertise in clinical variant interpretation, with specific experience in variants within non-coding regions. This panel discussed and refined an initial draft of the guidelines which were then extensively tested and reviewed by external groups. Results We discuss considerations specifically for variants in non-coding regions of the genome. We outline how to define candidate regulatory elements, highlight examples of mechanisms through which non-coding region variants can lead to penetrant monogenic disease, and outline how existing guidelines can be adapted for the interpretation of these variants. Conclusions These recommendations aim to increase the number and range of non-coding region variants that can be clinically interpreted, which, together with a compatible phenotype, can lead to new diagnoses and catalyse the discovery of novel disease mechanisms.
Regulation of transcript structure generates transcript diversity and plays an important role in human disease1–7. The advent of long-read sequencing technologies offers the opportunity to study the role of genetic variation in transcript structure8–16. In this Article, we present a large human long-read RNA-seq dataset using the Oxford Nanopore Technologies platform from 88 samples from Genotype-Tissue Expression (GTEx) tissues and cell lines, complementing the GTEx resource. We identified just over 70,000 novel transcripts for annotated genes, and validated the protein expression of 10% of novel transcripts. We developed a new computational package, LORALS, to analyse the genetic effects of rare and common variants on the transcriptome by allele-specific analysis of long reads. We characterized allele-specific expression and transcript structure events, providing new insights into the specific transcript alterations caused by common and rare genetic variants and highlighting the resolution gained from long-read data. We were able to perturb the transcript structure upon knockdown of PTBP1, an RNA binding protein that mediates splicing, thereby finding genetic regulatory effects that are modified by the cellular environment. Finally, we used this dataset to enhance variant interpretation and study rare variants leading to aberrant splicing patterns. To understand the contribution of variants to transcript expression regulation, long-read transcriptome data are generated from the GTEx resource, and a new software package to perform allele-specific analysis is developed.
The tumour stroma, and in particular the extracellular matrix (ECM), is a salient feature of solid tumours that plays a crucial role in shaping their progression. Many desmoplastic tumours including breast cancer involve the significant accumulation of type I collagen. However, recently it has become clear that the precise distribution and organisation of matrix molecules such as collagen I is equally as important in the tumour as their abundance. Cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) coexist within breast cancer tissues and play both pro- and anti-tumourigenic roles through remodelling the ECM. Here, using temporal proteomic profiling of decellularized tumours, we interrogate the evolving matrisome during breast cancer progression. We identify 4 key matrisomal clusters, and pinpoint collagen type XII as a critical component that regulates collagen type I organisation. Through combining our proteomics with single-cell transcriptomics, and genetic manipulation models, we show how CAF-secreted collagen XII alters collagen I organisation to create a pro-invasive microenvironment supporting metastatic dissemination. Finally, we show in patient cohorts that collagen XII may represent an indicator of breast cancer patients at high risk of metastatic relapse.
Background Premature ovarian insufficiency (POI) is the main cause of female infertility. Adipose-derived stem cells (ADSCs) are ideal candidates for the treatment of POI. However, some deficient biological characteristics of ADSCs limit their utility. This study investigated whether melatonin (MLT)-pretreated autologous ADSCs were superior to ADSCs alone in the treatment of the POI mouse model. Methods Autologous ADSCs were isolated and cultured in MLT-containing medium. Surface markers of ADSCs were detected by flow cytometry. To determine the effect of MLT on ADSCs, CCK-8 assay was used to detect ADSCs proliferation and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) was used to detect the secretion of cytokines. The POI model was established by intraperitoneal injection of cyclophosphamide and busulfan. Then, MLT-pretreated autologous ADSCs were transplanted into mice by intraovarian injection. After 7 days of treatment, ovarian morphology, follicle counts, and sex hormones levels were evaluated by hematoxylin and eosin (H&E) staining and ELISA, and the recovery of fertility was also observed. The expressions of SIRT6 and NF-κB were detected by immunohistochemical (IHC) staining and quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR). Results Flow cytometry showed that autologous ADSCs expressed CD90 (99.7%) and CD29 (97.5%). MLT can not only promote the proliferation of ADSCs but also boost their secretory function, especially when ADSCs were pretreated with 5 µM MLT for 3 days, improving the interference effect. After transplantation of autologous ADSCs pretreated with 5 µM MLT, the serum hormone levels and reproductive function were significantly recovered, and the mean counts of primordial follicle increased. At the same time, the expression of SIRT6 was remarkably increased and the expression of NF-κB was significantly decreased in this group. Conclusions MLT enhances several effects of ADSCs in restoring hormone levels, mean primordial follicle counts, and reproductive capacity in POI mice. Meanwhile, our results suggest that the SIRT6/NF-κB signal pathway may be the potential therapeutic mechanism for ADSCs to treat POI.
While patients value engagement concerning their spirituality as a part of holistic healthcare, there is little evidence regarding the preferred way to engage in discussions about spirituality. This study investigated inpatient preferences regarding how they would like spirituality to be raised in the hospital setting. A cross-sectional survey was conducted with inpatients at six hospitals in Sydney, Australia ( n = 897), with a subset invited to participate in qualitative interviews ( n = 41). There was high approval for all proposed spiritual history prompts (94.0–99.8%). In interviews, the context dictated the appropriateness of discussions. Findings indicated a high level of patient acceptability for discussing spirituality in healthcare. Further research and more detailed analysis is required and proposed to be undertaken.
Objective Little research has examined the physical and mental comorbidities, and health service use patterns, of people diagnosed with psychotic disorder subtypes other than schizophrenia spectrum disorders. This study aims to examine the physical and mental comorbidities, and subsequent hospital service use patterns, of individuals previously hospitalised with various psychotic disorder subtypes using linked health service data. Methods We included individuals hospitalised with a psychotic disorder in New South Wales, Australia, between 1 July 2002 and 31 December 2014 (N = 63,110). We examined the demographic profile of the cohort and rates of subsequent acute hospital care and ambulatory mental health service use. We compared the rates of subsequent hospital admissions, emergency department presentations and ambulatory mental health treatment days of people hospitalised with different psychotic disorder subtypes to people hospitalised with schizophrenia spectrum disorders using Poisson regression. Results People most recently hospitalised with mood/affective disorders and psychotic symptoms had a higher rate of subsequent hospital admissions than those most recently hospitalised with schizophrenia spectrum and delusional disorders (adjusted incident rate ratio = 1.06; 95% confidence interval = [1.02, 1.10]), while people most recently hospitalised with drug-induced and other organic (adjusted incident rate ratio = 1.19; 95% confidence interval = [1.12, 1.27]) and acute psychotic disorders (adjusted incident rate ratio = 1.10; 95% confidence interval = [1.03, 1.18]) had more subsequent emergency department presentations than those most recently hospitalised with schizophrenia spectrum and delusional disorders. All three groups had fewer subsequent mental health ambulatory days than those most recently hospitalised with schizophrenia spectrum and delusional disorders (adjusted incident rate ratios = 0.85–0.91). Conclusion The health profiles and subsequent hospital service use patterns of people previously hospitalised with different psychotic disorder subtypes are heterogeneous, and research is needed to develop targeted health policies to meet their specific health needs.
Purpose of Review Bone is a complex tissue populated by a highly heterogeneous mix of cell types in different compartments. The endosteal compartment is a key site for bone remodelling and provides a supportive microenvironment to harbour haematopoietic and mesenchymal stem cells, as well as cancer cells that grow in bone. The purpose of this review is to summarize recent findings of studies in bone using single-cell RNA sequencing and emergent spatial RNA sequencing to describe different bone-resident cell types and their molecular programs. Recent Findings Single-cell RNA sequencing identified novel and transcriptionally distinct cell clusters within different bone cell lineages, including MSCs, osteoblasts, chondrocytes, fibroblasts, osteoclasts and cells of the vasculature. Spatial transcriptomics methods provide information on the localization of the different cell populations. Summary Single-cell transcriptomics provided valuable insights into long-standing knowledge gaps in the cellular heterogeneity of bone-resident cells in unprecedented detail, paving the way for studies to further investigate the different cell populations and to develop cell-based therapies for bone diseases.
Background Trigger finger and carpal tunnel syndrome are the two most common non-traumatic connective tissue disorders of the hand. Both of these conditions frequently co-occur, often in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. However, this phenotypic association is poorly understood. Hypothesising that the co-occurrence of trigger finger and carpal tunnel syndrome might be explained by shared germline predisposition, we aimed to identify a specific genetic locus associated with both diseases. Methods In this genome-wide association study (GWAS), we identified 2908 patients with trigger finger and 436 579 controls from the UK Biobank prospective cohort. We conducted a case-control GWAS for trigger finger, followed by co-localisation analyses with carpal tunnel syndrome summary statistics. To identify putative causal variants and establish their biological relevance, we did fine-mapping analyses and expression quantitative trait loci (eQTL) analyses, using fibroblasts from healthy donors (n=79) and tenosynovium samples from patients with carpal tunnel syndrome (n=77). We conducted a Cox regression for time to trigger finger and carpal tunnel syndrome diagnosis against plasma IGF-1 concentrations in the UK Biobank cohort. Findings Phenome-wide analyses confirmed a marked association between carpal tunnel syndrome and trigger finger in the participants from UK Biobank (odds ratio [OR] 11·97, 95% CI 11·1–13·0; p<1 × 10⁻³⁰⁰). GWAS for trigger finger identified five independent loci, including one locus, DIRC3, that was co-localised with carpal tunnel syndrome and could be fine-mapped to rs62175241 (0·76, 0·68–0·84; p=5·03 × 10⁻¹³). eQTL analyses found a fibroblast-specific association between the protective T allele of rs62175241 and increased DIRC3 and IGFBP5 expression. Increased plasma IGF-1 concentrations were associated with both carpal tunnel syndrome and trigger finger in participants from UK Biobank (hazard ratio >1·04, p<0·02). Interpretation In this GWAS, the DIRC3 locus on chromosome 2 was significantly associated with both carpal tunnel syndrome and trigger finger, possibly explaining their co-occurrence. The disease-protective allele of rs62175241 was associated with increased expression of long non-coding RNA DIRC3 and its transcriptional target, IGBP5, an antagonist of IGF-1 signalling. These findings suggest a model in which IGF-1 is a driver of both carpal tunnel syndrome and trigger finger, and in which the DIRC3-IGFBP5 axis directly antagonises fibroblastic IGF-1 signalling. Funding Wellcome Trust, National Institute for Health Research, Medical Research Council.
Mouse haematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) first emerge at embryonic day 10.5 (E10.5), on the ventral surface of the dorsal aorta, by endothelial-to-haematopoietic transition. We investigated whether mesenchymal stem cells, which provide an essential niche for long-term HSCs (LT-HSCs) in the bone marrow, reside in the aorta–gonad–mesonephros and contribute to the development of the dorsal aorta and endothelial-to-haematopoietic transition. Here we show that mesoderm-derived PDGFRA⁺ stromal cells (Mesp1der PSCs) contribute to the haemogenic endothelium of the dorsal aorta and populate the E10.5–E11.5 aorta–gonad–mesonephros but by E13.5 were replaced by neural-crest-derived PSCs (Wnt1der PSCs). Co-aggregating non-haemogenic endothelial cells with Mesp1der PSCs but not Wnt1der PSCs resulted in activation of a haematopoietic transcriptional programme in endothelial cells and generation of LT-HSCs. Dose-dependent inhibition of PDGFRA or BMP, WNT and NOTCH signalling interrupted this reprogramming event. Together, aorta–gonad–mesonephros Mesp1der PSCs could potentially be harnessed to manufacture LT-HSCs from endothelium.
Background To generate and validate a method to estimate axial length estimated (AL est ) from spherical equivalent (SE) and corneal curvature [keratometry (K)], and to determine if this AL est can replace actual axial length (AL act ) for correcting transverse magnification error in optical coherence tomography angiography (OCTA) images using the Littmann-Bennett formula. Methods Data from 1301 participants of the Raine Study Gen2-20 year follow-up were divided into two datasets to generate (n = 650) and validate (n = 651) a relationship between AL, SE, and K. The developed formula was then applied to a separate dataset of 46 participants with AL, SE, and K measurements and OCTA images to estimate and compare the performance of AL est against AL act in correcting transverse magnification error in OCTA images when measuring the foveal avascular zone area (FAZA). Results The formula for AL est yielded the equation: AL est = 2.102K − 0.4125SE + 7.268, R ² = 0.794. There was good agreement between AL est and AL act for both study cohorts. The mean difference [standard deviation (SD)] between FAZA corrected with AL est and AL act was 0.002 (0.015) mm ² with the 95% limits of agreement (LoA) of − 0.027 to 0.031 mm ² . In comparison, mean difference (SD) between FAZA uncorrected and corrected with AL act was − 0.005 (0.030) mm ² , with 95% LoA of − 0.064 to 0.054 mm ² . Conclusions AL act is more accurate than AL est and hence should be used preferentially in magnification error correction in the clinical setting. FAZA corrected with AL est is comparable to FAZA corrected with AL act , while FAZA measurements using images corrected with AL est have a greater accuracy than measurements on uncorrected images. Hence, in the absence of AL act , clinicians should use AL est to correct for magnification error as this provides for more accurate measurements of fundus parameters than uncorrected images.
Our understanding of the molecular pathology of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is evolving due to advances in sequencing technologies. With the recent emergence of Oxford Nanopore direct RNA-seq (dRNA-seq), it is now also possible to interrogate diverse RNA modifications, collectively known as the ‘epitranscriptome’. Here, we present our analyses of the male and female mouse amygdala transcriptome and epitranscriptome, obtained using parallel Illumina RNA-seq and Oxford Nanopore dRNA-seq, associated with the acquisition of PTSD-like fear induced by Pavlovian cued-fear conditioning. We report significant sex-specific differences in the amygdala transcriptional response during fear acquisition, and a range of shared and dimorphic epitranscriptomic signatures. Differential RNA modifications are enriched among mRNA transcripts associated with neurotransmitter regulation and mitochondrial function, many of which have been previously implicated in PTSD. Very few differentially modified transcripts are also differentially expressed, suggesting an influential, expression-independent role for epitranscriptional regulation in PTSD-like fear-acquisition.
A new study uses single-cell and spatial transcriptomics to provide a systematic characterization of the recurrent gene-expression programs that control neoplastic cell states in diverse cancers.
Pericardial diseases secondary to immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICI) are rare. Here, we describe two cases of immune-related pericarditis caused by ICI for treatment of advanced NSCLC. Select patients can be successfully rechallenged with ICI after immune-related pericardial disease.
Diabetic retinopathy (DR) is the leakage and obstruction of retinal microvessels caused by chronic progressive diabetes that leads to a series of fundus lesions. If not treated or controlled, it will affect vision and even cause blindness. DR is caused by a variety of factors, and its pathogenesis is complex. Pericyte-related diseases are considered to be an important factor for DR in many pathogeneses, which can lead to DR development through direct or indirect mechanisms, but the specific mechanism remains unclear. Exosomes are small vesicles of 40–100 nm. Most cells can produce exosomes. They mediate intercellular communication by transporting microRNAs (miRNAs), proteins, mRNAs, DNA, or lipids to target cells. In humans, intermittent hypoxia has been reported to alter circulating excretory carriers, increase endothelial cell permeability, and promote dysfunction in vivo. Therefore, we believe that the changes in circulating exocrine secretion caused by hypoxia in DR may be involved in its progress. This article examines the possible roles of miRNAs, proteins, and DNA in DR occurrence and development and discusses their possible mechanisms and therapy. This may help to provide basic proof for the use of exocrine hormones to cure DR.
Somatic mutations and changes in expression of RAD21 are common in many types of cancer. Moreover, sub-optimal levels of RAD21 expression in early development can result in cohesinopathies. Altered RAD21 levels can result directly from mutations in the RAD21 gene. However, whether DNA variants outside of the RAD21 gene could control its expression and thereby contribute to cancer and developmental disease is unknown. In this study, we searched for genomic variants that modify RAD21expression to determine their potential to contribute to development or cancer by RAD21 dysregulation. We searched 42,953,834 genomic variants for a spatial-eQTL association with the transcription of RAD21. We identified 123 significant associations (FDR < 0.05), which are local (cis) or long-distance (trans) regulators of RAD21 expression. The 123 variants co-regulate a further seven genes (AARD, AKAP11, GRID1, KCNIP4, RCN1, TRIOBP, and USP32), enriched for having Sp2 transcription factor binding sites in their promoter regions. The Sp2 transcription factor and six of the seven genes had previously been associated with cancer onset, progression, and metastasis. Our results suggest that genome-wide variation in non-coding regions impacts on RAD21 transcript levels in addition to other genes, which then could impact on oncogenesis and the process of ubiquitination. This identification of distant co-regulation of oncogenes represents a strategy for discovery of novel genetic regions influencing cancer onset and a potential for diagnostics.
There are currently no treatments for geographic atrophy, the advanced form of age-related macular degeneration. Hence, innovative studies are needed to model this condition and prevent or delay its progression. Induced pluripotent stem cells generated from patients with geographic atrophy and healthy individuals were differentiated to retinal pigment epithelium. Integrating transcriptional profiles of 127,659 retinal pigment epithelium cells generated from 43 individuals with geographic atrophy and 36 controls with genotype data, we identify 445 expression quantitative trait loci in cis that are asssociated with disease status and specific to retinal pigment epithelium subpopulations. Transcriptomics and proteomics approaches identify molecular pathways significantly upregulated in geographic atrophy, including in mitochondrial functions, metabolic pathways and extracellular cellular matrix reorganization. Five significant protein quantitative trait loci that regulate protein expression in the retinal pigment epithelium and in geographic atrophy are identified - two of which share variants with cis- expression quantitative trait loci, including proteins involved in mitochondrial biology and neurodegeneration. Investigation of mitochondrial metabolism confirms mitochondrial dysfunction as a core constitutive difference of the retinal pigment epithelium from patients with geographic atrophy. This study uncovers important differences in retinal pigment epithelium homeostasis associated with geographic atrophy. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a leading cause of vision loss, and there is no approved treatment for AMD with geographic atrophy. Here, the authors used transcriptomic and proteomic analyses of patient induced pluripotent stem cell-derived retinal pigment epithelium to better understand disease mechanisms.
Background Cytosine DNA methylation is widely described as a transcriptional repressive mark with the capacity to silence promoters. Epigenome engineering techniques enable direct testing of the effect of induced DNA methylation on endogenous promoters; however, the downstream effects have not yet been comprehensively assessed. Results Here, we simultaneously induce methylation at thousands of promoters in human cells using an engineered zinc finger-DNMT3A fusion protein, enabling us to test the effect of forced DNA methylation upon transcription, chromatin accessibility, histone modifications, and DNA methylation persistence after the removal of the fusion protein. We find that transcriptional responses to DNA methylation are highly context-specific, including lack of repression, as well as cases of increased gene expression, which appears to be driven by the eviction of methyl-sensitive transcriptional repressors. Furthermore, we find that some regulatory networks can override DNA methylation and that promoter methylation can cause alternative promoter usage. DNA methylation deposited at promoter and distal regulatory regions is rapidly erased after removal of the zinc finger-DNMT3A fusion protein, in a process combining passive and TET-mediated demethylation. Finally, we demonstrate that induced DNA methylation can exist simultaneously on promoter nucleosomes that possess the active histone modification H3K4me3, or DNA bound by the initiated form of RNA polymerase II. Conclusions These findings have important implications for epigenome engineering and demonstrate that the response of promoters to DNA methylation is more complex than previously appreciated.
High-level expression of the transcription factor T-bet characterizes a phenotypically distinct murine B cell population known as “age-associated B cells” (ABCs). T-bet–deficient mice have reduced ABCs and impaired humoral immunity. We describe a patient with inherited T-bet deficiency and largely normal humoral immunity including intact somatic hypermutation, affinity maturation and memory B cell formation in vivo, and B cell differentiation into Ig-producing plasmablasts in vitro. Nevertheless, the patient exhibited skewed class switching to IgG1, IgG4, and IgE, along with reduced IgG2, both in vivo and in vitro. Moreover, T-bet was required for the in vivo and in vitro development of a distinct subset of human B cells characterized by reduced expression of CD21 and the concomitantly high expression of CD19, CD20, CD11c, FCRL5, and T-bet, a phenotype that shares many features with murine ABCs. Mechanistically, human T-bet governed CD21 lo CD11c hi B cell differentiation by controlling the chromatin accessibility of lineage-defining genes in these cells: FAS , IL21R , SEC61B , DUSP4 , DAPP1 , SOX5 , CD79B , and CXCR4 . Thus, human T-bet is largely redundant for long-lived protective humoral immunity but is essential for the development of a distinct subset of human CD11c hi CD21 lo B cells.
Humans lack the capacity to produce the Galα1–3Galβ1–4GlcNAc (α-gal) glycan, and produce anti-α-gal antibodies upon exposure to the carbohydrate on a diverse set of immunogens, including commensal gut bacteria, malaria parasites, cetuximab, and tick proteins. Here we use X-ray crystallographic analysis of antibodies from α-gal knockout mice and humans in complex with the glycan to reveal a common binding motif, centered on a germline-encoded tryptophan residue at Kabat position 33 (W33) of the complementarity-determining region of the variable heavy chain (CDRH1). Immunoglobulin sequencing of anti-α-gal B cells in healthy humans and tick-induced mammalian meat anaphylaxis patients revealed preferential use of heavy chain germline IGHV3-7, encoding W33, among an otherwise highly polyclonal antibody response. Antigen binding was critically dependent on the presence of the germline-encoded W33 residue for all of the analyzed antibodies; moreover, introduction of the W33 motif into naive IGHV3-23 antibody phage libraries enabled the rapid selection of α-gal binders. Our results outline structural and genetic factors that shape the human anti-α-galactosyl antibody response, and provide a framework for future therapeutics development.
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305 members
Amber Johns
  • Pancreatic cancer Resaerch Group, Australian Pancreatic cancer Genome Initiative
Thomas R Cox
  • The Kinghorn Cancer Centre
Alexander Viardot
  • Division of Diabetes & Metabolism
Alexander Swarbrick
  • Cancer Research Division
Stuart G Tangye
  • Immunology Program
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Darlinghurst, Australia