PLoS Genetics

Published by Public Library of Science
Online ISSN: 1553-7404
Print ISSN: 1553-7390
Fibroblasts are ubiquitous mesenchymal cells with many vital functions during development, tissue repair, and disease. Fibroblasts from different anatomic sites have distinct and characteristic gene expression patterns, but the principles that govern their molecular specialization are poorly understood. Spatial organization of cellular differentiation may be achieved by unique specification of each cell type; alternatively, organization may arise by cells interpreting their position along a coordinate system. Here we test these models by analyzing the genome-wide gene expression profiles of primary fibroblast populations from 43 unique anatomical sites spanning the human body. Large-scale differences in the gene expression programs were related to three anatomic divisions: anterior-posterior (rostral-caudal), proximal-distal, and dermal versus nondermal. A set of 337 genes that varied according to these positional divisions was able to group all 47 samples by their anatomic sites of origin. Genes involved in pattern formation, cell-cell signaling, and matrix remodeling were enriched among this minimal set of positional identifier genes. Many important features of the embryonic pattern of HOX gene expression were retained in fibroblasts and were confirmed both in vitro and in vivo. Together, these findings suggest that site-specific variations in fibroblast gene expression programs are not idiosyncratic but rather are systematically related to their positional identities relative to major anatomic axes.
CCL3 is a ligand for the HIV-1 co-receptor CCR5. There have recently been conflicting reports in the literature concerning whether CCL3-like gene (CCL3L) copy number variation (CNV) is associated with resistance to HIV-1 acquisition and with both viral load and disease progression following infection with HIV-1. An association has also been reported between CCL3L CNV and clinical sequelae of the simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) infection in vivo in rhesus monkeys. The present study was initiated to explore the possibility of an association of CCL3L CNV with the control of virus replication and AIDS progression in a carefully defined cohort of SIVmac251-infected, Indian-origin rhesus monkeys. Although we demonstrated extensive variation in copy number of CCL3L in this cohort of monkeys, CCL3L CNV was not significantly associated with either peak or set-point plasma SIV RNA levels in these monkeys when MHC class I allele Mamu-A*01 was included in the models or progression to AIDS in these monkeys. With 66 monkeys in the study, there was adequate power for these tests if the correlation of CCL3L and either peak or set-point plasma SIV RNA levels was 0.34 or 0.36, respectively. These findings call into question the premise that CCL3L CNV is important in HIV/SIV pathogenesis.
The integration of expression profiling with linkage analysis has increasingly been used to identify genes underlying complex phenotypes. The effects of gender on the regulation of many physiological traits are well documented; however, "genetical genomic" analyses have not yet addressed the degree to which their conclusions are affected by sex. We constructed and densely genotyped a large F2 intercross derived from the inbred mouse strains C57BL/6J and C3H/HeJ on an apolipoprotein E null (ApoE-/-) background. This BXH.ApoE-/- population recapitulates several "metabolic syndrome" phenotypes. The cross consists of 334 animals of both sexes, allowing us to specifically test for the dependence of linkage on sex. We detected several thousand liver gene expression quantitative trait loci, a significant proportion of which are sex-biased. We used these analyses to dissect the genetics of gonadal fat mass, a complex trait with sex-specific regulation. We present evidence for a remarkably high degree of sex-dependence on both the cis and trans regulation of gene expression. We demonstrate how these analyses can be applied to the study of the genetics underlying gonadal fat mass, a complex trait showing significantly female-biased heritability. These data have implications on the potential effects of sex on the genetic regulation of other complex traits.
Myotonic dystrophy type 1 (DM1) is caused by an unstable CTG repeat expansion in the 3'UTR of the DM protein kinase (DMPK) gene. DMPK transcripts carrying CUG expansions form nuclear foci and affect splicing regulation of various RNA transcripts. Furthermore, bidirectional transcription over the DMPK gene and non-conventional RNA translation of repeated transcripts have been described in DM1. It is clear now that this disease may involve multiple pathogenic pathways including changes in gene expression, RNA stability and splicing regulation, protein translation, and micro-RNA metabolism. We previously generated transgenic mice with 45-kb of the DM1 locus and >300 CTG repeats (DM300 mice). After successive breeding and a high level of CTG repeat instability, we obtained transgenic mice carrying >1,000 CTG (DMSXL mice). Here we described for the first time the expression pattern of the DMPK sense transcripts in DMSXL and human tissues. Interestingly, we also demonstrate that DMPK antisense transcripts are expressed in various DMSXL and human tissues, and that both sense and antisense transcripts accumulate in independent nuclear foci that do not co-localize together. Molecular features of DM1-associated RNA toxicity in DMSXL mice (such as foci accumulation and mild missplicing), were associated with high mortality, growth retardation, and muscle defects (abnormal histopathology, reduced muscle strength, and lower motor performances). We have found that lower levels of IGFBP-3 may contribute to DMSXL growth retardation, while increased proteasome activity may affect muscle function. These data demonstrate that the human DM1 locus carrying very large expansions induced a variety of molecular and physiological defects in transgenic mice, reflecting DM1 to a certain extent. As a result, DMSXL mice provide an animal tool to decipher various aspects of the disease mechanisms. In addition, these mice can be used to test the preclinical impact of systemic therapeutic strategies on molecular and physiological phenotypes.
Small molecules have been shown to be potent and selective probes to understand cell physiology. Here, we show that imidazo[1,2-a]pyridines and imidazo[1,2-a]pyrimidines compose a class of compounds that target essential, conserved cellular processes. Using validated chemogenomic assays in Saccharomyces cerevisiae, we discovered that two closely related compounds, an imidazo[1,2-a]pyridine and -pyrimidine that differ by a single atom, have distinctly different mechanisms of action in vivo. 2-phenyl-3-nitroso-imidazo[1,2-a]pyridine was toxic to yeast strains with defects in electron transport and mitochondrial functions and caused mitochondrial fragmentation, suggesting that compound 13 acts by disrupting mitochondria. By contrast, 2-phenyl-3-nitroso-imidazo[1,2-a]pyrimidine acted as a DNA poison, causing damage to the nuclear DNA and inducing mutagenesis. We compared compound 15 to known chemotherapeutics and found resistance required intact DNA repair pathways. Thus, subtle changes in the structure of imidazo-pyridines and -pyrimidines dramatically alter both the intracellular targeting of these compounds and their effects in vivo. Of particular interest, these different modes of action were evident in experiments on human cells, suggesting that chemical-genetic profiles obtained in yeast are recapitulated in cultured cells, indicating that our observations in yeast can: (1) be leveraged to determine mechanism of action in mammalian cells and (2) suggest novel structure-activity relationships.
When Caenorhabditis elegans encounters an unfavourable stimulus at its anterior, it responds by initiating an avoidance response, namely reversal of locomotion. The amphid neurons, ASHL and ASHR, are polymodal in function, with roles in the avoidance responses to high osmolarity, nose touch, and both volatile and non-volatile repellents. The mechanisms that underlie the ability of the ASH neurons to respond to such a wide range of stimuli are still unclear. We demonstrate that the inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate receptor (IP(3)R), encoded by itr-1, functions in the reversal responses to nose touch and benzaldehyde, but not in other known ASH-mediated responses. We show that phospholipase Cbeta (EGL-8) and phospholipase Cgamma (PLC-3), which catalyse the production of IP(3), both function upstream of ITR-1 in the response to nose touch. We use neuron-specific gene rescue and neuron-specific disruption of protein function to show that the site of ITR-1 function is the ASH neurons. By rescuing plc-3 and egl-8 in a neuron-specific manner, we show that both are acting in ASH. Imaging of nose touch-induced Ca(2+) transients in ASH confirms these conclusions. In contrast, the response to benzaldehyde is independent of PLC function. Thus, we have identified distinct roles for the IP(3)R in two specific responses mediated by ASH.
Author Summary High blood pressure is more frequent and severe among African Americans than European Americans. To explore whether there are genetic underpinnings to this pattern, we screened the genomes of 1,670 African Americans, searching for loci at which people with hypertension (HTN) have more than the average proportion of African ancestry (eighty percent). We do not detect any region of clearly significant association. In a previous, smaller admixture scan for HTN genes, Zhu and colleagues (2005) reported two regions of association, which we would have expected to replicate if they were as strong as they initially appeared. While we detect marginal evidence of association at one, the signal is very weak, and much weaker than would have been expected from the previous report, so further work is necessary to understand this region. Our results are consistent with there being no common variants with a strong effect accounting for differences in HTN prevalence between African and European Americans. This increases the weight of evidence that non-genetic causes explain most of the difference in rates across populations.
A large fraction of human genes are regulated by genetic variation near the transcribed sequence (cis-eQTL, expression quantitative trait locus), and many cis-eQTLs have implications for human disease. Less is known regarding the effects of genetic variation on expression of distant genes (trans-eQTLs) and their biological mechanisms. In this work, we use genome-wide data on SNPs and array-based expression measures from mononuclear cells obtained from a population-based cohort of 1,799 Bangladeshi individuals to characterize cis- and trans-eQTLs and determine if observed trans-eQTL associations are mediated by expression of transcripts in cis with the SNPs showing trans-association, using Sobel tests of mediation. We observed 434 independent trans-eQTL associations at a false-discovery rate of 0.05, and 189 of these trans-eQTLs were also cis-eQTLs (enrichment P
The role of rare genetic variation in the etiology of complex disease remains unclear. However, the development of next-generation sequencing technologies offers the experimental opportunity to address this question. Several novel statistical methodologies have been recently proposed to assess the contribution of rare variation to complex disease etiology. Nevertheless, no empirical estimates comparing their relative power are available. We therefore assessed the parameters that influence their statistical power in 1,998 individuals Sanger-sequenced at seven genes by modeling different distributions of effect, proportions of causal variants, and direction of the associations (deleterious, protective, or both) in simulated continuous trait and case/control phenotypes. Our results demonstrate that the power of recently proposed statistical methods depend strongly on the underlying hypotheses concerning the relationship of phenotypes with each of these three factors. No method demonstrates consistently acceptable power despite this large sample size, and the performance of each method depends upon the underlying assumption of the relationship between rare variants and complex traits. Sensitivity analyses are therefore recommended to compare the stability of the results arising from different methods, and promising results should be replicated using the same method in an independent sample. These findings provide guidance in the analysis and interpretation of the role of rare base-pair variation in the etiology of complex traits and diseases.
Author Summary Double-strand breaks (DSBs) are DNA lesions that can be fatal to a cell if left unrepaired. They can be caused by exogenous sources, such as gamma radiation, or endogenous stresses, such as high levels of transcription. Yeast cells primarily repair DSBs that are initiated outside of meiosis by mitotic recombination, which can result in physical exchanges between chromosomes, known as crossovers. We created a mitotic recombination map of one chromosome arm, representing 10% of the genome. This recombination map allows us to determine which regions of the chromosome arm are more susceptible to DNA damage than other regions. We were able to determine that most DSBs that result in detectable genomic changes were initiated prior to DNA replication and that some secondary DNA structures can be recombination hotspots. Recombination can also occur during meiosis, as a method of ensuring proper chromosome segregation. However, previously reported meiotic recombination maps have no correlation with our mitotic recombination map.
Rare genetic variants, identified by in-detail resequencing of loci, may contribute to complex traits. We used the apolipoprotein A-I gene (APOA1), a major high-density lipoprotein (HDL) gene, and population-based resequencing to determine the spectrum of genetic variants, the phenotypic characteristics of these variants, and how these results compared with results based on resequencing only the extremes of the apolipoprotein A-I (apoA-I) distribution. First, we resequenced APOA1 in 10,330 population-based participants in the Copenhagen City Heart Study. The spectrum and distribution of genetic variants was determined as a function of the number of individuals resequenced. Second, apoA-I and HDL cholesterol phenotypes were determined for nonsynonymous (NS) and synonymous (S) variants and were validated in the Copenhagen General Population Study (n = 45,239). Third, observed phenotypes were compared with those predicted using an extreme phenotype approach based on the apoA-I distribution. Our results are as follows: First, population-based resequencing of APOA1 identified 40 variants of which only 7 (18%) had minor allele frequencies >1%, and most were exceedingly rare. Second, 0.27% of individuals in the general population were heterozygous for NS variants which were associated with substantial reductions in apoA-I (up to 39 mg/dL) and/or HDL cholesterol (up to 0.9 mmol/L) and, surprisingly, 0.41% were heterozygous for variants predisposing to amyloidosis. NS variants associated with a hazard ratio of 1.72 (1.09-2.70) for myocardial infarction (MI), largely driven by A164S, a variant not associated with apoA-I or HDL cholesterol levels. Third, using the extreme apoA-I phenotype approach, NS variants correctly predicted the apoA-I phenotype observed in the population-based resequencing. However, using the extreme approach, between 79% (screening 0-1(st) percentile) and 21% (screening 0-20(th) percentile) of all variants were not identified; among these were variants previously associated with amyloidosis. Population-based resequencing of APOA1 identified a majority of rare NS variants associated with reduced apoA-1 and HDL cholesterol levels and/or predisposing to amyloidosis. In addition, NS variants associated with increased risk of MI.
Analyses investigating low frequency variants have the potential for explaining additional genetic heritability of many complex human traits. However, the natural frequencies of rare variation between human populations strongly confound genetic analyses. We have applied a novel collapsing method to identify biological features with low frequency variant burden differences in thirteen populations sequenced by the 1000 Genomes Project. Our flexible collapsing tool utilizes expert biological knowledge from multiple publicly available database sources to direct feature selection. Variants were collapsed according to genetically driven features, such as evolutionary conserved regions, regulatory regions genes, and pathways. We have conducted an extensive comparison of low frequency variant burden differences (MAF<0.03) between populations from 1000 Genomes Project Phase I data. We found that on average 26.87% of gene bins, 35.47% of intergenic bins, 42.85% of pathway bins, 14.86% of ORegAnno regulatory bins, and 5.97% of evolutionary conserved regions show statistically significant differences in low frequency variant burden across populations from the 1000 Genomes Project. The proportion of bins with significant differences in low frequency burden depends on the ancestral similarity of the two populations compared and types of features tested. Even closely related populations had notable differences in low frequency burden, but fewer differences than populations from different continents. Furthermore, conserved or functionally relevant regions had fewer significant differences in low frequency burden than regions under less evolutionary constraint. This degree of low frequency variant differentiation across diverse populations and feature elements highlights the critical importance of considering population stratification in the new era of DNA sequencing and low frequency variant genomic analyses.
Improvements in technology have made it possible to conduct genome-wide association mapping at costs within reach of academic investigators, and experiments are currently being conducted with a variety of high-throughput platforms. To provide an appropriate context for interpreting results of such studies, we summarize here results of an investigation of one of the first of these technologies to be publicly available, the Affymetrix GeneChip Human Mapping 100K set of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). In a systematic analysis of the pattern and distribution of SNPs in the Mapping 100K set, we find that SNPs in this set are undersampled from coding regions (both nonsynonymous and synonymous) and oversampled from regions outside genes, relative to SNPs in the overall HapMap database. In addition, we utilize a novel multilocus linkage disequilibrium (LD) coefficient based on information content (analogous to the information content scores commonly used for linkage mapping) that is equivalent to the familiar measure r2 in the special case of two loci. Using this approach, we are able to summarize for any subset of markers, such as the Affymetrix Mapping 100K set, the information available for association mapping in that subset, relative to the information available in the full set of markers included in the HapMap, and highlight circumstances in which this multilocus measure of LD provides substantial additional insight about the haplotype structure in a region over pairwise measures of LD.
Targeted therapy based on adjustment of microRNA (miRNA)s activity takes great promise due to the ability of these small RNAs to modulate cellular behavior. However, the efficacy of miR-101 replacement therapy to hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) remains unclear. In the current study, we first observed that plasma levels of miR-101 were significantly lower in distant metastatic HCC patients than in HCCs without distant metastasis, and down-regulation of plasma miR-101 predicted a worse disease-free survival (DFS, P<0.05). In an animal model of HCC, we demonstrated that systemic delivery of lentivirus-mediated miR-101 abrogated HCC growth in the liver, intrahepatic metastasis and distant metastasis to the lung and to the mediastinum, resulting in a dramatic suppression of HCC development and metastasis in mice without toxicity and extending life expectancy. Furthermore, enforced overexpression of miR-101 in HCC cells not only decreased EZH2, COX2 and STMN1, but also directly down-regulated a novel target ROCK2, inhibited Rho/Rac GTPase activation, and blocked HCC cells epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) and angiogenesis, inducing a strong abrogation of HCC tumorigenesis and aggressiveness both in vitro and in vivo. These results provide proof-of-concept support for systemic delivery of lentivirus-mediated miR-101 as a powerful anti-HCC therapeutic modality by repressing multiple molecular targets.
UNC-104/KIF1A is a Kinesin-3 motor that transports synaptic vesicles from the cell body towards the synapse by binding to PI(4,5)P(2) through its PH domain. The fate of the motor upon reaching the synapse is not known. We found that wild-type UNC-104 is degraded at synaptic regions through the ubiquitin pathway and is not retrogradely transported back to the cell body. As a possible means to regulate the motor, we tested the effect of cargo binding on UNC-104 levels. The unc-104(e1265) allele carries a point mutation (D1497N) in the PI(4,5)P(2) binding pocket of the PH domain, resulting in greatly reduced preferential binding to PI(4,5)P(2)in vitro and presence of very few motors on pre-synaptic vesicles in vivo. unc-104(e1265) animals have poor locomotion irrespective of in vivo PI(4,5)P(2) levels due to reduced anterograde transport. Moreover, they show highly reduced levels of UNC-104 in vivo. To confirm that loss of cargo binding specificity reduces motor levels, we isolated two intragenic suppressors with compensatory mutations within the PH domain. These show partial restoration of in vitro preferential PI(4,5)P(2) binding and presence of more motors on pre-synaptic vesicles in vivo. These animals show improved locomotion dependent on in vivo PI(4,5)P(2) levels, increased anterograde transport, and partial restoration of UNC-104 protein levels in vivo. For further proof, we mutated a conserved residue in one suppressor background. The PH domain in this triple mutant lacked in vitro PI(4,5)P(2) binding specificity, and the animals again showed locomotory defects and reduced motor levels. All allelic variants show increased UNC-104 levels upon blocking the ubiquitin pathway. These data show that inability to bind cargo can target motors for degradation. In view of the observed degradation of the motor in synaptic regions, this further suggests that UNC-104 may get degraded at synapses upon release of cargo.
Generation of miR-10a KO mice.
(A) Schematic representation of the miR-10a WT locus, the targeting construct used for inactivation and the final miR-10a null allele. The targeting construct (TC) harbored a miR-10a inactivated allele, where 70 nucleotides from the pre-miRNA sequence were replaced with a neomycin resistance cassette (neo) flanked by loxP sites and long homologous regions for recombination. To obtain the final miR-10a null allele (KO), the neomycin cassette was removed in the mouse germ line by breeding heterozygous mice to transgenic mice harboring the Cre transgene. Arrowheads depict the sites recognized by different primers used in genotyping of mice. (B) Genotyping PCR of mice with all different miR-10a genotypes generated. Primers L_chkinsrtmiR10a.5d and 10a.internal amplified a 273 bp fragment corresponding to the miR-10 WT allele and 361 bp for the floxed miR-10a KO allele, L_chkinsrtmiR10a.5d and R_chkinsrtmiR10a.5 amplified 291 bp from the miR-10aneo allele. The location of all these primers is depicted in (A).
Disruption of miR-10a leads to enhanced intestinal tumorigenesis in ApcMin mice.
Tumor multiplicity in the small (A) and large intestines (B) of female and male miR-10a+/+;ApcMin (WT; n = 22 and n = 19 for each sex) and miR-10a−/−;ApcMin (KO; n = 15 and n = 16 for each sex) mice; each dot represents data for one mouse. Mean adenoma multiplicities per mouse for each group were: WT = 41.95 and KO = 79.33 for female mice and WT = 50.37 and KO = 55.19 for male mice in the small intestine and WT = 0.82 and KO = 2.40 for female mice and WT = 1.47 and KO = 2.44 for male mice in the large intestine. * p = 0.014, ** p = 0.0042 (two-tailed t-test) (C) Size distribution of polyps in the small intestine of female and male miR-10a+/+;ApcMin (WT; filled bars) and miR-10a−/−;ApcMin (KO; empty bars) mice. Mean tumor diameters were 1.01 and 1.04 mm for males WT and KO respectively and 1.03 and 0.94 for females WT and KO respectively (p = 0.782 and p = 0.4113, Wilcoxon rank sum test). (D) Left panel shows normal appearing small intestine with characteristic villi and well-ordered distribution of goblet cells together with basal location of epithelial nuclei. Middle panel is a typical example of a low-grade dysplasia in miR-10a+/+;ApcMin (WT) mice with accumulation of irregular goblet cells pattern (arrowheads) and some loss of nuclear polarity (indicated by “+”). Right panel shows a typical miR-10a−/−;ApcMin (KO) high-grade dysplasia with a large area of loss of goblet cells, widespread loss of nuclear polarity, nuclear pleomorphism, and almost complete loss of villus organization (indicated by “*”). Note the transition from lower-grade dysplasia area with highly irregular goblet cell distribution (arrowheads). Scalebar = 100 µM. Whole intestines were paraffin-embedded as “Swiss rolls”, sectioned and stained with hematoxylin and eosin. All animals were in a B6 background and between 110 and 160 days of age.
Lpo is transcriptionally upregulated in the intestines of miR-10a deficient female mice.
(A) Lpo mRNA is ∼29-fold upregulated in intestines of miR-10a KO compared to WT mice as shown by qRT-PCR. Lpo mRNA levels are normalized to Actb and values ± SD are shown relative to the first WT sample. (B) Western-blot from same tissue samples as in (A) confirming upregulation on protein level. Vinculin was used as loading control. As evident from Lpo and Vinculin control as well as ponceau staining (now shown), sample 4 did not contain any protein for unknown reason. (C) Representative immunohistochemistry staining of Lpo in miR-10a WT and KO intestine. Scale bar 100 µm. (D) Scoring of Lpo expression level estimated by distribution and staining intensity in Lpo stained intestines of WT and miR-10a−/− mice. Scoring is divided into low, medium or high expression. Consistent with qRT-PCR and Western blotting analysis a significant difference (p≤0.006, Pearson chi-square test with exact probability) in Lpo expression is observed between the different genotypes.
Transcription factor KLF4 is regulated by miR-10a and can regulate the LPO promoter in vitro.
HCT-116 cells were transfected with a miR-10a duplex or control for 72 h. (A) Relative mRNA levels of KLF4 were measured by qRT-PCR and ACTB was used for normalization. Data are shown as mean ± S.D. of three replicates relative to the control and are representative of three independent experiments. * p<0.05 using a two-tailed t-test. (B) Protein levels in miR-10a or control transfected cells were assessed by Western-blot using antibodies against KLF4. GAPDH was used as loading control. (C) Western Blot showing the over expression from the pcDNA3.1-KLF4 vector. GAPDH was used as loading control. (D) Luciferase reporter assay in HCT-116 cells (24 h) with pGL4-luc2 holding part of the LPO promoter (1 kb upstream TSS) or the pGL4-luc2 empty vector co-transfected with a vector over-expressing KLF4 or a control vector (pcDNA3.1+). Data are shown as mean ± S.D. of three replicates relative to the pcDNA3.1 transfected control and are representative of eleven independent experiments. **** p<0.0001 using a two-tailed t-test. (E) HCT-116 cells were transfected with KLF4 siRNA for 48 h or 72 h. Relative mRNA levels of LPO were measured by qRT-PCR and ACTB was used for normalization. Data are shown as mean ± S.D. of three replicates relative to the control and are representative of five independent experiments.
Klf4 is upregulated in miR-10a KO intestines.
(A) mRNA levels of Klf4 were measured by qRT-PCR, Actb, Ubc, Hprt and 36b4 were used for normalization. Data are shown as mean ± S.D. of miR-10a KO (n = 16) and WT (n = 13) samples relative to an average of the controls. * p<0.05 using a Mann-Whitney test. (B) Representative immunohistochemistry staining of Klf4 in miR-10a WT (n = 5) and KO (n = 8) intestine. Scale bar 100 µm (C) VisiomorphDP software scoring of Klf4 expression level estimated by distribution and staining intensity in Klf4 stained intestines of WT and miR-10a KO mice. * p = 0.019, students t-test.
miRNAs are small regulatory RNAs that, due to their considerable potential to target a wide range of mRNAs, are implicated in essentially all biological process, including cancer. miR-10a is particularly interesting considering its conserved location in the Hox cluster of developmental regulators. A role for this microRNA has been described in developmental regulation as well as for various cancers. However, previous miR-10a studies are exclusively based on transient knockdowns of this miRNA and to extensively study miR-10a loss we have generated a miR-10a knock out mouse. Here we show that, in the Apc(min) mouse model of intestinal neoplasia, female miR-10a deficient mice develop significantly more adenomas than miR-10(+/+) and male controls. We further found that Lpo is extensively upregulated in the intestinal epithelium of mice deprived of miR-10a. Using in vitro assays, we demonstrate that the primary miR-10a target KLF4 can upregulate transcription of Lpo, whereas siRNA knockdown of KLF4 reduces LPO levels in HCT-116 cells. Furthermore, Klf4 is upregulated in the intestines of miR-10a knockout mice. Lpo has previously been shown to have the capacity to oxidize estrogens into potent depurinating mutagens, creating an instable genomic environment that can cause initiation of cancer. Therefore, we postulate that Lpo upregulation in the intestinal epithelium of miR-10a deficient mice together with the predominant abundance of estrogens in female animals mainly accounts for the sex-related cancer phenotype we observed. This suggests that miR-10a could be used as a potent diagnostic marker for discovering groups of women that are at high risk of developing colorectal carcinoma, which today is one of the leading causes of cancer-related deaths.
RNA expression of MSMB and NCOA4 in normal and tumor prostate tissue by rs10994994 genotype. A. Chromosome 10q11 with isoforms of MSMB and NCOA4 (Ensembl build 52). Primers for competitive PCR were designed to cross exon-exon boundaries depicted by colored lines 1–2 ( MSMB ) and 1–5 ( NCOA4 ). B. Expression in histologically normal prostate tissue (n = 84). Each point represents absolute RNA expression for one individual, normalized to three housekeeping genes. The top and bottom of the boxes within each graph represent the upper and lower quartiles for expression at each genotype. The band inside each box marks the median value. P-value for each graph denotes the significance for association between expression and genotype. C. Expression in prostate tumor tissue in the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute series (n = 61). doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1001204.g001 
Suppressing MSMB or overexpressing NCOA4 is associated with increased anchorage-independent growth of prostate epithelial cells. A. Effects of suppressing MSMB with three independent shRNAs in LHSAR cells (p-values 0.0001; M6, 0.0023; M8, and 0.0001; M9). The increase in anchorage-independent growth inversely correlates with the degree of MSMB suppression (Figure S4). B. Anchorage-independent growth of LHSAR cells overexpressing NCOA4 and a control vector (p = 0.0074). doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1001204.g002 
Suppressing MSMB or overexpressing NCOA4 is associated with increased anchorage-independent growth of prostate epithelial cells.
A. Effects of suppressing MSMB with three independent shRNAs in LHSAR cells (p-values 0.0001; M6, 0.0023; M8, and 0.0001; M9). The increase in anchorage-independent growth inversely correlates with the degree of MSMB suppression (Figure S4). B. Anchorage-independent growth of LHSAR cells overexpressing NCOA4 and a control vector (p = 0.0074).
Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have established a variant, rs10993994, on chromosome 10q11 as being associated with prostate cancer risk. Since the variant is located outside of a protein-coding region, the target genes driving tumorigenesis are not readily apparent. Two genes nearest to this variant, MSMB and NCOA4, are strong candidates for mediating the effects of rs109939934. In a cohort of 180 individuals, we demonstrate that the rs10993994 risk allele is associated with decreased expression of two MSMB isoforms in histologically normal and malignant prostate tissue. In addition, the risk allele is associated with increased expression of five NCOA4 isoforms in histologically normal prostate tissue only. No consistent association with either gene is observed in breast or colon tissue. In conjunction with these findings, suppression of MSMB expression or NCOA4 overexpression promotes anchorage-independent growth of prostate epithelial cells, but not growth of breast epithelial cells. These data suggest that germline variation at chromosome 10q11 contributes to prostate cancer risk by influencing expression of at least two genes. More broadly, the findings demonstrate that disease risk alleles may influence multiple genes, and associations between genotype and expression may only be observed in the context of specific tissue and disease states.
Arsenic contamination of drinking water is a major public health issue in many countries, increasing risk for a wide array of diseases, including cancer. There is inter-individual variation in arsenic metabolism efficiency and susceptibility to arsenic toxicity; however, the basis of this variation is not well understood. Here, we have performed the first genome-wide association study (GWAS) of arsenic-related metabolism and toxicity phenotypes to improve our understanding of the mechanisms by which arsenic affects health. Using data on urinary arsenic metabolite concentrations and approximately 300,000 genome-wide single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) for 1,313 arsenic-exposed Bangladeshi individuals, we identified genome-wide significant association signals (P
Risk estimates for male breast cancer conferred by 12 loci identified through GWAS of female breast cancer.
Ratio of ORmale:ORfemale for 12 risk loci identified by genome-wide association studies of female breast cancer.
Male breast cancer accounts for approximately 1% of all breast cancer. To date, risk factors for male breast cancer are poorly defined, but certain risk factors and genetic features appear common to both male and female breast cancer. Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have recently identified common single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) that influence female breast cancer risk; 12 of these have been independently replicated. To examine if these variants contribute to male breast cancer risk, we genotyped 433 male breast cancer cases and 1,569 controls. Five SNPs showed a statistically significant association with male breast cancer: rs13387042 (2q35) (odds ratio (OR)  = 1.30, p = 7.98×10⁻⁴), rs10941679 (5p12) (OR = 1.26, p = 0.007), rs9383938 (6q25.1) (OR = 1.39, p = 0.004), rs2981579 (FGFR2) (OR = 1.18, p = 0.03), and rs3803662 (TOX3) (OR = 1.48, p = 4.04×10⁻⁶). Comparing the ORs for male breast cancer with the published ORs for female breast cancer, three SNPs--rs13387042 (2q35), rs3803662 (TOX3), and rs6504950 (COX11)--showed significant differences in ORs (p<0.05) between sexes. Breast cancer is a heterogeneous disease; the relative risks associated with loci identified to date show subtype and, based on these data, gender specificity. Additional studies of well-defined patient subgroups could provide further insight into the biological basis of breast cancer development.
Author Summary The transport of protein complexes and associated cargo along microtubule tracks represents an essential eukaryotic process responsible for a multitude of cellular functions, including cell division, vesicle movement to membranes, and trafficking along dendrites, axons, and cilia. The latter organelles are hair-like cellular appendages implicated in cell and fluid motility, sensing and transducing information from their environment, and development. Their biogenesis and maintenance depends on a kinesin- and dynein-mediated motility process termed intraflagellar transport (IFT). In addition to comprising these specialized molecular motors, the IFT machinery consists of large multisubunit complexes whose exact composition and organization has not been fully defined. Here we identify a protein, DYF-11/MIP-T3, that is conserved in all ciliated organisms and is associated with IFT in C. elegans. Disruption of C. elegans DYF-11 results in structurally compromised cilia, likely as a result of IFT motor and subunit misassembly. Animals lacking DYF-11 display chemosensory anomalies, consistent with a role for the protein in cilia-associated sensory processes. In zebrafish, MIP-T3 is essential for gastrulation movements during development, similar to that observed for other ciliary components, including Bardet-Biedl syndrome proteins. In conclusion, we have identified a novel IFT machinery component that is also essential for development in vertebrates.
Migrating cells and growth cones extend lamellipodial and filopodial protrusions that are required for outgrowth and guidance. The mechanisms of cytoskeletal regulation that underlie cell and growth cone migration are of much interest to developmental biologists. Previous studies have shown that the Arp2/3 complex and UNC-115/abLIM act redundantly to mediate growth cone lamellipodia and filopodia formation and axon pathfinding. While much is known about the regulation of Arp2/3, less is known about regulators of UNC-115/abLIM. Here we show that the Caenorhabditis elegans counterpart of the Receptor for Activated C Kinase (RACK-1) interacts physically with the actin-binding protein UNC-115/abLIM and that RACK-1 is required for axon pathfinding. Genetic interactions indicate that RACK-1 acts cell-autonomously in the UNC-115/abLIM pathway in axon pathfinding and lamellipodia and filopodia formation, downstream of the CED-10/Rac GTPase and in parallel to MIG-2/RhoG. Furthermore, we show that RACK-1 is involved in migration of the gonadal distal tip cells and that the signaling pathways involved in this process might be distinct from those involved in axon pathfinding. In sum, these studies pinpoint RACK-1 as a component of a novel signaling pathway involving Rac GTPases and UNC-115/abLIM and suggest that RACK-1 might be involved in the regulation of the actin cytoskeleton and lamellipodia and filopodia formation in migrating cells and growth cones.
Manhattan plot and quantile-quantile plot of the results of the meta-analysis on baseline A-SAA levels.
The Manhattan plot on the left hand side displays all analyzed SNPs with their calculated p-values (p-values below the threshold of genome-wide significance are coloured red). The quantile-quantile plot on the right hand side points out the observed significant associations beyond those expected by chance.
Study-specific results for the hits within the regions/subregions.
Manhattan plot and quantile-quantile plot of the results of the meta-analysis on baseline A-SAA levels. The Manhattan plot on the left hand side displays all analyzed SNPs with their calculated p-values (p-values below the threshold of genome-wide significance are coloured red). The quantile-quantile plot on the right hand side points out the observed significant associations beyond those expected by chance. doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1001213.g001 
Regional plots of the genetic susceptibility regions/subregions.
The regional plots present gene regions and block structures of the region at 11p15.5-p13 (A), the SAA1 subregion (B), the HPS5/GTF2H1 subregion (C), the LDHA/LDHC subregion (D), and the region at 1p31 (E) and picture the probability values of the significantly associated SNPs, the colour representing the degree of correlation with the top hit of the respective region/subregion.
Elevated levels of acute-phase serum amyloid A (A-SAA) cause amyloidosis and are a risk factor for atherosclerosis and its clinical complications, type 2 diabetes, as well as various malignancies. To investigate the genetic basis of A-SAA levels, we conducted the first genome-wide association study on baseline A-SAA concentrations in three population-based studies (KORA, TwinsUK, Sorbs) and one prospective case cohort study (LURIC), including a total of 4,212 participants of European descent, and identified two novel genetic susceptibility regions at 11p15.5-p13 and 1p31. The region at 11p15.5-p13 (rs4150642; p = 3.20×10(-111)) contains serum amyloid A1 (SAA1) and the adjacent general transcription factor 2 H1 (GTF2H1), Hermansky-Pudlak Syndrome 5 (HPS5), lactate dehydrogenase A (LDHA), and lactate dehydrogenase C (LDHC). This region explains 10.84% of the total variation of A-SAA levels in our data, which makes up 18.37% of the total estimated heritability. The second region encloses the leptin receptor (LEPR) gene at 1p31 (rs12753193; p = 1.22×10(-11)) and has been found to be associated with CRP and fibrinogen in previous studies. Our findings demonstrate a key role of the 11p15.5-p13 region in the regulation of baseline A-SAA levels and provide confirmative evidence of the importance of the 1p31 region for inflammatory processes and the close interplay between A-SAA, leptin, and other acute-phase proteins.
Author Summary Myopia is one of the most common ocular disorders with elongation of axis of the eyeball. Pathological myopia or high myopia, a subset of myopia which is characterized with excessive axial elongation and degenerative changes of the eye, is a leading cause of visual impairment. Since genetic factors play significant roles in its development, identification of genetic determinants is an urgent and important issue. Although family-based linkage analyses have isolated at least 16 susceptible chromosomal loci for pathological or common myopia, no gene responsible for the disease has been identified. We conducted the first genome-wide case/control association study of pathological myopia in a two-stage design using 411,777 markers with 830 Japanese patients and 1,911 Japanese controls. We identified a region strongly suggestive for the disease susceptibility at chromosome 11q24.1 containing BLID and LOC399959. Their expression was confirmed in human retina with RT–PCR. BLID encodes an inducer of apoptotic cell death, and apoptosis is known to play an important functional role in pathological myopia. We believe that our study contributes to further dissect the molecular events underlying the development and progression of pathological myopia.
Q–Q Plot for Association of 710 SNPs in Candidate Genes with Breast Cancer Based on First Stage Data doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.0030042.g001 
Results of the Experiment-Wise Tests for 710 Candidate Gene SNPs by Gene Functional Group
Q–Q Plot for Association of 710 SNPs in Candidate Genes with Breast Cancer Based on First Stage Data
Association studies in candidate genes have been widely used to search for common low penetrance susceptibility alleles, but few definite associations have been established. We have conducted association studies in breast cancer using an empirical single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) tagging approach to capture common genetic variation in genes that are candidates for breast cancer based on their known function. We genotyped 710 SNPs in 120 candidate genes in up to 4,400 breast cancer cases and 4,400 controls using a staged design. Correction for population stratification was done using the genomic control method, on the basis of data from 280 genomic control SNPs. Evidence for association with each SNP was assessed using a Cochran-Armitage trend test (p-trend) and a two-degrees of freedom chi(2) test for heterogeneity (p-het). The most significant single SNP (p-trend = 8 x 10(-5)) was not significant at a nominal 5% level after adjusting for population stratification and multiple testing. To evaluate the overall evidence for an excess of positive associations over the proportion expected by chance, we applied two global tests: the admixture maximum likelihood (AML) test and the rank truncated product (RTP) test corrected for population stratification. The admixture maximum likelihood experiment-wise test for association was significant for both the heterogeneity test (p = 0.0031) and the trend test (p = 0.017), but no association was observed using the rank truncated product method for either the heterogeneity test or the trend test (p = 0.12 and p = 0.24, respectively). Genes in the cell-cycle control pathway and genes involved in steroid hormone metabolism and signalling were the main contributors to the association. These results suggest that a proportion of SNPs in these candidate genes are associated with breast cancer risk, but that the effects of individual SNPs is likely to be small. Large sample sizes from multicentre collaboration will be needed to identify associated SNPs with certainty.
Most genes in bacteria are experimentally uncharacterized and cannot be annotated with a specific function. Given the great diversity of bacteria and the ease of genome sequencing, high-throughput approaches to identify gene function experimentally are needed. Here, we use pools of tagged transposon mutants in the metal-reducing bacterium Shewanella oneidensis MR-1 to probe the mutant fitness of 3,355 genes in 121 diverse conditions including different growth substrates, alternative electron acceptors, stresses, and motility. We find that 2,350 genes have a pattern of fitness that is significantly different from random and 1,230 of these genes (37% of our total assayed genes) have enough signal to show strong biological correlations. We find that genes in all functional categories have phenotypes, including hundreds of hypotheticals, and that potentially redundant genes (over 50% amino acid identity to another gene in the genome) are also likely to have distinct phenotypes. Using fitness patterns, we were able to propose specific molecular functions for 40 genes or operons that lacked specific annotations or had incomplete annotations. In one example, we demonstrate that the previously hypothetical gene SO_3749 encodes a functional acetylornithine deacetylase, thus filling a missing step in S. oneidensis metabolism. Additionally, we demonstrate that the orphan histidine kinase SO_2742 and orphan response regulator SO_2648 form a signal transduction pathway that activates expression of acetyl-CoA synthase and is required for S. oneidensis to grow on acetate as a carbon source. Lastly, we demonstrate that gene expression and mutant fitness are poorly correlated and that mutant fitness generates more confident predictions of gene function than does gene expression. The approach described here can be applied generally to create large-scale gene-phenotype maps for evidence-based annotation of gene function in prokaryotes.
miR-124 is conserved in sequence and neuronal expression across the animal kingdom and is predicted to have hundreds of mRNA targets. Diverse defects in neural development and function were reported from miR-124 antisense studies in vertebrates, but a nematode knockout of mir-124 surprisingly lacked detectable phenotypes. To provide genetic insight from Drosophila, we deleted its single mir-124 locus and found that it is dispensable for gross aspects of neural specification and differentiation. On the other hand, we detected a variety of mutant phenotypes that were rescuable by a mir-124 genomic transgene, including short lifespan, increased dendrite variation, impaired larval locomotion, and aberrant synaptic release at the NMJ. These phenotypes reflect extensive requirements of miR-124 even under optimal culture conditions. Comparison of the transcriptomes of cells from wild-type and mir-124 mutant animals, purified on the basis of mir-124 promoter activity, revealed broad upregulation of direct miR-124 targets. However, in contrast to the proposed mutual exclusion model for miR-124 function, its functional targets were relatively highly expressed in miR-124-expressing cells and were not enriched in genes annotated with epidermal expression. A notable aspect of the direct miR-124 network was coordinate targeting of five positive components in the retrograde BMP signaling pathway, whose activation in neurons increases synaptic release at the NMJ, similar to mir-124 mutants. Derepression of the direct miR-124 target network also had many secondary effects, including over-activity of other post-transcriptional repressors and a net incomplete transition from a neuroblast to a neuronal gene expression signature. Altogether, these studies demonstrate complex consequences of miR-124 loss on neural gene expression and neurophysiology.
Author Summary The BRCA1–Fanconi anemia (FA) pathway is required for both tumor suppression and cell survival, particularly following treatment with DNA damaging agents that induce DNA interstrand crosslinks (ICLs). ICL processing by the BRCA–FA pathway includes promotion of homologous recombination (HR) and DNA damage tolerance through translesion synthesis. However, little is known about how the BRCA–FA pathway or these ICL processing mechanisms are regulated. Here, we identify acetylation as a DNA damage–dependent regulator of the BRCA–FA protein, FANCJ. FANCJ acetylation at lysine 1249 is enhanced by expression of the histone acetyltransferase CBP and reduced by expression of histone deacetylases HDAC3 or SIRT1. Furthermore, acetylation on endogenous FANCJ is induced upon treatment of cells with agents that generate DNA lesions. Consistent with this post-translation event regulating FANCJ function during cellular DNA repair, preventing FANCJ acetylation skews ICL processing. Cells have reduced reliance on HR factor Rad54 and greater reliance on translesion synthesis polymerase polη. Our data indicate that FANCJ acetylation contributes to DNA end processing that is required for HR. Furthermore, resection-dependent checkpoint maintenance relies on the dynamic regulation of FANCJ acetylation. The implication of these findings is that FANCJ acetylation contributes to DNA repair choice within the BRCA–FA pathway.
MicroRNAs regulate networks of genes to orchestrate cellular functions. MiR-125b, the vertebrate homologue of the Caenorhabditis elegans microRNA lin-4, has been implicated in the regulation of neural and hematopoietic stem cell homeostasis, analogous to how lin-4 regulates stem cells in C. elegans. Depending on the cell context, miR-125b has been proposed to regulate both apoptosis and proliferation. Because the p53 network is a central regulator of both apoptosis and proliferation, the dual roles of miR-125b raise the question of what genes in the p53 network might be regulated by miR-125b. By using a gain- and loss-of-function screen for miR-125b targets in humans, mice, and zebrafish and by validating these targets with the luciferase assay and a novel miRNA pull-down assay, we demonstrate that miR-125b directly represses 20 novel targets in the p53 network. These targets include both apoptosis regulators like Bak1, Igfbp3, Itch, Puma, Prkra, Tp53inp1, Tp53, Zac1, and also cell-cycle regulators like cyclin C, Cdc25c, Cdkn2c, Edn1, Ppp1ca, Sel1l, in the p53 network. We found that, although each miRNA-target pair was seldom conserved, miR-125b regulation of the p53 pathway is conserved at the network level. Our results lead us to propose that miR-125b buffers and fine-tunes p53 network activity by regulating the dose of both proliferative and apoptotic regulators, with implications for tissue stem cell homeostasis and oncogenesis.
Summary of GWAS scan and replication studies for association between rs12296850 at 12q23.1 and risk of lung squamous cell carcinoma (SqCC).
Regional plot of the identified marker rs12296850 at 12q23.1.
Results (−log10 P) are shown for SNPs in the region flanking 150 kb on either side of rs12296850. The marker SNP are shown in purple and the r 2 values of the rest of the SNPs are indicated by different colors. The genes within the region of interest are annotated, with arrows indicating transcription direction.
Regional plot of the identified marker rs12296850 at 12q23.1. Results ( 2 log10 P ) are shown for SNPs in the region flanking 150 kb on either side of rs12296850. The marker SNP are shown in purple and the r 2 values of the rest of the SNPs are indicated by different colors. The genes within the region of interest are annotated, with arrows indicating transcription direction. doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1003190.g001 
Association between rs12296850 at 12q23.1 and risk of lung adenocarcinoma (AC) and small cell carcinoma (SCC).
Adenocarcinoma (AC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SqCC) are two major histological subtypes of lung cancer. Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have made considerable advances in the understanding of lung cancer susceptibility. Obvious heterogeneity has been observed between different histological subtypes of lung cancer, but genetic determinants in specific to lung SqCC have not been systematically investigated. Here, we performed the GWAS analysis specifically for lung SqCC in 833 SqCC cases and 3,094 controls followed by a two-stage replication in additional 2,223 lung SqCC cases and 6,409 controls from Chinese populations. We found that rs12296850 in SLC17A8-NR1H4 gene region at12q23.1 was significantly associated with risk of lung SqCC at genome-wide significance level [additive model: odds ratio (OR) = 0.78, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 0.72-0.84, P = 1.19×10(-10)]. Subjects carrying AG or GG genotype had a 26% (OR = 0.74, 95% CI = 0.67-0.81) or 32% (OR = 0.68, 95% CI = 0.56-0.83) decreased risk of lung SqCC, respectively, as compared with AA genotype. However, we did not observe significant association between rs12296850 and risk of lung AC in a total of 4,368 cases with lung AC and 9,486 controls (OR = 0.96, 95% CI = 0.90-1.02, P = 0.173). These results indicate that genetic variations on chromosome 12q23.1 may specifically contribute to lung SqCC susceptibility in Chinese population.
There is increasing evidence that the microcirculation plays an important role in the pathogenesis of cardiovascular diseases. Changes in retinal vascular caliber reflect early microvascular disease and predict incident cardiovascular events. We performed a genome-wide association study to identify genetic variants associated with retinal vascular caliber. We analyzed data from four population-based discovery cohorts with 15,358 unrelated Caucasian individuals, who are members of the Cohort for Heart and Aging Research in Genomic Epidemiology (CHARGE) consortium, and replicated findings in four independent Caucasian cohorts (n  =  6,652). All participants had retinal photography and retinal arteriolar and venular caliber measured from computer software. In the discovery cohorts, 179 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP) spread across five loci were significantly associated (p<5.0×10(-8)) with retinal venular caliber, but none showed association with arteriolar caliber. Collectively, these five loci explain 1.0%-3.2% of the variation in retinal venular caliber. Four out of these five loci were confirmed in independent replication samples. In the combined analyses, the top SNPs at each locus were: rs2287921 (19q13; p  =  1.61×10(-25), within the RASIP1 locus), rs225717 (6q24; p = 1.25×10(-16), adjacent to the VTA1 and NMBR loci), rs10774625 (12q24; p  =  2.15×10(-13), in the region of ATXN2,SH2B3 and PTPN11 loci), and rs17421627 (5q14; p = 7.32×10(-16), adjacent to the MEF2C locus). In two independent samples, locus 12q24 was also associated with coronary heart disease and hypertension. Our population-based genome-wide association study demonstrates four novel loci associated with retinal venular caliber, an endophenotype of the microcirculation associated with clinical cardiovascular disease. These data provide further insights into the contribution and biological mechanisms of microcirculatory changes that underlie cardiovascular disease.
Conditional inactivation of the Nsun4 gene in the germline. A. Schematic representation of the targeting strategy for disruption of the Nsun4 gene. Exon II was flanked by loxP-sites. The puromycin resistance gene is flanked by Frt-recombination sites and was used for ES cell selection. Mice with an Frt-flanked puromycin gene were crossed with mice with ubiquitous expression of Flp-recombinase to remove the Puromycin resistance gene. Transgenic mice expressing cre-recombinase were used for breeding with animals with a loxP-flanked Nsun4 gene to disrupt Nsun4 . B. Morphological comparison between wild type and whole-body Nsun4 knockout embryos at E , 8.5. Scale bar = 1 mm. doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1004110.g001 
Conditional inactivation of the Nsun4 gene in heart and skeletal muscle. A. Decreased lifespan of mice with a muscle-specific knockout of Nsun4 . Survival curve for control (L/L; n = 20; open squares) and mutant mice (L/L, cre; n = 16; filled squares). B. Heart- to body-weight ratio in control (L/L; open squares) and mutant mice (L/L, cre; filled squares). Number of analyzed animals at 5 weeks L/L n = 6, L/L, cre n = 6; at 10 weeks L/L n = 7, L/L, cre n = 8; at 15 weeks L/L n = 5, L/L, cre n = 7; at 20 weeks L/L n = 12, L/L, cre n = 12. Data are represented as mean + / 2 SEM. *, p , 0.05; **, p , 0.01; ***p , 0.001. Student’s t test. C. BN-PAGE analysis of levels of assembled respiratory chain complexes in control (L/L) and knockout (L/L, cre) mice at different ages. D. Western immunoblotting of steady-state levels of NSUN4 in heart mitochondrial extracts from control (L/ L) and knockout (L/L, cre) mice at different ages. VDAC was used as a loading control. doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1004110.g002 
Mitochondrial translation and ribosome assembly in Nsun4 knockout hearts. A. Pulse-labeling of mitochondrial translation products in isolated heart mitochondria from 20 weeks-old control (L/L) and knockout mice (L/L, cre). The Coomassie-stained gel is a loading control. Known mitochondrial polypeptides are indicated. B. Western blot analysis of steady-state levels of mitochondrially and nucleus-encoded OXPHOS proteins in mitochondria from control and knockout hearts at different ages. VDAC was used as a loading control. *, cross reaction. C. Analysis of mitoribosomal assembly by sucrose gradient ultracentrifugation of heart mitochondrial extracts from control (L/L) and mutant (L/L, cre) mice. Sedimentation of 28S (SSU, fraction 6), 39S (LSU, fraction 8) and 55S (assembled ribosomes, fraction 10) was determined by western blot analysis using MRPS15- and MRPL13-specific antibodies. D. Western blot analysis of steady-state levels of MRPL13 and MRPS15 in heart mitochondrial extracts from control (L/L) and knockout (L/L, cre) mice at different ages. VDAC was used as a loading control. doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1004110.g003 
Analysis of rRNA methylation in control, Nsun4 and Mterf4 heart tissue specific knockout. A. Relative methylation levels of 12S and 16S rRNA determined after sequencing of cDNA obtained from bisulfite treated RNA from heart mitochondria of control (L/L; n = 3) mice at age 20 weeks. Nucleotide numbers are relative to the 5 9 -end of the mouse mtDNA gene for tRNA Phe . B. Relative methylation levels of 12S and 16S rRNA in NSUN4 knockout (L/L, cre; n = 3) at age 20 weeks. Analysis performed as in panel a. C. Relative methylation levels of 12S rRNA in control (N = 1) and MTERF4 knockout (N = 2) at age 15 weeks and in control (N = 1) and MTERF4 knockout (N = 2) at age 20 weeks. doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1004110.g004 
rRNA binding by NSUN4 and MTERF4 and model of the role of the NSUN4/MTERF4 complex in regulation of ribosome assembly. A. Location, along mtDNA, of the RNA fragments identified after CLIP analysis on HeLa cells expressing ‘‘trap’’ mutant of NSUN4, NSUN4 C258A -FLAG. B. Location, along mtDNA, of the RNA fragments identified after PAR-CLIP analysis on HeLa cells expressing MTERF4-FLAG. C. 
Author Summary Mitochondria perform a number of essential functions in the cell, including synthesis of ATP via the oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS) system. Normal mitochondrial function requires coordinated expression of two genomes: mitochondria's own genome (mtDNA), which encodes 13 respiratory chain subunits with essential structural and functional roles for the OXPHOS system, and the nuclear genome encoding the remaining ∼80 subunits. The mtDNA-encoded polypeptides are synthesized on mitochondrial ribosomes (mitoribosomes) located in the mitochondrial matrix. Biogenesis, maintenance and regulation of the complex mitochondrial translation apparatus are poorly understood despite its fundamental importance for cellular energy homeostasis. Here, we show that inactivation of the Nsun4 gene, encoding a mitochondrial m5C-methyltransferase, causes embryonic lethality, whereas tissue-specific disruption of Nsun4 in the heart causes cardiomyopathy with mitochondrial dysfunction. By performing sequencing of bisulfite-treated RNA we report that NSUN4 methylates C911 in 12S rRNA of the small ribosomal subunit. Surprisingly, NSUN4 can on its own perform this rRNA modification, whereas interaction with its partner protein MTERF4 is required for assembly of functional ribosomes. NSUN4 thus has dual roles in ribosome maturation and performs an important final quality control step to ensure that only mature mitoribosomal subunits are assembled into functional ribosomes.
egl-13 is required for O 2 - and CO 2 -sensing neuron specification. (A) Molecular identity of mutant alleles obtained from the forward genetic screens. egl-13 alleles first described in this article are shown in black ( rp14 , 22 , 23 , and 26 ) and the previously described ku194 [25] is shown in 
egl-13 functions cell autonomously to drive O 2 - and CO 2 -sensing neuron cell fate. (A) Dorsal view of a young adult hermaphrodite expressing an egl-13 prom1 ::mCherry transcriptional reporter transgene (top panels), a gcy-33 prom ::gcy-33::gfp translational reporter 
egl-13 is required and sufficient to induce O 2 - and CO 2 -sensing neuron fate. (A) egl-13 is required to maintain O 2 /CO 2 -sensing neuron fate. Induction of egl-13 expression via transient heat-shock at the L2/3 stage restores gcy-33 prom ::gcy-33::gfp expression in the URX neurons of 
Independent regulatory modules drive egl-13 expression in O 2 versus O 2 /CO 2 -sensing neurons. (A) egl-13 promoter analysis. Schematic representation of the egl-13 locus with its 3.5 kb upstream region. The ATG codon is marked with an arrow and the exons are represented 
Animals harbor specialized neuronal systems that are used for sensing and coordinating responses to changes in oxygen (O2) and carbon dioxide (CO2). In Caenorhabditis elegans, the O2/CO2 sensory system comprises functionally and morphologically distinct sensory neurons that mediate rapid behavioral responses to exquisite changes in O2 or CO2 levels via different sensory receptors. How the diversification of the O2- and CO2-sensing neurons is established is poorly understood. We show here that the molecular identity of both the BAG (O2/CO2-sensing) and the URX (O2-sensing) neurons is controlled by the phylogenetically conserved SoxD transcription factor homolog EGL-13. egl-13 mutant animals fail to fully express the distinct terminal gene batteries of the BAG and URX neurons and, as such, are unable to mount behavioral responses to changes in O2 and CO2. We found that the expression of egl-13 is regulated in the BAG and URX neurons by two conserved transcription factors-ETS-5(Ets factor) in the BAG neurons and AHR-1(bHLH factor) in the URX neurons. In addition, we found that EGL-13 acts in partially parallel pathways with both ETS-5 and AHR-1 to direct BAG and URX neuronal fate respectively. Finally, we found that EGL-13 is sufficient to induce O2- and CO2-sensing cell fates in some cellular contexts. Thus, the same core regulatory factor, egl-13, is required and sufficient to specify the distinct fates of O2- and CO2-sensing neurons in C. elegans. These findings extend our understanding of mechanisms of neuronal diversification and the regulation of molecular factors that may be conserved in higher organisms.
Cilia are microtubule-based cell appendages, serving motility, chemo-/mechano-/photo- sensation, and developmental signaling functions. Cilia are comprised of distinct structural and functional subregions including the basal body, transition zone (TZ) and inversin (Inv) compartments, and defects in this organelle are associated with an expanding spectrum of inherited disorders including Bardet-Biedl syndrome (BBS), Meckel-Gruber Syndrome (MKS), Joubert Syndrome (JS) and Nephronophthisis (NPHP). Despite major advances in understanding ciliary trafficking pathways such as intraflagellar transport (IFT), how proteins are transported to subciliary membranes remains poorly understood. Using Caenorhabditis elegans and mammalian cells, we investigated the transport mechanisms underlying compartmentalization of JS-associated ARL13B/ARL-13, which we previously found is restricted at proximal ciliary membranes. We now show evolutionary conservation of ARL13B/ARL-13 localisation to an Inv-like subciliary membrane compartment, excluding the TZ, in many C. elegans ciliated neurons and in a subset of mammalian ciliary subtypes. Compartmentalisation of C. elegans ARL-13 requires a C-terminal RVVP motif and membrane anchoring to prevent distal cilium and nuclear targeting, respectively. Quantitative imaging in more than 20 mutants revealed differential contributions for IFT and ciliopathy modules in defining the ARL-13 compartment; IFT-A/B, IFT-dynein and BBS genes prevent ARL-13 accumulation at periciliary membranes, whereas MKS/NPHP modules additionally inhibit ARL-13 association with TZ membranes. Furthermore, in vivo FRAP analyses revealed distinct roles for IFT and MKS/NPHP genes in regulating a TZ barrier to ARL-13 diffusion, and intraciliary ARL-13 diffusion. Finally, C. elegans ARL-13 undergoes IFT-like motility and quantitative protein complex analysis of human ARL13B identified functional associations with IFT-B complexes, mapped to IFT46 and IFT74 interactions. Together, these findings reveal distinct requirements for sequence motifs, IFT and ciliopathy modules in defining an ARL-13 subciliary membrane compartment. We conclude that MKS/NPHP modules comprise a TZ barrier to ARL-13 diffusion, whereas IFT genes predominantly facilitate ARL-13 ciliary entry and/or retention via active transport mechanisms.
Phenotypic plasticity is ubiquitous and primarily controlled by interactions between environmental and genetic factors. The migratory locust, a worldwide pest, exhibits pronounced phenotypic plasticity, which is a population density-dependent transition that occurs between the gregarious and solitary phases. Genes involved in dopamine synthesis have been shown to regulate the phase transition of locusts. However, the function of microRNAs in this process remains unknown. In this study, we report the participation of miR-133 in dopamine production and the behavioral transition by negatively regulating two critical genes, henna and pale, in the dopamine pathway. miR-133 participated in the post-transcriptional regulation of henna and pale by binding to their coding region and 3' untranslated region, respectively. miR-133 displayed cellular co-localization with henna/pale in the protocerebrum, and its expression in the protocerebrum was negatively correlated with henna and pale expression. Moreover, miR-133 agomir delivery suppressed henna and pale expression, which consequently decreased dopamine production, thus resulting in the behavioral shift of the locusts from the gregarious phase to the solitary phase. Increasing the dopamine content could rescue the solitary phenotype, which was induced by miR-133 agomir delivery. Conversely, miR-133 inhibition increased the expression of henna and pale, resulting in the gregarious-like behavior of solitary locusts; this gregarious phenotype could be rescued by RNA interference of henna and pale. This study shows the novel function and modulation pattern of a miRNA in phenotypic plasticity and provides insight into the underlying molecular mechanisms of the phase transition of locusts.
Author Summary miRNAs are small non-coding RNAs involved in posttranscriptional regulation of protein-coding genes. In the mammalian genome, two distinct gene clusters code for miR-1 and miR-133a. Primary sequences of mature miR-1 or miR-133a are identical and both gene clusters show similar expression in the heart and skeletal muscle. We have generated compound mutant mice of both miR-1/133a gene clusters resulting in early arrest of heart development while single cluster mutants showed normal morphology but reacted differently to pressure overload. Compound mutant cardiomyocytes were characterized by an immature, mixed smooth muscle-heart muscle phenotype, indicating that miR1-/133a are responsible for specification of the cardiomyogenic lineage. Our search for miR1-/133a targets identified myocardin, which was strongly up-regulated in mutant hearts, while several other putative miR-1/133a targets that have been described before were not altered, indicating that miR-1/133a target control strongly depends on the cellular context. Overexpression of myocardin in embryonic hearts recapitulated major aspects of the miR-1/133a mutant phenotype, suggesting that loss of myocardin suppression is the primary reason for incorrect heart muscle specification in the mutants. In addition, we found that myocardin overexpression stimulated expression of miR-1/133a, which argues for a negative feedback loop required for adjustment of myocardin concentrations in the heart.
Author Summary Global obesity and associated health issues have raised the significance of adipocyte biology. Adipose tissues are classified as brown and white adipose. White adipose tissues store lipids, leading to overweight, obesity, insulin resistance and Type2 diabetes. In contrast, brown adipose tissues use lipid storage to generate heat, increase insulin sensitivity, and are negatively correlated with the incidence of Type2 diabetes. Recent studies indicate that white adipose is plastic and contains an intermediate type of adaptive adipocytes (so-called beige/brite adipocytes) that have the energy-dissipating properties of brown adipocytes. Prdm16 is a key molecule that determines the development of both brown and beige adipocytes. Thus, Prdm16 represents a novel molecular switch that expands brown/beige adipocytes and increases energy expenditures. However, how Prdm16 is regulated has been unclear. Here we report that the microRNA miR-133a specifically targets Prdm16 at the posttranscriptional level. Inhibition or knockout of miR-133a significantly increases Prdm16 expression and the thermogenic gene program in white adipose tissues, resulting in dramatically enhanced insulin sensitivity in animals. Our results suggest that miR-133a represents a potential drug target against obesity and Type2 diabetes.
Regional association plots at rs11746443, rs1000597, and rs4142110 loci.
(a–c) Upper panel; P-values of genotyped SNPs (circle) and imputed SNPs (cross) are plotted (as −log10P-value) against their physical position on chromosome 5 (a), 7 (b), and 13(c) (NCBI Build 36). SNPs rs11746443 on 5q35 (a), rs1000597 on 7p14 (b), and rs4142110 on 13q14 (c) are represented by purple diamonds. The genetic recombination rates estimated from 1000 Genomes samples (JPT+CHB) are shown with a blue line. SNP's color indicates LD with rs11746443 (a), rs1000597 (b), and rs4142110 (c) according to a scale from r2 = 0 to r2 = 1 based on pair-wise r2 values from HapMap JPT. Middle Panel; Gene annotations from the University of California Santa Cruz genome browser. Lower Panel; We drew the LD map based on D' values using the genotype data of the cases and controls in the GWAS samples.
Summary of GWAS and replication analyses.
Regional association plots at rs11746443, rs1000597, and rs4142110 loci. (a–c) Upper panel; P -values of genotyped SNPs (circle) and imputed SNPs (cross) are plotted (as 2 log 10 P -value) against their physical position on chromosome 5 (a), 7 (b), and 13(c) (NCBI Build 36). SNPs rs11746443 on 5q35 (a), rs1000597 on 7p14 (b), and rs4142110 on 13q14 (c) are represented by purple diamonds. The genetic recombination rates estimated from 1000 Genomes samples (JPT + CHB) are shown with a blue line. SNP’s color indicates LD with rs11746443 (a), rs1000597 (b), and rs4142110 (c) according to a scale from r 2 = 0 to r 2 = 1 based on pair-wise r 2 values from HapMap JPT. Middle Panel; Gene annotations from the University of California Santa Cruz genome browser. Lower Panel; We drew the LD map based on D ’ values using the genotype data of the cases and controls in the GWAS samples. doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1002541.g001 
QTL analysis for serum phosphorus, serum calcium, serum urate, eGFR, and BMI.
Author Summary Although nephrolithiasis is one of the most common nephro-urological disorders with high prevalence (4%–9%) and extremely high recurrence rate (60% within ten years), little is known about the role of common variations in its pathogenesis. Through a GWAS using a total of 5,892 cases and 17,809 controls, we identified three novel nephrolithiasis loci: rs11746443, rs1000597, and rs4142110 (P<1×10−8). The top two significant SNPs, rs11746443 and rs1000597, are located upstream of the SLC34A1 and the AQP1 genes that play important roles in kidney function and the urine-concentration process, respectively. We also found that SNP rs11746443 is associated with the reduction of estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR), indicating the role of this variation in kidney function. Although nephrolithiasis is considered as one of the lifestyle-related diseases, the results of dietary intervention studies to reduce the recurrence incidence have been unsuccessful. Our findings could contribute to a better understanding of the pathogenesis of nephrolithiasis and lead to the development of new therapeutics.
Non-coding RNAs are much more common than previously thought. However, for the vast majority of non-coding RNAs, the cellular function remains enigmatic. The two long non-coding RNA (lncRNA) genes DLEU1 and DLEU2 map to a critical region at chromosomal band 13q14.3 that is recurrently deleted in solid tumors and hematopoietic malignancies like chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). While no point mutations have been found in the protein coding candidate genes at 13q14.3, they are deregulated in malignant cells, suggesting an epigenetic tumor suppressor mechanism. We therefore characterized the epigenetic makeup of 13q14.3 in CLL cells and found histone modifications by chromatin-immunoprecipitation (ChIP) that are associated with activated transcription and significant DNA-demethylation at the transcriptional start sites of DLEU1 and DLEU2 using 5 different semi-quantitative and quantitative methods (aPRIMES, BioCOBRA, MCIp, MassARRAY, and bisulfite sequencing). These epigenetic aberrations were correlated with transcriptional deregulation of the neighboring candidate tumor suppressor genes, suggesting a coregulation in cis of this gene cluster. We found that the 13q14.3 genes in addition to their previously known functions regulate NF-kB activity, which we could show after overexpression, siRNA-mediated knockdown, and dominant-negative mutant genes by using Western blots with previously undescribed antibodies, by a customized ELISA as well as by reporter assays. In addition, we performed an unbiased screen of 810 human miRNAs and identified the miR-15/16 family of genes at 13q14.3 as the strongest inducers of NF-kB activity. In summary, the tumor suppressor mechanism at 13q14.3 is a cluster of genes controlled by two lncRNA genes that are regulated by DNA-methylation and histone modifications and whose members all regulate NF-kB. Therefore, the tumor suppressor mechanism in 13q14.3 underlines the role both of epigenetic aberrations and of lncRNA genes in human tumorigenesis and is an example of colocalization of a functionally related gene cluster.
Author Summary Stalling and collapse of DNA replication forks is an important source of genome instability and has been implicated in early steps of carcinogenesis. The maintenance of stable intermediates upon stalled replication requires the coordinated action of a number of proteins and proper inhibitory control of dangerous enzymatic activities. In this study, we uncover an evolutionarily conserved mechanism through which 14-3-3 proteins modulate the checkpoint-mediated phosphorylation of, and in turn limit the activity of, an exonuclease (Exo1) previously implicated in pathological processing of stalled replication forks and other sensitive DNA intermediates. This represents an unprecedented link in the field of DNA repair and genome stability, providing a molecular rationale to the yet undefined role of 14-3-3 proteins in the maintenance of genome integrity after replication stress. In analogy to Exo1, our data suggest that additional factors at replication forks may be subjected to similar regulation, pointing to the 14-3-3 proteins as central components of the checkpoint triggered in response to replication stress.
Author Summary Activation of gene expression is thought to be regulated mainly at the level of transcription initiation. Nevertheless, many genes in Drosophila and vertebrates contain RNA polymerase that has started transcription but is paused 30–40 bp from the initiation site. Activation of these genes may thus be regulated by releasing the polymerase from the paused state rather than bringing this protein to the promoter. This release requires the recruitment of specialized proteins that modify the polymerase. It appears that the recruitment of these proteins takes place by modification of two chromatin proteins, histones H3 and H4. Here we characterize a process composed of multiple steps required for release of RNA polymerase from the paused state. The process starts with the recruitment of an enzyme that adds a phosphate group to histone H3. This phosphate serves as a signal to recruit a different protein, which in turn recruits a second enzyme capable of adding an acetyl group to the same histone molecule. The multiple steps involved may provide a variety of mechanisms to control the process.
Type 2 diabetes is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality. While genetic variants have been found to influence the risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus, relatively few studies have focused on genes associated with glycated hemoglobin, an index of the mean blood glucose concentration of the preceding 8-12 weeks. Epidemiologic studies and randomized clinical trials have documented the relationship between glycated hemoglobin levels and the development of long-term complications in diabetes; moreover, higher glycated hemoglobin levels in the subdiabetic range have been shown to predict type 2 diabetes risk and cardiovascular disease. To examine the common genetic determinants of glycated hemoglobin levels, we performed a genome-wide association study that evaluated 337,343 SNPs in 14,618 apparently healthy Caucasian women. The results show that glycated hemoglobin levels are associated with genetic variation at the GCK (rs730497; P = 2.8 x 10(-12)), SLC30A8 (rs13266634; P = 9.8 x 10(-8)), G6PC2 (rs1402837; P = 6.8 x 10(-10)), and HK1 (rs7072268; P = 6.4 x 10(-9)) loci. While associations at the GCK, SLC30A8, and G6PC2 loci are confirmatory, the findings at HK1 are novel. We were able to replicate this novel association in an independent validation sample of 455 additional non-diabetic men and women. HK1 encodes the enzyme hexokinase, the first step in glycolysis and a likely candidate for the control of glucose metabolism. This observed genetic association between glycated hemoglobin levels and HK1 polymorphisms paves the way for further studies of the role of HK1 in hemoglobin glycation, glucose metabolism, and diabetes.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a complex autoimmune disease with a strong genetic predisposition, characterized by an upregulated type I interferon pathway. MicroRNAs are important regulators of immune homeostasis, and aberrant microRNA expression has been demonstrated in patients with autoimmune diseases. We recently identified miR-146a as a negative regulator of the interferon pathway and linked the abnormal activation of this pathway to the underexpression of miR-146a in SLE patients. To explore why the expression of miR-146a is reduced in SLE patients, we conducted short parallel sequencing of potentially regulatory regions of miR-146a and identified a novel genetic variant (rs57095329) in the promoter region exhibiting evidence for association with SLE that was replicated independently in 7,182 Asians (P(meta) = 2.74×10(-8), odds ratio = 1.29 [1.18-1.40]). The risk-associated G allele was linked to reduced expression of miR-146a in the peripheral blood leukocytes of the controls. Combined functional assays showed that the risk-associated G allele reduced the protein-binding affinity and activity of the promoter compared with those of the promoter containing the protective A allele. Transcription factor Ets-1, encoded by the lupus-susceptibility gene ETS1, identified in recent genome-wide association studies, binds near this variant. The manipulation of Ets-1 levels strongly affected miR-146a promoter activity in vitro; and the knockdown of Ets-1, mimicking its reduced expression in SLE, directly impaired the induction of miR-146a. We also observed additive effects of the risk alleles of miR-146a and ETS1. Our data identified and confirmed an association between a functional promoter variant of miR-146a and SLE. This risk allele had decreased binding to transcription factor Ets-1, contributing to reduced levels of miR-146a in SLE patients.
Author Summary Genomic imprinting is a process causing genes to be expressed in a parent-of-origin specific manner—some imprinted genes are expressed from maternally inherited chromosomes and others from paternally inherited chromosomes. Imprinted genes are often located in clusters regulated by regions that are differentially methylated according to their parental origin. The human chromosome 14q32.2 imprinted region harbors the germline-derived primary DLK1-MEG3 intergenic differentially methylated region (IG-DMR) and the postfertilization-derived secondary MEG3-DMR, together with multiple imprinted genes. Perturbed dosage of these imprinted genes, for example in patients with paternal and maternal uniparental disomy 14, causes distinct phenotypes. Here, through analysis of patients with microdeletions recapitulating some or all of the uniparental disomy 14 phenotypes, we show that the IG-DMR acts as an upstream regulator for the methylation pattern of the MEG3-DMR in the body but not in the placenta. Importantly, in the body, the MEG3-DMR functions as an imprinting control center. To our knowledge, this is the first study demonstrating an essential function for the secondary DMR in the regulation of multiple imprinted genes. Thus, the results provide a significant advance in the clarification of underlying epigenetic features that can act to regulate imprinting.
The prevalence of obesity (body mass index (BMI) > or =30 kg/m(2)) is higher in African Americans than in European Americans, even after adjustment for socioeconomic factors, suggesting that genetic factors may explain some of the difference. To identify genetic loci influencing BMI, we carried out a pooled analysis of genome-wide admixture mapping scans in 15,280 African Americans from 14 epidemiologic studies. Samples were genotyped at a median of 1,411 ancestry-informative markers. After adjusting for age, sex, and study, BMI was analyzed both as a dichotomized (top 20% versus bottom 20%) and a continuous trait. We found that a higher percentage of European ancestry was significantly correlated with lower BMI (rho = -0.042, P = 1.6x10(-7)). In the dichotomized analysis, we detected two loci on chromosome X as associated with increased African ancestry: the first at Xq25 (locus-specific LOD = 5.94; genome-wide score = 3.22; case-control Z = -3.94); and the second at Xq13.1 (locus-specific LOD = 2.22; case-control Z = -4.62). Quantitative analysis identified a third locus at 5q13.3 where higher BMI was highly significantly associated with greater European ancestry (locus-specific LOD = 6.27; genome-wide score = 3.46). Further mapping studies with dense sets of markers will be necessary to identify the alleles in these regions of chromosomes X and 5 that may be associated with variation in BMI.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a complex trait in which allelic variation in the MHC class II region exerts the single strongest effect on genetic risk. Epidemiological data in MS provide strong evidence that environmental factors act at a population level to influence the unusual geographical distribution of this disease. Growing evidence implicates sunlight or vitamin D as a key environmental factor in aetiology. We hypothesised that this environmental candidate might interact with inherited factors and sought responsive regulatory elements in the MHC class II region. Sequence analysis localised a single MHC vitamin D response element (VDRE) to the promoter region of HLA-DRB1. Sequencing of this promoter in greater than 1,000 chromosomes from HLA-DRB1 homozygotes showed absolute conservation of this putative VDRE on HLA-DRB1*15 haplotypes. In contrast, there was striking variation among non-MS-associated haplotypes. Electrophoretic mobility shift assays showed specific recruitment of vitamin D receptor to the VDRE in the HLA-DRB1*15 promoter, confirmed by chromatin immunoprecipitation experiments using lymphoblastoid cells homozygous for HLA-DRB1*15. Transient transfection using a luciferase reporter assay showed a functional role for this VDRE. B cells transiently transfected with the HLA-DRB1*15 gene promoter showed increased expression on stimulation with 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 (P = 0.002) that was lost both on deletion of the VDRE or with the homologous "VDRE" sequence found in non-MS-associated HLA-DRB1 haplotypes. Flow cytometric analysis showed a specific increase in the cell surface expression of HLA-DRB1 upon addition of vitamin D only in HLA-DRB1*15 bearing lymphoblastoid cells. This study further implicates vitamin D as a strong environmental candidate in MS by demonstrating direct functional interaction with the major locus determining genetic susceptibility. These findings support a connection between the main epidemiological and genetic features of this disease with major practical implications for studies of disease mechanism and prevention.
A Model for Insulin/IGF-1 Signal Transduction, Showing Associated Kinase Inputs and Nuclear Factors (See Text)
A dissection of longevity in Caenorhabditis elegans reveals that animal life span is influenced by genes, environment, and stochastic factors. From molecules to physiology, a remarkable degree of evolutionary conservation is seen.
Author Summary Caffeine is the most widely consumed psychoactive substance in the world. Although demographic and social factors have been linked to habitual caffeine consumption, twin studies report a large heritable component. Through a comprehensive search of the human genome involving over 40,000 participants, we discovered two loci associated with habitual caffeine consumption: the first near AHR and the second between CYP1A1 and CYP1A2. Both the AHR and CYP1A2 genes are biologically plausible candidates, as CYP1A2 metabolizes caffeine and AHR regulates CYP1A2. Caffeine intake has been associated with manifold physiologic effects and both detrimental and beneficial health outcomes. Knowledge of the genetic determinants of caffeine intake may provide insight into underlying mechanisms and may provide ways to study the potential health effects of caffeine more comprehensively.
Recently, genetic association findings for nicotine dependence, smoking behavior, and smoking-related diseases converged to implicate the chromosome 15q25.1 region, which includes the CHRNA5-CHRNA3-CHRNB4 cholinergic nicotinic receptor subunit genes. In particular, association with the nonsynonymous CHRNA5 SNP rs16969968 and correlates has been replicated in several independent studies. Extensive genotyping of this region has suggested additional statistically distinct signals for nicotine dependence, tagged by rs578776 and rs588765. One goal of the Consortium for the Genetic Analysis of Smoking Phenotypes (CGASP) is to elucidate the associations among these markers and dichotomous smoking quantity (heavy versus light smoking), lung cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). We performed a meta-analysis across 34 datasets of European-ancestry subjects, including 38,617 smokers who were assessed for cigarettes-per-day, 7,700 lung cancer cases and 5,914 lung-cancer-free controls (all smokers), and 2,614 COPD cases and 3,568 COPD-free controls (all smokers). We demonstrate statistically independent associations of rs16969968 and rs588765 with smoking (mutually adjusted p-values