[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Background:
Trisomy 21 causes Down syndrome (DS), but the mechanisms by which the extra chromosome leads to deficient intellectual and immune function are not well understood.
Here, we profile CpG methylation in DS and control cerebral and cerebellar cortex of adults and cerebrum of fetuses. We purify neuronal and non-neuronal nuclei and T lymphocytes and find biologically relevant genes with DS-specific methylation (DS-DM) in each of these cell types. Some genes show brain-specific DS-DM, while others show stronger DS-DM in T cells. Both 5-methyl-cytosine and 5-hydroxy-methyl-cytosine contribute to the DS-DM. Thirty percent of genes with DS-DM in adult brain cells also show DS-DM in fetal brains, indicating early onset of these epigenetic changes, and we find early maturation of methylation patterns in DS brain and lymphocytes. Some, but not all, of the DS-DM genes show differential expression. DS-DM preferentially affected CpGs in or near specific transcription factor binding sites (TFBSs), implicating a mechanism involving altered TFBS occupancy. Methyl-seq of brain DNA from mouse models with sub-chromosomal duplications mimicking DS reveals partial but significant overlaps with human DS-DM and shows that multiple chromosome 21 genes contribute to the downstream epigenetic effects.
These data point to novel biological mechanisms in DS and have general implications for trans effects of chromosomal duplications and aneuploidies on epigenetic patterning.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Previous studies have suggested that Alzheimer's disease (AD) causes an accelerated shortening of telomeres, the ends of chromosomes consisting of highly conserved TTAGGG repeats that, because of unidirectional 5'-3' DNA synthesis, lose end point material with each cell division. Our own previous work suggested that telomere length of T-lymphocytes might be a remarkably accurate biomarker for "mild cognitive impairment" in adults with Down syndrome (MCI-DS), a population at dramatically high risk for AD. To verify that the progression of cognitive and functional losses due to AD produced this observed telomere shortening, we have now examined sequential changes in telomere length in five individuals with Down syndrome (3F, 2M) as they transitioned from preclinical AD to MCI-DS (N=4) or dementia (N=1). As in our previous studies, we used PNA (peptide nucleic acid) probes for telomeres and the chromosome 2 centromere (as an "internal standard" expected to be unaffected by aging or dementia status), with samples from the same individuals now collected prior to and following development of MCI-DS or dementia. Consistent shortening of telomere length was observed over time. Further comparisons with our previous cross-sectional findings indicated that telomere lengths prior to clinical decline were similar to those of other adults with Down syndrome (DS) who have not experienced clinical decline while telomere lengths following transition to MCI-DS or dementia in the current study were comparable to those of other adults with DS who have developed MCI-DS or dementia. Taken together, findings indicate that telomere length has significant promise as a biomarker of clinical progression of AD for adults with DS, and further longitudinal studies of a larger sample of individuals with DS are clearly warranted to validate these findings and determine if and how factors affecting AD risk also influence these measures of telomere length.
No preview · Article · Nov 2015 · American Journal of Medical Genetics Part B Neuropsychiatric Genetics
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Background
Adults with Down syndrome (DS) are at risk of developing dementia and cognitive assessment is a fundamental part of the diagnostic process. Previously, we developed a Rapid Assessment for Developmental Disabilities (RADD), a brief, broadly focused direct test of cognition. In the current report, we assess whether the RADD is sensitive to dementia in DS and the degree to which it compares with other cognitive measures of dementia in this population.Methods
In a sample of 114 individuals with DS, with dementia diagnosed in 62%, the RADD was compared with the Dementia Questionnaire for Mentally Retarded Persons (DMR), the Bristol Activities of Daily Living Scale, Severe Impairment Battery (SIB), and the Brief Praxis Test (BPT).ResultsThe RADD showed predicted effects across intellectual disability (ID) levels and dementia status (p < 0.001). Six-month test-retest reliability for the subset of individuals without dementia was high (r(41) = 0.95, p < 0.001). Criterion-referenced validity was demonstrated by correlations between RADD scores and ID levels based upon prior intelligence testing and clinical diagnoses (rs(114) = 0.67, p = 0.001) and with other measures of cognitive skills, such as the BPT, SIB, and DMR-Sum of Cognitive scores (range 0.84 through 0.92). Using receiver operating characteristic curves for groups varying in pre-morbid severity of ID, the RADD exhibited high sensitivity (0.87) and specificity (0.81) in discriminating among individuals with and without dementia, although sensitivity was somewhat lower (0.73) for the subsample of dementia cases diagnosed no more than 2 years prior to their RADD assessment.Conclusion
Taken together, findings indicated that the RADD, a relatively brief, easy-to-administer test for cognitive function assessment across ID levels and dementia status, would be a useful component of cognitive assessments for adults with DS, including assessments explicitly focused on dementia.
No preview · Article · May 2015 · Journal of Intellectual Disability Research
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: People with intellectual disability (ID) are living longer than ever before, raising concerns about old-age associated disorders. Dementia is among the most serious of these disorders, and theories relating cognitive reserve to risk predict that older adults with ID should be particularly vulnerable. Previous estimates of relative risk for dementia associated with ID have been inconsistent, and the present analyses examined the possible influence of variation in diagnostic criteria on findings. As expected, relaxation in the stringency of case definition for adults with ID increased relative risk, underscoring the importance of developing valid criteria for defining mild cognitive impairment, early dementia, and distinguishing between the two in adults with ID. Once available, these standards will contribute to more effective evidence-based planning.
No preview · Article · Sep 2013 · Journal of Policy and Practice in Intellectual Disabilities
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Abstract Parental characteristics were significant predictors of health, functional abilities, and behavior problems in adults with Down syndrome (n = 75) over a 22-year time span, controlling for initial levels and earlier changes in these outcomes. Lower levels of behavior problems were predicted by improvements in maternal depressive symptoms. Higher levels of functional abilities were predicted by prior measures of and improvements in maternal depressive symptoms. Better health was predicted by prior measures of maternal depressive symptoms, paternal positive psychological well-being, relationship quality between fathers and their adult children, and improvements in maternal positive psychological well-being. Dementia status was also predicted by parental characteristics. The study suggests the importance of the family context for healthy aging in adults with Down syndrome.
No preview · Article · Jul 2013 · American Journal on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Background:
In individuals with Down syndrome, virtually all structures of the eye have some abnormality, which likely diminishes vision. We examined basic vision functions in adults with Down syndrome.
Materials and methods:
Participants completed a battery of psychophysical tests that probed a comprehensive array of visual functions. The performance of adults with Down syndrome was compared with younger and older adults without intellectual disability.
Adults with Down syndrome had significant vision deficits, reduced sensitivity across spatial frequencies and temporal modulation rates, reduced stereopsis, impaired vernier acuity and anomalies in colour discrimination. The pattern of deficits observed was similar to those seen by researchers examining adults with Alzheimer's disease.
Our findings suggest that a common mechanism may be responsible for the pattern of deficits observed, possibly the presence of Alzheimer's disease neuropathology in the visual association cortex. We also showed that individuals with mild to moderate intellectual disability are capable of participating in studies employing state-of-the-art psychophysical procedures. This has wider implications in terms of their ability to participate in research that use similar techniques.
No preview · Article · Jun 2013 · Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The chromosome 21 gene RCAN1, encoding a modulator of the calcineurin (CaN) phosphatase, is a candidate gene for contributing to cognitive disability in people with Down syndrome (DS; trisomy 21). To develop a physiologically relevant model for studying the biochemistry of RCAN1 and its contribution to DS, we generated bacterial artificial chromosome-transgenic (BAC-Tg) mouse lines containing the human RCAN1 gene with a C-terminal HA-FLAG epitope tag incorporated by recombineering. The BAC-Tg was expressed at levels only moderately higher than the native Rcan1 gene: approximately 1.5-fold in RCAN1
BAC-Tg1 and twofold in RCAN1
BAC-Tg2. Affinity purification of the RCAN1 protein complex from brains of these mice revealed a core complex of RCAN1 with CaN, glycogen synthase kinase 3-beta (Gsk3b), and calmodulin, with substoichiometric components, including LOC73419. The BAC-Tg mice are fully viable, but long-term synaptic potentiation is impaired in proportion to BAC-Tg dosage in hippocampal brain slices from these mice. RCAN1 can act as a tumor suppressor in some systems, but we found that the RCAN1 BAC-Tg did not reduce mammary cancer growth when present at a low copy number in Tp53;WAP-Cre mice. This work establishes a useful mouse model for investigating the biochemistry and dose-dependent functions of the RCAN1 protein in vivo.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: A public-private partnership to establish biomarkers of dementia in Down's syndrome could aid the development of preventive therapies for the dementia associated with both Down's syndrome and Alzheimer's disease, based on the apparent common pathogenic role of amyloid precursor protein in the two conditions.
No preview · Article · Aug 2012 · Nature Reviews Drug Discovery
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: This special issue of the Current Gerontology and Geriatrics Research journal was intended to cover selected issues defining the concerns faced by adults with Down syndrome as they grow older. As can be seen from this selection of papers, substantial gaps in our knowledge of the aging process in people with DS continue to persist and are critically important to address. Further, approaches for maintaining healthy aging in individuals with DS may also inform strategies for enhancing quality of life for other adults with ID or indeed in the general population. Ongoing longitudinal studies that monitor changes in health status, cognition, function, the development of dementia, and mortality will all be critically important for informing the development of policies and interventions to promote healthy aging in DS. A key challenge to aging adults with DS is the increasing risk for developing dementia; yet our social and medical infrastructure is not as well prepared for providing care to adults with DS as they age relative to the outstanding support available to children with DS and their families. The use of FDA-approved treatments for AD in the general population has met with limited success in people with DS . Therefore, it is critically important to explore novel interventions and potential prophylactic approaches that may provide individuals with DS the best possible opportunity to age gracefully. Such interventions along with further study of aging, dementia, and Alzheimer disease in DS are likely to be of fundamental importance in understanding AD in the general population.
Preview · Article · Jul 2012 · Current Gerontology and Geriatrics Research
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Previously, we established that short-term T lymphocyte cultures from people with Down syndrome (DS) and dementia (Alzheimer's disease) had shorter telomeres than did those from age- and sex-matched people with DS only, quantified as significantly reduced numbers of signals of peptide nucleic acid (PNA) telomere probes in whole metaphases [Jenkins et al. (2008); Neurosci Lett 440:340-343] as well as reduced telomere probe light intensity values in interphases [Jenkins et al. (2010); Neurobiol Aging 31:765-771]. We now describe shorter telomere length in adults with DS and mild cognitive impairment (MCI) compared to age- and sex-matched individuals with DS without MCI. Telomere length is quantified by reduced telomere signal numbers and shorter chromosome 1 telomeres measured in micrometers (microns). These findings were in agreement with quantitative light intensity measurements of chromosome 1 and chromosome 21 PNA telomere probes with and without the use of a "normalizing ratio" involving the fluorescence exhibited by a PNA probe for centromere 2, and with the use of light intensity measurements of interphase preparations. Most importantly, the distributions of chromosome 1 telomere lengths (in microns) were completely non-overlapping for adults with and without MCI, indicating that this measure has great promise as a biomarker for MCI as well as dementia in this population.
Full-text · Article · Jul 2012 · American Journal of Medical Genetics Part B Neuropsychiatric Genetics
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: A myriad of ophthalmic disorders is associated with the phenotype of Down syndrome including strabismus, cataracts, and refractive errors potentially resulting in significant visual impairment. Ophthalmic sequelae have been extensively studied in children and adolescents with Down syndrome but less often in older adults. In-depth review of medical records of older adults with Down syndrome indicated that ophthalmic disorders were common. Cataracts were the most frequent ophthalmic disorder reported, followed by refractive errors, strabismus, and presbyopia. Severity of intellectual disability was unrelated to the presence of ophthalmic disorders. Also, ophthalmic disorders were associated with lower vision-dependent functional and cognitive abilities, although not to the extent that was expected. The high prevalence of ophthalmic disorders highlights the need for periodic evaluations and individualized treatment plans for adults with Down syndrome, in general, but especially when concerns are identified.
Full-text · Article · Apr 2012 · Current Gerontology and Geriatrics Research
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: We have observed evidence of increased telomere shortening in short-term T-lymphocyte cultures following freezing and thawing of the original inoculum obtained by ficoll-paque gradient centrifugation, compared to T-lymphocytes that were cultured immediately without freezing and thawing from the same blood sample from 3 female and 3 male adults. Because freezing may have similar effects on other cell types, and because telomere shortening may only manifest its effects after many years or decades, we suggest there is a pressing need for evaluation of the effects of freezing on any cells envisioned for clinical applications, including embryo implantation.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Background/Aims. Genetic variants that affect estrogen activity may influence the risk of Alzheimer's disease (AD). In women with Down syndrome, we examined the relation of polymorphisms in hydroxysteroid-17beta-dehydrogenase (HSD17B1) to age at onset and risk of AD. HSD17B1 encodes the enzyme 17β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase (HSD1), which catalyzes the conversion of estrone to estradiol. Methods. Two hundred and thirty-eight women with DS, nondemented at baseline, 31-78 years of age, were followed at 14-18-month intervals for 4.5 years. Women were genotyped for 5 haplotype-tagging single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the HSD17B1 gene region, and their association with incident AD was examined. Results. Age at onset was earlier, and risk of AD was elevated from two- to threefold among women homozygous for the minor allele at 3 SNPs in intron 4 (rs676387), exon 6 (rs605059), and exon 4 in COASY (rs598126). Carriers of the haplotype TCC, based on the risk alleles for these three SNPs, had an almost twofold increased risk of developing AD (hazard ratio = 1.8, 95% CI, 1.1-3.1). Conclusion. These findings support experimental and clinical studies of the neuroprotective role of estrogen.
Full-text · Article · Mar 2012 · Current Gerontology and Geriatrics Research