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Human Molecular Genetics

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The genes and cells that mediate genetic associations identified through genome-wide association studies (GWAS) are only partially understood. Several studies that have investigated the genetic regulation of gene expression have shown that disease-associated variants are over-represented amongst expression quantitative trait loci (eQTL) variants. Evidence for colocalisation of eQTL and disease causal variants can suggest causal genes and cells for these genetic associations. Here, we used colocalisation analysis to investigate whether 595 genetic associations to ten immune-mediated diseases are consistent with a causal variant that regulates, in cis, gene expression in resting B cells, and in resting and stimulated monocytes. Previously published candidate causal genes were over-represented amongst genes exhibiting colocalisation (odds ratio > 1.5), and we identified evidence for colocalisation (posterior odds > 5) between cis eQTLs in at least one cell type and at least one disease for six genes: ADAM15, RGS1, CARD9, LTBR, CTSH and SYNGR1. We identified cell-specific effects, such as for CTSH, the expression of which in monocytes, but not in B cells, may mediate type 1 diabetes and narcolepsy associations in the chromosome 15q25.1 region. Our results demonstrate the utility of integrating genetic studies of disease and gene expression for highlighting causal genes and cell types.

Like genetic mutations, DNA methylation anomalies or epimutations can disrupt gene expression and lead to human diseases. However, unlike genetic mutations, epimutations can in theory be reverted through developmental epigenetic reprograming, which should limit their transmission across generations. Following the request for a parental project of a patient diagnosed with Silver–Russell syndrome (SRS), and the availability of both somatic and spermatozoa DNA from the proband and his father, we had the exceptional opportunity to evaluate the question of inheritance of an epimutation. We provide here for the first time evidence for efficient reversion of a constitutive epimutation in the spermatozoa of an SRS patient, which has important implication for genetic counseling.

Glaucoma is a multifactorial optic neuropathy characterized by retinal ganglion cell (RGC) death and axonal degeneration leading to irreversible blindness. Mutations in the MYOCILIN (MYOC) gene are the most common genetic factors of primary open-angle glaucoma. To develop a genetic mouse model induced by the synergistic interaction of mutated myocilin and another significant risk factor, oxidative stress, we produced double-mutant mice (Tg-MYOCY437H/+/Sod2+/–) bearing human MYOC with a Y437H point mutation and a heterozygous deletion of the gene for the primary antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase 2 (SOD2). Sod2 is broadly expressed in most tissues including the trabecular meshwork (TM) and heterozygous Sod2 knockout mice exhibit the reduced SOD2 activity and oxidative stress in all studied tissues. Accumulation of Y437H myocilin in the TM induced endoplasmic reticulum stress and led to a 45% loss of smooth muscle alpha-actin positive cells in the eye drainage structure of 10- to 12-month-old Tg-MYOCY437H/+/Sod2+/– mice as compared with wild-type littermates. Tg-MYOCY437H/+/Sod2+/– mice had higher intraocular pressure, lost about 37% of RGCs in the peripheral retina, and exhibited axonal degeneration in the retina and optic nerve as compared with their wild-type littermates. Single-mutant littermates containing MYOCY437H/+ or Sod2+/– exhibited no significant pathological changes until 12 months of age. Additionally, we observed elevated expression of endothelial leukocyte adhesion molecule-1, a human glaucoma marker, in the TM of Tg-MYOCY437H/+/Sod2+/– mice. This is the first reported animal glaucoma model that combines expression of a glaucoma-causing mutant gene and an additional mutation mimicking a deleterious environment factor that acts synergistically.

Both gain- and loss-of-function mutations have recently implicated HCFC1 in neurodevelopmental disorders. Here, we extend our previous HCFC1 over-expression studies by employing short hairpin RNA to reduce the expression of Hcfc1 in embryonic neural cells. We show that in contrast to over-expression, loss of Hcfc1 favoured proliferation of neural progenitor cells at the expense of differentiation and promoted axonal growth of post-mitotic neurons. To further support the involvement of HCFC1 in neurological disorders, we report two novel HCFC1 missense variants found in individuals with intellectual disability (ID). One of these variants, together with three previously reported HCFC1 missense variants of unknown pathogenicity, were functionally assessed using multiple cell-based assays. We show that three out of the four variants tested result in a partial loss of HCFC1 function. While over-expression of the wild-type HCFC1 caused reduction in HEK293T cell proliferation and axonal growth of neurons, these effects were alleviated upon over-expression of three of the four HCFC1 variants tested. One of these partial loss-of-function variants disrupted a nuclear localization sequence and the resulting protein displayed reduced ability to localize to the cell nucleus. The other two variants displayed negative effects on the expression of the HCFC1 target gene MMACHC, which is responsible for the metabolism of cobalamin, suggesting that these individuals may also be susceptible to cobalamin deficiency. Together, our work identifies plausible cellular consequences of missense HCFC1 variants and identifies likely and relevant disease mechanisms that converge on embryonic stages of brain development.

Distal arthrogryposis is the most common known heritable cause of congenital contractures (e.g. clubfoot) and results from mutations in genes that encode proteins of the contractile complex of skeletal muscle cells. Mutations are most frequently found in MYH3 and are predicted to impair the function of embryonic myosin. We measured the contractile properties of individual skeletal muscle cells and the activation and relaxation kinetics of isolated myofibrils from two adult individuals with an R672C substitution in embryonic myosin and distal arthrogryposis syndrome 2A (DA2A) or Freeman-Sheldon syndrome. In R672C-containing muscle cells, we observed reduced specific force, a prolonged time to relaxation and incomplete relaxation (elevated residual force). In R672C-containing muscle myofibrils, the initial, slower phase of relaxation had a longer duration and slower rate, and time to complete relaxation was greatly prolonged. These observations can be collectively explained by a small subpopulation of myosin cross-bridges with greatly reduced detachment kinetics, resulting in a slower and less complete deactivation of thin filaments at the end of contractions. These findings have important implications for selecting and testing directed therapeutic options for persons with DA2A and perhaps congenital contractures in general.

Defects in FAM161A, a protein of unknown function localized at the cilium of retinal photoreceptor cells, cause retinitis pigmentosa, a form of hereditary blindness. By using different fragments of this protein as baits to screen cDNA libraries of human and bovine retinas, we defined a yeast two-hybrid-based FAM161A interactome, identifying 53 bona fide partners. In addition to statistically significant enrichment in ciliary proteins, as expected, this interactome revealed a substantial bias towards proteins from the Golgi apparatus, the centrosome and the microtubule network. Validation of interaction with key partners by co-immunoprecipitation and proximity ligation assay confirmed that FAM161A is a member of the recently recognized Golgi-centrosomal interactome, a network of proteins interconnecting Golgi maintenance, intracellular transport and centrosome organization. Notable FAM161A interactors included AKAP9, FIP3, GOLGA3, KIFC3, KLC2, PDE4DIP, NIN and TRIP11. Furthermore, analysis of FAM161A localization during the cell cycle revealed that this protein followed the centrosome during all stages of mitosis, likely reflecting a specific compartmentalization related to its role at the ciliary basal body during the G0 phase. Altogether, these findings suggest that FAM161A's activities are probably not limited to ciliary tasks but also extend to more general cellular functions, highlighting possible novel mechanisms for the molecular pathology of retinal disease.

Globoid cell leukodystrophy (GLD) is a lysosomal storage disease caused by deficient activity of β-galactocerebrosidase (GALC). The infantile forms manifest with rapid and progressive central and peripheral demyelination, which represent a major hurdle for any treatment approach. We demonstrate here that neonatal lentiviral vector-mediated intracerebral gene therapy (IC GT) or transplantation of GALC-overexpressing neural stem cells (NSC) synergize with bone marrow transplant (BMT) providing dramatic extension of lifespan and global clinical–pathological rescue in a relevant GLD murine model. We show that timely and long-lasting delivery of functional GALC in affected tissues ensured by the exclusive complementary mode of action of the treatments underlies the outstanding benefit. In particular, the contribution of neural stem cell transplantation and IC GT during the early asymptomatic stage of the disease is instrumental to enhance long-term advantage upon BMT. We clarify the input of central nervous system, peripheral nervous system and periphery to the disease, and the relative contribution of treatments to the final therapeutic outcome, with important implications for treatment strategies to be tried in human patients. This study gives proof-of-concept of efficacy, tolerability and clinical relevance of the combined gene/cell therapies proposed here, which may constitute a feasible and effective therapeutic opportunity for children affected by GLD.

Target of rapamycin complex 1 (TORC1) is an important regulator of neuronal function. However, whereas a modest activation of the TORC1 signaling pathway has been shown to affect synaptic plasticity, learning and memory, the effect of TORC1 hypo-activation is less clear. This knowledge is particularly important since TORC1 inhibitors may hold great promise for treating a variety of disorders, including developmental disorders, aging-related disorders, epilepsy and cancer. Such treatments are likely to be long lasting and could involve treating young children. Hence, it is pivotal that the effects of sustained TORC1 inhibition on brain development and cognitive function are determined. Here, we made use of constitutive and conditional Rheb1 mutant mice to study the effect of prolonged and specific reduction in the TORC1 pathway. We show that Rheb1 mutant mice show up to 75% reduction in TORC1 signaling, but develop normally and show intact synaptic plasticity and hippocampus-dependent learning and memory. We discuss our findings in light of current literature in which the effect of pharmacological inhibition of TORC1 is studied in the context of synaptic plasticity and learning. We conclude that in contrast to TORC1 hyper-activity, cognitive function is not very sensitive to sustained and specific down-regulation of TORC1 activity.

Autosomal dominant omodysplasia is a rare skeletal dysplasia characterized by short humeri, radial head dislocation, short first metacarpals, facial dysmorphism and genitourinary anomalies. We performed next-generation whole-exome sequencing and comparative analysis of a proband with omodysplasia, her unaffected parents and her affected daughter. We identified a de novo mutation in FRIZZLED2 (FZD2) in the proband and her daughter that was not found in unaffected family members. The FZD2 mutation (c.1644G>A) changes a tryptophan residue at amino acid 548 to a premature stop (p.Trp548*). This altered protein is still produced in vitro, but we show reduced ability of this mutant form of FZD2 to interact with its downstream target DISHEVELLED. Furthermore, expressing the mutant form of FZD2 in vitro is not able to facilitate the cellular response to canonical Wnt signaling like wild-type FZD2. We therefore conclude that the FRIZZLED2 mutation is a de novo, novel cause for autosomal dominant omodysplasia.

Alternative polyadenylation (APA) is an important post-transcriptional modification implicated in many diseases, including cancer. Although extensively characterized, the functional consequence of APA modulation on tumorigenesis remains elusive. Here, we developed a deep sequencing-based approach that specifically profiles 3' termini of polyadenylated RNAs (herein termed 3T-seq) and analyzed APA events in two gastric cancer cell lines and one non-transformed counterpart. Overall, we identified >28 000 poly(A) sites, 70% of which are potentially novel. Further, we observed widespread APA-mediated 3' UTR shortening of 513 genes (false discovery rate < 0.05) across gastric cancer genome. We characterized one of these genes, NET1, in detail and found that the shortening of NET1 3' UTR significantly enhances transcriptional activity. Moreover, the NET1 isoform with short 3' UTR promotes cellular migration and invasion in vitro. Collectively, our work provides an effective approach for genome-wide APA site profiling and reveals a link between APA modulation and gastric cancer metastasis.

Mutations in the gene encoding glutamine-fructose-6-phosphate transaminase 1 (GFPT1) cause the neuromuscular disorder limb-girdle congenital myasthenic syndrome (LG-CMS). One recurrent GFPT1 mutation detected in LG-CMS patients is a c.*22C>A transversion in the 3'-untranslated region (UTR). Because this variant does not alter the GFPT1 open reading frame, its pathogenic relevance has not yet been established. We found that GFPT1 protein levels were reduced in myoblast cells of the patients carrying this variant. In silico algorithms predicted that the mutation creates a microRNA target site for miR-206*. Investigation of the expression of this so far unrecognized microRNA confirmed that miR-206* (like its counterpart miR-206) is abundant in skeletal muscle. MiR-206* efficiently reduced the expression of reporter constructs containing the mutated 3'-UTR while no such effect was observed with reporter constructs containing the wild-type 3'-UTR or when a specific anti-miR-206* inhibitor was added. Moreover, anti-miR-206* inhibitor treatment substantially rescued GFPT1 expression levels in patient-derived myoblasts. Our data demonstrate that the c.*22C>A mutation in the GFPT1 gene leads to illegitimate binding of microRNA resulting in reduced protein expression. We confirm that c.*22C>A is a causative mutation and suggest that formation of microRNA target sites might be a relevant pathomechanism in Mendelian disorders. Variants in the 3'-UTRs should be considered in genetic diagnostic procedures.

We previously showed by in vitro experiments that the cysteine residue (Cys111) near the dimer interface is critical for monomerization and resultant aggregate formation of mutant Cu, Zn-superoxide dismutase (SOD1) protein, which is toxic to motor neurons in familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). To verify the importance of Cys111 in the mutant SOD1-associated ALS pathogenesis in vivo, we analyzed the disease phenotype of SOD1 transgenic mice harboring H46R mutation alone (H46R mice) or H46R/C111S double mutations (H46R/C111S mice). Behavioral, histological and biochemical analyses of the spinal cord showed that the onset and progression of the disease phenotype were delayed in H46R/C111S mice compared with H46R mice. We found that peroxidized Cys111 of H46R SOD1 plays a role in promoting formation of high molecular weight insoluble SOD1 species that is correlated with the progression of the motor neuron disease phenotype. These results support that Cys111 is a critical residue for the neuronal toxicity of mutant SOD1 in vivo, and the blockage of peroxidation of this residue in mutant SOD1 may constitute a future target for developing ALS treatment.

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a fatal neurodegenerative disorder that primarily affects motoneurons in the brain and spinal cord. Astrocyte and microglia activation as well as skeletal muscle atrophy are also typical hallmarks of the disease. However, the functional relationship between astrocytes, microglia and skeletal muscle in the pathogenic process remains unclear. Here, we report that the tumor necrosis factor-like weak inducer of apoptosis (Tweak) and its receptor Fn14 are aberrantly expressed in spinal astrocytes and skeletal muscle of SOD1G93A mice. We show that Tweak induces motoneuron death, stimulates astrocytic interleukin-6 release and astrocytic proliferation in vitro. The genetic ablation of Tweak in SOD1G93A mice significantly reduces astrocytosis, microgliosis and ameliorates skeletal muscle atrophy. The peripheral neutralization of Tweak through antagonistic anti-Tweak antibody ameliorates muscle pathology and notably, decreases microglial activation in SOD1G93A mice. Unexpectedly, none of these approaches improved motor function, lifespan and motoneuron survival. Our work emphasizes the multi-systemic aspect of ALS, and suggests that a combinatorial therapy targeting multiple cell types will be instrumental to halt the neurodegenerative process.

Abnormally expanded DNA repeats are associated with several neurodegenerative diseases. In Friedreich's ataxia (FRDA), expanded GAA repeats in intron 1 of the frataxin gene (FXN) reduce FXN mRNA levels in averaged cell samples through a poorly understood mechanism. By visualizing FXN expression and nuclear localization in single cells, we show that GAA-expanded repeats decrease the number of FXN mRNA molecules, slow transcription, and increase FXN localization at the nuclear lamina (NL). Restoring histone acetylation reverses NL positioning. Expanded GAA-FXN loci in FRDA patient cells show increased NL localization with increased silencing of alleles and reduced transcription from alleles positioned peripherally. We also demonstrate inefficiencies in transcription initiation and elongation from the expanded GAA-FXN locus at single-cell resolution. We suggest that repressive epigenetic modifications at the expanded GAA-FXN locus may lead to NL relocation, where further repression may occur.

The human salivary amylase genes display extensive copy number variation (CNV), and recent work has implicated this variation in adaptation to starch-rich diets, and in association with body mass index. In this work, we use paralogue ratio tests, microsatellite analysis, read depth and fibre-FISH to demonstrate that human amylase CNV is not a smooth continuum, but is instead partitioned into distinct haplotype classes. There is a fundamental structural distinction between haplotypes containing odd or even numbers of AMY1 gene units, in turn coupled to CNV in pancreatic amylase genes AMY2A and AMY2B. Most haplotypes have one copy each of AMY2A and AMY2B and contain an odd number of copies of AMY1; consequently, most individuals have an even total number of AMY1. In contrast, haplotypes carrying an even number of AMY1 genes have rearrangements leading to CNVs of AMY2A/AMY2B. Read-depth and experimental data show that different populations harbour different proportions of these basic haplotype classes. In Europeans, the copy numbers of AMY1 and AMY2A are correlated, so that phenotypic associations caused by variation in pancreatic amylase copy number could be detected indirectly as weak association with AMY1 copy number. We show that the quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) assay previously applied to the high-throughput measurement of AMY1 copy number is less accurate than the measures we use and that qPCR data in other studies have been further compromised by systematic miscalibration. Our results uncover new patterns in human amylase variation and imply a potential role for AMY2 CNV in functional associations.

Huntington's disease (HD) is a neurodegenerative disease associated with extensive down-regulation of genes controlling neuronal function, particularly in the striatum. Whether altered epigenetic regulation underlies transcriptional defects in HD is unclear. Integrating RNA-sequencing (RNA-seq) and chromatin-immunoprecipitation followed by massively parallel sequencing (ChIP-seq), we show that down-regulated genes in HD mouse striatum associate with selective decrease in H3K27ac, a mark of active enhancers, and RNA Polymerase II (RNAPII). In addition, we reveal that decreased genes in HD mouse striatum display a specific epigenetic signature, characterized by high levels and broad patterns of H3K27ac and RNAPII. Our results indicate that this signature is that of super-enhancers, a category of broad enhancers regulating genes defining tissue identity and function. Specifically, we reveal that striatal super-enhancers display extensive H3K27 acetylation within gene bodies, drive transcription characterized by low levels of paused RNAPII, regulate neuronal function genes and are enriched in binding motifs for Gata transcription factors, such as Gata2 regulating striatal identity genes. Together, our results provide evidence for preferential down-regulation of genes controlled by super-enhancers in HD striatum and indicate that enhancer topography is a major parameter determining the propensity of a gene to be deregulated in a neurodegenerative disease.

Mucolipidosis II (MLII) and III alpha/beta are autosomal-recessive diseases of childhood caused by mutations in GNPTAB encoding the α/β-subunit precursor protein of the GlcNAc-1-phosphotransferase complex. This enzyme modifies lysosomal hydrolases with mannose 6-phosphate targeting signals. Upon arrival in the Golgi apparatus, the newly synthesized α/β-subunit precursor is catalytically activated by site-1 protease (S1P). Here we performed comprehensive expression studies of GNPTAB mutations, including two novel mutations T644M and T1223del, identified in Brazilian MLII/MLIII alpha/beta patients. We show that the frameshift E757KfsX1 and the non-sense R587X mutations result in the retention of enzymatically inactive truncated precursor proteins in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) due to loss of cytosolic ER exit motifs consistent with a severe clinical phenotype in homozygosity. The luminal missense mutations, C505Y, G575R and T644M, partially impaired ER exit and proteolytic activation in accordance with less severe MLIII alpha/beta disease symptoms. Analogous to the previously characterized S399F mutant, we found that the missense mutation I403T led to retention in the ER and loss of catalytic activity. Substitution of further conserved residues in stealth domain 2 (I346 and W357) revealed similar biochemical properties and allowed us to define a putative binding site for accessory proteins required for ER exit of α/β-subunit precursors. Interestingly, the analysis of the Y937_M972del mutant revealed partial Golgi localization and formation of abnormal inactive β-subunits generated by S1P which correlate with a clinical MLII phenotype. Expression analyses of mutations identified in patients underline genotype–phenotype correlations in MLII/MLIII alpha/beta and provide novel insights into structural requirements of proper GlcNAc-1-phosphotransferase activity.

The association between breast cancer risk and genetic variants of fibroblast growth factor receptor 2 (FGFR2) has been identified and repeatedly confirmed; however, the mechanism underlying FGFR2 in breast tumorigenesis remains obscure. Given that breast tumorigenesis is particularly related to DNA double-strand-break-repair (DSBR), we examined the hypothesis that FGFR2 is involved in DSBR. Our results show that expression of Mre11, a vital exonuclease in DSBR, is downregulated by FGFR2, which is further linked to decreased DSBR. Analysis of the Mre11 promoter revealed that POU1F1 mediates FGFR2-induced Mre11 downregulation. Furthermore, ERK, downstream of FGFR2, directly interacts with and phosphorylates POU1F1, increasing POU1F1 binding capacity to the Mre11 promoter and repressing Mre11 expression, which consequently affects DSBR and sensitizes breast cancer cells to chemotherapeutic treatments. The importance of the FGFR2-Mre11-DSBR link in cancer progression is suggested by the finding that genotypes of FGFR2 and Mre11 are associated with survival of breast cancer patients and that FGFR2 expression correlates with cancer prognosis specifically in patients receiving chemotherapy. This study yields important insight into the role of FGFR2 in breast tumorigenesis and may facilitate development of a useful therapeutic approach for breast cancer.

Neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) is a common autosomal dominant neurologic condition characterized by significant clinical heterogeneity, ranging from malignant cancers to cognitive deficits. Recent studies have begun to reveal rare genotype–phenotype correlations, suggesting that the specific germline NF1 gene mutation may be one factor underlying disease heterogeneity. The purpose of this study was to define the impact of the germline NF1 gene mutation on brain neurofibromin function relevant to learning. Herein, we employ human NF1-patient primary skin fibroblasts, induced pluripotent stem cells and derivative neural progenitor cells (NPCs) to demonstrate that NF1 germline mutations have dramatic effects on neurofibromin expression. Moreover, while all NF1-patient NPCs exhibit increased RAS activation and reduced cyclic AMP generation, there was a neurofibromin dose-dependent reduction in dopamine (DA) levels. Additionally, we leveraged two complementary Nf1 genetically-engineered mouse strains in which hippocampal-based learning and memory is DA-dependent to establish that neuronal DA levels and signaling as well as mouse spatial learning are controlled in an Nf1 gene dose-dependent manner. Collectively, this is the first demonstration that different germline NF1 gene mutations differentially dictate neurofibromin function in the brain.

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a neurodegenerative disease characterized by the loss of motor neuron-like cells. Mutations in the RNA- and DNA-binding proteins, fused in sarcoma (FUS) and transactive response DNA-binding protein 43 kDa (TDP-43), are responsible for 5–10% of familial and 1% of sporadic ALS cases. Importantly, aggregation of misfolded FUS or TDP-43 is also characteristic of several neurodegenerative disorders in addition to ALS, including frontotemporal lobar degeneration. Moreover, splicing deregulation of FUS and TDP-43 target genes as well as mitochondrial abnormalities are associated with disease-causing FUS and TDP-43 mutants. While progress has been made to understand the functions of these proteins, the exact mechanisms by which FUS and TDP-43 cause ALS remain unknown. Recently, we discovered that, in addition to being up-regulated in spinal cords of ALS patients, the novel protein oxidative resistance 1 (Oxr1) protects neurons from oxidative stress-induced apoptosis. To further understand the function of Oxr1, we present here the first interaction study of the protein. We show that Oxr1 binds to Fus and Tdp-43 and that certain ALS-associated mutations in Fus and Tdp-43 affect their Oxr1-binding properties. We further demonstrate that increasing Oxr1 levels in cells expressing specific Fus and Tdp-43 mutants improves the three main cellular features associated with ALS: cytoplasmic mis-localization and aggregation, splicing changes of a mitochondrial gene and mitochondrial defects. Taken together, these findings suggest that OXR1 may have therapeutic benefits for the treatment of ALS and related neurodegenerative disorders with TDP-43 pathology.

LRRK2 (leucine-rich repeat kinase) mutations constitute the most common cause of familial Parkinson's disease (PD). Microtubule-associated protein tau mutations cause a group of neurodegenerative diseases termed tauopathies. Genome-wide association studies show that, after α-synuclein, polymorphisms in the tau gene have the second strongest genetic association with PD. In a proportion of PD patients with LRRK2 mutations, and in several transgenic animal models of LRRK2, tau hyperphosphorylation and aggregation, rather than α-synuclein aggregation, are the most prominent neuropathologic findings. To further examine the relationship between LRRK2 and tau, we crossed LRRK2 R1441G BAC transgenic mice (Mus musculus) with tau P301S mutant transgenic mice and characterized their behavioral, neuropathological and biochemical phenotypes. We found that the combination of the two mutations does not increase tau hyperphosphorylation or aggregation nor does it exacerbate the behavioral and pathological deficits previously described in the tau P301S mice. The double-mutant mice had no shortening of lifespan and no worsening of motor or memory deficits. There was no increase in the aggregation of tau or α-synuclein. Dopaminergic neuron cell counts and striatal levels of dopamine and its metabolites were unaltered. There was no exacerbation of cell loss, microgliosis or astrogliosis in multiple brain regions. These results suggest that LRRK2 and tau do not interact to exacerbate behavioral, biochemical or pathological abnormalities in neurodegeneration and that LRRK2 and tau exert their pathogenic effects through independent mechanisms.

The CD33 single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) rs3865444 has been associated with the risk of Alzheimer's disease (AD). Rs3865444 is in linkage disequilibrium with rs12459419 which has been associated with efficacy of an acute myeloid leukemia (AML) chemotherapeutic agent based on a CD33 antibody. We seek to evaluate the extent to which CD33 genetics in AD and AML can inform one another and advance human disease therapy. We have previously shown that these SNPs are associated with skipping of CD33 exon 2 in brain mRNA. Here, we report that these CD33 SNPs are associated with exon 2 skipping in leukocytes from AML patients and with a novel CD33 splice variant that retains CD33 intron 1. Each copy of the minor rs12459419T allele decreases prototypic full-length CD33 expression by ~25% and decreases the AD odds ratio by ~0.10. These results suggest that CD33 antagonists may be useful in reducing AD risk. CD33 inhibitors may include humanized CD33 antibodies such as lintuzumab which was safe but ineffective in AML clinical trials. Here, we report that lintuzumab downregulates cell-surface CD33 by 80% in phorbol-ester differentiated U937 cells, at concentrations as low as 10 ng/ml. Overall, we propose a model wherein a modest effect on RNA splicing is sufficient to mediate the CD33 association with AD risk and suggest the potential for an anti-CD33 antibody as an AD-relevant pharmacologic agent.

The type I interferon (IFN) system is persistently activated in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and many other systemic autoimmune diseases. Studies have shown an association between SLE and several gene variants within the type I IFN system. We investigated whether single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) associated with SLE and other autoimmune diseases affect the IFN-α production in healthy individuals. Plasmacytoid dendritic cells (pDCs), B cells and NK cells were isolated from peripheral blood of healthy individuals and stimulated with RNA-containing immune complexes (ICs), herpes simplex virus (HSV) or the oligonucleotide ODN2216. IFN-α production by pDCs alone or in cocultures with B or NK cells was measured by an immunoassay. All donors were genotyped with the 200K ImmunoChip, and a 5 bp CGGGG length polymorphism in the IFN regulatory factor 5 gene (IRF5) was genotyped by PCR. We found associations between IFN-α production and 18–86 SNPs (P ≤ 0.001), depending on the combination of the stimulated cell types. However, only three of these associated SNPs were shared between the cell-type combinations. Several SNPs showed novel associations to the type I IFN system among all the associated SNPs, whereas some loci have been described earlier for their association with SLE. Furthermore, we found that the SLE-risk variant of the IRF5 CGGGG-indel was associated with lower IFN-α production. We conclude that the genetic variants affecting the IFN-α production highlight the intricate regulation of the type I IFN system and the importance of understanding the mechanisms behind the dysregulated type I IFN system in SLE.

Polymorphisms rs6232 and rs6234/rs6235 in PCSK1 have been associated with extreme obesity [e.g. body mass index (BMI) ≥ 40 kg/m2], but their contribution to common obesity (BMI ≥ 30 kg/m2) and BMI variation in a multi-ethnic context is unclear. To fill this gap, we collected phenotypic and genetic data in up to 331 175 individuals from diverse ethnic groups. This process involved a systematic review of the literature in PubMed, Web of Science, Embase and the NIH GWAS catalog complemented by data extraction from pre-existing GWAS or custom-arrays in consortia and single studies. We employed recently developed global meta-analytic random-effects methods to calculate summary odds ratios (OR) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) or beta estimates and standard errors (SE) for the obesity status and BMI analyses, respectively. Significant associations were found with binary obesity status for rs6232 (OR = 1.15, 95% CI 1.06–1.24, P = 6.08 x 10–6) and rs6234/rs6235 (OR = 1.07, 95% CI 1.04–1.10, P = 3.00 x 10–7). Similarly, significant associations were found with continuous BMI for rs6232 (β = 0.03, 95% CI 0.00–0.07; P = 0.047) and rs6234/rs6235 (β = 0.02, 95% CI 0.00–0.03; P = 5.57 x 10–4). Ethnicity, age and study ascertainment significantly modulated the association of PCSK1 polymorphisms with obesity. In summary, we demonstrate evidence that common gene variation in PCSK1 contributes to BMI variation and susceptibility to common obesity in the largest known meta-analysis published to date in genetic epidemiology.