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Human Molecular Genetics

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In a large Scottish pedigree, disruption of the gene coding for DISC1 clearly segregates with major depression, schizophrenia and related mental conditions. Thus, study of DISC1 may provide a clue to understand the biology of major mental illness. A neuropeptide precursor VGF has potent antidepressant effects and has been reportedly associated with bipolar disorder. Here we show that DISC1 knockdown leads to a reduction of VGF, in neurons. VGF is also downregulated in the cortices from sporadic cases with major mental disease. A positive correlation of VGF single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) with social anhedonia was also observed. We now propose that VGF participates in a common pathophysiology of major mental disease.


Determining the full complement of protein-coding genes is a key goal of genome annotation. The most powerful approach for confirming protein-coding potential is the detection of cellular protein expression through peptide mass spectrometry (MS) experiments. Here, we mapped peptides detected in seven large-scale proteomics studies to almost 60% of the protein-coding genes in the GENCODE annotation of the human genome. We found a strong relationship between detection in proteomics experiments and both gene family age and cross-species conservation. Most of the genes for which we detected peptides were highly conserved. We found peptides for >96% of genes that evolved before bilateria. At the opposite end of the scale, we identified almost no peptides for genes that have appeared since primates, for genes that did not have any protein-like features or for genes with poor cross-species conservation. These results motivated us to describe a set of 2001 potential non-coding genes based on features such as weak conservation, a lack of protein features, or ambiguous annotations from major databases, all of which correlated with low peptide detection across the seven experiments. We identified peptides for just 3% of these genes. We show that many of these genes behave more like non-coding genes than protein-coding genes and suggest that most are unlikely to code for proteins under normal circumstances. We believe that their inclusion in the human protein-coding gene catalogue should be revised as part of the ongoing human genome annotation effort.


Proper localization and anchorage of nuclei within skeletal muscle is critical for cellular function. Alterations in nuclear anchoring proteins modify a number of cellular functions including mechanotransduction, nuclear localization, chromatin positioning/compaction and overall organ function. In skeletal muscle, nesprin 1 and desmin are thought to link the nucleus to the cytoskeletal network. Thus, we hypothesize that both of these factors play a key role in skeletal muscle function. To examine this question, we utilized global ablation murine models of nesprin 1, desmin or both nesprin 1 and desmin. Herein, we have created the nesprin-desmin double-knockout (DKO) mouse, eliminating a major fraction of nuclear-cytoskeletal connections and enabling understanding of the importance of nuclear anchorage in skeletal muscle. Globally, DKO mice are marked by decreased lifespan, body weight and muscle strength. With regard to skeletal muscle, DKO myonuclear anchorage was dramatically decreased compared with wild-type, nesprin 1–/– and desmin–/– mice. Additionally, nuclear-cytoskeletal strain transmission was decreased in DKO skeletal muscle. Finally, loss of nuclear anchorage in DKO mice coincided with a fibrotic response as indicated by increased collagen and extracellular matrix deposition and increased passive mechanical properties of muscle bundles. Overall, our data demonstrate that nesprin 1 and desmin serve redundant roles in nuclear anchorage and that the loss of nuclear anchorage in skeletal muscle results in a pathological response characterized by increased tissue fibrosis and mechanical stiffness.


Interindividual variation in cytosine modifications could contribute to heterogeneity in disease risks and other complex traits. We assessed the genetic architecture of cytosine modifications at 283 540 CpG sites in lymphoblastoid cell lines (LCLs) derived from independent samples of European and African descent. Our study suggests that cytosine modification variation was primarily controlled in local by single major modification quantitative trait locus (mQTL) and additional minor loci. Local genetic epistasis was detectable for a small proportion of CpG sites, which were enriched by more than 9-fold for CpG sites mapped to population-specific mQTL. Genetically dependent CpG sites whose modification levels negatively (repressive sites) or positively (facilitative sites) correlated with gene expression levels significantly co-localized with transcription factor binding, with the repressive sites predominantly associated with active promoters whereas the facilitative sites rarely at active promoters. Genetically independent repressive or facilitative sites preferentially modulated gene expression variation by influencing local chromatin accessibility, with the facilitative sites primarily antagonizing H3K27me3 and H3K9me3 deposition. In comparison with expression quantitative trait loci (eQTL), mQTL detected from LCLs were enriched in associations for a broader range of disease categories including chronic inflammatory, autoimmune and psychiatric disorders, suggesting that cytosine modification variation, while possesses a degree of cell linage specificity, is more stably inherited over development than gene expression variation. About 11% of unique single-nucleotide polymorphisms reported in the Genome-Wide Association Study Catalog were annotated, 78% as mQTL and 31% as eQTL in LCLs, which covered 37% of the investigated diseases/traits and provided insights to the biological mechanisms.


Determining the molecular mechanism(s) leading to Purkinje neuron loss in the neurodegenerative disorder fragile X-associated tremor/ataxia syndrome (FXTAS) is limited by the complex morphology of this cell type. Purkinje neurons are notoriously difficult to isolate and maintain in culture presenting considerable difficultly to identify molecular changes in response to expanded CGG repeat (rCGG)-containing mRNA that induces neurotoxicity in FXTAS. Several studies have uncovered a number of RNA-binding proteins involved in translation that aberrantly interact with the CGG-containing RNA; however, whether these interactions alter the translational profile of cells has not been investigated. Here we employ bacTRAP translational profiling to demonstrate that Purkinje neurons ectopically expressing 90 CGG repeats exhibit a dramatic change in their translational profile even prior to the onset of rCGG-induced phenotypes. This approach identified ~500 transcripts that are differentially associated with ribosomes in r(CGG)90-expressing mice. Functional annotation cluster analysis revealed broad ontologies enriched in the r(CGG)90 list, including RNA binding and response to stress. Intriguingly, a transcript for the Tardbp gene, implicated in a number of other neurodegenerative disorders, exhibits altered association with ribosomes in the presence of r(CGG)90 repeats. We therefore tested and showed that reduced association of Tardbp mRNA with the ribosomes results in a loss of TDP-43 protein expression in r(CGG)90-expressing Purkinje neurons. Furthermore, we showed that TDP-43 could modulate the rCGG repeat-mediated toxicity in a Drosophila model that we developed previously. These findings together suggest that translational dysregulation may be an underlying mechanism of rCGG-induced neurotoxicity in FXTAS.


Adult onset neuronal lipofuscinosis (ANCL) is a human neurodegenerative disorder characterized by progressive neuronal dysfunction and premature death. Recently, the mutations that cause ANCL were mapped to the DNAJC5 gene, which encodes cysteine string protein alpha. We show here that mutating dnj-14, the Caenorhabditis elegans orthologue of DNAJC5, results in shortened lifespan and a small impairment of locomotion and neurotransmission. Mutant dnj-14 worms also exhibited age-dependent neurodegeneration of sensory neurons, which was preceded by severe progressive chemosensory defects. A focussed chemical screen revealed that resveratrol could ameliorate dnj-14 mutant phenotypes, an effect mimicked by the cAMP phosphodiesterase inhibitor, rolipram. In contrast to other worm neurodegeneration models, activation of the Sirtuin, SIR-2.1, was not required, as sir-2.1; dnj-14 double mutants showed full lifespan rescue by resveratrol. The Sirtuin-independent neuroprotective action of resveratrol revealed here suggests potential therapeutic applications for ANCL and possibly other human neurodegenerative diseases.


Huntington's disease (HD) is an autosomal inherited neurological disease caused by a CAG-repeat expansion in the first exon of huntingtin gene encoding for the huntingtin protein (Htt). In HD, there is an accumulation of intracellular aggregates of mutant Htt that negatively influence cellular functions. The aggregates contain ubiquitin, and part of the HD pathophysiology could result from an imbalance in cellular ubiquitin levels. Deubiquitinating enzymes are important for replenishing the ubiquitin pool, but less is known about their roles in brain diseases. We show here that overexpression of the ubiquitin-specific protease-14 (Usp14) reduces cellular aggregates in mutant Htt-expressing cells mainly via the ubiquitin proteasome system. We also observed that the serine–threonine kinase IRE1 involved in endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress responses is activated in mutant Htt-expressing cells in culture as well as in the striatum of mutant Htt transgenic (BACHD) mice. Usp14 interacted with IRE1 in control cells but less in mutant Htt-expressing cells. Overexpression of Usp14 in turn was able to inhibit phosphorylation of IRE1α in mutant Htt-overexpressing cells and to protect against cell degeneration and caspase-3 activation. These results show that ER stress-mediated IRE1 activation is part of mutant Htt toxicity and that this is counteracted by Usp14 expression. Usp14 effectively reduced cellular aggregates and counteracted cell degeneration indicating an important role of this protein in mutant Htt-induced cell toxicity.


Asymmetric cell division is essential for normal human brain development. Mutations in several genes encoding centrosomal proteins that participate in accurate cell division have been reported to cause autosomal recessive primary microcephaly (MCPH). By homozygosity mapping including three affected individuals from a consanguineous MCPH family from Pakistan, we delineated a critical region of 18.53 Mb on Chromosome 1p21.3-1p13.1. This region contains the gene encoding HsSAS-6, a centrosomal protein primordial for seeding the formation of new centrioles during the cell cycle. Both next-generation and Sanger sequencing revealed a homozygous c.185T>C missense mutation in the HsSAS-6 gene, resulting in a p.Ile62Thr substitution within a highly conserved region of the PISA domain of HsSAS-6. This variant is neither present in any single-nucleotide polymorphism or exome sequencing databases nor in a Pakistani control cohort. Experiments in tissue culture cells revealed that the Ile62Thr mutant of HsSAS-6 is substantially less efficient than the wild-type protein in sustaining centriole formation. Together, our findings demonstrate a dramatic impact of the mutation p.Ile62Thr on HsSAS-6 function and add this component to the list of genes mutated in primary microcephaly.


Ribonuclease H2 plays an essential role for genome stability as it removes ribonucleotides misincorporated into genomic DNA by replicative polymerases and resolves RNA/DNA hybrids. Biallelic mutations in the genes encoding the three RNase H2 subunits cause Aicardi–Goutières syndrome (AGS), an early-onset inflammatory encephalopathy that phenotypically overlaps with the autoimmune disorder systemic lupus erythematosus. Here we studied the intracellular dynamics of RNase H2 in living cells during DNA replication and in response to DNA damage using confocal time-lapse imaging and fluorescence cross-correlation spectroscopy. We demonstrate that the RNase H2 complex is assembled in the cytosol and imported into the nucleus in an RNase H2B-dependent manner. RNase H2 is not only recruited to DNA replication foci, but also to sites of PCNA-dependent DNA repair. By fluorescence recovery after photobleaching, we demonstrate a high mobility and fast exchange of RNase H2 at sites of DNA repair and replication. We provide evidence that recruitment of RNase H2 is not only PCNA-dependent, mediated by an interaction of the B subunit with PCNA, but also PCNA-independent mediated via the catalytic domain of the A subunit. We found that AGS-associated mutations alter complex formation, recruitment efficiency and exchange kinetics at sites of DNA replication and repair suggesting that impaired ribonucleotide removal contributes to AGS pathogenesis.


Golgi fragmentation is an early hallmark of many neurodegenerative diseases but its pathophysiological relevance and molecular mechanisms are unclear. We here demonstrate severe and progressive Golgi fragmentation in motor neurons of progressive motor neuronopathy (pmn) mice due to loss of the Golgi-localized tubulin-binding cofactor E (TBCE). Loss of TBCE in mutant pmn and TBCE-depleted motor neuron cultures causes defects in Golgi-derived microtubules, as expected, but surprisingly also reduced levels of COPI subunits, decreased recruitment of tethering factors p115/GM130 and impaired Golgi SNARE-mediated vesicle fusion. Conversely, ARF1, which stimulates COPI vesicle formation, enhances the recruitment of TBCE to the Golgi, increases polymerization of Golgi-derived microtubules and rescues TBCE-linked Golgi fragmentation. These data indicate an ARF1/TBCE-mediated cross-talk that coordinates COPI formation and tubulin polymerization at the Golgi. We conclude that interruption of this cross-talk causes Golgi fragmentation in pmn mice and hypothesize that similar mechanisms operate in human amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and spinal muscular atrophy.


Mutations in the von Hippel–Lindau (VHL) gene are pathogenic in VHL disease, congenital polycythaemia and clear cell renal carcinoma (ccRCC). pVHL forms a ternary complex with elongin C and elongin B, critical for pVHL stability and function, which interacts with Cullin-2 and RING-box protein 1 to target hypoxia-inducible factor for polyubiquitination and proteasomal degradation. We describe a comprehensive database of missense VHL mutations linked to experimental and clinical data. We use predictions from in silico tools to link the functional effects of missense VHL mutations to phenotype. The risk of ccRCC in VHL disease is linked to the degree of destabilization resulting from missense mutations. An optimized binary classification system (symphony), which integrates predictions from five in silico methods, can predict the risk of ccRCC associated with VHL missense mutations with high sensitivity and specificity. We use symphony to generate predictions for risk of ccRCC for all possible VHL missense mutations and present these predictions, in association with clinical and experimental data, in a publically available, searchable web server.


Outer segments (OSs) of rod photoreceptors are cellular compartments specialized in the conversion of light into electrical signals. This process relies on the light-triggered change in the intracellular levels of cyclic guanosine monophosphate, which in turn controls the activity of cyclic nucleotide-gated (CNG) channels in the rod OS plasma membrane. The rod CNG channel is a macromolecular complex that in its core harbors the ion-conducting CNGA1 and CNGB1a subunits. To identify additional proteins of the complex that interact with the CNGB1a core subunit, we applied affinity purification of mouse retinal proteins followed by mass spectrometry. In combination with in vitro and in vivo co-immunoprecipitation and fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET), we found that the tetraspanin peripherin-2 links CNGB1a to the light-detector rhodopsin. Using immunoelectron microscopy, we found that this peripherin-2/rhodopsin/CNG channel complex localizes to the contact region between the disk rims and the plasma membrane. FRET measurements revealed that the fourth transmembrane domain (TM4) of peripherin-2 is required for the interaction with rhodopsin. Quantitatively, the binding affinity of the peripherin-2/rhodopsin interaction was in a similar range as that observed for rhodopsin dimers. Finally, we demonstrate that the p.G266D retinitis pigmentosa mutation found within TM4 selectively abolishes the binding of peripherin-2 to rhodopsin. This finding suggests that the specific disruption of the rhodopsin/peripherin-2 interaction in the p.G266D mutant might contribute to the pathophysiology in affected persons.


Primary Hyperoxaluria type I (PH1) is a rare disease due to the deficit of peroxisomal alanine:glyoxylate aminotransferase (AGT), a homodimeric pyridoxal-5'-phosphate (PLP) enzyme present in humans as major (Ma) and minor (Mi) allele. PH1-causing mutations are mostly missense identified in both homozygous and compound heterozygous patients. Until now, the pathogenesis of PH1 has been only studied by approaches mimicking homozygous patients, whereas the molecular aspects of the genotype-enzymatic-clinical phenotype relationship in compound heterozygous patients are completely unknown. Here, for the first time, we elucidate the enzymatic phenotype linked to the S81L mutation on AGT-Ma, relative to a PLP-binding residue, and how it changes when the most common mutation G170R on AGT-Mi, known to cause AGT mistargeting without affecting the enzyme functionality, is present in the second allele. By using a bicistronic eukaryotic expression vector, we demonstrate that (i) S81L-Ma is mainly in its apo-form and has a significant peroxisomal localization and (ii) S81L and G170R monomers interact giving rise to the G170R-Mi/S81L-Ma holo-form, which is imported into peroxisomes and exhibits an enhanced functionality with respect to the parental enzymes. These data, integrated with the biochemical features of the heterodimer and the homodimeric counterparts in their purified recombinant form, (i) highlight the molecular basis of the pathogenicity of S81L-Ma and (ii) provide evidence for a positive interallelic complementation between the S81L and G170R monomers. Our study represents a valid approach to investigate the molecular pathogenesis of PH1 in compound heterozygous patients.


Endometriosis is a complex and enigmatic disease that arises from the interplay among multiple genetic and environmental factors. The defining feature of endometriosis is the deposition and growth of endometrial tissues at sites outside of the uterine cavity. Studies to date have established that endometriosis is heritable but have not addressed the causal genetic variants for this disease. Here, we conducted whole-exome sequencing to comprehensively search for somatic mutations in both eutopic and ectopic endometrium from 16 endometriosis patients and five normal control patients using laser capture microdissection. We compared the mutational landscape of ectopic endometrium with the corresponding eutopic sample from endometriosis patients compared with endometrium from normal women and identified previously unreported mutated genes and pathway alternations. Statistical analysis of exome data identified that most genes were specifically mutated in both eutopic and ectopic endometrium cells. In particular, genes that are involved in biological adhesion, cell–cell junctions, and chromatin-remodeling complex(es) were identified, which partially supports the retrograde menstruation theory that proposes that endometrial cells are refluxed through the fallopian tubes during menstruation and implanted onto the peritoneum or pelvic organs. Conspicuously, when we compared exomic mutation data for paired eutopic and ectopic endometrium, we identified a mutational signature in both endometrial types for which no overlap in somatic single nucleotide variants were observed. These mutations occurred in a mutually exclusive manner, likely because of the discrepancy in endometriosis pathology and physiology, as eutopic endometrium rapidly regrows, and ectopic endometrial growth is inert. Our findings provide, to our knowledge, an unbiased view of the landscape of genetic alterations in endometriosis and vital information for indicating that genetic alterations in cytoskeletal and chromatin-remodeling proteins could be involved in the pathogenesis of endometriosis, thus implicating a novel therapeutic possibility for endometriosis.


Niemann–Pick C1 (NPC1) disease is a rare, neurodegenerative lysosomal cholesterol storage disorder, typified by progressive cognitive and motor function impairment. Affected individuals usually succumb to the disease in adolescence. 2-Hydroxypropyl-β-cyclodextrin (HP-β-CD) has emerged as a promising intervention that reduces lipid storage and prolongs survival in NPC1 disease animal models. A barrier to the development of HP-β-CD and other treatments for NPC disease has been the lack of validated biochemical measures to evaluate efficacy. Here we explored whether cholesterol homeostatic responses resulting from HP-β-CD-mediated redistribution of sequestered lysosomal cholesterol could provide biomarkers to monitor treatment. Upon direct CNS delivery of HP-β-CD, we found increases in plasma 24(S)-HC in two independent NPC1 disease animal models, findings that were confirmed in human NPC1 subjects receiving HP-β-CD. Since circulating 24(S)-HC is almost exclusively CNS-derived, the increase in plasma 24(S)-HC provides a peripheral, non-invasive measure of the CNS effect of HP-β-CD. Our findings suggest that plasma 24(S)-HC, along with the other cholesterol-derived markers examined in this study, can serve as biomarkers that will accelerate development of therapeutics for NPC1 disease.


Mitotic index is an important component of histologic grade and has an etiologic role in breast tumorigenesis. Several small candidate gene studies have reported associations between variation in mitotic genes and breast cancer risk. We measured associations between 2156 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) from 194 mitotic genes and breast cancer risk, overall and by histologic grade, in the Breast Cancer Association Consortium (BCAC) iCOGS study (n = 39 067 cases; n = 42 106 controls). SNPs in TACC2 [rs17550038: odds ratio (OR) = 1.24, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.16–1.33, P = 4.2 x 10–10) and EIF3H (rs799890: OR = 1.07, 95% CI 1.04–1.11, P = 8.7 x 10–6) were significantly associated with risk of low-grade breast cancer. The TACC2 signal was retained (rs17550038: OR = 1.15, 95% CI 1.07–1.23, P = 7.9 x 10–5) after adjustment for breast cancer risk SNPs in the nearby FGFR2 gene, suggesting that TACC2 is a novel, independent genome-wide significant genetic risk locus for low-grade breast cancer. While no SNPs were individually associated with high-grade disease, a pathway-level gene set analysis showed that variation across the 194 mitotic genes was associated with high-grade breast cancer risk (P = 2.1 x 10–3). These observations will provide insight into the contribution of mitotic defects to histological grade and the etiology of breast cancer.


Cervical cancer is caused by infection with human papillomavirus (HPV). A genome-wide association study (GWAS) has identified several susceptibility loci for cervical cancer, but they explain only a small fraction of cervical cancer heritability. Other variants with weaker effect may be missed due to the stringent significance threshold. To identify important pathways in cervical carcinogenesis, we performed a two-stage pathway analysis in two independent GWASs in the Swedish population, using the single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) ratio test. The 565 predefined pathways from Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes and BioCarta databases were systematically evaluated in the discovery stage (1034 cases and 3948 controls with 632 668 SNPs) and the suggestive pathways were further validated in the replication stage (616 cases and 506 controls with 341 358 SNPs). We found 12 pathways that were significant in both stages, and these were further validated using set-based analysis. For 10 of these pathways, the effect was mainly due to genetic variation within the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) region. In addition, we identified a set of novel candidate genes outside the MHC region in the pathways denoted ‘Staphylococcus aureus infection’ and ‘herpes simplex infection’ that influenced susceptibility to cervical cancer (empirical P = 4.99 x 10–5 and 4.99 x 10–5 in the discovery study; empirical P = 8.98 x 10–5 and 0.009 in the replication study, respectively). Staphylococcus aureus infection may evoke an inflammatory response that inadvertently enhances malignant progression caused by HPV infection, and Herpes simplex virus-2 infection may act in conjunction with HPV infection to increase the risk of cervical carcinoma development. These findings provide new insights into the etiology of cervical cancer.


Genome-wide association (GWA) studies of testicular germ cell tumor (TGCT) have identified 18 susceptibility loci, some containing genes encoding proteins important in male germ cell development. Deletions of one of these genes, DMRT1, lead to male-to-female sex reversal and are associated with development of gonadoblastoma. To further explore genetic association with TGCT, we undertook a pathway-based analysis of SNP marker associations in the Penn GWAs (349 TGCT cases and 919 controls). We analyzed a custom-built sex determination gene set consisting of 32 genes using three different methods of pathway-based analysis. The sex determination gene set ranked highly compared with canonical gene sets, and it was associated with TGCT (FDRG = 2.28 x 10–5, FDRM = 0.014 and FDRI = 0.008 for Gene Set Analysis-SNP (GSA-SNP), Meta-Analysis Gene Set Enrichment of Variant Associations (MAGENTA) and Improved Gene Set Enrichment Analysis for Genome-wide Association Study (i-GSEA4GWAS) analysis, respectively). The association remained after removal of DMRT1 from the gene set (FDRG = 0.0002, FDRM = 0.055 and FDRI = 0.009). Using data from the NCI GWA scan (582 TGCT cases and 1056 controls) and UK scan (986 TGCT cases and 4946 controls), we replicated these findings (NCI: FDRG = 0.006, FDRM = 0.014, FDRI = 0.033, and UK: FDRG = 1.04 x 10–6, FDRM = 0.016, FDRI = 0.025). After removal of DMRT1 from the gene set, the sex determination gene set remains associated with TGCT in the NCI (FDRG = 0.039, FDRM = 0.050 and FDRI = 0.055) and UK scans (FDRG = 3.00 x 10–5, FDRM = 0.056 and FDRI = 0.044). With the exception of DMRT1, genes in the sex determination gene set have not previously been identified as TGCT susceptibility loci in these GWA scans, demonstrating the complementary nature of a pathway-based approach for genome-wide analysis of TGCT.


Rolandic epilepsy (RE) is the most common idiopathic focal childhood epilepsy. Its molecular basis is largely unknown and a complex genetic etiology is assumed in the majority of affected individuals. The present study tested whether six large recurrent copy number variants at 1q21, 15q11.2, 15q13.3, 16p11.2, 16p13.11 and 22q11.2 previously associated with neurodevelopmental disorders also increase risk of RE. Our association analyses revealed a significant excess of the 600 kb genomic duplication at the 16p11.2 locus (chr16: 29.5–30.1 Mb) in 393 unrelated patients with typical (n = 339) and atypical (ARE; n = 54) RE compared with the prevalence in 65 046 European population controls (5/393 cases versus 32/65 046 controls; Fisher's exact test P = 2.83 x 10–6, odds ratio = 26.2, 95% confidence interval: 7.9–68.2). In contrast, the 16p11.2 duplication was not detected in 1738 European epilepsy patients with either temporal lobe epilepsy (n = 330) and genetic generalized epilepsies (n = 1408), suggesting a selective enrichment of the 16p11.2 duplication in idiopathic focal childhood epilepsies (Fisher's exact test P = 2.1 x 10–4). In a subsequent screen among children carrying the 16p11.2 600 kb rearrangement we identified three patients with RE-spectrum epilepsies in 117 duplication carriers (2.6%) but none in 202 carriers of the reciprocal deletion. Our results suggest that the 16p11.2 duplication represents a significant genetic risk factor for typical and atypical RE.


Birdshot chorioretinopathy (BSCR) is a rare form of autoimmune uveitis that can lead to severe visual impairment. Intriguingly, >95% of cases carry the HLA-A29 allele, which defines the strongest documented HLA association for a human disease. We have conducted a genome-wide association study in 96 Dutch and 27 Spanish cases, and 398 unrelated Dutch and 380 Spanish controls. Fine-mapping the primary MHC association through high-resolution imputation at classical HLA loci, identified HLA-A*29:02 as the principal MHC association (odds ratio (OR) = 157.5, 95% CI 91.6–272.6, P = 6.6 x 10–74). We also identified two novel susceptibility loci at 5q15 near ERAP2 (rs7705093; OR = 2.3, 95% CI 1.7–3.1, for the T allele, P = 8.6 x 10–8) and at 14q32.31 in the TECPR2 gene (rs150571175; OR = 6.1, 95% CI 3.2–11.7, for the A allele, P = 3.2 x 10–8). The association near ERAP2 was confirmed in an independent British case–control samples (combined meta-analysis P = 1.7 x 10–9). Functional analyses revealed that the risk allele of the polymorphism near ERAP2 is strongly associated with high mRNA and protein expression of ERAP2 in B cells. This study further defined an extremely strong MHC risk component in BSCR, and detected evidence for a novel disease mechanism that affects peptide processing in the endoplasmic reticulum.


Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) in schizophrenia have focused on additive allelic effects to identify disease risk loci. In order to examine potential recessive effects, we applied a novel approach to identify regions of excess homozygosity in an ethnically homogenous cohort: 904 schizophrenia cases and 1640 controls drawn from the Ashkenazi Jewish (AJ) population. Genome-wide examination of runs of homozygosity identified an excess in cases localized to the major histocompatibility complex (MHC). To refine this signal, we used the recently developed GERMLINE algorithm to identify chromosomal segments shared identical-by-descent (IBD) and compared homozygosity at such segments in cases and controls. We found a significant excess of homozygosity in schizophrenia cases compared with controls in the MHC (P-value = 0.003). An independent replication cohort of 548 schizophrenia cases from Japan and 542 matched healthy controls demonstrated similar effects. The strongest case–control recessive effects (P = 8.81 x 10–8) were localized to a 53-kb region near HLA-A, in a segment encompassing three poorly annotated genes, TRIM10, TRIM15 and TRIM40. At the same time, an adjacent segment in the Class I MHC demonstrated clear additive effects on schizophrenia risk, demonstrating the complexity of association in the MHC and the ability of our IBD approach to refine localization of broad signals derived from conventional GWAS. In sum, homozygosity in the classical MHC region appears to convey significant risk for schizophrenia, consistent with the ecological literature suggesting that homozygosity at the MHC locus may be associated with vulnerability to disease.


Candidate variant association studies have been largely unsuccessful in identifying common breast cancer susceptibility variants, although most studies have been underpowered to detect associations of a realistic magnitude. We assessed 41 common non-synonymous single-nucleotide polymorphisms (nsSNPs) for which evidence of association with breast cancer risk had been previously reported. Case-control data were combined from 38 studies of white European women (46 450 cases and 42 600 controls) and analyzed using unconditional logistic regression. Strong evidence of association was observed for three nsSNPs: ATXN7-K264R at 3p21 [rs1053338, per allele OR = 1.07, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 1.04–1.10, P = 2.9 x 10–6], AKAP9-M463I at 7q21 (rs6964587, OR = 1.05, 95% CI = 1.03–1.07, P = 1.7 x 10–6) and NEK10-L513S at 3p24 (rs10510592, OR = 1.10, 95% CI = 1.07–1.12, P = 5.1 x 10–17). The first two associations reached genome-wide statistical significance in a combined analysis of available data, including independent data from nine genome-wide association studies (GWASs): for ATXN7-K264R, OR = 1.07 (95% CI = 1.05–1.10, P = 1.0 x 10–8); for AKAP9-M463I, OR = 1.05 (95% CI = 1.04–1.07, P = 2.0 x 10–10). Further analysis of other common variants in these two regions suggested that intronic SNPs nearby are more strongly associated with disease risk. We have thus identified a novel susceptibility locus at 3p21, and confirmed previous suggestive evidence that rs6964587 at 7q21 is associated with risk. The third locus, rs10510592, is located in an established breast cancer susceptibility region; the association was substantially attenuated after adjustment for the known GWAS hit. Thus, each of the associated nsSNPs is likely to be a marker for another, non-coding, variant causally related to breast cancer risk. Further fine-mapping and functional studies are required to identify the underlying risk-modifying variants and the genes through which they act.


Common cancers have been demarcated into ‘hereditary’ or ‘sporadic’ (‘non-hereditary’) types historically. Such distinctions initially arose from work identifying rare, highly penetrant germline mutations causing ‘hereditary’ cancer. While rare mutations are important in particular families, most cases in the general population are ‘sporadic’. Twin studies have suggested that many ‘sporadic’ cancers show little or no heritability. To quantify the role of germline mutations in cancer susceptibility, we applied a method for estimating the importance of common genetic variants (array heritability, h2g) to twelve cancer types. The following cancers showed a significant (P < 0.05) array heritability: melanoma USA set h2g = 0.19 (95% CI = 0.01–0.37) and Australian set h2g = 0.30 (0.10–0.50); pancreatic h2g = 0.18 (0.06–0.30); prostate h2g = 0.81 (0.32–1); kidney h2g = 0.18 (0.04–0.32); ovarian h2g = 0.30 (0.18–0.42); esophageal adenocarcinoma h2g = 0.24 (0.14–0.34); esophageal squamous cell carcinoma h2g = 0.19 (0.07–0.31); endometrial UK set h2g = 0.23 (0.01–0.45) and Australian set h2g = 0.39 (0.02–0.76). Three cancers showed a positive but non-significant effect: breast h2g = 0.13 (0–0.56); gastric h2g = 0.11 (0–0.27); lung h2g = 0.10 (0–0.24). One cancer showed a small effect: bladder h2g = 0.01 (0–0.11). Among these cancers, previous twin studies were only able to show heritability for prostate and breast cancer, but we can now make much stronger statements for several common cancers which emphasize the important role of genetic variants in cancer susceptibility. We have demonstrated that several ‘sporadic’ cancers have a significant inherited component. Larger genome-wide association studies in these cancers will continue to find more loci, which explain part of the remaining polygenic component.


Age-related cataract is a leading cause of blindness worldwide, especially in developing countries where access to cataract surgery remains limited. Previous linkage and candidate gene studies suggested genetic influences on age-related nuclear cataract but few genetic markers have been identified thus far. We conducted genome-wide association studies on 4569 Asians (including 2369 Malays and 2200 Indians), and replicated our analysis in 2481 Chinese from two independent cohorts (1768 Chinese in Singapore and 803 Chinese in Beijing). We confirmed two genome-wide significant loci for nuclear cataract in the combined meta-analysis of four cohorts (n = 7140). The first locus was at chromosome 3q25.31 in KCNAB1 (rs7615568, fixed-effect Pmeta = 2.30 x 10–8; random-effect Pmeta = 1.08 x 10–8). The second locus was at chromosome 21 in the proximity of CRYAA (rs11911275, fixed-effect Pmeta = 2.77 x 10–8; random-effect Pmeta = 1.98 x 10–9), a major protein component of eye lens. The findings were further supported by up-regulation and down-regulation of KCNAB1 and CRYAA in human lens capsule, respectively, as the severity of nuclear cataract increases. The results offer additional insights into the pathogenesis of nuclear cataract in Asians.


Corneal curvature (CC) measures the steepness of the cornea and is an important parameter for clinically diseases such as astigmatism and myopia. Despite the high heritability of CC, only two associated genes have been discovered to date. We performed a three-stage genome-wide association study meta-analysis in 12 660 Asian individuals. Our Stage 1 was done in multiethnic cohorts comprising 7440 individuals, followed by a Stage 2 replication in 2473 Chinese and Stage 3 in 2747 Japanese. The SNP array genotype data were imputed up to the 1000 Genomes Project Phase 1 cosmopolitan panel. The SNP association with the radii of CC was investigated in the linear regression model with the adjustment of age, gender and principal components. In addition to the known genes, MTOR (also known as FRAP1) and PDGFRA, we discovered two novel genes associated with CC: CMPK1 (rs17103186, P = 3.3 x 10–12) and RBP3 (rs11204213 [Val884Met], P = 1.1 x 10–13). The missense RBP3 SNP, rs11204213, was also associated with axial length (AL) (P = 4.2 x 10–6) and had larger effects on both CC and AL compared with other SNPs. The index SNPs at the four indicated loci explained 1.9% of CC variance across the Stages 1 and 2 cohorts, while 33.8% of CC variance was explained by the genome-wide imputation data. We identified two novel genes influencing CC, which are related to either corneal shape or eye size. This study provides additional insights into genetic architecture of corneal shape.