Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Zygosity


β-III spectrin is present in the brain and is known to be important in the function of the cerebellum. Heterozygous mutations in SPTBN2, the gene encoding β-III spectrin, cause Spinocerebellar Ataxia Type 5 (SCA5), an adult-onset, slowly progressive, autosomal-dominant pure cerebellar ataxia. SCA5 is sometimes known as “Lincoln ataxia,” because the largest known family is descended from relatives of the United States President Abraham Lincoln. Using targeted capture and next-generation sequencing, we identified a homozygous stop codon in SPTBN2 in a consanguineous family in which childhood developmental ataxia co-segregates with cognitive impairment. The cognitive impairment could result from mutations in a second gene, but further analysis using whole-genome sequencing combined with SNP array analysis did not reveal any evidence of other mutations. We also examined a mouse knockout of β-III spectrin in which ataxia and progressive degeneration of cerebellar Purkinje cells has been previously reported and found morphological abnormalities in neurons from prefrontal cortex and deficits in object recognition tasks, consistent with the human cognitive phenotype. These data provide the first evidence that β-III spectrin plays an important role in cortical brain development and cognition, in addition to its function in the cerebellum; and we conclude that cognitive impairment is an integral part of this novel recessive ataxic syndrome, Spectrin-associated Autosomal Recessive Cerebellar Ataxia type 1 (SPARCA1). In addition, the identification of SPARCA1 and normal heterozygous carriers of the stop codon in SPTBN2 provides insights into the mechanism of molecular dominance in SCA5 and demonstrates that the cell-specific repertoire of spectrin subunits underlies a novel group of disorders, the neuronal spectrinopathies, which includes SCA5, SPARCA1, and a form of West syndrome.

Concepts: Neuron, Brain, Cerebral cortex, President of the United States, Cerebellum, Zygosity, Purkinje cell, Abraham Lincoln


Emerging sequencing technologies allow common and rare variants to be systematically assayed across the human genome in many individuals. In order to improve variant detection and genotype calling, raw sequence data are typically examined across many individuals. Here, we describe a method for genotype calling in settings where sequence data are available for unrelated individuals and parent-offspring trios and show that modeling trio information can greatly increase the accuracy of inferred genotypes and haplotypes, especially on low to modest depth sequencing data. Our method considers both linkage disequilibrium (LD) patterns and the constraints imposed by family structure when assigning individual genotypes and haplotypes. Using simulations, we show that trios provide higher genotype calling accuracy across the frequency spectrum, both overall and at hard-to-call heterozygous sites. In addition, trios provide greatly improved phasing accuracy-improving the accuracy of downstream analyses (such as genotype imputation) that rely on phased haplotypes. To further evaluate our approach, we analyzed data on the first 508 individuals sequenced by the SardiNIA sequencing project. Our results show that our method reduces the genotyping error rate by 50% compared with analysis using existing methods that ignore family structure. We anticipate our method will facilitate genotype calling and haplotype inference for many ongoing sequencing projects.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Human genome, Sequence, Zygosity, Linkage disequilibrium, Haplotype


BACKGROUND: When using Illumina high throughput short read data, sometimes the genotype inferred from the positive strand and negative strand are significantly different, with one homozygous and the other heterozygous. This phenomenon is known as strand bias. In this study, we used Illumina short-read sequencing data to evaluate the effect of strand bias on genotyping quality, and to explore the possible causes of strand bias.ResultWe collected 22 breast cancer samples from 22 patients and sequenced their exome using the Illumina GAIIx machine. By comparing the consistency between the genotypes inferred from this sequencing data with the genotypes inferred from SNP chip data, we found that, when using sequencing data, SNPs with extreme strand bias did not have significantly lower consistency rates compared to SNPs with low or no strand bias. However, this result may be limited by the small subset of SNPs present in both the exome sequencing and the SNP chip data. We further compared the transition and transversion ratio and the number of novel non-synonymous SNPs between the SNPs with low or no strand bias and those with extreme strand bias, and found that SNPs with low or no strand bias have better overall quality. We also discovered that the strand bias occurs randomly at genomic positions across these samples, and observed no consistent pattern of strand bias location across samples. By comparing results from two different aligners, BWA and Bowtie, we found very consistent strand bias patterns. Thus strand bias is unlikely to be caused by alignment artifacts. We successfully replicated our results using two additional independent datasets with different capturing methods and Illumina sequencers. CONCLUSION: Extreme strand bias indicates a potential high false-positive rate for SNPs.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Genotype, Evolution, Molecular biology, Zygosity, Consistency


BACKGROUND: Severe congenital neutropenia type 4 (SCN4) is an autosomal recessive disorder caused by mutations in the third subunit of the enzyme glucose-6-phosphatase (G6PC3). Its core features are congenital neutropenia and a prominent venous skin pattern, and affected individuals have variable birth defects. Oculocutaneous albinism type 4 (OCA4) is caused by autosomal recessive mutations in SLC45A2. METHODS: We report a sister and brother from Newfoundland, Canada with complex phenotypes. The sister was previously reported by Cullinane et al., 2011. We performed homozygosity mapping, next generation sequencing and conventional Sanger sequencing to identify mutations that cause the phenotype in this family. We have also summarized clinical data from 49 previously reported SCN4 cases with overlapping phenotypes and interpret the medical histories of these siblings in the context of the literature. RESULTS: The siblings' phenotype is due in part to a homozygous mutation in G6PC3, [c.829C > T, p.Gln277X]. Their ages are 38 and 37 years respectively and they are the oldest SCN4 patients published to date. Both presented with congenital neutropenia and later developed Crohn disease. We suggest that the latter is a previously unrecognized SCN4 manifestation and that not all affected individuals have an intellectual disability. The sister also has a homozygous mutation in SLC45A2, which explains her severe oculocutaneous hypopigmentation. Her brother carried one SLC45A2 mutation and was diagnosed with “partial OCA” in childhood. CONCLUSIONS: This family highlights that apparently novel syndromes can in fact be caused by two known autosomal recessive disorders.

Concepts: Genetic disorder, Mutation, Allele, Evolution, Phenylketonuria, Zygosity, Albinism, Dominance


Background Homozygous loss-of-function mutations in TREM2, encoding the triggering receptor expressed on myeloid cells 2 protein, have previously been associated with an autosomal recessive form of early-onset dementia. Methods We used genome, exome, and Sanger sequencing to analyze the genetic variability in TREM2 in a series of 1092 patients with Alzheimer’s disease and 1107 controls (the discovery set). We then performed a meta-analysis on imputed data for the TREM2 variant rs75932628 (predicted to cause a R47H substitution) from three genomewide association studies of Alzheimer’s disease and tested for the association of the variant with disease. We genotyped the R47H variant in an additional 1887 cases and 4061 controls. We then assayed the expression of TREM2 across different regions of the human brain and identified genes that are differentially expressed in a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease and in control mice. Results We found significantly more variants in exon 2 of TREM2 in patients with Alzheimer’s disease than in controls in the discovery set (P=0.02). There were 22 variant alleles in 1092 patients with Alzheimer’s disease and 5 variant alleles in 1107 controls (P<0.001). The most commonly associated variant, rs75932628 (encoding R47H), showed highly significant association with Alzheimer's disease (P<0.001). Meta-analysis of rs75932628 genotypes imputed from genomewide association studies confirmed this association (P=0.002), as did direct genotyping of an additional series of 1887 patients with Alzheimer's disease and 4061 controls (P<0.001). Trem2 expression differed between control mice and a mouse model of Alzheimer's disease. Conclusions Heterozygous rare variants in TREM2 are associated with a significant increase in the risk of Alzheimer's disease. (Funded by Alzheimer's Research UK and others.).

Concepts: Alzheimer's disease, DNA, Gene, Genetics, Mutation, Allele, Dementia, Zygosity


Alzheimer’s disease is one of the most significant healthcare problems nationally and globally. Recently, the first description of the reversal of cognitive decline in patients with early Alzheimer’s disease or its precursors, MCI (mild cognitive impairment) and SCI (subjective cognitive impairment), was published [1]. The therapeutic approach used was programmatic and personalized rather than monotherapeutic and invariant, and was dubbed metabolic enhancement for neurodegeneration (MEND). Patients who had had to discontinue work were able to return to work, and those struggling at work were able to improve their performance. The patients, their spouses, and their co-workers all reported clear improvements. Here we report the results from quantitative MRI and neuropsychological testing in ten patients with cognitive decline, nine ApoE4+ (five homozygous and four heterozygous) and one ApoE4-, who were treated with the MEND protocol for 5-24 months. The magnitude of the improvement is unprecedented, providing additional objective evidence that this programmatic approach to cognitive decline is highly effective. These results have far-reaching implications for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, MCI, and SCI; for personalized programs that may enhance pharmaceutical efficacy; and for personal identification of ApoE genotype.

Concepts: Alzheimer's disease, Better, Medicine, Improve, Neurocognitive, Apolipoprotein E, Zygosity, Mild cognitive impairment


Mitochondrial dysfunction and altered proteostasis are central features of neurodegenerative diseases. The pitrilysin metallopeptidase 1 (PITRM1) is a mitochondrial matrix enzyme, which digests oligopeptides, including the mitochondrial targeting sequences that are cleaved from proteins imported across the inner mitochondrial membrane and the mitochondrial fraction of amyloid beta (Aβ). We identified two siblings carrying a homozygous PITRM1 missense mutation (c.548G>A, p.Arg183Gln) associated with an autosomal recessive, slowly progressive syndrome characterised by mental retardation, spinocerebellar ataxia, cognitive decline and psychosis. The pathogenicity of the mutation was tested in vitro, in mutant fibroblasts and skeletal muscle, and in a yeast model. A Pitrm1(+/-) heterozygous mouse showed progressive ataxia associated with brain degenerative lesions, including accumulation of Aβ-positive amyloid deposits. Our results show that PITRM1 is responsible for significant Aβ degradation and that impairment of its activity results in Aβ accumulation, thus providing a mechanistic demonstration of the mitochondrial involvement in amyloidotic neurodegeneration.

Concepts: Mutation, Metabolism, Mitochondrion, Amyloid, Neurodegenerative disorders, Citric acid cycle, Phenylketonuria, Zygosity


An organism with a single recessive loss-of-function allele will typically have a wild-type phenotype, whereas individuals homozygous for two copies of the allele will display a mutant phenotype. We have developed a method called the mutagenic chain reaction (MCR), which is based on the CRISPR/Cas9 genome-editing system for generating autocatalytic mutations, to produce homozygous loss-of-function mutations. In Drosophila, we found that MCR mutations efficiently spread from their chromosome of origin to the homologous chromosome, thereby converting heterozygous mutations to homozygosity in the vast majority of somatic and germline cells. MCR technology should have broad applications in diverse organisms.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Mutation, Bacteria, Evolution, Classical genetics, Zygosity


PURPOSE: To assess the mutation spectrum, enzymatic activity, and phenotypic features associated with CYP1B1 genotypes in primary congenital glaucoma (PCG) and nondominant juvenile glaucoma (ndJG). DESIGN: CYP1B1 genotyping, segregation analysis, and functional evaluation of mutations in a cohort of patients. PARTICIPANTS: A total of 177 probands clinically diagnosed with PCG (161) or ndJG (16). METHODS: Automatic DNA sequencing of the promoter (-1 to -867) and the 3 CYP1B1 exons. CYP1B1 enzymatic activity was evaluated using an ethoxyresorufin O-deethylation assay in transfected HEK-293T cells. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Screening and functional evaluation of CYP1B1 mutations. Glaucoma diagnosis based on slit-lamp examination, measurement of intraocular pressure, gonioscopy, and fundus examination. RESULTS: Thirty-one different mutations were identified in 56 PCG and 7 ndJG index cases. To the best of our knowledge, 3 of the identified mutations were novel (-337G>T, F123L, and I399_P400del). Approximately 56% of all mutation carriers were compound heterozygotes, 25% were homozygotes, and both groups inherited glaucoma as an autosomal recessive trait. Nineteen percent of carriers were heterozygotes and showed non-Mendelian segregation. In vitro and inferred functional analysis showed that no less than approximately 74% of the recessive genotypes result in null enzymatic activity. We detected variable expressivity in relation to age of onset and a possible case of incomplete penetrance in 3 of 6 families (50%), with more than 1 affected child or more than 1 subject carrying 2 CYP1B1 mutant alleles. Altogether, these data support that PCG is not a simple monogenic disease. In addition, most patients with PCG carrying null or putative null genotypes showed severe bilateral phenotypes featured by early disease onset, frequently at birth. The mean number of trabeculectomies per eye was significantly higher in carriers than in noncarriers. CONCLUSIONS: This is the largest analysis of CYP1B1 mutations performed in European patients with PCG to date. Our data show that null CYP1B1 genotypes, and therefore complete absence of CYP1B1 activity, frequently lead to severe phenotypes. Our results support that CYP1B1 glaucoma is not a simple monogenic disease and that CYP1B1 activity levels could influence the phenotype. FINANCIAL DISCLOSURE(S): The author(s) have no proprietary or commercial interest in any materials discussed in this article.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Mutation, Allele, Evolution, Phenylketonuria, Zygosity, Dominance


Autosomal recessive hereditary spastic paraplegias (AR-HSP) constitute a heterogeneous group of neurodegenerative diseases involving pyramidal tracts dysfunction. The genes responsible for many types of AR-HSPs remain unknown. We attempted to identify the gene responsible for AR-HSP with optic atrophy and neuropathy.

Concepts: DNA, Genetics, Allele, Evolution, Biology, Chromosome, Zygosity, Hereditary spastic paraplegia