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Journal: BMC genetics

174

BACKGROUND: Knowledge of genetic markers that are correlated to stress tolerance may improve spatial mapping of reef vulnerability and can inform restoration efforts, including the choice of genotypes for breeding and reseeding. In this manuscript we present two methods for screening transcriptome data for candidate genetic markers in two reef building corals, Acropora millepora and Pocillopora damicornis (types alpha and beta). In A. millepora, Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs) were pre-selected by targeting genes believed to be involved in the coral thermal stress responses. In P. damicornis (type alpha and beta), SNPs showing varying allele frequencies between two populations from distinct environments were pre-selected. Allele frequencies at nine, five and eight of the pre-selected SNP loci were correlated against gradients of water clarity and temperature in a large number of populations along the Great Barrier Reef. RESULTS: A significant correlation between environmental category and SNP allele frequency was detected in up to 55% of the tested loci, which is an exceptional success rate for these types of tests. In P. damicornis, SNP allele frequencies of beta-hexosaminidase and Elongation factor 1-alpha were significantly correlated to temperature in type alpha and to temperature and/or water clarity respectively in type beta. Type alpha also showed a correlation between water clarity and SNP allele frequency in a gene of unknown function. In A. millepora, allele frequencies at five (beta-gamma crystallin, Galaxin, Ubiquitin, Ligand of Numb X2 and Thioredoxin) SNP loci showed significant correlations. CONCLUSIONS: After validation of these candidate loci through laboratory or field assessment of relative stress tolerance of colonies harbouring different alleles, it is anticipated that a proportion of these markers may represent the first coral candidate Quantitative Trait Loci for environmental stress tolerance and provide an important genetic tool that can be incorporated into spatial management decisions and restoration efforts of coral reefs. One pertinent example would be to combine spatial data of tolerant populations with genetic connectivity and thus identify high priority conservation reefs and implement targeted coral husbandry and active restoration efforts that use locally- and stress-adapted genotypes.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Allele, Evolution, Coral, Coral reef, Great Barrier Reef

169

BACKGROUND: Trypanosomosis, a protozoal disease affecting livestock, transmitted by Glossina (tsetse) flies is a major constraint to agricultural production in Sub-Saharan Africa. It is accepted that utilization of the native trypanotolerance exhibited in some of the African cattle breeds to improve trypanotolerance of more productive but susceptible breeds, will offer a cost effective and sustainable solution to the problem. The success of this approach is based on the premise that quantitative trait loci previously identified under relatively controlled situations confer useful trypanotolerance under natural field situations. As part of a study to authenticate this hypothesis, a population of 192 cattle, consisting of six batches of N'Dama and Kenya-Boran backcross animals [(N'Dama x Kenya-Boran) x Kenya-Boran] born over the period 2002 to 2006 was constructed. Some of the batches also included pure Kenya-Boran cattle, or N'Dama x Kenya- Boran F1 animals. Each batch was exposed as yearlings to natural field trypanosomosis challenge over a period of about one year; the entire challenge period extending from December 2003 to June 2007. Performance of the animals was evaluated by weekly or biweekly measurements of body weight, packed blood cell volume (PCV), parasitemia score, and number of trypanocide treatments. From these basic data, 49 phenotypes were constructed reflecting dynamics of body weight, packed cell volume (PCV) and parasitemia under challenge. RESULTS: Females were distinctly more trypanotolerant than males. F1, backcross and pure Kenya- Boran animals ranked in that order with respect to trypanotolerance. Overall batch effects were highly significant (p<0.001) for most traits, and were generally more significant than the gender or genetic type effects. The superior trypanotolerance of the F1 animals was expressed in all three components of animal defense strategies against pathogens: Avoidance resistance, and tolerance. CONCLUSIONS: The results show that trypanotolerance derived from the N'Dama is expressed under field conditions; and that the trait is primarily additive in nature, being expressed in heterozygous condition and in a three-quarters Boran genetic background. The results further, underscore the complexity of the trait in the field manifesting all three host disease-control strategies, and show the importance of gender and local environmental conditions in determining response to challenge.

Concepts: Genetics, Male, Effect, Quantitative trait locus, African trypanosomiasis, Tsetse fly, Mean corpuscular volume, Trypanosomiasis

167

BACKGROUND: Complex binary traits are influenced by many factors including the main effects of many quantitative trait loci (QTLs), the epistatic effects involving more than one QTLs, environmental effects and the effects of gene-environment interactions. Although a number of QTL mapping methods for binary traits have been developed, there still lacks an efficient and powerful method that can handle both main and epistatic effects of a relatively large number of possible QTLs. RESULTS: In this paper, we use a Bayesian logistic regression model as the QTL model for binary traits that includes both main and epistatic effects. Our logistic regression model employs hierarchical priors for regression coefficients similar to the ones used in the Bayesian LASSO linear model for multiple QTL mapping for continuous traits. We develop efficient empirical Bayesian algorithms to infer the logistic regression model. Our simulation study shows that our algorithms can easily handle a QTL model with a large number of main and epistatic effects on a personal computer, and outperform five other methods examined including the LASSO, HyperLasso, BhGLM, RVM and the single-QTL mapping method based on logistic regression in terms of power of detection and false positive rate. The utility of our algorithms is also demonstrated through analysis of a real data set. A software package implementing the empirical Bayesian algorithms in this paper is freely available upon request. CONCLUSIONS: The EBLASSO logistic regression method can handle a large number of effects possibly including the main and epistatic QTL effects, environmental effects and the effects of gene-environment interactions. It will be a very useful tool for multiple QTLs mapping for complex binary traits.

Concepts: Regression analysis, Logistic regression, Genetics, Classical genetics, Quantitative trait locus, Amplified fragment length polymorphism, Epistasis, Statistical genetics

137

Neuropilin and tolloid-like 2 (NETO2) is a single-pass transmembrane protein that has been shown primarily implicated in neuron-specific processes. Upregulation of NETO2 gene was also detected in several cancer types. In colorectal cancer (CRC), it was associated with tumor progression, invasion, and metastasis, and seems to be involved in epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT). However, the mechanism of NETO2 action is still poorly understood.

Concepts: Protein, Cancer, Oncology, Cell membrane, Colorectal cancer, Membrane protein, Transmembrane protein, Transmembrane receptors

131

The natural variation of starch phosphate content in potatoes has been previously reported. It is known that, in contrast to raw starch, commercially phosphorylated starch is more stable at high temperatures and shear rates and has higher water capacity. The genetic improvement of phosphate content in potato starch by selection or engineering would allow the production of phosphorylated starch in a natural, environmentally friendly way without chemicals. The aim of the current research is to identify genomic SNPs associated with starch phosphorylation by carrying out a genome-wide association study in potatoes.

39

This study investigated whether large fluctuations in food availability during grandparents' early development influenced grandchildren’s cardiovascular mortality. We reported earlier that changes in availability of food - from good to poor or from poor to good - during intrauterine development was followed by a double risk of sudden death as an adult, and that mortality rate can be associated with ancestors´ childhood availability of food. We have now studied transgenerational responses (TGR) to sharp differences of harvest between two consecutive years´ for ancestors of 317 people in Överkalix, Sweden.

Concepts: Agriculture, Death, Mortality rate, Actuarial science, Life expectancy, Change

28

BACKGROUND: Telomeres, the protective cap of chromosomes, have emerged as powerful markers of biological age and life history in model and non-model species. The qPCR method for telomere length estimation is one of the most common methods for telomere length estimation, but has received recent critique for being too error-prone and yielding unreliable results. This critique coincides with an increasing awareness of the potentials and limitations of the qPCR technique in general and the proposal of a general set of guidelines (MIQE) for standardization of experimental, analytical, and reporting steps of qPCR. In order to evaluate the utility of the qPCR method for telomere length estimation in non-model species, we carried out four different qPCR assays directed at humpback whale telomeres, and subsequently performed a rigorous quality control to evaluate the performance of each assay. RESULTS: Performance differed substantially among assays and only one assay was found useful for telomere length estimation in humpback whales. The most notable factors causing these inter-assay differences were primer design and choice of using singleplex or multiplex assays. Inferred amplification efficiencies differed by up to 40 % depending on assay and quantification method, however this variation only affected telomere length estimates in the worst performing assays. CONCLUSION: Our results suggest that seemingly well performing qPCR assays may contain biases that will only be detected by extensive quality control. Moreover, we show that the qPCR method for telomere length estimation can be highly precise and accurate, and thus suitable for telomere measurement in non-model species, if effort is devoted to optimization at all experimental and analytical steps. We conclude by highlighting a set of quality controls which may serve for further standardization of the qPCR method for telomere length estimation, and discuss some of the factors that may cause variation in qPCR experiments.

Concepts: DNA, Quality control, DNA replication, Telomere, Whale, Humpback whale, Whale surfacing behaviour, Whale watching

17

Previous studies have identified genetic variants associated with bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD) in extremely preterm infants. However, findings with genome-wide significance have been rare, and not replicated. We hypothesized that whole exome sequencing (WES) of premature subjects with extremely divergent phenotypic outcomes could facilitate the identification of genetic variants or gene networks contributing disease risk.

12

As a major crossroads between Asia and Europe, Romania has experienced continuous migration and invasion episodes. The precise routes may have been shaped by the topology of the territory and had diverse impacts on the genetic structure of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) in historical Romanian provinces. We studied 714 Romanians from all historical provinces, Wallachia, Dobrudja, Moldavia, and Transylvania, by analyzing the mtDNA control region and coding markers to encompass the complete landscape of mtDNA haplogroups.

Concepts: DNA, Hungary, Romania, Transylvania, Romanian language, Wallachia, Romanians, Moldavia

12

The Tarim Basin in western China, known for its amazingly well-preserved mummies, has been for thousands of years an important crossroad between the eastern and western parts of Eurasia. Despite its key position in communications and migration, and highly diverse peoples, languages and cultures, its prehistory is poorly understood. To shed light on the origin of the populations of the Tarim Basin, we analysed mitochondrial DNA polymorphisms in human skeletal remains excavated from the Xiaohe cemetery, used by the local community between 4000 and 3500 years before present, and possibly representing some of the earliest settlers.

Concepts: Human, Mitochondrial DNA, Africa, Tarim mummies, Uyghur people, Silk Road, Taklamakan Desert, Tarim Basin