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BACKGROUND - Accurately predicting the impact of rare nonsynonymous variants on disease risk is an important goal in precision medicine. Variants in the cardiac sodium channel (protein Na1.5; voltage-dependent cardiac Na+ channel) are associated with multiple arrhythmia disorders, including Brugada syndrome and long QT syndrome. Rare variants also occur in ≈1% of unaffected individuals. We hypothesized that in vitro electrophysiological functional parameters explain a statistically significant portion of the variability in disease penetrance.
METHODS - From a comprehensive literature review, we quantified the number of carriers presenting with and without disease for 1712 reported variants. For 356 variants, data were also available for 5 Na1.5 electrophysiological parameters: peak current, late/persistent current, steady-state V1/2 of activation and inactivation, and recovery from inactivation.
RESULTS - We found that peak and late current significantly associate with Brugada syndrome (<0.001; ρ=-0.44; Spearman rank test) and long QT syndrome disease penetrance (<0.001; ρ=0.37). Steady-state V1/2 activation and recovery from inactivation associate significantly with Brugada syndrome and long QT syndrome penetrance, respectively. Continuous estimates of disease penetrance align with the current American College of Medical Genetics classification paradigm.
CONCLUSIONS - Na1.5 in vitro electrophysiological parameters are correlated with Brugada syndrome and long QT syndrome disease risk. Our data emphasize the value of in vitro electrophysiological characterization and incorporating counts of affected and unaffected carriers to aid variant classification. This quantitative analysis of the electrophysiological literature should aid the interpretation of Na1.5 variant electrophysiological abnormalities and help improve Na1.5 variant classification.
© 2018 American Heart Association, Inc.
Genomic maps of local ancestry identify ancestry transitions - points on a chromosome where recent recombination events in admixed individuals have joined two different ancestral haplotypes. These events bring together alleles that evolved within separate continential populations, providing a unique opportunity to evaluate the joint effect of these alleles on health outcomes. In this work, we evaluate the impact of genetic variants in the context of nearby local ancestry transitions within a sample of nearly 10,000 adults of African ancestry with traits derived from electronic health records. Genetic data was located using the Metabochip, and used to derive local ancestry. We develop a model that captures the effect of both single variants and local ancestry, and use it to identify examples where local ancestry transitions significantly interact with nearby variants to influence metabolic traits. In our most compelling example, we find that the minor allele of rs16890640 occuring on a European background with a downstream local ancestry transition to African ancestry results in significantly lower mean corpuscular hemoglobin and volume. This finding represents a new way of discovering genetic interactions, and is supported by molecular data that suggest changes to local ancestry may impact local chromatin looping.
BACKGROUND - Epistasis and gene-environment interactions are known to contribute significantly to variation of complex phenotypes in model organisms. However, their identification in human association studies remains challenging for myriad reasons. In the case of epistatic interactions, the large number of potential interacting sets of genes presents computational, multiple hypothesis correction, and other statistical power issues. In the case of gene-environment interactions, the lack of consistently measured environmental covariates in most disease studies precludes searching for interactions and creates difficulties for replicating studies.
RESULTS - In this work, we develop a new statistical approach to address these issues that leverages genetic ancestry, defined as the proportion of ancestry derived from each ancestral population (e.g., the fraction of European/African ancestry in African Americans), in admixed populations. We applied our method to gene expression and methylation data from African American and Latino admixed individuals, respectively, identifying nine interactions that were significant at P<5×10-8. We show that two of the interactions in methylation data replicate, and the remaining six are significantly enriched for low P-values (P<1.8×10-6).
CONCLUSION - We show that genetic ancestry can be a useful proxy for unknown and unmeasured covariates in the search for interaction effects. These results have important implications for our understanding of the genetic architecture of complex traits.
© 2017 WILEY PERIODICALS, INC.
Rare genetic variants are abundant in humans and are expected to contribute to individual disease risk. While genetic association studies have successfully identified common genetic variants associated with susceptibility, these studies are not practical for identifying rare variants. Efforts to distinguish pathogenic variants from benign rare variants have leveraged the genetic code to identify deleterious protein-coding alleles, but no analogous code exists for non-coding variants. Therefore, ascertaining which rare variants have phenotypic effects remains a major challenge. Rare non-coding variants have been associated with extreme gene expression in studies using single tissues, but their effects across tissues are unknown. Here we identify gene expression outliers, or individuals showing extreme expression levels for a particular gene, across 44 human tissues by using combined analyses of whole genomes and multi-tissue RNA-sequencing data from the Genotype-Tissue Expression (GTEx) project v6p release. We find that 58% of underexpression and 28% of overexpression outliers have nearby conserved rare variants compared to 8% of non-outliers. Additionally, we developed RIVER (RNA-informed variant effect on regulation), a Bayesian statistical model that incorporates expression data to predict a regulatory effect for rare variants with higher accuracy than models using genomic annotations alone. Overall, we demonstrate that rare variants contribute to large gene expression changes across tissues and provide an integrative method for interpretation of rare variants in individual genomes.
Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer and presents a significant health care burden in many countries. In addition to ultraviolet radiation in sunlight, the main causal factor for melanoma, genetic factors also play an important role in melanoma susceptibility. Although genome-wide association studies have identified many single nucleotide polymorphisms associated with melanoma, little is known about the proportion of disease risk attributable to these loci and their distribution throughout the genome. Here, we investigated the genetic architecture of melanoma in 1,888 cases and 990 controls of European non-Hispanic ancestry. We estimated the overall narrow-sense heritability of melanoma to be 0.18 (P < 0.03), indicating that genetics contributes significantly to the risk of sporadically-occurring melanoma. We then demonstrated that only a small proportion of this risk is attributable to known risk variants, suggesting that much remains unknown of the role of genetics in melanoma. To investigate further the genetic architecture of melanoma, we partitioned the heritability by chromosome, minor allele frequency, and functional annotations. We showed that common genetic variation contributes significantly to melanoma risk, with a risk model defined by a handful of genomic regions rather than many risk loci distributed throughout the genome. We also demonstrated that variants affecting gene expression in skin account for a significant proportion of the heritability, and are enriched among melanoma risk loci. Finally, by incorporating skin color into our analyses, we observed both a shift in significance for melanoma-associated loci and an enrichment of expression quantitative trait loci among melanoma susceptibility variants. These findings suggest that skin color may be an important modifier of melanoma risk. We speculate that incorporating skin color and other non-genetic factors into genetic studies may allow for an improved understanding of melanoma susceptibility and guide future investigations to identify melanoma risk genes.
A cell's phenotype is the observable actualization of complex interactions between its genome, epigenome, and local environment. While traditional views in cancer have held that cellular and tumor phenotypes are largely functions of genomic instability, increasing attention has recently been given to epigenetic and microenvironmental influences. Such non-genetic factors allow cancer cells to experience intrinsic diversity and plasticity, and at the tumor level can result in phenotypic heterogeneity and treatment evasion. In 2006, Takahashi and Yamanaka exploited the epigenome's plasticity by "reprogramming" differentiated cells into a pluripotent state by inducing expression of a cocktail of four transcription factors. Recent advances in cancer biology have shown not only that cellular reprogramming is possible for malignant cells, but it may provide a foundation for future therapies. Nevertheless, cell reprogramming experiments are frequently plagued by low efficiency, activation of aberrant transcriptional programs, instability, and often rely on expertise gathered from systems which may not translate directly to cancer. Here, we review a theoretical framework tracing back to Waddington's epigenetic landscape which may be used to derive quantitative and qualitative understanding of cellular reprogramming. Implications for tumor heterogeneity, evolution and adaptation are discussed in the context of designing new treatments to re-sensitize recalcitrant tumors. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: Evolutionary principles - heterogeneity in cancer?, edited by Dr. Robert A. Gatenby.
Copyright © 2017. Published by Elsevier B.V.
Illumina genotyping arrays have powered thousands of large-scale genome-wide association studies over the past decade. Yet, because of the tremendous volume and complicated genetic assumptions of Illumina genotyping data, processing and quality control (QC) of these data remain a challenge. Thorough QC ensures the accurate identification of single-nucleotide polymorphisms and is required for the correct interpretation of genetic association results. By processing genotyping data on > 100 000 subjects from >10 major Illumina genotyping arrays, we have accumulated extensive experience in handling some of the most peculiar scenarios related to the processing and QC of Illumina genotyping data. Here, we describe strategies for processing Illumina genotyping data from the raw data to an analysis ready format, and we elaborate on the necessary QC procedures required at each processing step. High-quality Illumina genotyping data sets can be obtained by following our detailed QC strategies.
The blood thinner warfarin has a narrow therapeutic range and high inter- and intra-patient variability in therapeutic doses. Several studies have shown that pharmacogenomic variants help predict stable warfarin dosing. However, retrospective and randomized controlled trials that employ dosing algorithms incorporating pharmacogenomic variants under perform in African Americans. This study sought to determine if: 1) including additional variants associated with warfarin dose in African Americans, 2) predicting within single ancestry groups rather than a combined population, or 3) using percentage African ancestry rather than observed race, would improve warfarin dosing algorithms in African Americans. Using BioVU, the Vanderbilt University Medical Center biobank linked to electronic medical records, we compared 25 modeling strategies to existing algorithms using a cohort of 2,181 warfarin users (1,928 whites, 253 blacks). We found that approaches incorporating additional variants increased model accuracy, but not in clinically significant ways. Race stratification increased model fidelity for African Americans, but the improvement was small and not likely to be clinically significant. Use of percent African ancestry improved model fit in the context of race misclassification.
The importance of epistasis-or statistical interactions between genetic variants-to the development of complex disease in humans has been controversial. Genome-wide association studies of statistical interactions influencing human traits have recently become computationally feasible and have identified many putative interactions. However, statistical models used to detect interactions can be confounded, which makes it difficult to be certain that observed statistical interactions are evidence for true molecular epistasis. In this study, we investigate whether there is evidence for epistatic interactions between genetic variants within the cis-regulatory region that influence gene expression after accounting for technical, statistical, and biological confounding factors. We identified 1,119 (FDR = 5%) interactions that appear to regulate gene expression in human lymphoblastoid cell lines, a tightly controlled, largely genetically determined phenotype. Many of these interactions replicated in an independent dataset (90 of 803 tested, Bonferroni threshold). We then performed an exhaustive analysis of both known and novel confounders, including ceiling/floor effects, missing genotype combinations, haplotype effects, single variants tagged through linkage disequilibrium, and population stratification. Every interaction could be explained by at least one of these confounders, and replication in independent datasets did not protect against some confounders. Assuming that the confounding factors provide a more parsimonious explanation for each interaction, we find it unlikely that cis-regulatory interactions contribute strongly to human gene expression, which calls into question the relevance of cis-regulatory interactions for other human phenotypes. We additionally propose several best practices for epistasis testing to protect future studies from confounding.
Copyright © 2016 American Society of Human Genetics. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
We hypothesized that generalized linear mixed models (GLMMs), which estimate the additive genetic variance underlying phenotype variability, would facilitate rapid characterization of clinical phenotypes from an electronic health record. We evaluated 1,288 phenotypes in 29,349 subjects of European ancestry with single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) genotyping on the Illumina Exome Beadchip. We show that genetic liability estimates are primarily driven by SNPs identified by prior genome-wide association studies and SNPs within the human leukocyte antigen (HLA) region. We identify 44 (false discovery rate q<0.05) phenotypes associated with HLA SNP variation and show that hypothyroidism is genetically correlated with Type I diabetes (rG=0.31, s.e. 0.12, P=0.003). We also report novel SNP associations for hypothyroidism near HLA-DQA1/HLA-DQB1 at rs6906021 (combined odds ratio (OR)=1.2 (95% confidence interval (CI): 1.1-1.2), P=9.8 × 10(-11)) and for polymyalgia rheumatica near C6orf10 at rs6910071 (OR=1.5 (95% CI: 1.3-1.6), P=1.3 × 10(-10)). Phenome-wide application of GLMMs identifies phenotypes with important genetic drivers, and focusing on these phenotypes can identify novel genetic associations.