Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Genetically Speaking, Mammals Are More Like Their Fathers

04.03.2015

A first of its kind study shows that who we inherit genetic variants from – our mother or father – is crucial for the development of diseases and for research studies aimed at finding causes and potential treatments.

You might resemble or act more like your mother, but a novel research study from UNC School of Medicine researchers reveals that mammals are genetically more like their dads. Specifically, the research shows that although we inherit equal amounts of genetic mutations from our parents – the mutations that make us who we are and not some other person – we actually “use” more of the DNA that we inherit from our dads.

The research, published in the journal Nature Genetics, has wide implications for the study of human disease, especially when using mammalian research models. For instance, in many mouse models created for the study of gene expression related to disease, researchers typically don’t take into account whether specific genetic expression originates from mothers or fathers. But the UNC research shows that inheriting a mutation has different consequences in mammals, depending on whether the genetic variant is inherited from the mother or father.

“This is an exceptional new research finding that opens the door to an entirely new area of exploration in human genetics,” said Fernando Pardo-Manuel de Villena, PhD, professor of genetics and senior author of the paper. “We’ve known that there are 95 genes that are subject to this parent-of-origin effect. They’re called imprinted genes, and they can play roles in diseases, depending on whether the genetic mutation came from the father or the mother. Now we’ve found that in addition to them, there are thousands of other genes that have a novel parent-of-origin effect.”

These genetic mutations that are handed down from parents show up in many common but complex diseases that involve many genes, such as type-2 diabetes, heart disease, schizophrenia, obesity, and cancers. Studying them in genetically diverse mouse models that take parent-of-origin into account will give scientists more precise insights into the underlying causes of disease and the creation of therapeutics or other interventions.

The key to this research is the Collaborative Cross – the most genetically diverse mouse population in the world, which is generated, housed, and distributed from UNC. Traditional lab mice are much more limited in their genetic diversity, and so they have limited use in studies that try to home in on important aspects of diseases in humans. The Collaborative Cross bred together various wild type mice to create wide diversity in the mouse genome. Pardo-Manuel de Villena said that this diversity is comparable to the variation found in the human genome. This helps scientists study diseases that involve various levels of genetic expression across many different genes.

Gene expression connects DNA to proteins, which then carry out various functions inside cells. This process is crucial for proper human health. Mutations that alter gene expression are called regulatory mutations.

“This type of genetic variation is probably the most important contributor – not to simple Mendelian diseases where there’s just one gene mutation [such as cystic fibrosis] – but to much more common and complex diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, neurological conditions, and a host of others,” Pardo-Manuel de Villena said. “These diseases are driven by gene expression, not of one gene but of hundreds or thousands of genes.

“The Collaborative Cross and the expertise we have at UNC allow us to look at different gene expression for every gene in the genome of every kind of tissue,” said Pardo-Manuel de Villena, who directs the Collaborative Cross.

For the Nature Genetics study, Pardo-Manuel de Villena’s team, including first author James Crowley, PhD, assistant professor of genetics, selected three genetically diverse inbred strains of mice that were descended from a subspecies that evolved on different continents. These mice were bred to create nine different types of hybrid offspring in which each strain was used as both father and mother. When the mice reached adulthood, the researchers measured gene expression in four different kinds of tissue, including RNA sequencing in the brain. They then quantified how much gene expression was derived from the mother and the father for every single gene in the genome.

“We found that the vast majority of genes – about 80 percent – possessed variants that altered gene expression,” Crowley said. “And this was when we discovered a new, genome-wide expression imbalance in favor of the dad in several hundred genes. This imbalance resulted in offspring whose brain gene expression was significantly more like their father’s.”

For every gene a scientist is interested in, Pardo-Manuel de Villena’s team can create mice that have low, intermediate, or high expression of genes. And they can explore if that expression is associated with a specific disease.

“This expression level is dependent on the mother or the father,” Pardo-Manuel de Villena said. “We now know that mammals express more genetic variance from the father. So imagine that a certain kind of mutation is bad. If inherited from the mother, the gene wouldn’t be expressed as much as it would be if it were inherited from the father. So, the same bad mutation would have different consequences in disease if it were inherited from the mother or from the father.”

These types of genetic mutations across hundreds of genes are hard to study and a major bottleneck to realizing the promises of the post-genome era. But Pardo-Manuel de Villena said, “Thanks to the Collaborative Cross, the mouse can be used to model how these genes work and how they impact health and disease in any kind of tissue in the body.”

The Human Genome Research Institute and the National Institute of Mental Health funded the creation of the UNC Center for Integrated Systems Genetics (CISGen), which contributed to the development and funding of proof of principle experiments for the Collaborative Cross to find genetic and environmental factors important in psychiatry. Pardo-Manuel de Villena and Patrick Sullivan, PhD, professor of genetics and author of the paper, are co-principal investigators. Both are members of the Carolina Center for Genome Sciences and the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. Pardo-Manuel de Villena is the associate chair for research in the department of genetics.

Other co-first authors of the Nature Genetics paper are Vasyl Zhabotynsky, a graduate research assistant in the department of genetics and biostatistics; Wei Sun, PhD, associate professor of genetics and biostatistics in the UNC School of Medicine and the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, and member of the Carolina Center for Genomic Sciences. Additional key co-authors include a team of graduate students directed by Leonard McMillan, PhD, associate professor of computer science in the UNC College of Arts and Sciences.

Contact Information
Mark Derewicz
Science Communications Manager
mark.derewicz@unch.unc.edu

Mark Derewicz | newswise
Further information:
http://www.med.unc.edu/

Further reports about: Collaborative Genetics Nature Genetics UNC diseases diversity genes genetic mutations mutations

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht The importance of biodiversity in forests could increase due to climate change
17.11.2017 | Deutsches Zentrum für integrative Biodiversitätsforschung (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig

nachricht Win-win strategies for climate and food security
02.10.2017 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: A “cosmic snake” reveals the structure of remote galaxies

The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.

Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...

Im Focus: Visual intelligence is not the same as IQ

Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.

That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...

Im Focus: Novel Nano-CT device creates high-resolution 3D-X-rays of tiny velvet worm legs

Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.

During a CT analysis, the object under investigation is x-rayed and a detector measures the respective amount of radiation absorbed from various angles....

Im Focus: Researchers Develop Data Bus for Quantum Computer

The quantum world is fragile; error correction codes are needed to protect the information stored in a quantum object from the deteriorating effects of noise. Quantum physicists in Innsbruck have developed a protocol to pass quantum information between differently encoded building blocks of a future quantum computer, such as processors and memories. Scientists may use this protocol in the future to build a data bus for quantum computers. The researchers have published their work in the journal Nature Communications.

Future quantum computers will be able to solve problems where conventional computers fail today. We are still far away from any large-scale implementation,...

Im Focus: Wrinkles give heat a jolt in pillared graphene

Rice University researchers test 3-D carbon nanostructures' thermal transport abilities

Pillared graphene would transfer heat better if the theoretical material had a few asymmetric junctions that caused wrinkles, according to Rice University...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Ecology Across Borders: International conference brings together 1,500 ecologists

15.11.2017 | Event News

Road into laboratory: Users discuss biaxial fatigue-testing for car and truck wheel

15.11.2017 | Event News

#Berlin5GWeek: The right network for Industry 4.0

30.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

NASA detects solar flare pulses at Sun and Earth

17.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

NIST scientists discover how to switch liver cancer cell growth from 2-D to 3-D structures

17.11.2017 | Health and Medicine

The importance of biodiversity in forests could increase due to climate change

17.11.2017 | Studies and Analyses

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>