Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Finding the Switch: Researchers Create Roadmap for Gene Expression

15.04.2014

In a new study, researchers from North Carolina State University, UNC-Chapel Hill and other institutions have taken the first steps toward creating a roadmap that may help scientists narrow down the genetic cause of numerous diseases. Their work also sheds new light on how heredity and environment can affect gene expression.

Pinpointing the genetic causes of common diseases is not easy, as multiple genes may be involved with a disease. Moreover, disease-causing variants in DNA often do not act directly, but by activating nearby genes. To add to the complexity, genetic activation is not like a simple on/off switch on a light, but behaves more like a “dimmer switch” – some people may have a particular gene turned all the way up, while others have it only turned halfway on, completely off, or somewhere in between. And different factors, like DNA or the environment, play a role in the dimmer switch’s setting.

According to Fred Wright, NC State professor of statistics and biological sciences, director of NC State’s Bioinformatics Center and co-first author of the study, “Everyone has the same set of genes. It’s difficult to determine which genes are heritable, or controlled by your DNA, versus those that may be affected by the environment. Teasing out the difference between heredity and environment is key to narrowing the field when you’re looking for a genetic relationship to a particular disease.”

Wright, with co-first author Patrick Sullivan, Distinguished Professor of Genetics and Psychiatry at UNC-Chapel Hill and director of the Center for Psychiatric Genomics, and national and international colleagues, analyzed blood sample data from 2,752 adult twins (both identical and fraternal) from the Netherlands Twin Register and an additional 1,895 participants from the Netherlands Study of Depression and Anxiety. For all 20,000 individual genes, they determined whether those genes were heritable – controlled by the DNA “dimmer switch” – or largely affected by environment.

“Identical twins have identical DNA,” Wright explains, “so if a gene is heritable, its expression will be more similar in identical twins than in fraternal twins. This process allowed us to create a database of heritable genes, which we could then compare with genes that have been implicated in disease risk. We saw that heritable genes are more likely to be associated with disease – something that can help other researchers determine which genes to focus on in future studies.”

The study appears online April 13 in Nature Genetics.

“This is by far the largest twin study of gene expression ever published, enabling us to make a roadmap of genes versus environment,” Sullivan says, adding that the study measured relationships with disease more precisely than had been previously possible, and uncovered important connections to recent human evolution and genetic influence in disease.

The Netherlands Twin Register has followed twin pairs for over 25 years and in collaboration with the longitudinal Netherlands Study of Depression and Anxiety established a resource for genetic and expression studies. Professor Dorret Boomsma, who started the twin register, says, “in addition to the fundamental insights into genetic regulation and disease, the results provide valuable information on causal pathways. The study shows that the twin design remains a key tool for genetic discovery.”

Blood samples from the Netherlands were processed by the NIMH Center for Collaborative Genomics Research on Mental Disorders at Rutgers University. NC State research scholar Yi-Hui Zhou and associate professor of statistics Jung-Ying Tzeng contributed to the work. Funding for the study included grants from the National Institute of Mental Health and other NIH Institutes, the Gillings Innovation Lab, the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research, the Center for Medical Systems Biology, Biobanking and Biomolecular Resources Research Infrastructure, and the European Science Foundation and European Research Council.

Note to editors: Abstract of the paper follows.

“Heritability and genomics of gene expression in peripheral blood”

DOI:10.1038/ng.2951

Authors: Fred A.Wright, NC State University; Patrick F. Sullivan, UNC-Chapel Hill, et al
Published: Online April 13, 2014 in Nature Genetics

Abstract: We assessed gene expression profiles in 2,752 twins, using a classic twin design to quantify expression heritability and quantitative trait loci (eQTLs) in peripheral blood. The most highly heritable genes (~777) were grouped into distinct expression clusters, enriched in gene-poor regions, associated with specific gene function or ontology classes, and strongly associated with disease designation. The design enabled a comparison of twin-based heritability to estimates based on dizygotic identity-by-descent sharing and distant genetic relatedness. Consideration of sampling variation suggests that previous heritability estimates have been upwardly biased. Genotyping of 2,494 twins enabled powerful identification of eQTLs, which we further examined in a replication set of 1,895 unrelated subjects. A large number of local eQTLs (6,988) met replication criteria, whereas a relatively small number of distant eQTLs (165) met quality control and replication standards. Our results provide a new resource toward understanding the genetic control of transcription.

Tracey Peake | newswise
Further information:
http://www.ncsu.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht MACC1 Gene Is an Independent Prognostic Biomarker for Survival in Klatskin Tumor Patients
31.08.2015 | Max-Delbrück-Centrum für Molekulare Medizin in der Helmholtz-Gemeinschaft

nachricht Fish Oil-Diet Benefits May be Mediated by Gut Microbes
28.08.2015 | University of Gothenburg

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: An engineered surface unsticks sticky water droplets

The leaves of the lotus flower, and other natural surfaces that repel water and dirt, have been the model for many types of engineered liquid-repelling surfaces. As slippery as these surfaces are, however, tiny water droplets still stick to them. Now, Penn State researchers have developed nano/micro-textured, highly slippery surfaces able to outperform these naturally inspired coatings, particularly when the water is a vapor or tiny droplets.

Enhancing the mobility of liquid droplets on rough surfaces could improve condensation heat transfer for power-plant heat exchangers, create more efficient...

Im Focus: Increasingly severe disturbances weaken world's temperate forests

Longer, more severe, and hotter droughts and a myriad of other threats, including diseases and more extensive and severe wildfires, are threatening to transform some of the world's temperate forests, a new study published in Science has found. Without informed management, some forests could convert to shrublands or grasslands within the coming decades.

"While we have been trying to manage for resilience of 20th century conditions, we realize now that we must prepare for transformations and attempt to ease...

Im Focus: OU astrophysicist and collaborators find supermassive black holes in quasar nearest Earth

A University of Oklahoma astrophysicist and his Chinese collaborator have found two supermassive black holes in Markarian 231, the nearest quasar to Earth, using observations from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope.

The discovery of two supermassive black holes--one larger one and a second, smaller one--are evidence of a binary black hole and suggests that supermassive...

Im Focus: What would a tsunami in the Mediterranean look like?

A team of European researchers have developed a model to simulate the impact of tsunamis generated by earthquakes and applied it to the Eastern Mediterranean. The results show how tsunami waves could hit and inundate coastal areas in southern Italy and Greece. The study is published today (27 August) in Ocean Science, an open access journal of the European Geosciences Union (EGU).

Though not as frequent as in the Pacific and Indian oceans, tsunamis also occur in the Mediterranean, mainly due to earthquakes generated when the African...

Im Focus: Self-healing landscape: landslides after earthquake

In mountainous regions earthquakes often cause strong landslides, which can be exacerbated by heavy rain. However, after an initial increase, the frequency of these mass wasting events, often enormous and dangerous, declines, in fact independently of meteorological events and aftershocks.

These new findings are presented by a German-Franco-Japanese team of geoscientists in the current issue of the journal Geology, under the lead of the GFZ...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Networking conference in Heidelberg for outstanding mathematicians and computer scientists

20.08.2015 | Event News

Scientists meet in Münster for the world’s largest Chitin und Chitosan Conference

20.08.2015 | Event News

Large agribusiness management strategies

19.08.2015 | Event News

 
Latest News

Siemens sells 18 industrial gas turbines to Thailand

01.09.2015 | Press release

An engineered surface unsticks sticky water droplets

01.09.2015 | Materials Sciences

New material science research may advance tech tools

01.09.2015 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>