Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Genes and their regulatory 'tags' conspire to promote rheumatoid arthritis

21.01.2013
Johns Hopkins scientists identify epigenetic changes that referee genetic risk

In one of the first genome-wide studies to hunt for both genes and their regulatory "tags" in patients suffering from a common disease, researchers have found a clear role for the tags in mediating genetic risk for rheumatoid arthritis (RA), an immune disorder that afflicts an estimated 1.5 million American adults.

By teasing apart the tagging events that result from RA from those that help cause it, the scientists say they were able to spot tagged DNA sequences that may be important for the development of RA. And they suspect their experimental method can be applied to predict similar risk factors for other common, noninfectious diseases, like type II diabetes and heart ailments.

In a report published in Nature Biotechnology Jan. 20, the researchers at Johns Hopkins and the Karolinska Institutet say their study bridges the gap between whole-genome genetic sequencing and diseases that have no single or direct genetic cause. Most genetic changes associated with disease do not occur in protein-coding regions of DNA, but in their regulatory regions, explains Andrew Feinberg, M.D., M.P.H., a Gilman scholar, professor of molecular medicine and director of the Center for Epigenetics at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine's Institute for Basic Biomedical Sciences. "Our study analyzed both and shows how genetics and epigenetics can work together to cause disease," he says.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a debilitating disease that causes inflammation, stiffness, pain and disfigurement in joints, especially the small joints of the hands and feet. It is thought to be an autoimmune disease, meaning that the body's immune system attacks its own tissues, an assault led primarily by white blood cells. According to Feinberg, several DNA mutations are known to confer risk for RA, but there seem to be additional factors that suppress or enhance that risk. One probable factor involves chemical "tags" that attach to DNA sequences, part of a so-called epigenetic system that helps regulate when and how DNA sequences are "read," how they're used to create proteins and how they affect the onset or progress of disease.

To complicate matters, Feinberg notes, the attachment of the tags to particular DNA sequences can itself be regulated by genes. "The details of what causes a particular sequence to be tagged are unclear, but it seems that some tagging events depend on certain DNA sequences. In other words, those tagging events are under genetic control," he says. Other tagging events, however, seem to depend on cellular processes and environmental changes, some of which could be the result, rather than the cause, of disease.

To tease apart these two types of tagging events, the researchers catalogued DNA sequences and their tagging patterns in the white blood cells of more than 300 people with and without one form of RA.

The team then began filtering out the tags that did not appear to affect RA risk. For example, if tags were seen on the same DNA sequence in those with and without RA, it was assumed that the tags at those sites were irrelevant to the cause or development of the disease. Then, from among the RA-relevant tags, they narrowed in on tags whose placement seemed to be dependent on DNA sequence. Finally, they made sure that the DNA sequences identified were themselves more prevalent in patients with RA. In this way, they created a list of DNA sequences associated with altered DNA tagging patterns, both of which were associated with RA.

Ultimately, the team identified 10 DNA sites that were tagged differently in RA patients and whose tagging seemed to affect risk for RA. Nine of the 10 sites were within a region of the genome known to play an important role in autoimmune diseases, while the 10th was on a gene that had never before been associated with the disease. "Since RA is a disease in which the body's immune system turns on itself, current treatments often involve suppressing the entire immune system, which can have serious side effects," Feinberg says. "The results of this study may allow clinicians to instead directly target the culpable genes and/or their tags."

"Our method allows us to predict which tagging sites are most important in the development of a disease. In this study, we looked for tagging sites under genetic control, but similar tags can be triggered by environmental exposures, like smoking, so there are many applications for this type of work," says Yun Liu, Ph.D., a lead researcher on the project.

The study also may shed light on how evolution works, explains Feinberg. "It seems that natural selection might not simply be selecting for an individual's current fitness level but also for the adaptability of future generations given an unknown future. We think that certain genetic sequences may be biologically beneficial and conserved over time because they increase the amount of variation found in tagging patterns, giving individuals a greater chance of adapting to environmental changes."

Other authors of the report include Martin J. Aryee, M. Daniele Fallin, Arni Runarsson and Margaret Taub of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine; and Leonid Padyukov, Espen Hesselberg, Lovisa Reinius, Nathalie Acevedo, Marcus Ronninger, Lementy Shchetynsky, Annika Scheynius, Juha Kere, Lars Alfredsson, Lars Klareskog and Tomas J. Ekström of the Karolinska Institutet, Sweden.

This work was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health's Centers of Excellence in Genomic Science (5P50HG003233), the Swedish Research Council, the Swedish COMBINE project, the Swedish Foundation for Strategic Research, AFA Insurance and the European Research Council.

ON THE WEB:

Feinberg Lab: http://epigenetics.jhu.edu/

Feinberg's Profile: http://epigenetics.jhu.edu/?section=personnelPages&personID=2

Catherine Kolf | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.jhu.edu/

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht NIST scientists discover how to switch liver cancer cell growth from 2-D to 3-D structures
17.11.2017 | National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

nachricht High speed video recording precisely measures blood cell velocity
15.11.2017 | ITMO University

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

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 >>>