Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Finding the switch: Researchers create roadmap for gene expression

14.04.2014

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 | Eurek Alert!
Further information:
http://www.ncsu.edu

Further reports about: DNA Genetics Genomics UNC-Chapel blood genes peripheral replication twin

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Mass spectrometry sheds new light on thallium poisoning cold case
14.12.2018 | University of Maryland

nachricht Protein involved in nematode stress response identified
14.12.2018 | University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Data use draining your battery? Tiny device to speed up memory while also saving power

The more objects we make "smart," from watches to entire buildings, the greater the need for these devices to store and retrieve massive amounts of data quickly without consuming too much power.

Millions of new memory cells could be part of a computer chip and provide that speed and energy savings, thanks to the discovery of a previously unobserved...

Im Focus: An energy-efficient way to stay warm: Sew high-tech heating patches to your clothes

Personal patches could reduce energy waste in buildings, Rutgers-led study says

What if, instead of turning up the thermostat, you could warm up with high-tech, flexible patches sewn into your clothes - while significantly reducing your...

Im Focus: Lethal combination: Drug cocktail turns off the juice to cancer cells

A widely used diabetes medication combined with an antihypertensive drug specifically inhibits tumor growth – this was discovered by researchers from the University of Basel’s Biozentrum two years ago. In a follow-up study, recently published in “Cell Reports”, the scientists report that this drug cocktail induces cancer cell death by switching off their energy supply.

The widely used anti-diabetes drug metformin not only reduces blood sugar but also has an anti-cancer effect. However, the metformin dose commonly used in the...

Im Focus: New Foldable Drone Flies through Narrow Holes in Rescue Missions

A research team from the University of Zurich has developed a new drone that can retract its propeller arms in flight and make itself small to fit through narrow gaps and holes. This is particularly useful when searching for victims of natural disasters.

Inspecting a damaged building after an earthquake or during a fire is exactly the kind of job that human rescuers would like drones to do for them. A flying...

Im Focus: Topological material switched off and on for the first time

Key advance for future topological transistors

Over the last decade, there has been much excitement about the discovery, recognised by the Nobel Prize in Physics only two years ago, that there are two types...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

ICTM Conference 2019: Digitization emerges as an engineering trend for turbomachinery construction

12.12.2018 | Event News

New Plastics Economy Investor Forum - Meeting Point for Innovations

10.12.2018 | Event News

EGU 2019 meeting: Media registration now open

06.12.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Data use draining your battery? Tiny device to speed up memory while also saving power

14.12.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Tangled magnetic fields power cosmic particle accelerators

14.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

In search of missing worlds, Hubble finds a fast evaporating exoplanet

14.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>