Genes2014, 5(1), 196-213; doi:10.3390/genes5010196 - published online 11 March 2014 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: Since the completion of the Human Genome Project, the field of human genetics has been in great flux, largely due to technological advances in studying DNA sequence variation. Although community-wide adoption of statistical standards was key to the success of genome-wide association studies, similar standards have not yet been globally applied to the processing and interpretation of sequencing data. It has proven particularly challenging to pinpoint unequivocally disease variants in sequencing studies of polygenic traits. Here, we comment on a number of factors that may contribute to irreproducible claims of association in scientific literature and discuss possible steps that we can take towards cultural change.
Genes2014, 5(1), 176-195; doi:10.3390/genes5010176 - published online 11 March 2014 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: The customary consanguineous nuptials in Pakistan underlie the frequent occurrence of autosomal recessive inherited disorders, including retinal dystrophy (RD). In many studies, homozygosity mapping has been shown to be successful in mapping susceptibility loci for autosomal recessive inherited disease. RDs are the most frequent cause of inherited blindness worldwide. To date there is no comprehensive genetic overview of different RDs in Pakistan. In this review, genetic data of syndromic and non-syndromic RD families from Pakistan has been collected. Out of the 132 genes known to be involved in non-syndromic RD, 35 different genes have been reported to be mutated in families of Pakistani origin. In the Pakistani RD families 90% of the mutations causing non-syndromic RD and all mutations causing syndromic forms of the disease have not been reported in other populations. Based on the current inventory of all Pakistani RD-associated gene defects, a cost-efficient allele-specific analysis of 11 RD-associated variants is proposed, which may capture up to 35% of the genetic causes of retinal dystrophy in Pakistan.
Genes2014, 5(1), 147-175; doi:10.3390/genes5010147 - published online 6 March 2014 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: The major challenge of the cell cycle is to deliver an intact, and fully duplicated, genetic material to the daughter cells. To this end, progression of DNA synthesis is monitored by a feedback mechanism known as replication checkpoint that is untimely linked to DNA replication. This signaling pathway ensures coordination of DNA synthesis with cell cycle progression. Failure to activate this checkpoint in response to perturbation of DNA synthesis (replication stress) results in forced cell division leading to chromosome fragmentation, aneuploidy, and genomic instability. In this review, we will describe current knowledge of the molecular determinants of the DNA replication checkpoint in eukaryotic cells and discuss a model of activation of this signaling pathway crucial for maintenance of genomic stability.
Genes2014, 5(1), 108-146; doi:10.3390/genes5010108 - published online 5 March 2014 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: Cancer genome sequence data provide an invaluable resource for inferring the key mechanisms by which mutations arise in cancer cells, favoring their survival, proliferation and invasiveness. Here we examine recent advances in understanding the molecular mechanisms responsible for the predominant type of genetic alteration found in cancer cells, somatic single base substitutions (SBSs). Cytosine methylation, demethylation and deamination, charge transfer reactions in DNA, DNA replication timing, chromatin status and altered DNA proofreading activities are all now known to contribute to the mechanisms leading to base substitution mutagenesis. We review current hypotheses as to the major processes that give rise to SBSs and evaluate their relative relevance in the light of knowledge acquired from cancer genome sequencing projects and the study of base modifications, DNA repair and lesion bypass. Although gene expression data on APOBEC3B enzymes provide support for a role in cancer mutagenesis through U:G mismatch intermediates, the enzyme preference for single-stranded DNA may limit its activity genome-wide. For SBSs at both CG:CG and YC:GR sites, we outline evidence for a prominent role of damage by charge transfer reactions that follow interactions of the DNA with reactive oxygen species (ROS) and other endogenous or exogenous electron-abstracting molecules.
Genes2014, 5(1), 97-105; doi:10.3390/genes5010097 - published online 27 February 2014 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: Neuropsychiatric diseases ranging from schizophrenia to affective disorders and autism are heritable, highly complex and heterogeneous conditions, diagnosed purely clinically, with no supporting biomarkers or neuroimaging criteria. Relying on these “umbrella diagnoses”, genetic analyses, including genome-wide association studies (GWAS), were undertaken but failed to provide insight into the biological basis of these disorders. “Risk genotypes” of unknown significance with low odds ratios of mostly <1.2 were extracted and confirmed by including ever increasing numbers of individuals in large multicenter efforts. Facing these results, we have to hypothesize that thousands of genetic constellations in highly variable combinations with environmental co-factors can cause the individual disorder in the sense of a final common pathway. This would explain why the prevalence of mental diseases is so high and why mutations, including copy number variations, with a higher effect size than SNPs, constitute only a small part of variance. Elucidating the contribution of normal genetic variation to (disease) phenotypes, and so re-defining disease entities, will be extremely labor-intense but crucial. We have termed this approach PGAS (“phenotype-based genetic association studies”). Ultimate goal is the definition of biological subgroups of mental diseases. For that purpose, the GRAS (Göttingen Research Association for Schizophrenia) data collection was initiated in 2005. With >3000 phenotypical data points per patient, it comprises the world-wide largest currently available schizophrenia database (N > 1200), combining genome-wide SNP coverage and deep phenotyping under highly standardized conditions. First PGAS results on normal genetic variants, relevant for e.g., cognition or catatonia, demonstrated proof-of-concept. Presently, an autistic subphenotype of schizophrenia is being defined where an unfortunate accumulation of normal genotypes, so-called pro-autistic variants of synaptic genes, explains part of the phenotypical variance. Deep phenotyping and comprehensive clinical data sets, however, are expensive and it may take years before PGAS will complement conventional GWAS approaches in psychiatric genetics.