Publications by authors named "Bernhard H F Weber"

195 Publications

Epistatic interactions of genetic loci associated with age-related macular degeneration.

Sci Rep 2021 Jun 23;11(1):13114. Epub 2021 Jun 23.

Institute of Human Genetics, University of Regensburg, Franz-Josef-Strauss-Allee 11, 93053, Regensburg, Germany.

The currently largest genome-wide association study (GWAS) for age-related macular degeneration (AMD) defines disease association with genome-wide significance for 52 independent common and rare genetic variants across 34 chromosomal loci. Overall, these loci contain over 7200 variants and are enriched for genes with functions indicating several shared cellular processes. Still, the precise mechanisms leading to AMD pathology are largely unknown. Here, we exploit the phenomenon of epistatic interaction to identify seemingly independent AMD-associated variants that reveal joint effects on gene expression. We focus on genetic variants associated with lipid metabolism, organization of extracellular structures, and innate immunity, specifically the complement cascade. Multiple combinations of independent variants were used to generate genetic risk scores allowing gene expression in liver to be compared between low and high-risk AMD. We identified genetic variant combinations correlating significantly with expression of 26 genes, of which 19 have not been associated with AMD before. This study defines novel targets and allows prioritizing further functional work into AMD pathobiology.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-92351-4DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8222216PMC
June 2021

Performance of Breast Cancer Polygenic Risk Scores in 760 Female CHEK2 Germline Mutation Carriers.

J Natl Cancer Inst 2021 Jul;113(7):893-899

Division of Psychiatry, University College London, London, UK.

Background: Genome-wide association studies suggest that the combined effects of breast cancer (BC)-associated single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) can improve BC risk stratification using polygenic risk scores (PRSs). The performance of PRSs in genome-wide association studies-independent clinical cohorts is poorly studied in individuals carrying mutations in moderately penetrant BC predisposition genes such as CHEK2.

Methods: A total of 760 female CHEK2 mutation carriers were included; 561 women were affected with BC, of whom 74 developed metachronous contralateral BC (mCBC). For PRS calculations, 2 SNP sets covering 77 (SNP set 1, developed for BC risk stratification in women unselected for their BRCA1/2 germline mutation status) and 88 (SNP set 2, developed for BC risk stratification in female BRCA1/2 mutation carriers) BC-associated SNPs were used. All statistical tests were 2-sided.

Results: Both SNP sets provided concordant PRS results at the individual level (r = 0.91, P < 2.20 × 10-16). Weighted cohort Cox regression analyses revealed statistically significant associations of PRSs with the risk for first BC. For SNP set 1, a hazard ratio of 1.71 per SD of the PRS was observed (95% confidence interval = 1.36 to 2.15, P = 3.87 × 10-6). PRSs identify a subgroup of CHEK2 mutation carriers with a predicted lifetime risk for first BC that exceeds the surveillance thresholds defined by international guidelines. Association of PRS with mCBC was examined via Cox regression analysis (SNP set 1 hazard ratio = 1.23, 95% confidence interval = 0.86 to 1.78, P = .26).

Conclusions: PRSs may be used to personalize risk-adapted preventive measures for women with CHEK2 mutations. Larger studies are required to assess the role of PRSs in mCBC predisposition.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/jnci/djaa203DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8246885PMC
July 2021

Clinical Heterogeneity in Autosomal Recessive Bestrophinopathy with Biallelic Mutations in the Gene.

Int J Mol Sci 2020 Dec 8;21(24). Epub 2020 Dec 8.

Zentrum für Seltene Netzhauterkrankungen, AugenZentrum Siegburg, MVZ Augenärztliches Diagnostik- und Therapiecentrum Siegburg GmbH, Europaplatz 3, 53721 Siegburg, Germany.

Autosomal recessive bestrophinopathy (ARB) has been reported as clinically heterogeneous. Eighteen patients (mean age: 22.5 years; 15 unrelated families) underwent ophthalmological examination, fundus photography, fundus autofluorescence, and optical coherence tomography (OCT). Molecular genetic testing of the gene was conducted by the chain-terminating dideoxynucleotide Sanger methodology. Onset of symptoms (3 to 50 years of age) and best-corrected visual acuity (0.02-1.0) were highly variable. Ophthalmoscopic and retinal imaging defined five phenotypes. Phenotype I presented with single or confluent yellow lesions at the posterior pole and midperiphery, serous retinal detachment, and intraretinal cystoid spaces. In phenotype II fleck-like lesions were smaller and extended to the far periphery. Phenotype III showed a widespread continuous lesion with sharp peripheral demarcation. Single (phenotype IV) or multifocal (phenotype V) vitelliform macular dystrophy-like lesions were observed as well. Phenotypes varied within families and in two eyes of one patient. In addition, OCT detected hyperreflective foci (13/36 eyes) and choroidal excavation (11/36). Biallelic mutations were identified in each patient, six of which have not been reported so far [c.454C>T/p.(Pro152Ser), c.620T>A/p.(Leu207His), c.287_298del/p.(Gln96_Asn99del), c.199_200del/p.(Leu67Valfs*164), c.524del/p.(Ser175Thrfs*19), c.590_615del/p.(Leu197Profs*26)]. -associated ARB presents with a variable age of onset and clinical findings, that can be categorized in 5 clinical phenotypes. Hyperreflective foci and choroidal excavation frequently develop as secondary manifestations.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/ijms21249353DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7763028PMC
December 2020

Altered Protein Function Caused by AMD-associated Variant rs704 Links Vitronectin to Disease Pathology.

Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 2020 12;61(14)

Institute of Human Genetics, University of Regensburg, Regensburg, Germany.

Purpose: Vitronectin, a cell adhesion and spreading factor, is suspected to play a role in the pathogenesis of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), as it is a major component of AMD-specific extracellular deposits (e.g., soft drusen, subretinal drusenoid deposits). The present study addressed the impact of AMD-associated non-synonymous variant rs704 in the vitronectin-encoding gene VTN on vitronectin functionality.

Methods: Effects of rs704 on vitronectin expression and processing were analyzed by semi-quantitative sequencing of VTN transcripts from retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) cells generated from human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) and from human neural retina, as well as by western blot analyses on heterologously expressed vitronectin isoforms. Binding of vitronectin isoforms to retinal and endothelial cells was analyzed by western blot. Immunofluorescence staining followed extracellular matrix (ECM) deposition in cultured RPE cells heterologously expressing the vitronectin isoforms. Adhesion of fluorescently labeled RPE or endothelial cells in dependence of recombinant vitronectin or vitronectin-containing ECM was investigated fluorometrically or microscopically. Tube formation and migration assays addressed effects of vitronectin on angiogenesis-related processes.

Results: Variant rs704 affected expression, secretion, and processing but not oligomerization of vitronectin. Cell binding and influence on RPE-mediated ECM deposition differed between AMD-risk-associated and non-AMD-risk-associated protein isoforms. Finally, vitronectin affected adhesion and endothelial tube formation.

Conclusions: The AMD-risk-associated vitronectin isoform exhibits increased expression and altered functionality in cellular processes related to the sub-RPE aspects of AMD pathology. Although further research is required to address the subretinal disease aspects, this initial study supports an involvement of vitronectin in AMD pathogenesis.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1167/iovs.61.14.2DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7718807PMC
December 2020

Learning from Fifteen Years of Genome-Wide Association Studies in Age-Related Macular Degeneration.

Cells 2020 10 10;9(10). Epub 2020 Oct 10.

Institute of Human Genetics, University of Regensburg, 93053 Regensburg, Germany.

Over the last 15 years, genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have greatly advanced our understanding of the genetic landscape of complex phenotypes. Nevertheless, causal interpretations of GWAS data are challenging but crucial to understand underlying mechanisms and pathologies. In this review, we explore to what extend the research community follows up on GWAS data. We have traced the scientific activities responding to the two largest GWAS conducted on age-related macular degeneration (AMD) so far. Altogether 703 articles were manually categorized according to their study type. This demonstrates that follow-up studies mainly involve "Review articles" (33%) or "Genetic association studies" (33%), while 19% of publications report on findings from experimental work. It is striking to note that only three of 16 AMD-associated loci described de novo in 2016 were examined in the four-year follow-up period after publication. A comparative analysis of five studies on gene expression regulation in AMD-associated loci revealed consistent gene candidates for 15 of these loci. Our random survey highlights the fact that functional follow-up studies on GWAS results are still in its early stages hampering a significant refinement of the vast association data and thus a more accurate insight into mechanisms and pathways.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/cells9102267DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7650698PMC
October 2020

Pleiotropic Locus 15q24.1 Reveals a Gender-Specific Association with Neovascular but Not Atrophic Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD).

Cells 2020 10 8;9(10). Epub 2020 Oct 8.

Institute of Human Genetics, University of Regensburg, 93053 Regensburg, Germany.

Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified an abundance of genetic loci associated with complex traits and diseases. In contrast, in-depth characterization of an individual genetic signal is rarely available. Here, we focus on the genetic variant rs2168518 in 15q24.1 previously associated with age-related macular degeneration (AMD), but only with suggestive evidence. In a two-step procedure, we initially conducted a series of association analyses to further delineate the association of rs2168518 with AMD but also with other complex phenotypes by using large independent datasets from the International AMD Genomics Consortium (IAMDGC) and the UK Biobank. We then performed a functional annotation with reference to gene expression regulation based on data from the Genotype-Tissue Expression (GTEx) project and RegulomeDB. Association analysis revealed a gender-specific association with male AMD patients and an association predominantly with choroidal neovascularization. Further, the AMD association colocalizes with an association signal of several blood pressure-related phenotypes and with the gene expression regulation of , a member of the cytochrome P450 superfamily of monooxygenases. Functional annotation revealed altered transcription factor (TF) binding sites for gender-specific TFs, including SOX9 and SRY. In conclusion, the pleiotropic 15q24.1 association signal suggests a shared mechanism between blood pressure regulation and choroidal neovascularization with a potential involvement of CYP1A1.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/cells9102257DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7650707PMC
October 2020

A mega-analysis of expression quantitative trait loci in retinal tissue.

PLoS Genet 2020 09 1;16(9):e1008934. Epub 2020 Sep 1.

Institute of Human Genetics, University of Regensburg, Regensburg, Germany.

Significant association signals from genome-wide association studies (GWAS) point to genomic regions of interest. However, for most loci the causative genetic variant remains undefined. Determining expression quantitative trait loci (eQTL) in a disease relevant tissue is an excellent approach to zoom in on disease- or trait-associated association signals and hitherto on relevant disease mechanisms. To this end, we explored regulation of gene expression in healthy retina (n = 311) and generated the largest cis-eQTL data set available to date. Genotype- and RNA-Seq data underwent rigorous quality control protocols before FastQTL was applied to assess the influence of genetic markers on local (cis) gene expression. Our analysis identified 403,151 significant eQTL variants (eVariants) that regulate 3,007 genes (eGenes) (Q-Value < 0.05). A conditional analysis revealed 744 independent secondary eQTL signals for 598 of the 3,007 eGenes. Interestingly, 99,165 (24.71%) of all unique eVariants regulate the expression of more than one eGene. Filtering the dataset for eVariants regulating three or more eGenes revealed 96 potential regulatory clusters. Of these, 31 harbour 130 genes which are partially regulated by the same genetic signal. To correlate eQTL and association signals, GWAS data from twelve complex eye diseases or traits were included and resulted in identification of 80 eGenes with potential association. Remarkably, expression of 10 genes is regulated by eVariants associated with multiple eye diseases or traits. In conclusion, we generated a unique catalogue of gene expression regulation in healthy retinal tissue and applied this resource to identify potentially pleiotropic effects in highly prevalent human eye diseases. Our study provides an excellent basis to further explore mechanisms of various retinal disease etiologies.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pgen.1008934DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7462281PMC
September 2020

Genome-wide association meta-analysis for early age-related macular degeneration highlights novel loci and insights for advanced disease.

BMC Med Genomics 2020 08 26;13(1):120. Epub 2020 Aug 26.

Institute of Human Genetics, University of Regensburg, Regensburg, Germany.

Background: Advanced age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a leading cause of blindness. While around half of the genetic contribution to advanced AMD has been uncovered, little is known about the genetic architecture of early AMD.

Methods: To identify genetic factors for early AMD, we conducted a genome-wide association study (GWAS) meta-analysis (14,034 cases, 91,214 controls, 11 sources of data including the International AMD Genomics Consortium, IAMDGC, and UK Biobank, UKBB). We ascertained early AMD via color fundus photographs by manual grading for 10 sources and via an automated machine learning approach for > 170,000 photographs from UKBB. We searched for early AMD loci via GWAS and via a candidate approach based on 14 previously suggested early AMD variants.

Results: Altogether, we identified 10 independent loci with statistical significance for early AMD: (i) 8 from our GWAS with genome-wide significance (P < 5 × 10), (ii) one previously suggested locus with experiment-wise significance (P < 0.05/14) in our non-overlapping data and with genome-wide significance when combining the reported and our non-overlapping data (together 17,539 cases, 105,395 controls), and (iii) one further previously suggested locus with experiment-wise significance in our non-overlapping data. Of these 10 identified loci, 8 were novel and 2 known for early AMD. Most of the 10 loci overlapped with known advanced AMD loci (near ARMS2/HTRA1, CFH, C2, C3, CETP, TNFRSF10A, VEGFA, APOE), except two that have not yet been identified with statistical significance for any AMD. Among the 17 genes within these two loci, in-silico functional annotation suggested CD46 and TYR as the most likely responsible genes. Presence or absence of an early AMD effect distinguished the known pathways of advanced AMD genetics (complement/lipid pathways versus extracellular matrix metabolism).

Conclusions: Our GWAS on early AMD identified novel loci, highlighted shared and distinct genetics between early and advanced AMD and provides insights into AMD etiology. Our data provide a resource comparable in size to the existing IAMDGC data on advanced AMD genetics enabling a joint view. The biological relevance of this joint view is underscored by the ability of early AMD effects to differentiate the major pathways for advanced AMD.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12920-020-00760-7DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7449002PMC
August 2020

Retinoschisin and Cardiac Glycoside Crosstalk at the Retinal Na/K-ATPase.

Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 2020 05;61(5)

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Purpose: Mutations in the RS1 gene, which encodes retinoschisin, cause X-linked juvenile retinoschisis, a retinal dystrophy in males. Retinoschisin specifically interacts with the retinal sodium-potassium adenosine triphosphatase (Na/K-ATPase), a transmembrane ion pump. Na/K-ATPases also bind cardiac glycosides, which control the activity of the pump and have been linked to disturbances in retinal homeostasis. In this study, we investigated the crosstalk between retinoschisin and cardiac glycosides at the retinal Na/K-ATPase and the consequences of this interplay on retinal integrity.

Methods: The effect of cardiac glycosides (ouabain and digoxin) on the binding of retinoschisin to the retinal Na/K-ATPase was investigated via western blot and immunocytochemistry. Also, the influence of retinoschisin on the binding of cardiac glycosides was analyzed via enzymatic assays, which quantified cardiac glycoside-sensitive Na/K-ATPase pump activity. Moreover, retinoschisin-dependent binding of tritium-labeled ouabain to the Na/K-ATPase was determined. Finally, a reciprocal effect of retinoschisin and cardiac glycosides on Na/K-ATPase localization and photoreceptor degeneration was addressed using immunohistochemistry in retinoschisin-deficient murine retinal explants.

Results: Cardiac glycosides displaced retinoschisin from the retinal Na/K-ATPase; however, retinoschisin did not affect cardiac glycoside binding. Notably, cardiac glycosides reduced the capacity of retinoschisin to regulate Na/K-ATPase localization and to protect against photoreceptor degeneration.

Conclusions: Our findings reveal opposing effects of retinoschisin and cardiac glycosides on retinal Na/K-ATPase binding and on retinal integrity, suggesting that a fine-tuned interplay between both components is required to maintain retinal homeostasis. This observation provides new insight into the mechanisms underlying the pathological effects of cardiac glycoside treatment on retinal integrity.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1167/iovs.61.5.1DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7405613PMC
May 2020

Resolving the dark matter of ABCA4 for 1054 Stargardt disease probands through integrated genomics and transcriptomics.

Genet Med 2020 07 20;22(7):1235-1246. Epub 2020 Apr 20.

Bartiméus Diagnostic Center for Complex Visual Disorders, Zeist, The Netherlands.

Purpose: Missing heritability in human diseases represents a major challenge, and this is particularly true for ABCA4-associated Stargardt disease (STGD1). We aimed to elucidate the genomic and transcriptomic variation in 1054 unsolved STGD and STGD-like probands.

Methods: Sequencing of the complete 128-kb ABCA4 gene was performed using single-molecule molecular inversion probes (smMIPs), based on a semiautomated and cost-effective method. Structural variants (SVs) were identified using relative read coverage analyses and putative splice defects were studied using in vitro assays.

Results: In 448 biallelic probands 14 known and 13 novel deep-intronic variants were found, resulting in pseudoexon (PE) insertions or exon elongations in 105 alleles. Intriguingly, intron 13 variants c.1938-621G>A and c.1938-514G>A resulted in dual PE insertions consisting of the same upstream, but different downstream PEs. The intron 44 variant c.6148-84A>T resulted in two PE insertions and flanking exon deletions. Eleven distinct large deletions were found, two of which contained small inverted segments. Uniparental isodisomy of chromosome 1 was identified in one proband.

Conclusion: Deep sequencing of ABCA4 and midigene-based splice assays allowed the identification of SVs and causal deep-intronic variants in 25% of biallelic STGD1 cases, which represents a model study that can be applied to other inherited diseases.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41436-020-0787-4DOI Listing
July 2020

A Circulating MicroRNA Profile in a Laser-Induced Mouse Model of Choroidal Neovascularization.

Int J Mol Sci 2020 Apr 13;21(8). Epub 2020 Apr 13.

Institute of Human Genetics, University of Regensburg, 93053 Regensburg, Germany.

Choroidal neovascularization (CNV) is a pathological process in which aberrant blood vessels invade the subretinal space of the mammalian eye. It is a characteristic feature of the prevalent neovascular age-related macular degeneration (nAMD). Circulating microRNAs (cmiRNAs) are regarded as potentially valuable biomarkers for various age-related diseases, including nAMD. Here, we investigated cmiRNA expression in an established laser-induced CNV mouse model. Upon CNV induction in C57Bl/6 mice, blood-derived cmiRNAs were initially determined globally by RNA next generation sequencing, and the most strongly dysregulated cmiRNAs were independently replicated by quantitative reverse transcription PCR (RT-qPCR) in blood, retinal, and retinal pigment epithelium (RPE)/choroidal tissue. Our findings suggest that two miRNAs, mmu-mir-486a-5p and mmur-mir-92a-3p, are consistently dysregulated during CNV formation. Furthermore, in functional in vitro assays, a significant impact of mmu-mir-486a-5p and mmu-mir-92a-3p on murine microglial cell viability was observed, while mmu-mir-92a-3p also showed an impact on microglial mobility. Taken together, we report a robust dysregulation of two miRNAs in blood and RPE/choroid after laser-induced initiation of CNV lesions in mice, highlighting their potential role in pathology and eventual therapy of CNV-associated complications.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/ijms21082689DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7216141PMC
April 2020

[Mutation-Dependent Mechanisms and Their Impact on Targeted Therapeutic Strategies with Reference to Bestrophin 1 and the Bestrophinopathies].

Klin Monbl Augenheilkd 2020 Mar 2;237(3):259-266. Epub 2020 Mar 2.

Institut für Humangenetik, Universität Regensburg.

Bestrophin 1 () encodes an integral membrane protein localized in the basolateral aspect of the retinal pigment epithelium. Mutations in BEST1 are associated with distinct retinal dystrophies, the so-called "bestrophinopathies", often causing visual impairment, even in early childhood. The clinical entities of the bestrophinopathies can be distinguished by phenotypic characteristics and mode of inheritance of the respective gene defect. While the autosomal dominant inheritance pattern with one altered copy of is common, heterozygous carriers of the autosomal recessive bestrophinopathy are generally but not consistently symptom-free. This review highlights the significance of understanding the underlying molecular mechanisms that contribute to disease pathogenesis of autosomal dominant and autosomal recessive bestrophinopathies. This knowledge is deemed crucial and needs to be considered in future planning of treatment strategies.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1055/a-1065-2129DOI Listing
March 2020

Mutation-Dependent Pathomechanisms Determine the Phenotype in the Bestrophinopathies.

Int J Mol Sci 2020 Feb 26;21(5). Epub 2020 Feb 26.

Institute of Human Genetics, University of Regensburg, Franz-Josef-Strauß-Allee 11, 93053 Regensburg, Germany.

Best vitelliform macular dystrophy (BD), autosomal dominant vitreoretinochoroidopathy (ADVIRC), and the autosomal recessive bestrophinopathy (ARB), together known as the bestrophinopathies, are caused by mutations in the bestrophin-1 () gene affecting anion transport through the plasma membrane of the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE). To date, while no treatment exists a better understanding of BEST1-related pathogenesis may help to define therapeutic targets. Here, we systematically characterize functional consequences of mutant BEST1 in thirteen RPE patient cell lines differentiated from human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs). Both BD and ARB hiPSC-RPEs display a strong reduction of BEST1-mediated anion transport function compared to control, while ADVIRC mutations trigger an increased anion permeability suggesting a stabilized open state condition of channel gating. Furthermore, BD and ARB hiPSC-RPEs differ by the degree of mutant protein turnover and by the site of subcellular protein quality control with adverse effects on lysosomal pH only in the BD-related cell lines. The latter finding is consistent with an altered processing of catalytic enzymes in the lysosomes. The present study provides a deeper insight into distinct molecular mechanisms of the three bestrophinopathies facilitating functional categorization of the more than 300 known mutations that result into the distinct retinal phenotypes.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/ijms21051597DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7084480PMC
February 2020

A transcriptome-wide association study based on 27 tissues identifies 106 genes potentially relevant for disease pathology in age-related macular degeneration.

Sci Rep 2020 01 31;10(1):1584. Epub 2020 Jan 31.

Institute of Human Genetics, University of Regensburg, Regensburg, Germany.

Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) for late stage age-related macular degeneration (AMD) have identified 52 independent genetic variants with genome-wide significance at 34 genomic loci. Typically, such an approach rarely results in the identification of functional variants implicating a defined gene in the disease process. We now performed a transcriptome-wide association study (TWAS) allowing the prediction of effects of AMD-associated genetic variants on gene expression. The TWAS was based on the genotypes of 16,144 late-stage AMD cases and 17,832 healthy controls, and gene expression was imputed for 27 different human tissues which were obtained from 134 to 421 individuals. A linear regression model including each individuals imputed gene expression data and the respective AMD status identified 106 genes significantly associated to AMD variants in at least one tissue (Q-value < 0.001). Gene enrichment analysis highlighted rather systemic than tissue- or cell-specific processes. Remarkably, 31 of the 106 genes overlapped with significant GWAS signals of other complex traits and diseases, such as neurological or autoimmune conditions. Taken together, our study highlights the fact that expression of genes associated with AMD is not restricted to retinal tissue as could be expected for an eye disease of the posterior pole, but instead is rather ubiquitous suggesting processes underlying AMD pathology to be of systemic nature.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-58510-9DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6994629PMC
January 2020

Correlating Adaptive Optics Images to Clinical Findings in Juvenile Macular Dystrophy with Hypotrichosis in Siblings with Homozygous CDH3 Pathogenic Variation.

Ophthalmic Res 2020 10;63(2):141-151. Epub 2020 Jan 10.

Institute for Ophthalmic Research, Center for Ophthalmology, University of Tübingen, Tübingen, Germany.

Objective: We report on two German siblings diagnosed with congenital hypotrichosis and juvenile macular dystrophy, an extremely rare syndrome affecting both hair growth and visual functions.

Methods: A detailed ophthalmological examination was carried out including fundus examination, visual acuity assessment, visual field determination, color vision testing, and electrophysiology (electroretinography [ERG]). Additionally, fundus photography and autofluorescence imaging (FAF) was performed, along with optical coherence tomography (OCT) and adaptive optics (AO) fundus imaging. Targeted Sanger sequencing and next-generation gene panel sequencing were carried out.

Results: Macular dystrophy was evident in the fundus of both patients, as was a central scotoma in the static visual field. The kinetic visual field was normal. The ERG recordings were also normal, but the amplitudes of the multifocal ERG were reduced in the central 4-5° of the retina. The FAF images revealed a large central hypofluorescent area surrounded by a hyperfluorescent ring. The OCT images showed atrophy in the outer layers and tubulations. The AO images depicted a loss of central photoreceptors, as well as severe central atrophy in patient 1. A cone mosaic was observable in the peripheral AO fundus images of both patients. The disrupted cone mosaic on the AO images correlated with the hypofluorescent areas on autofluorescence. DNA testing identified the homozygous, likely pathogenic variant c.1508G>A/p.(Arg503His) (chr16:68719191) in the CDH3 gene.

Conclusions: The two siblings revealed hypotrichosis and macular dystrophy in both eyes. The identification of a homozygous CDH3 mutation in each patient confirms the syndromic entity of hypotrichosis with juvenile macular degeneration.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1159/000504757DOI Listing
January 2021

Cell-Type-Specific Complement Expression in the Healthy and Diseased Retina.

Cell Rep 2019 11 26;29(9):2835-2848.e4. Epub 2019 Nov 26.

Department of Physiological Genomics, Biomedical Center, Ludwig Maximilians University Munich, Planegg-Martinsried 82152, Germany. Electronic address:

Complement dysregulation is a feature of many retinal diseases, yet mechanistic understanding at the cellular level is limited. Given this knowledge gap about which retinal cells express complement, we performed single-cell RNA sequencing on ∼92,000 mouse retinal cells and validated our results in five major purified retinal cell types. We found evidence for a distributed cell-type-specific complement expression across 11 cell types. Notably, Müller cells are the major contributor of complement activators c1s, c3, c4, and cfb. Retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) mainly expresses cfh and the terminal complement components, whereas cfi and cfp transcripts are most abundant in neurons. Aging enhances c1s, cfb, cfp, and cfi expression, while cfh expression decreases. Transient retinal ischemia increases complement expression in microglia, Müller cells, and RPE. In summary, we report a unique complement expression signature for murine retinal cell types suggesting a well-orchestrated regulation of local complement expression in the retinal microenvironment.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.celrep.2019.10.084DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6911814PMC
November 2019

Complement C3 Inhibitor Pegcetacoplan for Geographic Atrophy Secondary to Age-Related Macular Degeneration: A Randomized Phase 2 Trial.

Ophthalmology 2020 02 16;127(2):186-195. Epub 2019 Jul 16.

Apellis Pharmaceuticals, Inc, Waltham, Massachusetts.

Purpose: Geographic atrophy (GA), a late stage of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), is a major cause of blindness. Even while central visual acuity remains relatively well preserved, GA often causes considerable compromise of visual function and quality of life. No treatment currently exists. We evaluated the safety and efficacy of pegcetacoplan, a complement C3 inhibitor, for treatment of GA.

Design: Prospective, multicenter, randomized, sham-controlled phase 2 study.

Participants: Two hundred forty-six patients with GA.

Methods: Patients with GA were assigned randomly in a 2:2:1:1 ratio to receive intravitreal injections of 15 mg pegcetacoplan monthly or every other month (EOM) or sham intravitreal injections monthly or EOM for 12 months with follow-up at months 15 and 18. Area and growth of GA were measured using fundus autofluorescence imaging.

Main Outcome Measures: The primary efficacy end point was mean change in square root GA lesion area from baseline to month 12. Secondary outcome measures included mean change from baseline in GA lesion area without the square root transformation, distance of GA lesion from the fovea, best-corrected visual acuity (BCVA), low-luminance BCVA, and low-luminance visual acuity deficit. The primary safety end point was the number and severity of treatment-emergent adverse events.

Results: In patients receiving pegcetacoplan monthly or EOM, the GA growth rate was reduced by 29% (95% confidence interval [CI], 9-49; P = 0.008) and 20% (95% CI, 0-40; P = 0.067) compared with the sham treatment group. Post hoc analysis showed that the effect was greater in the second 6 months of treatment, with observed reductions of 45% (P = 0.0004) and 33% (P = 0.009) for pegcetacoplan monthly and EOM, respectively. Two cases of culture-positive endophthalmitis and 1 case of culture-negative endophthalmitis occurred in the pegcetacoplan monthly group. New-onset investigator-determined exudative AMD was reported more frequently in pegcetacoplan-treated eyes (18/86 eyes [20.9%] and 7/79 eyes [8.9%] in monthly and EOM groups, respectively) than in sham-treated eyes (1/81 eyes [1.2%]).

Conclusions: Local C3 inhibition with pegcetacoplan resulted in statistically significant reductions in the growth of GA compared with sham treatment. Phase 3 studies will define the efficacy and safety profile further.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ophtha.2019.07.011DOI Listing
February 2020

Investigating the effects of additional truncating variants in DNA-repair genes on breast cancer risk in BRCA1-positive women.

BMC Cancer 2019 Aug 8;19(1):787. Epub 2019 Aug 8.

Institute of Medical Genetics and Applied Genomics, University of Tübingen, Tübingen, Germany.

Background: Inherited pathogenic variants in BRCA1 and BRCA2 are the most common causes of hereditary breast and ovarian cancer (HBOC). The risk of developing breast cancer by age 80 in women carrying a BRCA1 pathogenic variant is 72%. The lifetime risk varies between families and even within affected individuals of the same family. The cause of this variability is largely unknown, but it is hypothesized that additional genetic factors contribute to differences in age at onset (AAO). Here we investigated whether truncating and rare missense variants in genes of different DNA-repair pathways contribute to this phenomenon.

Methods: We used extreme phenotype sampling to recruit 133 BRCA1-positive patients with either early breast cancer onset, below 35 (early AAO cohort) or cancer-free by age 60 (controls). Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) was used to screen for variants in 311 genes involved in different DNA-repair pathways.

Results: Patients with an early AAO (73 women) had developed breast cancer at a median age of 27 years (interquartile range (IQR); 25.00-27.00 years). A total of 3703 variants were detected in all patients and 43 of those (1.2%) were truncating variants. The truncating variants were found in 26 women of the early AAO group (35.6%; 95%-CI 24.7 - 47.7%) compared to 16 women of controls (26.7%; 95%-CI 16.1 to 39.7%). When adjusted for environmental factors and family history, the odds ratio indicated an increased breast cancer risk for those carrying an additional truncating DNA-repair variant to BRCA1 mutation (OR: 3.1; 95%-CI 0.92 to 11.5; p-value = 0.07), although it did not reach the conventionally acceptable significance level of 0.05.

Conclusions: To our knowledge this is the first time that the combined effect of truncating variants in DNA-repair genes on AAO in patients with hereditary breast cancer is investigated. Our results indicate that co-occurring truncating variants might be associated with an earlier onset of breast cancer in BRCA1-positive patients. Larger cohorts are needed to confirm these results.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12885-019-5946-0DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6686546PMC
August 2019

Cost-effective molecular inversion probe-based ABCA4 sequencing reveals deep-intronic variants in Stargardt disease.

Hum Mutat 2019 10 18;40(10):1749-1759. Epub 2019 Jun 18.

Department of Human Genetics, Radboud University Medical Center, Nijmegen, The Netherlands.

Purpose: Stargardt disease (STGD1) is caused by biallelic mutations in ABCA4, but many patients are genetically unsolved due to insensitive mutation-scanning methods. We aimed to develop a cost-effective sequencing method for ABCA4 exons and regions carrying known causal deep-intronic variants.

Methods: Fifty exons and 12 regions containing 14 deep-intronic variants of ABCA4 were sequenced using double-tiled single molecule Molecular Inversion Probe (smMIP)-based next-generation sequencing. DNAs of 16 STGD1 cases carrying 29 ABCA4 alleles and of four healthy persons were sequenced using 483 smMIPs. Thereafter, DNAs of 411 STGD1 cases with one or no ABCA4 variant were sequenced. The effect of novel noncoding variants on splicing was analyzed using in vitro splice assays.

Results: Thirty-four ABCA4 variants previously identified in 16 STGD1 cases were reliably identified. In 155/411 probands (38%), two causal variants were identified. We identified 11 deep-intronic variants present in 62 alleles. Two known and two new noncanonical splice site variants showed splice defects, and one novel deep-intronic variant (c.4539+2065C>G) resulted in a 170-nt mRNA pseudoexon insertion (p.[Arg1514Lysfs*35,=]).

Conclusions: smMIPs-based sequence analysis of coding and selected noncoding regions of ABCA4 enabled cost-effective mutation detection in STGD1 cases in previously unsolved cases.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/humu.23787DOI Listing
October 2019

The Y227N mutation affects bestrophin-1 protein stability and impairs sperm function in a mouse model of Best vitelliform macular dystrophy.

Biol Open 2019 Jul 2;8(7). Epub 2019 Jul 2.

Institute of Human Genetics, University of Regensburg, 93053 Regensburg, Germany

Human bestrophin-1 (BEST1) is an integral membrane protein known to function as a Ca-activated and volume-regulated chloride channel. The majority of disease-associated mutations in constitute missense mutations and were shown to lead to a reduction in mutant protein half-life causing Best disease (BD), a rare autosomal dominant macular dystrophy. To further delineate BEST1-associated pathology and to provide an animal model useful to explore experimental treatment efficacies, we have generated a knock-in mouse line (Best1). Heterozygous and homozygous mutants revealed no significant ocular abnormalities up to 2 years of age. In contrast, knock-in animals demonstrated a severe phenotype in the male reproductive tract. In heterozygous Best1 males, Best1 protein was significantly reduced in testis and almost absent in homozygous mutant mice, although mRNA transcription of wild-type and knock-in allele is present and similar in quantity. Degradation of mutant Best1 protein in testis was associated with adverse effects on sperm motility and the capability to fertilize eggs. Based on these results, we conclude that mice carrying the Y227N mutation reveal a reproducible pathologic phenotype and thus provide a valuable tool to evaluate efficacy of drug therapies aimed at restoring Best1 protein stability and function.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1242/bio.041335DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6679414PMC
July 2019

Insights into the loss of the Y chromosome with age in control individuals and in patients with age-related macular degeneration using genotyping microarray data.

Hum Genet 2020 Mar 27;139(3):401-407. Epub 2019 May 27.

Institut Jacques Monod, Université Paris Diderot, 15 rue Hélène Brion, 75013, Paris, France.

The extent of aneuploidy of the sex chromosomes increases with age in human leukocytes. Here, we re-explore the dynamics of normal loss of the Y chromosome (LOY) with age based on microarray data using two exponential models and two different ways to estimate the fraction of LOY. This analysis shows the existence of a significant correlation between the fraction of LOY estimated from molecular cytogenetics and genotyping microarray data. Although the specific estimates of the parameters for the two exponential models are different from those derived from cytogenetics data, the present analysis in an independent dataset of normal individuals confirms that X0 cells have a selective advantage over XY cells. Moreover, patients with age-related macular degeneration display higher fraction of LOY values and seem to have a predisposition to lose their Y chromosome even at young ages compared to control individuals. As there are no data available for the same individuals at different time points, the parameters reported here are average values drawn from population analyses.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00439-019-02029-1DOI Listing
March 2020

Large scale multifactorial likelihood quantitative analysis of BRCA1 and BRCA2 variants: An ENIGMA resource to support clinical variant classification.

Hum Mutat 2019 09;40(9):1557-1578

Institute of Human Genetics, University Hospital of Schleswig-Holstein, Campus Kiel, Christian-Albrechts University Kiel, Kiel, Germany.

The multifactorial likelihood analysis method has demonstrated utility for quantitative assessment of variant pathogenicity for multiple cancer syndrome genes. Independent data types currently incorporated in the model for assessing BRCA1 and BRCA2 variants include clinically calibrated prior probability of pathogenicity based on variant location and bioinformatic prediction of variant effect, co-segregation, family cancer history profile, co-occurrence with a pathogenic variant in the same gene, breast tumor pathology, and case-control information. Research and clinical data for multifactorial likelihood analysis were collated for 1,395 BRCA1/2 predominantly intronic and missense variants, enabling classification based on posterior probability of pathogenicity for 734 variants: 447 variants were classified as (likely) benign, and 94 as (likely) pathogenic; and 248 classifications were new or considerably altered relative to ClinVar submissions. Classifications were compared with information not yet included in the likelihood model, and evidence strengths aligned to those recommended for ACMG/AMP classification codes. Altered mRNA splicing or function relative to known nonpathogenic variant controls were moderately to strongly predictive of variant pathogenicity. Variant absence in population datasets provided supporting evidence for variant pathogenicity. These findings have direct relevance for BRCA1 and BRCA2 variant evaluation, and justify the need for gene-specific calibration of evidence types used for variant classification.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/humu.23818DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6772163PMC
September 2019

Assessment of Novel Genome-Wide Significant Gene Loci and Lesion Growth in Geographic Atrophy Secondary to Age-Related Macular Degeneration.

JAMA Ophthalmol 2019 Aug;137(8):867-876

Institute of Human Genetics, University of Regensburg, Regensburg, Germany.

Importance: Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a common threat to vision loss in individuals older than 50 years. While neovascular complications in AMD are treatable, there is currently no therapy for geographic atrophy secondary to AMD. Geographic atrophy lesion progression over time shows considerable interindividual variability, but little is known about prognostic factors.

Objective: To elucidate the contribution of common genetic variants to geographic atrophy lesion growth.

Design, Setting, And Participants: This pooled analysis combined 4 independent studies: the Fundus Autofluorescence Imaging in Age-Related Macular Degeneration (FAM) study, the Directional Spread in Geographic Atrophy (DSGA) study, the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS), and the Geographic Atrophy Treatment Evaluation (GATE) study. Each provided data for geographic atrophy lesion growth in specific designs. Patients with geographic atrophy secondary to AMD were recruited to these studies. Genotypes were retrieved through the database of Genotypes and Phenotypes (for AREDS) or generated at the Cologne Center for Genomics (for FAM, DSGA, and GATE).

Main Outcomes: The correlation between square root-transformed geographic atrophy growth rate and 7 596 219 genetic variants passing quality control was estimated using linear regression. The calculations were adjusted for known factors influencing geographic atrophy growth, such as the presence of bilateral geographic atrophy as well as the number of lesion spots and follow-up times.

Main Outcomes And Measures: Slopes per allele, 95% CIs, and P values of genetic variants correlated with geographic atrophy lesion growth.

Results: A total of 935 patients (mean [SD] age, 74.7 [7.8] years; 547 female participants [59.0%]) were included. Two gene loci with conservative genome-wide significance were identified. Each minor allele of the genome-wide associated variants increased the geographic atrophy growth rate by a mean of about 15% or 0.05 mm per year. Gene prioritization within each locus suggests the protein arginine methyltransferase 6 gene (PRMT6; chromosome 1; slope, 0.046 [95% CI, 0.026-0.066]; P = 4.09 × 10-8) and the lanosterol synthase gene (LSS; chromosome 21; slope, 0.105 [95% CI, 0.068-0.143]; P = 4.07 × 10-7) as the most likely progression-associated genes.

Conclusions And Relevance: These data provide further insight into the genetic architecture of geographic atrophy lesion growth. Geographic atrophy is a clinical outcome with a high medical need for effective therapy. The genes PRMT6 and LSS are promising candidates for future studies aimed at understanding functional aspects of geographic atrophy progression and also for designing novel and targeted treatment options.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1001/jamaophthalmol.2019.1318DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6547131PMC
August 2019

Identification of the retinoschisin-binding site on the retinal Na/K-ATPase.

PLoS One 2019 2;14(5):e0216320. Epub 2019 May 2.

Institute of Human Genetics, University of Regensburg, Regensburg, Germany.

X-linked juvenile retinoschisis (XLRS) is a hereditary retinal dystrophy, caused by mutations in the RS1 gene which encodes the secreted protein retinoschisin. In recent years, several molecules have been proposed to interact with retinoschisin, including the retinal Na/K-ATPase, L-voltage gated Ca2+ channels, and specific sugars. We recently showed that the retinal Na/K-ATPase consisting of subunits ATP1A3 and ATP1B2 is essential for anchoring retinoschisin to plasma membranes and identified the glycosylated ATP1B2 subunit as the direct interaction partner for retinoschisin. We now aimed to precisely map the retinoschisin binding domain(s) in ATP1B2. In general, retinoschisin binding was not affected after selective elimination of individual glycosylation sites via site-directed mutagenesis as well as after full enzymatic deglycosylation of ATP1B2. Applying the interface prediction tool PresCont, two putative protein-protein interaction patches ("patch I" and "patch II") consisting each of four hydrophobic amino acid stretches on the ATP1B2 surface were identified. These were consecutively altered by site-directed mutagenesis. Functional assays with the ATP1B2 patch mutants identified patch II and, specifically, the associated amino acid at position 240 (harboring a threonine in ATP1B2) as crucial for retinoschisin binding to ATP1B2. These and previous results led us to suggest an induced-fit binding mechanism for the interaction between retinoschisin and the Na/K-ATPase, which is dependent on threonine 240 in ATP1B2 allowing the accommodation of hyperflexible retinoschisin spikes by the associated protein-protein interaction patch on ATP1B2.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0216320PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6497308PMC
January 2020

On the differences between mega- and meta-imputation and analysis exemplified on the genetics of age-related macular degeneration.

Genet Epidemiol 2019 07 23;43(5):559-576. Epub 2019 Apr 23.

Department of Genetic Epidemiology, University of Regensburg, Regensburg, Germany.

While current genome-wide association analyses often rely on meta-analysis of study-specific summary statistics, individual participant data (IPD) from multiple studies increase options for modeling. When multistudy IPD is available, however, it is unclear whether this data is to be imputed and modeled across all participants (mega-imputation and mega-analysis) or study-specifically (meta-imputation and meta-analysis). Here, we investigated different approaches toward imputation and analysis using 52,189 subjects from 25 studies of the International Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) Genomics Consortium including, 16,144 AMD cases and 17,832 controls for association analysis. From 27,448,454 genetic variants after 1,000-Genomes-based imputation, mega-imputation yielded ~400,000 more variants with high imputation quality (mostly rare variants) compared to meta-imputation. For AMD signal detection (P < 5 × 10 ) in mega-imputed data, most loci were detected with mega-analysis without adjusting for study membership (40 loci, including 34 known); we considered these loci genuine, since genetic effects and P-values were comparable across analyses. In meta-imputed data, we found 31 additional signals, mostly near chromosome tails or reference panel gaps, which disappeared after accounting for interaction of whole-genome amplification (WGA) with study membership or after excluding studies with WGA-participants. For signal detection with multistudy IPD, we recommend mega-imputation and mega-analysis, with meta-imputation followed by meta-analysis being a computationally appealing alternative.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/gepi.22204DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6619271PMC
July 2019

Retinal Layer Thicknesses in Early Age-Related Macular Degeneration: Results From the German AugUR Study.

Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 2019 04;60(5):1581-1594

Department of Genetic Epidemiology, University of Regensburg, Regensburg, Germany.

Purpose: To systematically analyze thicknesses of retinal layers in an older population and their link to early age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

Methods: In the AugUR baseline survey from a population aged ≥70 years, we conducted multimodal retinal imaging, including spectral-domain optical coherence tomography. Autosegmentation of eight distinct retinal layers was followed by manual correction of segmentation errors. AMD status was graded on color fundus images according to the Three Continent AMD Consortium Severity Scale. We tested the association of early AMD on retinal layer thicknesses by using linear mixed models and replicated significant results in independent data also from the AugUR platform.

Results: When comparing layer thicknesses between early AMD and no AMD (822 eyes, 449 participants), the retinal pigment epithelium/Bruch's membrane complex demonstrated a statistically significant thickening (e.g., P = 6.41 × 10-92 for severe early versus no AMD) and photoreceptor layers showed a significant thinning. Autosegmented retinal layer thicknesses revealed similar associations as manually corrected values but underestimated some effects. Independent replication analysis in 1026 eyes (546 participants) confirmed associations (e.g., P = 9.38 × 10-36 for retinal pigment epithelium/Bruch's membrane complex, severe early versus no AMD).

Conclusions: This first population-based study on spectral-domain optical coherence tomography-derived retinal layer thicknesses in a total of ∼1000 individuals provides insights into the reliability of autosegmentation and layer-specific reference values for an older population. Our findings show a difference in thicknesses between early AMD and no AMD for some retinal layers, suggesting these as potential imaging biomarkers. The thinning of photoreceptor layers substantiates a photoreceptor cell loss/damage already occurring in early AMD.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1167/iovs.18-25332DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6892378PMC
April 2019

The agonistic TSPO ligand XBD173 attenuates the glial response thereby protecting inner retinal neurons in a murine model of retinal ischemia.

J Neuroinflammation 2019 Feb 18;16(1):43. Epub 2019 Feb 18.

Institute of Human Genetics, University of Regensburg, Franz-Josef-Strauß-Allee 11, 93053, Regensburg, Germany.

Background: Ligand-driven modulation of the mitochondrial translocator protein 18 kDa (TSPO) was recently described to dampen the neuroinflammatory response of microglia in a retinal light damage model resulting in protective effects on photoreceptors. We characterized the effects of the TSPO ligand XBD173 in the postischemic retina focusing on changes in the response pattern of the major glial cell types of the retina-microglia and Müller cells.

Methods: Retinal ischemia was induced by increasing the intraocular pressure for 60 min followed by reperfusion of the tissue in mice. On retinal cell types enriched via immunomagnetic separation expression analysis of TSPO, its ligand diazepam-binding inhibitor (DBI) and markers of glial activation were performed at transcript and protein level using RNA sequencing, qRT-PCR, lipid chromatography-mass spectrometry, and immunofluorescent labeling. Data on cell morphology and numbers were assessed in retinal slice and flatmount preparations. The retinal functional integrity was determined by electroretinogram recordings.

Results: We demonstrate that TSPO is expressed by Müller cells, microglia, vascular cells, retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) of the healthy and postischemic retina, but only at low levels in retinal neurons. While an alleviated neurodegeneration upon XBD173 treatment was found in postischemic retinae as compared to vehicle controls, this neuroprotective effect of XBD173 is mediated putatively by its action on retinal glia. After transient ischemia, TSPO as a marker of activation was upregulated to similar levels in microglia as compared to their counterparts in healthy retinae irrespective of the treatment regimen. However, less microglia were found in XBD173-treated postischemic retinae at 3 days post-surgery (dps) which displayed a more ramified morphology than in retinae of vehicle-treated mice indicating a dampened microglia activation. Müller cells, the major retinal macroglia, show upregulation of the typical gliosis marker GFAP. Importantly, glutamine synthetase was more stably expressed in Müller glia of XBD173-treated postischemic retinae and homeostatic functions such as cellular volume regulation typically diminished in gliotic Müller cells remained functional.

Conclusions: In sum, our data imply that beneficial effects of XBD173 treatment on the postischemic survival of inner retinal neurons were primarily mediated by stabilizing neurosupportive functions of glial cells.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12974-019-1424-5DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6378755PMC
February 2019

Deep-intronic ABCA4 variants explain missing heritability in Stargardt disease and allow correction of splice defects by antisense oligonucleotides.

Genet Med 2019 08 15;21(8):1751-1760. Epub 2019 Jan 15.

Department of Human Genetics, Radboud University Medical Center, Nijmegen, The Netherlands.

Purpose: Using exome sequencing, the underlying variants in many persons with autosomal recessive diseases remain undetected. We explored autosomal recessive Stargardt disease (STGD1) as a model to identify the missing heritability.

Methods: Sequencing of ABCA4 was performed in 8 STGD1 cases with one variant and p.Asn1868Ile in trans, 25 cases with one variant, and 3 cases with no ABCA4 variant. The effect of intronic variants was analyzed using in vitro splice assays in HEK293T cells and patient-derived fibroblasts. Antisense oligonucleotides were used to correct splice defects.

Results: In 24 of the probands (67%), one known and five novel deep-intronic variants were found. The five novel variants resulted in messenger RNA pseudoexon inclusions, due to strengthening of cryptic splice sites or by disrupting a splicing silencer motif. Variant c.769-784C>T showed partial insertion of a pseudoexon and was found in cis with c.5603A>T (p.Asn1868Ile), so its causal role could not be fully established. Variant c.4253+43G>A resulted in partial skipping of exon 28. Remarkably, antisense oligonucleotides targeting the aberrant splice processes resulted in (partial) correction of all splicing defects.

Conclusion: Our data demonstrate the importance of assessing noncoding variants in genetic diseases, and show the great potential of splice modulation therapy for deep-intronic variants.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41436-018-0414-9DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6752325PMC
August 2019

Views of ophthalmologists on the genetics of age-related macular degeneration: Results of a qualitative study.

PLoS One 2018 20;13(12):e0209328. Epub 2018 Dec 20.

Medical Sociology, Institute for Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, University of Regensburg, Regensburg, Germany.

Background: Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of blindness in industrialized countries. It is a multifactorial disease of the retina modified by environmental/individual (e.g. smoking) and genetic factors. 34 independent genomic loci are associated with the risk to develop AMD; an interaction between smoking and genetics is currently investigated. It is unclear how the knowledge on the strong genetic component has entered the knowledge base of practicing ophthalmologists, and how they inform and counsel their (AMD) patients about it. In this study, we explore the ophthalmologists' view on AMD genetics, and their inclination towards communicating genetic risks to patients.

Methods: We recruited a purposive sample of thirty German ophthalmologists (office based: n = 15, hospital employees: n = 15, f:8/30), who took part in a recorded semi-standardized interview. Transcripts were analyzed using content analysis.

Results: The majority of office-based ophthalmologists claimed to be unfamiliar with genetics of AMD, in contrast to hospital-affiliated ophthalmologists. Both office and hospital ophthalmologists were convinced that genetics lacks practical relevance in everyday patient care. Many withhold information on heritability or genetic background of AMD from patients and their relatives, for fear of unsettling those individuals. The relevance of the genetic component of AMD or an individuals' high genetic risk for prevention, e.g. screening or lifestyle modifications in persons with adverse genetic profile, was rated low.

Conclusion: Developing genetic educational programs tailored to the routine care of ophthalmologists may be indicated, as well as a better two-way communication between research and practice. Exploring patient views about their expectations to being informed about genetic disease etiology, or about their individual risk, would help inform communication strategies.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0209328PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6301605PMC
May 2019

Y chromosome mosaicism is associated with age-related macular degeneration.

Eur J Hum Genet 2019 01 29;27(1):36-41. Epub 2018 Aug 29.

Institute of Human Genetics, University of Regensburg, Regensburg, Germany.

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of blindness in industrialised countries, and thereby a major individual but also a socio-economic burden. Y chromosome loss in nucleated blood cells has been implicated in age-related diseases such as Alzheimer disease and was shown to be caused by increasing age, smoking and genetic factors. Mosaic loss of Y chromosome (mLOY) in peripheral blood was estimated from normalised dosages of genotyping chip data covering the male-specific region of the Y chromosome. After quality control, we assessed the association of mLOY on AMD risk in 5772 male cases and 6732 male controls. In controls the prevalence of mLOY increased significantly with age, which is consistent with previous reports. Importantly, mLOY was associated with late-stage AMD with genome-wide significance (OR: 1.332 [95% CI: 1.206; 1.472], P = 1.60e-08), independent of age, the AMD genetic risk score and the first two principle components of ancestry. Additionally conditioning on smoking behaviour had no influence on the observed association strength. mLOY was strongest associated in individuals aged between 65 and 75 years. Taken together, mLOY is significantly associated with risk for AMD, independent of known and potential confounding factors.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41431-018-0238-8DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6303255PMC
January 2019
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