Publications by authors named "Ken Sin Lo"

25 Publications

  • Page 1 of 1

The Polygenic and Monogenic Basis of Blood Traits and Diseases.

Cell 2020 09;182(5):1214-1231.e11

Laboratory of Epidemiology and Population Science, National Institute on Aging/NIH, Baltimore, MD, 21224, USA.

Blood cells play essential roles in human health, underpinning physiological processes such as immunity, oxygen transport, and clotting, which when perturbed cause a significant global health burden. Here we integrate data from UK Biobank and a large-scale international collaborative effort, including data for 563,085 European ancestry participants, and discover 5,106 new genetic variants independently associated with 29 blood cell phenotypes covering a range of variation impacting hematopoiesis. We holistically characterize the genetic architecture of hematopoiesis, assess the relevance of the omnigenic model to blood cell phenotypes, delineate relevant hematopoietic cell states influenced by regulatory genetic variants and gene networks, identify novel splice-altering variants mediating the associations, and assess the polygenic prediction potential for blood traits and clinical disorders at the interface of complex and Mendelian genetics. These results show the power of large-scale blood cell trait GWAS to interrogate clinically meaningful variants across a wide allelic spectrum of human variation.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2020.08.008DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7482360PMC
September 2020

Trans-ethnic and Ancestry-Specific Blood-Cell Genetics in 746,667 Individuals from 5 Global Populations.

Cell 2020 09;182(5):1198-1213.e14

Massachusetts Veterans Epidemiology Research and Information Center (MAVERIC), VA Boston Healthcare System, Boston, MA 02130, USA; Department of Medicine, Division on Aging, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, MA 02115, USA; Department of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA.

Most loci identified by GWASs have been found in populations of European ancestry (EUR). In trans-ethnic meta-analyses for 15 hematological traits in 746,667 participants, including 184,535 non-EUR individuals, we identified 5,552 trait-variant associations at p < 5 × 10, including 71 novel associations not found in EUR populations. We also identified 28 additional novel variants in ancestry-specific, non-EUR meta-analyses, including an IL7 missense variant in South Asians associated with lymphocyte count in vivo and IL-7 secretion levels in vitro. Fine-mapping prioritized variants annotated as functional and generated 95% credible sets that were 30% smaller when using the trans-ethnic as opposed to the EUR-only results. We explored the clinical significance and predictive value of trans-ethnic variants in multiple populations and compared genetic architecture and the effect of natural selection on these blood phenotypes between populations. Altogether, our results for hematological traits highlight the value of a more global representation of populations in genetic studies.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2020.06.045DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7480402PMC
September 2020

Integrative analysis of vascular endothelial cell genomic features identifies AIDA as a coronary artery disease candidate gene.

Genome Biol 2019 07 8;20(1):133. Epub 2019 Jul 8.

Montreal Heart Institute, 5000 Belanger street, Montréal, Québec, H1T 1C8, Canada.

Background: Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified hundreds of loci associated with coronary artery disease (CAD) and blood pressure (BP) or hypertension. Many of these loci are not linked to traditional risk factors, nor do they include obvious candidate genes, complicating their functional characterization. We hypothesize that many GWAS loci associated with vascular diseases modulate endothelial functions. Endothelial cells play critical roles in regulating vascular homeostasis, such as roles in forming a selective barrier, inflammation, hemostasis, and vascular tone, and endothelial dysfunction is a hallmark of atherosclerosis and hypertension. To test this hypothesis, we generate an integrated map of gene expression, open chromatin region, and 3D interactions in resting and TNFα-treated human endothelial cells.

Results: We show that genetic variants associated with CAD and BP are enriched in open chromatin regions identified in endothelial cells. We identify physical loops by Hi-C and link open chromatin peaks that include CAD or BP SNPs with the promoters of genes expressed in endothelial cells. This analysis highlights 991 combinations of open chromatin regions and gene promoters that map to 38 CAD and 92 BP GWAS loci. We validate one CAD locus, by engineering a deletion of the TNFα-sensitive regulatory element using CRISPR/Cas9 and measure the effect on the expression of the novel CAD candidate gene AIDA.

Conclusions: Our data support an important role played by genetic variants acting in the vascular endothelium to modulate inter-individual risk in CAD and hypertension.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s13059-019-1749-5DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6613242PMC
July 2019

Validation of Genome-Wide Polygenic Risk Scores for Coronary Artery Disease in French Canadians.

Circ Genom Precis Med 2019 06 11;12(6):e002481. Epub 2019 Jun 11.

Montreal Heart Institute (F.W., K.S.L., A.L.-A., D.B., M.-P.D., J.-C.T., G.L.), Université de Montréal, Québec, Canada.

Background: Coronary artery disease (CAD) represents one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality worldwide. Given the healthcare risks and societal impacts associated with CAD, their clinical management would benefit from improved prevention and prediction tools. Polygenic risk scores (PRS) based on an individual's genome sequence are emerging as potentially powerful biomarkers to predict the risk to develop CAD. Two recently derived genome-wide PRS have shown high specificity and sensitivity to identify CAD cases in European-ancestry participants from the UK Biobank. However, validation of the PRS predictive power and transferability in other populations is now required to support their clinical utility.

Methods: We calculated both PRS (GPS and metaGRS) in French-Canadian individuals from 3 cohorts totaling 3639 prevalent CAD cases and 7382 controls and tested their power to predict prevalent, incident, and recurrent CAD. We also estimated the impact of the founder French-Canadian familial hypercholesterolemia deletion ( LDLR delta >15 kb deletion) on CAD risk in one of these cohorts and used this estimate to calibrate the impact of the PRS.

Results: Our results confirm the ability of both PRS to predict prevalent CAD comparable to the original reports (area under the curve=0.72-0.89). Furthermore, the PRS identified about 6% to 7% of individuals at CAD risk similar to carriers of the LDLR delta >15 kb mutation, consistent with previous estimates. However, the PRS did not perform as well in predicting an incident or recurrent CAD (area under the curve=0.56-0.60), maybe because of confounding because 76% of the participants were on statin treatment. This result suggests that additional work is warranted to better understand how ascertainment biases and study design impact PRS for CAD.

Conclusions: Collectively, our results confirm that novel, genome-wide PRS is able to predict CAD in French Canadians; with further improvements, this is likely to pave the way towards more targeted strategies to predict and prevent CAD-related adverse events.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1161/CIRCGEN.119.002481DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6587223PMC
June 2019

Protein-coding variants implicate novel genes related to lipid homeostasis contributing to body-fat distribution.

Nat Genet 2019 03 18;51(3):452-469. Epub 2019 Feb 18.

Department of Biostatistics and Center for Statistical Genetics, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA.

Body-fat distribution is a risk factor for adverse cardiovascular health consequences. We analyzed the association of body-fat distribution, assessed by waist-to-hip ratio adjusted for body mass index, with 228,985 predicted coding and splice site variants available on exome arrays in up to 344,369 individuals from five major ancestries (discovery) and 132,177 European-ancestry individuals (validation). We identified 15 common (minor allele frequency, MAF ≥5%) and nine low-frequency or rare (MAF <5%) coding novel variants. Pathway/gene set enrichment analyses identified lipid particle, adiponectin, abnormal white adipose tissue physiology and bone development and morphology as important contributors to fat distribution, while cross-trait associations highlight cardiometabolic traits. In functional follow-up analyses, specifically in Drosophila RNAi-knockdowns, we observed a significant increase in the total body triglyceride levels for two genes (DNAH10 and PLXND1). We implicate novel genes in fat distribution, stressing the importance of interrogating low-frequency and protein-coding variants.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41588-018-0334-2DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6560635PMC
March 2019

Variants at the APOE /C1/C2/C4 Locus Modulate Cholesterol Efflux Capacity Independently of High-Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol.

J Am Heart Assoc 2018 08;7(16):e009545

1 Montreal Heart Institute Montréal Québec Canada.

Background Macrophage cholesterol efflux to high-density lipoproteins ( HDLs ) is the first step of reverse cholesterol transport. The cholesterol efflux capacity ( CEC ) of HDL particles is a protective risk factor for coronary artery disease independent of HDL cholesterol levels. Using a genome-wide association study approach, we aimed to identify pathways that regulate CEC in humans. Methods and Results We measured CEC in 5293 French Canadians. We tested the genetic association between 4 CEC measures and genotypes at >9 million common autosomal DNA sequence variants. These analyses yielded 10 genome-wide significant signals ( P<6.25×10) representing 7 loci. Five of these loci harbor genes with important roles in lipid biology ( CETP , LIPC , LPL , APOA 1/C3/A4/A5, and APOE /C1/C2/C4). Except for the APOE /C1/C2/C4 variant ( rs141622900, P =1.0×10; P =8.8×10), the association signals disappear when correcting for HDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels. The additional 2 significant signals were near the PPP 1 CB / PLB 1 and RBFOX 3/ ENPP 7 genes. In secondary analyses, we considered candidate functional variants for 58 genes implicated in HDL biology, as well as 239 variants associated with blood lipid levels and/or coronary artery disease risk by genome-wide association study . These analyses identified 27 significant CEC associations, implicating 5 additional loci ( GCKR , LIPG , PLTP , PPARA , and TRIB 1). Conclusions Our genome-wide association study identified common genetic variation at the APOE /C1/C2/C4 locus as a major determinant of CEC that acts largely independently of HDL cholesterol. We predict that HDL -based therapies aiming at increasing CEC will be modulated by changes in the expression of apolipoproteins in this gene cluster.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1161/JAHA.118.009545DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6201388PMC
August 2018

PHACTR1 splicing isoforms and eQTLs in atherosclerosis-relevant human cells.

BMC Med Genet 2018 06 8;19(1):97. Epub 2018 Jun 8.

Montreal Heart Institute, 5000 Bélanger Street, Montréal, Québec, H1T 1C8, Canada.

Background: Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified a variant (rs9349379) at the phosphatase and actin regulator 1 (PHACTR1) locus that is associated with coronary artery disease (CAD). The same variant is also an expression quantitative trait locus (eQTL) for PHACTR1 in human coronary arteries (hCA). Here, we sought to characterize PHACTR1 splicing pattern in atherosclerosis-relevant human cells. We also explored how rs9349379 modulates the expression of the different PHACTR1 splicing isoforms.

Methods: We combined rapid amplification of cDNA ends (RACE) with next-generation long-read DNA sequencing to discover all PHACTR1 transcripts in many human tissues and cell types. We measured PHACTR1 transcripts by qPCR to identify transcript-specific eQTLs.

Results: We confirmed a brain-specific long transcript, a short transcript expressed in monocytes and four intermediate transcripts that are different due to alternative splicing of two in-frame exons. In contrast to a previous report, we confirmed that the PHACTR1 protein is present in vascular smooth muscle cells. In 158 hCA from our collection and the GTEx dataset, rs9349379 was only associated with the expression levels of the intermediate PHACTR1 transcripts.

Conclusions: Our comprehensive transcriptomic profiling of PHACTR1 indicates that this gene encodes six main transcripts. Five of them are expressed in hCA, where atherosclerotic plaques develop. In this tissue, genotypes at rs9349379 are associated with the expression of the intermediate transcripts, but not the immune-specific short transcript. This result suggests that rs9349379 may in part influence CAD by modulating the expression of intermediate PHACTR1 transcripts in endothelial or vascular smooth muscle cells found in hCA.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12881-018-0616-7DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5994109PMC
June 2018

Rare and low-frequency coding variants alter human adult height.

Nature 2017 02 1;542(7640):186-190. Epub 2017 Feb 1.

Netherlands Comprehensive Cancer Organisation, Utrecht, 3501 DB, The Netherlands.

Height is a highly heritable, classic polygenic trait with approximately 700 common associated variants identified through genome-wide association studies so far. Here, we report 83 height-associated coding variants with lower minor-allele frequencies (in the range of 0.1-4.8%) and effects of up to 2 centimetres per allele (such as those in IHH, STC2, AR and CRISPLD2), greater than ten times the average effect of common variants. In functional follow-up studies, rare height-increasing alleles of STC2 (giving an increase of 1-2 centimetres per allele) compromised proteolytic inhibition of PAPP-A and increased cleavage of IGFBP-4 in vitro, resulting in higher bioavailability of insulin-like growth factors. These 83 height-associated variants overlap genes that are mutated in monogenic growth disorders and highlight new biological candidates (such as ADAMTS3, IL11RA and NOX4) and pathways (such as proteoglycan and glycosaminoglycan synthesis) involved in growth. Our results demonstrate that sufficiently large sample sizes can uncover rare and low-frequency variants of moderate-to-large effect associated with polygenic human phenotypes, and that these variants implicate relevant genes and pathways.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature21039DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5302847PMC
February 2017

Whole-genome sequencing in French Canadians from Quebec.

Hum Genet 2016 Nov 4;135(11):1213-1221. Epub 2016 Jul 4.

Montreal Heart Institute, 5000 Bélanger Street, Montréal, QC, H1T 1C8, Canada.

Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have had a tremendous success in the identification of common DNA sequence variants associated with complex human diseases and traits. However, because of their design, GWAS are largely inappropriate to characterize the role of rare and low-frequency DNA variants on human phenotypic variation. Rarer genetic variation is geographically more restricted, supporting the need for local whole-genome sequencing (WGS) efforts to study these variants in specific populations. Here, we present the first large-scale low-pass WGS of the French-Canadian population. Specifically, we sequenced at ~5.6× coverage the whole genome of 1970 French Canadians recruited by the Montreal Heart Institute Biobank and identified 29 million bi-allelic variants (31 % novel), including 19 million variants with a minor allele frequency (MAF) <0.5 %. Genotypes from the WGS data are highly concordant with genotypes obtained by exome array on the same individuals (99.8 %), even when restricting this analysis to rare variants (MAF <0.5, 99.9 %) or heterozygous sites (98.9 %). To further validate our data set, we showed that we can effectively use it to replicate several genetic associations with myocardial infarction risk and blood lipid levels. Furthermore, we analyze the utility of our WGS data set to generate a French-Canadian-specific imputation reference panel and to infer population structure in the Province of Quebec. Our results illustrate the value of low-pass WGS to study the genetics of human diseases in the founder French-Canadian population.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00439-016-1702-6DOI Listing
November 2016

The Influence of Age and Sex on Genetic Associations with Adult Body Size and Shape: A Large-Scale Genome-Wide Interaction Study.

PLoS Genet 2015 Oct 1;11(10):e1005378. Epub 2015 Oct 1.

HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology, Huntsville, Alabama, United States of America.

Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified more than 100 genetic variants contributing to BMI, a measure of body size, or waist-to-hip ratio (adjusted for BMI, WHRadjBMI), a measure of body shape. Body size and shape change as people grow older and these changes differ substantially between men and women. To systematically screen for age- and/or sex-specific effects of genetic variants on BMI and WHRadjBMI, we performed meta-analyses of 114 studies (up to 320,485 individuals of European descent) with genome-wide chip and/or Metabochip data by the Genetic Investigation of Anthropometric Traits (GIANT) Consortium. Each study tested the association of up to ~2.8M SNPs with BMI and WHRadjBMI in four strata (men ≤50y, men >50y, women ≤50y, women >50y) and summary statistics were combined in stratum-specific meta-analyses. We then screened for variants that showed age-specific effects (G x AGE), sex-specific effects (G x SEX) or age-specific effects that differed between men and women (G x AGE x SEX). For BMI, we identified 15 loci (11 previously established for main effects, four novel) that showed significant (FDR<5%) age-specific effects, of which 11 had larger effects in younger (<50y) than in older adults (≥50y). No sex-dependent effects were identified for BMI. For WHRadjBMI, we identified 44 loci (27 previously established for main effects, 17 novel) with sex-specific effects, of which 28 showed larger effects in women than in men, five showed larger effects in men than in women, and 11 showed opposite effects between sexes. No age-dependent effects were identified for WHRadjBMI. This is the first genome-wide interaction meta-analysis to report convincing evidence of age-dependent genetic effects on BMI. In addition, we confirm the sex-specificity of genetic effects on WHRadjBMI. These results may provide further insights into the biology that underlies weight change with age or the sexually dimorphism of body shape.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pgen.1005378DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4591371PMC
October 2015

Myocardial Infarction-Associated SNP at 6p24 Interferes With MEF2 Binding and Associates With PHACTR1 Expression Levels in Human Coronary Arteries.

Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol 2015 Jun 2;35(6):1472-1479. Epub 2015 Apr 2.

Montreal Heart Institute, 5000 Bélanger Street, Montréal, Québec, H1T 1C8, Canada.

Objective: Coronary artery disease (CAD), including myocardial infarction (MI), is the main cause of death in the world. Genome-wide association studies have identified dozens of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) associated with CAD/MI. One of the most robust CAD/MI genetic associations is with intronic SNPs in the gene PHACTR1 on chromosome 6p24. How these PHACTR1 SNPs influence CAD/MI risk, and whether PHACTR1 itself is the causal gene at the locus, is currently unknown.

Approach And Results: Using genetic fine-mapping and DNA resequencing experiments, we prioritized an intronic SNP (rs9349379) in PHACTR1 as causal variant. We showed that this variant is an expression quantitative trait locus for PHACTR1 expression in human coronary arteries. Experiments in endothelial cell extracts confirmed that alleles at rs9349379 are differentially bound by the transcription factors myocyte enhancer factor-2. We engineered a deletion of this myocyte enhancer factor-2-binding site using CRISPR/Cas9 genome-editing methodology. Heterozygous endothelial cells carrying this deletion express 35% less PHACTR1. Finally, we found no evidence that PHACTR1 expression levels are induced when stimulating human endothelial cells with vascular endothelial growth factor, tumor necrosis factor-α, or shear stress.

Conclusions: Our results establish a link between intronic SNPs in PHACTR1, myocyte enhancer factor-2 binding, and transcriptional functions at the locus, PHACTR1 expression levels in coronary arteries and CAD/MI risk. Because PHACTR1 SNPs are not associated with the traditional risk factors for CAD/MI (eg, blood lipids or pressure, diabetes mellitus), our results suggest that PHACTR1 may influence CAD/MI risk through as yet unknown mechanisms in the vascular endothelium.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1161/ATVBAHA.115.305534DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4441556PMC
June 2015

Genetic studies of body mass index yield new insights for obesity biology.

Nature 2015 Feb;518(7538):197-206

Department of Genetics, University Medical Center Groningen, University of Groningen, 9700 RB Groningen, The Netherlands.

Obesity is heritable and predisposes to many diseases. To understand the genetic basis of obesity better, here we conduct a genome-wide association study and Metabochip meta-analysis of body mass index (BMI), a measure commonly used to define obesity and assess adiposity, in up to 339,224 individuals. This analysis identifies 97 BMI-associated loci (P < 5 × 10(-8)), 56 of which are novel. Five loci demonstrate clear evidence of several independent association signals, and many loci have significant effects on other metabolic phenotypes. The 97 loci account for ∼2.7% of BMI variation, and genome-wide estimates suggest that common variation accounts for >20% of BMI variation. Pathway analyses provide strong support for a role of the central nervous system in obesity susceptibility and implicate new genes and pathways, including those related to synaptic function, glutamate signalling, insulin secretion/action, energy metabolism, lipid biology and adipogenesis.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature14177DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4382211PMC
February 2015

Nonsense mutations in BAG3 are associated with early-onset dilated cardiomyopathy in French Canadians.

Can J Cardiol 2014 Dec 2;30(12):1655-61. Epub 2014 Oct 2.

Centre de Recherche, Montreal Heart Institute, Montréal, Québec, Canada; Départment de Médecine, Faculté de médecine, Université de Montréal, Montréal, Québec, Canada. Electronic address:

Background: Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) is a major cause of heart failure that may require heart transplantation. Approximately one third of DCM cases are familial. Next-generation DNA sequencing of large panels of candidate genes (ie, targeted sequencing) or of the whole exome can rapidly and economically identify pathogenic mutations in familial DCM.

Methods: We recruited 64 individuals from 26 DCM families followed at the Montreal Heart Institute Cardiovascular Genetic Center and sequenced the whole exome of 44 patients and 2 controls. Both affected and unaffected family members underwent genotyping for segregation analysis.

Results: We found 2 truncating mutations in BAG3 in 4 DCM families (15%) and confirmed segregation with disease status by linkage (log of the odds [LOD] score = 3.8). BAG3 nonsense mutations conferred a worse prognosis as evidenced by a younger age of clinical onset (37 vs 48 years for carriers and noncarriers respectively; P = 0.037). We also found truncating mutations in TTN in 5 families (19%). Finally, we identified potential pathogenic mutations for 9 DCM families in 6 candidate genes (DSP, LMNA, MYH7, MYPN, RBM20, and TNNT2). We still need to confirm several of these mutations by segregation analysis.

Conclusions: Screening an extended panel of 41 candidate genes allowed us to identify probable pathogenic mutations in 69% of families with DCM in our cohort of mostly French-Canadian patients. We confirmed the prevalence of TTN nonsense mutations in DCM. Furthermore, to our knowledge, we are the first to present an association between nonsense mutations in BAG3 and early-onset DCM.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cjca.2014.09.030DOI Listing
December 2014

Defining the role of common variation in the genomic and biological architecture of adult human height.

Nat Genet 2014 Nov 5;46(11):1173-86. Epub 2014 Oct 5.

Department of Genetic Epidemiology, Institute of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, University of Regensburg, Regensburg, Germany.

Using genome-wide data from 253,288 individuals, we identified 697 variants at genome-wide significance that together explained one-fifth of the heritability for adult height. By testing different numbers of variants in independent studies, we show that the most strongly associated ∼2,000, ∼3,700 and ∼9,500 SNPs explained ∼21%, ∼24% and ∼29% of phenotypic variance. Furthermore, all common variants together captured 60% of heritability. The 697 variants clustered in 423 loci were enriched for genes, pathways and tissue types known to be involved in growth and together implicated genes and pathways not highlighted in earlier efforts, such as signaling by fibroblast growth factors, WNT/β-catenin and chondroitin sulfate-related genes. We identified several genes and pathways not previously connected with human skeletal growth, including mTOR, osteoglycin and binding of hyaluronic acid. Our results indicate a genetic architecture for human height that is characterized by a very large but finite number (thousands) of causal variants.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/ng.3097DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4250049PMC
November 2014

Strategies to fine-map genetic associations with lipid levels by combining epigenomic annotations and liver-specific transcription profiles.

Genomics 2014 Aug 2;104(2):105-12. Epub 2014 Jul 2.

Montreal Heart Institute, Montreal, Quebec, Canada; Université de Montréal, Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Electronic address:

Characterization of the epigenome promises to yield the functional elements buried in the human genome sequence, thus helping to annotate non-coding DNA polymorphisms with regulatory functions. Here, we develop two novel strategies to combine epigenomic data with transcriptomic profiles in humans or mice to prioritize potential candidate SNPs associated with lipid levels by genome-wide association study (GWAS). First, after confirming that lipid-associated loci that are also expression quantitative trait loci (eQTL) in human livers are enriched for ENCODE regulatory marks in the human hepatocellular HepG2 cell line, we prioritize candidate SNPs based on the number of these marks that overlap the variant position. This method recognized the known SORT1 rs12740374 regulatory SNP associated with LDL-cholesterol, and highlighted candidate functional SNPs at 15 additional lipid loci. In the second strategy, we combine ENCODE chromatin immunoprecipitation followed by high-throughput DNA sequencing (ChIP-seq) data and liver expression datasets from knockout mice lacking specific transcription factors. This approach identified SNPs in specific transcription factor binding sites that are located near target genes of these transcription factors. We show that FOXA2 transcription factor binding sites are enriched at lipid-associated loci and experimentally validate that alleles of one such proxy SNP located near the FOXA2 target gene BIRC5 show allelic differences in FOXA2-DNA binding and enhancer activity. These methods can be used to generate testable hypotheses for many non-coding SNPs associated with complex diseases or traits.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ygeno.2014.04.006DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4373602PMC
August 2014

Rare and low-frequency coding variants in CXCR2 and other genes are associated with hematological traits.

Nat Genet 2014 Jun 28;46(6):629-34. Epub 2014 Apr 28.

1] Montreal Heart Institute, Montreal, Quebec, Canada. [2] Faculty of Medicine, Université de Montréal, Montreal, Québec, Canada. [3] Faculty of Pharmacy, Université de Montréal, Montreal, Québec, Canada. [4].

Hematological traits are important clinical parameters. To test the effects of rare and low-frequency coding variants on hematological traits, we analyzed hemoglobin concentration, hematocrit levels, white blood cell (WBC) counts and platelet counts in 31,340 individuals genotyped on an exome array. We identified several missense variants in CXCR2 associated with reduced WBC count (gene-based P = 2.6 × 10(-13)). In a separate family-based resequencing study, we identified a CXCR2 frameshift mutation in a pedigree with congenital neutropenia that abolished ligand-induced CXCR2 signal transduction and chemotaxis. We also identified missense or splice-site variants in key hematopoiesis regulators (EPO, TFR2, HBB, TUBB1 and SH2B3) associated with blood cell traits. Finally, we were able to detect associations between a rare somatic JAK2 mutation (encoding p.Val617Phe) and platelet count (P = 3.9 × 10(-22)) as well as hemoglobin concentration (P = 0.002), hematocrit levels (P = 9.5 × 10(-7)) and WBC count (P = 3.1 × 10(-5)). In conclusion, exome arrays complement genome-wide association studies in identifying new variants that contribute to complex human traits.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/ng.2962DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4050975PMC
June 2014

Deep resequencing of GWAS loci identifies rare variants in CARD9, IL23R and RNF186 that are associated with ulcerative colitis.

PLoS Genet 2013 12;9(9):e1003723. Epub 2013 Sep 12.

Montreal Heart Institute, Research Center, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

Genome-wide association studies and follow-up meta-analyses in Crohn's disease (CD) and ulcerative colitis (UC) have recently identified 163 disease-associated loci that meet genome-wide significance for these two inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD). These discoveries have already had a tremendous impact on our understanding of the genetic architecture of these diseases and have directed functional studies that have revealed some of the biological functions that are important to IBD (e.g. autophagy). Nonetheless, these loci can only explain a small proportion of disease variance (~14% in CD and 7.5% in UC), suggesting that not only are additional loci to be found but that the known loci may contain high effect rare risk variants that have gone undetected by GWAS. To test this, we have used a targeted sequencing approach in 200 UC cases and 150 healthy controls (HC), all of French Canadian descent, to study 55 genes in regions associated with UC. We performed follow-up genotyping of 42 rare non-synonymous variants in independent case-control cohorts (totaling 14,435 UC cases and 20,204 HC). Our results confirmed significant association to rare non-synonymous coding variants in both IL23R and CARD9, previously identified from sequencing of CD loci, as well as identified a novel association in RNF186. With the exception of CARD9 (OR = 0.39), the rare non-synonymous variants identified were of moderate effect (OR = 1.49 for RNF186 and OR = 0.79 for IL23R). RNF186 encodes a protein with a RING domain having predicted E3 ubiquitin-protein ligase activity and two transmembrane domains. Importantly, the disease-coding variant is located in the ubiquitin ligase domain. Finally, our results suggest that rare variants in genes identified by genome-wide association in UC are unlikely to contribute significantly to the overall variance for the disease. Rather, these are expected to help focus functional studies of the corresponding disease loci.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pgen.1003723DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3772057PMC
March 2014

Pooled DNA resequencing of 68 myocardial infarction candidate genes in French canadians.

Circ Cardiovasc Genet 2012 Oct 25;5(5):547-54. Epub 2012 Aug 25.

Montreal Heart Institute, 5000 Rue Bélanger, Montreal, Québec, Canada.

Background: Familial history is a strong risk factor for coronary artery disease (CAD), especially for early-onset myocardial infarction (MI). Several genes and chromosomal regions have been implicated in the genetic cause of coronary artery disease/MI, mostly through the discovery of familial mutations implicated in hyper-/hypocholesterolemia by linkage studies and single nucleotide polymorphisms by genome-wide association studies. Except for a few examples (eg, PCSK9), the role of low-frequency genetic variation (minor allele frequency [MAF]) ≈0.1%-5% on MI/coronary artery disease predisposition has not been extensively investigated.

Methods And Results: We selected 68 candidate genes and sequenced their exons (394 kb) in 500 early-onset MI cases and 500 matched controls, all of French-Canadian ancestry, using solution-based capture in pools of nonindexed DNA samples. In these regions, we identified 1852 single nucleotide variants (695 novel) and captured 85% of the variants with MAF≥1% found by the 1000 Genomes Project in Europe-ancestry individuals. Using gene-based association testing, we prioritized for follow-up 29 low-frequency variants in 8 genes and attempted to genotype them for replication in 1594 MI cases and 2988 controls from 2 French-Canadian panels. Our pilot association analysis of low-frequency variants in 68 candidate genes did not identify genes with large effect on MI risk in French Canadians.

Conclusions: We have optimized a strategy, applicable to all complex diseases and traits, to discover efficiently and cost-effectively DNA sequence variants in large populations. Resequencing endeavors to find low-frequency variants implicated in common human diseases are likely to require very large sample size.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1161/CIRCGENETICS.112.963165DOI Listing
October 2012

Deep resequencing of GWAS loci identifies independent rare variants associated with inflammatory bowel disease.

Nat Genet 2011 Oct 9;43(11):1066-73. Epub 2011 Oct 9.

Analytic and Translational Genetics Unit, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.

More than 1,000 susceptibility loci have been identified through genome-wide association studies (GWAS) of common variants; however, the specific genes and full allelic spectrum of causal variants underlying these findings have not yet been defined. Here we used pooled next-generation sequencing to study 56 genes from regions associated with Crohn's disease in 350 cases and 350 controls. Through follow-up genotyping of 70 rare and low-frequency protein-altering variants in nine independent case-control series (16,054 Crohn's disease cases, 12,153 ulcerative colitis cases and 17,575 healthy controls), we identified four additional independent risk factors in NOD2, two additional protective variants in IL23R, a highly significant association with a protective splice variant in CARD9 (P < 1 × 10(-16), odds ratio ≈ 0.29) and additional associations with coding variants in IL18RAP, CUL2, C1orf106, PTPN22 and MUC19. We extend the results of successful GWAS by identifying new, rare and probably functional variants that could aid functional experiments and predictive models.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/ng.952DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3378381PMC
October 2011

Genetic association analysis highlights new loci that modulate hematological trait variation in Caucasians and African Americans.

Hum Genet 2011 Mar 12;129(3):307-17. Epub 2010 Dec 12.

Montreal Heart Institute, 5000 Bélanger Street, Montreal, QC, H1T 1C8, Canada.

Red blood cell, white blood cell, and platelet measures, including their count, sub-type and volume, are important diagnostic and prognostic clinical parameters for several human diseases. To identify novel loci associated with hematological traits, and compare the architecture of these phenotypes between ethnic groups, the CARe Project genotyped 49,094 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) that capture variation in ~2,100 candidate genes in DNA of 23,439 Caucasians and 7,112 African Americans from five population-based cohorts. We found strong novel associations between erythrocyte phenotypes and the glucose-6 phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) A-allele in African Americans (rs1050828, P<2.0×10(-13), T-allele associated with lower red blood cell count, hemoglobin, and hematocrit, and higher mean corpuscular volume), and between platelet count and a SNP at the tropomyosin-4 (TPM4) locus (rs8109288, P=3.0×10(-7) in Caucasians; P=3.0×10(-7) in African Americans, T-allele associated with lower platelet count). We strongly replicated many genetic associations to blood cell phenotypes previously established in Caucasians. A common variant of the α-globin (HBA2-HBA1) locus was associated with red blood cell traits in African Americans, but not in Caucasians (rs1211375, P<7×10(-8), A-allele associated with lower hemoglobin, mean corpuscular hemoglobin, and mean corpuscular volume). Our results show similarities but also differences in the genetic regulation of hematological traits in European- and African-derived populations, and highlight the role of natural selection in shaping these differences.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00439-010-0925-1DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3442357PMC
March 2011

Hundreds of variants clustered in genomic loci and biological pathways affect human height.

Nature 2010 Oct 29;467(7317):832-8. Epub 2010 Sep 29.

Genetics of Complex Traits, Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Exeter, Exeter EX1 2LU, UK.

Most common human traits and diseases have a polygenic pattern of inheritance: DNA sequence variants at many genetic loci influence the phenotype. Genome-wide association (GWA) studies have identified more than 600 variants associated with human traits, but these typically explain small fractions of phenotypic variation, raising questions about the use of further studies. Here, using 183,727 individuals, we show that hundreds of genetic variants, in at least 180 loci, influence adult height, a highly heritable and classic polygenic trait. The large number of loci reveals patterns with important implications for genetic studies of common human diseases and traits. First, the 180 loci are not random, but instead are enriched for genes that are connected in biological pathways (P = 0.016) and that underlie skeletal growth defects (P < 0.001). Second, the likely causal gene is often located near the most strongly associated variant: in 13 of 21 loci containing a known skeletal growth gene, that gene was closest to the associated variant. Third, at least 19 loci have multiple independently associated variants, suggesting that allelic heterogeneity is a frequent feature of polygenic traits, that comprehensive explorations of already-discovered loci should discover additional variants and that an appreciable fraction of associated loci may have been identified. Fourth, associated variants are enriched for likely functional effects on genes, being over-represented among variants that alter amino-acid structure of proteins and expression levels of nearby genes. Our data explain approximately 10% of the phenotypic variation in height, and we estimate that unidentified common variants of similar effect sizes would increase this figure to approximately 16% of phenotypic variation (approximately 20% of heritable variation). Although additional approaches are needed to dissect the genetic architecture of polygenic human traits fully, our findings indicate that GWA studies can identify large numbers of loci that implicate biologically relevant genes and pathways.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature09410DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2955183PMC
October 2010

Optimus Primer: A PCR enrichment primer design program for next-generation sequencing of human exonic regions.

BMC Res Notes 2010 Jul 7;3:185. Epub 2010 Jul 7.

Université de Montréal, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

Background: Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) remains a simple, flexible, and inexpensive method for enriching genomic regions of interest for next-generation sequencing. In order to utilize PCR in this context, a major challenge facing researchers is how to generate a very large number of functional PCR primers that will successfully generate useable amplicons. For instance, in an exon-only re-sequencing project targeting 100 genes, each with 10 exons, 1,000 pairs of primers are required. In fact, the reality is often more complex as each gene might have several isoforms and large exons need to be divided to maintain the desired amplicon size. With only a list of gene names, our program Optimus Primer (OP) automatically takes into account all these variables, and can generate primers with no need to provide genome coordinates. More importantly however, OP, unlike other primer design programs, uniquely utilizes Primer3 in an iterative manner that allows the user to progressively design up to four iterations of primer designs. Through a single interface, the user can specify up to four different design parameters with different stringencies, thus increasing the probability that a functional PCR primer pair will be designed for all regions of interest in a single pass of the pipeline.

Findings: To demonstrate the effectiveness of the program, we designed PCR primers against 77 genes located in loci associated with ulcerative colitis as part of a candidate gene re-sequencing experiment. We achieved an experimental success rate of 93% or 472 out of 508 amplicons spanning the exonic regions of the 77 genes. Moreover, by automatically passing amplicons that failed primer design through three additional iterations of design parameters, we achieved an additional 170 successful primer pairs or 34% more in a single pass of OP than by conventional methods.

Conclusion: With only a gene list and PCR parameters, a user can produce hundreds of PCR primer designs for regions of interest with a high probability of success in a very short amount of time. Optimus Primer is an essential tool for researchers who want to pursue PCR-based enrichment strategies for next-generation re-sequencing applications. The program can be accessed via website at http://op.pgx.ca.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/1756-0500-3-185DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2916007PMC
July 2010

Proteome-wide identification of poly(ADP-ribose) binding proteins and poly(ADP-ribose)-associated protein complexes.

Nucleic Acids Res 2008 Dec 3;36(22):6959-76. Epub 2008 Nov 3.

Laval University Medical Research Center, CHUQ, Faculty of Medicine, Laval University, Québec, Canada.

Poly(ADP-ribose) (pADPr) is a polymer assembled from the enzymatic polymerization of the ADP-ribosyl moiety of NAD by poly(ADP-ribose) polymerases (PARPs). The dynamic turnover of pADPr within the cell is essential for a number of cellular processes including progression through the cell cycle, DNA repair and the maintenance of genomic integrity, and apoptosis. In spite of the considerable advances in the knowledge of the physiological conditions modulated by poly(ADP-ribosyl)ation reactions, and notwithstanding the fact that pADPr can play a role of mediator in a wide spectrum of biological processes, few pADPr binding proteins have been identified so far. In this study, refined in silico prediction of pADPr binding proteins and large-scale mass spectrometry-based proteome analysis of pADPr binding proteins were used to establish a comprehensive repertoire of pADPr-associated proteins. Visualization and modeling of these pADPr-associated proteins in networks not only reflect the widespread involvement of poly(ADP-ribosyl)ation in several pathways but also identify protein targets that could shed new light on the regulatory functions of pADPr in normal physiological conditions as well as after exposure to genotoxic stimuli.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/nar/gkn771DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2602769PMC
December 2008

Differential proteomic screen to evidence proteins ubiquitinated upon mitotic exit in cell-free extract of Xenopus laevis embryos.

J Proteome Res 2008 Nov 30;7(11):4701-14. Epub 2008 Sep 30.

CNRS UMR 6061, Institute of Genetics & Development, University of Rennes 1, Mitosis & Meiosis Group, IFR 140 GFAS, 35 043 Rennes Cedex, France.

Post-translational modification of proteins via ubiquitination plays a crucial role in numerous vital functions of the cell. Polyubiquitination is one of the key regulatory processes involved in regulation of mitotic progression. Here we describe a differential proteomic screen dedicated to identification of novel proteins ubiquitinated upon mitotic exit in cell-free extract of Xenopus laevis embryo. Mutated recombinant His6-tagged ubiquitin (Ubi (K48R)) was added to mitotic extract from which we purified conjugated proteins, as well as associated proteins in nondenaturing conditions by cobalt affinity chromatography. Proteins eluted from Ubi (K48R) supplemented and control extracts were compared by LC-MS/MS analysis after monodimensional SDS-PAGE. A total of 144 proteins potentially ubiquitinated or associated with them were identified. Forty-one percent of these proteins were shown to be involved in ubiquitination and/or proteasomal degradation pathway confirming the specificity of the screen. Twelve proteins, among them ubiquitin itself, were shown to carry a "GG" or "LRGG" remnant tag indicating their direct ubiquitination. Interestingly, sequence analysis of ubiquitinated substrates carrying these tags indicated that in Xenopus cell-free embryo extract supplemented with Ubi (K48R) the majority of polyubiquitination occurred through lysine-11 specific ubiquitin chain polymerization. The potential interest in this atypical form of ubiquitination as well as usefulness of our method in analyzing atypical polyubiquitin species is discussed.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/pr800250xDOI Listing
November 2008
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