Using gene map science to evaluate the genetic map and eliminate disease

Genetic News

The Target of Rapamycin (TOR or mTOR) is a serine/threonine kinase that regulates growth, development, and behaviors by modulating protein synthesis, autophagy, and multiple other cellular processes in response to changes in nutrients and other cues. Over recent years, TOR has been studied intensively in mammalian cell culture and genetic systems because of its importance in growth, metabolism, cancer, and aging. Through its advantages for unbiased, and high-throughput, genetic and in vivo studies, Caenorhabditis elegans has made major contributions to our understanding of TOR biology. Genetic analyses in the worm have revealed unexpected aspects of TOR functions and regulation, and have the potential to further expand our understanding of how growth and metabolic regulation influence development. In the aging field, C. elegans has played a leading role in revealing the promise of TOR inhibition as a strategy for extending life span, and identifying mechanisms that function upstream and downstream of TOR to influence aging. Here, we review the state of the TOR field in C. elegans, and focus on what we have learned about its functions in development, metabolism, and aging. We discuss knowledge gaps, including the potential pitfalls in translating findings back and forth across organisms, but also describe how TOR is important for C. elegans biology, and how C. elegans work has developed paradigms of great importance for the broader TOR field.

De novo mutations (DNM) create new genetic variance and are an important driver for long-term selection response. We hypothesized that genomic selection exploits mutational variance less than traditional selection methods such as mass selection or selection on pedigree-based breeding values, because DNM in selection candidates are not captured when the selection candidates’ own phenotype is not used in genomic selection, DNM are not on SNP chips and DNM are not in linkage disequilibrium with the SNP on the chip. We tested this hypothesis with Monte Carlo simulation. From whole-genome sequence data, a subset of ~300,000 variants was used that served as putative markers, quantitative trait loci or DNM. We simulated 20 generations with truncation selection based on breeding values from genomic best linear unbiased prediction without (GBLUP_no_OP) or with own phenotype (GBLUP_OP), pedigree-based BLUP without (BLUP_no_OP) or with own phenotype (BLUP_OP), or directly on phenotype. GBLUP_OP was the best strategy in exploiting mutational variance, while GBLUP_no_OP and BLUP_no_OP were the worst in exploiting mutational variance. The crucial element is that GBLUP_no_OP and BLUP_no_OP puts no selection pressure on DNM in selection candidates. Genetic variance decreased faster with GBLUP_no_OP and GBLUP_OP than with BLUP_no_OP, BLUP_OP or mass selection. The distribution of mutational effects, mutational variance, number of DNM per individual and nonadditivity had a large impact on mutational selection response and mutational genetic variance, but not on ranking of selection strategies. We advocate that more sustainable genomic selection strategies are required to optimize long-term selection response and to maintain genetic diversity.

The additive genomic variance in linear models with random marker effects can be defined as a random variable that is in accordance with classical quantitative genetics theory. Common approaches to estimate the genomic variance in random-effects linear models based on genomic marker data can be regarded as estimating the unconditional (or prior) expectation of this random additive genomic variance, and result in a negligence of the contribution of linkage disequilibrium (LD). We introduce a novel best prediction (BP) approach for the additive genomic variance in both the current and the base population in the framework of genomic prediction using the genomic best linear unbiased prediction (gBLUP) method. The resulting best predictor is the conditional (or posterior) expectation of the additive genomic variance when using the additional information given by the phenotypic data, and is structurally in accordance with the genomic equivalent of the classical additive genetic variance in random-effects models. In particular, the best predictor includes the contribution of (marker) LD to the additive genomic variance and possibly fully eliminates the missing contribution of LD that is caused by the assumptions of statistical frameworks such as the random-effects model. We derive an empirical best predictor (eBP) and compare its performance with common approaches to estimate the additive genomic variance in random-effects models on commonly used genomic datasets.

Crossovers (COs) between homologous chromosomes are critical for meiotic chromosome segregation and form in the context of the synaptonemal complex (SC), a meiosis-specific structure that assembles between aligned homologs. During Caenorhabditis elegans meiosis, central region components of the SC (SYP proteins) are essential to repair double-strand DNA breaks (DSBs) as COs. Here, we investigate the relationships between the SYP proteins and conserved pro-CO factors by examining the immunolocalization of these proteins in meiotic mutants where SYP proteins are absent, reduced, or mislocalized. Although COs do not form in syp null mutants, pro-CO factors COSA-1, MSH-5, and ZHP-3 nevertheless colocalize at DSB-dependent sites during late prophase, reflecting an inherent affinity of these factors for DSB repair sites. In contrast, in mutants where SYP proteins are present but form aggregates or display abnormal synapsis, pro-CO factors consistently track with SYP-1 localization. Further, pro-CO factors usually localize to a single site per SYP-1 structure, even in SYP aggregates or in mutants where the SC forms between sister chromatids, suggesting that CO regulation occurs within these aberrant SC structures. Moreover, we find that the meiotic cohesin REC-8 is required to ensure that SC formation occurs between homologs and not sister chromatids. Taken together, our findings support a model in which SYP proteins promote CO formation by promoting the localization of pro-CO factors to recombination events within an SC compartment, thereby ensuring that pro-CO factors identify a recombination event within an SC structure and that CO maturation occurs only between properly aligned homologous chromosomes.

Telomeres progressively shorten at every round of DNA replication in the absence of telomerase. When they become critically short, telomeres trigger replicative senescence by activating a DNA damage response that is governed by the Mec1/ATR and Tel1/ATM protein kinases. While Mec1/ATR is known to block cell division when extended single-stranded DNA (ssDNA) accumulates at eroded telomeres, the molecular mechanism by which Tel1/ATM promotes senescence is still unclear. By characterizing a Tel1–hy184 mutant variant that compensates for the lack of Mec1 functions, we provide evidence that Tel1 promotes senescence by signaling to a Rad9-dependent checkpoint. Tel1–hy184 anticipates senescence onset in telomerase-negative cells, while the lack of Tel1 or the expression of a kinase-defective (kd) Tel1 variant delays it. Both Tel1–hy184 and Tel1–kd do not alter ssDNA generation at telomeric DNA ends. Furthermore, Rad9 and (only partially) Mec1 are responsible for the precocious senescence promoted by Tel1–hy184. This precocious senescence is mainly caused by the F1751I, D1985N, and E2133K amino acid substitutions, which are located in the FRAP–ATM–TRAPP domain of Tel1 and also increase Tel1 binding to DNA ends. Altogether, these results indicate that Tel1 induces replicative senescence by directly signaling dysfunctional telomeres to the checkpoint machinery.

A subset of cancers rely on telomerase-independent mechanisms to maintain their chromosome ends. The predominant "alternative lengthening of telomeres" pathway appears dependent on homology-directed repair (HDR) to maintain telomeric DNA. However, the molecular changes needed for cells to productively engage in telomeric HDR are poorly understood. To gain new insights into this transition, we monitored the state of telomeres during serial culture of fission yeast (Schizosaccharomyces pombe) lacking the telomerase recruitment factor Ccq1. Rad52 is loaded onto critically short telomeres shortly after germination despite continued telomere erosion, suggesting that recruitment of recombination factors is not sufficient to maintain telomeres in the absence of telomerase function. Instead, survivor formation coincides with the derepression of telomeric repeat-containing RNA (TERRA). In this context, degradation of TERRA associated with the telomere in the form of R-loops drives a severe growth crisis, ultimately leading to a novel type of survivor with linear chromosomes and altered cytological telomere characteristics, including the loss of the shelterin component Rap1 (but not the TRF1/TRF2 ortholog, Taz1) from the telomere. We demonstrate that deletion of Rap1 is protective in this context, preventing the growth crisis that is otherwise triggered by degradation of telomeric R-loops in survivors with linear chromosomes. These findings suggest that upregulation of telomere-engaged TERRA, or altered recruitment of shelterin components, can support telomerase-independent telomere maintenance.

In Saccharomyces cerevisiae, transcriptional silencing at HML and HMR maintains mating-type identity. The repressive chromatin structure at these loci is replicated every cell cycle and must be re-established quickly to prevent transcription of the genes at these loci. Mutations in a component of the replisome, the proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA), encoded by POL30, cause a loss of transcriptional silencing at HMR. We used an assay that captures transient losses of silencing at HML and HMR to perform extended genetic analyses of the pol30-6, pol30-8, and pol30-79 alleles. All three alleles destabilized silencing only transiently and only in cycling cells. Whereas pol30-8 caused loss of silencing by disrupting the function of Chromatin Assembly Factor 1, pol30-6 and pol30-79 acted through a separate genetic pathway, but one still dependent on histone chaperones. Surprisingly, the silencing-loss phenotypes of pol30-6 and pol30-79 depended on ploidy, but not on POL30 dosage or mating-type identity. Separately from silencing loss, the pol30-6 and pol30-79 alleles also displayed high levels of mitotic recombination in diploids. These results established that histone trafficking involving PCNA at replication forks is crucial to the maintenance of chromatin state and genome stability during DNA replication. They also raised the possibility that increased ploidy may protect chromatin states when the replisome is perturbed.

Two common features of centromeres are their transcription into noncoding centromere RNAs (cen-RNAs) and their assembly into nucleosomes that contain a centromere-specific histone H3 (cenH3). Here, we show that Saccharomyces cerevisiae cen-RNA was present in low amounts in wild-type (WT) cells, and that its appearance was tightly cell cycle-regulated, appearing and disappearing in a narrow window in S phase after centromere replication. In cells lacking Cbf1, a centromere-binding protein, cen-RNA was 5–12 times more abundant throughout the cell cycle. In WT cells, cen-RNA appearance occurred at the same time as loss of Cbf1’s centromere binding, arguing that the physical presence of Cbf1 inhibits cen-RNA production. Binding of the Pif1 DNA helicase, which happens in mid–late S phase, occurred at about the same time as Cbf1 loss from the centromere, suggesting that Pif1 may facilitate this loss by its known ability to displace proteins from DNA. Cen-RNAs were more abundant in rnh1 cells but only in mid–late S phase. However, fork pausing at centromeres was not elevated in rnh1 cells but rather was due to centromere-binding proteins, including Cbf1. Strains with increased cen-RNA lost centromere plasmids at elevated rates. In cbf1 cells, where both the levels and the cell cycle-regulated appearance of cen-RNA were disrupted, the timing and levels of cenH3 centromere binding were perturbed. Thus, cen-RNAs are highly regulated, and disruption of this regulation correlates with changes in centromere structure and function.

Hydrogen sulfide (H2S) is an endogenously produced signaling molecule that can be cytoprotective, especially in conditions of ischemia/reperfusion injury. However, H2S is also toxic, and unregulated accumulation or exposure to environmental H2S can be lethal. In Caenorhabditis elegans, the hypoxia inducible factor (hif-1) coordinates the initial transcriptional response to H2S, and is essential to survive exposure to low concentrations of H2S. We performed a forward genetic screen to identify mutations that suppress the lethality of hif-1 mutant animals in H2S. The mutations we recovered are specific for H2S, as they do not suppress embryonic lethality or reproductive arrest of hif-1 mutant animals in hypoxia, nor can they prevent the death of hif-1 mutant animals exposed to hydrogen cyanide. The majority of hif-1 suppressor mutations we recovered activate the skn-1/Nrf2 transcription factor. Activation of SKN-1 by hif-1 suppressor mutations increased the expression of a subset of H2S-responsive genes, consistent with previous findings that skn-1 plays a role in the transcriptional response to H2S. Using transgenic rescue, we show that overexpression of a single gene, rhy-1, is sufficient to protect hif-1 mutant animals in H2S. The rhy-1 gene encodes a predicated O-acyltransferase enzyme that has previously been shown to negatively regulate HIF-1 activity. Our data indicate that RHY-1 has novel, hif-1 independent, function that promotes survival in H2S.

Axon regeneration following neuronal injury is an important repair mechanism that is not well understood at present. In Caenorhabditis elegans, axon regeneration is regulated by DDR-2, a receptor tyrosine kinase (RTK) that contains a discoidin domain and modulates the Met-like SVH-2 RTK–JNK MAP kinase signaling pathway. Here, we describe the svh-10/sqv-3 and svh-11 genes, which encode components of a conserved glycosylation pathway, and show that they modulate axon regeneration in C. elegans. Overexpression of svh-2, but not of ddr-2, can suppress the axon regeneration defect observed in svh-11 mutants, suggesting that SVH-11 functions between DDR-2 and SVH-2 in this glycosylation pathway. Furthermore, we found that DDR-2 is N-glycosylated at the Asn-141 residue located in its discoidin domain, and mutation of this residue caused an axon regeneration defect. These findings indicate that N-linked glycosylation plays an important role in axon regeneration in C. elegans.

Although multiple determinants for establishing polarity in membranes of epithelial cells have been identified, the mechanism for maintaining apicobasal polarity is not fully understood. Here, we show that the conserved Hippo kinase pathway plays a role in the maintenance of apicobasal polarity in the developing intestine of Caenorhabditis elegans. We screened suppressors of the mutation in wts-1—the gene that encodes the LATS kinase homolog, deficiency of which leads to disturbance of the apicobasal polarity of the intestinal cells and to eventual death of the organism. We identified several alleles of yap-1 and egl-44 that suppress the effects of this mutation. yap-1 encodes a homolog of YAP/Yki, and egl-44 encodes a homolog of TEAD/Sd. WTS-1 bound directly to YAP-1 and inhibited its nuclear accumulation in intestinal cells. We also found that NFM-1, which is a homolog of NF2/Merlin, functioned in the same genetic pathway as WTS-1 to regulate YAP-1 to maintain cellular polarity. Transcriptome analysis identified several target candidates of the YAP-1-EGL-44 complex including TAT-2, which encodes a putative P-type ATPase. In summary, we have delineated the conserved Hippo pathway in C. elegans consisting of NFM-1-WTS-1-YAP-1-EGL-44 and proved that the proper regulation of YAP-1 by upstream NFM-1 and WTS-1 is essential for maintenance of apicobasal membrane identities of the growing intestine.

Cell size is proportional to growth rate. Thus, cells growing rapidly in rich nutrients can be nearly twice the size of cells growing slowly in poor nutrients. This proportional relationship appears to hold across all orders of life, yet the underlying mechanisms are unknown. In budding yeast, most growth occurs during mitosis, and the proportional relationship between cell size and growth rate is therefore enforced primarily by modulating growth in mitosis. When growth is slow, the duration of mitosis is increased to allow more time for growth, yet the amount of growth required to complete mitosis is reduced, which leads to the birth of small daughter cells. Previous studies have found that Rts1, a member of the conserved B56 family of protein phosphatase 2A regulatory subunits, works in a TORC2 signaling network that influences cell size and growth rate. However, it was unclear whether Rts1 influences cell growth and size in mitosis. Here, we show that Rts1 is required for the proportional relationship between cell size and growth rate during mitosis. Moreover, nutrients and Rts1 influence the duration and extent of growth in mitosis via Wee1 and Pds1/securin, two conserved regulators of mitotic progression. Together, the data are consistent with a model in which global signals that set growth rate also set the critical amount of growth required for cell cycle progression, which would provide a simple mechanistic explanation for the proportional relationship between cell size and growth rate.

Fetal mammalian testes secrete Anti-Müllerian hormone (Amh), which inhibits female reproductive tract (Müllerian duct) development. Amh also derives from mature mammalian ovarian follicles, which marks oocyte reserve and characterizes polycystic ovarian syndrome. Zebrafish (Danio rerio) lacks Müllerian ducts and the Amh receptor gene amhr2 but, curiously, retains amh. To discover the roles of Amh in the absence of Müllerian ducts and the ancestral receptor gene, we made amh null alleles in zebrafish. Results showed that normal amh prevents female-biased sex ratios. Adult male amh mutants had enormous testes, half of which contained immature oocytes, demonstrating that Amh regulates male germ cell accumulation and inhibits oocyte development or survival. Mutant males formed sperm ducts and some produced a few offspring. Young female mutants laid a few fertile eggs, so they also had functional sex ducts. Older amh mutants accumulated nonvitellogenic follicles in exceedingly large but sterile ovaries, showing that Amh helps control ovarian follicle maturation and proliferation. RNA-sequencing data partitioned juveniles at 21 days postfertilization (dpf) into two groups that each contained mutant and wild-type fish. Group21-1 upregulated ovary genes compared to Group21-2, which were likely developing as males. By 35 dpf, transcriptomes distinguished males from females and, within each sex, mutants from wild types. In adult mutants, ovaries greatly underexpressed granulosa and theca genes, and testes underexpressed Leydig cell genes. These results show that ancestral Amh functions included development of the gonadal soma in ovaries and testes and regulation of gamete proliferation and maturation. A major gap in our understanding is the identity of the gene encoding a zebrafish Amh receptor; we show here that the loss of amhr2 is associated with the breakpoint of a chromosome rearrangement shared among cyprinid fishes.

In larval zebrafish, melanocyte stem cells (MSCs) are quiescent, but can be recruited to regenerate the larval pigment pattern following melanocyte ablation. Through pharmacological experiments, we found that inhibition of -aminobutyric acid (GABA)-A receptor function, specifically the GABA-A subtype, induces excessive melanocyte production in larval zebrafish. Conversely, pharmacological activation of GABA-A inhibited melanocyte regeneration. We used clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats/Cas9 to generate two mutant alleles of gabrr1, a subtype of GABA-A receptors. Both alleles exhibited robust melanocyte overproduction, while conditional overexpression of gabrr1 inhibited larval melanocyte regeneration. Our data suggest that gabrr1 signaling is necessary to maintain MSC quiescence and sufficient to reduce, but not eliminate, melanocyte regeneration in larval zebrafish.

In sexually reproducing isogamous species, syngamy between gametes is generally not indiscriminate, but rather restricted to occurring between complementary self-incompatible mating types. A longstanding question regards the evolutionary pressures that control the number of mating types observed in natural populations, which ranges from two to many thousands. Here, we describe a population genetic null model of this reproductive system, and derive expressions for the stationary probability distribution of the number of mating types, the establishment probability of a newly arising mating type, and the mean time to extinction of a resident type. Our results yield that the average rate of sexual reproduction in a population correlates positively with the expected number of mating types observed. We further show that the low number of mating types predicted in the rare-sex regime is primarily driven by low invasion probabilities of new mating type alleles, with established resident alleles being very stable over long evolutionary periods. Moreover, our model naturally exhibits varying selection strength dependent on the number of resident mating types. This results in higher extinction and lower invasion rates for an increasing number of residents.

Investigating gene expression evolution over micro- and macroevolutionary timescales will expand our understanding of the role of gene expression in adaptation and speciation. In this study, we characterized the evolutionary forces acting on gene expression levels in eye and brain tissue of five Heliconius butterflies with divergence times of ~5–12 MYA. We developed and applied Brownian motion (BM) and Ornstein–Uhlenbeck (OU) models to identify genes whose expression levels are evolving through drift, stabilizing selection, or a lineage-specific shift. We found that 81% of the genes evolve under genetic drift. When testing for branch-specific shifts in gene expression, we detected 368 (16%) shift events. Genes showing a shift toward upregulation have significantly lower gene expression variance than those genes showing a shift leading toward downregulation. We hypothesize that directional selection is acting in shifts causing upregulation, since transcription is costly. We further uncovered through simulations that parameter estimation of OU models is biased when using small phylogenies and only becomes reliable with phylogenies having ≥ 50 taxa. Therefore, we developed a new statistical test based on BM to identify highly conserved genes (i.e., evolving under strong stabilizing selection), which comprised 3% of the orthoclusters. In conclusion, we found that drift is the dominant evolutionary force driving gene expression evolution in eye and brain tissue in Heliconius. Nevertheless, the higher proportion of genes evolving under directional than under stabilizing selection might reflect species-specific selective pressures on vision and the brain that are necessary to fulfill species-specific requirements.

Germplasm collections hold valuable allelic diversity for crop improvement and genetic mapping of complex traits. To gain access to the genetic diversity within the USDA National Small Grain Collection (NSGC), we developed the Barley Recombinant Inbred Diverse Germplasm Population (BRIDG6), a six-row spring barley multiparent population (MPP) with 88 cultivated accessions crossed to a common parent (Rasmusson). The parents were randomly selected from a core subset of the NSGC that represents the genetic diversity of landrace and breeding accessions. In total, we generated 6160 F5 recombinant inbred lines (RILs), with an average of 69 and a range of 37–168 RILs per family, that were genotyped with 7773 SNPs, with an average of 3889 SNPs segregating per family. We detected 23 quantitative trait loci (QTL) associated with flowering time with five QTL found coincident with previously described flowering time genes. A major QTL was detected near the flowering time gene, HvPpd-H1 which affects photoperiod. Haplotype-based analysis of HvPpd-H1 identified private alleles to families of Asian origin conferring both positive and negative effects, providing the first observation of flowering time-related alleles private to Asian accessions. We evaluated several subsampling strategies to determine the effect of sample size on the power of QTL detection, and found that, for flowering time in barley, a sample size >50 families or 3000 individuals results in the highest power for QTL detection. This MPP will be useful for uncovering large and small effect QTL for traits of interest, and identifying and utilizing valuable alleles from the NSGC for barley improvement.

The diversity in sperm shape and size represents a powerful paradigm to understand how selection drives the evolutionary diversification of cell morphology. Experimental work on the sperm biology of the male-hermaphrodite nematode Caenorhabditis elegans has elucidated diverse factors important for sperm fertilization success, including the competitive superiority of larger sperm. Yet despite extensive research, the molecular mechanisms regulating C. elegans sperm size and the genetic basis underlying natural variation in sperm size remain unknown. To address these questions, we quantified male sperm size variation of a worldwide panel of 97 genetically distinct C. elegans strains, allowing us to uncover significant genetic variation in male sperm size. Aiming to characterize the molecular genetic basis of C. elegans male sperm size variation using a genome-wide association study, we did not detect any significant quantitative trait loci. We therefore focused on the genetic analysis of pronounced sperm size differences observed between recently diverged laboratory strains (N2 vs. LSJ1/2). Using mutants and quantitative complementation tests, we demonstrate that variation in the gene nurf-1 underlies the evolution of small sperm in the LSJ lineage. Given the previous discovery that this same nurf-1 variation was central for hermaphrodite laboratory adaptation, the evolution of reduced male sperm size in LSJ strains likely reflects a pleiotropic consequence. Together, our results provide a comprehensive quantification of natural variation in C. elegans sperm size and first insights into the genetic determinants of Caenorhabditis sperm size, pointing at an involvement of the NURF chromatin remodeling complex.

Knowledge of the genetic basis underlying variation in response to environmental exposures or treatments is important in many research areas. For example, knowing the set of causal genetic variants for drug responses could revolutionize personalized medicine. We used Drosophila melanogaster to investigate the genetic signature underlying behavioral variability in response to methylphenidate (MPH), a drug used in the treatment of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. We exposed a wild-type D. melanogaster population to MPH and a control treatment, and observed an increase in locomotor activity in MPH-exposed individuals. Whole-genome transcriptomic analyses revealed that the behavioral response to MPH was associated with abundant gene expression alterations. To confirm these patterns in a different genetic background and to further advance knowledge on the genetic signature of drug response variability, we used a system of inbred lines, the Drosophila Genetic Reference Panel (DGRP). Based on the DGRP, we showed that the behavioral response to MPH was strongly genotype-dependent. Using an integrative genomic approach, we incorporated known gene interactions into the genomic analyses of the DGRP, and identified putative candidate genes for variability in drug response. We successfully validated 71% of the investigated candidate genes by gene expression knockdown. Furthermore, we showed that MPH has cross-generational behavioral and transcriptomic effects. Our findings establish a foundation for understanding the genetic mechanisms driving genotype-specific responses to medical treatment, and highlight the opportunities that integrative genomic approaches have in optimizing medical treatment of complex diseases.

GWAS and eQTL studies identified thousands of genetic variants associated with complex traits and gene expression. Despite the important role of environmental exposures in complex traits, only a limited number of environmental factors were measured in these studies. Measuring molecular phenotypes in tightly controlled cellular environments provides a more tractable setting to study gene–environment interactions in the absence of other confounding variables. We performed RNA-seq and ATAC-seq in endothelial cells exposed to retinoic acid, dexamethasone, caffeine, and selenium to model genetic and environmental effects on gene regulation in the vascular endothelium—a common site of pathology in cardiovascular disease. We found that genes near regions of differentially accessible chromatin were more likely to be differentially expressed [OR = (3.41, 6.52), ]. Furthermore, we confirmed that environment-specific changes in transcription factor binding are a key mechanism for cellular response to environmental stimuli. Single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in these transcription response factor footprints for dexamethasone, caffeine, and retinoic acid were enriched in GTEx eQTLs from artery tissues, indicating that these environmental conditions are latently present in GTEx samples. Additionally, SNPs in footprints for response factors in caffeine are enriched in colocalized eQTLs for coronary artery disease (CAD), suggesting a role for caffeine in CAD risk. By combining GWAS, eQTLs, and response genes, we annotated environmental components that can increase or decrease disease risk through changes in gene expression in 43 genes. Interestingly, each treatment may amplify or buffer genetic risk for CAD, depending on the particular SNP or gene considered.

Loss of heterozygosity (LOH) is observed during vegetative growth and reproduction of diploid genotypes through mitotic crossovers, aneuploidy caused by nondisjunction, and gene conversion. We aimed to test the role that LOH plays during adaptation of two highly heterozygous Saccharomyces cerevisiae genotypes to multiple environments over a short time span in the laboratory. We hypothesized that adaptation would be observed through parallel LOH events across replicate populations. Using genome resequencing of 70 clones, we found that LOH was widespread with 5.2 LOH events per clone after ~500 generations. The most common mode of LOH was gene conversion (51%) followed by crossing over consistent with either break-induced replication or double Holliday junction resolution. There was no evidence that LOH involved nondisjunction of whole chromosomes. We observed parallel LOH in both an environment-specific and environment-independent manner. LOH largely involved recombining existing variation between the parental genotypes, but also was observed after de novo, presumably beneficial, mutations occurred in the presence of canavanine, a toxic analog of arginine. One highly parallel LOH event involved the ENA salt efflux pump locus on chromosome IV, which showed repeated LOH to the allele from the European parent, an allele originally derived by introgression from S. paradoxus. Using CRISPR-engineered LOH we showed that the fitness advantage provided by this single LOH event was 27%. Overall, we found extensive evidence that LOH could be adaptive and is likely to be a greater source of initial variation than de novo mutation for rapid evolution of diploid genotypes.

Structural maintenance of chromosomes flexible hinge domain-containing 1 (SMCHD1) is an architectural factor critical for X-chromosome inactivation (XCI) and the repression of select autosomal gene clusters. In mice, homozygous nonsense mutations in Smchd1 cause female-specific embryonic lethality due to an XCI defect. However, although human mutations in SMCHD1 are associated with congenital arhinia and facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy type 2 (FSHD2), the diseases do not show a sex-specific bias, despite the essential nature of XCI in humans. To investigate whether there is a dosage imbalance for the sex chromosomes, we here analyze transcriptomic data from arhinia and FSHD2 patient blood and muscle cells. We find that X-linked dosage compensation is maintained in these patients. In mice, SMCHD1 controls not only protocadherin (Pcdh) gene clusters, but also Hox genes critical for craniofacial development. Ablating Smchd1 results in aberrant expression of these genes, coinciding with altered chromatin states and three-dimensional (3D) topological organization. In a subset of FSHD2 and arhinia patients, we also found dysregulation of clustered PCDH, but not HOX genes. Overall, our study demonstrates preservation of XCI in arhinia and FSHD2, and implicates SMCHD1 in the regulation of the 3D organization of select autosomal gene clusters.

The budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae undergoes a stress-responsive transition to a pseudohyphal growth form in which cells elongate and remain connected in multicellular filaments. Pseudohyphal growth is regulated through conserved signaling networks that control cell growth and the response to glucose or nitrogen limitation in metazoans. These networks are incompletely understood, and our studies identify the TORC1- and PKA-regulated kinase Ksp1p as a key stress-responsive signaling effector in the yeast pseudohyphal growth response. The kinase-defective ksp1-K47D allele results in decreased pseudohyphal morphology at the cellular and colony level, indicating that Ksp1p kinase signaling is required for pseudohyphal filamentation. To determine the functional consequences of Ksp1p signaling, we implemented transcriptional profiling and quantitative phosphoproteomic analysis of ksp1-K47D on a global scale. Ksp1p kinase signaling maintains wild-type transcript levels of many pathways for amino acid synthesis and metabolism, relevant for the regulation of translation under conditions of nutrient stress. Proteins in stress-responsive ribonucleoprotein granules are regulated post-translationally by Ksp1p, and the Ksp1p-dependent phosphorylation sites S176 in eIF4G/Tif4631p and S436 in Pbp1p are required for wild-type levels of pseudohyphal growth and Protein Kinase A pathway activity. Pbp1p and Tif4631p localize in stress granules, and the ksp1 null mutant shows elevated abundance of Pbp1p puncta relative to wild-type. Collectively, the Ksp1p kinase signaling network integrates polarized pseudohyphal morphogenesis and translational regulation through the stress-responsive transcriptional control of pathways for amino acid metabolism and post-translational modification of translation factors affecting stress granule abundance.



Genetic Markers

You know how an interstate map can guide you from one city to another. A genetic map is like that, and it guides researchers toward their target gene. Just as there are landmarks in interstate maps, there also are landmarks in genetic maps known as genetic markers...
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Genetics means 'origin' in Ancient Greek and is a discipline of biology. It is the science of heredity and variation in living organisms. [Wikipedia]