The aim of this study was to explore, in a large and non-censored twin cohort, the nature (i.e., additive versus non-additive) and magnitude (i.e., heritability) of genetic influences on inter-individual differences in human longevity. The sample comprised all identified and traced non-emigrant like-sex twin pairs born in Denmark during the period 1870-1900 with a zygosity diagnosis and both members of the pairs surviving the age of 15 years. A total of 2872 pairs were included. Age at death was obtained from the Danish Central Person Register, the Danish Cause-of-Death Register and various other registers. The sample was almost non-censored on the date of the last follow-up (May 1, 1994), all but 0.6% had died, leaving a total of 2872 pairs for analysis. Proportions of variance attributable to genetic and environmental factors were assessed from variance-covariance matrices using the structural equation model approach. The most parsimonious explanation of the data was provided by a model that included genetic dominance (non-additive genetic effects caused by interaction within gene loci) and non-shared environmental factors (environmental factors that are individual-specific and not shared in a family). The heritability of longevity was estimated to be 0.26 for males and 0.23 for females. The small sex-difference was caused by a greater impact of non-shared environmental factors in the females. Heritability was found to be constant over the three 10-year birth cohorts included. Thus, longevity seems to be only moderately heritable. The nature of genetic influences on longevity is probably non-additive and environmental influences non-shared. There is no evidence for an impact of shared (family) environment.
The dopamine D4 receptor gene (DRD4) has an expressed polymorphism in the third exon that may have functional relevance. The polymorphism exists at two levels. At the higher level there is an imperfect tandem repeat of 48 base pairs (bp) coding for 16 amino acids; alleles have been identified with 2 (32 amino acids) to 10 (160 amino acids) repeats. The imperfect nature of the repeats is responsible for a more subtle level of variation since alleles with the same number of repeats can differ in the exact sequences or in the order of the variants of the 48-bp unit. We have undertaken a global survey of this expressed polymorphism as one approach to understanding the evolutionary significance and origins of the polymorphism as well as understanding what selective forces, if any, may be operating at this locus. As the first step, we have determined the repeat number genotype of the DRD4 repeat polymorphism in 1,327 individuals from 36 different populations. The allele frequencies differ considerably among the different populations. The 4-repeat allele was the most prevalent (global mean allele frequency = 64.3%) and appeared in every population with a frequency ranging from 0.16 to 0.96. The 7-repeat allele was the second most common (global mean = 20.6%), appearing quite frequently in the Americas (mean frequency = 48.3%) but only occasionally in East and South Asia (mean frequency = 1.9%). The 2-repeat allele was the third most common (global mean frequency = 8.2%) and was quite frequent in East and South Asia (mean frequency = 18.1%) while uncommon in the Americas (mean frequency = 2.9%) and Africa (mean frequency = 1.7%). The universality of the polymorphism with only three common repeat-number alleles (4, 7, and 2) indicates that the polymorphism is ancient and arose before the global dispersion of modern humans. The diversity of actual allele frequencies for this expressed polymorphism among different populations emphasizes the importance of population considerations in the design and interpretation of any association studies carried out with this polymorphism.
The Werner syndrome (WS) is characterized by the premature onset and accelerated rate of development of major geriatric disorders, including atherosclerosis, diabetes mellitus, osteoporosis, ocular cataracts, and various neoplasms. Cultures of WS skin-fibroblastlike cells have been previously shown to undergo accelerated rates of decline of their replicative potentials and to exhibit variegated chromosomal translocations and deletions. Since the replicative decline of normal somatic cells is associated with a loss of telomeric repeats, we investigated the kinetics of telomeric repeat loss in WS cells. The mean length of telomere restriction fragments (TRF) from the earliest passages of WS cells studied was not shorter than those of controls, possibly reflecting selective pressure for subsets of cells with relatively high residual replicative capacity. Statistical evidence indicated an accelerated shortening of TRF length in serially passaged WS cultures, but the mean TRF lengths of WS cultures that had ceased replicating were significantly longer than those of senescent controls. Thus, while accelerated loss of telomeric repeats could potentially explain the rapid decline in proliferation of WS cells, it is possible that WS cells exit the cell cycle via mechanisms that differ from those of replicatively senescent cells from control subjects.
Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) is a transmissible neurodegenerative disorder characterized by the accumulation of aggregates of a cellular protein, PrP, in the brain. In both human and animals, genetic alterations to the gene encoding PrP (PRNP in human) modulate susceptiblity to CJD, The recent epidemic of bovine spongiform encephalopathy in the UK has raised the possibility of transmission from animal produce to humans. To provide a baseline against which to assess possible risk factors, we have determined the frequencies of predisposing mutations and allelic variants in PRNP and their relative contributions to disease. Systematic PRNP genotype analysis was performed on suspected CJD cases referred to the National Surveillance Unit in the UK over the period 1990-1993. Inspection of 120 candidate cases revealed 67 patients with definite and probable CJD, based on clinical and neuropathological criteria. No PRNP mutations were detected in any of the remaining 53 patients assessed as ''non-CJD''. A disease-associated mutation in the PRNP gene was identified in nine (13.4%) definite and probable cases of CJD, a reliable estimate of the incidence of PRNP-related inherited CJD based on a prospective epidemiological series. Within the group of sporadic CJD patients (lacking PRNP mutations), we confirmed that the genotype distribution with respect to the common methionine/valine (Met/Val) polymorphism at codon 129 within PRNP was significantly different from the normal Caucasian population, The incidence of Met homozygosity at this site was more than doubled and correlated with increased susceptibility to the development of sporadic CJD. Unlike other recent studies, Val homozygosity was also confirmed to be a significant risk factor in sporadic CJD, with the relative risks for the three genotypes Met/Met:Val/Val:Met/Val being 11:4:1.
A statistically significant association between a silent mutation (102T/C) in the serotonin-2A (5-HT2A) receptor gene and schizophrenia has recently been reported in a sample of Japanese patients and healthy controls. This finding suggests that genetic predisposition to schizophrenia may be affected by a functional 5-HT,, receptor variant that is in linkage disequilibrium with 102T/C. In the present study, we have sought to identify genetic variation in the 5-HT2A receptor gene by screening genomic DNA samples from 91 unrelated subjects comprising 45 patients with schizophrenia and 46 healthy controls by using single-strand conformation analysis. We have identified four nucleotide sequence variants. Two sequence changes would result in protein alterations: a substitution of threonine by asparagine at position 25 (Thr25Asn), and a substitution of histidine by tyrosine at position 452 (His452Tyr). In order to test for a possible contribution to the development of schizophrenia, we have determined allele frequencies in extended samples of unrelated patients and healthy controls. The two amino acid substitutions are found with similar frequencies in patients and controls, indicating that the presence of these variants is not causally related to the development of schizophrenia. However, the reported association of the non-coding polymorphism 102T/C with the disease has also been detected in our sample (P = 0.041, odds ratio = 1.28, 95% confidence interval 1.012-1.623).
Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) is an inherited predisposition to colorectal cancer characterized by the development of numerous adenomatous polyps predominantly in the colorectal region. Germline mutations in the adenomatous polyposis coli (APC) gene are responsible for most cases of FAP, Mutations at the 5' end of APC are known to be associated with a relatively mild form of the disease, called attenuated adenomatous polyposis coli (AAPC), We identified a frameshift mutation in the 3' part of exon 15, resulting in a stop codon at 1862, in a large Dutch kindred with AAPC. Western blot analysis of lymphoblastoid cell lines derived from affected family members from this kindred, as well as from a previously reported Swiss family carrying a frameshift mutation at codon 1987 and displaying a similar attenuated phenotype, showed only the wild-type APC protein. Our study indicates that chain-terminating mutations located in the 3' part of APC do not result in detectable truncated polypeptides and we hypothesize that this is likely to be the basis for the observed AAPC phenotype.
The identification of germline mutations in a large number of clinically well-characterised patients with familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) has allowed the unravelling of several genotype-phenotype relationships that can now be interpreted in the light of the structure and functional domains of the adenomatous polyposis coli (APC) protein. An attenuated phenotype has been found to be associated with mutations at the 5' end of the gene, while a severe clinical expression was found in patients with the most common mutation at codon 1309. So far, only few mutations in the 3' half of the gene have been published. We report on two families with a rather mild phenotype due to a frameshift mutation at codon 1597. These families may represent a clue for defining a 5' border for the occurrence of a second region of attenuated FAP that is localised in the 3' part of the APC gene. We propose a model to explain the relationship between the severity of the disease and the size of the mutant APC protein.
We have previously found association between an allele of the interleukin-1 (IL-1) receptor antagonist gene (IL1RN) and several inflammatory diseases, where IL-1 has been implicated in the inflammatory mechanism. We have now, therefore, tested the association of this specific allele (IL1RN*2) with complications of diabetes which have an inflammatory tissue component. We have tested the allele frequency of IL1RN*2 in 128 patients with insulin-dependent and 125 with non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM). There was a significant association between carriage of IL1RN*2 and diabetic nephropathy (P < 0.0001, P sub(corrected) < 0.0012). The association was significant in both types of diabetes, but the observed increase was highest in NIDDM, rising to double the control levels. It appears that IL1RN*2 is a novel genetic marker of severity of inflammatory complications of diseases rather than a marker of disease susceptibility. If the DNA polymorphism is associated with altered gene function, new therapeutic interventions may be possible.
This study presents an analysis of 20 tetranucleotide microsatellites in 16 worldwide human populations representing the major geographic groups. Global Fat values for the 20 microsatellites are indicators of their relative validity as tools in human population genetics. Four different measures of genetic distance (Fst, D-SW, delta mu(2) and Rst) have been tested and compared with each other. Neighbor-joining trees have been constructed for all the measures of genetic distance and populations. Measures of genetic distance such as Fst, which does not consider different mutational relationships among alleles and has a known relationship to differentiation by drift, and to some extent D-SW, reflect what is known of human evolution, while mutation-based distances such as Rst and delta mu(2) give very different results from those recognized from other sources (genetic or archaeological). When the genetic relationship between human populations is analyzed through allelic frequencies for microsatellites, the choice of distance may be a key issue in the picture obtained of genetic relationships between human populations. The results of the present study suggest that genetic drift played the main role in generating the present distributions of microsatellite alleles and their variation among human populations; the role of mutation must have been less important owing to the time constraint imposed by the small timescale in which most human differentiation has occurred. Moreover, the results support the theory of a recent origin of modem humans, although the existence of strong bottlenecks in the origin of the various human groups seems unlikely.
We have previously found association between an allele of the interleukin-l (IL-1) receptor antagonist gene (IL1RN) and several inflammatory diseases, where IL-1 has been implicated in the inflammatory mechanism. We have now, therefore, tested the association of this specific allele (IL1RN*2) with complications of diabetes which have an inflammatory tissue component. We have tested the allele frequency of IL1RN*2 in 128 patients with insulin-dependent and 125 with non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM). There was a significant association between carriage of IL1RN*2 and diabetic nephropathy (P < 0.0001, P-corrected < 0.0012). The association was significant in both types of diabetes, but the observed increase was highest in NIDDM, rising to double the control levels, It appears that IL1RN*2 is a novel genetic marker of severity of inflammatory complications of diseases rather than a marker of disease susceptibility. If the DNA polymorphism is associated with altered gene function, new therapeutic interventions may be possible.
We examined a Ser-9-Gly polymorphism in the dopamine D3 receptor gene for allelic association with schizophrenia in 133 patients currently treated with clozapine and 109 controls. Allele 1 (Ser-9) was significantly more frequent in the patients (69%) than in the controls (56%) (P = 0.004). The 1-1 genotype was more common (43% vs 30%) and the 2-2 genotype less common (5% vs 18%) in patients than in controls. When the patient group was subdivided on the basis of clinical response to clozapine, using a 20-point improvement in the global assessment scale as cut-off, genotype 1-1 was found to be more frequent among the non-responders (53% vs 36%, P = 0.04). To place our results in the context of previous studies of this polymorphism and schizophrenia, we performed a meta-analysis of all published data including the present sample. The combined analysis shows evidence for a modest association between genotype 1-1 and schizophrenia (odds ratio 1.25, 95% confidence interval 1.05-1.49, P = 0.01). These results suggest that the Ser-9 allele, or a nearby polymorphism in linkage disequilibrium, results in a small increase in susceptibility to schizophrenia.
To contribute to the analysis of the genetic background of atherosclerosis, especially endothelial dysfunction, we searched for DNA polymorphisms in the genes encoding E-, P-, and L-selectin, and ICAM-I and VCAM-I. We detected 17 mutations by single-strand conformation polymorphisms analysis and direct sequencing. Five of them resulted in an amino acid substitution. In E-selectin, exchanges from serine to arginine (position 128), from leucine to phenylalanine (position 554), and a DNA mutation from guanine to thymine (position 98) present significantly different allele frequencies in young patients with angiographically established, severe atherosclerosis, compared with an unselected population. Results suggest that these polymorphisms are associated with a higher risk for early severe atherosclerosis.
Polymorphism of the ABO blood group gene was investigated in 262 healthy Japanese donors by a polymerase chain reactions-single-strand conformation polymorphism (PCR-SSCP) method, and 13 different alleles were identified. The number of alleles identified in each group was 4 for A(1) (provisionally called ABO*A101, *A102, *A103 and *A104 according to the guidelines for human gene nomenclature), 3 for B (ABO*B101, *B102 and *B103), and 6 for O (ABO*O101, *O102, *O103, *O201, *O202 and *O203). Nucleotide sequences of the amplified fragments with different SSCP patterns were determined by direct sequencing. Phylogenetic network analysis revealed that these alleles could be classified into three major lineages, *A/*O1, *B and *O2. In Japanese, *A102 and *B101 were the predominant alleles with frequencies of 83% and 97% in each group, respectively, whereas in group O, two common alleles, *O101 (43%) and *O201 (53%), were observed. These results may be useful for the establishment of ABO genotyping, and these newly described ABO alleles would be advantageous indicators for population studies.
A homozygous gene deletion at the glutathione S-transferase M1 (GSTM1) locus of genomic DNA from blood spots was studied by PCR in the group of Slavic populations from the north-western and central-eastern regions of European Russia and in patients with lung cancer (LC), other tumors (OT), endometriosis (E), alcoholic cirrhosis (AC), cystic fibrosis (CF) and chronic bronchitis (CB). The frequencies of the GSTM1 0/0 genotype were 38.8% and 67.5% for both population groups, respectively. The proportion of the GSTM1 gene deletion genotype was estimated as significantly increased in LC (81%), OT (65%), E (81%), AC (77.3%), and in CB (73.6%) patients with symptoms of CB confirmed by X-ray but not in CB patients without X-ray evidence of disease (40.9%). A definite preponderance of GSTM1-0 homozygotes (51.1%) has been registered in CF patients of the pancreatic sufficient group with clear-cut pulmonological manifestations but not in those of the pancreatic insufficient group with predominantly intestinal or mixed clinical symptoms (41.2% and 37.5%, respectively). Earlier clinical manifestations and death before the age of 5 years are typical for GSTM1-deleted CF patients. These data support the notion that GSTM1 deletion should be considered as a convenient genetic marker for the early detection of groups at higher risk of many diseases caused by environmental and genetic factors, where manifestation depends on the lack of detoxification. High levels of GSTM1 0/0 genotypes in E patients favor the substantial contribution of certain environmental toxins in the pathogenesis of this widespread disease.
Inv dup(15) is the most common supernumerary marker chromosome in humans. To investigate the mechanism responsible for this frequent chromosome rearrangement, we characterized the breakpoints in 18 individuals with small inv dup(15) chromosomes [i.e., negative for the Prader-Willi (PWS)/Angelman syndrome (AS) critical region]. Since two proximal breakpoint regions (''hotspots'') for PWS/AS deletions have been previously identified with the most proximal 15q markers D15S541/S542 and S543, we hypothesized that formation of the small inv dup(15) chromosomes may involve one or both of these breakpoint hotspots. By analysis with S542, both breakpoint regions were found to be involved in approximately equal frequencies. In ten cases, the inv dup(15) was negative for S542 (Class I), indicating the breakpoint is between the centromere and the most proximal marker on chromosome 15. For the other eight cases, S542 was positive by fluorescence in situ hybridization (5/5) and/or microsatellite analysis (7/7), but S543 was negative (Class II). These two breakpoint regions appear to be the same as the two proximal breakpoints reported in the common PWS/AS deletions. To initiate cloning and sequencing of the Class II breakpoint, the gap in the yeast artificial chromosome (YAC) contig between S541/S542 and S543 was filled by screening the CEPH YAC and me,oa-YAC libraries. YACs 705C2 and 368H3 were found to bridge this gap, and therefore contain the more distal breakpoint region. The finding of consistent breakpoints in small inv dup(15), like that: found in PWS/AS deletions, provides strong evidence for hotspots for chromosome breakage in this region. In addition, our results show that two extra copies (tetrasomy) of the region from 15cen to the euchromatic region containing S542 are present in individuals with Class II breakpoints. Since most individuals carrying a small inv dup(15) are phenotypically normal, the euchromatin region included in the small inv dup(15) chromosomes does not appear to contain genes with clinically significant dosage effects.
Tuberous sclerosis (TSC) is an autosomal dominant condition characterised by tumour-like malformations (hamartomas) in the brain and other organs. A proportion of hamartomas from patients with TSC show loss of heterozygosity (LOH) for DNA markers in the region of either the TSC1 gene on chromosome 9q34 or the TSC2 gene on 16p13.3. This implies that these lesions are clonal. We have studied X-chromosome inactivation. as a marker of clonality, in 13 hamartomas from females with TSC. The hamartomas comprised five renal angiomyolipomas, three fibromas and seven other lesions. In previous studies, four of the lesions showed LOH. A polymerase chain reaction assay was used to analyse differential methylation of an HpaII restriction site adjacent to the androgen-receptor triplet-repeat polymorphism on Xq11-12. In 12 of the lesions, there was a skewed inactivation pattern with one X chromosome being fully methylated and the other unmethylated. Normal tissue showed a random pattern of inactivation. These data confirm that most TSC hamartomas are clonal in origin. This is an intriguing finding, since these lesions are composed of more than one cell type.
Genetic polymorphisms of the renin-angiotensin system (RAS) have been associated with coronary artery disease (CAD) but no relation between these polymorphisms and coronary atherosclerosis has yet been systematically evaluated. The CORGENE study is a cross-sectional study involving 463 Caucasians who underwent standardized coronary angiography for established or suspected CAD [156 patients with a previous myocardial infarction (MI), 307 without MI]. Four angiographic scores assessing the extent and severity of the coronary lesions were obtained from a double visual analysis of each angiogram, arbitration being achieved by a quantitative measurement. Three different genotypes were analyzed: the angiotensin I-converting enzyme insertion/deletion (ACE I/D) polymorphism, the Met to Thr change at position 235 of the angiotensinogen gene (AGT M235T) and the A to C transition at position 1166 of the angiotensin II type-1 receptor gene (AT1R A1166C). No significant association was observed between these polymorphisms and the clinical characteristics of MI and non-MI subjects. While most classical risk factors were positively correlated with the angiographic scores, no significant relationship could be established with the three genotypes (r ranging from -0.08 to 0.05). Only one significant correlation was observed: between the presence of the AGT 235T allele and the extent of the coronary lesions (r = -0.19, P = 0.04) in patients with low-risk status. These overall results are not in favor of a role of these RAS genetic polymorphisms in the development of coronary atherosclerosis.
von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) disease is a dominantly inherited familial cancer syndrome predisposing to retinal, cerebellar and spinal hemangioblastoma, renal cell carcinoma (RCC), pheochromocytoma and pancreatic tumors. Clinically two types of the disease can be distinguished: VHL type 1 (without pheochromocytoma) and VHL type 2 (with pheochromocytoma). We report VHL germline mutations and trends in phenotypic variation in families from central Europe. We identified 28 mutations in 53/65 (81.5%) families with 18 (64%) mutations being unique to this population. Whereas types and distribution of mutations as well as a strong correlation of missense mutations with the VHL 2 phenotype were similar to those identified in other populations, these families have provided new insights into the molecular basis for variability in the VHL 2 phenotype. Seven different missense mutations in exons 1 and 3 varied in their biological consequences from a minimal VHL 2 phenotype with pheochromocytoma only to a full VHL 2 phenotype with RCC and pancreatic lesion. These findings contribute to a better understanding of the fundamental mechanisms of VHL disease and its phenotypic variability. Further, we have provided rapid VHL screening for the families in central Europe, which has resulted in improved diagnosis and clinical management.
It has previously been shown- that the acetylated forms of histone H4 are depleted or absent in both constitutive, centric heterochromatin and in the facultative heterochromatin of the inactive X chromosome (Xi) in female cells. By immunostaining of metaphase chromosomes from human lymphocytes with antibodies to the acetylated isoforms of histones H2A and H3, we now show that these histones too are underacetylated in both Xi and centric heterochromatin. Xi shows two prominent regions of residual H3 acetylation, one encompassing the pseudoautosomal region at the end of the short arm and one at about Xq22. Both these regions have been shown previously to be sites of residual H4 acetylation. H2A acetylation on Xi is higher overall than that of H3 or H4 and is particularly high around the pseudoautosomal region, but not at Xq22. The results suggest that the acetylated isoforms of H3 and H4 have at least some effects on chromosomal structure and function that are not shared by acetylated H2A.