Navigation Links
Finding the switch: Researchers create roadmap for gene expression
Date:4/13/2014

In a new study, researchers from North Carolina State University, UNC-Chapel Hill and other institutions have taken the first steps toward creating a roadmap that may help scientists narrow down the genetic cause of numerous diseases. Their work also sheds new light on how heredity and environment can affect gene expression.

Pinpointing the genetic causes of common diseases is not easy, as multiple genes may be involved with a disease. Moreover, disease-causing variants in DNA often do not act directly, but by activating nearby genes. To add to the complexity, genetic activation is not like a simple on/off switch on a light, but behaves more like a "dimmer switch" some people may have a particular gene turned all the way up, while others have it only turned halfway on, completely off, or somewhere in between. And different factors, like DNA or the environment, play a role in the dimmer switch's setting.

According to Fred Wright, NC State professor of statistics and biological sciences, director of NC State's Bioinformatics Center and co-first author of the study, "Everyone has the same set of genes. It's difficult to determine which genes are heritable, or controlled by your DNA, versus those that may be affected by the environment. Teasing out the difference between heredity and environment is key to narrowing the field when you're looking for a genetic relationship to a particular disease."

Wright, with co-first author Patrick Sullivan, Distinguished Professor of Genetics and Psychiatry at UNC-Chapel Hill and director of the Center for Psychiatric Genomics, and national and international colleagues, analyzed blood sample data from 2,752 adult twins (both identical and fraternal) from the Netherlands Twin Register and an additional 1,895 participants from the Netherlands Study of Depression and Anxiety. For all 20,000 individual genes, they determined whether those genes were heritable controlled by the DNA "dimmer switch" or largely affected by environment.

"Identical twins have identical DNA," Wright explains, "so if a gene is heritable, its expression will be more similar in identical twins than in fraternal twins. This process allowed us to create a database of heritable genes, which we could then compare with genes that have been implicated in disease risk. We saw that heritable genes are more likely to be associated with disease something that can help other researchers determine which genes to focus on in future studies."

The study appears online April 13 in Nature Genetics.

"This is by far the largest twin study of gene expression ever published, enabling us to make a roadmap of genes versus environment," Sullivan says, adding that the study measured relationships with disease more precisely than had been previously possible, and uncovered important connections to recent human evolution and genetic influence in disease.

The Netherlands Twin Register has followed twin pairs for over 25 years and in collaboration with the longitudinal Netherlands Study of Depression and Anxiety established a resource for genetic and expression studies. Professor Dorret Boomsma, who started the twin register, says, "in addition to the fundamental insights into genetic regulation and disease, the results provide valuable information on causal pathways. The study shows that the twin design remains a key tool for genetic discovery."

Blood samples from the Netherlands were processed by the NIMH Center for Collaborative Genomics Research on Mental Disorders at Rutgers University. NC State research scholar Yi-Hui Zhou and associate professor of statistics Jung-Ying Tzeng contributed to the work. Funding for the study included grants from the National Institute of Mental Health and other NIH Institutes, the Gillings Innovation Lab, the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research, the Center for Medical Systems Biology, Biobanking and Biomolecular Resources Research Infrastructure, and the European Science Foundation and European Research Council.


'/>"/>

Contact: Tracey Peake
tracey_peake@ncsu.edu
919-515-6142
North Carolina State University
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. Novel gene-finding approach yields a new gene linked to key heart attack risk factor
2. Research findings link post-heart attack biological events that provide cardioprotection
3. Finding a few foes among billions of cellular friends
4. Finding common ground fosters understanding of climate change
5. New finding points to potential options for attacking stem cells in triple-negative breast cancer
6. Cell division finding could boost understanding of cancer
7. Finding Israels first camels
8. Findings point to potential treatment for virus causing childhood illnesses
9. Findings bolster fibers role in colon health
10. New breast cancer stem cell findings explain how cancer spreads
11. Spinal cord findings could help explain origins of limb control
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:2/6/2017)... -- According to Acuity Market Intelligence, ongoing concerns ... continue to embrace biometric and digital identification based ... Control (ABC) eGates and 1436 Automated Passport Control ... ports of entry across the globe. Deployments increased ... CAGR of 37%. APC Kiosks reached 75% growth ...
(Date:2/3/2017)... 2017 A new independent identity strategy consultancy ... (IdSP) . Designed to fill a critical niche in ... founding partners Mark Crego and Janice ... in identity expertise that span federal governments, the 9/11 ... Crego-Kephart combined expertise has a common theme born from ...
(Date:2/2/2017)... 2, 2017  EyeLock LLC, a market leader of ... paper " What You Should Know About Biometrics in ... user authenticity is a growing concern. In traditional schemes, ... However, traditional authentication schemes such as username/password suffer from ... authentication offers an elegant solution to the problem of ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:2/23/2017)... ... 2017 , ... David Nolte, PhD accepted Purdue University’s 2016 ... Research Park of West Lafayette, Indiana. , The top commercialization award is ... success with, commercializing discoveries from Purdue research. “This award is truly an honor. ...
(Date:2/23/2017)... FRANCISCO , Feb. 23, 2017   ViaCyte, ... Type 1, a not-for-profit advocacy and education group for ... grant from Beyond Type 1 to support ViaCyte,s efforts ... other insulin-requiring diabetes.  For more than ... cell replacement therapies with a focus on the treatment ...
(Date:2/22/2017)... 2017  PrimeVax Immuno-Oncology, Inc. announced today its CEO, ... Annual Biocom Global Life Science Partnering Conference.  The presentation ... at the Torrey Pines Lodge, in San Diego.  ... Biocom who have chosen our company, amongst numerous others, ... investors, and clinical researchers," said Mr. Chen. "In contrast ...
(Date:2/22/2017)... ... ... LabRoots , the leading provider of educational and interactive virtual events ... the launch of a new scholarship for young scientists seeking a degree in any ... open to all high school seniors, 17 years or older; as well as those ...
Breaking Biology Technology: