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  • Salmela, Elina (Helsingin yliopisto, 2012)
    The genetic structure of populations is a potential source of population history information and an important factor in gene mapping studies. The main aim of this thesis was to study the population structure in Finland and Sweden using, for the first time, genome-wide data from thousands of single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) markers. Furthermore, this thesis introduced a novel gene mapping approach, subpopulation difference scanning (SDS), and tested its theoretical applicability in the Finnish population. The study subjects included 280 Finnish and 1525 Swedish individuals, and genotypes from Russian, German, British and other populations served as reference data. The results revealed that the Finns differed clearly from central Europeans. Within Finland, the genetic difference between eastern and western Finns was striking. The Finns, particularly eastern Finns, also showed reduced genetic diversity as well as an increased genetic affinity to East Asian reference populations. In Sweden, the overall population structure seemed clinal and lacked strong borders. The population in southern Sweden was relatively homogeneous and genetically close to the Germans and British, while the northern subpopulations differed from the south and also from each other. Overall, these results are congruent with earlier observations from smaller numbers of markers and with population history, particularly the small population sizes that have led to genetic drift. The genetic substructure within Finland could prove useful in mapping genes for diseases that show regional incidence differences. Because a gene underlying an incidence difference must itself harbor a frequency difference, the SDS approach proposes that such genes could be mapped by focusing further analyses on genome areas that show a (sufficient) difference between the high- and low-incidence subpopulations. Population simulations demonstrated that the SDS approach may work for cardiovascular diseases, which have an east-west difference within Finland. In summary, the results of this thesis emphasize the capacity of genome-wide SNP data to detect patterns of population structure, also in populations that have often been assumed homogeneous, such as the Finns and Swedes. Obviously, knowledge of genome-wide population structure has immediate relevance also to studies focusing on diseases and other important phenotypes.
  • Jokinen, Riikka (Helsingin yliopisto, 2016)
    Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is a small extra-nuclear genome present in all nucleated cells of the body and important for mitochondrial function. The mtDNA is a present in hundreds to thousands of copies per cell and therefore arising mutations cause heteroplasmy: the co-existence of two or more distinct mtDNA variants in the same cell. Because of these features mtDNA variants segregate mitotically in the tissues of an individual, which can lead to time-dependent changes in the relative proportions of the mtDNA variants. Mutations in the mtDNA cause diseases and most pathogenic mtDNA mutations are heteroplasmic. In heteroplasmic situations a certain threshold proportion of the mutant mtDNA must be exceeded prior to onset of symptoms. Somatic mtDNA segregation of mtDNA mutations affect whether the threshold is exceeded, and can thus be a factor in determining disease onset and severity. Some pathogenic mtDNA mutations exhibit tissue-specific mtDNA segregation patterns, but the genes and mechanisms involved in this process are unknown. The aim of this thesis was to uncover genetic regulators of tissue-specific mtDNA segregation and study their properties to gain insight into the mechanisms involved in this process. We investigated tissue-specific mtDNA segregation in a mouse model that segregates two neutral mtDNA variants. These mtDNA variants display tissue-specific mtDNA segregation in three tissue types: the liver, kidney and hematopoietic tissues. In these tissues there is selection for one mtDNA variant over the other. Using this mouse model we identified and verified Gimap3 as a modifying gene for mtDNA segregation in the hematopoietic tissues. In a follow-up study we further studied Gimap3 and a functionally related gene Gimap5. We uncovered a novel subcellular localization to the endoplasmic reticulum for the Gimap3 protein. Moreover we established Gimap5, which encodes a lysosomal protein, as another genetic modifier of mtDNA segregation in hematopoietic tissues. Taken together these results demonstrated the involvement of other organelles in the segregation of mtDNA. To study tissue-specific mtDNA segregation from another aspect we investigated the role of mitochondrial fission in this process. Mitochondrial fission has been implicated to play a role in mtDNA segregation in yeast. We utilized a dominant-negative mouse model for Dnm1l, a master regulator of mitochondrial fission. We demonstrated that expression of the dominant-negative Dnm1l modulated the mtDNA segregation specifically in the hematopoietic tissues. In conclusion, we were able discover the first genetic modifiers for tissue-specific mtDNA segregation in mammals. These findings can be utilized to guide future research aiming to uncover the molecular mechanisms of this process, which can ultimately elucidate the genetics of pathogenic human mtDNA mutations.
  • Järvinen, Tiina (Helsingin yliopisto, 2010)
    Lupus erythematosus (LE) is a chronic, heterogeneous autoimmune disorder with abnormal immune responses, including production of autoantibodies and immune complexes. Clinical presentations of the disease range from mild cutaneous manifestations to a more generalised systemic involvement of internal organs. Cutaneous (CLE) forms are further subclassified into discoid LE (DLE), subacute cutaneous LE (SCLE) and acute cutaneous lupus erythematosus (ACLE), and may later progress to systemic disease (SLE). Both genetic and environmental factors contribute to the disease, although the precise aetiology is still elusive. Furthermore, complex gene-gene or gene-environment interactions may result in different subphenotypes of lupus. The genetic background of CLE is poorly known and only a few genes are confirmed, while the number of robust genetic associations in SLE exceeds 30. The aim of this thesis was to characterise the recruited patients clinically, and identify genetic variants conferring susceptibility to cutaneous variants of LE. Given that cutaneous and systemic disease may share underlying genetic factors, putative CLE candidate genes for genotyping were selected among those showing strong evidence of association in SLE. The correlation between relevant clinical manifestations and risk genotypes was investigated in order to find specific subphenotype associations. In addition, epistatic interactions in SLE were studied. Finally, the role of tissue degrading matrix metalloproteinases (MMP) in LE tissue injury was explored. These studies were conducted in Finnish case-control and family cohort, and Swedish case-control cohort. The clinical picture of the patients in terms of cutaneous, haematological and immunological findings resembled that described in the contemporary literature. However, the proportion of daily smokers was very high supporting the role of smoking in disease aetiology. The results confirmed that, even though clinically distinct entities, CLE and SLE share predisposing genetic factors. For the first time it was shown that known SLE susceptibility genes IRF5 and TYK2 also increase the risk of CLE. A tendency toward gene-gene interaction between these genes was found in SLE. As a remarkable novel finding, it was observed that ITGAM polymorphisms associated even more strongly to DLE than SLE, and the risk estimates were substantially higher than those reported for SLE. Several other recently identified SLE susceptibility genes showed signs of good or modest association especially in DLE. Subphenotype analyses indicated possible associations to clinical features, but marginally significant results reflected lack of sufficient power for these studies. Thorough immunohistochemical analyses of several MMPs demonstrated a role in epidermal changes and dermal tissue remodelling in diseased skin, and suggested that targeted action using selective MMP inhibitors may reduce lupus-induced damage in inflamed tissues. In conclusion, the results provide an insight into the genetics of CLE and demonstrate that genetic predisposition is at least in part shared between cutaneous and systemic variants of LE. This doctoral study has contributed IRF5, TYK2, ITGAM and several other novel genes to the so far short list of genes implicated in CLE susceptibility. Detailed examination of the function of these genes in CLE pathogenesis warrants further studies. Furthermore, the results support the need of subphenotype analysis with sample sizes large enough to reveal possible specific disease associations in order to better understand the heterogeneous nature and clinical specificities of the disease. Comprehensive analysis of clinical data suggests that smoking is an environmental triggering factor.
  • Haapaniemi, Emma (Helsingin yliopisto, 2015)
    Primary immunodeficiency diseases (PIDD) compromise a heterogeneous group of clinical entities, ranging from isolated susceptibility for certain pathogen to widespread, early-onset infections or overwhelming autoimmunity. Although rare, PIDDs cause significant morbidity and mortality. Over 300 genes are associated with PIDD development, and multiple gene defects can cause a similar phenotype. On the other hand, phenotypes caused by the same mutation can vary considerably even between family members. Therefore, genetic diagnostics in PIDD is challenging with standard candidate gene approach. In this study, three novel primary immunodeficiency conditions are characterized: early-onset multiorgan autoimmune disease caused by STAT3 hyperactivity, combined immunodeficiency as due to DOCK2 deficiency, and generalized infection susceptibility caused by recessive HYOU1 mutations. The mutations were discovered using exome sequencing. In the first and second part of this study, the authors studied a cohort of six patients with missense STAT3 mutations that were shown to be activating by luciferase reporter assay. The patients presented with multi-organ autoimmunity that commonly started in infancy. Additionally, some had lymphoproliferation and developed hypogammaglobulinemia in their teens, and one patient had delayed-onset mycobacterial disease. Three patients were immunologically characterized. They showed peripheral eosinopenia and deficiency of regulatory T cells, T helper 17 cells, NK cells, and dendritic cells. Notably, one patient developed large granular lymphocyte (LGL) leukemia at age 14 and another had LGL cells in her bone marrow without clinical disease. In third part of the study, compound heterozygous DOCK2 mutations were identified in a patient that showed mild hematological autoimmunity and susceptibility to bacterial and viral infections. Four additional patients with a similar phenotype and homozygous DOCK2 mutations were subsequently independently identified in four additional research groups in US, Austria, and France. All patients showed profound lymphopenia with defective B, T and NK cell responses, and invasive viral and bacterial infections that were fatal without stem cell transplantation. Finally, a patient with anemia and combined deficiency of granulocytes, B cells and dendritic cells was studied. She presented with severe early-onset bacterial and herpetic infections and stressinduced hypoglycemic episodes. She was found to harbor compound heterozygous mutations in HYOU1, an endoplasmic reticulum chaperone, and the mutations altered HYOU1 substrate binding specificity. The defective HYOU1 function compromised the redox balance in patient neutrophils and skin fibroblasts, and led to altered endoplasmic reticulum stress response. This study shows that next generation sequencing tools such as exome sequencing are powerful in PIDD diagnostics. With these techniques it is possible to identify causal variants even in situations where only a single individual is affected. The results show that monogenic immunological conditions have considerable phenotypic variation even between patients with similar gene defects. The study also identifies novel genes with previously undescribed roles in human immunity, and broadens the general understanding of human immunobiology.
  • Kaare, Milja (Helsingin yliopisto, 2009)
    Recurrent miscarriage (RM) is defined as three consecutive pregnancy failures and is estimated to affect ~1% of couples trying to conceive. The cause of RM remains unknown in approximately 50% of cases. In this study, it was hypothesized that some of the underlying factors yet to be discovered are genetic. The aim was to search for mutations in genes AMN, EPCR, TM, and p53 known to cause miscarriage in mouse models and thereby find new genetic causes for unexplained miscarriages in humans. In addition, the mitochondrial genome was studied because mitochondria are involved in processes important in early development. Furthermore, sex chromosome characteristics suggested to underlie miscarriage were also studied. A total of 40 couples and 8 women with unexplained RM were collected for this study and screened for mutations in the candidate genes. Six interesting exonic or potential splice site disrupting variations were detected. However, their phenotypic effects cannot be determined without further investigations. Additionally, an association between the C11992A polymorphism of the p53 gene and RM was detected. The results indicate that women carrying the C/A or A/A genotype have a two-fold higher risk for RM than women with a C/C genotype. This strengthens the results of previous studies reporting that p53 sequence variations may cause miscarriage. The role of variation C11992A in embryonic development is, however, difficult to predict without further studies When screening the mitochondrial genome a heteroplasmic mtDNA variation was found in an unexpected high number of women, as heteroplasmic variations are reported to be rare. One novel variation and 18 previously reported polymorphisms were detected in the mitochondrial genome. Although the detected variations are likely to be neutral polymorphisms, a role in the aetiology of miscarriage cannot be excluded as some mtDNA variations may be pathogenic only when a threshold is reached. Recent publications have reported skewed X chromosome inactivation and Y chromosome microdeletions to be associated with RM. Therefore, these sex chromosome abnormalities in the context of RM were investigated. No associations between skewed X chromosome inactivation or Y chromosome microdeletions and RM in the Finnish patients were detected. Data on ancestral birthplaces of the patients were collected to study any possible geographic clustering, which would indicate a common predisposing factor. The results showed clustering of the birthplaces in eastern Finland in a subset of patients. This suggests a possibility of an enriched susceptibility gene which may contribute to RM.
  • Lahtinen, Annukka (Helsingin yliopisto, 2012)
    Arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (ARVC) and long QT syndrome (LQTS) are inherited cardiac arrhythmia disorders that predispose to sudden cardiac death (SCD). In ARVC, structural and electrical abnormalities of the heart occur together with progressive replacement of the right ventricular myocardium by adipose and fibrous tissue. Mutations in desmosomal cell adhesion genes may cause ARVC. LQTS manifests with a prolonged electrocardiographic QT interval in a structurally normal heart. LQTS is caused by mutations in cardiac ion channel genes, delaying the repolarization of the ventricular myocardium. The aims of this study were to identify genetic variants predisposing to ARVC, LQTS, and SCD and to assess their prevalence and clinical significance in the Finnish population. Six (18%) of 33 ARVC probands were identified to carry mutations in desmosomal genes. Desmosomal mutations occurred together with disorganization of the intercalated disk structure and demonstrated reduced disease penetrance. The carrier frequency of the desmosomal mutations identified in this study was 1:250 as estimated in a sample of 27 670 Finns. Therefore, an unexpectedly large number of individuals could be at risk of developing ARVC in Finland. However, another trigger is likely to be needed for disease expression. In a clinical sample of 712 LQTS founder mutation carriers, KCNE1 D85N was associated with a 26-ms prolongation of QT interval in males with KCNQ1 G589D, representing thus a potential sex-specific disease-modifying factor. In a population sample of 6808 Finns, KCNE1 D85N together with 13 other genetic variants explained 8.6% of the variation in QT interval, and a 10-ms prolongation of QT interval was associated with a 19% increased risk of SCD. This information could ultimately contribute to assessment of individual susceptibility to LQTS. When studied in a total of 28 323 individuals, two novel common variants, rs41312391 in SCN5A and rs2200733 in 4q25 near PITX2, were associated with risk of SCD. In addition, the associations for rs2383207 in 9p21 and for clinical risk factors for coronary heart disease were replicated. Rare mutations in desmosomal and ion channel genes had a combined carrier frequency of 1:130 in the Finnish population and were detected in individual SCD victims. These results provide novel information for SCD risk prediction and prevention.
  • Lappalainen, Maarit (Helsingin yliopisto, 2008)
    Crohn s disease (CD) and ulcerative colitis (UC), collectively known as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), are characterised by chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. IBD prevalence in Finland is approximately 3-4 per 1000 inhabitants with a peak incidence in adolescence. The symptoms of IBD include diarrhoea, abdominal pain, fever, and weight loss. The precise aetiology of IBD is unknown but interplay of environmental risk factors and immunologic changes trigger the disease in a genetically susceptible individual. Twin and family studies have provided strong evidence for genetic factors in IBD susceptibility, and genetic factors may be more prominent in CD than UC. The first CD susceptibility gene was identified in 2001. Three common mutations R702W, G908R, and 1007fs of the CARD15/NOD2 gene are shown to associate independently with CD but the magnitude of association varies between different populations. The present study aimed at identifying mutations and genetic variations in IBD susceptibility and candidate genes. In addition, correlation to phenotype was also assessed. One of the main objectives of this study was to evaluate the role of CARD15 in a Finnish CD cohort. 271 CD patients were studied for the three common mutations and the results showed a lower mutation frequency than in other Caucasian populations. Only 16% of the patients carried one of the three mutations. Ileal location as well as stricturing and penetrating behaviour of the disease were associated with occurrence of the mutations. The whole protein coding region of CARD15 was screened for possible Finnish founder mutations. In addition to several sequence variants, five novel mutations (R38M, W355X, P727L, W907R, and R1019X) were identified in five patients. Functional consequences of these novel variants were studied in vitro, and these studies demonstrated a profound impairment of MDP response. Investigation of CARD15 mutation frequency in healthy people across three continents showed a large geographic fluctuation. No simple correlation between mutation frequency and disease incidence was seen in populations studied. The occurrence of double mutant carriers in healthy controls suggested that the penetrance of risk alleles is low. Other main objectives aimed at identifying other genetic variations that are involved in the susceptibility to IBD. We investigated the most plausible IBD candidate genes including TRAF6, SLC22A4, SLC22A5, DLG5, TLR4, TNFRSF1A, ABCB1/MDR1, IL23R, and ATG16L1. The marker for a chromosome 5 risk haplotype and the rare HLA-DRB1*0103 allele were also studied. The study cohort consisted of 699 IBD patients (240 CD and 459 UC), of which 23% had a first-degree relative with IBD. Of the several candidate genes studied, IL23R was associated with CD susceptibility, and TNFRSF1A as well as the HLA-DRB1*0103 allele with UC susceptibility. IL23R variants also showed association with the stricturing phenotype and longer disease duration in CD patients. In addition, TNFRSF1A variants were more common among familial UC and ileocolonic CD. In conclusion, the common CARD15 mutations were shown to account for 16% of CD cases in Finland. Novel CARD15 variants identified in the present study are most likely disease-causing mutations, as judged by the results of in vitro studies. The present study also confirms the IL23R association with CD susceptibility and, in addition, TNFRSF1A and HLA-DRB1*0103 allele association with UC of specific clinical phenotypes.
  • Saarinen, Anne (Helsingin yliopisto, 2011)
    Bone mass accrual and maintenance are regulated by a complex interplay between genetic and environmental factors. Recent studies have revealed an important role for the low-density lipoprotein receptor-related protein 5 (LRP5) in this process. The aim of this thesis study was to identify novel variants in the LRP5 gene and to further elucidate the association of LRP5 and its variants with various bone health related clinical characteristics. The results of our studies show that loss-of-function mutations in LRP5 cause severe osteoporosis not only in homozygous subjects but also in the carriers of these mutations, who have significantly reduced bone mineral density (BMD) and increased susceptibility to fractures. In addition, we demonstrated for the first time that a common polymorphic LRP5 variant (p.A1330V) was associated with reduced peak bone mass, an important determinant of BMD and osteoporosis in later life. The results from these two studies are concordant with results seen in other studies on LRP5 mutations and in association studies linking genetic variation in LRP5 with BMD and osteoporosis. Several rare LRP5 variants were identified in children with recurrent fractures. Sequencing and multiplex ligation-dependent probe amplification (MLPA) analyses revealed no disease-causing mutations or whole-exon deletions. Our findings from clinical assessments and family-based genotype-phenotype studies suggested that the rare LRP5 variants identified are not the definite cause of fractures in these children. Clinical assessments of our study subjects with LPR5 mutations revealed an unexpectedly high prevalence of impaired glucose tolerance and dyslipidaemia. Moreover, in subsequent studies we discovered that common polymorphic LRP5 variants are associated with unfavorable metabolic characteristics. Changes in lipid profile were already apparent in pre-pubertal children. These results, together with the findings from other studies, suggest an important role for LRP5 also in glucose and lipid metabolism. Our results underscore the important role of LRP5 not only in bone mass accrual and maintenance of skeletal health but also in glucose and lipid metabolism. The role of LRP5 in bone metabolism has long been studied, but further studies with larger study cohorts are still needed to evaluate the specific role of LRP5 variants as metabolic risk factors.
  • Badeau, Maija (Helsingin yliopisto, 2008)
    Soy-derived phytoestrogen genistein and 17β-estradiol (E2), the principal endogenous estrogen in women, are also potent antioxidants protecting LDL and HDL lipoproteins against oxidation. This protection is enhanced by esterification with fatty acids, resulting in lipophilic molecules that accumulate in lipoproteins or fatty tissues. The aims were to investigate, whether genistein becomes esterified with fatty acids in human plasma accumulating in lipoproteins, and to develop a method for their quantitation; to study the antioxidant activity of different natural and synthetic estrogens in LDL and HDL; and to determine the E2 esters in visceral and subcutaneous fat in late pregnancy and in pre- and postmenopause. Human plasma was incubated with [3H]genistein and its esters were analyzed from lipoprotein fractions. Time-resolved fluoroimmunoassay (TR-FIA) was used to quantitate genistein esters in monkey plasma after subcutaneous and oral administration. The E2 esters in women s serum and adipose tissue were also quantitated using TR-FIA. The antioxidant activity of estrogen derivatives (n=43) on LDL and HDL was assessed by monitoring the copper induced formation of conjugated dienes. Human plasma was shown to produce lipoprotein-bound genistein fatty acid esters, providing a possible explanation for the previously reported increased oxidation resistance of LDL particles during intake of soybean phytoestrogens. Genistein esters were introduced into blood by subcutaneous administration. The antioxidant effect of estrogens on lipoproteins is highly structure-dependent. LDL and HDL were protected against oxidation by many unesterified, yet lipophilic derivatives. The strongest antioxidants had an unsubstituted A-ring phenolic hydroxyl group with one or two adjacent methoxy groups. E2 ester levels were high during late pregnancy. The median concentration of E2 esters in pregnancy serum was 0.42 nmol/l (n=13) and in pre- (n=8) and postmenopause (n=6) 0.07 and 0.06 nmol/l, respectively. In pregnancy visceral fat the concentration of E2 esters was 4.24 nmol/l and in pre- and postmenopause 0.82 and 0.74 nmol/l. The results from subcutaneous fat were similar. In serum and fat during pregnancy, E2 esters constituted about 0.5 and 10% of the free E2. In non-pregnant women most of the E2 in fat was esterified (the ester/free ratio 150 - 490%). In postmenopause, E2 levels in fat highly exceeded those in serum, the majority being esterified. The pathways for fatty acid esterification of steroid hormones are found in organisms ranging from invertebrates to vertebrates. The evolutionary preservation and relative abundance of E2 esters, especially in fat tissue, suggest a biological function, most likely in providing a readily available source of E2. The body s own estrogen reservoir could be used as a source of E2 by pharmacologically regulating the E2 esterification or hydrolysis.
  • Sahu, Biswajyoti (Helsingin yliopisto, 2012)
    The androgen receptor (AR) mediates the effects of the two physiological male sex hormones (androgens) testosterone and 5α-dihydrotestosterone (DHT) that are critical in the development and maintenance of the male sexual characteristics. Androgens and AR signaling play an important role in the growth of prostate gland and in the development and progression of prostate cancer (PCa). AR is a member of the steroid receptor family and is a ligand-inducible transcription factor. Upon binding to male sex steroids, AR acquires a new conformational state, translocates to the nucleus, homodimerizes and binds to regulatory regions called androgen-response elements on target cell chromatin, as well as interacts with coregulatory proteins, sequence-specific transcription factors, and the basal transcription machinery to regulate gene expression (transcription). AR regulates distinct transcriptional programs in androgen-dependent and castration-resistant (androgen-independent) prostate cancer (CRPC). Gene transcription is a well-orchestrated process of multiple events involving chromatin modifiers, coregulators and collaborating transcription factors, occurring in an ordered and sequential fashion. This strictly regulated process is tightly controlled at every stage to govern cell growth and homeostasis. Details of the ways by which AR regulates gene expression in a genome-wide fashion are still not clear. This warrants an in-depth study of the molecular basis of genome-wide AR function in response to cognate ligands under androgen-dependent and CRPC conditions, their recruitment to specific genomic sites and the role of other transcription factors, chromatin modifiers and coregulators in modulating AR function. This study aimed at investigating genome-wide AR binding sites in prostate cancer cells by using ChIP-sequencing technique to understand the androgen-regulated gene expression. Genome-wide AR binding sites (ARBs) in the presence of physiological androgens and partial agonist/antagonists were profiled and respective downstream target genes were characterized. Particular emphasis was paid to investigate the role of the collaborating transcription factor FoxA1 in mediating recruitment of AR to the chromatin and in androgen signaling, and prognostic value of FoxA1 expression in PCa. Furthermore, we explored the role of FoxA1 in defining cell type-specific recruitment of AR in two different PCa cell lines, and its influence on defining site-specific occupancy of two steroid receptors, namely AR and glucocorticoid receptor (GR), in PCa cells. Finally, the consequences of AR overexpression and its repercussions on genomic recruitment of AR to chromatin were investigated. Our work showed that nuclear receptors, such as AR and GR, employ distal modes of transcriptional regulation, as majority of the binding sites are located far from the transcription start sites. The physiological androgen DHT was more potent in recruitment of AR to the chromatin and mediating subsequent gene expression than partial androgen agonist/antagonists. This demonstrates that agonist-bound AR forms a more favorable conformation compared to partial agonist/antagonists-bound AR, and the resulting binding profiles as well as the transcription programs exhibit quantitative differences. The genome-wide DHT-bound ARBs were significantly over-represented for FoxA1 cis-element, suggesting a global role of FoxA1 in AR function. The identification of genome-wide FoxA1 binding sites correlating with AR binding sites led to a paradigm shift in understanding the role of FoxA1 in androgen signaling. FoxA1 has previously been considered as a pioneering factor with the ability to bind compact chromatin and prime it for nuclear receptor binding. Our findings reveal that FoxA1 has a dual role in regulating AR functions and we defined three distinct classes of ARBs in PCa cells that were commensurate with the androgen-regulated transcription programs. Importantly, FoxA1 levels significantly correlate with prostate cancer-specific disease survival as low FoxA1 levels predict good clinical outcome in primary PCa patients. Further analysis of the ARBs in two different PCa cell lines revealed that FoxA1 defines unique receptor binding sites in each cell line. Moreover, AR and GR binding specificity to chromatin was determined by FoxA1, when analyzed in a single PCa cell line in response to their respective ligands. Furthermore, the results also highlight the role of glucocorticoid as an anti-androgen, which attenuates AR-dependent transcription programs. In AR overexpressing PCa cells, we demonstrated sensitization to low levels of androgens due to enhancement in receptor binding. The association between AR levels and chromatin occupancy was also validated in two PCa xenografts, one with high and another with low AR expression levels.
  • Borze, Ioana (Helsingin yliopisto, 2011)
    Myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPN) and myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) are a heterogeneous group of clonal hematopoietic disorders whose etiology and molecular pathogenesis are poorly understood. During the past decade, enormous developments in microarray technology and bioinformatics methods have made it possible to mine novel molecular alterations in a large number of malignancies, including MPN and MDS, which has facilitated the detection of new prognostic, predictive and therapeutic biomarkers for disease stratification. By applying novel microarray techniques, we profiled copy number alterations and microRNA (miRNA) expression changes in bone marrow aspirate and blood samples. In addition, we set up and validated an miRNA expression test for bone marrow core biopsies in order to utilize the large archive material available in many laboratories. We also tested JAK2 mutation status and compare it with the in vitro growth pattern of hematologic progenitors cells. In the study focusing on 100 MPN cases, we detected a Janus kinase 2 (JAK2) mutation in 71 cases. We observed spontaneous erythroid colony growth in all mutation-positive cases in addition to nine mutation negative cases. Interestingly, seven JAK2V167F negative ET cases showed spontaneous megakaryocyte colony formation, one case of which also harbored a myeloproliferative leukemia virus oncogene (MPL) mutation. We studied copy number alterations in 35 MPN and 37 MDS cases by using oligonucleotide-based array comparative hybridization (array CGH). Only one essential thrombocythemia (ET) case presented copy number alterations in chromosomes 1q and 13q. In contrast, MDS cases were characterized by numerous novel cryptic chromosomal aberrations with the most common copy number losses at 5q21.3q33.1 and 7q22.1q33, while the most common copy number gain was trisomy 8. As for the study of the bone marrow core biopsy samples, we showed that even though these samples were embedded in paraffin and underwent decalcification, they were reliable sources of miRNA and suitable for array expression analysis. Further, when studying the miRNA expression profiles of the 19 MDS cases, we found that, compared to controls, two miRNAs (one human Epstein-Barr virus (miR-BART13) miRNA and one human (has-miR-671-5p) miRNA) were downregulated, whereas two other miRNAs (hsa-miR-720 and hsa-miR-21) were upregulated. However, we could find no correlation between copy number alterations and microRNA expression when integrating these two data. This thesis brings to light new information about genomic changes implicated in the development of MPN and MDS, and also underlines the power of applying genome-wide array screening techniques in neoplasias. Rapid advances in molecular techniques and the integration of different genomic data will enable the discovery of the biological contexts of many complex disorders, including myeloid neoplasias.
  • Myllykangas, Samuel (Helsingin yliopisto, 2008)
    Helicobacter pylori infection is a risk factor for gastric cancer, which is a major health issue worldwide. Gastric cancer has a poor prognosis due to the unnoticeable progression of the disease and surgery is the only available treatment in gastric cancer. Therefore, gastric cancer patients would greatly benefit from identifying biomarker genes that would improve diagnostic and prognostic prediction and provide targets for molecular therapies. DNA copy number amplifications are the hallmarks of cancers in various anatomical locations. Mechanisms of amplification predict that DNA double-strand breaks occur at the margins of the amplified region. The first objective of this thesis was to identify the genes that were differentially expressed in H. pylori infection as well as the transcription factors and signal transduction pathways that were associated with the gene expression changes. The second objective was to identify putative biomarker genes in gastric cancer with correlated expression and copy number, and the last objective was to characterize cancers based on DNA copy number amplifications. DNA microarrays, an in vitro model and real-time polymerase chain reaction were used to measure gene expression changes in H. pylori infected AGS cells. In order to identify the transcription factors and signal transduction pathways that were activated after H. pylori infection, gene expression profiling data from the H. pylori experiments and a bioinformatics approach accompanied by experimental validation were used. Genome-wide expression and copy number microarray analysis of clinical gastric cancer samples and immunohistochemistry on tissue microarray were used to identify putative gastric cancer genes. Data mining and machine learning techniques were applied to study amplifications in a cross-section of cancers. FOS and various stress response genes were regulated by H. pylori infection. H. pylori regulated genes were enriched in the chromosomal regions that are frequently changed in gastric cancer, suggesting that molecular pathways of gastric cancer and premalignant H. pylori infection that induces gastritis are interconnected. 16 transcription factors were identified as being associated with H. pylori infection induced changes in gene expression. NF-κB transcription factor and p50 and p65 subunits were verified using elecrophoretic mobility shift assays. ERBB2 and other genes located in 17q12- q21 were found to be up-regulated in association with copy number amplification in gastric cancer. Cancers with similar cell type and origin clustered together based on the genomic localization of the amplifications. Cancer genes and large genes were co-localized with amplified regions and fragile sites, telomeres, centromeres and light chromosome bands were enriched at the amplification boundaries. H. pylori activated transcription factors and signal transduction pathways function in cellular mechanisms that might be capable of promoting carcinogenesis of the stomach. Intestinal and diffuse type gastric cancers showed distinct molecular genetic profiles. Integration of gene expression and copy number microarray data allowed the identification of genes that might be involved in gastric carcinogenesis and have clinical relevance. Gene amplifications were demonstrated to be non-random genomic instabilities. Cell lineage, properties of precursor stem cells, tissue microenvironment and genomic map localization of specific oncogenes define the site specificity of DNA amplifications, whereas labile genomic features define the structures of amplicons. These conclusions suggest that the definition of genomic changes in cancer is based on the interplay between the cancer cell and the tumor microenvironment.
  • Tyybäkinoja, Anne (Helsingin yliopisto, 2009)
    Chromosomal alterations in leukemia have been shown to have prognostic and predictive significance and are also important minimal residual disease (MRD) markers in the follow-up of leukemia patients. Although specific oncogenes and tumor suppressors have been discovered in some of the chromosomal alterations, the role and target genes of many alterations in leukemia remain unknown. In addition, a number of leukemia patients have a normal karyotype by standard cytogenetics, but have variability in clinical course and are often molecularly heterogeneous. Cytogenetic methods traditionally used in leukemia analysis and diagnostics; G-banding, various fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) techniques, and chromosomal comparative genomic hybridization (cCGH), have enormously increased knowledge about the leukemia genome, but have limitations in resolution or in genomic coverage. In the last decade, the development of microarray comparative genomic hybridization (array-CGH, aCGH) for DNA copy number analysis and the SNP microarray (SNP-array) method for simultaneous copy number and loss of heterozygosity (LOH) analysis has enabled investigation of chromosomal and gene alterations genome-wide with high resolution and high throughput. In these studies, genetic alterations were analyzed in acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). The aim was to screen and characterize genomic alterations that could play role in leukemia pathogenesis by using aCGH and SNP-arrays. One of the most important goals was to screen cryptic alterations in karyotypically normal leukemia patients. In addition, chromosomal changes were evaluated to narrow the target regions, to find new markers, and to obtain tumor suppressor and oncogene candidates. The work presented here shows the capability of aCGH to detect submicroscopic copy number alterations in leukemia, with information about breakpoints and genes involved in the alterations, and that genome-wide microarray analyses with aCGH and SNP-array are advantageous methods in the research and diagnosis of leukemia. The most important findings were the cryptic changes detected with aCGH in karyotypically normal AML and CLL, characterization of amplified genes in 11q marker chromosomes, detection of deletion-based mechanisms of MLL-ARHGEF12 fusion gene formation, and detection of LOH without copy number alteration in karyotypically normal AML. These alterations harbor candidate oncogenes and tumor suppressors for further studies.
  • Kanduri, Chakravarthi (Helsingin yliopisto, 2015)
    Music perception and performance form a useful tool for studying the normal functioning of the human brain. The abundance of neuroscientific literature has demonstrated that music perception and performance alter the human brain structure and function and induce physiological changes through neurochemical modulation. Emerging evidence from molecular genetic studies have suggested a substantial genetic component in musical aptitude and related traits like creativity in music. This thesis puts a step forward in understanding the molecular genetic background of music perception and performance, using a combination of genomics and bioinformatics approaches. Specifically, the role of copy number variations (CNVs; a form of genetic variation) in musical aptitude and creativity in music was investigated both in the largest families of the MUSGEN-project and also in sporadic cases. The effects of listening to music and performing music by playing an instrument on human transcriptional responses were also investigated. The genome-wide CNV analysis principally identified genes like GALM, PCDHA1-9 as the possible candidate genes that could affect musical aptitude and creativity in music. PCDHA1-9 and GALM genes are known to regulate the serotonergic system, which is responsible for neurocognitive and motor functions, the essential biological processes of music related traits. Overall, the detected genes affect neurodevelopment, learning, memory and serotonergic functions. The findings also demonstrated that large and rare CNV burden does not affect normal traits like musical aptitude. Both listening to music and performing music enhanced the activity of genes that are known to be involved in dopaminergic neurotransmission, neuroplasticity, learning, and memory. Most importantly, one of the most up-regulated genes in both studies - synuclein alpha (SNCA) and its upstream transcription regulator GATA2, are located on chromosomal regions 4q22.1 and 3q21 respectively linking the strongest linkage and associated regions of musical aptitude together. In addition, several of the up-regulated genes in both the studies (like SNCA, FOS, and DUSP1) have been known to be regulated during song learning and singing in songbirds, suggesting a possible evolutionary conservation of genes related to sound perception and production. These novel findings give preliminary information about the genes associated with musical aptitude and the effect of music on the human body. It is obvious that replication studies are required to confirm the results. These pioneering findings could guide further research on the molecular genetics of music perception and performance in humans. These findings will also enhance our understanding of the genetic bases of cognitive traits, the evolution of music and music therapy.
  • Paavonen, Kristian (Helsingin yliopisto, 2006)
    Long QT syndrome is a congenital or acquired arrhythmic disorder which manifests as a prolonged QT-interval on the electrocardiogram and as a tendency to develop ventricular arrhythmias which can lead to sudden death. Arrhythmias often occur during intense exercise and/or emotional stress. The two most common subtypes of LQTS are LQT1, caused by mutations in the KCNQ1 gene and LQT2, caused by mutations in the KCNH2 gene. LQT1 and LQT2 patients exhibit arrhythmias in different types of situations: in LQT1 the trigger is usually vigorous exercise whereas in LQT2 arrhythmia results from the patient being startled from rest. It is not clear why trigger factors and clinical outcome differ from each other in the different LQTS subtypes. It is possible that stress hormones such as catecholamines may show different effects depending on the exact nature of the genetic defect, or sensitivity to catecholamines varies from subject to subject. Furthermore, it is possible that subtle genetic variants of putative modifier genes, including those coding for ion channels and hormone receptors, play a role as determinants of individual sensitivity to life-threatening arrhythmias. The present study was designed to identify some of these risk modifiers. It was found that LQT1 and LQT2 patients show an abnormal QT-adaptation to both mental and physical stress. Furthermore, as studied with epinephrine infusion experiments while the heart was paced and action potentials were measured from the right ventricular septum, LQT1 patients showed repolarization abnormalities which were related to their propensity to develop arrhythmia during intense, prolonged sympathetic tone, such as exercise. In LQT2 patients, this repolarization abnormality was noted already at rest corresponding to their arrhythmic episodes as a result of intense, sudden surges in adrenergic tone, such as fright or rage. A common KCNH2 polymorphism was found to affect KCNH2 channel function as demonstrated by in vitro experiments utilizing mammalian cells transfected with the KCNH2 potassium channel as well as QT-dynamics in vivo. Finally, the present study identified a common β-1-adrenergic receptor genotype that is related a shorter QT-interval in LQT1 patients. Also, it was discovered that compound homozygosity for two common β-adrenergic polymorphisms was related to the occurrence of symptoms in the LQT1 type of long QT syndrome. The studies demonstrate important genotype-phenotype differences between different LQTS subtypes and suggest that common modifier gene polymorphisms may affect cardiac repolarization in LQTS. It will be important in the future to prospectively study whether variant gene polymorphisms will assist in clinical risk profiling of LQTS patients.
  • Rautanen, Anna (Helsingin yliopisto, 2007)
    In this thesis, two separate single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) genotyping techniques were set up at the Finnish Genome Center, pooled genotyping was evaluated as a screening method for large-scale association studies, and finally, the former approaches were used to identify genetic factors predisposing to two distinct complex diseases by utilizing large epidemiological cohorts and also taking environmental factors into account. The first genotyping platform was based on traditional but improved restriction-fragment-length-polymorphism (RFLP) utilizing 384-microtiter well plates, multiplexing, small reaction volumes (5 µl), and automated genotype calling. We participated in the development of the second genotyping method, based on single nucleotide primer extension (SNuPeTM by Amersham Biosciences), by carrying out the alpha- and beta tests for the chemistry and the allele-calling software. Both techniques proved to be accurate, reliable, and suitable for projects with thousands of samples and tens of markers. Pooled genotyping (genotyping of pooled instead of individual DNA samples) was evaluated with Sequenom s MassArray MALDI-TOF, in addition to SNuPeTM and PCR-RFLP techniques. We used MassArray mainly as a point of comparison, because it is known to be well suited for pooled genotyping. All three methods were shown to be accurate, the standard deviations between measurements being 0.017 for the MassArray, 0.022 for the PCR-RFLP, and 0.026 for the SNuPeTM. The largest source of error in the process of pooled genotyping was shown to be the volumetric error, i.e., the preparation of pools. We also demonstrated that it would have been possible to narrow down the genetic locus underlying congenital chloride diarrhea (CLD), an autosomal recessive disorder, by using the pooling technique instead of genotyping individual samples. Although the approach seems to be well suited for traditional case-control studies, it is difficult to apply if any kind of stratification based on environmental factors is needed. Therefore we chose to continue with individual genotyping in the following association studies. Samples in the two separate large epidemiological cohorts were genotyped with the PCR-RFLP and SNuPeTM techniques. The first of these association studies concerned various pregnancy complications among 100,000 consecutive pregnancies in Finland, of which we genotyped 2292 patients and controls, in addition to a population sample of 644 blood donors, with 7 polymorphisms in the potentially thrombotic genes. In this thesis, the analysis of a sub-study of pregnancy-related venous thromboses was included. We showed that the impact of factor V Leiden polymorphism on pregnancy-related venous thrombosis, but not the other tested polymorphisms, was fairly large (odds ratio 11.6; 95% CI 3.6-33.6), and increased multiplicatively when combined with other risk factors such as obesity or advanced age. Owing to our study design, we were also able to estimate the risks at the population level. The second epidemiological cohort was the Helsinki Birth Cohort of men and women who were born during 1924-1933 in Helsinki. The aim was to identify genetic factors that might modify the well known link between small birth size and adult metabolic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes and impaired glucose tolerance. Among ~500 individuals with detailed birth measurements and current metabolic profile, we found that an insertion/deletion polymorphism of the angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) gene was associated with the duration of gestation, and weight and length at birth. Interestingly, the ACE insertion allele was also associated with higher indices of insulin secretion (p=0.0004) in adult life, but only among individuals who were born small (those among the lowest third of birth weight). Likewise, low birth weight was associated with higher indices of insulin secretion (p=0.003), but only among carriers of the ACE insertion allele. The association with birth measurements was also found with a common haplotype of the glucocorticoid receptor (GR) gene. Furthermore, the association between short length at birth and adult impaired glucose tolerance was confined to carriers of this haplotype (p=0.007). These associations exemplify the interaction between environmental factors and genotype, which, possibly due to altered gene expression, predisposes to complex metabolic diseases. Indeed, we showed that the common GR gene haplotype associated with reduced mRNA expression in thymus of three individuals (p=0.0002).