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  • Lindh, Erika (Hansaprint, 2015)
    Influenza A virus (IAV) is a significant zoonotic pathogen, with a diverse range of subtypes infecting both humans and birds. NDV is the causative agent of Newcastle Disease, a significant infectious disease of poultry. While wild waterfowl, the natural host, remains apparently healthy during the even frequent infections with these viruses, poultry is susceptible for mild to severe disease. Both viruses have a heavy impact on the poultry industry by causing outbreaks with significant economical losses. Low pathogenic IAV and NDV viruses are efficiently transmitted in host populations and have the ability to mutate and become virulent. The segmented genome of IAV also allows it to reassort during dual infections, giving rise to novel viruses with unpredictable pathogenic properties including the potential to transmit to humans and other mammals. Extensive surveillance studies of IAV and NDV during the past decades have revealed their wide global distribution and host species range. Previous surveillance studies have yielded limited information about avian IAV in Finland and so far, NDV has been the causative agent of varying outbreaks in Finland, for example in poultry, a zoo and domestic pigeons. This project was initiated for surveillance purposes, to gather information about prevalence and subtype/genotype distribution of IAVs and NDVs and to assess the potential presence of highly pathogenic strains in wild waterfowl in Finland. Through annual sampling and screening of wild waterfowl, 875 birds were screened during the years 2006-2010 and 2014. The birds represent mainly young, hunted ducks from local breeding areas. We detected altogether 76 IAVs (in 8.7%) and 39 NDVs (in 5.5%). From most of the samples (75%) the viruses were successfully propagated in embryonated chicken eggs and partially sequenced for phylogenetic and pathogenicity analyses. Importantly, while no highly pathogenic strains were encountered, several of the wild waterfowl derived viruses detected in Finland were phylogenetically closely related to viruses detected during outbreaks in Finland and elsewhere in Europe. These viruses includ IAV subtypes H5N2, H7N3, H9N2 as well as NDVs. An unexpectedly high subtype dominance of H3N8 was recorded each year, counting for over 60% of all the subtyped IAVs. Genetic characterization of these viruses demonstrated high sequence homology, even between temporally separated viruses and suggests local perpetuation of the viruses. The past decades have witnessed an increase in the incidence of IAV outbreaks in poultry in Europe and zoonotic transmission of a growing number of subtypes. Surveillance data of IAV in the natural host is important for designing efficient national policies aiming to control the transmission of IAV to susceptible populations and for risk assessment. Our results also show that the northern breeding sites have implications on a European scale.
  • Hankaniemi, Minna (2012)
    Bone morphogenetic protein 15 (BMP15) and growth differentiation factor 9 (GDF9) are growth factors expressed by oocytes and are among the key regulators transmitting the signaling between the oocyte and the surrounding granulosa cells. Genetic studies have shown that these factors are essential regulators of normal fertility in mammals. BMP15 gene deficient mice exhibit a mild reduction in fertility, whereas sheep homozygous for a mutant form of BMP15 are sterile. In the case of GDF9, knockout mice and homozygous mutant sheep are also sterile the ovaries being non functional due to an early block in folliculogenesis. In humans, aberrant expression of these factors has been involved in premature ovarian failure (POF), polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) or dizygotic twinning. ----- This thesis was aimed to define the signaling and activation of human BMP15 (hBMP15) and GDF9 (hGDF9) proteins. The lack of bioactive hGDF9 had restricted the in vitro studies previously and the first aim of this thesis was to produce and purify bioactive hGDF9 protein. We found that hGDF9 is secreted in a latent form. Although mouse GDF9 (mGDF9) and hBMP15 are produced in active form their bioactivity is lost when a C-terminal affinity purification tag is added. We found also, that an N-terminal epitope tag does not have a deleterious effect on the bioactivity of mGDF9 or hBMP15 and they can be purified using immobilized metal affinity (IMAC) and high performance liquid chromatography approaches. A purified wild type hGDF9 (hGDF9wt) mature region became available to us during this thesis project and we found that it is a highly bioactive and stable protein activating the Smad3/4 signaling pathway. Subsequently we produced and purified a bioactive wild type hBMP15 (hBMP15wt) form, which was highly bioactive and activated the Smad1/5/8 signaling pathway in human granulosa luteal (hGL) cells. Physico-chemical characterization of BMP15 revealed that it consists of P16 and P17 forms, where P16 seems to be phosphorylated and P17 glycosylated. ------ It has been shown previously that a recombinant BMP type II receptor ectodomain Fc fusion protein (BMPR2ecd Fc) is able to inhibit the actions of BMP15 and GDF9 in vitro. For studying the effect of BMPR2ecd Fc on mouse folliculogenesis, we produced and purified this protein. These in vivo studies demonstrated that by administering the BMPR2ecd-Fc protein, we were able to dose-dependently modulate ovarian folliculogenesis in mice. -------- In order to determine the cell surface receptor binding components for human BMP15, we engineered and produced a covalent dimer of hBMP15 and labeled it radioactively. We found that it behaves biologically in a similar manner as the hBMP15wt. Human BMP15 strongly bound to BMPR1B and BMPR2 on the COV434 cell surface, an association which was further verified in COS-7 cells by overexpression of these receptors. In conclusion, we have for the first time produced and characterized recombinant human GDF9 and BMP15 protein in native form and thus developed valuable tools for studies aiming at understanding their role in human reproductive medicine. The production and purification methods developed during this thesis are widely applicable for the isolation and characterization of comparable oocyte growth factors in other species and thus have wide applicability in reproductive biology studies in the future.
  • Isohanni, Pirjo (2010)
    Childhood-onset mitochondrial diseases comprise a heterogeneous group of disorders, which may manifest with almost any symptom and affect any tissue or organ. Due to challenging diagnostics, most children still lack a specific aetiological diagnosis. The aim of this thesis was to find molecular causes for childhood-onset mitochondrial disorders in Finland. We identified the underlying cause for 25 children, and found three new diseases, which had not been diagnosed in Finland before. These diseases caused severe progressive infantile-onset encephalomyopathies, and were due to defects in mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) maintenance. Furthermore, the thesis provides the molecular background of Finnish patients with ‘leukoencephalopathy with brain stem and spinal cord involvement and elevated brain lactate’ (LBSL). A new phenotype was identified to be due to mutations in Twinkle, resembling ‘infantile onset spinocerebellar ataxia’ (IOSCA). These mutations caused mtDNA depletion in the liver, thus confirming the essential role of Twinkle in mtDNA maintenance, and expanding the molecular background of mtDNA depletion syndromes. The major aetiology for infantile mitochondrial myopathy in Finland was discovered to be due to mutations in thymidine kinase 2 (TK2). A novel mutation with Finnish ancestry was identified, and a genotype-phenotype correlation with mutation-specific distribution of tissue involvement was found, thus proving that deficient TK2 may cause multi-tissue depletion and impair neuronal function. This work established the molecular diagnosis and advanced the knowledge of phenotypes among paediatric patients with polymerase gamma (POLG) mutations. The patients showed severe early-onset encephalopathy with intractable epilepsy. POLG mutations are not a prevalent cause of children’s ataxias, although ataxia is a major presenting symptom among adults. Our findings indicate that POLG mutations should be investigated even if typical MRI, histochemical or biochemical abnormalities are lacking. LBSL patients showed considerable variation in phenotype despite identical mutations. A common, most likely European, ancestry, and a relative high carrier frequency of these mutations in Finland were discovered; suggesting that LBSL may be a quite common leukoencephalopathy in other populations as well. The results suggest that MRI findings are so unique that the diagnosis of LBSL is possible to make without genetic studies. This thesis work has resulted in identification of new mitochondrial disorders in Finland, enhancing the understanding of the clinical variability and the importance of tissue-specificity of these disorders. In addition to providing specific diagnosis to the patients, these findings give light to the underlying pathogenetic mechanisms of childhood-onset mitochondrial disorders.
  • Päiväniemi, Outi (2011)
    Chronic rejection in the form of obliterative bronchiolitis (OB) is the major cause of death 5 years after lung transplantation. The exact mechanism of OB remains unclear. This study focused on the role of cyclo-oxygenase (COX) -2, tenascin, and C-reactive protein (CRP) expression, and the occurrence of ingraft chimerism (= cells from two genetically distinct individuals in a same individual) in post-transplant OB development. In our porcine model, OB developed invariably in allografts, while autografts stayed patent. The histological changes were similar to those seen in human OB. In order to delay or prevent obliteration, animals were medicated according to certain protocol. In the beginning of the bronchial allograft reaction, COX-2 induction occurred in airway epithelial cells prior to luminal obliteration. COX-2 expression in macrophages and fibroblasts paralleled the onset of inflammation and fibroblast proliferation. This study demonstrated for the first time, that COX-2 expression is associated with the early stage of post- transplant obliterative airway disease. Tenascin expression in the respiratory epithelium appeared to be predictive of histologic features observed in human OB, and influx of immune cells. Expression in the bronchial wall and in the early obliterative lesions coincided with the onset of onset of fibroblast and inflammatory cell proliferation in the early stage of OB and was predictive of further influx of inflammatory and immune cells. CRP expression in the bronchial wall coincided with the remodelling process. High grade of bronchial wall CRP staining intensity predicted inflammation, accelerated fibroproliferation, and luminal obliteration, which are all features of OB. In the early obliterative plaque, majority of cells expressed CRP, but in mature, collagen-rich plaque, expression declined. Local CRP expression might be a response to inflammation and it might promote the development of OB. Early appearance of chimeric (= recipient-derived) cells in the graft airway epithelium predicted epithelial cell injury and obliteration of the bronchial lumen, which both are features of OB. Chimeric cells appeared in the airway epithelium after repair following transplantation-induced ischemic injury. Ingraft chimerism might be a mechanism to repair alloimmune-mediated tissue injury and to protect allografts from rejection after transplantation. The results of this study indicate, that COX-2, tenascin, CRP, and ingraft chimerism have a role in OB development. These findings increase the understanding of the mechanisms of OB, which may be beneficial in further development of diagnostic options.
  • Niinistö, Sari (Unigrafia, 2014)
    The aim of the present study was to evaluate the associations between the maternal intakes of fatty acids, vitamin D, and their respective dietary sources during pregnancy or lactation, as well as the child s fatty acid status, and the risk of type 1 diabetes. The present study is a prospective cohort belonging to the nutrition part of the Finnish Type 1 Diabetes Prediction and Prevention Study (DIPP). The cohort comprised children at increased genetic risk for type 1 diabetes (n=6069) born at the Oulu and Tampere University Hospitals between the years 1997 and 2004. Maternal diet was assessed with a validated food frequency questionnaire during the 8th month of pregnancy and the 3rd month of lactation. The children were monitored for the appearance of autoantibodies associated with type 1 diabetes and for the development of clinical type 1 diabetes, at intervals between 3 and 12 months. The associations between the maternal intakes of fatty acids, vitamin D, as well as their respective food sources and the endpoints, were analyzed by the piecewise linear log-hazard survival model and Cox proportional hazard analyses. The associations between the children s serum fatty acid composition and the risk of type 1 diabetes were studied in a nested case-control study design that included 108 children with preclinical type 1 diabetes and 216 matched controls. The total serum fatty acid composition was analyzed by gas chromatography from samples that were taken from the children between the ages of 1 and 6 years. Conditional logistic regression was applied in the statistical analysis. After adjustment for putative confounders, neither the maternal intake of fatty acids during pregnancy and lactation nor the intake of vitamin D during pregnancy, showed any association with the development of type 1 diabetes. The maternal use of fresh milk and cheese, and the intake of protein from fresh milk during pregnancy, were associated with a lower risk of clinical type 1 diabetes. The maternal total consumption of red meat and meat products, particularly processed meat, during lactation was associated with an increased risk of type 1 diabetes. The child s serum profile of milk-associated fatty acids at, or closest to, the time of seroconversion, was associated with a higher risk of preclinical type 1 diabetes. Findings give one of the first indications that prenatal exposure to certain dairy foods may affect immune regulation, and our results on the milk-associated fatty acid biomarkers confirm the previous findings that the child s own direct cow s milk exposure is associated with autoimmunity in children with increased genetic risk of type 1 diabetes. These results thus indicate that milk and meat products in particular, are interesting topics for future studies on potential nutritional risk and protective factors for type 1 diabetes.
  • Saarinen, Antti (2009)
    Data on the influence of unilateral vocal fold paralysis on breathing, especially other than information obtained by spirometry, are relatively scarce. Even less is known about the effect of its treatment by vocal fold medialization. Consequently, there was a need to study the issue by combining multiple instruments capable of assessing airflow dynamics and voice. This need was emphasized by a recently developed medialization technique, autologous fascia injection; its effects on breathing have not previously been investigated. A cohort of ten patients with unilateral vocal fold paralysis was studied before and after autologous fascia injection by using flow-volume spirometry, body plethysmography and acoustic analysis of breathing and voice. Preoperative results were compared with those of ten healthy controls. A second cohort of 11 subjects with unilateral vocal fold paralysis was studied pre- and postoperatively by using flow-volume spirometry, impulse oscillometry, acoustic analysis of voice, voice handicap index and subjective assessment of dyspnoea. Preoperative peak inspiratory flow and specific airway conductance were significantly lower and airway resistance was significantly higher in the patients than in the healthy controls (78% vs. 107%, 73% vs. 116% and 182% vs. 125% of predicted; p = 0.004, p = 0.004 and p = 0.026, respectively). Patients had a higher root mean square of spectral power of tracheal sounds than controls, and three of them had wheezes as opposed to no wheezing in healthy subjects. Autologous fascia injection significantly improved acoustic parameters of the voice in both cohorts and voice handicap index in the latter cohort, indicating that this procedure successfully improved voice in unilateral vocal fold paralysis. Peak inspiratory flow decreased significantly as a consequence of this procedure (from 4.54 ± 1.68 l to 4.21 ± 1.26 l, p = 0.03, in pooled data of both cohorts), but no change occurred in the other variables of flow-volume spirometry, body-plethysmography and impulse oscillometry. Eight of the ten patients studied by acoustic analysis of breathing had wheezes after vocal fold medialization compared with only three patients before the procedure, and the numbers of wheezes per recorded inspirium and expirium increased significantly (from 0.02 to 0.42 and from 0.03 to 0.36; p = 0.028 and p = 0.043, respectively). In conclusion, unilateral vocal fold paralysis was observed to disturb forced breathing and also to cause some signs of disturbed tidal breathing. Findings of flow volume spirometry were consistent with variable extra-thoracic obstruction. Vocal fold medialization by autologous fascia injection improved the quality of the voice in patients with unilateral vocal fold paralysis, but also decreased peak inspiratory flow and induced wheezing during tidal breathing. However, these airflow changes did not appear to cause significant symptoms in patients.
  • Grimaldi-Toriz, Sharon (Helsingin yliopisto, 2009)
    The aim of this study was to measure seasonal variation in mood and behaviour. The dual vulnerability and latitude effect hypothesis, the risk of increased appetite, weight and other seasonal symptoms to develop metabolic syndrome, and perception of low illumination in quality of life and mental well-being were assessed. These variations are prevalent in persons who live in high latitudes and need balancing of metabolic processes to adapt to environmental changes due to seasons. A randomized sample of 8028 adults aged 30 and over (55% women) participated in an epidemiological health examination study, The Health 2000, applying the probability proportional to population size method for a range of socio-demographic characteristics. They were present in a face-to-face interview at home and health status examination. The questionnaires included the modified versions of the Seasonal Pattern Assessment Questionnaire (SPAQ) and Beck Depression Inventory (BDI), the Health Related Quality of Life (HRQoL) instrument 15D, and the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ). The structured and computerized Munich Composite International Diagnostic Interview (M-CIDI) as part of the interview was used to assess diagnoses of mental disorders, and, the National Cholesterol Education Program Adult Treatment Panel III (NCEP-ATPIII) criteria were assessed using all the available information to detect metabolic syndrome. A key finding was that 85% of this nationwide representative sample had seasonal variation in mood and behaviour. Approximately 9% of the study population presented combined seasonal and depressive symptoms with a significant association between their scores, and 2.6% had symptoms that corresponded to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) in severity. Seasonal variations in weight and appetite are two important components that increase the risk of metabolic syndrome. Other factors such as waist circumference and major depressive disorder contributed to the metabolic syndrome as well. Persons reported of having seasonal symptoms were associated with a poorer quality of life and compromised mental well-being, especially if indoors illumination at home and/or at work was experienced as being low. Seasonal and circadian misalignments are suggested to associate with metabolic disorders, and could be remarked if individuals perceive low illumination levels at home and/or at work that affect the health-related quality of life and mental well-being. Keywords: depression, health-related quality of life, illumination, latitude, mental well-being, metabolic syndrome, seasonal variation, winter.
  • Ekholm, Marja (Helsinki University Printing House, 2006)
    The purpose of this series of studies was to evaluate the biocompatibility of poly (ortho) ester (POE), copolymer of ε-caprolactone and D,L-lactide [P (ε-CL/DL-LA)] and the composite of P(ε-CL/DL-LA) and tricalciumphosphate (TCP) as bone filling material in bone defects. Tissue reactions and resorption times of two solid POE-implants (POE 140 and POE 46) with different methods of sterilization (gamma- and ethylene oxide sterilization), P(ε-CL/DL-LA)(40/60 w/w) in paste form and 50/50 w/w composite of 40/60 w/w P(ε-CL/DL-LA) and TCP and 27/73 w/w composite of 60/40 w/w P(ε-CL/DL-LA) and TCP were examined in experimental animals. The follow-up times were from one week to 52 weeks. The bone samples were evaluated histologically and the soft tissue samples histologically, immunohistochemically and electronmicroscopically. The results showed that the resorption time of gamma sterilized POE 140 was eight weeks and ethylene oxide sterilized POE 140 13 weeks in bone. The resorption time of POE 46 was more than 24 weeks. The gamma sterilized rods started to erode from the surface faster than ethylene oxide sterilized rods for both POEs. Inflammation in bone was from slight to moderate with POE 140 and moderate with POE 46. No highly fluorescent layer of tenascin or fibronectin was found in the soft tissue. Bone healing at the sites of implantation was slower than at control sites with the copolymer in small bone defects. The resorption time for the copolymer was over one year. Inflammation in bone was mostly moderate. Bone healing at the sites of implantation was also slower than at the control sites with the composite in small and large mandibular bone defects. Bone formation had ceased at both sites by the end of follow-up in large mandibular bone defects. The ultrastructure of the connective tissue was normal during the period of observation. It can be concluded that the method of sterilization influenced the resorption time of both POEs. Gamma sterilized POE 140 could have been suitable material for filling small bone defects, whereas the degradation times of solid EO-sterilized POE 140 and POE 46 were too slow to be considered as bone filling material. Solid material is difficult to contour, which can be considered as a disadvantage. The composites were excellent to handle, but the degradation time of the polymer and the composites were too slow. Therefore, the copolymer and the composite can not be recommended as bone filling material.
  • Sammalkorpi, Heli (2008)
    Colorectal cancer (CRC) is the third most common cancer in Finland. Of all CRC tumors, 15% display microsatellite-instability (MSI) caused by defective cellular mismatch repair. Cells displaying MSI accumulate a high number of mutations genome-wide, especially in short repeat areas, microsatellites. When targeting genes essential for cell growth or death, MSI can promote tumorigenesis. In non-coding areas, microsatellite mutations are generally considered as passenger events. Since the discovery of MSI and its linkage to cancer, more that 200 genes have been investigated for a role in MSI tumorigenesis. Although various criteria have been suggested for MSI target gene identification, the challenge has been to distinguish driver mutations from passenger mutations. This study aimed to clarify these key issues in the research field of MSI cancer. Prior to this, background mutation rate in MSI cancer has not been studied in a large-scale. We investigated the background mutation rate in MSI CRC by analyzing the spectrum of microsatellite mutations in non-coding areas. First, semenogelin I was studied for a possible role in MSI carcinogenesis. The intronic T9 repeat of semenogelin I was frequently mutated but no evidence for selection during tumorigenesis was obtained. Second, a sequencing approach was utilized to evaluate the general background mutation rate in MSI CRC. Both intronic and intergenic repeats harbored extremely high mutation rates of ≤ 87% and intergenic repeats were more unstable than the intronic repeats. As mutation rates of presumably neutral microsatellites can be high in MSI CRC in the absence of apparent selection pressure, high mutation frequency alone is not sufficient evidence for identification of driver MSI target genes. Next, an unbiased approach was designed to identify the mutatome of MSI CRC. By combining expression array data and a database search we identified novel genes possibly related to MSI CRC carcinogenesis. One of the genes was studied further. In the functional analysis this gene was observed to cause an abnormal cancer-prone cellular phenotype, possibly through altered responses to DNA damage. In our recent study, smooth muscle myosin heavy chain 11 (MYH11) was identified as a novel MSI CRC gene. Additionally, MYH11 has a well established role in acute myeloid leukemia (AML) through an oncogenic fusion protein CBFB-MYH11. We investigated further the role of MYH11 in AML by sequencing. Three novel missense variants of MYH11 were identified. None of the variants were present in the population-based control material. One of the identified variants, V71A, lies in the N-terminal SH3-like domain of MYH11 of unknown function. The other two variants, K1059E and R1792Q are located in the coil-coiled myosin rod essential for the regulation and filament formation of MYH11. The variant K1059E lies in the close proximity of the K1044N that has been functionally assessed in our earlier work of CRC and has been reported to cause total loss of MYH11 protein regulation. As the functional significance of the three novel variants examined in this work remains unknown, future studies should clarify the further role of MYH11 in AML leukaemogenesis and in other malignancies.
  • Nevalainen, Maarit (Unigrafia, 2014)
    The aim of this study was to investigate medical students and primary care physicians feelings of uncertainty, experiences of medical errors and ways of coping with them, and attitudes towards the career of a GP. In Study I the learning diaries (n=79) and writings on specific themes (n=94) of 22 students during their first clinical year were analysed by thematic content analysis. The topics uncertainty and medical errors were studied in more detail. Studies II and III are based on the responses of 5th-year students to a cross-sectional survey (Study II, n=307 and Study III, n=309, response rate 86%) during their main course in general practice. Study IV concerned younger (n=85) and experienced physicians (n=80) responses to an electronic survey related to uncertainty and experiences of medical errors (response rate 68%). Factors predisposing physicians to medical errors and means to avoid making them were assessed. In the second, third and fourth studies the responses were cross-tabulated. The variables are presented as means with standard deviations and percentages. Comparisons of categorial variables were carried out by using the X2 test or Fischer s exact test, comparisons of non-normally distributed continuous variables were made by using the Mann-Whitney U-test. (P values less than 0.05 were considered significant.) 95% CIs are presented for the most important results. Logistic regression analysis was used to explore which factors predicted good tolerance of uncertainty among GPs. A developmental path among the 3rd- to 4th-year medical students was discovered regarding their experiences of uncertainty and fears medical errors. All students wrote about several aspects of uncertainty. They also feared mistakes. However, they started gradually to be more confident in coping with responsibility. The 5th-year medical students were divided into two groups based on their tolerance of uncertainty and fear of medical errors. Those who tolerated uncertainty quite well or well (n=240, 78%) were older, more often males, and had been working for a longer time as locum doctors than those tolerating uncertainty poorly (n=67, 22%). In the latter group, 100% were afraid of medical errors, in the former group the figure was 86%. Those tolerating uncertainty poorly felt more often that a GP s work is too challenging and difficult and involves too much responsibility. About 3/4 of the fifth-year medical students considered the work of a GP positively versatile and challenging, but about 2/3 of them considered it to be too hasty and pressing. The females thought that a GP s work is too lonely. The males considered that a GP deals too much with non-medical problems and the work may be too routine and tedious. According to the majority of the students (82%) the most important aim of a GP s work is to identify serious diseases and refer such patients to specialized care. In the fourth study 6% of the younger and 1% of the experienced physicians tolerated uncertainty poorly. The younger physicians feared medical errors more (70% vs. 48%) and more often admitted having made an error (84% vs. 69%) compared to the experienced ones (48%). The experienced physicians apologized more willingly to their patients for an error. The younger physicians were more prone to use electronic databases and consult on site. Tolerance of uncertainty seems to develop gradually during the medical studies and this development also continues after graduation. Students are already aware of the possibility of a medical error. Almost all of them are afraid of them. Also half of the experienced physicians admitted to feeling some fear. The attitudes of fifth-year medical students reflect their experiences of general practice.
  • Söderlund, Sanni (2011)
    AIMS An independent, powerful coronary heart disease (CHD) predictor is a low level of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C). Discoidal preβ-HDL particles and large HDL2 particles are the primary cholesterol acceptors in reverse cholesterol transport, a key anti-atherogenic HDL mechanism. The quality of HDL subspecies may provide better markers of HDL functionality than does HDL-C alone. We aimed I) to study whether alterations in the HDL subspecies profile exist in low-HDL-C subjects II) to explore the relationship of any changes in HDL subspecies profile in relation to atherosclerosis and metabolic syndrome; III) to elucidate the impact of genetics and acquired obesity on HDL subspecies distribution. SUBJECTS The study consisted of 3 cohorts: A) Finnish families with low HDL-C and premature CHD (Study I: 67 subjects with familial low HDL-C and 64 controls; Study II: 83 subjects with familial low HDL-C, 65 family members with normal HDL-C, and 133 controls); B) a cohort of 113 low- and 133 high-HDL-C subjects from the Health 2000 Health Examination Survey carried out in Finland (Study III); and C) a Finnish cohort of healthy young adult twins (52 monozygotic and 89 dizygotic pairs) (Study IV). RESULTS AND CONCLUSIONS The subjects with familial low HDL-C had a lower preβ-HDL concentration than did controls, and the low-HDL-C subjects displayed a dramatic reduction (50-70%) in the proportion of large HDL2b particles. The subjects with familial low HDL-C had increased carotid atherosclerosis measured as intima-media-thickness (IMT), and HDL2b particles correlated negatively with IMT. The reduction in both key cholesterol acceptors, preβ-HDL and HDL2 particles, supports the concept of impaired reverse cholesterol transport contributing to the higher CHD risk in low-HDL-C subjects. The family members with normal HDL-C and the young adult twins with acquired obesity showed a reduction in large HDL2 particles and an increase in small HDL3 particles, which may be the first changes leading to the lowering of HDL-C. The low-HDL-C subjects had a higher serum apolipoprotein E (apoE) concentration, which correlated positively with the metabolic syndrome components (waist circumference, TG, and glucose), highlighting the need for a better understanding of apoE metabolism in human atherosclerosis. In the twin study, the increase in small HDL3b particles was associated with obesity independent of genetic effects. The heritability estimate, of 73% for HDL-C and 46 to 63% for HDL subspecies, however, demonstrated a strong genetic influence. These results suggest that the relationship between obesity and lipoproteins depends on different elements in each subject. Finally, instead of merely elevating HDL-C, large HDL2 particles and discoidal preβ-HDL particles may provide beneficial targets for HDL-targeted therapy.
  • Anttila, Timo Verneri (Helsingin yliopisto, 2010)
    Migraine is the common cause of chronic episodic headache, affecting 12%-15% of the Caucasian population (41 million Europeans and some half a million Finns), and causes considerable loss of quality of life to its sufferers, as well as being linked to increased risk for a wide range of conditions, from depression to stroke. Migraine is the 19th most severe disease in terms of disability-adjusted life years, and 9th among women. It is characterized by attacks of headache accompanied by sensitivity to external stimuli lasting 4-72 hours, and in a third of cases by neurological aura symptoms, such as loss of vision, speech or muscle function. The underlying pathophysiology, including what triggers migraine attacks and why they occur in the first place, is largely unknown. The aim of this study was to identify genetic factors associated with the hereditary susceptibility to migraine, in order to gain a better understanding of migraine mechanisms. In this thesis, we report the results of genetic linkage and association analyses on a Finnish migraine patient collection as well as migraineurs from Australia, Denmark, Germany, Iceland and the Netherlands. Altogether we studied genetic information of nearly 7,000 migraine patients and over 50,000 population-matched controls. We also developed a new migraine analysis method called the trait component analysis, which is based on individual patient responses instead of the clinical diagnosis. Using this method, we detected a number of new genetic loci for migraine, including on chromosome 17p13 (HLOD 4.65) and 10q22-q23 (female-specific HLOD 7.68) with significant evidence of linkage, along with five other loci (2p12, 8q12, 4q28-q31, 18q12-q22, and Xp22) detected with suggestive evidence of linkage. The 10q22-q23 locus was the first genetic finding in migraine to show linkage to the same locus and markers in multiple populations, with consistent detection in six different scans. Traditionally, ion channels have been thought to play a role in migraine susceptibility, but we were able to exclude any significant role for common variants in a candidate gene study of 155 ion transport genes. This was followed up by the first genome-wide association study in migraine, conducted on 2,748 migraine patients and 10,747 matched controls followed by a replication in 3,209 patients and 40,062 controls. In this study, we found interesting results with genome-wide significance, providing targets for future genetic and functional studies. Overall, we found several promising genetic loci for migraine providing a promising base for future studies in migraine.
  • Talling, Maria Louise (2009)
    Juvenile neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis (JNCL) is one of the most common neurodegenerative diseases in childhood. Its clinical onset, with visual failure as the first sign, is between the ages of 4 to 8 years. During the disease progress, epilepsy, motor symptoms, cognitive decline, and psychiatric symptoms become apparent. It leads to premature death between ages 15 and 30. Treatment consists of symptomatic drug administration and various forms of rehabilitation, but to date, no curative treatment exists. To gain a more comprehensive picture of psychiatric problems, symptoms were evaluated by the Child Behavior Checklist, the Teacher Report Form, and the Children s Depression Inventory. The JNCL patients had a great number of severe psychiatric symptoms, with wide inter-individual variability. The most common symptoms were social, thought, attention, and sleep problems, somatic complaints, and aggressive behaviour. Patients with psychotropic treatment had more problems than did those without psychotropic treatment, and female patients had more problems than did males. Between 10 and 20% of the patients reported depressive symptoms. In a 5-year follow-up, [123I]β-CIT SPECT and MRI revealed a tendency of decreasing serotonin transporter (SERT) availability and progressive brain atrophy. The correlation between changes in midbrain SERT and total brain volume was positive; no correlation appeared between SERT or brain atrophy and depressive symptoms. Thus, it seems likely that the low SERT availability is associated with progressive brain atrophy; it may also predispose towards depression, however. An open survey of psychotropic drugs and their efficacy was performed on JNCL patients in Finland. The most commonly used psychotropic drugs were the antidepressant citalopram and the antipsychotic risperidone. Their efficacy was good or satisfactory in the majority of cases and they seemed well tolerated. Quetiapine had a marked effect on one patient with a history of severe psychotic symptoms. Glutamate decarboxylase 65 autoantibodies (GAD65ab), found in JNCL patients, indicate that an immunomediated reaction against GAD or GABAergic neurons may play a part in the underlying pathogenetic mechanism. GAD65ab s also appeared in the serum of all eight JNCL patients included and intermittent corticosteroid therapy was initiated in all cases. After one year, the GAD65ab s had disappeared in the two oldest patients, who experienced an improvement in motor symptoms and alertness associated with their prednisolone therapy. Two younger patients experienced a significant IQ increase, but no change in GADab s. A randomized study with longer follow-up time is needed, however, to clarify the effect of prednisolone on disease progression.
  • Salminen, Minna (Yliopistopaino, 2006)
    Lactobacilli are gram positive rods, which belong to normal oropharyngeal, gastrointestinal and urogenital flora. They are widely used in food industry and as food additives. Although their virulence is presumed to be very low, opportunistic bacteremic infections, especially in immunocompromised hosts, have been detected. In the present study, the possible effects of increasing probiotic use of Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG (LGG) on the occurrence of bacteremia due to lactobacilli was evaluated on population level. In Finland, 90 Lactobacillus bacteremia cases were reported to the National Infectious Disease Register maintained by National Public Health Institute, during 1995-2000. Their proportion of all bacteremia cases was on average 0.24%, corresponding to 0.3 cases/100 000 inhabitants annually. In the Helsinki University Central Hospital district the corresponding proportion of all bacteremia cases was observed during 1990-2000. Despite LGG intake increased six folded no increasing trend in the occurrence of lactobacilli bacteremia was seen. A total of 85 Lactobacillus sp. blood isolates collected from different human bacteremic cases were characterised and compared with the commercial probiotic LGG strain. In species characterisation 46 L. rhamnosus strains, 12 L. fermentum and L. casei strains each, three each of L. gasseri, L. salivarius and L. jensenii species, two L. curvatus, and one each of L. plantarum, L. sakei, L. zeae and L. reuteri species were detected. Nearly half of the L. rhamnosus findings turned out to be indistinguishable from the probiotic LGG strain. Common predisposing factors to Lactobacillus bacteremia were immunosuppression, prior prolonged hospitalisation and prior surgical interventions. Severe or fatal comorbidities were found in 82% of the patients. Mortality at one month was 26% and severe underlying diseases were a significant predictor of death (OR 15.8). Antimicrobial susceptibility of Lactobacillus strains was species dependent. The Lactobacillus isolates were generally susceptible to imipenem, piperacillin-tazobactam, clindamycin and erythromycin, whereas all other than L. gasseri and L. jensenii species were not at all susceptible to vancomycin. The susceptibility to cephalosporin varied greatly even within species why they might not be recommended for treatment of Lactobacillus infections. The effect and safety of probiotic LGG preparation in amelioration of gastric symptoms and diarrhea in HIV-infected patients was evaluated. No significant differences in gastrointestinal symptoms or diarrhoea in LGG treated patients compared to placebo could be found. LGG was well tolerated with no adverse effects including bacteremic outbreaks could be observed. The use of probiotic LGG can be regarded safe in this immunocompromised patient group.
  • Leskelä, Ulla (2008)
    The study is part of a research project of 269 psychiatric patients with major depression, Vantaa Depression Study, in the Department of Mental Health and Alcohol Research of the National Public Health Institute and the Department of Psychiatry of the Peijas Medical Care District. The aim was to study at the onset of MDE psychosocial differences in subgroups of patients and clustering of events into time before depression and its prodromal phase, to study whether more severe life events and less social support predict poorer outcome in all patients, but most among those currently in partial remission, whether social support declines as a consequence of time spent in MDE, is sensitive to improvement, and whether social support is influenced by neuroticism and extraversion. After screening, a semistructured interview (SCAN, version 2.0) was used for the presence of DSM-IV MDE, and other psychiatric diagnoses. Life events and social support were studied with semistructured methods (IRLE, Paykel 1983; IMSR, Brugha et al. 1987), perceived social support and neuroticism/extraversion with questionnaires (PSSS-R, Blumenthal et al. 1987; EPI, Eysenck and Eysenck 1964) at baseline, 6 and 18 months. At the onset of depression life events were common. No major differences between subgroups of patients were found; the younger had more events, whereas those with comorbid alcoholism and personality disorders perceived less support. Although events were distributed evenly between the time before depression, the prodromal phase and the index MDE, two thirds of the patients attributed their depression to some life event. Adversities and poor perceived support influenced the outcome of all psychiatric patients, most in the subgroup of full remission. In the partial remission group, the impact of severe events and in the MDE, perceived support was important. Low objective and subjective support were predicted by longer time spent in MDE. Along with improvement subjective support improved. Neuroticism and extraversion were associated with the size of social network and perceived support and predicted change of perceived support. In conclusion, adversities were common in all phases of depression. They may thus have many roles; before depression they may precipitate it, in the prodromal phase worsen symptoms, and during the MDE, the outcome of depression. Patients often attributed their depression to a life event. Psychosocial subgroup differences were quite small. Perceived support predicted the outcome of depression, and time spent in MDE objective and subjective support. Neuroticism and extraversion may modify the level and change particularly in perceived support, thereby indirectly effecting vulnerability to depression.
  • Raevuori, Anu (2009)
    The aim of this study was to deepen the understanding of eating disorders, body image dissatisfaction and related traits in males by examining the epidemiology and genetic epidemiology of these conditions in representative population-based twin samples. The sample of Study I included adolescent twins from FinnTwin12 cohorts born 1983 87 and assessed by a questionnaire at ages 14 y (N=2070 boys, N=2062 girls) and 17 y (N=1857 boys, N=1984 girls). Samples of Studies II-V consisted of young adult twins born 1974-79 from FinnTwin16 cohorts (Study II N=1245 men, Study III N=724 men, Study IV N=2122 men, Study V N=2426 women and N=1962 men), who were assessed by a questionnaire at the age 22-28 y. In addition, 49 men and 526 women were assessed by a diagnostic interview. The overall response rates for both twin cohorts in all studies were 80-90%. In boys, mainly genetic factors (82%, 95% confidence interval [CI] 72-92) explained the covariation of self-esteem between the ages 14 y and 17 y, whereas in girls, environmental factors (69%, 95% CI 43-93) were the largest contributors. Of young men, 30% experienced high muscle dissatisfaction, while 12% used or had used muscle building supplements and/or anabolic steroids on a regular basis. Muscle dissatisfaction exhibited a robust association with the indicators of mental distress and a genetic component (42%, 95% CI 23-59) for its liability in this population was found. The variation of muscle-building substance use was primarily explained by the environmental factors. The incidence rate of anorexia nervosa in males for the age of 10-24 y was 15.7 (95% CI 6.6-37.8) per 100 000 person-years, and its lifetime prevalence by the young adulthood was 0.24% (95% CI 0.03-0.44). All detected probands with anorexia nervosa had recovered from eating disorders, but suffered from substantial psychiatric comorbidity, which manifested also in their co-twins. Additionally, male co-twins of the probands displayed significant dissatisfaction with body musculature, a male-specific feature of body dysmorphic disorder. All probands were from twin pairs discordant for eating disorders. Of the five male probands with anorexia nervosa, only one was from an opposite-sex twin pair. Among women from the opposite-sex pairs, the prevalence of DSM-IV or broad anorexia nervosa was no significantly different compared to that of the women from monozygotic pairs or from dizygotic same-sex pairs. The prevalence of DSM-IV or broad bulimia nervosa did not differ in opposite- versus same-sex female twin individuals either. In both sexes, the overall profile of indicators on eating disorders was rather similar between individuals from opposite-sex and same-sex pairs. In adolescence, development of self-esteem was differently regulated in boys compared to girls: this finding may have far-reaching implications on the etiology of sex discrepancy of internalizing and externalizing disorders. In young men, muscle dissatisfaction and muscle building supplement/steroid use were relatively common. Muscle dissatisfaction was associated with marked psychological distress such as symptoms of depression and disordered eating. Both genetic and environmental factors explained muscle dissatisfaction in the population, but environmental factors appeared to best explain the use of muscle-building substances. In this study, anorexia nervosa in boys and young men from the general population was more common, transient and accompanied by more substantial co-morbidity than previously thought. Co-twins of the probands with anorexia nervosa displayed significant psychopathology such as male specific symptoms of body dysmorphic disorder, but none of them had had an eating disorder: taken together, these traits are suggestive for an endophenotype of anorexia nervosa in males. Little evidence was found on that the risk for anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, disordered eating or body dissatisfaction were associated with twin zygosity. Thus, it is unlikely that in utero femininization, masculinization or postnatal socialization according to the sex of the co-twin have a major influence on the later development of eating disorders or related traits.
  • Tyynismaa, Henna (Yliopistopaino, 2007)
    Mitochondrial diseases are caused by disturbances of the energy metabolism. The disorders range from severe childhood neurological diseases to muscle diseases of adults. Recently, mitochondrial dysfunction has also been found in Parkinson s disease, diabetes, certain types of cancer and premature aging. Mitochondria are the power plants of the cell but they also participate in the regulation of cell growth, signaling and cell death. Mitochondria have their own genetic material, mtDNA, which contains the genetic instructions for cellular respiration. Single cell may host thousands of mitochondria and several mtDNA molecules may reside inside single mitochondrion. All proteins needed for mtDNA maintenance are, however, encoded by the nuclear genome, and therefore, mutations of the corresponding genes can also cause mitochondrial disease. We have here studied the function of mitochondrial helicase Twinkle. Our research group has previously identified nuclear Twinkle gene mutations underlying an inherited adult-onset disorder, progressive external ophthalmoplegia (PEO). Characteristic for the PEO disease is the accumulation of multiple mtDNA deletions in tissues such as the muscle and brain. In this study, we have shown that Twinkle helicase is essential for mtDNA maintenance and that it is capable of regulating mtDNA copy number. Our results support the role of Twinkle as the mtDNA replication helicase. No cure is available for mitochondrial disease. Good disease models are needed for studies of the cause of disease and its progression and for treatment trials. Such disease model, which replicates the key features of the PEO disease, has been generated in this study. The model allows for careful inspection of how Twinkle mutations lead to mtDNA deletions and further causes the PEO disease. This model will be utilized in a range of studies addressing the delay of the disease onset and progression and in subsequent treatment trials. In conclusion, in this thesis fundamental knowledge of the function of the mitochondrial helicase Twinkle was gained. In addition, the first model for adult-onset mitochondrial disease was generated.
  • Raimundo, Nuno (University of Helsinki, 2009)
    The mitochondrion is an organelle of outmost importance, and the mitochondrial network performs an array of functions that go well beyond ATP synthesis. Defects in mitochondrial performance lead to diseases, often affecting nervous system and muscle. Although many of these mitochondrial diseases have been linked to defects in specific genes, the molecular mechanisms underlying the pathologies remain unclear. The work in this thesis aims to determine how defects in mitochondria are communicated within - and interpreted by - the cells, and how this contributes to disease phenotypes. Fumarate hydratase (FH) is an enzyme of the citrate cycle. Recessive defects in FH lead to infantile mitochondrial encephalopathies, while dominant mutations predispose to tumor formation. Defects in succinate dehydrogenase (SDH), the enzyme that precedes FH in the citrate cycle, have also been described. Mutations in SDH subunits SDHB, SDHC and SDHD are associated with tumor predisposition, while mutations in SDHA lead to a characteristic mitochondrial encephalopathy of childhood. Thus, the citrate cycle, via FH and SDH, seems to have essential roles in mitochondrial function, as well as in the regulation of processes such as cell proliferation, differentiation or death. Tumor predisposition is not a typical feature of mitochondrial energy deficiency diseases. However, defects in citrate cycle enzymes also affect mitochondrial energy metabolism. It is therefore necessary to distinguish what is specific for defects in citrate cycle, and thus possibly associated with the tumor phenotype, from the generic consequences of defects in mitochondrial aerobic metabolism. We used primary fibroblasts from patients with recessive FH defects to study the cellular consequences of FH-deficiency (FH-). Similarly to the tumors observed in FH- patients, these fibroblasts have very low FH activity. The use of primary cells has the advantage that they are diploid, in contrast with the aneuploid tumor cells, thereby enabling the study of the early consequences of FH- in diploid background, before tumorigenesis and aneuploidy. To distinguish the specific consequences of FH- from typical consequences of defects in mitochondrial aerobic metabolism, we used primary fibroblasts from patients with MELAS (mitochondrial encephalopathy with lactic acidosis and stroke-like episodes) and from patients with NARP (neuropathy, ataxia and retinitis pigmentosa). These diseases also affect mitochondrial aerobic metabolism but are not known to predispose to tumor formation. To study in vivo the systemic consequences of defects in mitochondrial aerobic metabolism, we used a transgenic mouse model of late-onset mitochondrial myopathy. The mouse contains a transgene with an in-frame duplication of a segment of Twinkle, the mitochondrial replicative helicase, whose defects underlie the human disease progressive external ophthalmoplegia. This mouse model replicates the phenotype in the patients, particularly neuronal degeneration, mitochondrial myopathy, and subtle decrease of respiratory chain activity associated with mtDNA deletions. Due to the accumulation of mtDNA deletions, the mouse was named deletor. We first studied the consequences of FH- and of respiratory chain defects for energy metabolism in primary fibroblasts. To further characterize the effects of FH- and respiratory chain malfunction in primary fibroblasts at transcriptional level, we used expression microarrays. In order to understand the in vivo consequences of respiratory chain defects in vivo, we also studied the transcriptional consequences of Twinkle defects in deletor mice skeletal muscle, cerebellum and hippocampus. Fumarate accumulated in the FH- homozygous cells, but not in the compound heterozygous lines. However, virtually all FH- lines lacked cytoplasmic FH. Induction of glycolysis was common to FH-, MELAS and NARP fibroblasts. In deletor muscle glycolysis seemed to be upregulated. This was in contrast with deletor cerebellum and hippocampus, where mitochondrial biogenesis was in progress. Despite sharing a glycolytic pattern in energy metabolism, FH- and respiratory chain defects led to opposite consequences in redox environment. FH- was associated with reduced redox environment, while MELAS and NARP displayed evidences of oxidative stress. The deletor cerebellum had transcriptional induction of antioxidant defenses, suggesting increased production of reactive oxygen species. Since the fibroblasts do not represent the tissues where the tumors appear in FH- patients, we compared the fibroblast array data with the data from FH- leiomyomas and normal myometrium. This allowed the determination of the pathways and networks affected by FH-deficiency in primary cells that are also relevant for myoma formation. A key pathway regulating smooth muscle differentiation, SRF (serum response factor)-FOS-JUNB, was found to be downregulated in FH- cells and in myomas. While in the deletor mouse many pathways were affected in a tissue-specific basis, like FGF21 induction in the deletor muscle, others were systemic, such as the downregulation of ALAS2-linked heme synthesis in all deletor tissues analyzed. However, interestingly, even a tissue-specific response of FGF21 excretion could elicit a global starvation response. The work presented in this thesis has contributed to a better understanding of mitochondrial stress signalling and of pathways interpreting and transducing it to human pathology.
  • Silvennoinen, Heli (2007)
    Technological development of fast multi-sectional, helical computed tomography (CT) scanners has allowed computed tomography perfusion (CTp) and angiography (CTA) in evaluating acute ischemic stroke. This study focuses on new multidetector computed tomography techniques, namely whole-brain and first-pass CT perfusion plus CTA of carotid arteries. Whole-brain CTp data is acquired during slow infusion of contrast material to achieve constant contrast concentration in the cerebral vasculature. From these data quantitative maps are constructed of perfused cerebral blood volume (pCBV). The probability curve of cerebral infarction as a function of normalized pCBV was determined in patients with acute ischemic stroke. Normalized pCBV, expressed as a percentage of contralateral normal brain pCBV, was determined in the infarction core and in regions just inside and outside the boundary between infarcted and noninfarcted brain. Corresponding probabilities of infarction were 0.99, 0.96, and 0.11, R² was 0.73, and differences in perfusion between core and inner and outer bands were highly significant. Thus a probability of infarction curve can help predict the likelihood of infarction as a function of percentage normalized pCBV. First-pass CT perfusion is based on continuous cine imaging over a selected brain area during a bolus injection of contrast. During its first passage, contrast material compartmentalizes in the intravascular space, resulting in transient tissue enhancement. Functional maps such as cerebral blood flow (CBF), and volume (CBV), and mean transit time (MTT) are then constructed. We compared the effects of three different iodine concentrations (300, 350, or 400 mg/mL) on peak enhancement of normal brain tissue and artery and vein, stratified by region-of-interest (ROI) location, in 102 patients within 3 hours of stroke onset. A monotonic increasing peak opacification was evident at all ROI locations, suggesting that CTp evaluation of patients with acute stroke is best performed with the highest available concentration of contrast agent. In another study we investigated whether lesion volumes on CBV, CBF, and MTT maps within 3 hours of stroke onset predict final infarct volume, and whether all these parameters are needed for triage to intravenous recombinant tissue plasminogen activator (IV-rtPA). The effect of IV-rtPA on the affected brain by measuring salvaged tissue volume in patients receiving IV-rtPA and in controls was investigated also. CBV lesion volume did not necessarily represent dead tissue. MTT lesion volume alone can serve to identify the upper size limit of the abnormally perfused brain, and those with IV-rtPA salvaged more brain than did controls. Carotid CTA was compared with carotid DSA in grading of stenosis in patients with stroke symptoms. In CTA, the grade of stenosis was determined by means of axial source and maximum intensity projection (MIP) images as well as a semiautomatic vessel analysis. CTA provides an adequate, less invasive alternative to conventional DSA, although tending to underestimate clinically relevant grades of stenosis.
  • Tuupanen, Sari (2009)
    Colorectal cancer (CRC) is one of the most frequent malignancies in Western countries. Inherited factors have been suggested to be involved in 35% of CRCs. The hereditary CRC syndromes explain only ~6% of all CRCs, indicating that a large proportion of the inherited susceptibility is still unexplained. Much of the remaining genetic predisposition for CRC is probably due to undiscovered low-penetrance variations. This study was conducted to identify germline and somatic changes that contribute to CRC predisposition and tumorigenesis. MLH1 and MSH2, that underlie Hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC) are considered to be tumor suppressor genes; the first hit is inherited in the germline and somatic inactivation of the wild type allele is required for tumor initiation. In a recent study, frequent loss of the mutant allele in HNPCC tumors was detected and a new model, arguing against the two-hit hypothesis, was proposed for somatic HNPCC tumorigenesis. We tested this hypothesis by conducting LOH analysis on 25 colorectal HNPCC tumors with a known germline mutation in the MLH1 or MSH2 genes. LOH was detected in 56% of the tumors. All the losses targeted the wild type allele supporting the classical two-hit model for HNPCC tumorigenesis. The variants 3020insC, R702W and G908R in NOD2 predispose to Crohn s disease. Contribution of NOD2 to CRC predisposition has been examined in several case-control series, with conflicting results. We have previously shown that 3020insC does not predispose to CRC in Finnish CRC patients. To expand our previous study the variants R702W and G908R were genotyped in a population-based series of 1042 Finnish CRC patients and 508 healthy controls. Association analyses did not show significant evidence for association of the variants with CRC. Single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) rs6983267 at chromosome 8q24 was the first CRC susceptibility variant identified through genome-wide association studies. To characterize the role of rs6983267 in CRC predisposition in the Finnish population, we genotyped the SNP in the case-control material of 1042 cases and 1012 controls and showed that G allele of rs6983267 is associated with the increased risk of CRC (OR 1.22; P=0.0018). Examination of allelic imbalance in the tumors heterozygous for rs6983267 revealed that copy number increase affected 22% of the tumors and interestingly, it favored the G allele. By utilizing a computer algorithm, Enhancer Element Locator (EEL), an evolutionary conserved regulatory motif containing rs6983267 was identified. The SNP affected the binding site of TCF4, a transcription factor that mediates Wnt signaling in cells, and has proven to be crucial in colorectal neoplasia. The preferential binding of TCF4 to the risk allele G was showed in vitro and in vivo. The element drove lacZ marker gene expression in mouse embryos in a pattern that is consistent with genes regulated by the Wnt signaling pathway. These results suggest that rs6983267 at 8q24 exerts its effect in CRC predisposition by regulating gene expression. The most obvious target gene for the enhancer element is MYC, residing ~335 kb downstream, however further studies are required to establish the transcriptional target(s) of the predicted enhancer element.