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Genome-wide association analysis on monozygotic twin-pairs offers a route to discovery of gene–environment interactions through testing for variability loci associated with sensitivity to individual environment/lifestyle. We present a genome-wide scan of loci associated with intra-pair differences in serum lipid and apolipoprotein levels. We report data for 1,720 monozygotic female twin-pairs from GenomEUtwin project with 2.5 million SNPs, imputed or genotyped, and measured serum lipid fractions for both twins. We found one locus associated with intra-pair differences in high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, rs2483058 in an intron of SRGAP2, where twins carrying the C allele are more sensitive to environmental factors (P = 3.98 × 10−8). We followed up the association in further genotyped monozygotic twins (N = 1,261), which showed a moderate association for the variant (P = 0.200, same direction of an effect). In addition, we report a new association on the level of apolipoprotein A-II (P = 4.03 × 10−8).
The amount of available DNA is often a limiting factor in pursuing genetic analyses of large-scale population cohorts. An association between higher DNA yield from blood and several phenotypes associated with inflammatory states has recently been demonstrated, suggesting that exclusion of samples with very low DNA yield may lead to biased results in statistical analyses. Whole genome amplification (WGA) could present a solution to the DNA concentration-dependent sample selection. The aim was to thoroughly assess WGA for samples with low DNA yield, using the multiply-primed rolling circle amplification method. Fifty-nine samples were selected with the lowest DNA yield (less than 7.5µg) among 799 samples obtained for one population cohort. The genotypes obtained from two replicate WGA samples and the original genomic DNA were compared by typing 24 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). Multiple genotype discrepancies were identified for 13 of the 59 samples. The largest portion of discrepancies was due to allele dropout in heterozygous genotypes in WGA samples. Pooling the WGA DNA replicates prior to genotyping markedly improved genotyping reproducibility for the samples, with only 7 discrepancies identified in 4 samples. The nature of discrepancies was mostly homozygote genotypes in the genomic DNA and heterozygote genotypes in the WGA sample, suggesting possible allele dropout in the genomic DNA sample due to very low amounts of DNA template. Thus, WGA is applicable for low DNA yield samples, especially if using pooled WGA samples. A higher rate of genotyping errors requires that increased attention be paid to genotyping quality control, and caution when interpreting results.
Multiallelic short tandem repeat polymorphisms, or microsatellites, are useful markers in genome wide scans to identify chromosomal regions containing genes underlying disease loci. The biallelic single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) can be used to fine map previously identified large candidate regions or to test functional candidate genes by association analysis. In the GenomEUtwin project the population based impact of susceptibility genes for six multifactorial traits will be studied. A genome wide panel of informative human microsatellite markers will be analyzed by fluorescent capillary electrophoresis in well characterized twin and population samples. Contrary to microsatellites, selection of the most informative panels of SNPs is hampered by imperfect data on the allele frequencies and population distribution of SNPs markers in the databases. Therefore, selection of SNPs requires a substantial amount of bioinformatics, and, the SNPs need to be validated experimentally in the relevant populations prior to genotyping large sample sets. In the GenomEUtwin project, large scale genotyping of SNPs will be performed using the SNPstreamUHT and MassARRAY genotyping systems that are based on the primer extension reaction principle combined with fluorescent and mass spectrometric detection, respectively. Production of the genotyping data will be a joint effort by GenomEUtwin partners at the University of Helsinki, the National Public Health Institute in Helsinki, Finland and Uppsala University, Sweden. All genotyping data will be stored in a common database established specifically for the GenomEUtwin project, from where it can be accessed by the twin research centres that provided the samples for genotyping.
The post-genomic era is witnessing a proliferation of large-scale and population based genetic and genomic research projects. Many countries have or are establishing research biobanks and, as with GenomEUtwin, there is great interest in building multinational projects that link genotypic and phenotypic information from different centers. Clearly, the conduct of these projects raises multiple ethical issues, and the knowledge generated will continually recast the ethical, legal and social implications (ELSI) of such research. Maximising the scientific profit from this work while minimizing the risks to the participants requires full integration of ethics components into the structure and functioning of these projects. GenomEUtwin is organized around five intellectual cores, including an Ethics Core which operates across the entire project. This paper describes the role of the Ethics Core and presents an overview of the guidelines on which the principles followed in GenomEUtwin are based. We outline the major ethical concerns of our project and highlight complexities arising from diverse national legislations. Finally, the role of empirically based ethics research is discussed for understanding the ethical, legal, social and economic implications of human genetics and genomics research.
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