BioEssays: News and Reviews in Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology
Mitochondrial function is achieved through the cooperative interaction of two genomes: one nuclear (nuDNA) and the other mitochondrial (mtDNA). The unusual transmission of mtDNA, predominantly maternal without recombination is predicted to affect the fitness of male offspring. Recent research suggests the strong sexual dimorphism in aging is one such fitness consequence. The uniparental inheritance of mtDNA results in a selection asymmetry; mutations that affect only males will not respond to natural selection, imposing a male-specific mitochondrial mutation load.
Heterozygous mutations of the human telomerase RNA template gene (TERC) have been described in patients with acquired aplastic anemia and the autosomal dominant form of dyskeratosis congenita (DKC). Patients with mutations in both TERC alleles have not yet been reported. Here, we report a patient with DKC who inherited 2 distinct TERC sequence variants from her parents; a deletion (216_229del) in one and a point mutation (37A>G) in the other allele of the TERC gene. Her marrow was hypocellular and showed an abnormal clone [46, XX t(7;21)(q34;q22)].
Telomeres are an unusual component of the genome because they do not encode genes, but their structure and cellular maintenance machinery (which we define as "telotype") are essential for chromosome stability. Cells can switch between different phenotypic states. One such example is when they switch from maintenance mediated by telomerase (TERT telotype) to one of the two alternative mechanisms of telomere preservation (ALT I and ALT II telotype). The nature of this switch is largely unknown.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Telomere length (TL) is emerging as a biomarker for aging and survival. To evaluate factors influencing this trait, we measured TL in a large homogeneous population, estimated the heritability (h(2)), and tested for parental effects on TL variation. Our sample included 356 men and 551 women, aged 18-92 years, from large Amish families. Mean TL in leukocytes was measured by quantitative PCR (mean: 6,198 +/- 1,696 bp). The h(2) of TL was 0.44 +/- 0.06 (P < 0.001), after adjusting for age, sex, and TL assay batch.
DNA methylation is a key epigenetic mechanism involved in the developmental regulation of gene expression. Alterations in DNA methylation are established contributors to inter-individual phenotypic variation and have been associated with disease susceptibility. The degree to which changes in loci-specific DNA methylation are under the influence of heritable and environmental factors is largely unknown.
Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology & Biological Psychiatry
Several diseases are known to have a multifactorial origin, depending not only on genetic but also on environmental factors. They are called "complex disorders" and include cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, and neuropsychiatric and neurodegenerative diseases. In the latter class, Alzheimer's (AD) and Parkinson's diseases (PD) are by far the most common in the elderly and constitute a tremendous social and economical problem.
Psychiatric diseases are multifaceted disorders with complex etiology, recognized to have strong heritable components. Despite intense research efforts, genetic loci that substantially account for disease heritability have not yet been identified. Over the last several years, epigenetic processes have emerged as important factors for many brain diseases, and the discovery of epigenetic processes in germ cells has raised the possibility that they may contribute to disease heritability and disease risk.
American Journal of Medical Genetics. Part B, Neuropsychiatric Genetics: The Official Publication of the International Society of Psychiatric Genetics
Schizophrenia is one of the most detrimental common psychiatric disorders, occurring at a prevalence of approximately 1%, and characterized by increased mortality and reduced reproduction, especially in men. The heritability has been estimated around 70% and the genome-wide association meta-analyses conducted by the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium have been successful at identifying an increasing number of risk loci.
Several large-scale searches for genes that influence complex human traits, such as intelligence and personality, in the normal range of variation have failed to identify even one gene that makes a significant difference. All previously published claims for genetic influences of this kind now appear to have been false positives. For more serious psychiatric and medical disorders such as schizophrenia and autism, several genes have been found where a rare mutation contributes to abnormal behavior, but in many instances they are de novo mutations not obtained from a parent.