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Genetic variations and associated electrophysiological and behavioral traits in children with childhood apraxia of speech

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Childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS) is a severe motor speech disorder that is difficult to diagnose as there is currently no gold-standard measurement to differentiate between CAS and other speech disorders. In the present study, we investigate underlying biomarkers associated

Childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS) is a severe motor speech disorder that is difficult to diagnose as there is currently no gold-standard measurement to differentiate between CAS and other speech disorders. In the present study, we investigate underlying biomarkers associated with CAS in addition to enhanced phenotyping through behavioral testing. Cortical electrophysiological measures were utilized to investigate differences in neural activation in response to native and non-native vowel contrasts between children with CAS and typically developing peers. Genetic analysis included full exome sequencing of a child with CAS and his unaffected parents in order to uncover underlying genetic variation that may be causal to the child’s severely impaired speech and language. Enhanced phenotyping was completed through extensive behavioral testing, including speech, language, reading, spelling, phonological awareness, gross/fine motor, and oral and hand motor tasks. Results from cortical electrophysiological measures are consistent with previous evidence of a heightened neural response to non-native sounds in CAS, potentially indicating over specified phonological representations in this population. Results of exome sequencing suggest multiple genetic variations contributing to the severely affected phenotype in the child and provide further evidence of heterogeneous genomic pathways associated with CAS. Finally, results of behavioral testing demonstrate significant impairments evident across tasks in CAS, suggesting underlying sequential processing deficits in multiple domains. Overall, these results have the potential to delineate functional pathways from genetic variations to the brain to observable behavioral phenotypes and motivate the development of preventative and targeted treatment approaches.

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Date Created
2018

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Comparative genomics and novel bioinformatics methodology applied to the green anole reveal unique sex chromosome evolution

Description

In species with highly heteromorphic sex chromosomes, the degradation of one of the sex chromosomes can result in unequal gene expression between the sexes (e.g., between XX females and XY males) and between the sex chromosomes and the autosomes. Dosage

In species with highly heteromorphic sex chromosomes, the degradation of one of the sex chromosomes can result in unequal gene expression between the sexes (e.g., between XX females and XY males) and between the sex chromosomes and the autosomes. Dosage compensation is a process whereby genes on the sex chromosomes achieve equal gene expression which prevents deleterious side effects from having too much or too little expression of genes on sex chromsomes. The green anole is part of a group of species that recently underwent an adaptive radiation. The green anole has XX/XY sex determination, but the content of the X chromosome and its evolution have not been described. Given its status as a model species, better understanding the green anole genome could reveal insights into other species. Genomic analyses are crucial for a comprehensive picture of sex chromosome differentiation and dosage compensation, in addition to understanding speciation.

In order to address this, multiple comparative genomics and bioinformatics analyses were conducted to elucidate patterns of evolution in the green anole and across multiple anole species. Comparative genomics analyses were used to infer additional X-linked loci in the green anole, RNAseq data from male and female samples were anayzed to quantify patterns of sex-biased gene expression across the genome, and the extent of dosage compensation on the anole X chromosome was characterized, providing evidence that the sex chromosomes in the green anole are dosage compensated.

In addition, X-linked genes have a lower ratio of nonsynonymous to synonymous substitution rates than the autosomes when compared to other Anolis species, and pairwise rates of evolution in genes across the anole genome were analyzed. To conduct this analysis a new pipeline was created for filtering alignments and performing batch calculations for whole genome coding sequences. This pipeline has been made publicly available.

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Date Created
2016

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Fine Mapping Functional Noncoding Genetic Elements Via Machine Learning

Description

All biological processes like cell growth, cell differentiation, development, and aging requires a series of steps which are characterized by gene regulation. Studies have shown that gene regulation is the key to various traits and diseases. Various factors affect the

All biological processes like cell growth, cell differentiation, development, and aging requires a series of steps which are characterized by gene regulation. Studies have shown that gene regulation is the key to various traits and diseases. Various factors affect the gene regulation which includes genetic signals, epigenetic tracks, genetic variants, etc. Deciphering and cataloging these functional genetic elements in the non-coding regions of the genome is one of the biggest challenges in precision medicine and genetic research. This thesis presents two different approaches to identifying these elements: TreeMap and DeepCORE. The first approach involves identifying putative causal genetic variants in cis-eQTL accounting for multisite effects and genetic linkage at a locus. TreeMap performs an organized search for individual and multiple causal variants using a tree guided nested machine learning method. DeepCORE on the other hand explores novel deep learning techniques that models the relationship between genetic, epigenetic and transcriptional patterns across tissues and cell lines and identifies co-operative regulatory elements that affect gene regulation. These two methods are believed to be the link for genotype-phenotype association and a necessary step to explaining various complex diseases and missing heritability.

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Date Created
2020

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Biomarkers of Familial Speech Sound Disorders: Genes, Perception, and Motor Control

Description

Speech sound disorders (SSDs) are the most prevalent type of communication disorder in children. Clinically, speech-language pathologists (SLPs) rely on behavioral methods for assessing and treating SSDs. Though clients typically experience improved speech outcomes as a result of

Speech sound disorders (SSDs) are the most prevalent type of communication disorder in children. Clinically, speech-language pathologists (SLPs) rely on behavioral methods for assessing and treating SSDs. Though clients typically experience improved speech outcomes as a result of therapy, there is evidence that underlying deficits may persist even in individuals who have completed treatment for surface-level speech behaviors. Advances in the field of genetics have created the opportunity to investigate the contribution of genes to human communication. Due to the heterogeneity of many communication disorders, the manner in which specific genetic changes influence neural mechanisms, and thereby behavioral phenotypes, remains largely unknown. The purpose of this study was to identify genotype-phenotype associations, along with perceptual, and motor-related biomarkers within families displaying SSDs. Five parent-child trios participated in genetic testing, and five families participated in a combination of genetic and behavioral testing to help elucidate biomarkers related to SSDs. All of the affected individuals had a history of childhood apraxia of speech (CAS) except for one family that displayed a phonological disorder. Genetic investigation yielded several genes of interest relevant for an SSD phenotype: CNTNAP2, CYFIP1, GPR56, HERC1, KIAA0556, LAMA5, LAMB1, MDGA2, MECP2, NBEA, SHANK3, TENM3, and ZNF142. All of these genes showed at least some expression in the developing brain. Gene ontology analysis yielded terms supporting a genetic influence on central nervous system development. Behavioral testing revealed evidence of a sequential processing biomarker for all individuals with CAS, with many showing deficits in sequential motor skills in addition to speech deficits. In some families, participants also showed evidence of a co-occurring perceptual processing biomarker. The family displaying a phonological phenotype showed milder sequential processing deficits compared to CAS families. Overall, this study supports the presence of a sequential processing biomarker for CAS and shows that relevant genes of interest may be influencing a CAS phenotype via sequential processing. Knowledge of these biomarkers can help strengthen precision of clinical assessment and motivate development of novel interventions for individuals with SSDs.

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Date Created
2020