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From autopsy donor to stem cell to neuron (and back again): cell line cohorts, IPSC proof-of-principle studies, and transcriptome comparisons of in vitro and in vivo neural cells

Description

Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) are an intriguing approach for neurological disease modeling, because neural lineage-specific cell types that retain the donors' complex genetics can be established in vitro. The statistical power of these iPSC-based models, however, is dependent on

Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) are an intriguing approach for neurological disease modeling, because neural lineage-specific cell types that retain the donors' complex genetics can be established in vitro. The statistical power of these iPSC-based models, however, is dependent on accurate diagnoses of the somatic cell donors; unfortunately, many neurodegenerative diseases are commonly misdiagnosed in live human subjects. Postmortem histopathological examination of a donor's brain, combined with premortem clinical criteria, is often the most robust approach to correctly classify an individual as a disease-specific case or unaffected control. We describe the establishment of primary dermal fibroblasts cells lines from 28 autopsy donors. These fibroblasts were used to examine the proliferative effects of establishment protocol, tissue amount, biopsy site, and donor age. As proof-of-principle, iPSCs were generated from fibroblasts from a 75-year-old male, whole body donor, defined as an unaffected neurological control by both clinical and histopathological criteria. To our knowledge, this is the first study describing autopsy donor-derived somatic cells being used for iPSC generation and subsequent neural differentiation. This unique approach also enables us to compare iPSC-derived cell cultures to endogenous tissues from the same donor. We utilized RNA sequencing (RNA-Seq) to evaluate the transcriptional progression of in vitro-differentiated neural cells (over a timecourse of 0, 35, 70, 105 and 140 days), and compared this with donor-identical temporal lobe tissue. We observed in vitro progression towards the reference brain tissue, supported by (i) a significant increasing monotonic correlation between the days of our timecourse and the number of actively transcribed protein-coding genes and long intergenic non-coding RNAs (lincRNAs) (P < 0.05), consistent with the transcriptional complexity of the brain, (ii) an increase in CpG methylation after neural differentiation that resembled the epigenomic signature of the endogenous tissue, and (iii) a significant decreasing monotonic correlation between the days of our timecourse and the percent of in vitro to brain-tissue differences (P < 0.05) for tissue-specific protein-coding genes and all putative lincRNAs. These studies support the utility of autopsy donors' somatic cells for iPSC-based neurological disease models, and provide evidence that in vitro neural differentiation can result in physiologically progression.

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Date Created
2013

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Integrative analyses of diverse biological data sources

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The technology expansion seen in the last decade for genomics research has permitted the generation of large-scale data sources pertaining to molecular biological assays, genomics, proteomics, transcriptomics and other modern omics catalogs. New methods to analyze, integrate and visualize these

The technology expansion seen in the last decade for genomics research has permitted the generation of large-scale data sources pertaining to molecular biological assays, genomics, proteomics, transcriptomics and other modern omics catalogs. New methods to analyze, integrate and visualize these data types are essential to unveil relevant disease mechanisms. Towards these objectives, this research focuses on data integration within two scenarios: (1) transcriptomic, proteomic and functional information and (2) real-time sensor-based measurements motivated by single-cell technology. To assess relationships between protein abundance, transcriptomic and functional data, a nonlinear model was explored at static and temporal levels. The successful integration of these heterogeneous data sources through the stochastic gradient boosted tree approach and its improved predictability are some highlights of this work. Through the development of an innovative validation subroutine based on a permutation approach and the use of external information (i.e., operons), lack of a priori knowledge for undetected proteins was overcome. The integrative methodologies allowed for the identification of undetected proteins for Desulfovibrio vulgaris and Shewanella oneidensis for further biological exploration in laboratories towards finding functional relationships. In an effort to better understand diseases such as cancer at different developmental stages, the Microscale Life Science Center headquartered at the Arizona State University is pursuing single-cell studies by developing novel technologies. This research arranged and applied a statistical framework that tackled the following challenges: random noise, heterogeneous dynamic systems with multiple states, and understanding cell behavior within and across different Barrett's esophageal epithelial cell lines using oxygen consumption curves. These curves were characterized with good empirical fit using nonlinear models with simple structures which allowed extraction of a large number of features. Application of a supervised classification model to these features and the integration of experimental factors allowed for identification of subtle patterns among different cell types visualized through multidimensional scaling. Motivated by the challenges of analyzing real-time measurements, we further explored a unique two-dimensional representation of multiple time series using a wavelet approach which showcased promising results towards less complex approximations. Also, the benefits of external information were explored to improve the image representation.

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2011

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Informatics approaches for integrative analysis of disparate high-throughput genomic datasets in cancer

Description

The processes of a human somatic cell are very complex with various genetic mechanisms governing its fate. Such cells undergo various genetic mutations, which translate to the genetic aberrations that we see in cancer. There are more than 100 types

The processes of a human somatic cell are very complex with various genetic mechanisms governing its fate. Such cells undergo various genetic mutations, which translate to the genetic aberrations that we see in cancer. There are more than 100 types of cancer, each having many more subtypes with aberrations being unique to each. In the past two decades, the widespread application of high-throughput genomic technologies, such as micro-arrays and next-generation sequencing, has led to the revelation of many such aberrations. Known types and subtypes can be readily identified using gene-expression profiling and more importantly, high-throughput genomic datasets have helped identify novel sub-types with distinct signatures. Recent studies showing usage of gene-expression profiling in clinical decision making in breast cancer patients underscore the utility of high-throughput datasets. Beyond prognosis, understanding the underlying cellular processes is essential for effective cancer treatment. Various high-throughput techniques are now available to look at a particular aspect of a genetic mechanism in cancer tissue. To look at these mechanisms individually is akin to looking at a broken watch; taking apart each of its parts, looking at them individually and finally making a list of all the faulty ones. Integrative approaches are needed to transform one-dimensional cancer signatures into multi-dimensional interaction and regulatory networks, consequently bettering our understanding of cellular processes in cancer. Here, I attempt to (i) address ways to effectively identify high quality variants when multiple assays on the same sample samples are available through two novel tools, snpSniffer and NGSPE; (ii) glean new biological insight into multiple myeloma through two novel integrative analysis approaches making use of disparate high-throughput datasets. While these methods focus on multiple myeloma datasets, the informatics approaches are applicable to all cancer datasets and will thus help advance cancer genomics.

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Date Created
2014

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Insights towards developing regenerative therapies: the lizard, Anolis carolinensis, as a genetic model for regeneration in amniotes

Description

Damage to the central nervous system due to spinal cord or traumatic brain injury, as well as degenerative musculoskeletal disorders such as arthritis, drastically impact the quality of life. Regeneration of complex structures is quite limited in mammals, though other

Damage to the central nervous system due to spinal cord or traumatic brain injury, as well as degenerative musculoskeletal disorders such as arthritis, drastically impact the quality of life. Regeneration of complex structures is quite limited in mammals, though other vertebrates possess this ability. Lizards are the most closely related organism to humans that can regenerate de novo skeletal muscle, hyaline cartilage, spinal cord, vasculature, and skin. Progress in studying the cellular and molecular mechanisms of lizard regeneration has previously been limited by a lack of genomic resources. Building on the release of the genome of the green anole, Anolis carolinensis, we developed a second generation, robust RNA-Seq-based genome annotation, and performed the first transcriptomic analysis of tail regeneration in this species. In order to investigate gene expression in regenerating tissue, we performed whole transcriptome and microRNA transcriptome analysis of regenerating tail tip and base and associated tissues, identifying key genetic targets in the regenerative process. These studies have identified components of a genetic program for regeneration in the lizard that includes both developmental and adult repair mechanisms shared with mammals, indicating value in the translation of these findings to future regenerative therapies.

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2015

Advancing the lizard, Anolis carolinensis, as a model system for genomic studies of evolution, development and regeneration

Description

Well-established model systems exist in four out of the seven major classes of vertebrates. These include the mouse, chicken, frog and zebrafish. Noticeably missing from this list is a reptilian model organism for comparative studies between the vertebrates and for

Well-established model systems exist in four out of the seven major classes of vertebrates. These include the mouse, chicken, frog and zebrafish. Noticeably missing from this list is a reptilian model organism for comparative studies between the vertebrates and for studies of biological processes unique to reptiles. To help fill in this gap the green anole lizard, Anolis carolinensis, is being adapted as a model organism. Despite the recent release of the complete genomic sequence of the A. carolinensis, the lizard lacks some resources to aid researchers in their studies. Particularly, the lack of transcriptomic resources for lizard has made it difficult to identify genes complete with alternative splice forms and untranslated regions (UTRs). As part of this work the genome annotation for A. carolinensis was improved through next generation sequencing and assembly of the transcriptomes from 14 different adult and embryonic tissues. This revised annotation of the lizard will improve comparative studies between vertebrates, as well as studies within A. carolinensis itself, by providing more accurate gene models, which provide the bases for molecular studies. To demonstrate the utility of the improved annotations and reptilian model organism, the developmental process of somitogenesis in the lizard was analyzed and compared with other vertebrates. This study identified several key features both divergent and convergent between the vertebrates, which was not previously known before analysis of a reptilian model organism. The improved genome annotations have also allowed for molecular studies of tail regeneration in the lizard. With the annotation of 3' UTR sequences and next generation sequencing, it is now possible to do expressional studies of miRNA and predict their mRNA target transcripts at genomic scale. Through next generation small RNA sequencing and subsequent analysis, several differentially expressed miRNAs were identified in the regenerating tail, suggesting miRNA may play a key role in regulating this process in lizards. Through miRNA target prediction several key biological pathways were identified as potentially under the regulation of miRNAs during tail regeneration. In total, this work has both helped advance A. carolinensis as model system and displayed the utility of a reptilian model system.

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2012

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Genome-driven targeted cancer therapy

Description

Cancer is a heterogeneous disease with discrete oncogenic mechanisms. P53 mutation is the most common oncogenic mutation in many cancers including breast cancer. This dissertation focuses on fundamental genetic alterations enforced by p53 mutation as an indirect target. p53 mutation

Cancer is a heterogeneous disease with discrete oncogenic mechanisms. P53 mutation is the most common oncogenic mutation in many cancers including breast cancer. This dissertation focuses on fundamental genetic alterations enforced by p53 mutation as an indirect target. p53 mutation upregulates the mevalonate pathway genes altering cholesterol biosynthesis and prenylation. Prenylation, a lipid modification, is required for small GTPases signaling cascades. Project 1 demonstrates that prenylation inhibition can specifically target cells harboring p53 mutation resulting in reduced tumor proliferation and migration. Mutating p53 is associated with Ras and RhoA activation and statin prevents this activity by inhibiting prenylation. Ras-related pathway genes were selected from the transcriptomic analysis for evaluating correlation to statin sensitivity. A gene signature of seventeen genes and TP53 genotype (referred to as MPR signature) is generated to predict response to statins. MPR signature is validated through two datasets of drug screening in cell lines. As advancements in targeted gene modification are rising, the CRISPR-Cas9 technology has emerged as a new cancer therapeutic strategy. One of the important risk factors in gene therapy is the immune recognition of the exogenous therapeutic tool, resulting in obstruction of treatment and possibly serious health consequences. Project 2 describes a method development that can potentially improve the safety and efficacy of gene-targeting proteins. A cohort of 155 healthy individuals was screened for pre-existing B cell and T cell immune response to the S. pyogenes Cas9 protein. We detected antibodies against Cas9 in more than 10% of the healthy population and identified two immunodominant T cell epitopes of this protein. A de-immunized Cas9 that maintains the wild-type functionality was engineered by mutating the identified T cell epitopes. The gene signature and method described here have the potential to improve strategies for genome-driven tumor targeting.

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2017

Life history affects cancer gene copy numbers in mammalian genomes

Description

Cancer is a disease which can affect all animals across the tree of life. Certain species have undergone natural selection to reduce or prevent cancer. Mechanisms to block cancer may include, among others, a species possessing additional paralogues of tumor

Cancer is a disease which can affect all animals across the tree of life. Certain species have undergone natural selection to reduce or prevent cancer. Mechanisms to block cancer may include, among others, a species possessing additional paralogues of tumor suppressor genes, or decreasing the number of oncogenes within their genome. To understand cancer prevention patterns across species, I developed a bioinformatic pipeline to identify copies of 545 known tumor suppressor genes and oncogenes across 63 species of mammals. I used phylogenetic regressions to test for associations between cancer gene copy numbers and a species’ life history. I found a significant association between cancer gene copies and species’ longevity quotient. Additional paralogues of tumor suppressor genes and oncogenes is not solely dependent on body size, but rather the balance between body size and longevity. Additionally, there is a significance association between life history traits and genes that are both germline and somatic tumor suppressor genes. The bioinformatic pipeline identified large tumor suppressor gene and oncogene copy numbers in the naked mole rat (Heterocephalus glaber), armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus), and the two-fingered sloth (Choloepus hoffmanni). These results suggest that increased paralogues of tumor suppressor genes and oncogenes are these species’ modes of cancer resistance.

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2019

Characterizing Gene Expression in Human Tissues to Better Understand Sex Differences in Health and Disease

Description

The regulation of gene expression, timing, location, and amount of a given project, ultimately affects the cellular structure and function. More broadly, gene regulation is the basis for cellular differentiation and development. However, gene expression is not uniform among individuals

The regulation of gene expression, timing, location, and amount of a given project, ultimately affects the cellular structure and function. More broadly, gene regulation is the basis for cellular differentiation and development. However, gene expression is not uniform among individuals and varies greatly between genetic males and females. Males are hemizygous for the X chromosome, whereas females have two X chromosome copies. Contributing to the sex differences in gene expression between males and females are the sex chromosomes, X and Y. Gene expression differences on the autosomes and the X chromosome between males (46, XY) and females (46, XX) may help inform on the mechanisms of sex differences in human health and disease. For example, XX females are more likely to suffer from autoimmune diseases, and genetic XY males are more likely to develop cancer. Characterizing sex-specific gene expression among human tissues will help inform the molecular mechanisms driving sex differences in human health and disease. This dissertation covers a range of critical aspects in gene expression. In chapter 1, I will introduce a method to align RNA-Seq reads to a sex chromosome complement informed reference genome that considers the X and Y chromosomes' shared evolutionary history. Using this approach, I show that more genes are called as sex differentially expressed in several human adult tissues compared to a default reference alignment. In chapter 2, I characterize gene expression in an early formed tissue, the human placenta. The placenta is the DNA of the developing fetus and is typically XY male or XX female. There are well-documented sex differences in pregnancy complications, yet, surprisingly, there is no observable sex difference in expression of innate immune genes, suggesting expression of these genes is conserved. In chapter 3, I investigate gene expression in breast cancer cell lines. Cancer arises in part due to the disruption of gene expression. Here I show 19 tumor suppressor genes become upregulated in response to a synthetic protein treatment. In chapter 4, I discuss gene and allele-specific expression in Nasonia jewel wasp. Chapter 4 is a replication and extension study and discusses the importance of reproducibility.

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2021

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Methods in the assessment of genotype-phenotype correlations in rare childhood disease through orthogonal multi-omics, high-throughput sequencing approaches

Description

Rapid advancements in genomic technologies have increased our understanding of rare human disease. Generation of multiple types of biological data including genetic variation from genome or exome, expression from transcriptome, methylation patterns from epigenome, protein complexity from proteome and metabolite

Rapid advancements in genomic technologies have increased our understanding of rare human disease. Generation of multiple types of biological data including genetic variation from genome or exome, expression from transcriptome, methylation patterns from epigenome, protein complexity from proteome and metabolite information from metabolome is feasible. "Omics" tools provide comprehensive view into biological mechanisms that impact disease trait and risk. In spite of available data types and ability to collect them simultaneously from patients, researchers still rely on their independent analysis. Combining information from multiple biological data can reduce missing information, increase confidence in single data findings, and provide a more complete view of genotype-phenotype correlations. Although rare disease genetics has been greatly improved by exome sequencing, a substantial portion of clinical patients remain undiagnosed. Multiple frameworks for integrative analysis of genomic and transcriptomic data are presented with focus on identifying functional genetic variations in patients with undiagnosed, rare childhood conditions. Direct quantitation of X inactivation ratio was developed from genomic and transcriptomic data using allele specific expression and segregation analysis to determine magnitude and inheritance mode of X inactivation. This approach was applied in two families revealing non-random X inactivation in female patients. Expression based analysis of X inactivation showed high correlation with standard clinical assay. These findings improved understanding of molecular mechanisms underlying X-linked disorders. In addition multivariate outlier analysis of gene and exon level data from RNA-seq using Mahalanobis distance, and its integration of distance scores with genomic data found genotype-phenotype correlations in variant prioritization process in 25 families. Mahalanobis distance scores revealed variants with large transcriptional impact in patients. In this dataset, frameshift variants were more likely result in outlier expression signatures than other types of functional variants. Integration of outlier estimates with genetic variants corroborated previously identified, presumed causal variants and highlighted new candidate in previously un-diagnosed case. Integrative genomic approaches in easily attainable tissue will facilitate the search for biomarkers that impact disease trait, uncover pharmacogenomics targets, provide novel insight into molecular underpinnings of un-characterized conditions, and help improve analytical approaches that use large datasets.

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Date Created
2015

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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