The spatial organization of the genome is intimately linked to its biological function, yet our understanding of higher order genomic structure is coarse, fragmented and incomplete. In the nucleus of eukaryotic cells, interphase chromosomes occupy distinct chromosome territories, and numerous models have been proposed for how chromosomes fold within chromosome territories. These models, however, provide only few mechanistic details about the relationship between higher order chromatin structure and genome function. Recent advances in genomic technologies have led to rapid advances in the study of three-dimensional genome organization. In particular, Hi-C has been introduced as a method for identifying higher order chromatin interactions genome wide. Here we investigate the three-dimensional organization of the human and mouse genomes in embryonic stem cells and terminally differentiated cell types at unprecedented resolution. We identify large, megabase-sized local chromatin interaction domains, which we term 'topological domains', as a pervasive structural feature of the genome organization. These domains correlate with regions of the genome that constrain the spread of heterochromatin. The domains are stable across different cell types and highly conserved across species, indicating that topological domains are an inherent property of mammalian genomes. Finally, we find that the boundaries of topological domains are enriched for the insulator binding protein CTCF, housekeeping genes, transfer RNAs and short interspersed element (SINE) retrotransposons, indicating that these factors may have a role in establishing the topological domain structure of the genome.Read more
Although pioneered by human geneticists as a potential solution to the challenging problem of finding the genetic basis of common human diseases, genome-wide association (GWA) studies have, owing to advances in genotyping and sequencing technology, become an obvious general approach for studying the genetics of natural variation and traits of agricultural importance. They are particularly useful when inbred lines are available, because once these lines have been genotyped they can be phenotyped multiple times, making it possible (as well as extremely cost effective) to study many different traits in many different environments, while replicating the phenotypic measurements to reduce environmental noise. Here we demonstrate the power of this approach by carrying out a GWA study of 107 phenotypes in Arabidopsis thaliana, a widely distributed, predominantly self-fertilizing model plant known to harbour considerable genetic variation for many adaptively important traits. Our results are dramatically different from those of human GWA studies, in that we identify many common alleles of major effect, but they are also, in many cases, harder to interpret because confounding by complex genetics and population structure make it difficult to distinguish true associations from false. However, a-priori candidates are significantly over-represented among these associations as well, making many of them excellent candidates for follow-up experiments. Our study demonstrates the feasibility of GWA studies in A. thaliana and suggests that the approach will be appropriate for many other organisms.Read more
We sequenced the 29,751-base genome of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS)-associated coronavirus known as the Tor2 isolate. The genome sequence reveals that this coronavirus is only moderately related to other known coronaviruses, including two human coronaviruses, HCoV-OC43 and HCoV-229E. Phylogenetic analysis of the predicted viral proteins indicates that the virus does not closely resemble any of the three previously known groups of coronaviruses. The genome sequence will aid in the diagnosis of SARS virus infection in humans and potential animal hosts (using polymerase chain reaction and immunological tests), in the development of antivirals (including neutralizing antibodies), and in the identification of putative epitopes for vaccine development.Read more
Schizophrenia (SCZD) is a debilitating neurological disorder with a world-wide prevalence of 1%; there is a strong genetic component, with an estimated heritability of 80-85%. Although post-mortem studies have revealed reduced brain volume, cell size, spine density and abnormal neural distribution in the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus of SCZD brain tissue and neuropharmacological studies have implicated dopaminergic, glutamatergic and GABAergic activity in SCZD, the cell types affected in SCZD and the molecular mechanisms underlying the disease state remain unclear. To elucidate the cellular and molecular defects of SCZD, we directly reprogrammed fibroblasts from SCZD patients into human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) and subsequently differentiated these disorder-specific hiPSCs into neurons (Supplementary Fig. 1). SCZD hiPSC neurons showed diminished neuronal connectivity in conjunction with decreased neurite number, PSD95-protein levels and glutamate receptor expression. Gene expression profiles of SCZD hiPSC neurons identified altered expression of many components of the cyclic AMP and WNT signalling pathways. Key cellular and molecular elements of the SCZD phenotype were ameliorated following treatment of SCZD hiPSC neurons with the antipsychotic loxapine. To date, hiPSC neuronal pathology has only been demonstrated in diseases characterized by both the loss of function of a single gene product and rapid disease progression in early childhood. We now report hiPSC neuronal phenotypes and gene expression changes associated with SCZD, a complex genetic psychiatric disorder.Read more
The 1918 influenza pandemic was unusually severe, resulting in about 50 million deaths worldwide. The 1918 virus is also highly pathogenic in mice, and studies have identified a multigenic origin of this virulent phenotype in mice. However, these initial characterizations of the 1918 virus did not address the question of its pathogenic potential in primates. Here we demonstrate that the 1918 virus caused a highly pathogenic respiratory infection in a cynomolgus macaque model that culminated in acute respiratory distress and a fatal outcome. Furthermore, infected animals mounted an immune response, characterized by dysregulation of the antiviral response, that was insufficient for protection, indicating that atypical host innate immune responses may contribute to lethality. The ability of influenza viruses to modulate host immune responses, such as that demonstrated for the avian H5N1 influenza viruses, may be a feature shared by the virulent influenza viruses.Read more
A large number of cis-regulatory sequences have been annotated in the human genome, but defining their target genes remains a challenge. One strategy is to identify the long-range looping interactions at these elements with the use of chromosome conformation capture (3C)-based techniques. However, previous studies lack either the resolution or coverage to permit a whole-genome, unbiased view of chromatin interactions. Here we report a comprehensive chromatin interaction map generated in human fibroblasts using a genome-wide 3C analysis method (Hi-C). We determined over one million long-range chromatin interactions at 5-10-kb resolution, and uncovered general principles of chromatin organization at different types of genomic features. We also characterized the dynamics of promoter-enhancer contacts after TNF-α signalling in these cells. Unexpectedly, we found that TNF-α-responsive enhancers are already in contact with their target promoters before signalling. Such pre-existing chromatin looping, which also exists in other cell types with different extracellular signalling, is a strong predictor of gene induction. Our observations suggest that the three-dimensional chromatin landscape, once established in a particular cell type, is relatively stable and could influence the selection or activation of target genes by a ubiquitous transcription activator in a cell-specific manner.Read more
Despite increasing awareness about the potential impact of financial conflicts of interest on biomedical research, no comprehensive synthesis of the body of evidence relating to financial conflicts of interest has been performed.
To review original, quantitative studies on the extent, impact, and management of financial conflicts of interest in biomedical research.
Studies were identified by searching MEDLINE (January 1980-October 2002), the Web of Science citation database, references of articles, letters, commentaries, editorials, and books and by contacting experts.
All English-language studies containing original, quantitative data on financial relationships among industry, scientific investigators, and academic institutions were included. A total of 1664 citations were screened, 144 potentially eligible full articles were retrieved, and 37 studies met our inclusion criteria.
One investigator (J.E.B.) extracted data from each of the 37 studies. The main outcomes were the prevalence of specific types of industry relationships, the relation between industry sponsorship and study outcome or investigator behavior, and the process for disclosure, review, and management of financial conflicts of interest.
Approximately one fourth of investigators have industry affiliations, and roughly two thirds of academic institutions hold equity in start-ups that sponsor research performed at the same institutions. Eight articles, which together evaluated 1140 original studies, assessed the relation between industry sponsorship and outcome in original research. Aggregating the results of these articles showed a statistically significant association between industry sponsorship and pro-industry conclusions (pooled Mantel-Haenszel odds ratio, 3.60; 95% confidence interval, 2.63-4.91). Industry sponsorship was also associated with restrictions on publication and data sharing. The approach to managing financial conflicts varied substantially across academic institutions and peer-reviewed journals.
Financial relationships among industry, scientific investigators, and academic institutions are widespread. Conflicts of interest arising from these ties can influence biomedical research in important ways.Read more
Influenza A virus reservoirs in animals have provided novel genetic elements leading to the emergence of global pandemics in humans. Most influenza A viruses circulate in waterfowl, but those that infect mammalian hosts are thought to pose the greatest risk for zoonotic spread to humans and the generation of pandemic or panzootic viruses. We have identified an influenza A virus from little yellow-shouldered bats captured at two locations in Guatemala. It is significantly divergent from known influenza A viruses. The HA of the bat virus was estimated to have diverged at roughly the same time as the known subtypes of HA and was designated as H17. The neuraminidase (NA) gene is highly divergent from all known influenza NAs, and the internal genes from the bat virus diverged from those of known influenza A viruses before the estimated divergence of the known influenza A internal gene lineages. Attempts to propagate this virus in cell cultures and chicken embryos were unsuccessful, suggesting distinct requirements compared with known influenza viruses. Despite its divergence from known influenza A viruses, the bat virus is compatible for genetic exchange with human influenza viruses in human cells, suggesting the potential capability for reassortment and contributions to new pandemic or panzootic influenza A viruses.Read more
Aquatic birds harbor diverse influenza A viruses and are a major viral reservoir in nature. The recent discovery of influenza viruses of a new H17N10 subtype in Central American fruit bats suggests that other New World species may similarly carry divergent influenza viruses. Using consensus degenerate RT-PCR, we identified a novel influenza A virus, designated as H18N11, in a flat-faced fruit bat (Artibeus planirostris) from Peru. Serologic studies with the recombinant H18 protein indicated that several Peruvian bat species were infected by this virus. Phylogenetic analyses demonstrate that, in some gene segments, New World bats harbor more influenza virus genetic diversity than all other mammalian and avian species combined, indicative of a long-standing host-virus association. Structural and functional analyses of the hemagglutinin and neuraminidase indicate that sialic acid is not a ligand for virus attachment nor a substrate for release, suggesting a unique mode of influenza A virus attachment and activation of membrane fusion for entry into host cells. Taken together, these findings indicate that bats constitute a potentially important and likely ancient reservoir for a diverse pool of influenza viruses.Read more
Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is one of the most common and aggressive human malignancies. Its high mortality rate is mainly a result of intra-hepatic metastases. We analyzed the expression profiles of HCC samples without or with intra-hepatic metastases. Using a supervised machine-learning algorithm, we generated for the first time a molecular signature that can classify metastatic HCC patients and identified genes that were relevant to metastasis and patient survival. We found that the gene expression signature of primary HCCs with accompanying metastasis was very similar to that of their corresponding metastases, implying that genes favoring metastasis progression were initiated in the primary tumors. Osteopontin, which was identified as a lead gene in the signature, was over-expressed in metastatic HCC; an osteopontin-specific antibody effectively blocked HCC cell invasion in vitro and inhibited pulmonary metastasis of HCC cells in nude mice. Thus, osteopontin acts as both a diagnostic marker and a potential therapeutic target for metastatic HCC.Read more