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group leader: Prof. Schughart

Recent Submissions

  • Multiplex profiling of inflammation-related bioactive lipid mediators in Toxocara canis- and Toxocara cati-induced neurotoxocarosis.

    Waindok, Patrick; Janecek-Erfurth, Elisabeth; Lindenwald, Dimitri; Wilk, Esther; Schughart, Klaus; Geffers, Robert; Balas, Laurence; Durand, Thierry; Rund, Katharina Maria; Schebb, Nils Helge; et al. (PLOS, 2019-09-01)
    BACKGROUND: Somatic migration of Toxocara canis- and T. cati-larvae in humans may cause neurotoxocarosis (NT) when larvae accumulate and persist in the central nervous system (CNS). Host- or parasite-induced immunoregulatory processes contribute to the pathogenesis; however, detailed data on involvement of bioactive lipid mediators, e.g. oxylipins or eico-/docosanoids, which are involved in the complex molecular signalling network during infection and inflammation, are lacking. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: To elucidate if T. canis- and T. cati-induced NT affects the homeostasis of oxylipins during the course of infection, a comprehensive lipidomic profiling in brains (cerebra and cerebella) of experimentally infected C57BL/6J mice was conducted at six different time points post infection (pi) by liquid-chromatography coupled to electrospray tandem mass spectrometry (LC-ESI-MS/MS). Only minor changes were detected regarding pro-inflammatory prostaglandins (cyclooxygenase pathway). In contrast, a significant increase of metabolites resulting from lipoxygenase pathways was observed for both infection groups and brain regions, implicating a predominantly anti-inflammatory driven immune response. This observation was supported by a significantly increased 13-hydroxyoctadecadienoic acid (HODE)/9-HODE ratio during the subacute phase of infection, indicating an anti-inflammatory response to neuroinfection. Except for the specialised pro-resolving mediator (SPM) neuroprotectin D1 (NPD1), which was detected in mice infected with both pathogens during the subacute phase of infection, no other SPMs were detected. CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: The obtained results demonstrate the influence of Toxocara spp. on oxylipins as part of the immune response of the paratenic hosts. Furthermore, this study shows differences in the alteration of the oxylipin composition between T. canis- and T. cati-brain infection. Results contribute to a further understanding of the largely unknown pathogenesis and mechanisms of host-parasite interactions during NT.
  • The endosomal Toll-like receptors 7 and 9 cooperate in detection of MHV68 infection.

    Bussey, Kendra A; Murthy, Sripriya; Reimer, Elisa; Chan, Baca; Hatesuer, Bastian; Schughart, Klaus; Glaunsinger, Britt; Adler, Heiko; Brinkmann, Melanie M; HZI,Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7,38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (Amercan Society of Microbiology, 2018-11-14)
    Murine gammaherpesvirus 68 (MHV68) is an amenable small animal model for study of the human pathogens Epstein-Barr virus and Kaposi’s sarcoma-associated herpesvirus. Here, we have characterized the roles of the endosomal TLR escort protein UNC93B, endosomal TLR7, 9, and 13, and cell surface TLR2 in MHV68 detection. We found that the interferon α (IFNα) response of plasmacytoid dendritic cells (pDC) to MHV68 was reduced in Tlr9-/- cells compared to wildtype (WT), but not completely lost. Tlr7-/- pDC responded similarly to WT. However, we found that in Unc93b-/- pDC, as well as in Tlr7/Tlr9-/- double knockout pDC, the IFNα response to MHV68 was completely abolished. Thus, the only pattern recognition receptors contributing to the IFNα response to MHV68 in pDC are TLR7 and TLR9, but the contribution of TLR7 is masked by the presence of TLR9. To address the role of UNC93B and TLR for MHV68 infection in vivo, we infected mice with MHV68. Lytic replication of MHV68 after intravenous infection was enhanced in the lungs, spleen, and liver of UNC93B-deficient mice, in the spleen of TLR9-deficient mice, and in the liver and spleen of Tlr7/Tlr9-/- mice. The absence of TLR2 or TLR13 did not affect lytic viral titers. We then compared reactivation of MHV68 from latently infected WT, Unc93b-/-, Tlr7/Tlr9-/-, Tlr7-/-, and Tlr9-/- splenocytes. We observed enhanced reactivation and latent viral loads, particularly from Tlr7/Tlr9-/- splenocytes, compared to WT. Our data show that UNC93B- dependent TLR7 and TLR9 cooperate in and contribute to detection and control of MHV68 infection.
  • Of mice and men: the host response to influenza virus infection.

    Kollmus, Heike; Pilzner, Carolin; Leist, Sarah R; Heise, Mark; Geffers, Robert; Schughart, Klaus; HZI,Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7,38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (2018-08-01)
    Influenza virus (IV) infections represent a very serious public health problem. At present, no established biomarkers exist to support diagnosis for respiratory viral infections and more importantly for severe IV disease. Studies in animal models are extremely important to understand the biological, genetic, and environmental factors that contribute to severe IV disease and to validate biomarker candidates from human studies. However, mouse human cross-species comparisons are often compromised by the fact that animal studies concentrate on the infected lungs, whereas in humans almost all studies use peripheral blood from patients. In addition, human studies do not consider genetic background as variable although human populations are genetically very diverse. Therefore, in this study, we performed a cross-species gene expression study of the peripheral blood from human patients and from the highly genetically diverse Collaborative Cross (CC) mouse population after IV infection. Our results demonstrate that changes of gene expression in individual genes are highly similar in mice and humans. The top-regulated genes in humans were also differentially regulated in mice. We conclude that the mouse is a highly valuable in vivo model system to validate and to discover gene candidates which can be used as biomarkers in humans. Furthermore, mouse studies allow confirmation of findings in humans in a well-controlled experimental system adding enormous value to the understanding of expression and function of human candidate genes.
  • Exchange of amino acids in the H1-haemagglutinin to H3 residues is required for efficient influenza A virus replication and pathology in Tmprss2 knock-out mice.

    Lambertz, Ruth L O; Pippel, Jan; Gerhauser, Ingo; Kollmus, Heike; Anhlan, Darisuren; Hrincius, Eike R; Krausze, Joern; Kühn, Nora; Schughart, Klaus; Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7, 38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (2018-09-01)
    The haemagglutinin (HA) of H1N1 and H3N2 influenza A virus (IAV) subtypes has to be activated by host proteases. Previous studies showed that H1N1 virus cannot replicate efficiently in Tmprss2/ knock-out mice whereas H3N2 viruses are able to replicate to the same levels in Tmprss2/ as in wild type (WT) mice. Here, we investigated the sequence requirements for the HA molecule that allow IAV to replicate efficiently in the absence of TMPRSS2. We showed that replacement of the H3 for the H1-loop sequence (amino acids 320 to 329, at the C-terminus of HA1) was not sufficient for equal levels of virus replication or severe pathology in Tmprss2/ knock-out mice compared to WT mice. However, exchange of a distant amino acid from H1 to H3 sequence (E31D) in addition to the HA-loop substitution resulted in virus replication in Tmprss2/ knockout mice that was comparable to WT mice. The higher virus replication and lung damage was associated with increased epithelial damage and higher mortality. Our results provide further evidence and insights into host proteases as a promising target for therapeutic intervention of IAV infections.
  • TMPRSS11A activates the influenza A virus hemagglutinin and the MERS coronavirus spike protein and is insensitive against blockade by HAI-1.

    Zmora, Pawel; Hoffmann, Markus; Kollmus, Heike; Moldenhauer, Anna-Sophie; Danov, Olga; Braun, Armin; Winkler, Michael; Schughart, Klaus; Pöhlmann, Stefan; Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7, 38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (2018-09-07)
    The influenza virus hemagglutinin (HA) facilitates viral entry into target cells. Cleavage of HA by host cell proteases is essential for viral infectivity, and the responsible enzymes are potential targets for antiviral intervention. The type II transmembrane serine protease (TTSP) TMPRSS2 has been identified as an HA activator in cell culture and in the infected host. However, it is less clear whether TMPRSS2-related enzymes can also activate HA for spread in target cells. Moreover, the activity of cellular serine protease inhibitors against HA-activating TTSPs is poorly understood. Here, we show that TMPRSS11A, another member of the TTSP family, cleaves and activates the influenza A virus (FLUAV) HA and the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus spike protein (MERS-S). Moreover, we demonstrate that TMPRSS11A is expressed in murine tracheal epithelium, which is a target of FLUAV infection, and in human trachea, suggesting that the protease could support FLUAV spread in patients. Finally, we show that HA activation by the TMPRSS11A-related enzymes human airway tryptase and DESC1, but not TMPRSS11A itself, is blocked by the cellular serine protease inhibitor hepatocyte growth factor activator inhibitor type-1 (HAI-1). Our results suggest that TMPRSS11A could promote FLUAV spread in target cells and that HA-activating TTSPs exhibit differential sensitivity to blockade by cellular serine protease inhibitors.
  • Mutations during the Adaptation of H9N2 Avian Influenza Virus to the Respiratory Epithelium of Pigs Enhance Sialic Acid Binding Activity and Virulence in Mice.

    Yang, W; Punyadarsaniya, D; Lambertz, R L O; Lee, D C C; Liang, C H; Höper, D; Leist, S R; Hernández-Cáceres, A; Stech, J; Beer, M; et al. (2017-04-15)
    The natural reservoir for influenza viruses is waterfowl, and from there they succeeded in crossing the barrier to different mammalian species. We analyzed the adaptation of avian influenza viruses to a mammalian host by passaging an H9N2 strain three times in differentiated swine airway epithelial cells. Using precision-cut slices from the porcine lung to passage the parental virus, isolates from each of the three passages (P1 to P3) were characterized by assessing growth curves and ciliostatic effects. The only difference noted was an increased growth kinetics of the P3 virus. Sequence analysis revealed four mutations: one each in the PB2 and NS1 proteins and two in the HA protein. The HA mutations, A190V and T212I, were characterized by generating recombinant viruses containing either one or both amino acid exchanges. Whereas the parental virus recognized α2,3-linked sialic acids preferentially, the HA190 mutant bound to a broad spectrum of glycans with α2,6/8/9-linked sialic acids. The HA212 mutant alone differed only slightly from the parental virus; however, the combination of both mutations (HA190+HA212) increased the binding affinity to those glycans recognized by the HA190 mutant. Remarkably, only the HA double mutant showed a significantly increased pathogenicity in mice. In contrast, none of those mutations affected the ciliary activity of the epithelial cells which is characteristic for virulent swine influenza viruses. Taken together, our results indicate that shifts in the HA receptor affinity are just an early adaptation step of avian H9N2 strains; further mutational changes may be required to become virulent for pigs.IMPORTANCESwine play an important role in the interspecies transmission of influenza viruses. Avian influenza A viruses (IAV) of the H9N2 subtype have successfully infected hosts from different species but have not established a stable lineage. We have analyzed the adaptation of IAV-H9N2 virus to target cells of a new host by passaging the virus three times in differentiated porcine respiratory epithelial cells. Among the four mutations detected, the two HA mutations were analyzed by generating recombinant viruses. Depending on the infection system used, the mutations differed in their phenotypic expression, e.g., sialic acid binding activity, replication kinetics, plaque size, and pathogenicity in inbred mice. However, none of the mutations affected the ciliary activity which serves as a virulence marker. Thus, early adaptive mutation enhances the replication kinetics, but more mutations are required for IAV of the H9N2 subtype to become virulent.
  • Deletion of Irf3 and Irf7 Genes in Mice Results in Altered Interferon Pathway Activation and Granulocyte-Dominated Inflammatory Responses to Influenza A Infection.

    Hatesuer, Bastian; Hoang, Hang Thi Thu; Riese, Peggy; Trittel, Stephanie; Gerhauser, Ingo; Elbahesh, Husni; Geffers, Robert; Wilk, Esther; Schughart, Klaus; Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr.7, 38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (2017)
    The interferon (IFN) pathway plays an essential role in the innate immune response following viral infections and subsequent shaping of adaptive immunity. Infections with influenza A viruses (IAV) activate the IFN pathway after the recognition of pathogen-specific molecular patterns by respective pattern recognition receptors. The IFN regulatory factors IRF3 and IRF7 are key players in the regulation of type I and III IFN genes. In this study, we analyzed the role of IRF3 and IRF7 for the host response to IAV infections in Irf3-/-, Irf7-/-, and Irf3-/-Irf7-/- knockout mice. While the absence of IRF3 had only a moderate impact on IFN expression, deletion of IRF7 completely abolished IFNα production after infection. In contrast, lack of both IRF3 and IRF7 resulted in the absence of both IFNα and IFNβ after IAV infection. In addition, IAV infection of double knockout mice resulted in a strong increase of mortality associated with a massive influx of granulocytes in the lung and reduced activation of the adaptive immune response.
  • Absence of regulator of G-protein signaling 4 does not protect against dopamine neuron dysfunction and injury in the mouse 6-hydroxydopamine lesion model of Parkinson's disease.

    Ashrafi, Amer; Garcia, Pierre; Kollmus, Heike; Schughart, Klaus; Del Sol, Antonio; Buttini, Manuel; Glaab, Enrico; HelmholtzCentre of infetion research, Inhoffenstr. 7, 38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (2017-06-19)
    Regulator of G-protein signaling 4 (RGS4), a member of the RGS family of proteins that inactivate G-proteins, has gained interest as a potential drug target for neurological disorders, such as epilepsy and Parkinson's disease (PD). In the case of PD, the main current options for alleviating motor symptoms are dopamine replacement therapies, which have limitations because of side effects and reduced effectiveness over the long term. Research on new nondopaminergic PD drug targets has indicated that inhibition of RGS4 could be an effective adjuvant treatment option. The effectiveness of RGS4 inhibition for an array of PD-linked functional and structural neuroprotection end points has not yet been demonstrated. Here, we use the 6-hydroxydopamine (6-OHDA) lesioning model of the nigrostriatal pathway in mice to address this question. We observe, using a battery of behavioral and pathological measures, that mice deficient for RGS4 are not protected from 6-OHDA-induced injury and show enhanced susceptibility in some measures of motor function. Our results suggest that inhibition of RGS4 as a nondopaminergic target for PD should be approached with caution.
  • Host Genetic Background Strongly Affects Pulmonary microRNA Expression before and during Influenza A Virus Infection.

    Preusse, Matthias; Schughart, Klaus; Pessler, Frank (2017)
    Expression of host microRNAs (miRNAs) changes markedly during influenza A virus (IAV) infection of natural and adaptive hosts, but their role in genetically determined host susceptibility to IAV infection has not been explored. We, therefore, compared pulmonary miRNA expression during IAV infection in two inbred mouse strains with differential susceptibility to IAV infection.
  • Dynamic gene network reconstruction from gene expression data in mice after influenza A (H1N1) infection

    Dimitrakopoulou, Konstantina; Tsimpouris, Charalampos; Papadopoulos, George; Pommerenke, Claudia; Wilk, Esther; Sgarbas, Kyriakos N; Schughart, Klaus; Bezerianos, Anastasios (2011-10-21)
    Abstract Background The immune response to viral infection is a temporal process, represented by a dynamic and complex network of gene and protein interactions. Here, we present a reverse engineering strategy aimed at capturing the temporal evolution of the underlying Gene Regulatory Networks (GRN). The proposed approach will be an enabling step towards comprehending the dynamic behavior of gene regulation circuitry and mapping the network structure transitions in response to pathogen stimuli. Results We applied the Time Varying Dynamic Bayesian Network (TV-DBN) method for reconstructing the gene regulatory interactions based on time series gene expression data for the mouse C57BL/6J inbred strain after infection with influenza A H1N1 (PR8) virus. Initially, 3500 differentially expressed genes were clustered with the use of k-means algorithm. Next, the successive in time GRNs were built over the expression profiles of cluster centroids. Finally, the identified GRNs were examined with several topological metrics and available protein-protein and protein-DNA interaction data, transcription factor and KEGG pathway data. Conclusions Our results elucidate the potential of TV-DBN approach in providing valuable insights into the temporal rewiring of the lung transcriptome in response to H1N1 virus.
  • Genetically diverse CC-founder mouse strains replicate the human influenza gene expression signature.

    Elbahesh, Husni; Schughart, Klaus; Helmholtz Centre for infection research, Inhoffenstr. 7, 38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (2016-05-19)
    Influenza A viruses (IAV) are zoonotic pathogens that pose a major threat to human and animal health. Influenza virus disease severity is influenced by viral virulence factors as well as individual differences in host response. We analyzed gene expression changes in the blood of infected mice using a previously defined set of signature genes that was derived from changes in the blood transcriptome of IAV-infected human volunteers. We found that the human signature was reproduced well in the founder strains of the Collaborative Cross (CC) mice, thus demonstrating the relevance and importance of mouse experimental model systems for studying human influenza disease.
  • The bioluminescent Listeria monocytogenes strain Xen32 is defective in flagella expression and highly attenuated in orally infected BALB/cJ mice

    Bergmann, Silke; Rohde, Manfred; Schughart, Klaus; Lengeling, Andreas (2013-07-15)
    Abstract Background In vivo bioluminescence imaging (BLI) is a powerful method for the analysis of host-pathogen interactions in small animal models. The commercially available bioluminescent Listeria monocytogenes strain Xen32 is commonly used to analyse immune functions in knockout mice and pathomechanisms of listeriosis. Findings To analyse and image listerial dissemination after oral infection we have generated a murinised Xen32 strain (Xen32-mur) which expresses a previously described mouse-adapted internalin A. This strain was used alongside the Xen32 wild type strain and the bioluminescent L. monocytogenes strains EGDe-lux and murinised EGDe-mur-lux to characterise bacterial dissemination in orally inoculated BALB/cJ mice. After four days of infection, Xen32 and Xen32-mur infected mice displayed consistently higher rates of bioluminescence compared to EGDe-lux and EGDe-mur-lux infected animals. However, surprisingly both Xen32 strains showed attenuated virulence in orally infected BALB/c mice that correlated with lower bacterial burden in internal organs at day 5 post infection, smaller losses in body weights and increased survival compared to EGDe-lux or EGDe-mur-lux inoculated animals. The Xen32 strain was made bioluminescent by integration of a lux-kan transposon cassette into the listerial flaA locus. We show here that this integration results in Xen32 in a flaA frameshift mutation which makes this strain flagella deficient. Conclusions The bioluminescent L. monocytogenes strain Xen32 is deficient in flagella expression and highly attenuated in orally infected BALB/c mice. As this listerial strain has been used in many BLI studies of murine listeriosis, it is important that the scientific community is aware of its reduced virulence in vivo.
  • Expression QTL mapping in regulatory and helper T cells from the BXD family of strains reveals novel cell-specific genes, gene-gene interactions and candidate genes for auto-immune disease

    Alberts, Rudi; Chen, Hairong; Pommerenke, Claudia; Smit, August B; Spijker, Sabine; Williams, Robert W; Geffers, Robert; Bruder, Dunja; Schughart, Klaus (2011-12-19)
    Abstract Background Regulatory T cells (Tregs) play an essential role in the control of the immune response. Treg cells represent important targets for therapeutic interventions of the immune system. Therefore, it will be very important to understand in more detail which genes are specifically activated in Treg cells versus T helper (Th) cells, and which gene regulatory circuits may be involved in specifying and maintaining Treg cell homeostasis. Results We isolated Treg and Th cells from a genetically diverse family of 31 BXD type recombinant inbred strains and the fully inbred parental strains of this family--C57BL/6J and DBA/2J. Subsequently genome-wide gene expression studies were performed from the isolated Treg and Th cells. A comparative analysis of the transcriptomes of these cell populations allowed us to identify many novel differentially expressed genes. Analysis of cis- and trans-expression Quantitative Trait Loci (eQTLs) highlighted common and unique regulatory mechanisms that are active in the two cell types. Trans-eQTL regions were found for the Treg functional genes Nrp1, Stat3 and Ikzf4. Analyses of the respective QTL intervals suggested several candidate genes that may be involved in regulating these genes in Treg cells. Similarly, possible candidate genes were found which may regulate the expression of F2rl1, Ctla4, Klrb1f. In addition, we identified a focused group of candidate genes that may be important for the maintenance of self-tolerance and the prevention of allergy. Conclusions Variation of expression across the strains allowed us to find many novel gene-interaction networks in both T cell subsets. In addition, these two data sets enabled us to identify many differentially expressed genes and to nominate candidate genes that may have important functions for the maintenance of self-tolerance and the prevention of allergy.
  • Sustained viral load and late death in Rag2-/- mice after influenza A virus infection

    Wu, Haiya; Haist, Verena; Baumgärtner, Wolfgang; Schughart, Klaus; Helmholtz Centre for infection research, Ihoffenstr. 7, 38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (2010-07-28)
    Abstract The importance of the adaptive immune response for secondary influenza infections and protection from a lethal challenge after vaccination has been well documented. However, some controversy still exists concerning the specific involvement of B and T cells during a primary infection. Here, we have followed the survival, weight loss, viral load and lung pathology in Rag2 -/- knock-out mice after infection with influenza A virus (H1N1). Infected wild type mice initially lost weight early after infection but then cleared the virus and recovered. Rag2 -/- mice, however, showed similar weight loss kinetics in the early stages after infection but weight loss continued post infection and culminated in death. In contrast to wild type mice, Rag2 -/- mice were not able to clear the virus, despite an increased inflammatory response. Furthermore, they did not recruit virus-specific lymphocytes into the lung in the later stages after infection and exhibited sustained pulmonary lesions.
  • QTLminer: identifying genes regulating quantitative traits.

    Alberts, Rudi; Schughart, Klaus; Helmholtz Centre for infection research, Inhoffenstr. 7, 38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (2010-10-15)
    Quantitative trait locus (QTL) mapping identifies genomic regions that likely contain genes regulating a quantitative trait. However, QTL regions may encompass tens to hundreds of genes. To find the most promising candidate genes that regulate the trait, the biologist typically collects information from multiple resources about the genes in the QTL interval. This process is very laborious and time consuming.
  • Self-collected nasal swabs to detect infection and colonization: a useful tool for population-based epidemiological studies?

    Akmatov, M K; Pessler, F; Helmholtz Centre for infection research, Inhoffenstr. 7, 38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (2011-09)
    Population-based epidemiological studies on infectious diseases are limited by methodological problems that may not be encountered in other fields of epidemiology. The acute or asymptomatic nature of many infections hinders a timely diagnosis by trained personnel in a study centre, indicating the need for new collection methods of biological specimens. One alternative approach is to have the participants collect the specimens themselves, for instance nasal swabs for the detection of bacterial or viral pathogens. Although self-collection is widely accepted in clinical studies of specific populations (e.g., self-collection of vaginal swabs by young women to diagnose sexually transmitted infections), it has not been employed much in population-based studies. Here, we review recent experience with self-collection of nasal swabs for the detection of microorganisms and discuss future prospects and applications for this technique.
  • Inhibition of lung serine proteases in mice: a potentially new approach to control influenza infection.

    Bahgat, Mahmoud M; Błazejewska, Paulina; Schughart, Klaus; Helmholtz Centre for infection research, Inhoffenstr. 7, 38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (2011-01-20)
    Host serine proteases are essential for the influenza virus life cycle because the viral haemagglutinin is synthesized as a precursor which requires proteolytic maturation. Therefore, we studied the activity and expression of serine proteases in lungs from mice infected with influenza and evaluated the effect of serine protease inhibitors on virus replication both in cell culture and in infected mice.
  • ATR-FTIR spectroscopy reveals genomic loci regulating the tissue response in high fat diet fed BXD recombinant inbred mouse strains

    Dogan, Ayca; Lasch, Peter; Neuschl, Christina; Millrose, Marion K; Alberts, Rudi; Schughart, Klaus; Naumann, Dieter; Brockmann, Gudrun A (2013-06-10)
    Abstract Background Obesity-associated organ-specific pathological states can be ensued from the dysregulation of the functions of the adipose tissues, liver and muscle. However, the influence of genetic differences underlying gross-compositional differences in these tissues is largely unknown. In the present study, the analytical method of ATR-FTIR spectroscopy has been combined with a genetic approach to identify genetic differences responsible for phenotypic alterations in adipose, liver and muscle tissues. Results Mice from 29 BXD recombinant inbred mouse strains were put on high fat diet and gross-compositional changes in adipose, liver and muscle tissues were measured by ATR-FTIR spectroscopy. The analysis of genotype-phenotype correlations revealed significant quantitative trait loci (QTL) on chromosome 12 for the content of fat and collagen, collagen integrity, and the lipid to protein ratio in adipose tissue and on chromosome 17 for lipid to protein ratio in liver. Using gene expression and sequence information, we suggest Rsad2 (viperin) and Colec11 (collectin-11) on chromosome 12 as potential quantitative trait candidate genes. Rsad2 may act as a modulator of lipid droplet contents and lipid biosynthesis; Colec11 might play a role in apoptopic cell clearance and maintenance of adipose tissue. An increased level of Rsad2 transcripts in adipose tissue of DBA/2J compared to C57BL/6J mice suggests a cis-acting genetic variant leading to differential gene activation. Conclusion The results demonstrate that the analytical method of ATR-FTIR spectroscopy effectively contributed to decompose the macromolecular composition of tissues that accumulate fat and to link this information with genetic determinants. The candidate genes in the QTL regions may contribute to obesity-related diseases in humans, in particular if the results can be verified in a bigger BXD cohort.
  • QTLminer: identifying genes regulating quantitative traits

    Alberts, Rudi; Schughart, Klaus (2010-10-15)
    Abstract Background Quantitative trait locus (QTL) mapping identifies genomic regions that likely contain genes regulating a quantitative trait. However, QTL regions may encompass tens to hundreds of genes. To find the most promising candidate genes that regulate the trait, the biologist typically collects information from multiple resources about the genes in the QTL interval. This process is very laborious and time consuming. Results QTLminer is a bioinformatics tool that automatically performs QTL region analysis. It is available in GeneNetwork and it integrates information such as gene annotation, gene expression and sequence polymorphisms for all the genes within a given genomic interval. Conclusions QTLminer substantially speeds up discovery of the most promising candidate genes within a QTL region.
  • Data-driven assessment of eQTL mapping methods

    Michaelson, Jacob J; Alberts, Rudi; Schughart, Klaus; Beyer, Andreas (2010-09-17)
    Abstract Background The analysis of expression quantitative trait loci (eQTL) is a potentially powerful way to detect transcriptional regulatory relationships at the genomic scale. However, eQTL data sets often go underexploited because legacy QTL methods are used to map the relationship between the expression trait and genotype. Often these methods are inappropriate for complex traits such as gene expression, particularly in the case of epistasis. Results Here we compare legacy QTL mapping methods with several modern multi-locus methods and evaluate their ability to produce eQTL that agree with independent external data in a systematic way. We found that the modern multi-locus methods (Random Forests, sparse partial least squares, lasso, and elastic net) clearly outperformed the legacy QTL methods (Haley-Knott regression and composite interval mapping) in terms of biological relevance of the mapped eQTL. In particular, we found that our new approach, based on Random Forests, showed superior performance among the multi-locus methods. Conclusions Benchmarks based on the recapitulation of experimental findings provide valuable insight when selecting the appropriate eQTL mapping method. Our battery of tests suggests that Random Forests map eQTL that are more likely to be validated by independent data, when compared to competing multi-locus and legacy eQTL mapping methods.

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