Researchers of the University of Basel have developed a new method with which individual isolated molecules can be studied precisely – without destroying the molecule or even influencing its quantum state. This highly sensitive technique for probing molecules is widely applicable and paves ... more
Tracking Down Genetic Influences on Brain Disorders
New findings will help to identify the genetic causes of brain disorders: researchers at the Universities of Basel, Bonn and Cologne have presented a systematic catalog of specific variable locations in the genome that influence gene activity in the human hippocampus.
Individual differences in gene regulation contribute to the development of numerous multifactorial disorders. Researchers are therefore attempting to clarify the influence of genetic variants (single-nucleotide polymorphisms, or SNPs) on gene expression and on the epigenetic modification of regulatory sections of the genome (DNA methylation). The German–Swiss team has now studied the genetic determinants of gene expression, as well as the process of DNA methylation in the human hippocampus.
Three million genomic locations analyzed
The researchers have presented an extensive catalog of variable locations in the genome – that is, of SNPs – that affect the activity of genes in the human hippocampus. Specifically, they have analyzed the influence of more than three million SNPs, spread throughout the genome, on activity in nearby genes and the methylation of adjacent DNA sections.
The special thing about their work is that the researchers used freshly frozen hippocampus tissue obtained during surgery on 110 treatment-resistant epilepsy patients. They extracted DNA and RNA from the hippocampus tissue and, for all of the obtained samples, used microchips to determine several hundred thousand SNPs, as well as the degree of methylation at several hundred thousand locations (known as CpG dinucleotides) in the genome. Among other analyses, they measured the gene expression of over 15,000 genes using RNA microchips.
Development of schizophrenia
The researchers also demonstrated the preferred areas in which variably methylated CpG dinucleotides appear in the genome, and they were able to assign these to specific regulatory elements, revealing a link to brain disorders: a significant proportion of the identified SNPs that individually influence DNA methylation and gene expression in the hippocampus also contribute to the development of schizophrenia. This underlines the potentially significant role played by SNPs with a regulatory effect in the development of brain disorders.
The study’s findings will make it considerably easier to interpret evidence of genetic associations with brain disorders in the future. Of the SNPs involved in the development of brain disorders, many of those identified in recent years are located in the non-coding part of the genome. Their functional effect in cells is therefore largely unclear.
An important factor in the project’s success was the close cooperation between the Universities of Basel, Bonn and Cologne. This collaboration is supported by the IntegraMent Consortium, which is sponsored by Germany’s Federal Ministry of Education and Research and coordinated by Professor Markus Nöthen of the University of Bonn.
- gene expression
- Universität Bonn
- gene regulation
- gene activity
- RNA microchips
- Universität Basel
The University of Basel is part of the global search for a drug to fight the rampant coronavirus. Researchers in the Computational Pharmacy group have so far virtually tested almost 700 million substances, targeting a specific site on the virus – with the aim of inhibiting its multiplicatio ... more
Silicene consists of a single layer of silicon atoms. In contrast to the ultra-flat material graphene, which is made of carbon, silicene shows surface irregularities that influence its electronic properties. Now, physicists from the University of Basel have been able to precisely determine ... more
Zooming into a nuclear pore complex using a high-speed atomic force microscope reveals the selectivity barrier that filters the traffic of molecules passing between the cytoplasm and nucleus in eukaryotic cells. This is comprised of intrinsically disordered proteins known as FG Nucleoporins ... more
- 1New NMR method enables monitoring of chemical reactions in metal containers
- 2Deep learning enables early detection and classification of live bacteria using holography
- 3Thermo Fisher Scientific and QIAGEN N.V. Agree on Amended Terms to Acquisition Agreement
- 4analytica 2020: Great exhibitor resonance for the autumnal fair
- 5Formation of quadruple helix DNA tracked in live human cells for the first time
- 6Microplastics transport metallic pollutants
- 7Merck acquires a French company
- 8Hurdle of microscopy overcome
- 9How smart, ultrathin nanosheets go fishing for proteins
- 10The genetic basis of bats’ superpowers revealed