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  • Tracking virus outbreaks in the twenty-first century.

    18 December 2018

    Emerging viruses have the potential to impose substantial mortality, morbidity and economic burdens on human populations. Tracking the spread of infectious diseases to assist in their control has traditionally relied on the analysis of case data gathered as the outbreak proceeds. Here, we describe how many of the key questions in infectious disease epidemiology, from the initial detection and characterization of outbreak viruses, to transmission chain tracking and outbreak mapping, can now be much more accurately addressed using recent advances in virus sequencing and phylogenetics. We highlight the utility of this approach with the hypothetical outbreak of an unknown pathogen, 'Disease X', suggested by the World Health Organization to be a potential cause of a future major epidemic. We also outline the requirements and challenges, including the need for flexible platforms that generate sequence data in real-time, and for these data to be shared as widely and openly as possible.

  • Inferring the ancestry of everyone

    18 December 2018

    A central problem in evolutionary biology is to infer the full genealogical history of a set of DNA sequences. This history contains rich information about the forces that have influenced a sexually reproducing species. However, existing methods are limited: the most accurate is unable to cope with more than a few dozen samples. With modern genetic data sets rapidly approaching millions of genomes, there is an urgent need for efficient inference methods to exploit such rich resources. We introduce an algorithm to infer whole-genome history which has comparable accuracy to the state-of-the-art but can process around four orders of magnitude more sequences. Additionally, our method results in an "evolutionary encoding" of the original sequence data, enabling efficient access to genealogies and calculation of genetic statistics over the data. We apply this technique to human data from the 1000 Genomes Project, Simons Genome Diversity Project and UK Biobank, showing that the genealogies we estimate are both rich in biological signal and efficient to process.

  • CYP17 genetic variation and risk of breast and prostate cancer from the National Cancer Institute Breast and Prostate Cancer Cohort Consortium (BPC3).

    26 November 2018

    CYP17 encodes cytochrome p450c17alpha, which mediates activities essential for the production of sex steroids. Common germ line variation in the CYP17 gene has been related to inconsistent results in breast and prostate cancer, with most studies focusing on the nonsynonymous single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) T27C (rs743572). We comprehensively characterized variation in CYP17 by direct sequencing of exons followed by dense genotyping across the 58 kb region around CYP17 in five racial/ethnic populations. Two blocks of strong linkage disequilibrium were identified and nine haplotype-tagging SNPs, including T27C, were chosen to predict common haplotypes (R(h)(2) >or= 0.85). These haplotype-tagging SNPs were genotyped in 8,138 prostate cancer cases and 9,033 controls, and 5,333 breast cancer cases and 7,069 controls from the Breast and Prostate Cancer Cohort Consortium. We observed borderline significant associations with prostate cancer for rs2486758 [TC versus TT, odds ratios (OR), 1.07; 95% confidence intervals (95% CI), 1.00-1.14; CC versus TT, OR, 1.09; 95% CI, 0.95-1.26; P trend=0.04] and rs6892 (AG versus AA, OR, 1.08; 95% CI, 1.00-1.15; GG versus AA, OR, 1.11; 95% CI, 0.95-1.30; P trend=0.03). We also observed marginally significant associations with breast cancer for rs4919687 (GA versus GG, OR, 1.04; 95% CI, 0.97-1.12, AA versus GG, OR, 1.17; 95% CI, 1.03-1.34; P trend=0.03) and rs4919682 (CT versus CC, OR, 1.04; 95% CI, 0.97-1.12; TT versus CC, OR, 1.16; 95% CI, 1.01-1.33; P trend=0.04). Common variation at CYP17 was not associated with circulating sex steroid hormones in men or postmenopausal women. Our findings do not support the hypothesis that common germ line variation in CYP17 makes a substantial contribution to postmenopausal breast or prostate cancer susceptibility.

  • Genomewide meta-analysis identifies loci associated with IGF-I and IGFBP-3 levels with impact on age-related traits.

    26 November 2018

    The growth hormone/insulin-like growth factor (IGF) axis can be manipulated in animal models to promote longevity, and IGF-related proteins including IGF-I and IGF-binding protein-3 (IGFBP-3) have also been implicated in risk of human diseases including cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and cancer. Through genomewide association study of up to 30 884 adults of European ancestry from 21 studies, we confirmed and extended the list of previously identified loci associated with circulating IGF-I and IGFBP-3 concentrations (IGF1, IGFBP3, GCKR, TNS3, GHSR, FOXO3, ASXL2, NUBP2/IGFALS, SORCS2, and CELSR2). Significant sex interactions, which were characterized by different genotype-phenotype associations between men and women, were found only for associations of IGFBP-3 concentrations with SNPs at the loci IGFBP3 and SORCS2. Analyses of SNPs, gene expression, and protein levels suggested that interplay between IGFBP3 and genes within the NUBP2 locus (IGFALS and HAGH) may affect circulating IGF-I and IGFBP-3 concentrations. The IGF-I-decreasing allele of SNP rs934073, which is an eQTL of ASXL2, was associated with lower adiposity and higher likelihood of survival beyond 90 years. The known longevity-associated variant rs2153960 (FOXO3) was observed to be a genomewide significant SNP for IGF-I concentrations. Bioinformatics analysis suggested enrichment of putative regulatory elements among these IGF-I- and IGFBP-3-associated loci, particularly of rs646776 at CELSR2. In conclusion, this study identified several loci associated with circulating IGF-I and IGFBP-3 concentrations and provides clues to the potential role of the IGF axis in mediating effects of known (FOXO3) and novel (ASXL2) longevity-associated loci.

  • Novel loci associated with usual sleep duration: the CHARGE Consortium Genome-Wide Association Study.

    26 November 2018

    Usual sleep duration is a heritable trait correlated with psychiatric morbidity, cardiometabolic disease and mortality, although little is known about the genetic variants influencing this trait. A genome-wide association study (GWAS) of usual sleep duration was conducted using 18 population-based cohorts totaling 47 180 individuals of European ancestry. Genome-wide significant association was identified at two loci. The strongest is located on chromosome 2, in an intergenic region 35- to 80-kb upstream from the thyroid-specific transcription factor PAX8 (lowest P=1.1 × 10(-9)). This finding was replicated in an African-American sample of 4771 individuals (lowest P=9.3 × 10(-4)). The strongest combined association was at rs1823125 (P=1.5 × 10(-10), minor allele frequency 0.26 in the discovery sample, 0.12 in the replication sample), with each copy of the minor allele associated with a sleep duration 3.1 min longer per night. The alleles associated with longer sleep duration were associated in previous GWAS with a more favorable metabolic profile and a lower risk of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Understanding the mechanisms underlying these associations may help elucidate biological mechanisms influencing sleep duration and its association with psychiatric, metabolic and cardiovascular disease.

  • Mendelian randomization study of adiposity-related traits and risk of breast, ovarian, prostate, lung and colorectal cancer.

    26 November 2018

    Adiposity traits have been associated with risk of many cancers in observational studies, but whether these associations are causal is unclear. Mendelian randomization (MR) uses genetic predictors of risk factors as instrumental variables to eliminate reverse causation and reduce confounding bias. We performed MR analyses to assess the possible causal relationship of birthweight, childhood and adult body mass index (BMI), and waist-hip ratio (WHR) on the risks of breast, ovarian, prostate, colorectal and lung cancers.We tested the association between genetic risk scores and each trait using summary statistics from published genome-wide association studies (GWAS) and from 51 537 cancer cases and 61 600 controls in the Genetic Associations and Mechanisms in Oncology (GAME-ON) Consortium.We found an inverse association between the genetic score for childhood BMI and risk of breast cancer [odds ratio (OR) = 0.71 per standard deviation (s.d.) increase in childhood BMI; 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.60, 0.80; P = 6.5 × 10(-5)). We also found the genetic score for adult BMI to be inversely associated with breast cancer risk (OR = 0.66 per s.d. increase in BMI; 95% CI: 0.57, 0.77; P = 2.5 × 10(-7)), and positively associated with ovarian cancer (OR = 1.35; 95% CI: 1.05, 1.72; P = 0.017), lung cancer (OR = 1.27; 95% CI: 1.09, 1.49; P = 2.9 × 10(-3)) and colorectal cancer (OR = 1.39; 95% CI: 1.06, 1.82, P = 0.016). The inverse association between genetically predicted adult BMI and breast cancer risk remained even after adjusting for directional pleiotropy via MR-Egger regression.Findings from this study provide additional understandings of the complex relationship between adiposity and cancer risks. Our results for breast and lung cancer are particularly interesting, given previous reports of effect heterogeneity by menopausal status and smoking status.

  • Genome-wide association study identifies novel breast cancer susceptibility loci.

    26 November 2018

    Breast cancer exhibits familial aggregation, consistent with variation in genetic susceptibility to the disease. Known susceptibility genes account for less than 25% of the familial risk of breast cancer, and the residual genetic variance is likely to be due to variants conferring more moderate risks. To identify further susceptibility alleles, we conducted a two-stage genome-wide association study in 4,398 breast cancer cases and 4,316 controls, followed by a third stage in which 30 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) were tested for confirmation in 21,860 cases and 22,578 controls from 22 studies. We used 227,876 SNPs that were estimated to correlate with 77% of known common SNPs in Europeans at r2 > 0.5. SNPs in five novel independent loci exhibited strong and consistent evidence of association with breast cancer (P < 10(-7)). Four of these contain plausible causative genes (FGFR2, TNRC9, MAP3K1 and LSP1). At the second stage, 1,792 SNPs were significant at the P < 0.05 level compared with an estimated 1,343 that would be expected by chance, indicating that many additional common susceptibility alleles may be identifiable by this approach.

  • A genome-wide pleiotropy scan for prostate cancer risk.

    26 November 2018

    No single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) specific for aggressive prostate cancer have been identified in genome-wide association studies (GWAS).To test if SNPs associated with other traits may also affect the risk of aggressive prostate cancer.SNPs implicated in any phenotype other than prostate cancer (p≤10(-7)) were identified through the catalog of published GWAS and tested in 2891 aggressive prostate cancer cases and 4592 controls from the Breast and Prostate Cancer Cohort Consortium (BPC3). The 40 most significant SNPs were followed up in 4872 aggressive prostate cancer cases and 24,534 controls from the Prostate Cancer Association Group to Investigate Cancer Associated Alterations in the Genome (PRACTICAL) consortium.Odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) for aggressive prostate cancer were estimated.A total of 4666 SNPs were evaluated by the BPC3. Two signals were seen in regions already reported for prostate cancer risk. rs7014346 at 8q24.21 was marginally associated with aggressive prostate cancer in the BPC3 trial (p=1.6×10(-6)), whereas after meta-analysis by PRACTICAL the summary OR was 1.21 (95% CI 1.16-1.27; p=3.22×10(-18)). rs9900242 at 17q24.3 was also marginally associated with aggressive disease in the meta-analysis (OR 0.90, 95% CI 0.86-0.94; p=2.5×10(-6)). Neither of these SNPs remained statistically significant when conditioning on correlated known prostate cancer SNPs. The meta-analysis by BPC3 and PRACTICAL identified a third promising signal, marked by rs16844874 at 2q34, independent of known prostate cancer loci (OR 1.12, 95% CI 1.06-1.19; p=4.67×10(-5)); it has been shown that SNPs correlated with this signal affect glycine concentrations. The main limitation is the heterogeneity in the definition of aggressive prostate cancer between BPC3 and PRACTICAL.We did not identify new SNPs for aggressive prostate cancer. However, rs16844874 may provide preliminary genetic evidence on the role of the glycine pathway in prostate cancer etiology.We evaluated whether genetic variants associated with several traits are linked to the risk of aggressive prostate cancer. No new such variants were identified.

  • Interactions between breast cancer susceptibility loci and menopausal hormone therapy in relationship to breast cancer in the Breast and Prostate Cancer Cohort Consortium.

    26 November 2018

    Current use of menopausal hormone therapy (MHT) has important implications for postmenopausal breast cancer risk, and observed associations might be modified by known breast cancer susceptibility loci. To provide the most comprehensive assessment of interactions of prospectively collected data on MHT and 17 confirmed susceptibility loci with invasive breast cancer risk, a nested case-control design among eight cohorts within the NCI Breast and Prostate Cancer Cohort Consortium was used. Based on data from 13,304 cases and 15,622 controls, multivariable-adjusted logistic regression analyses were used to estimate odds ratios (OR) and 95 % confidence intervals (CI). Effect modification of current and past use was evaluated on the multiplicative scale. P values <1.5 × 10(-3) were considered statistically significant. The strongest evidence of effect modification was observed for current MHT by 9q31-rs865686. Compared to never users of MHT with the rs865686 GG genotype, the association between current MHT use and breast cancer risk for the TT genotype (OR 1.79, 95 % CI 1.43-2.24; P interaction = 1.2 × 10(-4)) was less than expected on the multiplicative scale. There are no biological implications of the sub-multiplicative interaction between MHT and rs865686. Menopausal hormone therapy is unlikely to have a strong interaction with the common genetic variants associated with invasive breast cancer.