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Open Access Research article

Evidence for somatic gene conversion and deletion in bipolar disorder, Crohn's disease, coronary artery disease, hypertension, rheumatoid arthritis, type-1 diabetes, and type-2 diabetes

Kenneth Andrew Ross

Author Affiliations

Department of Computer Science, Columbia University, New York, NY 10027, USA

BMC Medicine 2011, 9:12  doi:10.1186/1741-7015-9-12

Published: 3 February 2011

Abstract

Background

During gene conversion, genetic information is transferred unidirectionally between highly homologous but non-allelic regions of DNA. While germ-line gene conversion has been implicated in the pathogenesis of some diseases, somatic gene conversion has remained technically difficult to investigate on a large scale.

Methods

A novel analysis technique is proposed for detecting the signature of somatic gene conversion from SNP microarray data. The Wellcome Trust Case Control Consortium has gathered SNP microarray data for two control populations and cohorts for bipolar disorder (BD), cardiovascular disease (CAD), Crohn's disease (CD), hypertension (HT), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), type-1 diabetes (T1D) and type-2 diabetes (T2D). Using the new analysis technique, the seven disease cohorts are analyzed to identify cohort-specific SNPs at which conversion is predicted. The quality of the predictions is assessed by identifying known disease associations for genes in the homologous duplicons, and comparing the frequency of such associations with background rates.

Results

Of 28 disease/locus pairs meeting stringent conditions, 22 show various degrees of disease association, compared with only 8 of 70 in a mock study designed to measure the background association rate (P < 10-9). Additional candidate genes are identified using less stringent filtering conditions. In some cases, somatic deletions appear likely. RA has a distinctive pattern of events relative to other diseases. Similarities in patterns are apparent between BD and HT.

Conclusions

The associations derived represent the first evidence that somatic gene conversion could be a significant causative factor in each of the seven diseases. The specific genes provide potential insights about disease mechanisms, and are strong candidates for further study. Please see Commentary: http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7015/9/13/abstract webcite.