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PLoS By Category | Recent PLoS Articles
Ophthalmology

Genes of the Unfolded Protein Response Pathway Harbor Risk Alleles for Primary Open Angle Glaucoma
Published: Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Author: Mary Anna Carbone et al.

by Mary Anna Carbone, Yuhong Chen, Guy A. Hughes, Robert N. Weinreb, Norman A. Zabriskie, Kang Zhang, Robert R. H. Anholt

The statistical power of genome-wide association (GWA) studies to detect risk alleles for human diseases is limited by the unfavorable ratio of SNPs to study subjects. This multiple testing problem can be surmounted with very large population sizes when common alleles of large effects give rise to disease status. However, GWA approaches fall short when many rare alleles may give rise to a common disease, or when the number of subjects that can be recruited is limited. Here, we demonstrate that this multiple testing problem can be overcome by a comparative genomics approach in which an initial genome-wide screen in a genetically amenable model organism is used to identify human orthologues that may harbor risk alleles for adult-onset primary open angle glaucoma (POAG). Glaucoma is a major cause of blindness, which affects over 60 million people worldwide. Several genes have been associated with juvenile onset glaucoma, but genetic factors that predispose to adult onset primary open angle glaucoma (POAG) remain largely unknown. Previous genome-wide analysis in a Drosophila ocular hypertension model identified transcripts with altered regulation and showed induction of the unfolded protein response (UPR) upon overexpression of transgenic human glaucoma-associated myocilin (MYOC). We selected 16 orthologous genes with 62 polymorphic markers and identified in two independent human populations two genes of the UPR that harbor POAG risk alleles, BIRC6 and PDIA5. Thus, effectiveness of the UPR in response to accumulation of misfolded or aggregated proteins may contribute to the pathogenesis of POAG and provide targets for early therapeutic intervention.
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