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Genome-wide significance for a modifier of age at neurological onset in Huntington's Disease at 6q23-24:… Li, Jian-Liang; Hayden, Michael R; Warby, Simon C; Durr, Alexandra; Morrison, Patrick J; Nance, Martha; Ross, Christopher A; Margolis, Russell L; Rosenblatt, Adam; Squitieri, Ferdinando; Frati, Luigi; Gómez-Tortosa, Estrella; García, Carmen A; Suchowersky, Oksana; Klimek, Mary L; Trent, Ronald J; McCusker, Elizabeth; Novelletto, Andrea; Frontali, Marina; Paulsen, Jane S; Jones, Randi; Ashizawa, Tetsuo; Lazzarini, Alice; Wheeler, Vanessa C; Prakash, Ranjana; Xu, Gang; Djoussé, Luc; Mysore, Jayalakshmi S; Gillis, Tammy; Hakky, Michael; Cupples, L A; Saint-Hilaire, Marie H; Cha, Jang-Ho J; Hersch, Steven M; Penney, John B; Harrison, Madaline B; Perlman, Susan L; Zanko, Andrea; Abramson, Ruth K; Lechich, Anthony J; Duckett, Ayana; Marder, Karen; Conneally, P M; Gusella, James F; MacDonald, Marcy E; Myers, Richard H Aug 17, 2006

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ralssBioMed CentBMC Medical GeneticsOpen AcceResearch articleGenome-wide significance for a modifier of age at neurological onset in Huntington's Disease at 6q23-24: the HD MAPS studyJian-Liang Li1,2,3, Michael R Hayden4, Simon C Warby4, Alexandra Durr5, Patrick J Morrison6,7, Martha Nance8, Christopher A Ross9,10,11, Russell L Margolis9,10, Adam Rosenblatt9, Ferdinando Squitieri12, Luigi Frati13, Estrella Gómez-Tortosa14, Carmen Ayuso García14, Oksana Suchowersky15, Mary Lou Klimek15, Ronald JA Trent16, Elizabeth McCusker17, Andrea Novelletto18, Marina Frontali19, Jane S Paulsen20, Randi Jones21, Tetsuo Ashizawa22, Alice Lazzarini23,24, Vanessa C Wheeler25, Ranjana Prakash1, Gang Xu1,2, Luc Djoussé26, Jayalakshmi Srinidhi Mysore25, Tammy Gillis25, Michael Hakky25, L Adrienne Cupples27, Marie H Saint-Hilaire1, Jang-Ho J Cha28, Steven M Hersch28, John B Penney28, Madaline B Harrison29, Susan L Perlman30, Andrea Zanko31, Ruth K Abramson32, Anthony J Lechich33, Ayana Duckett33, Karen Marder33, P Michael Conneally34, James F Gusella25,35, Marcy E MacDonald25 and Richard H Myers*1,2Address: 1Department of Neurology, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, MA, USA, 2Bioinformatics Program, Boston University, Boston, MA, USA, 3Department of Biological Technologies, Wyeth Research, Cambridge, MA, USA, 4Centre for Molecular Medicine & Therapeutics and Department of Medical Genetics, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, 5INSERM U679, Hôpital de la Salpêtrière, Paris, France, 6Department of Medical Genetics, Belfast City Hospital, Belfast, UK, 7School of Biomedical Science, University of Ulster, Coleraine, UK, 8Department of Neurology, Hennepin County Medical Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA, 9Departments of Psychiatry and Neurology, John Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland, USA, 10Program in Cellular and Molecular Medicine, John Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland, USA, 11Department of Neuroscience, John Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland, USA, 12Neurogenetics Unit, IRCCS Neuromed, Pozzilli, Italy, 13Dept of Experimental Medicine and Pathology, University "La Sapienza" of Rome, Rome, Italy, 14Servicio de Neurología y Genética, Fundación Jiménez Díaz, Madrid, Spain, 15Departments of Clinical Neurosciences and Medical Genetics, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada, 16Department of Medicine, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia, 17Neurology Department, Westmead Hospital, Sydney, Australia, 18Department of Biology, University "Tor Vergata", 00133 Rome, Italy, 19Institute of Neurobiology and Molecular Medicine, CNR, Rome, Italy, 20Department of Psychiatry, University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa, USA, 21Neurology Department, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia, USA, 22Department of Neurology, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, TX, USA, 23Department of Neurology, Robert Wood Johnson school of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, USA, 24Novartis Pharmaceuticals, New Brunswick, NJ, USA, 25Molecular Neurogenetics Unit, Center for Human Genetic Research, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA, USA, 26Section of Preventive Medicine and Epidemiology, Evans Department of Medicine, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, MA, USA, 27Department of Biostatistics, School of Public Health, Boston University, Boston MA, USA, 28Department of Neurology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA, USA, 29Health Sciences Center, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia, USA, 30Department of Neurology, University of California at Los Angeles, California, USA, 31Division of Medical Genetics, UCSF, San Francisco, California, USA, 32WMS Hall Psychiatric Institute, Columbia, South Carolina, USA, 33Department of Neurology, Columbia College of Physicians, New York, NY, USA, 34Department of Genetics, Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, IN, USA and 35Department of Genetics, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USAEmail: Jian-Liang Li -; Michael R Hayden -; Simon C Warby -; Alexandra Durr -; Patrick J Morrison -; Martha Nance -; Christopher A Ross -; Russell L Margolis -; Adam Rosenblatt -; Ferdinando Squitieri -; Luigi Frati -; Estrella Gómez-Tortosa -; Carmen Ayuso García -; Oksana Suchowersky -; Mary Lou Klimek -; Ronald JA Trent -; Elizabeth McCusker -; Andrea Novelletto -; Marina Frontali -; Jane S Paulsen -; Randi Jones -; Tetsuo Ashizawa -; Alice Lazzarini -; Vanessa C Wheeler -; Ranjana Prakash -; Gang Xu -; Luc Djoussé -; Jayalakshmi Srinidhi Mysore -; Tammy Gillis -; Michael Hakky -; L Adrienne Cupples -; Marie H Saint-Hilaire -; Jang-Ho J Cha -; Steven M Hersch -; John B Penney -; Madaline B Harrison -; Susan L Perlman -; Andrea Zanko -; Ruth K Abramson -; Anthony J Lechich -; Ayana Duckett -; Karen Marder -; P Michael Conneally -; James F Gusella -; Marcy E MacDonald -; Richard H Myers* -* Corresponding author    Published: 17 August 2006BMC Medical Genetics 2006, 7:71 doi:10.1186/1471-2350-7-71Received: 12 May 2006Accepted: 17 August 2006This article is available from:© 2006 Li et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.Page 1 of 8(page number not for citation purposes)BMC Medical Genetics 2006, 7:71 Age at onset of Huntington's disease (HD) is correlated with the size of theabnormal CAG repeat expansion in the HD gene; however, several studies have indicated thatother genetic factors also contribute to the variability in HD age at onset. To identify modifiergenes, we recently reported a whole-genome scan in a sample of 629 affected sibling pairs from295 pedigrees, in which six genomic regions provided suggestive evidence for quantitative trait loci(QTL), modifying age at onset in HD.Methods: In order to test the replication of this finding, eighteen microsatellite markers, threefrom each of the six genomic regions, were genotyped in 102 newly recruited sibling pairs from 69pedigrees, and data were analyzed, using a multipoint linkage variance component method, in thefollow-up sample and the combined sample of 352 pedigrees with 753 sibling pairs.Results: Suggestive evidence for linkage at 6q23-24 in the follow-up sample (LOD = 1.87, p =0.002) increased to genome-wide significance for linkage in the combined sample (LOD = 4.05, p= 0.00001), while suggestive evidence for linkage was observed at 18q22, in both the follow-upsample (LOD = 0.79, p = 0.03) and the combined sample (LOD = 1.78, p = 0.002). Epistatic analysisindicated that there is no interaction between 6q23-24 and other loci.Conclusion: In this replication study, linkage for modifier of age at onset in HD was confirmed at6q23-24. Evidence for linkage was also found at 18q22. The demonstration of statistically significantlinkage to a potential modifier locus opens the path to location cloning of a gene capable of alteringHD pathogenesis, which could provide a validated target for therapeutic development in the humanpatient.BackgroundHuntington's disease (HD [MIM 143100]) is a progressiveneurodegenerative disorder with an age at neurologicalonset commonly in midlife. The major clinical features ofHD include involuntary choreiform movements, psychi-atric symptoms, and cognitive dysfunction [1-3]. Thegenetic mutation associated with HD is located in 4p16.3and is characterized by expansion of a CAG repeat in thefirst exon of the gene encoding the huntingtin protein [4].Many studies have examined the relationship of the CAGrepeat to neurological onset in HD, and found that itslength accounts for about 70% of the variation in age atonset [5,6]. Our recent studies [7] and those of others[5,6] suggest that the remaining variation in HD age atonset is strongly heritable and about 56% [8] of the vari-ance remaining in age at onset is attributable to genesother than the HD gene, supporting the existence of genescapable of modifying HD pathogenesis. Although Wexleret al. [5] suggest that 60% of the variance may be attribut-able to environmental factors, remarkable similarity foronset age in monozygotic twins [3] support primarilygenetic modifiers for this trait.Identification of genetic modifiers in HD could be ofenormous importance for defining the mechanisms thatmay be capable of delaying the onset of the disorder. Werecently reported a whole-genome scan for modifiers ofthe present study, we sought to confirm our originalwhole-genome scan findings by conducting a follow-upstudy of the peak regions observed in the original scanusing a newly recruited expanded follow-up sample.MethodsSubjectsThree sample sets, newly recruited (Follow-up Sample),original (Original Sample) and combined (CombinedSample) were used in this study. Prior to the data clean-ing, the Follow-up Sample consists of 149 newly recruitedHD patients. Fifteen of the newly recruited siblings weremembers of 12 pedigrees used in the Original Study [8].For these individuals a single sibling was randomlyselected from the Original Study pedigree to create a sib-ling pair for the Follow-up study. The remaining 134 newpatient samples were recruited from 61 new pedigrees.Only 57 of the newly recruited pedigrees, with 126 sib-lings were kept after removing three apparently identicaltwin pairs and one pair lacking onset information. Thus,the final Follow-up Sample contained 69 pedigrees (12original and 57 newly recruited) with 141 (15 + 126)newly recruited subjects and 102 sibling pairs (Table 1).The Original Sample, used in the genome scan paper [8],consisted of 295 pedigrees with 629 sibling pairs. TheOriginal Sample contained 20 unaffected parents and 9Page 2 of 8(page number not for citation purposes)age at onset for HD in 295 pedigrees containing 629 sib-ling pairs, with six regions, 2q33, 4p16, 5q31-32, 6p22,6q23-24, and 18q22 exhibiting LOD scores > 1.5 [8]. Inunaffected siblings to increase precision in the estimationof identity by descend [8]. The Combined Sample, con-sisting of both the Original Sample and the Follow-upBMC Medical Genetics 2006, 7:71, had 352 pedigrees with 836 HD subjects. Twenty-one new sibling pairs and one half sib-pair were createdwhen new siblings were added to existing pedigrees for atotal of 753 sibling pairs in the Combined Sample (Table1).Age at onsetAge at onset, defined as the onset of motor impairment,was reported for all affected participants [9,10]. Caseswith 36 or more repeats, were designated HD mutationcarriers in accordance with published associations withdisease expression [11]. The quantitative trait utilized inlinkage analysis was adjusted for the effects of the CAGrepeat expansion using two different regression models.Both models used the logarithmically transformed age atonset as the dependent variable. The first model (ModelOne) adjusted only for the size of the expanded CAGrepeat [log(onset) = α + β(HD)CAG]. The second model(Model Two), that we had used in our original genomescan [8] and previously described [7], adjusted for the HDrepeat, the normal repeat and their interaction [log(onset)= α + β1(HD)CAG + β2(Normal)CAG + β3(HD)CAG ×(Normal)CAG]. Random effect models (Proc MIXED inSAS) were used in these models to account for familialclustering. Each model was used to determine theexpected age at onset for a given expanded CAG repeat,and the residual was computed as the difference betweenthe observed and expected age at onset. Residuals werestandardized to a mean of zero and a standard deviationof 1. Both models show similar modest negative skew-ness. The skewness of the residual generated by ModelOne is -0.42 and the kurtosis is 1.82. Corresponding val-ues for Model Two were -0.49 and 1.11, respectively.Residual onset ages for all analyses were computed usingthe 836 combined sample plus 234 locally studied HDpatients recruited from the New England HD ResearchCenter and 303 brain specimens from the McLean BrainTissue Resource Center, for a total sample of 1373. Whilethe local and brain samples are not included in this link-age analysis, they provide an additional randomly ascer-tained samples to more accurately model the relationshipbetween age at onset and CAG repeat sizes. Finally,because our future studies will involve SNP associationstudies in all of three samples (HD MAPS families, thelocally collected DNAs, and the brain specimens), wesought to define the repeat adjusted age at onset uni-formly across all three samples.The heritability analyses were conducted using maximumlikelihood procedures as implemented in the SOLAR pro-gram [12].CAG repeat size determinationHD CAG repeat sizes were determined by polymerasechain reaction using an assay that does not include theadjacent proline (CCG) repeat. Cases with 36 or morerepeats were designated HD mutation carriers.GenotypingAll the newly recruited HD samples were genotyped bythree microsatellite markers at each of the six regions withmaximum multipoint LOD scores greater than or equal to1.5 in the original genome scan [8]. The markers at eachlocus comprised the peak marker and the two markersfrom the original scan that flank it (see Table 2). Prior tothe analysis, the sib_kin program in the ASPEX package[13] was used to verify sibling relationships. Mendelianinconsistencies were then identified using INFER, in thePEDSYS package [14] and MERLIN [15]. Genotypes forthe entire nuclear family were deleted for the particularmarker when an inconsistency was detected. The genotyp-ing data set was 93% complete, with 7% genotyping fail-ure or error rate.Linkage analysisVariance component linkage analysis to repeat adjustedage at onset was performed using MERLIN [15]. We per-formed multipoint linkage analysis in the Original 295pedigrees, the Follow-up 69 pedigrees, and the Combined352 pedigrees. Adjusted age at onset was available for allHD affected participants. Age at onset was coded as "miss-ing" for all unaffected individuals.The oligogenic linkage analysis and epistatic interactionanalysis were performed by the SOLAR program [12].MERLIN was used to generate the IBD estimates and thesewere converted into SOLAR format for analyses. The via-bility of epistatic model was tested. The interaction termwas constrained to non-interaction, and then the differ-ence between interaction and non-interaction models wastested by chi-square.ResultsThree sample sets, newly recruited (Follow-up Sample),original (Original Sample) and combined (CombinedSample) were used in this study. The Original, Follow-upand Combined samples are described in Table 1. Themean age at onset is similar for the Follow-up (range 17to 70 y) and Original samples (range 9 to 82 y). All threesamples exhibited strong heritability estimates. The herit-ability estimates (h2 ± SE) for expanded repeat adjustedage at onset (Model One) are 0.72 ± 0.09 for the OriginalSample, 0.74 ± 0.20 for the Follow-up Sample and 0.74 ±0.08 for the Combined Sample.Page 3 of 8(page number not for citation purposes)Multipoint linkage analyses were completed using bothModel One, adjusting for expanded HD repeats only, andBMC Medical Genetics 2006, 7:71 Two, adjusting for expanded HD repeats, normalrepeats and their interactions. Multipoint LOD scoresobtained in these three sample sets for the six chromo-some regions (2q33, 4p16, 5q31-32, 6p22, 6q23-24, and18q22) are presented in Table 3 and Figure 1. For the Fol-low-up Sample, the highest LOD score was observed at the6q23-24 region (LOD = 1.87, p = 0.002, Model One; orLOD = 2.27, p = 0.0006, Model Two). One additionalregion provided modest confirmation for linkage, 18q22(LOD = 0.79, p = 0.03, Model One; or LOD = 0.79, p =0.02, Model Two). However, no evidence for linkage wasseen at 2q33 (LOD = 0.17, p = 0.2, Model One; LOD =0.21, p = 0.2, Model Two), 4p16 (LOD = 0.0, p = 0.5,Model One and Model Two), 5q31-32 (LOD = 0.15, p =0.2, Model One; LOD = 0.12, p = 0.2, Model Two), and6p22 (LOD = 0.01, p = 0.4, Model One and Model Two).Model One analysis in the Combined Sample yielded sig-nificant linkage at 6q23-24 (LOD = 4.05, p = 0.00001)and suggestive linkage at 4p16 (LOD = 1.94, p = 0.0014)and 18q22 (LOD = 1.78, p = 0.002). The 2q33 (LOD =1.37, p = 0.006) and 6p22.3 (LOD = 1.14, p = 0.011)regions achieved a LOD score greater than 1.0. However,the LOD score at 5q31-32 dropped to 0.98 (p = 0.02). TheModel Two analysis, adjusting for the expanded repeat,normal repeats and their interaction, generated higherLOD scores than Model One at 6q23-24 in all the threetested sample sets: the Original Sample (LOD = 3.5, p =0.00003), Follow-up Samples (LOD = 2.27, p = 0.0006)and Combined Sample (LOD = 4.94, p < 10-6). All of theother analyses using Model Two produced LOD scoresvery similar to those of Model One. Epistatic analysis indi-cated that there is no interaction between 6q23-24 andfive other loci.DiscussionThe purpose of this study was to replicate our originallinkage findings for repeat adjusted age at onset in HD [8]in an expanded sample. A p value of 0.01 is needed to con-firm evidence for linkage [16]. In this Follow-up study,18q22 (p = 0.03). No evidence for linkage was observed inthe Follow-up Sample at 2q33 (p = 0.2), 4p16 (p = 0.5),5q31-32 (p = 0.2) and 6p22.3 (p = 0.4). The lack of con-firmation for the latter four loci may indicate that theseregions do not contain genes that modify the age at neu-rologic onset for HD or that this relatively small Follow-up study did not adequately sample families which carrymodifier genes from these regions.In the Combined Sample, the Model One analysis, adjust-ing only for the size of the expanded repeat, yielded signif-icant linkage at 6q23-24 (LOD = 4.05, p = 0.00001). TheModel Two analysis, adjusting for the expanded repeat,normal repeats and their interaction, generated higherLOD score than Model One at 6q23-24. The LOD scoresof the Original Sample (LOD = 3.5, p = 0.00003), Follow-up Samples (LOD = 2.27, p = 0.0006) and CombinedSample (LOD = 4.94, p < 10-6) are highly significant usingthis second model. All of the other analyses using ModelTwo produced LOD scores very similar to those of ModelOne. We emphasize results from Model One because betacoefficients from Model Two show greater variabilitycompared with those computed in the original scan [8].Changes in the composition of the sample have modifiedthe relationship of the repeat sizes to onset age from thatseen in the original sample alone [8]. Although all threeterms in the model (HD repeat, normal repeat and theinteraction of these) are significant predictors of age atonset, the sign of the beta coefficients were opposite tothose seen in the original scan [8] for the normal repeatand interaction terms. Consequently, the Model Twoadjustment may be susceptible to as yet unidentified sam-ple stratification effects or over-specification of the model.The results of the Combined Sample are generally similarto those of the original genome scan (see Table 3). Signif-icant evidence for linkage was observed at 6q23-24 in theCombined Sample (LOD = 4.05, p = 0.00001). Wereported a LOD score of 2.28 at 6q23-24 in our originalgenome scan [8], while the same sample generates a LODTable 1: The Study Subjects.Original Sample Follow-up Sample Combined SamplePedigrees 295 69a 352Sibling-pairs 629 102 753bPatients 695 141 836Mean Onset ± SD 39.3 ± 12.1 39.2 ± 11.8 39.3 ± 12.0Mean HD repeat ± SD 46.4 ± 5.9 45.5 ± 5.5 46.2 ± 5.7Note (details provided in Subjects section of Materials and Methods):a 57 pedigrees are newly recruited, and the remaining 12 are from the Original Sample with newly recruited siblings.b The number of pairs in the Combined Sample exceeds that for the sum of the Original Sample and Follow-up Sample because additional sibling pairs (21 new sibling pairs and one half sib) were created when new siblings were added to existing pedigrees.Page 4 of 8(page number not for citation purposes)strong evidence for linkage was observed at 6q23-24 (p =0.002) and suggestive support for linkage was observed atscore of 3.5 (p = 0.00003) in the current study using thesame model (Model Two). The difference is due to a mod-BMC Medical Genetics 2006, 7:71 of the method used to define the repeat adjustedage at onset. In the original genome scan only the 754individuals were used to model the relationship of repeatsize age at onset. In the present study, we used a sample of1373 individuals, derived from the 836 in the combinedsample, plus 234 locally studied HD affected persons anda sample of 303 brain specimens. While the local andbrain samples do not represent sib-pairs that could beincluded in this linkage analysis, they provide additionalrandomly ascertained samples to more accurately modelthe relationship between age at onset and CAG repeatsizes. They also provide an increased sample size for sub-sequent fine-mapping association studies to assess candi-date modifiers. The increased sample size provided amore accurate assessment of the relationship betweenrepeat size and age at onset, yielding a residual that moreaccurately adjusts for the effect of repeat size on age atonset in HD.In addition to the 6q23-24 peak, the Follow-up study sup-ports evidence for linkage at 18q22 (LOD = 0.79, p = 0.03,Model One; LOD = 0.79, p = 0.02, Model Two). The Com-bined Sample provides suggestive evidence for linkage atthis locus (LOD = 1.78, p = 0.002, Model One; LOD =1.55, p = 0.004, Model Two). Suggestive linkage is stillobserved at 4p16 (LOD = 1.94, p = 0.0014, Model One;LOD = 1.9, p = 0.002, Model Two) in the Combined Sam-ple, although, this locus was not confirmed in the Follow-up study and the LOD score is lower than that of the orig-inal scan (LOD = 2.19, p = 0.0007, Model One; LOD =2.15, p = 0.0008, Model Two). The decreased LOD scoreat 4p16 may be a consequence of genetic heterogeneity,possibly reflecting the diverse ethnic background of thesample [17].The epistatic analysis indicated that there is no interactionbetween 6q23-24 with five other loci. Therefore, weTable 2: Eighteen microsatellite markers genotyped, three at each of the six loci, for Follow-up study. Marker 2 is the peak marker in original study at each locus.Chromosome Marker 1 Position (cM) Marker 2 Position (cM) Marker 3 Position (cM)2q33 D2S1391 186 D2S1384 200 D2S2944 2104p16 D4S3360 0 D4S2366 13 D4S403 265q31-32 D5S816 139 D5S1480 147 D5S820 1606p22.3 D6S1006 27 D6S1959 34 D6S2439 426q23-24 D6S1009 138 GATA184A08 146 D6S2436 15518q22 D18S851 75 D18S858 80 D18S1357 89Table 3: Multipoint LOD score and chromosomal location in the Original, Follow-up and Combined samples are shown.A Model One LOD scores.Chromosome Location Original Sample Follow-up Sample Combined SampleDistance *(cM)LOD p-value Distance *(cM)LOD p-value Distance *(cM)LOD p-value2q33 200 1.37 0.006 210 0.17 0.2 200 1.37 0.0064p16 2 2.19 0.0007 0 0 0.5 0 1.94 0.00145q31-32 147 1.23 0.009 160 0.15 0.2 142 0.98 0.026p22.3 34 1.13 0.011 34 0.01 0.4 34 1.14 0.0116q23-24 149 2.75 0.0002 142 1.87 0.002 149 4.05 0.0000118q22 89 1.23 0.009 75 0.79 0.03 89 1.78 0.002B Model Two LOD scores.2q33 200 1.56 0.004 210 0.21 0.2 200 1.62 0.0034p16 2 2.15 0.0008 0 0 0.5 0 1.9 0.0025q31-32 147 1.27 0.008 160 0.12 0.2 147 0.98 0.026p22.3 34 0.88 0.02 34 0.01 0.4 34 0.95 0.026q23-24 148 3.5 0.00003 142 2.27 0.0006 149 4.94 <10-618q22 89 0.96 0.02 75 0.79 0.02 89 1.55 0.004A. Model One was used to adjust age at onset and age at onset was adjusted by HD repeats only; B. Model Two was used to adjust age at onset, and Page 5 of 8(page number not for citation purposes)age at onset was adjusted by HD repeat, normal repeat and their interaction.* The genetic distances are as indicated by the Marshfield linkage map [26]BMC Medical Genetics 2006, 7:71 that the potential modifiers are not members ina common pathway. The 1-LOD unit support interval(133 – 153 Mb) at 6q23-24 contains 128 known and pre-dicted genes (Ensembl v27) [18]. Two genes of particularinterest are serum and glucocorticoid regulated kinase(SGK, 135 Mb) and metabotropic glutamate receptor 1(GRM1, 146 Mb). A recent study reported that SGK levelsare increased in brains of HD patients; SGK phosphor-ylates huntingtin at serine 421, protecting striatal neuronsagainst toxicity caused by a polyQ-huntingtin amino-ter-minal fragment [19]. SGK is a plausible candidate gene.GRM1 is located within 2 Mb of the peak marker(GATA184A08, 148 Mb) and is highly expressed in thecerebellum [20]. One prominent action of GRM1 is toprotect neurons from apoptotic death [21]. In addition,several studies reported that GRIK2 is associated withearly onset [22,23]. GRIK2 (6q16.3, 102 Mb) is about 30Mb proximal to the 1-LOD interval on the confirmed6q23-24 (133 – 153 Mb). However, the variance in onsetage explained by GRIK2 is small and one would not expectknown genes, according to the Ensembl database (v27)[18]. Interesting candidate genes in this interval includeNEDD4L (18q21, 54 Mb), which encodes a neural precur-sor cell expressed, developmentally down-regulated 4-likegene. NEDD4L is an ubiquitin ligase and contains WWdomains. Yeast two-hybrid studies found that huntingtinbinds to a group of genes with WW domains [24]. One ofthe interesting features of NEDD4L is that it may mediatedegradation of the product of SGK, the above mentionedcandidate gene located at 6q23 [25].ConclusionIn conclusion, this replication study confirms evidence forlinkage in the 6q23-24 region observed in our originalgenome scan. Although the other regions, particularly18q22, may also contain genes that modify age at onset inHD, the 6q23-24 shows evidence for harboring one ormore genetic modifiers that exceeds the level required forgenome-wide statistical significance (LOD >3.6) [16]. Inour approach, a genetic modifier of HD is a gene that isMultipoint linkage results generated by MERLIN across six chromosome regions in followup studyFigure 1Multipoint linkage results generated by MERLIN across six chromosome regions in followup study. The x-axis indicates genetic distance and the y-axis indicates LOD score. These data show the confirmed evidence for linkage to 6q23-24 using Model One age at onset adjustment.00.511.522.533.544.5186195203210 0 9 17 26 139144151160 27 32 37 42 138150155 75 79 85OriginalFollow-upCombined2q33 6p22.35q31-324p16 6q23-24 18q2214489Page 6 of 8(page number not for citation purposes)that it would be detected by linkage. The 7-Mb 1-LODunit support interval (50 – 57 Mb) at 18q22 contains 36inherently capable of modifying the course of diseasepathogenesis, thereby altering the observed age at onset.BMC Medical Genetics 2006, 7:71, identifying such genetic modifiers is apotential route to validated targets for therapeutic devel-opment aimed at delaying or preventing neurologicalonset in HD. We present evidence that the 6q23-24 regioncontains such a genetic modifier, which opens the way forits identification and eventual exploitation for treatmentof this devastating disorder.AbbreviationsHD: Huntington's diseaseHD MAPS: Huntington's Disease Modifiers of Age atOnset in Pairs of SiblingsQTL: Quantitative Trait LociLOD: logarithm of the oddsCompeting interestsThe author(s) declare that they have no competing inter-ests.Authors' contributionsJL participated in the design of the study, performed thestatistical analysis and drafted the manuscript. RP wasresponsible for the coordinating the study groups andsample collection. MRH, SCW, AD, PJM, MN, CAR, RLM,AR, FS, LF, EG, CAG, OS, MLK, RJT, EM, AN, MF, JSP, RJ,TA, AL, MHS, JJC, SMH, JBP, MBH, SLP, AZ, RKA, AJL, AD,KM, and PMC had ascertained the clinical status of thepatients and provided the patient samples. JSM, TG, andMH were responsible for the genotyping. GX and LD par-ticipated in the data analysis. LAC, VCW, JFG and MEMparticipated in the study design, data generation, dataanalysis and manuscript preparation. RHM was responsi-ble for study conception, design, and oversight and final-ized the data analysis as well as manuscript preparation.All authors read and approved the final manuscript.AcknowledgementsThe study was supported by PHS Grant P50NS016367 (Huntington's Dis-ease Center Without Walls), NS16375, NS32765, and the CIHR of Canada. We wish to thank the Huntington's Disease Society of America's "Coalition for the Cure", the Jerry McDonald Huntington's Disease Research Fund, and an Anonymous Donor for their support. A portion of this research was conducted using the Boston University Linux Cluster for Genetic Analysis (LinGA) funded by the NIH NCRR (National Center for Research Resources) Shared Instrumentation grant (1S10RR163736-01A1).References1. Bates G, Harper P, Jones L: Huntington's Disease.  3rd edition.Oxford, Oxford Univ. Press; 2002. 2. 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Hubbard T, Andrews D, Caccamo M, Cameron G, Chen Y, Clamp M,Clarke L, Coates G, Cox T, Cunningham F, Curwen V, Cutts T, DownT, Durbin R, Fernandez-Suarez XM, Gilbert J, Hammond M, HerreroJ, Hotz H, Howe K, Iyer V, Jekosch K, Kahari A, Kasprzyk A, Keefe D,Keenan S, Kokocinsci F, London D, Longden I, McVicker G, MelsoppC, Meidl P, Potter S, Proctor G, Rae M, Rios D, Schuster M, Searle S,Severin J, Slater G, Smedley D, Smith J, Spooner W, Stabenau A,Stalker J, Storey R, Trevanion S, Ureta-Vidal A, Vogel J, White S,Woodwark C, Birney E: Ensembl 2005.  Nucleic Acids Res 2005,33:D447-53.Page 7 of 8(page number not for citation purposes)1981. 4. The Huntington's Disease Collaboratide Research Group: A novelgene containing a trinucleotide repeat that is expanded and19. 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Broman KW, Murray JC, Sheffield VC, White RL, Weber JL: Com-prehensive human genetic maps: individual and sex-specificvariation in recombination.  Am J Hum Genet 1998, 63:861-869.Pre-publication historyThe pre-publication history for this paper can be accessedhere: — you keep the copyrightSubmit your manuscript here: 8 of 8(page number not for citation purposes)


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