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Keywords:

  • disease susceptibilty;
  • gene dosage;
  • human 17q21.2 region;
  • phenotypic analysis

Abstract

The identification of susceptibility genes for human disease is a major goal of current biomedical research. Both sequence and structural variation have emerged as major genetic sources of phenotypic variability and growing evidence points to copy number variation as a particularly important source of susceptibility for disease. Here we propose and validate a strategy to identify genes in which changes in dosage alter susceptibility to disease-relevant phenotypes in the mouse. Our approach relies on sensitized phenotypic screening of megabase-sized chromosomal deletion and deficiency lines carrying altered copy numbers of ∼30 linked genes. This approach offers several advantages as a method to systematically identify genes involved in disease susceptibility. To examine the feasibility of such a screen, we performed sensitized phenotyping in five therapeutic areas (metabolic syndrome, immune dysfunction, atherosclerosis, cancer and behaviour) of a 0.8 Mb reciprocal chromosomal duplication and deficiency on chromosome 11 containing 27 genes. Gene dosage in the region significantly affected risk for high-fat diet-induced metabolic syndrome, antigen-induced immune hypersensitivity, ApoE-induced atherosclerosis, and home cage activity. Follow up studies on individual gene knockouts for two candidates in the region showed that copy number variation in Stat5 was responsible for the phenotypic variation in antigen-induced immune hypersensitivity and metabolic syndrome. These data demonstrate the power of sensitized phenotypic screening of segmental aneuploidy lines to identify disease susceptibility genes.

See accompanying Closeup by Cesar P. Canales and Katherina Walz, DOI 10.1002/emmm.201000111