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Title: Complex genetic approaches to neurodegenerative diseases
Author: Shah, Paresh Rameshchandra
ISNI:       0000 0004 2669 3052
Awarding Body: University of London
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2007
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Neurodegenerative diseases are fatal disorders in which disease pathogenesis results in the progressive degeneration of the central and/or the peripheral nervous systems. These diseases currently affect -2% of the population but are expected to increase in prevalence as average life expectancy increases. The majority of these diseases have a complex genetic basis. The work presented in this thesis aimed to investigate the genetic basis of two neurodegenerative diseases, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and the human prion diseases kuru and sporadic Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (sCJD), using novel complex genetic approaches. ALS is a fatal neurodegenerative disease in which motor neurons are seen to degenerate. It is a complex disease with 10% of individuals having a family history and the remaining 90% of non-familial cases having some genetic component. The gene DYNC1H1 is involved in retrograde axonal transport and is a good candidate for ALS. In this thesis the genetic architecture of DYNC1H1 was elucidated and a mutation screen of exons 8, 13 and 14 was undertaken in familial forms of ALS and other motor neuron diseases. No mutations were found. A linkage disequilibrium (LD) based association study was conducted using two tagging single nucleotide polymorphisms (tSNPs) which were identified as sufficient to represent genetic variation across DYNC1HI. These tSNPs were tested for an association with sporadic ALS (SALS) in 261 cases and 225 matched controls but no association was identified. Kuru is a devastating epidemic prion disease which affected a highly geographically restricted area of the Papua New Guinea highlands, predominantly affected adult women and children. Its incidence has steadily declined since the cessation of its route of transmission, endocannibalism, in the late 1950's. Kuru imposed strong balancing selection on codon 129 of the prion gene (PRNP). Analysis of kuru-exposed and unexposed populations showed significant deviations from Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium (HWE) consistent with the known protective effect of codon 129 heterozygosity. Signatures of selection were investigated in the surviving populations, such as deviations from HWE and an increasing cline in codon 129 valine allele frequency, which covaried with disease exposure. A novel PRNP G127V polymorphism was detected which, while common in the area of highest kuru incidence, was absent from kuru patients and unexposed population groups. Genealogical analysis revealed that the heterozygous PRNP G127V genotype confers strong prion disease resistance, which has been selected by the kuru epidemic. Finally, PRNP copy number was investigated as a possible genetic mechanism for susceptibility to kuru and sCJD. No conclusive copy number changes were identified.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available