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1.  Individuals with mutations in XPNPEP3, which encodes a mitochondrial protein, develop a nephronophthisis-like nephropathy  
The autosomal recessive kidney disease nephronophthisis (NPHP) constitutes the most frequent genetic cause of terminal renal failure in the first 3 decades of life. Ten causative genes (NPHP1–NPHP9 and NPHP11), whose products localize to the primary cilia-centrosome complex, support the unifying concept that cystic kidney diseases are “ciliopathies”. Using genome-wide homozygosity mapping, we report here what we believe to be a new locus (NPHP-like 1 [NPHPL1]) for an NPHP-like nephropathy. In 2 families with an NPHP-like phenotype, we detected homozygous frameshift and splice-site mutations, respectively, in the X-prolyl aminopeptidase 3 (XPNPEP3) gene. In contrast to all known NPHP proteins, XPNPEP3 localizes to mitochondria of renal cells. However, in vivo analyses also revealed a likely cilia-related function; suppression of zebrafish xpnpep3 phenocopied the developmental phenotypes of ciliopathy morphants, and this effect was rescued by human XPNPEP3 that was devoid of a mitochondrial localization signal. Consistent with a role for XPNPEP3 in ciliary function, several ciliary cystogenic proteins were found to be XPNPEP3 substrates, for which resistance to N-terminal proline cleavage resulted in attenuated protein function in vivo in zebrafish. Our data highlight an emerging link between mitochondria and ciliary dysfunction, and suggest that further understanding the enzymatic activity and substrates of XPNPEP3 will illuminate novel cystogenic pathways.
PMCID: PMC2827951  PMID: 20179356
2.  Lights on for aminopeptidases in cystic kidney disease 
While erudite cell biologists have for many decades described singular immotile appendages known as primary cilia to be present on most cells in our bodies, cilial function(s) long remained an enigma. Driven largely by an ever increasing number of discoveries of genetic defects in primary cilia during the past decade, cilia were catapulted from a long lasting existence in obscurity into the bright spotlight in cell biology and medicine. The study by O’Toole et al. in this issue of the JCI adds a novel “enzymatic” facet to the rapidly growing information about these little cellular tails, by demonstrating that defects in the XPNPEP3 gene, which encodes mitochondrial and cytosolic splice variants of X-prolyl aminopeptidase 3, can cause nephronophthisis-like ciliopathy. Future studies are in order now to elucidate the cystogenic pathways affected by disrupted enzymatic function of XPNPEP3 in cilia-related cystogenic diseases.
PMCID: PMC2827971  PMID: 20179346
3.  Mitochondrial Aminopeptidase Deletion Increases Chronological Lifespan and Oxidative Stress Resistance while Decreasing Respiratory Metabolism in S. cerevisiae 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(10):e77234.
Recessive mutations in XPNPEP3, encoding a mitochondrial x-prolyl aminopeptidase, have been identified in families with a rare hereditary tubulointerstitial kidney disease. The yeast ortholog of XPNPEP3, Icp55p, participates in the proteolytic processing and stabilization of mitochondrial proteins and its deletion accelerates the degradation of its protein targets. We used icp55 deletion strains of S. cerevisiae to model loss of XPNPEP3 enzymatic function and study its phenotypic consequences on mitochondrial function. We found that Icp55p is not required for respiratory competence; however, compared to controls deletion strains had reduced mitochondrial oxygen consumption when grown in glucose containing media. The reduced mitochondrial respiration of icp55 deletion strains in glucose media requires the mitochondrial peptide transporter, Mdl1p, and was corrected by Tor1p inhibition with rapamycin. Under similar growth conditions the abundance of the mitochondrial ATP synthase complex was decreased in the icp55 deletion strain and was corrected by concurrent deletion of tor1. The icp55 deletion strain demonstrated an increased chronological lifespan and decreased reactive oxygen species. These changes were additive to similar changes known to occur in tor1 deletion strains suggesting independent mechanisms. Together, these results demonstrate that loss of Icp55p function reduces mitochondrial oxygen consumption and ATP synthase complex assembly in glucose media, while also promoting stress resistance, decreasing reactive oxygen species and increasing chronological lifespan through mechanisms that are distinct from decreased Tor1p activity.
PMCID: PMC3792884  PMID: 24116217
4.  Nephronophthisis-Associated CEP164 Regulates Cell Cycle Progression, Apoptosis and Epithelial-to-Mesenchymal Transition 
PLoS Genetics  2014;10(10):e1004594.
We recently reported that centrosomal protein 164 (CEP164) regulates both cilia and the DNA damage response in the autosomal recessive polycystic kidney disease nephronophthisis. Here we examine the functional role of CEP164 in nephronophthisis-related ciliopathies and concomitant fibrosis. Live cell imaging of RPE-FUCCI (fluorescent, ubiquitination-based cell cycle indicator) cells after siRNA knockdown of CEP164 revealed an overall quicker cell cycle than control cells, although early S-phase was significantly longer. Follow-up FACS experiments with renal IMCD3 cells confirm that Cep164 siRNA knockdown promotes cells to accumulate in S-phase. We demonstrate that this effect can be rescued by human wild-type CEP164, but not disease-associated mutants. siRNA of CEP164 revealed a proliferation defect over time, as measured by CyQuant assays. The discrepancy between accelerated cell cycle and inhibited overall proliferation could be explained by induction of apoptosis and epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition. Reduction of CEP164 levels induces apoptosis in immunofluorescence, FACS and RT-QPCR experiments. Furthermore, knockdown of Cep164 or overexpression of dominant negative mutant allele CEP164 Q525X induces epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition, and concomitant upregulation of genes associated with fibrosis. Zebrafish injected with cep164 morpholinos likewise manifest developmental abnormalities, impaired DNA damage signaling, apoptosis and a pro-fibrotic response in vivo. This study reveals a novel role for CEP164 in the pathogenesis of nephronophthisis, in which mutations cause ciliary defects coupled with DNA damage induced replicative stress, cell death, and epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition, and suggests that these events drive the characteristic fibrosis observed in nephronophthisis kidneys.
Author Summary
Nephronophthisis is a leading inherited cause of renal failure in children and young adults. This work contributes to understanding of the disease mechanism of nephronophthisis, which is characterized by multi-cystic and fibrotic kidneys. The genes mutated in patients with nephronophthisis all seem to encode proteins involved in cilia function, and some of them are recently reported to also function in DNA damage signaling. We investigated how loss of cilia and impaired DNA damage signaling could cause the excessive fibrosis seen in nephronophthisis. Studies during the past decade have focused on treating the cysts of this early-onset renal disease. However, we think that understanding and curing the fibrosis seen in these patients will provide new treatment opportunities. Our work gives insight into the orchestration of downstream effects on the cellular level after loss of nephronophthisis gene CEP164 as a result of loss of cilia and accumulating DNA damage signaling.
PMCID: PMC4207587  PMID: 25340510
5.  Mutation Analysis of 18 Nephronophthisis-associated Ciliopathy Disease Genes using a DNA Pooling and Next-Generation Sequencing Strategy 
Journal of medical genetics  2010;48(2):105-116.
Nephronophthisis-associated ciliopathies (NPHP-AC) comprise a group of autosomal recessive cystic kidney diseases that includes nephronophthisis (NPHP), Senior-Loken syndrome (SLS), Joubert syndrome (JBTS), and Meckel-Gruber syndrome (MKS). To date, causative mutations in NPHP-AC have been described for 18 different genes, rendering mutation analysis tedious and expensive. To overcome the broad genetic locus heterogeneity we devised a strategy of DNA pooling with consecutive massively parallel resequencing (MPR).
In 120 patients with severe NPHP-AC phenotypes we prepared 5 pools of genomic DNA with 24 patients each which were used as templates in order to PCR-amplify all 376 exons of 18 NPHP-AC genes (NPHP1, INVS, NPHP3, NPHP4, IQCB1, CEP290, GLIS2, RPGRIP1L, NEK8, TMEM67, INPP5E, TMEM216, AHI1, ARL13B, CC2D2A, TTC21B, MKS1, and XPNPEP3). PCR products were then subjected to MPR on a Illumina Genome-Analyzer and mutations were subsequently assigned to their respective mutation carrier via CEL I endonuclease-based heteroduplex screening and confirmed by Sanger sequencing.
For proof of principle we used DNA from patients with known mutations and demonstrated the detection of 22 out of 24 different alleles (92% sensitivity). MPR led to the molecular diagnosis in 30/120 patients (25%) and we identified 54 pathogenic mutations (27 novel) in 7 different NPHP-AC genes. Additionally, in 24 patients we only found single heterozygous variants of unknown significance.
The combined approach of DNA pooling followed by MPR strongly facilitates mutation analysis in broadly heterogeneous single-gene disorders. The lack of mutations in 75% of patients in our cohort indicates further extensive heterogeneity in NPHP-AC.
PMCID: PMC3913043  PMID: 21068128
Next-generation sequencing; Ciliopathy; Nephronophthisis
6.  Nephronophthisis 
Nephronophthisis (NPHP) is an autosomal recessive cystic kidney disease, which represents the most frequent genetic cause for end-stage renal disease up to the third decade of life. Nephronophthisis is caused by mutations in eleven different genes called nephrocystins (NPHP1-11, NPHP1L). With an increasing number of identified genes our knowledge of nephronophthisis is changing and improving our understanding of the pathomechanisms in nephronophthisis. Recent publications described ciliary expression of nephrocystins together with other cystoproteins like polycystins 1 and 2, and fibrocystin. These findings have shifted our focus to a pathomechanism involving defects in ciliary function (ciliopathy) and planar cell polarity (PCP). In addition, discoveries of new nephrocystin genes have shown that the disease spectrum of nephronophthisis is much broader than previously anticipated. Different forms of mutations within the same NPHP gene can cause different disease severity. In this review we will highlighten the different hypotheses concerning the pathomechanisms for nephronophthisis and we will underline the clinical variability of nephronophthisis. The clinical spectrum has become even more complex with the possibility of oligogenicity in NPHP.
PMCID: PMC4160028  PMID: 20652329
nephronophthisis; cystic kidney disease; ciliopathy; Senior-Loken syndrome; Joubert syndrome; Meckel-Gruber syndrome; molecular genetics
7.  Uromodulin is expressed in renal primary cilia and UMOD mutations result in decreased ciliary uromodulin expression 
Human Molecular Genetics  2010;19(10):1985-1997.
Uromodulin (UMOD) mutations are responsible for three autosomal dominant tubulo-interstitial nephropathies including medullary cystic kidney disease type 2 (MCKD2), familial juvenile hyperuricemic nephropathy and glomerulocystic kidney disease. Symptoms include renal salt wasting, hyperuricemia, gout, hypertension and end-stage renal disease. MCKD is part of the ‘nephronophthisis–MCKD complex’, a group of cystic kidney diseases. Both disorders have an indistinguishable histology and renal cysts are observed in either. For most genes mutated in cystic kidney disease, their proteins are expressed in the primary cilia/basal body complex. We identified seven novel UMOD mutations and were interested if UMOD protein was expressed in the primary renal cilia of human renal biopsies and if mutant UMOD would show a different expression pattern compared with that seen in control individuals. We demonstrate that UMOD is expressed in the primary cilia of renal tubules, using immunofluorescent studies in human kidney biopsy samples. The number of UMOD-positive primary cilia in UMOD patients is significantly decreased when compared with control samples. Additional immunofluorescence studies confirm ciliary expression of UMOD in cell culture. Ciliary expression of UMOD is also confirmed by electron microscopy. UMOD localization at the mitotic spindle poles and colocalization with other ciliary proteins such as nephrocystin-1 and kinesin family member 3A is demonstrated. Our data add UMOD to the group of proteins expressed in primary cilia, where mutations of the gene lead to cystic kidney disease.
PMCID: PMC2860893  PMID: 20172860
8.  Joubert Syndrome and related disorders 
Joubert syndrome (JS) and related disorders (JSRD) are a group of developmental delay/multiple congenital anomalies syndromes in which the obligatory hallmark is the molar tooth sign (MTS), a complex midbrain-hindbrain malformation visible on brain imaging, first recognized in JS. Estimates of the incidence of JSRD range between 1/80,000 and 1/100,000 live births, although these figures may represent an underestimate. The neurological features of JSRD include hypotonia, ataxia, developmental delay, intellectual disability, abnormal eye movements, and neonatal breathing dysregulation. These may be associated with multiorgan involvement, mainly retinal dystrophy, nephronophthisis, hepatic fibrosis and polydactyly, with both inter- and intra-familial variability. JSRD are classified in six phenotypic subgroups: Pure JS; JS with ocular defect; JS with renal defect; JS with oculorenal defects; JS with hepatic defect; JS with orofaciodigital defects. With the exception of rare X-linked recessive cases, JSRD follow autosomal recessive inheritance and are genetically heterogeneous. Ten causative genes have been identified to date, all encoding for proteins of the primary cilium or the centrosome, making JSRD part of an expanding group of diseases called "ciliopathies". Mutational analysis of causative genes is available in few laboratories worldwide on a diagnostic or research basis. Differential diagnosis must consider in particular the other ciliopathies (such as nephronophthisis and Senior-Loken syndrome), distinct cerebellar and brainstem congenital defects and disorders with cerebro-oculo-renal manifestations. Recurrence risk is 25% in most families, although X-linked inheritance should also be considered. The identification of the molecular defect in couples at risk allows early prenatal genetic testing, whereas fetal brain neuroimaging may remain uninformative until the end of the second trimester of pregnancy. Detection of the MTS should be followed by a diagnostic protocol to assess multiorgan involvement. Optimal management requires a multidisciplinary approach, with particular attention to respiratory and feeding problems in neonates and infants. Cognitive and behavioral assessments are also recommended to provide young patients with adequate neuropsychological support and rehabilitation. After the first months of life, global prognosis varies considerably among JSRD subgroups, depending on the extent and severity of organ involvement.
PMCID: PMC2913941  PMID: 20615230
Pharmacogenetics and genomics  2010;20(9):532-536.
Angioedema is a rare adverse effect of angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors that occurs more commonly in women and black Americans. Angioedema is thought to result from decreased degradation of vasoactive peptides. During ACE inhibition, bradykinin is primarily inactivated by aminopeptidase P (APP). Previous studies have provided conflicting data regarding serum APP activity in patients with a history of ACE inhibitor-associated angioedema. A single nucleotide polymorphism, −2399C>A (rs3788853, C-2399A), in XPNPEP2, the X-linked gene that encodes membranous APP, has been reported to associate with APP activity.
To test the hypothesis that the relationship between XPNPEP2 C-2399A genotype and APP activity or ACE inhibitor-associated angioedema is gender- and/or race-dependent.
We compared C-2399A genotype frequencies in 169 cases with a history of ACE inhibitor-associated angioedema and 397 ACE inhibitor-exposed controls. Controls were pre-specified to be 50% white, 50% black and 50% female. Cases and controls were group matched for age and smoking.
XPNPEP2 C-2399A genotype associated with serum APP activity in both men and women. Serum APP activity was lower in men than in women, independent of genotype. XPNPEP2 −2399 A/ genotype was associated with an increased risk of angioedema in men [odds ratio 2.17 (1.09-4.32), P=0.03] in multivariate analysis. The A/ genotype was associated with angioedema in black men (P=0.03) but not in white men.
APP activity is lower in men and the XPNPEP2 C-2399A polymorphism associates with ACE inhibitor-associated angioedema in men but not women.
PMCID: PMC2945219  PMID: 20625347
Aminopeptidase P; Angioedema; Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme; XPNPEP2
10.  Mutations that are a common cause of Leber congenital amaurosis in northern America are rare in Southern India 
Molecular Vision  2009;15:1781-1787.
To test patients from southern India for the presence of mutations that most commonly cause Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA) in northern America.
A review of the literature identified 177 unique LCA causing mutations in eight different genes: aryl hydrocarbon receptor interacting protein-like 1 (AIPL1), crumbs homolog 1 (CRB1), cone-rod homeobox (CRX), guanylate cyclase 2D (GUCY2D), nephronophthisis 6 (NPHP6), retinol dehydrogenase 12 (RDH12), retinal pigment epithelium-specific protein 65 kDa (RPE65), and retinitis pigmentosa GTPase regulator interacting protein 1 (RPGRIP1). Allele-specific ligation assay and bidirectional sequencing were used to test 38 unrelated LCA patients from southern India for 104 of these mutations, which contribute to more than 30% of the LCA cases in a northern American population.
Only one participant was found to harbor one of the 104 mutations in the allele-specific assay (homozygous RPE65 Tyr368His). A mutation that was not part of the assay (homozygous RPE65 Tyr143Asp) was incidentally detected in a second patient when an equivocal signal from one allele on the assay was followed up with automated DNA sequencing.
Mutations that contribute to 30% of the LCA cases in northern America were detected in only 2.6% of LCA cases in our cohort from southern India. There were no instances of IVS26 c.2991+1655 A>G in NPHP6, the most commonly detected mutation in LCA. These data suggest that LCA in India is caused primarily by a different set of mutations in the same genes associated with disease in northern America, or by mutations in other genes that have not yet been discovered. Therefore, mutation-specific assays developed for European and northern American cohorts may not be suited for testing LCA patients from India or other ethnically distinct populations.
PMCID: PMC2742639  PMID: 19753312
11.  Pseudodominant inheritance of nephronophthisis caused by a homozygous NPHP1 deletion 
Nephronophthisis (NPHP) is an autosomal recessive kidney disease characterized by tubular basement membrane disruption, interstitial infiltration, and tubular cysts. NPHP leads to end-stage renal failure in the first two decades of life and is the most frequent genetic cause of chronic renal failure in children and young adults. Mutations in eleven genes (NPHP1-11) have been identified. Extrarenal manifestations are known, such as retinitis pigmentosa (Senior-Løken syndrome, SLS), brainstem and cerebellar anomalies (Joubert syndrome), liver fibrosis, and ocular motor apraxia type Cogan.
We report on a Turkish family with clinical signs of nephronophthisis. The phenotype occurred in two generations and therefore seemed to be inherited in an autosomal dominant pattern. Nevertheless, a deletion analysis of the NPHP1 gene on chromosome 2 was performed and showed a homozygous deletion. Analysis of the family pedigree indicated no obvious consanguinity in the last three generations. However, haplotype analysis demonstrated homozygosity on chromosome 2 indicating a common ancestor to the parents of all affected individuals. NPHP1 deletion analysis should always be considered in patients with apparently dominant nephronophthisis, especially from likely consanguineous families.
PMCID: PMC3342573  PMID: 21258817
Nephronophthisis; NPHP1; cystic kidney disease
12.  Genetic background of nonmutant Piebald-Virol-Glaxo rats does not influence nephronophthisis phenotypes 
Nephronophthisis (NPHP), which affects multiple organs, is a hereditary cystic kidney disease (CKD), characterized by interstitial fibrosis and numerous fluid-filled cysts in the kidneys. It is caused by mutations in NPHP genes, which encode for ciliary proteins known as nephrocystins. The disorder affects many people across the world and leads to end-stage renal disease. The aim of this study was to determine if the genetic background of the nonmutant female Piebald-Virol-Glaxo (PVG/Seac–/–) rat influences phenotypic inheritance of NPHP from mutant male Lewis polycystic kidney rats.
Mating experiments were performed between mutant Lewis polycystic kidney male rats with CKD and nonmutant PVG and Wistar Kyoto female rats without cystic kidney disease to raise second filial and backcross 1 progeny, respectively. Rats that developed cystic kidneys were identified. Systolic blood pressure was determined in each rat at 12 weeks of age using the tail and cuff method. After euthanasia, blood samples were collected and chemistry was determined. Histological examination of the kidneys, pancreas, and liver of rats with and without cystic kidney disease was performed.
It was established that the genetic background of nonmutant female PVG rats did not influence the phenotypic inheritance of the CKD from mutant male Lewis polycystic kidney rats. The disease arose as a result of a recessive mutation in a single gene (second filial generation, CKD = 13, non-CKD = 39, χ2 = 0.00, P ≥ 0.97; backcross 1 generation, CKD = 67, non-CKD = 72, χ2 = 0.18, P > 0.05) and inherited as NPHP. The rats with CKD developed larger fluid-filled cystic kidneys, higher systolic blood pressure, and anemia, but there were no extrarenal cysts and disease did not lead to early pup mortality.
The genetic background of the nonmutant PVG rats does not influence the genetic and phenotypic inheritance of CKD from mutant Lewis polycystic kidney rats. A single recessive mutation incapacitated the gene, which relaxed its functional constraints, and led to formation of multiple cysts in the kidneys of the homozygous mutant rats.
PMCID: PMC3579405  PMID: 23549608
recessive mutation; cystic kidney disease; nephronophthisis; systolic blood pressure; anemia
13.  Nephronophthisis: Disease Mechanisms of a Ciliopathy 
Nephronophthisis (NPHP), a recessive cystic kidney disease, is the most frequent genetic cause of end-stage kidney disease in children and young adults. Positional cloning of nine genes (NPHP1-9) and functional characterization of their encoded proteins (nephrocystins) has contributed to a unifying theory that defines cystic kidney diseases as “ciliopathies”. The theory is based on the finding that all proteins mutated in cystic kidney diseases of humans or animal models are expressed in primary cilia or centrosomes of renal epithelial cells. Primary cilia are sensory organelles that connect mechanosensory, visual, and other stimuli to mechanisms of epithelial cell polarity and cell cycle control. Mutations in NPHP genes cause defects in signaling mechanisms that involve the non-canonical Wnt signaling pathway and the sonic hedgehog signaling pathway, resulting in defects of planar cell polarity and tissue maintenance. The ciliary theory explains the multiple organ involvement in NPHP, which includes retinal degeneration, cerebellar hypoplasia, liver fibrosis, situs inversus, and mental retardation. Positional cloning of dozens of unknown genes that cause NPHP will elucidate further signaling mechanisms involved. Nephrocystins are highly conserved in evolution, thus allowing the use of animal models to develop future therapeutic approaches.
PMCID: PMC2807379  PMID: 19118152
nephronophthisis; cystic kidney disease; planar cell polarity; wnt signaling; hedgehog signaling; ciliopathies
14.  Senior-Løken Syndrome: A syndromic form of retinal dystrophy associated with nephronophthisis 
Vision research  2012;75:88-97.
Senior-Løken syndrome (SLS) is an autosomal recessive disease characterized by development of a retinitis pigmentosa (RP)- or Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA)-like retinal dystrophy and a medullary cystic kidney disease, nephronophthisis. Mutations in several genes (called nephrocystins) have been shown to cause SLS. The proteins encoded by these genes are localized in the connecting cilium of photoreceptor cells and in the primary cilium of kidney cells. Nephrocystins are thought to have a role in regulating transport of proteins bound to the outer segment/primary cilium; however, the precise molecular mechanisms are largely undetermined. This review will survey the biochemistry, cell biology and existing animal models for each of the nephrocystins as it relates to photoreceptor biology and pathogenesis of retinal degeneration.
PMCID: PMC3504181  PMID: 22819833
Senior-Løken syndrome; nephronophthisis; nephrocystins; retinal degeneration; ciliopathy; primary cilium
15.  Nephrocystin-1 and nephrocystin-4 are required for epithelial morphogenesis and associate with PALS1/PATJ and Par6 
Human Molecular Genetics  2009;18(24):4711-4723.
Nephronophthisis (NPH) is an autosomal recessive disorder characterized by renal fibrosis, tubular basement membrane disruption and corticomedullary cyst formation leading to end-stage renal failure. The disease is caused by mutations in NPHP1-9 genes, which encode the nephrocystins, proteins localized to cell–cell junctions and centrosome/primary cilia. Here, we show that nephrocystin mRNA expression is dramatically increased during cell polarization, and shRNA-mediated knockdown of either NPHP1 or NPHP4 in MDCK cells resulted in delayed tight junction (TJ) formation, abnormal cilia formation and disorganized multi-lumen structures when grown in a three-dimensional collagen matrix. Some of these phenotypes are similar to those reported for cells depleted of the TJ proteins PALS1 or Par3, and interestingly, we demonstrate a physical interaction between these nephrocystins and PALS1 as well as their partners PATJ and Par6 and show their partial co-localization in human renal tubules. Taken together, these results demonstrate that the nephrocystins play an essential role in epithelial cell organization, suggesting a plausible mechanism by which the in vivo histopathologic features of NPH might develop.
PMCID: PMC2778369  PMID: 19755384
16.  Genome-wide association study identifies a susceptibility locus for biliary atresia on 10q24.2 
Human Molecular Genetics  2010;19(14):2917-2925.
Biliary atresia (BA) is characterized by the progressive fibrosclerosing obliteration of the extrahepatic biliary system during the first few weeks of life. Despite early diagnosis and prompt surgical intervention, the disease progresses to cirrhosis in many patients. The current theory for the pathogenesis of BA proposes that during the perinatal period, a still unknown exogenous factor meets the innate immune system of a genetically predisposed individual and induces an uncontrollable and potentially self-limiting immune response, which becomes manifest in liver fibrosis and atresia of the extrahepatic bile ducts. Genetic factors that could account for the disease, let alone for its high incidence in Chinese, are to be investigated. To identify BA susceptibility loci, we carried out a genome-wide association study (GWAS) using the Affymetrix 5.0 and 500 K marker sets. We genotyped nearly 500 000 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in 200 Chinese BA patients and 481 ethnically matched control subjects. The 10 most BA-associated SNPs from the GWAS were genotyped in an independent set of 124 BA and 90 control subjects. The strongest overall association was found for rs17095355 on 10q24, downstream XPNPEP1, a gene involved in the metabolism of inflammatory mediators. Allelic chi-square test P-value for the meta-analysis of the GWAS and replication results was 6.94 × 10−9. The identification of putative BA susceptibility loci not only opens new fields of investigation into the mechanisms underlying BA but may also provide new clues for the development of preventive and curative strategies.
PMCID: PMC2893814  PMID: 20460270
17.  Solute Carrier Family SLC41, what do we really know about it? 
The 41st family of solute carriers (SLC41) comprises three members A1, A2 and A3, which are distantly homologous to bacterial Mg2+ channel MgtE. SLC41A1 was recently characterized as being an Na+/Mg2+ exchanger (NME; a predominant cellular Mg2+ efflux system). Little is known about the exact function of SLC41A2 and SLC41A3, although, these proteins have also been linked to Mg2+ transport in human (animal) cells. The molecular biology (including membrane topology, cellular localization, transcriptomics and proteomics) of SLC41A2 and SLC41A3 compared with SLC41A1 has only been poorly explored. Significantly more data with regard to function, functional regulation, involvement in cellular signalling, complex-forming ability, spectrum of binding partners and involvement in the pathophysiology of human diseases are available for SLC41A1. Three recent observations namely the identification of the null mutation, c.698G>T, in SLC41A1 underlying the nephronophthisis-like phenotype, the recognition of a putative link between SLC41A1 and Parkinson’s disease, and the observation that nearly 55% of preeclamptic placental samples overexpress SLC41A1, marks the protein as a possible therapeutic target of these diseases. A potential role of the SLC41 family of Mg2+ transporters in the pathophysiology of human diseases is further substantiated by the finding that SLC41A3 knockout mice develop abnormal locomotor coordination.
PMCID: PMC3855994  PMID: 24340240
18.  In vivo Modeling Implicates APOL1 in Nephropathy: Evidence for Dominant Negative Effects and Epistasis under Anemic Stress 
PLoS Genetics  2015;11(7):e1005349.
African Americans have a disproportionate risk for developing nephropathy. This disparity has been attributed to coding variants (G1 and G2) in apolipoprotein L1 (APOL1); however, there is little functional evidence supporting the role of this protein in renal function. Here, we combined genetics and in vivo modeling to examine the role of apol1 in glomerular development and pronephric filtration and to test the pathogenic potential of APOL1 G1 and G2. Translational suppression or CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing of apol1 in zebrafish embryos results in podocyte loss and glomerular filtration defects. Complementation of apol1 morphants with wild-type human APOL1 mRNA rescues these defects. However, the APOL1 G1 risk allele does not ameliorate defects caused by apol1 suppression and the pathogenicity is conferred by the cis effect of both individual variants of the G1 risk haplotype (I384M/S342G). In vivo complementation studies of the G2 risk allele also indicate that the variant is deleterious to protein function. Moreover, APOL1 G2, but not G1, expression alone promotes developmental kidney defects, suggesting a possible dominant-negative effect of the altered protein. In sickle cell disease (SCD) patients, we reported previously a genetic interaction between APOL1 and MYH9. Testing this interaction in vivo by co-suppressing both transcripts yielded no additive effects. However, upon genetic or chemical induction of anemia, we observed a significantly exacerbated nephropathy phenotype. Furthermore, concordant with the genetic interaction observed in SCD patients, APOL1 G2 reduces myh9 expression in vivo, suggesting a possible interaction between the altered APOL1 and myh9. Our data indicate a critical role for APOL1 in renal function that is compromised by nephropathy-risk encoding variants. Moreover, our interaction studies indicate that the MYH9 locus is also relevant to the phenotype in a stressed microenvironment and suggest that consideration of the context-dependent functions of both proteins will be required to develop therapeutic paradigms.
Author Summary
African Americans have a disproportionate risk for developing chronic kidney disease compared to European Americans. Previous studies have identified a region on chromosome 22 containing two genes, MYH9 and APOL1, which likely accounts for nearly all of this difference. Previous reports provided strong statistical evidence implicating APOL1 as the major contributor to nephropathy risk in African Americans, driven by two coding variants, termed G1 and G2. However, other groups still report statistical evidence for MYH9 association in kidney disease, and animal models have demonstrated biological relevance for MYH9 function in the kidney. Here, we show that suppressing apol1 in zebrafish embryos results in perturbed kidney function. Importantly, using this in vivo assay, we show that the G1 variant appears to cause a loss of APOL1 function, while the G2 variant results in an altered protein that may be acting antagonistically in the presence of normal APOL1. We also report a genetic interaction between apol1 and myh9 under anemic stress, which is consistent with our previous findings in sickle cell disease (SCD) nephropathy patients. Finally, we provide functional evidence in vivo that the G2-altered APOL1 may be interacting with MYH9 to confer nephropathy risk.
PMCID: PMC4492502  PMID: 26147622
19.  An Incompatibility between a Mitochondrial tRNA and Its Nuclear-Encoded tRNA Synthetase Compromises Development and Fitness in Drosophila 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(1):e1003238.
Mitochondrial transcription, translation, and respiration require interactions between genes encoded in two distinct genomes, generating the potential for mutations in nuclear and mitochondrial genomes to interact epistatically and cause incompatibilities that decrease fitness. Mitochondrial-nuclear epistasis for fitness has been documented within and between populations and species of diverse taxa, but rarely has the genetic or mechanistic basis of these mitochondrial–nuclear interactions been elucidated, limiting our understanding of which genes harbor variants causing mitochondrial–nuclear disruption and of the pathways and processes that are impacted by mitochondrial–nuclear coevolution. Here we identify an amino acid polymorphism in the Drosophila melanogaster nuclear-encoded mitochondrial tyrosyl–tRNA synthetase that interacts epistatically with a polymorphism in the D. simulans mitochondrial-encoded tRNATyr to significantly delay development, compromise bristle formation, and decrease fecundity. The incompatible genotype specifically decreases the activities of oxidative phosphorylation complexes I, III, and IV that contain mitochondrial-encoded subunits. Combined with the identity of the interacting alleles, this pattern indicates that mitochondrial protein translation is affected by this interaction. Our findings suggest that interactions between mitochondrial tRNAs and their nuclear-encoded tRNA synthetases may be targets of compensatory molecular evolution. Human mitochondrial diseases are often genetically complex and variable in penetrance, and the mitochondrial–nuclear interaction we document provides a plausible mechanism to explain this complexity.
Author Summary
The ancient symbiosis between two prokaryotes that gave rise to the eukaryotic cell has required genomic cooperation for at least a billion years. Eukaryotic cells respire through the coordinated expression of their nuclear and mitochondrial genomes, both of which encode the proteins and RNAs required for mitochondrial transcription, translation, and aerobic respiration. Genetic interactions between these genomes are hypothesized to influence the effects of mitochondrial mutations on disease and drive mitochondrial–nuclear coevolution. Here we characterize the molecular cause and the cellular and organismal consequences of a mitochondrial–nuclear interaction in Drosophila between naturally occurring mutations in a mitochondrial tRNA and a nuclear-encoded tRNA synthetase. These mutations have little effect on their own; but, when combined, they severely compromise development and reproduction. tRNA synthetases attach the appropriate amino acid onto their cognate tRNA, and this reaction is required for efficient and accurate protein synthesis. We show that disruption of this interaction compromises mitochondrial function, providing hypotheses for the variable penetrance of diseases associated with mitochondrial tRNAs and for which pathways and processes are likely to be affected by mitochondrial–nuclear interactions.
PMCID: PMC3561102  PMID: 23382693
20.  Novel TMEM67 Mutations and Genotype-phenotype Correlates in Meckelin-related Ciliopathies 
Human mutation  2010;31(5):E1319-E1331.
Human ciliopathies are hereditary conditions caused by defects of proteins expressed at the primary cilium. Among ciliopathies, Joubert syndrome and related disorders (JSRD), Meckel syndrome (MKS) and nephronophthisis (NPH) present clinical and genetic overlap, being allelic at several loci. One of the most interesting gene is TMEM67, encoding the transmembrane protein meckelin. We performed mutation analysis of TMEM67 in 341 probands, including 265 JSRD representative of all clinical subgroups and 76 MKS fetuses. We identified 33 distinct mutations, of which 20 were novel, in 8/10 (80%) JS with liver involvement (COACH phenotype) and 12/76 (16%) MKS fetuses. No mutations were found in other JSRD subtypes, confirming the strong association between TMEM67 mutations and liver involvement. Literature review of all published TMEM67 mutated cases was performed to delineate genotype-phenotype correlates. In particular, comparison of the types of mutations and their distribution along the gene in lethal versus non lethal phenotypes showed in MKS patients a significant enrichment of missense mutations falling in TMEM67 exons 8 to 15, especially when in combination with a truncating mutation. These exons encode for a region of unknown function in the extracellular domain of meckelin.
PMCID: PMC2918781  PMID: 20232449
TMEM67; MKS3; Joubert syndrome; Meckel syndrome; congenital hepatic fibrosis; COACH syndrome
21.  Prkdc participates in mitochondrial genome maintenance and prevents Adriamycin-induced nephropathy in mice 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2010;120(11):4055-4064.
Adriamycin (ADR) is a commonly used chemotherapeutic agent that also produces significant tissue damage. Mutations to mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) and reductions in mtDNA copy number have been identified as contributors to ADR-induced injury. ADR nephropathy only occurs among specific mouse inbred strains, and this selective susceptibility to kidney injury maps as a recessive trait to chromosome 16A1-B1. Here, we found that sensitivity to ADR nephropathy in mice was produced by a mutation in the Prkdc gene, which encodes a critical nuclear DNA double-stranded break repair protein. This finding was confirmed in mice with independent Prkdc mutations. Overexpression of Prkdc in cultured mouse podocytes significantly improved cell survival after ADR treatment. While Prkdc protein was not detected in mitochondria, mice with Prkdc mutations showed marked mtDNA depletion in renal tissue upon ADR treatment. To determine whether Prkdc participates in mtDNA regulation, we tested its genetic interaction with Mpv17, which encodes a mitochondrial protein mutated in human mtDNA depletion syndromes (MDDSs). While single mutant mice were asymptomatic, Prkdc/Mpv17 double-mutant mice developed mtDNA depletion and recapitulated many MDDS and ADR injury phenotypes. These findings implicate mtDNA damage in the development of ADR toxicity and identify Prkdc as a MDDS modifier gene and a component of the mitochondrial genome maintenance pathway.
PMCID: PMC2964992  PMID: 20978358
22.  Whole exome resequencing distinguishes cystic kidney diseases from phenocopies in renal ciliopathies 
Kidney international  2013;85(4):880-887.
Rare single-gene disorders cause chronic disease. However, half of the 6,000 recessive single gene causes of disease are still unknown. Because recessive disease genes can illuminate, at least in part, disease pathomechanism, their identification offers direct opportunities for improved clinical management and potentially treatment. Rare diseases comprise the majority of chronic kidney disease (CKD) in children but are notoriously difficult to diagnose. Whole exome resequencing facilitates identification of recessive disease genes. However, its utility is impeded by the large number of genetic variants detected. We here overcome this limitation by combining homozygosity mapping with whole exome resequencing in 10 sib pairs with a nephronophthisis-related ciliopathy, which represents the most frequent genetic cause of CKD in the first three decades of life. In 7 of 10 sib-ships with a histologic or ultrasonographic diagnosis of nephronophthisis-related ciliopathy we detect the causative gene. In six sib-ships we identify mutations of known nephronophthisis-related ciliopathy genes, while in two additional sib-ships we found mutations in the known CKD-causing genes SLC4A1 and AGXT as phenocopies of nephronophthisis-related ciliopathy. Thus whole exome resequencing establishes an efficient, non-invasive approach towards early detection and causation-based diagnosis of rare kidney diseases. This approach can be extended to other rare recessive disorders, thereby providing accurate diagnosis and facilitating the study of disease mechanisms.
PMCID: PMC3972265  PMID: 24257694
23.  MKS3-Related Ciliopathy with Features of Autosomal Recessive Polycystic Kidney Disease, Nephronophthisis, and Joubert Syndrome 
The Journal of pediatrics  2009;155(3):386-92.e1.
To describe 3 children with mutations in a Meckel syndrome gene (MKS3), with features of autosomal recessive polycystic kidney disease (ARPKD), nephronophthisis, and Joubert syndrome (JS).
Study design
Biochemical evaluations, magnetic resonance and ultrasound imaging, electroretinograms, IQ testing, and sequence analysis of the PKHD1 and MKS3 genes were performed. Functional consequences of the MKS3 mutations were evaluated by cDNA sequencing and transfection studies with constructs of meckelin, the protein product of MKS3.
These 3 children with MKS3 mutations had features typical of ARPKD, that is, enlarged, diffusely microcystic kidneys and early-onset severe hypertension. They also exhibited early-onset chronic anemia, a feature of nephronophthisis, and speech and oculomotor apraxia, suggestive of JS. Magnetic resonance imaging of the brain, originally interpreted as normal, revealed midbrain and cerebellar abnormalities in the spectrum of the “molar tooth sign” that characterizes JS.
These findings expand the phenotypes associated with MKS3 mutations. MKS3-related ciliopathies should be considered in patients with an ARPKD-like phenotype, especially in the presence of speech and oculomotor apraxia. In such patients, careful expert evaluation of the brain images can be beneficial because the brain malformations can be subtle.
PMCID: PMC2925444  PMID: 19540516
24.  Pathological similarities between low birth weight-related nephropathy and nephropathy associated with mitochondrial cytopathy 
Diagnostic Pathology  2014;9:181.
Individuals born with a low birth weight (LBW) have a higher risk of developing kidney dysfunction during their lifetime and sometimes exhibit focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS) lesions in their glomeruli. We herein try to obtain other pathological characteristics of LBW-related nephropathy.
We retrospectively evaluated the renal pathology of four patients demonstrating FSGS with a history of LBW. Two mitochondrial cytopathy patients were also analyzed. DNA mutations were surveyed using a PCR-Luminex assay.
In all four FSGS patients with a history of LBW, focal segmental glomerulosclerosis were detected. Interestingly, granular swollen epithelial cells (GSECs), which have previously been reported exclusively in patients with mitochondrial cytopathy, were also observed in the distal tubules and/or collecting ducts of all four patients with a history of low birth weight in this study. Electron microscopy revealed that these granular swollen epithelial cells included an increased number of enlarged mitochondria. Furthermore, cytochrome c oxidase subunit IV staining of patients with a history of low birth weight and patients with mitochondrial DNA mutations showed unbalanced expression patterns in glomeruli and a part of tubular cells. However, no mitochondrial gene mutations were detected in any of our four patients with low birth weight-related nephropathy.
This is the first report to show the pathological similarities not only in glomeruli but also tubuli between nephropathy with a LBW history and nephropathy with mitochondrial cytopathy.
Virtual Slides
The virtual slide(s) for this article can be found here:
PMCID: PMC4189739  PMID: 25350944
Focal segmental glomerulosclerosis; Low birth weight; Mitochondria; Granular swollen epithelial cell
25.  AHI1 is required for outer segment development and is a modifier for retinal degeneration in nephronophthisis 
Nature genetics  2010;42(2):175-180.
Photoreceptor degeneration is a common feature of ciliopathies, owing to the importance of the highly specialized ciliary structure of these cells. Absence of AHI1, which encodes a cilium-localized protein, has been shown to cause a form of Joubert syndrome highly penetrant for retinal degeneration1,2. We show that Ahi1 knockout mice fail to form outer segments (OS), and show abnormal distribution of opsin throughout photoreceptors. Apoptotic cell death occurs rapidly between 2-4 weeks of age and is significantly delayed by reduced dosage of opsin. This phenotype also displays dosage-sensitive genetic interactions with Nphp1, another ciliopathy gene. Although not a primary cause of retinal blindness in humans, an allele of AHI1 modifies the relative risk of retinal degeneration greater than 7 fold within a nephronophthisis cohort. Our data support context-specific roles for AHI1 as a contributor to retinopathy and may explain a proportion of the variability of retinal phenotypes observed in nephronophthisis.
PMCID: PMC2884967  PMID: 20081859

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