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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.  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
5.  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
6.  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
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
8.  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
9.  Gli-Similar (Glis) Proteins: Their Mechanisms of Action, Physiological Functions, and Roles in Disease 
Vitamins and hormones  2012;88:141-171.
Gli-similar (Glis) 1–3 proteins constitute a sub-family of Krüppel-like zinc finger proteins that are closely related to members of the Gli family. Glis proteins have been implicated in several pathologies, including cystic kidney disease, diabetes, hypothyroidism, fibrosis, osteoporosis, psoriasis, and cancer. In humans, a mutation in the Glis2 gene has been linked to the development of nephronophthisis (NPHP), a recessive cystic kidney disease, while mutations in Glis3 lead to an extended multi-system phenotype that includes the development of neonatal diabetes, polycystic kidneys, congenital hypothyroidism, and facial dysmorphism. Glis3 has also been identified as a risk locus for type-1 and type-2 diabetes and additional studies have revealed a role for Glis3 in pancreatic endocrine development, β-cell maintenance, and insulin regulation. Similar to Gli1-3, Glis2 and 3 have been reported to localize to the primary cilium. These studies appear to suggest that Glis proteins are part of a primary cilium-associated signaling pathway(s). It has been hypothesized that Glis proteins are activated through post-translational modifications and subsequently translocate to the nucleus where they regulate transcription by interacting with Glis binding sites in the promoter regions of target genes. This chapter will summarize the current state of knowledge regarding mechanisms of action of the Glis family of proteins, their physiological functions, as well as their roles in disease.
PMCID: PMC3799816  PMID: 22391303
Gli-similar proteins; diabetes; cystic kidney disease; primary cilium; pancreas; insulin; β cells; epithelial-mesenchymal transition; iPS cells
10.  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
11.  Novel transglutaminase-like peptidase and C2 domains elucidate the structure, biogenesis and evolution of the ciliary compartment 
Cell Cycle  2012;11(20):3861-3875.
In addition to their role in motility, eukaryotic cilia serve as a distinct compartment for signal transduction and regulatory sequestration of biomolecules. Recent genetic and biochemical studies have revealed an extraordinary diversity of protein complexes involved in the biogenesis of cilia during each cell cycle. Mutations in components of these complexes are at the heart of human ciliopathies such as Nephronophthisis (NPHP), Meckel-Gruber syndrome (MKS), Bardet-Biedl syndrome (BBS) and Joubert syndrome (JBTS). Despite intense studies, proteins in some of these complexes, such as the NPHP1-4-8 and the MKS, remain poorly understood. Using a combination of computational analyses we studied these complexes to identify novel domains in them which might throw new light on their functions and evolutionary origins. First, we identified both catalytically active and inactive versions of transglutaminase-like (TGL) peptidase domains in key ciliary/centrosomal proteins CC2D2A/MKS6, CC2D2B, CEP76 and CCDC135. These ciliary TGL domains appear to have originated from prokaryotic TGL domains that act as peptidases, either in a prokaryotic protein degradation system with the MoxR AAA+ ATPase, the precursor of eukaryotic dyneins and midasins, or in a peptide-ligase system with an ATP-grasp enzyme comparable to tubulin-modifying TTL proteins. We suggest that active ciliary TGL proteins are part of a cilia-specific peptidase system that might remove tubulin modifications or cleave cilia- localized proteins, while the inactive versions are likely to bind peptides and mediate key interactions during ciliogenesis. Second, we observe a vast radiation of C2 domains, which are key membrane-localization modules, in multiple ciliary proteins, including those from the NPHP1-4-8 and the MKS complexes, such as CC2D2A/MKS6, RPGRIP1, RPGRIP1L, NPHP1, NPHP4, C2CD3, AHI1/Jouberin and CEP76, most of which can be traced back to the last eukaryotic ancestor. Identification of these TGL and C2 domains aid in the proper reconstruction of the Y-shaped linkers, which are key structures in the transitional zone of cilia, by allowing precise prediction of the multiple membrane-contacting and protein-protein interaction sites in these structures. These findings help decipher key events in the evolutionary separation of the ciliary and nuclear compartments in course of the emergence of the eukaryotic cell.
PMCID: PMC3495828  PMID: 22983010
ciliogenesis; transglutaminase-like; membrane; tubulin-tyrosine ligase; C2; transition zone; Y-shaped linkers; evolution; origin of eukaryotes; ciliopathy
12.  Familial juvenile nephronophthisis, Jeune's syndrome, and associated disorders. 
Archives of Disease in Childhood  1985;60(5):426-434.
Fourteen patients with familial juvenile nephronophthisis are described, eight of whom displayed one or more additional disorders. One boy with short limbed dwarfism and an abnormal chest was considered to have Jeune's syndrome; review of the published reports supports the view that nephronophthisis is the principal cause of renal failure in this disorder. Another patient with renal failure and retinitis pigmentosa at presentation developed progressive neurological and neuromuscular impairment leading to the discovery of ragged red fibre disease (mitochondrial cytopathy). Cardiomyopathy was present in this and one other patient. Tapeto-retinal degeneration, hepatic fibrosis, cerebellar ataxia, and oculomotor apraxia were among the other disorders encountered. Three patients presented in extremis with acute heart failure and irreversible oligo-anuria and this complication developed in another child who was already known to have nephronophthisis. Awareness of this disease and its associations is important for early diagnosis and appropriate management.
PMCID: PMC1777327  PMID: 4015147
13.  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
14.  Nephropathy and growth hormone deficiency in a patient with mitochondrial tRNA(Leu(UUR)) mutation. 
Journal of Medical Genetics  1996;33(7):621-622.
A mitochondrial A 3243 G mutation in the tRNA(Leu(UUR)) gene was first described as a common cause of MELAS syndrome (mitochondrial myopathy, encephalopathy, lactic acidosis, and stroke-like syndrome). This same mutation is also the cause of a totally different disorder, a subtype of diabetes mellitus which is inherited maternally and often associated with sensorineural hearing loss. In this paper, we report on a Japanese boy with A 3243 G who developed a previously undescribed combination of symptoms, nephropathy and growth hormone deficiency. The patient first presented with short stature and moderate mental retardation. Growth hormone (GH) provocation tests showed deficient growth hormone secretion. During the course of follow up, he presented with progressive nephropathy followed by the development of diabetes mellitus. The results of laboratory tests and renal biopsy were against incidental association of known types of nephropathy. On PCR-RFLP analysis, the percentage of mutated mtDNA was higher in the renal biopsy specimen than 12 peripheral blood leucocytes. Our case suggests that mitochondrial diseases should be taken into account when there is nephropathy of unknown cause. In addition, the presence of growth hormone deficiency may account for part of the mechanism leading to short stature commonly seen in these patients.
PMCID: PMC1050677  PMID: 8818955
15.  Mutations in TMEM216 perturb ciliogenesis and cause Joubert, Meckel and related syndromes 
Nature genetics  2010;42(7):619-625.
Joubert syndrome (JBTS), related disorders (JSRD) and Meckel syndrome (MKS) are ciliopathies. We now report that MKS2 and JBTS2 loci are allelic and due to mutations in TMEM216, encoding an uncharacterized tetraspan transmembrane protein. JBTS2 patients displayed frequent nephronophthisis and polydactytly, and two cases conformed to the Oro-Facio-Digital type VI phenotype, whereas skeletal dysplasia was common in MKS fetuses. A single p.R73L mutation was identified in all patients of Ashkenazi Jewish descent (n=10). TMEM216 localized to the base of primary cilia, and loss of TMEM216 in patient fibroblasts or following siRNA knockdown caused defective ciliogenesis and centrosomal docking, with concomitant hyperactivation of RhoA and Dishevelled. TMEM216 complexed with Meckelin, encoded by a gene also mutated in JSRD and MKS. Abrogation of tmem216 expression in zebrafish led to gastrulation defects that overlap with other ciliary morphants. The data implicate a new family of proteins in the ciliopathies, and further support allelism between ciliopathy disorders.
PMCID: PMC2894012  PMID: 20512146
16.  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
17.  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
18.  A novel mutation causing nephronophthisis in the Lewis polycystic kidney rat localises to a conserved RCC1 domain in Nek8 
BMC Genomics  2012;13:393.
Nephronophthisis (NPHP) as a cause of cystic kidney disease is the most common genetic cause of progressive renal failure in children and young adults. NPHP is characterized by abnormal and/or loss of function of proteins associated with primary cilia. Previously, we characterized an autosomal recessive phenotype of cystic kidney disease in the Lewis Polycystic Kidney (LPK) rat.
In this study, quantitative trait locus analysis was used to define a ~1.6Mbp region on rat chromosome 10q25 harbouring the lpk mutation. Targeted genome capture and next-generation sequencing of this region identified a non-synonymous mutation R650C in the NIMA (never in mitosis gene a)- related kinase 8 ( Nek8) gene. This is a novel Nek8 mutation that occurs within the regulator of chromosome condensation 1 (RCC1)-like region of the protein. Specifically, the R650C substitution is located within a G[QRC]LG repeat motif of the predicted seven bladed beta-propeller structure of the RCC1 domain. The rat Nek8 gene is located in a region syntenic to portions of human chromosome 17 and mouse 11. Scanning electron microscopy confirmed abnormally long cilia on LPK kidney epithelial cells, and fluorescence immunohistochemistry for Nek8 protein revealed altered cilia localisation.
When assessed relative to other Nek8 NPHP mutations, our results indicate the whole propeller structure of the RCC1 domain is important, as the different mutations cause comparable phenotypes. This study establishes the LPK rat as a novel model system for NPHP and further consolidates the link between cystic kidney disease and cilia proteins.
PMCID: PMC3441220  PMID: 22899815
Cilia; Directed next generation sequencing; Electron microscopy; Genome capture; Immunohistochemistry; Nek8; NPHP; Polycystic kidney disease
19.  Interaction of ciliary disease protein retinitis pigmentosa GTPase regulator with nephronophthisis-associated proteins in mammalian retinas 
Molecular Vision  2010;16:1373-1381.
Retinitis pigmentosa GTPase regulator (RPGR) is a cilia-centrosomal protein that frequently mutates in X-linked retinal degeneration and associated disorders. RPGR interacts with multiple ciliary proteins in the retina. Perturbations in the assembly of RPGR complexes are associated with retinal degeneration. This study was undertaken to delineate the composition and dissection of RPGR complexes in mammalian retinas.
Immunoprecipitation of RPGR from ciliary fraction of bovine retina was performed, followed by mass spectrometry analysis. The glutathione S-transferase pull-down assay was performed to validate the interaction. Immunodepletion experiments were performed to dissect the partitioning of RPGR in different protein complexes in mammalian retinas.
We found that RPGR associates with a ciliary protein nephrocystin-4 (nephroretinin; NPHP4) that is mutated in nephronophthisis (NPH) and RP (Senior-Løken syndrome). This association is abolished in the Rpgr-knockout mouse retina. The RCC1-like domain of RPGR interacts with the N-terminal 316 amino acids of NPHP4. In the retina, RPGR also associates with NPHP1, an NPHP4-interacting protein; RPGR interacts directly with amino acids 243–586 of NPHP1. We further show that, in the retina, RPGR associates with and is partitioned in at least two different complexes with NPHP-associated proteins, (i) NPHP1, NPHP2, and NPHP5, and (ii) NPHP4, NPHP6, and NPHP8.
RPGR may regulate some complexes with NPHP proteins in the mammalian retina. The disruption of these complexes may contribute to the pathogenesis of retinal degeneration in X-linked RP and associated ciliary diseases.
PMCID: PMC2905641  PMID: 20664800
20.  Mutations in INVS encoding inversin cause nephronophthisis type 2, linking renal cystic disease to the function of primary cilia and left-right axis determination 
Nature genetics  2003;34(4):413-420.
Nephronophthisis (NPHP), an autosomal recessive cystic kidney disease, leads to chronic renal failure in children. The genes mutated in NPHP1 and NPHP4 have been identified, and a gene locus associated with infantile nephronophthisis (NPHP2) was mapped. The kidney phenotype of NPHP2 combines clinical features of NPHP and polycystic kidney disease (PKD). Here, we identify inversin (INVS) as the gene mutated in NPHP2 with and without situs inversus. We show molecular interaction of inversin with nephrocystin, the product of the gene mutated in NPHP1 and interaction of nephrocystin with β-tubulin, a main component of primary cilia. We show that nephrocystin, inversin and β-tubulin colocalize to primary cilia of renal tubular cells. Furthermore, we produce a PKD-like renal cystic phenotype and randomization of heart looping by knockdown of invs expression in zebrafish. The interaction and colocalization in cilia of inversin, nephrocystin and β-tubulin connect pathogenetic aspects of NPHP to PKD, to primary cilia function and to left-right axis determination.
PMCID: PMC3732175  PMID: 12872123
21.  Mutations in the inositol polyphosphate-5-phosphatase E gene link phosphatidyl inositol signaling to the ciliopathies 
Nature genetics  2009;41(9):1032-1036.
Phosphotidylinositol (PtdIns) signaling is tightly regulated, both spatially and temporally, by subcellularly localized PtdIns kinases and phosphatases that dynamically alter downstream signaling events 1. Joubert Syndrome (JS) characterized by a specific midbrain-hindbrain malformation (“molar tooth sign”) and variably associated retinal dystrophy, nephronophthisis, liver fibrosis and polydactyly 2, and is included in the newly emerging group of “ciliopathies”. In patients linking to JBTS1, we identified mutations in the INPP5E gene, encoding inositol polyphosphate-5-phosphatase E, which hydrolyzes the 5-phosphate of PtdIns(3,4,5)P3 and PtdIns(4,5)P2. Mutations clustered in the phosphatase domain and impaired 5-phosphatase activity, resulting in altered cellular PtdIns ratios. INPP5E localized to cilia in major organs affected in JS, and mutations promoted premature destabilization of cilia in response to stimulation. Thus, these data links PtdIns signaling to the primary cilium, a cellular structure that is becoming increasingly appreciated for its role in mediating cell signals and neuronal function.
PMCID: PMC2746682  PMID: 19668216
22.  Gli-similar (Glis) Krüppel-like zinc finger proteins: insights into their physiological functions and critical roles in neonatal diabetes and cystic renal disease 
Histology and histopathology  2010;25(11):1481-1496.
GLI-similar (Glis)1–3 proteins constitute a subfamily of the Krüppel-like zinc finger transcription factors that are closely related to the Gli family. Glis1–3 play critical roles in the regulation of a number of physiological processes and have been implicated in several pathologies. Mutations in GLIS2 have been linked to nephronophthisis, an autosomal recessive cystic kidney disease. Loss of Glis2 function leads to renal atrophy and fibrosis that involves epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) of renal tubule epithelial cells. Mutations in human GLIS3 have been implicated in a syndrome characterized by neonatal diabetes and congenital hypothyroidism (NDH) and in some patients accompanied by polycystic kidney disease, glaucoma, and liver fibrosis. In addition, the GLIS3 gene has been identified as a susceptibility locus for the risk of type 1 and 2 diabetes. Glis3 plays a key role in pancreatic development, particularly in the generation of β-cells and in the regulation of insulin gene expression. Glis2 and Glis3 proteins have been demonstrated to localize to the primary cilium, a signaling organelle that has been implicated in several pathologies, including cystic renal diseases. This association suggests that Glis2/3 are part of primary cilium-associated signaling pathways that control the activity of Glis proteins. Upon activation in the primary cilium, Glis proteins may translocate to the nucleus where they subsequently regulate gene transcription by interacting with Glis-binding sites in the promoter regulatory region of target genes. In this review, we discuss the current knowledge of the Glis signaling pathways, their physiological functions, and their involvement in several human pathologies.
PMCID: PMC2996882  PMID: 20865670
Diabetes; Polycystic kidney disease; Primary cilium; Pancreatic β-cells; Glis Krüppel-like zinc finger protein
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.  TTC21B contributes both causal and modifying alleles across the ciliopathy spectrum 
Nature genetics  2011;43(3):189-196.
Ciliary dysfunction leads to a broad range of overlapping phenotypes, termed collectively as ciliopathies. This grouping is underscored by genetic overlap, where causal genes can also contribute modifying alleles to clinically distinct disorders. Here we show that mutations in TTC21B/IFT139, encoding a retrograde intraflagellar transport (IFT) protein, cause both isolated nephronophthisis (NPHP) and syndromic Jeune Asphyxiating Thoracic Dystrophy (JATD). Moreover, although systematic medical resequencing of a large, clinically diverse ciliopathy cohort and matched controls showed a similar frequency of rare changes, in vivo and in vitro evaluations unmasked a significant enrichment of pathogenic alleles in cases, suggesting that TTC21B contributes pathogenic alleles to ∼5% of ciliopathy patients. Our data illustrate how genetic lesions can be both causally associated with diverse ciliopathies, as well as interact in trans with other disease-causing genes, and highlight how saturated resequencing followed by functional analysis of all variants informs the genetic architecture of disorders.
PMCID: PMC3071301  PMID: 21258341
25.  Nephrocystin-4 Regulates Pyk2-induced Tyrosine Phosphorylation of Nephrocystin-1 to Control Targeting to Monocilia* 
The Journal of Biological Chemistry  2011;286(16):14237-14245.
Nephronophthisis is the most common genetic cause of end-stage renal failure during childhood and adolescence. Genetic studies have identified disease-causing mutations in at least 11 different genes (NPHP1–11), but the function of the corresponding nephrocystin proteins remains poorly understood. The two evolutionarily conserved proteins nephrocystin-1 (NPHP1) and nephrocystin-4 (NPHP4) interact and localize to cilia in kidney, retina, and brain characterizing nephronophthisis and associated pathologies as result of a ciliopathy. Here we show that NPHP4, but not truncating patient mutations, negatively regulates tyrosine phosphorylation of NPHP1. NPHP4 counteracts Pyk2-mediated phosphorylation of three defined tyrosine residues of NPHP1 thereby controlling binding of NPHP1 to the trans-Golgi sorting protein PACS-1. Knockdown of NPHP4 resulted in an accumulation of NPHP1 in trans-Golgi vesicles of ciliated retinal epithelial cells. These data strongly suggest that NPHP4 acts upstream of NPHP1 in a common pathway and support the concept of a role for nephrocystin proteins in intracellular vesicular transport.
PMCID: PMC3077625  PMID: 21357692
Centrosome; Epithelium; Golgi; Protein-tyrosine Kinase (Tyrosine Kinase); Vesicles; Pyk2; Cilium; Cystic Kidney Disease; Nephrocystin

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