Congenital malformations the human hindbrain, including the cerebellum, are poorly understood largely because their recognition is a relatively recent advance for imaging diagnostics. Cerebellar malformations are the most obvious and best characterized hindbrain malformations due to their relative ease to view by MRI and the recent identification of several causative genes1. Malformations of the pons and medulla have also been described both in isolation and in association with cerebellar malformations2. Although little is understood regarding the specific developmental pathologies underlying hindbrain malformations in humans, much is known regarding the mechanisms and genes driving hindbrain development in vertebrate model organisms. Thus, studies in vertebrate models provide a developmental framework in which to categorize human hindbrain malformations and serve to inform our thinking regarding disrupted developmental processes and candidate genes. Here we survey the basic principles of vertebrate hindbrain development and integrate our current knowledge of human hindbrain malformations into this framework.
Malformations of the midbrain (MB) and hindbrain (HB) have become topics of considerable interest in the neurology and neuroscience literature in recent years. The combined advances of imaging and molecular biology have improved analyses of structures in these areas of the central nervous system, while advances in genetics have made it clear that malformations of these structures are often associated with dysfunction or malformation of other organ systems. This review focuses upon the importance of communication between clinical researchers and basic scientists in the advancement of knowledge of this group of disorders. Disorders of anteroposterior (AP) patterning, cerebellar hypoplasias, disorders associated with defects of the pial limiting membrane (cobblestone cortex), disorders of the Reelin pathway, and disorders of the primary cilium/basal body organelle (molar tooth malformations) are the main focus of the review.
midbrain; hindbrain; cerebellum; malformations
Malformations of cerebral cortical development include a wide range of developmental disorders that are common causes of neurodevelopmental delay and epilepsy. In addition, study of these disorders contributes greatly to the understanding of normal brain development and its perturbations. The rapid recent evolution of molecular biology, genetics and imaging has resulted in an explosive increase in our knowledge of cerebral cortex development and in the number and types of malformations of cortical development that have been reported. These advances continue to modify our perception of these malformations. This review addresses recent changes in our perception of these disorders and proposes a modified classification based upon updates in our knowledge of cerebral cortical development.
cerebral cortex; malformation of cortical development; microcephaly; cortical dysplasia; polymicrogyria
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.
The list of genes that when mutated cause disruptions in cerebellar development is rapidly increasing. The study of both spontaneous and engineered mouse mutants has been essential to this progress, as it has revealed much of our current understanding of the developmental processes required to construct the mature cerebellum. Improvements in brain imaging, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and the emergence of better classification schemes for human cerebellar malformations, have recently led to the identification of a number of genes which cause human cerebellar disorders. In this review we argue that synergistic approaches combining classical molecular techniques, genomics, and mouse models of human malformations will be essential to fuel additional discoveries of cerebellar developmental genes and mechanisms.
Cerebellum; Neurological and targeted mouse mutants; Congenital human cerebellar malformations; Genomics; Genetics; Ataxia
In the ENT region 50% of the malformations affect the ear. Malformations of the outer and middle ear are predominantly unilateral (ca. 70-90%) and mostly involve the right ear. Inner ear malformations can be unilateral or bilateral. The incidence of ear malformations is approximately 1 in 3800 newborns. Ear malformations may be genetic (associated with syndromes or not, with family history, spontaneous mutations) or acquired in nature. Malformations can affect the outer ear (pinna and external auditory canal, EAC), middle ear and inner ear, not infrequently in combination. Formal classification is advisable in order to be able to predict the prognosis and compare treatment schedules. Various classifications have been proposed: pinna and EAC malformations according to Weerda , middle ear malformations according to Kösling , and inner ear malformations according to Jackler , , to Marangos  and to Sennaroglu . Additionally, we describe Altmann’s classification of atresia auris congenita  and the Siegert-Mayer-Weerda score  for EAC and middle ear malformations, systems of great practicability that are in widespread clinical use. The diagnostic steps include clinical examination, audiological testing, genetic analysis and, especially, CT and MRI. These imaging methods are most usefully employed in combination. Precise description of the malformations by means of CT and MRI is indispensable for the planning and successful outcome of operative ear reconstruction and rehabilitation procedures, including cochlear implantation.
ear malformations; classification; diagnosis; CT; MRI
During early development the vertebrate neural tube is broadly organized into the forebrain, midbrain, hindbrain and spinal cord regions. Each of these embryonic zones is patterned by a combination of genetic pathways and the influences of local signaling centres. However, it is clear that much remains to be learned about the complete set of molecular cues that are employed to establish the identity and intrinsic neuronal diversity of these territories. In order to address this, we performed a high-resolution messenger RNA differential display screen to identify molecules whose expression is regionally restricted along the anteroposterior (AP) neuraxis during early chick development, with particular focus on the midbrain and hindbrain vesicles.
This approach identified 44 different genes, with both known and unknown functions, whose transcription is differentially regulated along the AP axis. The identity and ontological classification of these genes is presented. The wide variety of functional classes of transcripts isolated in this screen reflects the diverse spectrum of known influences operating across these embryonic regions. Of these 44 genes, several have been selected for detailed in situ hybridization analysis to validate the screen and accurately define the expression domains. Many of the identified cDNAs showed no identity to the current databases of known or predicted genes or ESTs. Others represent genes whose embryonic expression has not been previously reported. Expression studies confirmed the predictions of the primary differential display data. Moreover, the nature of identified genes, not previously associated with regionalisation of the brain, identifies novel potential mechanisms in that process.
This study provides an insight into some of the varied and novel molecular networks that operate during the regionalization of embryonic neural tissue and expands our knowledge of molecular repertoire used during development.
Over the last 60 years, the spotlight of research has periodically returned to the cerebellum as new techniques and insights have emerged. Because of its simple homogeneous structure, limited diversity of cell types and characteristic behavioral pathologies, the cerebellum is a natural home for studies of cell specification, patterning, and neuronal migration. However, recent evidence has extended the traditional range of perceived cerebellar function to include modulation of cognitive processes and implicated cerebellar hypoplasia and Purkinje neuron hypo-cellularity with autistic spectrum disorder. In the light of this emerging frontier, we review the key stages and genetic mechanisms behind cerebellum development. In particular, we discuss the role of the midbrain hindbrain isthmic organizer in the development of the cerebellar vermis and the specification and differentiation of Purkinje cells and granule neurons. These developmental processes are then considered in relation to recent insights into selected human developmental cerebellar defects: Joubert syndrome, Dandy–Walker malformation, and pontocerebellar hypoplasia. Finally, we review current research that opens up the possibility of using the mouse as a genetic model to study the role of the cerebellum in cognitive function.
cerebellum; development; defects; hypoplasia; genetics; function; behavior; autism spectrum disorders
To determine the involvement of the midbrain and hindbrain (MHB) in the groups of classic (cLIS), variant (vLIS), and cobblestone complex (CBSC) lissencephalies and to determine whether a correlation exists between the cerebral malformation and the MHB abnormalities.
MRI scans of 111 patients (aged 1 day to 32 years; mean 5 years 4 months) were retrospectively reviewed. After reviewing the brain involvement on MRI, the cases were reclassified according to known mutation (LIS1, DCX, ARX, VLDLR, RELN, MEB, WWS) or mutation phenotype (LIS1-P, DCX-P, RELN-P, ARX-P, VLDLR-P) determined on the basis of characteristic MRI features. Abnormalities in the MHB were then recorded. For each structure, a score was assigned, ranging from 0 (normal) to 3 (severely abnormal). The differences between defined groups and the correlation between the extent of brain agyria/pachygyria and MHB involvement were assessed using Kruskal–Wallis and χ2 McNemar tests.
There was a significant difference in MHB appearance among the three major groups of cLIS, vLIS, and CBSC. The overall score showed a severity gradient of MHB involvement: cLIS (0 or 1), vLIS (7), and CBSC (11 or 12). The extent of cerebral lissencephaly was significantly correlated with the severity of MHB abnormalities (p = 0.0029).
Our study focused on posterior fossa anomalies, which are an integral part of cobblestone complex lissencephalies but previously have not been well categorized for other lissencephalies. According to our results and the review of the literature, we propose a new classification of human lissencephalies.
= agenesis of corpus callosum;
= autosomal dominant;
= autosomal recessive;
= cobblestone complex;
= classic lissencephaly;
= congenital muscular dystrophy;
= cell-sparse zone;
= Fukuyama congenital muscular dystrophy;
= inferior vermis hypoplasia;
= lateral ventricle;
= Miller–Dieker syndrome;
= midbrain and hindbrain;
= magnetic resonance;
= not determined;
= subcortical band heterotopia;
= subependymal linear heterotopia;
= variant lissencephaly;
= weighted image;
= Walker–Warburg syndrome;
= X-linked dominant;
= X-linked recessive.
To identify genetic causes of COACH syndrome
COACH syndrome is a rare autosomal recessive disorder characterised by Cerebellar vermis hypoplasia, Oligophrenia (developmental delay/mental retardation), Ataxia, Coloboma, and Hepatic fibrosis. The vermis hypoplasia falls in a spectrum of mid-hindbrain malformation called the molar tooth sign (MTS), making COACH a Joubert syndrome related disorder (JSRD).
In a cohort of 251 families with JSRD, 26 subjects in 23 families met criteria for COACH syndrome, defined as JSRD plus clinically apparent liver disease. Diagnostic criteria for JSRD were clinical findings (intellectual impairment, hypotonia, ataxia) plus supportive brain imaging findings (MTS or cerebellar vermis hypoplasia). MKS3/TMEM67 was sequenced in all subjects for whom DNA was available. In COACH subjects without MKS3 mutations, CC2D2A, RPGRIP1L and CEP290 were also sequenced.
19/23 families (83%) with COACH syndrome carried MKS3 mutations, compared to 2/209 (1%) with JSRD but no liver disease. Two other families with COACH carried CC2D2A mutations, one family carried RPGRIP1L mutations, and one lacked mutations in MKS3, CC2D2A, RPGRIP1L and CEP290. Liver biopsies from three subjects, each with mutations in one of the three genes, revealed changes within the congenital hepatic fibrosis/ductal plate malformation spectrum. In JSRD with and without liver disease, MKS3 mutations account for 21/232 families (9%).
Mutations in MKS3 are responsible for the majority of COACH syndrome, with minor contributions from CC2D2A and RPGRIP1L; therefore, MKS3 should be the first gene tested in patients with JSRD plus liver disease and/or coloboma, followed by CC2D2A and RPGRIP1L.
Ciliopathies are a genetically and phenotypically heterogeneous group of human developmental disorders whose root cause is the absence or dysfunction of primary cilia. Joubert syndrome is characterized by a distinctive hindbrain malformation variably associated with retinal dystrophy and cystic kidney disease. Mutations in CC2D2A are found in ∼10% of patients with Joubert syndrome. Here we describe the retinal phenotype of cc2d2a mutant zebrafish consisting of disorganized rod and cone photoreceptor outer segments resulting in abnormal visual function as measured by electroretinogram. Our analysis reveals trafficking defects in mutant photoreceptors affecting transmembrane outer segment proteins (opsins) and striking accumulation of vesicles, suggesting a role for Cc2d2a in vesicle trafficking and fusion. This is further supported by mislocalization of Rab8, a key regulator of opsin carrier vesicle trafficking, in cc2d2a mutant photoreceptors and by enhancement of the cc2d2a retinal and kidney phenotypes with partial knockdown of rab8. We demonstrate that Cc2d2a localizes to the connecting cilium in photoreceptors and to the transition zone in other ciliated cell types and that cilia are present in these cells in cc2d2a mutants, arguing against a primary function for Cc2d2a in ciliogenesis. Our data support a model where Cc2d2a, localized at the photoreceptor connecting cilium/transition zone, facilitates protein transport through a role in Rab8-dependent vesicle trafficking and fusion.
All chordates share a basic body plan and many common features of early development. Anteroposterior (AP) regions of the vertebrate neural tube are specified by a combinatorial pattern of Hox gene expression that is conserved in urochordates and cephalochordates. Another primitive feature of Hox gene regulation in all chordates is a sensitivity to retinoic acid during embryogenesis, and recent developmental genetic studies have demonstrated the essential role for retinoid signalling in vertebrates. Two AP regions develop within the chordate neural tube during gastrulation: an anterior 'forebrain-midbrain' region specified by Otx genes and a posterior 'hindbrain-spinal cord' region specified by Hox genes. A third, intermediate region corresponding to the midbrain or midbrain-hindbrain boundary develops at around the same time in vertebrates, and comparative data suggest that this was also present in the chordate ancestor. Within the anterior part of the Hox-expressing domain, however, vertebrates appear to have evolved unique roles for segmentation genes, such as Krox-20, in patterning the hindbrain. Genetic approaches in mammals and zebrafish, coupled with molecular phylogenetic studies in ascidians, amphioxus and lampreys, promise to reveal how the complex mechanisms that specify the vertebrate body plan may have arisen from a relatively simple set of ancestral developmental components.
Declines in amphibian populations, and amphibians with gross malformations, have prompted concern regarding the biological status of many anuran species. A survey of bullfrogs, Rana catesbeiana, and green frogs, Rana clamitans, conducted in central and southern New Hampshire showed malformed frogs at 81% of the sites sampled (13 of 16 sites). Brain gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) and the synthesis of androgens and estradiol, hormones essential to reproductive processes, were measured from limb-malformed and normal (no limb malformation) frogs. Normal frogs had significantly higher concentrations (nearly 3-fold) of in vitro produced androgens and of brain GnRH than malformed frogs. Because most malformations are thought to occur during development, we propose that environmental factors or endocrine-disrupting chemicals that may cause developmental abnormalities also act during early development to ultimately cause abnormally reduced GnRH and androgen production in adult frogs. The consequences of reduced GnRH and androgens on anuran reproductive behavior and population dynamics are unknown but certainly may be profound and warrant further research.
Chiari type II malformation (CII) is a developmental deformity of the hindbrain. We have previously reported that many patients with CII have impaired smooth pursuit, while few make inaccurate saccades or have an abnormal vestibulo-ocular reflex. In contrast, saccadic adaptation and visual fixation are normal. In this report, we correlate results from several eye movement studies with neuroimaging in CII. We present a model for structural changes within the cerebellum in CII.
Saccades, smooth pursuit, the vestibulo-ocular reflex, and visual fixation were recorded in 21 patients with CII, aged 8–19 years and 39 age-matched controls, using an infrared eye tracker. Qualitative and quantitative MRI data were correlated with eye movements in 19 CII patients and 28 controls.
Nine patients with CII had abnormal eye movements. Smooth pursuit gain was subnormal in eight, saccadic accuracy abnormal in four, and vestibulo-ocular reflex gain abnormal in three. None had fixation instability. Patients with CII had a significantly smaller cerebellar volume than controls, and those with normal eye motion had an expanded midsagittal vermis compared to controls. However, patients with abnormal eye movements had a smaller (non-expanded) midsagittal vermis area, posterior fossa area and medial cerebellar volumes than CII patients with normal eye movements.
The deformity of CII affects the structure and function of the cerebellum selectively and differently in those with abnormal eye movements. We propose that the vermis can expand when compressed within a small posterior fossa in some CII patients, thus sparing its ocular motor functions.
Congenital malformations are present in approximately 2–3% of liveborn babies and 20% of stillborn fetuses. The mechanisms underlying the majority of sporadic and isolated congenital malformations are poorly understood, although it is hypothesized that the accumulation of rare genetic, genomic and epigenetic variants converge to deregulate developmental networks.
We selected samples from 95 fetuses with congenital malformations not ascribed to a specific syndrome (68 with isolated malformations, 27 with multiple malformations). Karyotyping and Multiplex Ligation-dependent Probe Amplification (MLPA) discarded recurrent genomic and cytogenetic rearrangements. DNA extracted from the affected tissue (46%) or from lung or liver (54%) was analyzed by molecular karyotyping. Validations and inheritance were obtained by MLPA. We identified 22 rare copy number variants (CNV) [>100 kb, either absent (n = 7) or very uncommon (n = 15, <1/2,000) in the control population] in 20/95 fetuses with congenital malformations (21%), including 11 deletions and 11 duplications. One of the 9 tested rearrangements was de novo while the remaining were inherited from a healthy parent. The highest frequency was observed in fetuses with heart hypoplasia (8/17, 62.5%), with two events previously related with the phenotype. Double events hitting candidate genes were detected in two samples with brain malformations. Globally, the burden of deletions was significantly higher in fetuses with malformations compared to controls.
Our data reveal a significant contribution of rare deletion-type CNV, mostly inherited but also de novo, to human congenital malformations, especially heart hypoplasia, and reinforce the hypothesis of a multifactorial etiology in most cases.
Chiari type II malformation (CII) is a congenital deformity of the hindbrain. The posterior fossa and cerebellum are small in CII. The cerebellar atrophy is associated with cognitive and motor deficits. Brainstem compression occurs in some patients with CII for whom posterior fossa decompression may be life saving. The aim was to determine whether posterior fossa decompression can prevent or reduce the cerebellar atrophy in CII.
Cerebellar volumes and their tissue types (gray matter, white matter, and CSF volumes) from brain MRI were compared among four CII patients, aged 9.5 to 16.5 years, who had had posterior fossa decompression in infancy, 28 CII patients who had not had posterior fossa decompression, and ten age-matched normal controls. Parametric and non-parametric tests investigated group differences.
Compared to controls, mean cerebellar volume was significantly smaller in CII patients (p<0.0001). Mean CSF volume within the cerebellar fissures and fourth ventricle was significantly smaller in patients without posterior fossa decompression compared to the CII patients who had the decompression, p=0.043. Mean CSF volume of the latter group was similar to the controls. Other cerebellar volumetric measurements did not differ between the CII groups.
Posterior fossa decompression normalizes CSF spaces within the posterior fossa in CII but does not prevent the cerebellar atrophy. The author proposes that surgical expansion of the posterior fossa should be considered in infants with CII who have a significantly small posterior fossa, to prevent or reduce the deficits associated with the cerebellar atrophy.
Chiari II malformation; Cerebellum; MRI; Atrophy
Joubert syndrome (JBTS) is an autosomal recessive disorder characterized by cerebellum and brainstem malformations. Individuals with JBTS have abnormal breathing and eye movements, ataxia, hypotonia, and cognitive difficulty, and they display mirror movements. Mutations in the Abelson-helper integration site-1 gene (AHI1) cause JBTS in humans, suggesting that AHI1 is required for hindbrain development; however AHI1 may also be required for neuronal function. Support for this idea comes from studies demonstrating that the AHI1 locus is associated with schizophrenia. To gain further insight into the function of AHI1 in both the developing and mature CNS, we determined the spatial and temporal expression patterns of the gene products of AHI1 orthologs throughout development, in human, mouse, and zebrafish. Murine Ahi1 was distributed throughout the cytoplasm, dendrites, and axons of neurons, but was absent in glial cells. Ahi1 expression in the mouse brain was observed as early as embryonic day 10.5 and persisted into adulthood, with peak expression during the first post-natal week. Murine Ahi1 was observed in neurons of the hindbrain, midbrain, and ventral forebrain. Generally, the AHI1/Ahi1/ahi1 orthologs had a conserved distribution pattern in human, mouse, and zebrafish, but mouse Ahi1 was not present in the developing and mature cerebellum. Ahi1 was also observed consistently in the stigmoid body, a poorly characterized cytoplasmic organelle found in neurons. Overall, these results suggest roles for AHI1 in neurodevelopmental processes that underlie most of the neuroanatomical defects in JBTS, and perhaps in neuronal functions that contribute to schizophrenia.
mouse; human; zebrafish; hindbrain
Joubert Syndrome (JS) is a rare genetic developmental disorder, first identified in 1969. In patients with JS, certain regions of the brain (mainly cerebellar vermis and brainstem) are underdeveloped or malformed. This can lead to impaired attention, visual, spatial, motor, language and social functional skills. JS is characterized by a host of features, many of which do not occur in every patient.
Aim of the Study:
To spotlight and increase awareness of clinical profile and neuroimaging findings of children with Joubert syndrome.
This is a retrospective case series study of patients with JS who attended the Pediatric Neurology Clinic in Aladan and Alfarawanya Hospitals in Kuwait, from September 2007 to September 2012. Clinical and radiological data were obtained from the patient medical records.
Cerebellar vermis hypoplasia/aplasia and apnea were present in all patients, polydactly in 3 of 16, renal problems with cysts in 5 patients and 11 of 16 had abnormal electroretinograms (ERGs). Blood investigations of organic acids, amino acids and very-long-chain fatty acid, were normal in the all the nine patients.
JS is a rare genetic brain malformation with association of retinal dystrophy and renal abnormalities. The retinal dystrophy may be progressive. The prognosis of patients depends mainly on the degree of brain malformation.
Cerebellar vermis hypoplasia; children; Joubert syndrome; renal anomalies; retinal dystrophy
Few volumetric MRI studies of the entire cerebellum have been published; even less quantitative information is available in patients with hindbrain malformations, including the Chiari II malformation which is ubiquitous in patients with spina bifida meningomyelocele (SBM). In the present study, regional volumetric analyses of the cerebellum were conducted in children with SBM/ Chiari II and typically developing (TD) children. Total cerebellar volume was significantly reduced in the SBM group relative to the TD group. After correcting for total cerebellum volume, and relative to the TD group, the posterior lobe was significantly reduced in SBM, the corpus medullare was not different, and the anterior lobe was significantly enlarged. Children with thoracic level lesions had smaller cerebellar volumes relative to those with lumbar/sacral lesions, who had smaller volumes compared to TD children. The reduction in cerebellar volume in the group with SBM represents not a change in linear scaling but rather a reconfiguration involving anterior lobe enlargement and posterior lobe reduction.
Cerebellum; Volumetrics; Parcellation; Spina bifida; Chiari II
The diagnosis of Bonnet-Dechaume-Blanc or Wyburn-Mason syndrome encompasses a spectrum of phenotypic expression. Features of the syndrome as originally described, and common to all, include arteriovenous malformations of the brain and orbit (with retinal and/or retrobulbar lesions). A portion of these patients manifest the complete expression of the disease with additional high-flow arteriovenous malformations of the maxillofacial or mandibular regions. These present the distinct and additional risks of life-threatening epistaxis or gingival haemorrhage. We suggest new diagnostic criteria for the syndrome. Applying insights from modern developmental biology to our series of 15 patients (the largest to date), together with a review of the literature`, we have recognised metameric patterns of involvement in what we believe to be a disease of the neural crest or adjacent cephalic mesoderm. This allows us to propose a new rational classification reflecting the putative, underlying disorder and to suggest a new name: Cerebrofacial Arteriovenous Metameric Syndrome (CAMS).
Bonnet-Dechaume-Blanc syndrome, Wyburn-Mason syndrome, cerebral arteriovenous malformations-multifocal, retinal vascular lesions, craniofacial vascular malformations, phakomatoses, metameric cerebral lesions, neural crest disease
The embryology of the bony craniovertebral junction (CVJ) is reviewed with the purpose of explaining the genesis and unusual configurations of the numerous congenital malformations in this region. Functionally, the bony CVJ can be divided into a central pillar consisting of the basiocciput and dental pivot and a two-tiered ring revolving round the central pivot, comprising the foramen magnum rim and occipital condyles above and the atlantal ring below. Embryologically, the central pillar and the surrounding rings descend from different primordia, and accordingly, developmental anomalies at the CVJ can also be segregated into those affecting the central pillar and those affecting the surrounding rings, respectively.
A logical classification of this seemingly unwieldy group of malformations is thus possible based on their ontogenetic lineage, morbid anatomy, and clinical relevance. Representative examples of the main constituents of this classification scheme are given, and their surgical treatments are selectively discussed.
Craniovertebral junction; Congenital malformations; Genetic control; Occipital–cervical instability; Cord compression; Occipital–cervical fusion; Primary somitogenesis; Sclerotomal resegmentation; Embryology; Malformation; Surgery
Type I male midshipman fish acoustically court females, whereas type II males do not but instead sneak or satellite spawn to compete with type I males for fertilizations. 'Singing' type I males diverge from type II males and females in the organization of an expansive hindbrain pacemaker–motoneuron circuit that establishes the physical attributes of vocalizations. Here, levels of aromatase activity were determined in homogenates of brain by measuring the conversion of 3H-androstenedione (AE) to 3H-oestrone (E1) and 3H-oestradiol (E2). Levels were highest in the telencephalon–preoptic area and similar for all morphs. Lower levels were in a region including the diencephalon, midbrain and cerebellum, although levels were significantly higher in females compared with type I males. In the vocal hindbrain region, aromatase levels were three- to five-fold higher in type II males and females than in type I males, and in castrated type II males than in castrated type I males. Conversion of testosterone to oestrogen in type II males and females may effectively prevent testosterone-induced maturation of the vocal system that characterizes type I males. Aromatase may thus be a key enzyme regulating the expression of individual-specific brain circuitry and behaviours among members of one sex.
The genetic pathways that partition the developing nervous system into functional systems are largely unknown. The engrailed (En) homeobox transcription factors are candidate regulators of this process in the dorsal midbrain (tectum) and anterior hindbrain (cerebellum). En1 mutants lack most of the tectum and cerebellum and die at birth, whereas En2 mutants are viable with a smaller cerebellum and foliation defects. Our previous studies indicated that the difference in phenotypes is due to the earlier expression of En1 as compared with En2, rather than differences in protein function, since knock-in mice expressing En2 in place of En1 have a normal brain. Here, we uncovered a wider spectrum of functions for the En genes by generating a series of En mutant mice. First, using a conditional allele we demonstrate that En1 is required for cerebellum development only before embryonic day 9, but plays a sustained role in forming the tectum. Second, by removing the endogenous En2 gene in the background of En1 knock-in alleles, we show that Drosophila en is not sufficient to sustain midbrain and cerebellum development in the absence of En2, whereas En2 is more potent than En1 in cerebellum development. Third, based on a differential sensitivity to the dose of En1/2, our studies reveal a genetic subdivision of the tectum into its two functional systems and the medial cerebellum into four regions that have distinct circuitry and molecular coding. Our study suggests that an ‘engrailed code’ is integral to partitioning the tectum and cerebellum into functional domains.
Cerebellum; Foliation; Tectum; Patterning; En1; En2; Mouse
Smith-Lemli-Opitz syndrome (SLOS) is a multiple congenital malformation/intellectual disability syndrome, with clinical characteristics encompassing a wide spectrum and great variability. Elucidation of the biochemical and molecular genetic basis for the autosomal recessively inherited SLOS, specifically, understanding SLOS as a cholesterol deficiency syndrome caused by mutations in DHCR7, opened up enormous possibilities for therapeutic intervention. When cholesterol was discovered to be the activator of sonic hedgehog, cholesterol deficiency with inactivation of this developmental patterning gene was thought to be the cause of SLOS malformations, yet this explanation is overly simplistic. Still, despite these important research breakthroughs, there is no proven treatment for SLOS. Better animal models are needed to allow potential treatment testing and the study of disease pathophysiology, which is incompletely understood. Creation of human cellular models will surely be useful, especially models of brain cells. In vivo human studies are essential as well. There have only been limited natural history studies of SLOS to date. Biomarker development will be critical in facilitating clinical trials in this rare condition, since clinical phenotype may change over many years. Additional research in these and other areas is critical if we are to make headway towards ameloriating the effects of this devastating condition.
congenital malformation/intellectual disability syndrome; cholesterol deficiency; 7-dehydroreductase; DHCR7; dehydrocholesterol
The acronym COACH defines an autosomal recessive condition of Cerebellar vermis hypo/aplasia, Oligophrenia, congenital Ataxia, Coloboma and Hepatic fibrosis. Patients present the “molar tooth sign”, a midbrain-hindbrain malformation pathognomonic for Joubert Syndrome (JS) and Related Disorders (JSRDs). The main feature of COACH is congenital hepatic fibrosis (CHF), resulting from malformation of the embryonic ductal plate. CHF is invariably found also in Meckel syndrome (MS), a lethal ciliopathy already found to be allelic with JSRDs at the CEP290 and RPGRIP1L genes. Recently, mutations in the MKS3 gene (approved symbol TMEM67), causative of about 7% MS cases, have been detected in few Meckel-like and pure JS patients. Analysis of MKS3 in 14 COACH families identified mutations in 8 (57%). Features such as colobomas and nephronophthisis were found only in a subset of mutated cases. These data confirm COACH as a distinct JSRD subgroup with core features of JS plus CHF, which major gene is MKS3, and further strengthen gene-phenotype correlates in JSRDs.
COACH syndrome; MKS3; TMEM67; Joubert syndrome and related disorders; congenital hepatic fibrosis