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1.  Lack of association between the CHL1 gene and adolescent idiopathic scoliosis susceptibility in Han Chinese: a case-control study 
A previous genome-wide association study (GWAS) suggested a strong association between the single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) rs10510181 in the proximity of the gene encoding a cell adhesion molecule with homology to L1CAM (CHL1) and adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS) in Caucasians. To clarify the role of CHL1 in the etiopathogenesis of AIS, we performed a case-control replication study in a Han Chinese population.
Five hundred female AIS patients between 10 and 18 years of age, as well as 500 age- and sex-matched controls were included. This study was conducted as a 2-stage case-control analysis: initial screening for the association between AIS and SNPs in and around the CHL1 gene (186 cases and 169 controls) followed by a confirmation test (314 cases and 331 controls). rs10510181 and 4 SNPs (rs2055314, rs331894, rs2272522, and rs2272524) in the CHL1 gene were selected for genotyping.
Putative associations were shown between AIS and rs10510181, rs2055314, and rs2272522 in stage I. However, the associations were not confirmed in stage II. For rs10510181, the genotype frequencies were GG 28.8%, GA 46.2%, and AA 25.0% in AIS patients and GG 29.8%, GA 48.8%, and AA 21.4% in controls. No significant difference was found in genotype distribution between cases and controls (P = 0.39). Similarly, the genotype and allele distribution were comparable between case and control for rs2055314 and rs2272522.
There was no statistical association between polymorphisms of the CHL1 gene and idiopathic scoliosis in a Chinese population.
PMCID: PMC3925962  PMID: 24512353
Adolescent idiopathic scoliosis; CHL1; Chinese; Polymorphism
2.  Quantification of SLIT-ROBO transcripts in hepatocellular carcinoma reveals two groups of genes with coordinate expression 
BMC Cancer  2008;8:392.
SLIT-ROBO families of proteins mediate axon pathfinding and their expression is not solely confined to nervous system. Aberrant expression of SLIT-ROBO genes was repeatedly shown in a wide variety of cancers, yet data about their collective behavior in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is missing. Hence, we quantified SLIT-ROBO transcripts in HCC cell lines, and in normal and tumor tissues from liver.
Expression of SLIT-ROBO family members was quantified by real-time qRT-PCR in 14 HCC cell lines, 8 normal and 35 tumor tissues from the liver. ANOVA and Pearson's correlation analyses were performed in R environment, and different clinicopathological subgroups were pairwise compared in Minitab. Gene expression matrices of cell lines and tissues were analyzed by Mantel's association test.
Genewise hierarchical clustering revealed two subgroups with coordinate expression pattern in both the HCC cell lines and tissues: ROBO1, ROBO2, SLIT1 in one cluster, and ROBO4, SLIT2, SLIT3 in the other, respectively. Moreover, SLIT-ROBO expression predicted AFP-dependent subgrouping of HCC cell lines, but not that of liver tissues. ROBO1 and ROBO2 were significantly up-regulated, whereas SLIT3 was significantly down-regulated in cell lines with high-AFP background. When compared to normal liver tissue, ROBO1 was found to be significantly overexpressed, while ROBO4 was down-regulated in HCC. We also observed that ROBO1 and SLIT2 differentiated histopathological subgroups of liver tissues depending on both tumor staging and differentiation status. However, ROBO4 could discriminate poorly differentiated HCC from other subgroups.
The present study is the first in comprehensive and quantitative evaluation of SLIT-ROBO family gene expression in HCC, and suggests that the expression of SLIT-ROBO genes is regulated in hepatocarcinogenesis. Our results implicate that SLIT-ROBO transcription profile is bi-modular in nature, and that each module shows intrinsic variability. We also provide quantitative evidence for potential use of ROBO1, ROBO4 and SLIT2 for prediction of tumor stage and differentiation status.
PMCID: PMC2632672  PMID: 19114000
3.  Mutations in a Human ROBO Gene Disrupt Hindbrain Axon Pathway Crossing and Morphogenesis 
Science (New York, N.Y.)  2004;304(5676):1509-1513.
The mechanisms controlling axon guidance are of fundamental importance in understanding brain development. Growing corticospinal and somatosensory axons cross the midline in the medulla to reach their targets and thus form the basis of contralateral motor control and sensory input. The motor and sensory projections appeared uncrossed in patients with horizontal gaze palsy with progressive scoliosis (HGPPS). In patients affected with HGPPS, we identified mutations in the ROBO3 gene, which shares homology with roundabout genes important in axon guidance in developing Drosophila, zebrafish, and mouse. Like its murine homolog Rig1/Robo3, but unlike other Robo proteins, ROBO3 is required for hindbrain axon midline crossing.
PMCID: PMC1618874  PMID: 15105459
4.  The Axon Guidance Receptor Gene ROBO1 Is a Candidate Gene for Developmental Dyslexia  
PLoS Genetics  2005;1(4):e50.
Dyslexia, or specific reading disability, is the most common learning disorder with a complex, partially genetic basis, but its biochemical mechanisms remain poorly understood. A locus on Chromosome 3, DYX5, has been linked to dyslexia in one large family and speech-sound disorder in a subset of small families. We found that the axon guidance receptor gene ROBO1, orthologous to the Drosophila roundabout gene, is disrupted by a chromosome translocation in a dyslexic individual. In a large pedigree with 21 dyslexic individuals genetically linked to a specific haplotype of ROBO1 (not found in any other chromosomes in our samples), the expression of ROBO1 from this haplotype was absent or attenuated in affected individuals. Sequencing of ROBO1 in apes revealed multiple coding differences, and the selection pressure was significantly different between the human, chimpanzee, and gorilla branch as compared to orangutan. We also identified novel exons and splice variants of ROBO1 that may explain the apparent phenotypic differences between human and mouse in heterozygous loss of ROBO1. We conclude that dyslexia may be caused by partial haplo-insufficiency for ROBO1 in rare families. Thus, our data suggest that a slight disturbance in neuronal axon crossing across the midline between brain hemispheres, dendrite guidance, or another function of ROBO1 may manifest as a specific reading disability in humans.
Dyslexia, or specific reading disability, is a common learning disorder with a complex, partially genetic basis. A number of chromosomal regions harboring genes involved in dyslexia have been identified, and in this study the authors describe a candidate gene from one such locus, called DYX5, on Chromosome 3. The authors show that an axon guidance receptor gene, ROBO1, is disrupted by a chromosomal translocation in one dyslexic individual; furthermore, this study shows that the expression of ROBO1 is reduced on chromosomes from dyslexics in a large pedigree in which dyslexia has been linked to DYX5. ROBO1 has a role in regulating axon crossing across the midline between brain hemispheres and guidance of neuronal dendrites. As suggested by these findings, dyslexia may be caused in rare families by a small change in the expression of ROBO1, such as loss of one functional copy. Thus, ROBO1 is a candidate for a dyslexia susceptibility gene.
PMCID: PMC1270007  PMID: 16254601
5.  Crucial roles of Robo proteins in midline crossing of cerebellofugal axons and lack of their up-regulation after midline crossing 
Neural Development  2008;3:29.
Robo1, Robo2 and Rig-1 (Robo3), members of the Robo protein family, are candidate receptors for the chemorepellents Slit and are known to play a crucial role in commissural axon guidance in the spinal cord. However, their roles at other axial levels remain unknown. Here we examine expression of Robo proteins by cerebellofugal (CF) commissural axons in the rostral hindbrain and investigate their roles in CF axon pathfinding by analysing Robo knockout mice.
We analysed the expression of Robo proteins by CF axons originating from deep cerebellar neurons in rodent embryos, focusing on developmental stages of their midline crossing and post-crossing navigation. At the stage of CF axon midline crossing, mRNAs of Robo1 and Robo2 are expressed in the nuclear transitory zone of the cerebellum, where the primordium of the deep cerebellar nuclei are located, supporting the notion that CF axons express Robo1 and Robo2. Indeed, immunohistochemical analysis of CF axons labelled by electroporation to deep cerebellar nuclei neurons indicates that Robo1 protein, and possibly also Robo2 protein, is expressed by CF axons crossing the midline. However, weak or no expression of these proteins is found on the longitudinal portion of CF axons. In Robo1/2 double knockout mice, many CF axons reach the midline but fail to exit it. We find that CF axons express Rig-1 (Robo3) before they reach the midline but not after the longitudinal turn. Consistent with this in vivo observation, axons elicited from a cerebellar explant in co-culture with a floor plate explant express Rig-1. In Rig-1 deficient mouse embryos, CF axons appear to project ipsilaterally without reaching the midline.
These results indicate that Robo1, Robo2 or both are required for midline exit of CF axons. In contrast, Rig-1 is required for their approach to the midline. However, post-crossing up-regulation of these proteins, which plays an important role in spinal commissural axon guidance, does not appear to be required for the longitudinal navigation of CF axons after midline crossing. Our results illustrate that although common mechanisms operate for midline crossing at different axial levels, significant variation exists in post-crossing navigation.
PMCID: PMC2613388  PMID: 18986510
6.  Genome-wide association study of antibody response to Newcastle disease virus in chicken 
BMC Genetics  2013;14:42.
Since the first outbreak in Indonesia in 1926, Newcastle disease has become one of the most common and contagious bird diseases throughout the world. To date, enhancing host antibody response by vaccination remains the most efficient strategy to control outbreaks of Newcastle disease. Antibody response plays an important role in host resistance to Newcastle disease, and selection for antibody response can effectively improve disease resistance in chickens. However, the molecular basis of the variation in antibody response to Newcastle disease virus (NDV) is not clear. The aim of this study was to detect genes modulating antibody response to NDV by a genome-wide association study (GWAS) in chickens.
To identify genes or chromosomal regions associated with antibody response to NDV after immunization, a GWAS was performed using 39,833 SNP markers in a chicken F2 resource population derived from a cross between two broiler lines that differed in their resistance. Two SNP effects reached 5% Bonferroni genome-wide significance (P<1.26×10-6). These two SNPs, rs15354805 and rs15355555, were both on chicken (Gallus gallus) chromosome 1 and spanned approximately 600 Kb, from 100.4 Mb to 101.0 Mb. Rs15354805 is in intron 7 of the chicken Roundabout, axon guidance receptor, homolog 2 (ROBO2) gene, and rs15355555 is located about 243 Kb upstream of ROBO2. Rs15354805 explained 5% of the phenotypic variation in antibody response to NDV, post immunization, in chickens. Rs15355555 had a similar effect as rs15354805 because of its linkage disequilibrium with rs15354805 (r2=0.98).
The region at about 100 Mb from the proximal end of chicken chromosome 1, including the ROBO1 and ROBO2 genes, has a strong effect on the antibody response to the NDV in chickens. This study paves the way for further research on the host immune response to NDV.
PMCID: PMC3654938  PMID: 23663563
Chicken; Newcastle disease; Antibody response; Genome-wide association study
7.  Genetic Dissection of the Function of Hindbrain Axonal Commissures 
PLoS Biology  2010;8(3):e1000325.
The Robo3 receptor controls midline crossing by axons. Deleting Robo3 in specific commissural neurons with a conditional knockout reveals their contribution to sensory and motor integration, and models human neurological conditions.
In Bilateria, many axons cross the midline of the central nervous system, forming well-defined commissures. Whereas in mammals the functions of commissures in the forebrain and in the visual system are well established, functions at other axial levels are less clearly understood. Here, we have dissected the function of several hindbrain commissures using genetic methods. By taking advantage of multiple Cre transgenic lines, we have induced site-specific deletions of the Robo3 receptor. These lines developed with the disruption of specific commissures in the sensory, motor, and sensorimotor systems, resulting in severe and permanent functional deficits. We show that mice with severely reduced commissures in rhombomeres 5 and 3 have abnormal lateral eye movements and auditory brainstem responses, respectively, whereas mice with a primarily uncrossed climbing fiber/Purkinje cell projection are strongly ataxic. Surprisingly, although rerouted axons remain ipsilateral, they still project to their appropriate neuronal targets. Moreover, some Cre;Robo3 lines represent potential models that can be used to study human syndromes, including horizontal gaze palsy with progressive scoliosis (HGPPS). To our knowledge, this study is one of the first to link defects in commissural axon guidance with specific cellular and behavioral phenotypes.
Author Summary
Coordination of the left and right sides of the body requires the action of neurons whose axons cross the nervous system midline. The precise contributions of “commissural” neurons to sensory and motor functions remain poorly understood. To probe these crossing circuits, we took advantage of the recent finding that the Robo3 axon guidance receptor is required for midline crossing by axons at most axial levels. A Robo3 conditional knockout mouse line was generated, allowing Robo3 to be deleted in selective neuronal populations. This led to disruption of specific commissures in the sensory, motor, and sensorimotor systems, and resulted in severe but specific functional deficits. Surprisingly, although rerouted axons do not cross the midline, they still project to their appropriate neuronal targets, suggesting that midline crossing is not required to complete the axonal guidance program of those neurons. Moreover, some of the mouse lines represent good models for human syndromes, including horizontal gaze palsy with progressive scoliosis (HGPPS), which is characterized by deficits in coordinated eye movements. This study links defects in commissural axon guidance with specific and dramatic behavioral phenotypes.
PMCID: PMC2834709  PMID: 20231872
8.  Patients with horizontal gaze palsy and progressive scoliosis due to ROBO3 E319K mutation have both uncrossed and crossed central nervous system pathways and perform normally on neuropsychological testing 
Horizontal gaze palsy and progressive scoliosis (HGPPS) is caused by mutations of the ROBO3 gene, which encodes a receptor associated with axonal guidance during development. Although there is evidence for uncrossed cuneatal and corticospinal tracts in HGPPS, it is unclear whether other central nervous system pathways are involved.
To study two patients with HGPPS homozygotic for the ROBO3 E319K mutation using a variety of neurophysiological and neuropsychological tests.
A battery of neuropsychological tests was applied to assess various cognitive and perceptual functions. The corticospinal, somatosensory and auditory pathways were evaluated using appropriate neurophysiological tests. To access motor pathways to the neck muscles, electromyographic recordings were obtained from the sternocleidomastoideus and splenius capitis muscle during active head rotation.
Both patients performed normally on manual dexterity, complex sensory and visuospatial functions, reading and general intelligence tests. Motor evoked potentials in both patients showed uncrossed corticospinal tracts for the extremities, although in one patient, electromyography indicated pyramidal tract crossing for the neck muscles. Although somatosensory evoked potentials showed uncrossed somatosensory fibres subserving proprioception and light touch, right median nerve somatosensory evoked potential in one patient indicated a partial lemniscal crossing. Sympathetic skin response and blink reflex showed a midline crossing of the spinothalamic and quintothalamic tracts. Brain stem auditory evoked potentials indicated a lack of crossing in the level of the trapezoid body.
Our patients with the ROBO3 E319Κ mutation show normal perceptual and cognitive functions and have both crossed and uncrossed motor, sensory and auditory pathways.
PMCID: PMC2077731  PMID: 16772357
9.  Horizontal gaze palsy with progressive scoliosis can result from compound heterozygous mutations in ROBO3 
Journal of Medical Genetics  2006;43(3):e11.
Horizontal gaze palsy with progressive scoliosis (HGPPS) is an autosomal recessive disorder characterised by congenital absence of horizontal gaze, progressive scoliosis, and failure of the corticospinal and somatosensory axon tracts to decussate in the medulla. We previously reported that HGPPS patients from consanguineous pedigrees harbour homozygous mutations in the axon guidance molecule ROBO3.
We now report two sporadic HGPPS children of non‐consanguineous parents who harbour compound heterozygous mutations in ROBO3. The mother of one of the children also had scoliosis DNA was extracted from a blood sample from each participant using a standard protocol, and the coding exons of ROBO3 were amplified and sequenced as previously described.
Each patient harboured two unique heterozygous mutations in ROBO3, having inherited one mutation from each parent.
HGPPS can result from compound heterozygous mutations. More comprehensive examinations of parents and siblings of HGPPS patients are required to determine if the incidence of scoliosis in individuals harbouring heterozygous ROBO3 mutations is greater than in the general population.
PMCID: PMC2563249  PMID: 16525029
HGPPS; horizontal gaze palsy; scoliosis; ROBO3
10.  Unidirectional startle responses and disrupted left-right coordination of motor behaviors in robo3 mutant zebrafish 
Genes, brain, and behavior  2009;8(5):500-511.
The Roundabout (Robo) family of receptors and their Slit ligands play well-established roles in axonal guidance, including in humans where horizontal gaze palsy with progressive scoliosis (HGPPS) is caused by mutations in the robo3 gene. While significant progress has been made towards understanding the mechanism by which Robo receptors establish commissural projections in the central nervous system, less is known about how these projections contribute to neural circuits mediating behavior. Here we report cloning of the zebrafish behavioral mutant twitch twice and show that twitch twice encodes robo3. We demonstrate that in mutant hindbrains the axons of an identified pair of neurons, the Mauthner cells, fail to cross the midline. The Mauthner neurons are essential for the startle response, and in twitch twice/robo3 mutants misguidance of the Mauthner axons results in a unidirectional startle response. Moreover, we show that twitch twice mutants exhibit normal visual acuity but display defects in horizontal eye movements, suggesting a specific and critical role for twitch twice/robo3 in sensory guided behavior.
PMCID: PMC2752477  PMID: 19496826
robo3; zebrafish; behavior; axon guidance; Mauthner cell; optokinetic response
11.  The EBAX-type Cullin-RING E3 Ligase and Hsp90 Guard the Protein Quality of the SAX-3/Robo Receptor in Developing Neurons 
Neuron  2013;79(5):903-916.
Although protein quality control (PQC) is generally perceived as important for the development of the nervous system, the specific mechanisms of neuronal PQC have remained poorly understood. Here, we report that C. elegans EBAX-1 (Elongin BC-Binding AXon regulator), a conserved BC-box protein, regulates axon guidance through PQC of the SAX-3/Robo receptor. EBAX-1 buffers guidance errors against temperature variations. As a substrate-recognition subunit in the Elongin BC-containing Cullin-RING ubiquitin ligase (CRL), EBAX-1 also binds to DAF-21, a cytosolic Hsp90 chaperone. The EBAX-type CRL and DAF-21 collaboratively regulate SAX-3-mediated axon pathfinding. Biochemical and imaging assays indicate that EBAX-1 specifically recognizes misfolded SAX-3 and promotes its degradation in vitro and in vivo. Importantly, vertebrate EBAX also shows substrate preference towards aberrant Robo3 implicated in horizontal gaze palsy with progressive scoliosis (HGPPS). Together, our findings demonstrate a triage PQC mechanism mediated by the EBAX-type CRL and DAF-21/Hsp90 that maintains the accuracy of neuronal wiring.
PMCID: PMC3779136  PMID: 24012004
Cullin; Elongin BC-containing ubiquitin ligase; EBAX-1; ZSWIM8; Hsp90; DAF-21; SAX-3; Robo; protein quality control; axon guidance
12.  Pontine malformation, undecussated pyramidal tracts and regional polymicrogyria: a new syndrome 
Pediatric neurology  2013;50(4):384-388.
Horizontal gaze palsy and progressive scoliosis (HGPPS) is caused by mutations in the ROBO3 gene, which plays a role in axonal guidance during brain development. HGPPS is characterized by the congenital absence of conjugate lateral eye movements with preserved vertical gaze and progressive scoliosis, as well as dysgenesis of brainstem structures and ipsilateral projection of the pyramidal tract.
A 4-year-11-month-old girl presented with psychomotor retardation and autistic traits. Magnetic resonance imaging revealed hypoplasia and malformation of the ventral portion of the pons and medulla oblongata. Diffusion tensor imaging revealed the absence of decussation of the bilateral pyramidal tracts. These findings were similar to the typical findings for HGPPS. However, restriction of horizontal eye movement was minimal, and bilateral polymicrogyria were also noted in the occipitotemporal cortex in the present patient. These findings have not been previously reported in patients with HGPPS. No mutations in the ROBO3, SLIT1, SLIT2, NTN1, SEMA3A and SEMA3F genes were identified.
This patient may have a disorder caused by an unidentified factor, other than a mutation in the genes analyzed, involved in corticogenesis, axonal guidance, and brainstem morphogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3959267  PMID: 24507697
pontine malformation; brainstem hypoplasia; polymicrogyria; axonal guidance; decussation of the pyramidal tract; horizontal gaze palsy and progressive scoliosis
13.  Slit/Robo-mediated axon guidance in Tribolium and Drosophila: divergent genetic programs build insect nervous systems 
Developmental biology  2012;363(1):266-278.
As the complexity of animal nervous systems has increased during evolution, developmental control of neuronal connectivity has become increasingly refined. How has functional diversification within related axon guidance molecules contributed to the evolution of nervous systems? To address this question, we explore the evolution of functional diversity within the Roundabout (Robo) family of axon guidance receptors. In Drosophila, Robo and Robo2 promote midline repulsion, while Robo2 and Robo3 specify the position of longitudinal axon pathways. The Robo family has expanded by gene duplication in insects; robo2 and robo3 exist as distinct genes only within dipterans, while other insects, like the flour beetle Tribolium castaneum, retain an ancestral robo2/3 gene. Both Robos from Tribolium can mediate midline repulsion in Drosophila, but unlike the fly Robos cannot be down-regulated by Commissureless. The overall architecture and arrangement of longitudinal pathways are remarkably conserved in Tribolium, despite it having only two Robos. Loss of TcSlit causes midline collapse of axons in the beetle, a phenotype recapitulated by simultaneous knockdown of both Robos. Single gene knockdowns reveal that beetle Robos have specialized axon guidance functions: TcRobo is dedicated to midline repulsion, while TcRobo2/3 also regulates longitudinal pathway formation. TcRobo2/3 knockdown reproduces aspects of both Drosophila robo2 and robo3 mutants, suggesting that TcRobo2/3 has two functions that in Drosophila are divided between Robo2 and Robo3. The ability of Tribolium to organize longitudinal axons into three discrete medial-lateral zones with only two Robo receptors demonstrates that beetle and fly achieve equivalent developmental outcomes using divergent genetic programs.
PMCID: PMC4128232  PMID: 22245052
Axon Guidance; Midline; Repulsion; Roundabout; Slit; Drosophila; Tribolium
14.  Midbrain dopaminergic axons are guided longitudinally through the diencephalon by Slit/Robo signals 
Dopaminergic neurons from the ventral mesencephalon/diencephalon (mesodiencephalon) form vital pathways constituting the majority of the brain's dopamine systems. Mesodiencephalic dopaminergic (mdDA) neurons extend longitudinal projections anteriorly through the diencephalon, ascending toward forebrain targets. The mechanisms by which mdDA axons initially navigate through the diencephalon are poorly understood. Recently the Slit family of secreted axon guidance proteins, and their Robo receptors, have been identified as important guides for descending longitudinal axons. To test the potential roles of Slit/Robo guidance in ascending trajectories, we examined tyrosine hydroxylase-positive (TH+) projections from mdDA neurons in mutant mouse embryos. We found that mdDA axons grow out of and parallel to Slit-positive ventral regions within the diencephalon, and that subsets of the mdDA axons likely express Robo1 and possibly also Robo2. Slit2 was able to directly inhibit TH axon outgrowth in explant co-culture assays. The mdDA axons made significant pathfinding errors in Slit1/2 and Robo1/2 knockout mice, including spreading out in the diencephalon to form a wider tract. The wider tract resulted from a combination of invasion of the ventral midline, consistent with Slit repulsion, but also axons wandering dorsally, away from the ventral midline. Aberrant dorsal trajectories were prominent in Robo1 and Robo1/2 knockout mice, suggesting that an aspect of Robo receptor function is Slit-independent. These results indicate that Slit/Robo signaling is critical during the initial establishment of dopaminergic pathways, with roles in the dorsoventral positioning and precise pathfinding of these ascending longitudinal axons.
PMCID: PMC3021181  PMID: 21118670
Slit; Robo; Dopaminergic; Longitudinal; Axon guidance
15.  Drosophila Neurexin IV Interacts with Roundabout and is Required for Repulsive Midline Axon Guidance 
Slit/Roundabout (Robo) signaling controls midline repulsive axon guidance. However, proteins that interact with Slit/Robo at the cell surface remain largely uncharacterized. Here, we report that the Drosophila transmembrane septate junction-specific protein, Neurexin IV (Nrx IV), functions in midline repulsive axon guidance. Nrx IV is expressed in the neurons of the developing ventral nerve cord and nrx IV mutants show crossing and circling of ipsilateral axons and fused commissures. Interestingly, the axon guidance defects observed in nrx IV mutants seem independent of its other binding partners such as Contactin and Neuroglian and the midline glia protein Wrapper that interacts in trans with Nrx IV. nrx IV mutants show diffuse Robo localization and dose-dependent genetic interactions between nrx IV/robo and nrx IV/slit indicate that they function in a common pathway. In vivo biochemical studies reveal that Nrx IV associates with Robo, Slit and Syndecan, and interactions between Robo and Slit, or Nrx IV and Slit, are affected in nrx IV and robo mutants, respectively. Coexpression of Nrx IV and Robo in mammalian cells confirms that these proteins retain the ability to interact in a heterologous system. Furthermore, we demonstrate that the extracellular region of Nrx IV is sufficient to rescue Robo localization and axon guidance phenotypes in nrx IV mutants. Together our studies establish that Nrx IV is essential for proper Robo localization, and identify Nrx IV as a novel interacting partner of the Slit/Robo signaling pathway.
PMCID: PMC2869042  PMID: 20410118
Neural Development; Axon Guidance; Midline Glia; Neurexin IV; Robo; Slit
16.  Down-regulation of ROBO2 Expression in Prostate Cancers 
Pathology Oncology Research  2013;20(3):517-519.
Several lines of evidence exist that axon guidance genes are involved in cancer pathogenesis. Axon guidance genes ROBO1 and ROBO2 are candidate tumor suppressor genes (TSG). The aim of our study was to address whether ROBO1 and ROBO2 expressions are altered in prostate cancers (PCA). In this study, we analyzed ROBO1 and ROBO2 expressions in 107 PCAs. In the immunohistochemistry, loss of ROBO2 expression was identified in 66 % of PCAs and was significantly higher than that in normal cells (p < 0.001). By contrast, there was no significant difference of ROBO1 expression between normal and PCAs. Our results indicate that axon guidance protein ROBO2 is frequently lost in PCA and that ROBO2 might be involved in PCA pathogenesis as a candidate TSG.
PMCID: PMC4062814  PMID: 24272677
ROBO2; Prostate cancer; Expression
17.  Genome-Wide Analysis of Central Corneal Thickness in Primary Open-Angle Glaucoma Cases in the NEIGHBOR and GLAUGEN Consortia 
To investigate the effects of central corneal thickness (CCT)-associated variants on primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG) risk using single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP) data from the Glaucoma Genes and Environment (GLAUGEN) and National Eye Institute (NEI) Glaucoma Human Genetics Collaboration (NEIGHBOR) consortia.
A replication analysis of previously reported CCT SNPs was performed in a CCT dataset (n = 1117) and these SNPs were then tested for association with POAG using a larger POAG dataset (n = 6470). Then a CCT genome-wide association study (GWAS) was performed. Top SNPs from this analysis were selected and tested for association with POAG. cDNA libraries from fetal and adult brain and ocular tissue samples were generated and used for candidate gene expression analysis.
Association with one of 20 previously published CCT SNPs was replicated: rs12447690, near the ZNF469 gene (P = 0.001; β = −5.08 μm/allele). None of these SNPs were significantly associated with POAG. In the CCT GWAS, no SNPs reached genome-wide significance. After testing 50 candidate SNPs for association with POAG, one SNP was identified, rs7481514 within the neurotrimin (NTM) gene, that was significantly associated with POAG in a low-tension subset (P = 0.00099; Odds Ratio [OR] = 1.28). Additionally, SNPs in the CNTNAP4 gene showed suggestive association with POAG (top SNP = rs1428758; P = 0.018; OR = 0.84). NTM and CNTNAP4 were shown to be expressed in ocular tissues.
The results suggest previously reported CCT loci are not significantly associated with POAG susceptibility. By performing a quantitative analysis of CCT and a subsequent analysis of POAG, SNPs in two cell adhesion molecules, NTM and CNTNAP4, were identified and may increase POAG susceptibility in a subset of cases.
Reduced central corneal thickness (CCT) is associated with primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG) risk. We investigated the effects of known CCT-associated variants, performed a genome-wide analysis of CCT, and tested the effects of these SNPs on POAG.
PMCID: PMC3394688  PMID: 22661486
18.  Manipulating Robo Expression In Vivo Perturbs Commissural Axon Pathfinding in the Chick Spinal Cord 
In vertebrate embryos, most spinal commissural axons cross the ventral midline (VM) and project either alongside or significant distances away from the floor plate (FP). The upregulation of repulsive Robo1/2 receptors on postcrossing commissural axons, in mammals, presumably allows these axons to respond to the midline-associated repellents, Slit1–3, facilitating their expulsion from, and prohibiting their reentry into, the FP. Compelling data suggest that Robo3 represses Robo1/2 function on precrossing axons and that Robo1/2 inhibit attractive guidance receptors on postcrossing axons, thereby ensuring that decussated axons are selectively responsive to midline Slits. However, whether Robo1/2 expel decussated commissural axons from the VM and/or prevent their reentry into the FP has not been explicitly established in vivo. Furthermore, some commissural axons do not require Robo1/2 to elaborate appropriate contralateral projections in the mouse spinal cord. Here, we use unilateral in ovo electroporation together with Atoh1 and Neurog1 enhancer elements to visualize, and assess the consequences of manipulating Robo expression on, dl1 and dl2 chick commissural axons. In response to misexpressing a cytoplasmic truncation of Robo1 and/or Robo2, which should block all Robo–ligand interactions, postcrossing commissural axons extend alongside, but do not project away from or reenter the FP. In contrast, misexpression of full-length Robo2 prevents many commissural axons from crossing the VM. Together, these findings support key and selective in vivo roles for Robo receptors in presumably altering the responsiveness of decussated commissural axons and facilitating their expulsion from the VM within the chick spinal cord.
PMCID: PMC2886497  PMID: 18753371
Atoh1; Neurog1; floor plate; commissural axon; Robo; Slit
19.  Slit3 inhibits Robo3-induced invasion of synovial fibroblasts in rheumatoid arthritis 
The repellent factor family of Slit molecules has been described to have repulsive function in the developing nervous system on growing axons expressing the Robo receptors. However, until today no data are available on whether these repellent factors are involved in the regulation of synovial fibroblast (SF) activity in rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
mRNA expression in primary synovial fibroblasts was quantified by quantitative reverse transcription PCR and protein expression was measured by fluorescence activated cell sorting (FACS) analysis. Different functional assays were performed with rheumatoid arthritis synovial fibroblasts (RASF): proliferation, migration and a novel in-vitro cartilage destruction assay.
First, we found increased expression of Robo3 expression in RASF compared to normal SF. Interestingly, analysis of data from a recently published genome-wide association study suggests a contribution of ROBO3 gene polymorphisms to susceptibility of RA. Functional assays performed with RASF revealed induction of migration and cartilage destruction by Robo3 and increased matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)1 and MMP3 expression. Treatment of RASF in early passages with Slit3 led to inhibition of migration whereas RASF in later passages, having reduced Robo3 expression in cell culture, were not inhibited by Slit3 treatment. Here, reduction of Robo3 expression from passage 3 to 10 might reflect an important step in losing repulsive activity of Slit3.
Taken together, our data showed that deregulation of the Robo3 receptor in synovial fibroblasts in RA correlates with aggressiveness of the fibroblasts. Slit3 reduces the migratory activity of synovial cells from patients with RA, potentially by repulsion of the cells in analogy to the neuronal system. Further studies will be necessary to prove Slit activity in vivo.
PMCID: PMC2888193  PMID: 20298552
20.  Regulation of Axon Guidance by Compartmentalized Nonsense-Mediated mRNA Decay 
Cell  2013;153(6):1252-1265.
Growth cones enable axons to navigate towards their targets by responding to extracellular signaling molecules. Growth cone responses are mediated in part by the local translation of axonal mRNAs. However, the mechanisms that regulate local translation are poorly understood. Here we show that Robo3.2, a receptor for the Slit family of guidance cues, is synthesized locally within axons of commissural neurons. Robo3.2 translation is induced by floor plate-derived signals as axons cross the spinal cord midline. Robo3.2 is also a predicted target of the nonsense-mediated mRNA decay (NMD) pathway. We find that NMD regulates Robo3.2 synthesis by inducing the degradation of Robo3.2 transcripts in axons that encounter the floor plate. Commissural neurons deficient in NMD proteins exhibit aberrant axonal trajectories after crossing the midline, consistent with misregulation of Robo3.2 expression. These data show that local translation is regulated by mRNA stability, and that NMD acts locally to influence axonal pathfinding.
PMCID: PMC3685487  PMID: 23746841
21.  Functional Diversification of Drosophila Robo Receptors: Differential Immunoglobulin Domain Functions Promote Distinct Axon Guidance Decisions 
Current biology : CB  2010;20(6):567-572.
Recognition molecules of the immunoglobulin (Ig) superfamily control axon guidance in the developing nervous system. Ig-like domains are among the most widely represented protein domains in the human genome and the number of Ig superfamily proteins is strongly correlated with cellular complexity [1]. In Drosophila, three Roundabout (Robo) Ig superfamily receptors respond to their common Slit ligand to regulate axon guidance at the midline: Robo and Robo2 mediate midline repulsion, Robo2 and Robo3 control longitudinal pathway selection, and Robo2 can promote midline crossing [2–5]. How these closely related receptors mediate distinct guidance functions is not understood. We report that the differential functions of Robo2 and Robo3 are specified by their ectodomains and do not reflect differences in cytoplasmic signaling. Functional modularity of Robo2’s ectodomain facilitates multiple guidance decisions: Ig1 and Ig3 of Robo2 confer lateral positioning activity, while Ig2 confers pro-midline crossing activity. Robo2’s distinct functions are not dependent on greater Slit affinity, but instead are due in part to differences in multimerization and receptor-ligand stoichiometry conferred by Robo2’s Ig domains. Together our findings suggest that diverse responses to the Slit guidance cue are imparted by intrinsic structural differences encoded in the extracellular Ig domains of the Robo receptors.
PMCID: PMC4078746  PMID: 20206526
Axon Guidance; Midline; Repulsion; Roundabout; Slit; Lateral Position; Ig domain
22.  Decreased expression of axon-guidance receptors in the anterior cingulate cortex in autism 
Molecular Autism  2011;2:14.
Axon-guidance proteins play a crucial role in brain development. As the dysfunction of axon-guidance signaling is thought to underlie the microstructural abnormalities of the brain in people with autism, we examined the postmortem brains of people with autism to identify any changes in the expression of axon-guidance proteins.
The mRNA and protein expression of axon-guidance proteins, including ephrin (EFN)A4, eEFNB3, plexin (PLXN)A4, roundabout 2 (ROBO)2 and ROBO3, were examined in the anterior cingulate cortex and primary motor cortex of autistic brains (n = 8 and n = 7, respectively) and control brains (n = 13 and n = 8, respectively) using real-time reverse-transcriptase PCR (RT-PCR) and western blotting. Real-time RT-PCR revealed that the relative expression levels of EFNB3, PLXNA4A and ROBO2 were significantly lower in the autistic group than in the control group. The protein levels of these three genes were further analyzed by western blotting, which showed that the immunoreactive values for PLXNA4 and ROBO2, but not for EFNB3, were significantly reduced in the ACC of the autistic brains compared with control brains.
In this study, we found decreased expression of axon-guidance proteins such as PLXNA4 and ROBO2 in the brains of people with autism, and suggest that dysfunctional axon-guidance protein expression may play an important role in the pathophysiology of autism.
PMCID: PMC3177773  PMID: 21859478
23.  Identification of a Susceptibility Locus for Severe Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis on Chromosome 17q24.3 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(9):e72802.
Adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS) is the most common spinal deformity, affecting around 2% of adolescents worldwide. Genetic factors play an important role in its etiology. Using a genome-wide association study (GWAS), we recently identified novel AIS susceptibility loci on chromosomes 10q24.31 and 6q24.1. To identify more AIS susceptibility loci relating to its severity and progression, we performed GWAS by limiting the case subjects to those with severe AIS. Through a two-stage association study using a total of ∼12,000 Japanese subjects, we identified a common variant, rs12946942 that showed a significant association with severe AIS in the recessive model (P = 4.00×10−8, odds ratio [OR] = 2.05). Its association was replicated in a Chinese population (combined P = 6.43×10−12, OR = 2.21). rs12946942 is on chromosome 17q24.3 near the genes SOX9 and KCNJ2, which when mutated cause scoliosis phenotypes. Our findings will offer new insight into the etiology and progression of AIS.
PMCID: PMC3762929  PMID: 24023777
24.  Leaving the midline 
Cell Adhesion & Migration  2009;3(3):300-304.
In the developing nervous system, pathfinding axons navigate through a series of intermediate targets in order to form synaptic connections. Vertebrate spinal commissural axons extend toward and across the floor plate (FP), a key intermediate target located at the ventral midline (VM). Subsequently, post-crossing commissural axons grow either alongside or significant distances away from the floor plate (FP), but never re-cross the VM. Consistent with this behavior, post-crossing commissural axons lose responsiveness to the FP-associated chemoattractants, Netrin-1 and SHH, and gain responsiveness to Slits, which are potent midline repellents, in vitro. In addition, the results of several in vivo studies suggest that the upregulation of Slit-binding repulsive Robo receptors, Robo1/2, alters the responsiveness of decussated commissural axons to midline guidance cues. Nevertheless, in vertebrates, it is unclear whether Robo1/2 are the sole or major repellent receptors responsible for driving these commissural axons away from the VM and preventing their re-entry into the FP. We recently re-visited these issues in the chick spinal cord by assessing the consequences of manipulating Robo expression on commissural axons in ovo. Our findings suggest that, at least in chick embryos, the upregulation of repulsive Robos on post-crossing axons alters the responsiveness of these axons to midline repellents and facilitates their expulsion from, but is not likely to have a significant role in preventing their re-entry into the VM.
PMCID: PMC2712816  PMID: 19556886
Atoh1; Neurog1; floor plate; commissural axon; Robo; Slit
25.  Silencing of directional migration in roundabout4 knockdown endothelial cells 
BMC Cell Biology  2008;9:61.
Roundabouts are axon guidance molecules that have recently been identified to play a role in vascular guidance as well. In this study, we have investigated gene knockdown analysis of endothelial Robos, in particular roundabout 4 (robo4), the predominant Robo in endothelial cells using small interfering RNA technology in vitro.
Robo1 and Robo4 knockdown cells display distinct activity in endothelial cell migration assay. The knockdown of robo4 abrogated the chemotactic response of endothelial cells to serum but enhanced a chemokinetic response to Slit2, while robo1 knockdown cells do not display chemotactic response to serum or VEGF. Robo4 knockdown endothelial cells unexpectedly show up regulation of Rho GTPases. Zebrafish Robo4 rescues both Rho GTPase homeostasis and serum reduced chemotaxis in robo4 knockdown cells. Robo1 and Robo4 interact and share molecules such as Slit2, Mena and Vilse, a Cdc42-GAP. In addition, this study mechanistically implicates IRSp53 in the signaling nexus between activated Cdc42 and Mena, both of which have previously been shown to be involved with Robo4 signaling in endothelial cells.
This study identifies specific components of the Robo signaling apparatus that work together to guide directional migration of endothelial cells.
PMCID: PMC2613885  PMID: 18980679

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