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1.  Novel mutations in human and mouse SCN4A implicate AMPK in myotonia and periodic paralysis 
Brain  2014;137(12):3171-3185.
Corrochano Sanchez et al. identify a novel mutation (I588V) in SCN4A, which encodes the Nav1.4 voltage-gated sodium channel, in a patient with myotonia and periodic paralysis. By generating and characterizing a mouse model (‘draggen’) carrying the equivalent point mutation (I582V), they uncover novel pathological and metabolic features of SCN4A channelopathies.
Mutations in the skeletal muscle channel (SCN4A), encoding the Nav1.4 voltage-gated sodium channel, are causative of a variety of muscle channelopathies, including non-dystrophic myotonias and periodic paralysis. The effects of many of these mutations on channel function have been characterized both in vitro and in vivo. However, little is known about the consequences of SCN4A mutations downstream from their impact on the electrophysiology of the Nav1.4 channel. Here we report the discovery of a novel SCN4A mutation (c.1762A>G; p.I588V) in a patient with myotonia and periodic paralysis, located within the S1 segment of the second domain of the Nav1.4 channel. Using N-ethyl-N-nitrosourea mutagenesis, we generated and characterized a mouse model (named draggen), carrying the equivalent point mutation (c.1744A>G; p.I582V) to that found in the patient with periodic paralysis and myotonia. Draggen mice have myotonia and suffer from intermittent hind-limb immobility attacks. In-depth characterization of draggen mice uncovered novel systemic metabolic abnormalities in Scn4a mouse models and provided novel insights into disease mechanisms. We discovered metabolic alterations leading to lean mice, as well as abnormal AMP-activated protein kinase activation, which were associated with the immobility attacks and may provide a novel potential therapeutic target.
PMCID: PMC4240299  PMID: 25348630
SCN4A; mice; AMPK; periodic paralysis; myotonia
2.  Manipulating and enhancing the RNAi response 
The phenomenon that is known as RNA mediated interference (RNAi) was first observed in the nematode C. elegans. The application of RNAi has now been widely disseminated and the mechanisms underlying the pathway have been uncovered using both genetics and biochemistry. In the worm, it has been demonstrated that RNAi is easily adapted to high throughput analysis and screening protocols. Hence, given the availability of whole genome sequences, RNAi has been used extensively as a tool for annotating gene function. Genetic screens performed with C. elegans have also led to the identification of genes that are essential for RNAi or that modulate the RNAi process. The identification of such genes has made it possible to manipulate and enhance the RNAi response. Moreover, many of the genes identified in C. elegans have been conserved in other organisms. Thus, opportunities are available for researchers to take advantage of the insights gained from the worm and apply them to their own systems in order to improve the efficiency and potency of the RNAi response.
PMCID: PMC2737212  PMID: 19771213
C. elegans; RdRP; RNA interference; siRNA; systemic RNAi
3.  The Atypical Calpains: Evolutionary Analyses and Roles in Caenorhabditis elegans Cellular Degeneration 
PLoS Genetics  2012;8(3):e1002602.
The calpains are physiologically important Ca2+-activated regulatory proteases, which are divided into typical or atypical sub-families based on constituent domains. Both sub-families are present in mammals, but our understanding of calpain function is based primarily on typical sub-family members. Here, we take advantage of the model organism Caenorhabditis elegans, which expresses only atypical calpains, to extend our knowledge of the phylogenetic evolution and function of calpains. We provide evidence that a typical human calpain protein with a penta EF hand, detected using custom profile hidden Markov models, is conserved in ancient metazoans and a divergent clade. These analyses also provide evidence for the lineage-specific loss of typical calpain genes in C. elegans and Ciona, and they reveal that many calpain-like genes lack an intact catalytic triad. Given the association between the dysregulation of typical calpains and human degenerative pathologies, we explored the phenotypes, expression profiles, and consequences of inappropriate reduction or activation of C. elegans atypical calpains. These studies show that the atypical calpain gene, clp-1, contributes to muscle degeneration and reveal that clp-1 activity is sensitive to genetic manipulation of [Ca2+]i. We show that CLP-1 localizes to sarcomeric sub-structures, but is excluded from dense bodies (Z-disks). We find that the muscle degeneration observed in a C. elegans model of dystrophin-based muscular dystrophy can be suppressed by clp-1 inactivation and that nemadipine-A inhibition of the EGL-19 calcium channel reveals that Ca2+ dysfunction underlies the C. elegans MyoD model of myopathy. Taken together, our analyses highlight the roles of calcium dysregulation and CLP-1 in muscle myopathies and suggest that the atypical calpains could retain conserved roles in myofilament turnover.
Author Summary
Calpains are calcium activated non-lysosomal proteases that cleave proteins with exquisite selectivity. Proteins can be activated by calpain cleavage, because they are released from inhibitory constraints, or they can be targeted for further degradation to facilitate their normal physiological turnover or to promote cellular remodelling. Inappropriate calpain activity can lead to degenerative pathologies and cancers. Our understanding of calpain function is based primarily on typical calpains, which carry EF hand motifs that bind Ca2+ or mediate dimerization; however, typical and atypical calpains, which lack EF hand motifs, are both present in mammals. Hence, any therapeutic intervention designed to suppress degenerative conditions, particularly those caused by elevated Ca2+ levels, should also consider the potential involvement of atypical calpains. We have taken advantage of the model organism C. elegans, which only encodes atypical calpain proteins, to gain an understanding of the evolution and activities of these proteins. We show that the CLP-1 atypical calpain is normally expressed in muscle and localizes to sarcomeric sub-structures. We find that CLP-1 contributes to the muscle degeneration observed in a model of Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Our studies also highlight the importance of calcium dysregulation in promoting CLP-1 activity and muscle degeneration.
PMCID: PMC3315469  PMID: 22479198

Results 1-3 (3)