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1.  TCTEX1D2 mutations underlie Jeune asphyxiating thoracic dystrophy with impaired retrograde intraflagellar transport 
Nature Communications  2015;6:7074.
The analysis of individuals with ciliary chondrodysplasias can shed light on sensitive mechanisms controlling ciliogenesis and cell signalling that are essential to embryonic development and survival. Here we identify TCTEX1D2 mutations causing Jeune asphyxiating thoracic dystrophy with partially penetrant inheritance. Loss of TCTEX1D2 impairs retrograde intraflagellar transport (IFT) in humans and the protist Chlamydomonas, accompanied by destabilization of the retrograde IFT dynein motor. We thus define TCTEX1D2 as an integral component of the evolutionarily conserved retrograde IFT machinery. In complex with several IFT dynein light chains, it is required for correct vertebrate skeletal formation but may be functionally redundant under certain conditions.
Severe congenital development defects such as Jeune syndrome can result from the malfunction of primary cilia and dynein. Here Schmidts et al. report unique biallelic null mutations in a gene encoding a dynein light chain, helping to explain the nature of ciliopathies in human patients.
PMCID: PMC4468853  PMID: 26044572
2.  Mutations in mouse Ift144 model the craniofacial, limb and rib defects in skeletal ciliopathies 
Human Molecular Genetics  2012;21(8):1808-1823.
Mutations in components of the intraflagellar transport (IFT) machinery required for assembly and function of the primary cilium cause a subset of human ciliopathies characterized primarily by skeletal dysplasia. Recently, mutations in the IFT-A gene IFT144 have been described in patients with Sensenbrenner and Jeune syndromes, which are associated with short ribs and limbs, polydactyly and craniofacial defects. Here, we describe an N-ethyl-N-nitrosourea-derived mouse mutant with a hypomorphic missense mutation in the Ift144 gene. The mutant twinkle-toes (Ift144twt) phenocopies a number of the skeletal and craniofacial anomalies seen in patients with human skeletal ciliopathies. Like other IFT-A mouse mutants, Ift144 mutant embryos display a generalized ligand-independent expansion of hedgehog (Hh) signalling, in spite of defective ciliogenesis and an attenuation of the ability of mutant cells to respond to upstream stimulation of the pathway. This enhanced Hh signalling is consistent with cleft palate and polydactyly phenotypes in the Ift144twt mutant, although extensive rib branching, fusion and truncation phenotypes correlate with defects in early somite patterning and may reflect contributions from multiple signalling pathways. Analysis of embryos harbouring a second allele of Ift144 which represents a functional null, revealed a dose-dependent effect on limb outgrowth consistent with the short-limb phenotypes characteristic of these ciliopathies. This allelic series of mouse mutants provides a unique opportunity to uncover the underlying mechanistic basis of this intriguing subset of ciliopathies.
PMCID: PMC3313797  PMID: 22228095
3.  Essential Developmental, Genomic Stability, and Tumour Suppressor Functions of the Mouse Orthologue of hSSB1/NABP2 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(2):e1003298.
Single-stranded DNA binding proteins (SSBs) regulate multiple DNA transactions, including replication, transcription, and repair. We recently identified SSB1 as a novel protein critical for the initiation of ATM signaling and DNA double-strand break repair by homologous recombination. Here we report that germline Ssb1−/− embryos die at birth from respiratory failure due to severe rib cage malformation and impaired alveolar development, coupled with additional skeletal defects. Unexpectedly, Ssb1−/− fibroblasts did not exhibit defects in Atm signaling or γ-H2ax focus kinetics in response to ionizing radiation (IR), and B-cell specific deletion of Ssb1 did not affect class-switch recombination in vitro. However, conditional deletion of Ssb1 in adult mice led to increased cancer susceptibility with broad tumour spectrum, impaired male fertility with testicular degeneration, and increased radiosensitivity and IR–induced chromosome breaks in vivo. Collectively, these results demonstrate essential roles of Ssb1 in embryogenesis, spermatogenesis, and genome stability in vivo.
Author Summary
Single-stranded DNA binding proteins (SSBs) play a variety of roles in the cell, regulating transcription, replication, and DNA repair. We recently identified and described a novel SSB, designated SSB1, which was shown to be critical for DNA repair in the cell. In this study we have used a mouse model in which the Ssb1 gene is deleted to further investigate its physiological function. Here, we show that deletion of Ssb1 causes death at birth due to severe respiratory failure, which is caused by an improperly formed rib cage and immature lung development. In addition, we observed multiple additional skeletal defects in Ssb1 deleted mice, indicating that Ssb1 is necessary for proper development of the embryonic skeleton. Furthermore, Ssb1 deletion in the adult mouse caused fertility defects in male mice and led to the development of a variety of tumours. Together, these studies demonstrate a novel and critical role of Ssb1 in embryonic development, in fertility, and in the protection from tumour formation.
PMCID: PMC3567186  PMID: 23408915
4.  The IFT-A complex regulates Shh signaling through cilia structure and membrane protein trafficking 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2012;197(6):789-800.
Mutations in mouse intraflagellar transport–A complex genes alter Sonic hedgehog signaling because of their effects on cilia structure and on trafficking of membrane proteins into cilia.
Two intraflagellar transport (IFT) complexes, IFT-A and IFT-B, build and maintain primary cilia and are required for activity of the Sonic hedgehog (Shh) pathway. A weak allele of the IFT-A gene, Ift144, caused subtle defects in cilia structure and ectopic activation of the Shh pathway. In contrast, strong loss of IFT-A, caused by either absence of Ift144 or mutations in two IFT-A genes, blocked normal ciliogenesis and decreased Shh signaling. In strong IFT-A mutants, the Shh pathway proteins Gli2, Sufu, and Kif7 localized correctly to cilia tips, suggesting that these pathway components were trafficked by IFT-B. In contrast, the membrane proteins Arl13b, ACIII, and Smo failed to localize to primary cilia in the absence of IFT-A. We propose that the increased Shh activity seen in partial loss-of-function IFT-A mutants may be a result of decreased ciliary ACIII and that the loss of Shh activity in the absence of IFT-A is a result of severe disruptions of cilia structure and membrane protein trafficking.
PMCID: PMC3373400  PMID: 22689656
5.  A Genome-Wide Association Study Identifies Five Loci Influencing Facial Morphology in Europeans 
PLoS Genetics  2012;8(9):e1002932.
Inter-individual variation in facial shape is one of the most noticeable phenotypes in humans, and it is clearly under genetic regulation; however, almost nothing is known about the genetic basis of normal human facial morphology. We therefore conducted a genome-wide association study for facial shape phenotypes in multiple discovery and replication cohorts, considering almost ten thousand individuals of European descent from several countries. Phenotyping of facial shape features was based on landmark data obtained from three-dimensional head magnetic resonance images (MRIs) and two-dimensional portrait images. We identified five independent genetic loci associated with different facial phenotypes, suggesting the involvement of five candidate genes—PRDM16, PAX3, TP63, C5orf50, and COL17A1—in the determination of the human face. Three of them have been implicated previously in vertebrate craniofacial development and disease, and the remaining two genes potentially represent novel players in the molecular networks governing facial development. Our finding at PAX3 influencing the position of the nasion replicates a recent GWAS of facial features. In addition to the reported GWA findings, we established links between common DNA variants previously associated with NSCL/P at 2p21, 8q24, 13q31, and 17q22 and normal facial-shape variations based on a candidate gene approach. Overall our study implies that DNA variants in genes essential for craniofacial development contribute with relatively small effect size to the spectrum of normal variation in human facial morphology. This observation has important consequences for future studies aiming to identify more genes involved in the human facial morphology, as well as for potential applications of DNA prediction of facial shape such as in future forensic applications.
Author Summary
Monozygotic twins look more alike than dizygotic twins or other siblings, and siblings in turn look more alike than unrelated individuals, indicating that human facial morphology has a strong genetic component. We quantitatively assessed human facial shape phenotypes based on statistical shape analyses of facial landmarks obtained from three-dimensional magnetic resonance images of the head. These phenotypes turned out to be highly promising for studying the genetic basis of human facial variation in that they showed high heritability in our twin data. A subsequent genome-wide association study (GWAS) identified five candidate genes affecting facial shape in Europeans: PRDM16, PAX3, TP63, C5orf50, and COL17A1. In addition, our data suggest that genetic variants associated with NSCL/P also influence normal facial shape variation. Overall, this study provides novel and confirmatory links between common DNA variants and normal variation in human facial morphology. Our results also suggest that the high heritability of facial phenotypes seems to be explained by a large number of DNA variants with relatively small individual effect size, a phenomenon well known for other complex human traits, such as adult body height.
PMCID: PMC3441666  PMID: 23028347
6.  Tmem26 Is Dynamically Expressed during Palate and Limb Development but Is Not Required for Embryonic Survival 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(9):e25228.
The Tmem26 gene encodes a novel protein that we have previously shown to be regulated by hedgehog signalling in the mouse limb. We now report that Tmem26 expression is spatially and temporally restricted in other regions of the mouse embryo, most notably the facial primordia. In particular, Tmem26 expression in the mesenchyme of the maxillary and nasal prominences is coincident with fusion of the primary palate. In the secondary palate, Tmem26 is expressed in the palatal shelves during their growth and fusion but is downregulated once fusion is complete. Expression was also detected at the midline of the expanding mandible and at the tips of the eyelids as they migrate across the cornea. Given the spatio-temporally restricted expression of Tmem26, we sought to uncover a functional role in embryonic development through targeted gene inactivation in the mouse. However, ubiquitous inactivation of Tmem26 led to no overt phenotype in the resulting embryos or adult mice, suggesting that TMEM26 function is dispensable for embryonic survival.
PMCID: PMC3182993  PMID: 21980401
7.  A genome-wide screen for modifiers of transgene variegation identifies genes with critical roles in development 
Genome Biology  2008;9(12):R182.
An extended ENU screen for modifiers of transgene variegation identified four new modifiers, MommeD7-D10.
Some years ago we established an N-ethyl-N-nitrosourea screen for modifiers of transgene variegation in the mouse and a preliminary description of the first six mutant lines, named MommeD1-D6, has been published. We have reported the underlying genes in three cases: MommeD1 is a mutation in SMC hinge domain containing 1 (Smchd1), a novel modifier of epigenetic gene silencing; MommeD2 is a mutation in DNA methyltransferase 1 (Dnmt1); and MommeD4 is a mutation in Smarca 5 (Snf2h), a known chromatin remodeler. The identification of Dnmt1 and Smarca5 attest to the effectiveness of the screen design.
We have now extended the screen and have identified four new modifiers, MommeD7-D10. Here we show that all ten MommeDs link to unique sites in the genome, that homozygosity for the mutations is associated with severe developmental abnormalities and that heterozygosity results in phenotypic abnormalities and reduced reproductive fitness in some cases. In addition, we have now identified the underlying genes for MommeD5 and MommeD10. MommeD5 is a mutation in Hdac1, which encodes histone deacetylase 1, and MommeD10 is a mutation in Baz1b (also known as Williams syndrome transcription factor), which encodes a transcription factor containing a PHD-type zinc finger and a bromodomain. We show that reduction in the level of Baz1b in the mouse results in craniofacial features reminiscent of Williams syndrome.
These results demonstrate the importance of dosage-dependent epigenetic reprogramming in the development of the embryo and the power of the screen to provide mouse models to study this process.
PMCID: PMC2646286  PMID: 19099580

Results 1-7 (7)