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1.  Correction: Mutations in CERS3 Cause Autosomal Recessive Congenital Ichthyosis in Humans 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(6):10.1371/annotation/df5af830-8e1d-495a-a206-f881ed85e7fe.
PMCID: PMC3758471
2.  Mutations in CERS3 Cause Autosomal Recessive Congenital Ichthyosis in Humans 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(6):e1003536.
Autosomal recessive congenital ichthyosis (ARCI) is a rare genetic disorder of the skin characterized by abnormal desquamation over the whole body. In this study we report four patients from three consanguineous Tunisian families with skin, eye, heart, and skeletal anomalies, who harbor a homozygous contiguous gene deletion syndrome on chromosome 15q26.3. Genome-wide SNP-genotyping revealed a homozygous region in all affected individuals, including the same microdeletion that partially affects two coding genes (ADAMTS17, CERS3) and abolishes a sequence for a long non-coding RNA (FLJ42289). Whereas mutations in ADAMTS17 have recently been identified in autosomal recessive Weill-Marchesani-like syndrome in humans and dogs presenting with ophthalmologic, cardiac, and skeletal abnormalities, no disease associations have been described for CERS3 (ceramide synthase 3) and FLJ42289 so far. However, analysis of additional patients with non-syndromic ARCI revealed a splice site mutation in CERS3 indicating that a defect in ceramide synthesis is causative for the present skin phenotype of our patients. Functional analysis of patient skin and in vitro differentiated keratinocytes demonstrated that mutations in CERS3 lead to a disturbed sphingolipid profile with reduced levels of epidermis-specific very long-chain ceramides that interferes with epidermal differentiation. Taken together, these data present a novel pathway involved in ARCI development and, moreover, provide the first evidence that CERS3 plays an essential role in human sphingolipid metabolism for the maintenance of epidermal lipid homeostasis.
Author Summary
Autosomal recessive congenital ichthyosis (ARCI) is a heterogeneous group of human keratinization disorders mainly characterized by generalized abnormal scaling of the skin. To date, positional cloning and homozygosity mapping of families with ARCI have identified disease-associated mutations in seven genes: ABCA12, ALOX12B, ALOXE3, CYP4F22, ICHTHYIN, PNPLA1, and TGM1. The reported molecular mechanisms underlying disease development are related to defects in epidermal lipid pathways that interfere with terminal keratinocyte differentiation and skin barrier function. In this study we used genome-wide SNP mapping, which identified homozygous mutations in the CERS3 (ceramide synthase 3) gene that cause a new type of ARCI. Functional analysis of a skin sample and in vitro differentiated keratinocytes from one patient demonstrated that mutated CERS3 impairs the synthesis of ceramides with very long-chain acyl moieties. The defect in sphingolipid metabolism disturbs the epidermal lipid profile, which leads to an abnormal terminal differentiation process. In summary, mutations in CERS3 are causative for ARCI and illustrate the important role of ceramide synthesis in human skin physiology.
PMCID: PMC3675029  PMID: 23754960
3.  Y-Chromosome Variation in Hominids: Intraspecific Variation Is Limited to the Polygamous Chimpanzee 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(12):e29311.
We have previously demonstrated that the Y-specific ampliconic fertility genes DAZ (deleted in azoospermia) and CDY (chromodomain protein Y) varied with respect to copy number and position among chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). In comparison, seven Y-chromosomal lineages of the bonobo (Pan paniscus), the chimpanzee's closest living relative, showed no variation. We extend our earlier comparative investigation to include an analysis of the intraspecific variation of these genes in gorillas (Gorilla gorilla) and orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus), and examine the resulting patterns in the light of the species' markedly different social and mating behaviors.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Fluorescence in situ hybridization analysis (FISH) of DAZ and CDY in 12 Y-chromosomal lineages of western lowland gorilla (G. gorilla gorilla) and a single lineage of the eastern lowland gorilla (G. beringei graueri) showed no variation among lineages. Similar findings were noted for the 10 Y-chromosomal lineages examined in the Bornean orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus), and 11 Y-chromosomal lineages of the Sumatran orangutan (P. abelii). We validated the contrasting DAZ and CDY patterns using quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) in chimpanzee and bonobo.
High intraspecific variation in copy number and position of the DAZ and CDY genes is seen only in the chimpanzee. We hypothesize that this is best explained by sperm competition that results in the variant DAZ and CDY haplotypes detected in this species. In contrast, bonobos, gorillas and orangutans—species that are not subject to sperm competition—showed no intraspecific variation in DAZ and CDY suggesting that monoandry in gorillas, and preferential female mate choice in bonobos and orangutans, probably permitted the fixation of a single Y variant in each taxon. These data support the notion that the evolutionary history of a primate Y chromosome is not simply encrypted in its DNA sequences, but is also shaped by the social and behavioral circumstances under which the specific species has evolved.
PMCID: PMC3246485  PMID: 22216243
4.  Diversification and Molecular Evolution of ATOH8, a Gene Encoding a bHLH Transcription Factor 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(8):e23005.
ATOH8 is a bHLH domain transcription factor implicated in the development of the nervous system, kidney, pancreas, retina and muscle. In the present study, we collected sequence of ATOH8 orthologues from 18 vertebrate species and 24 invertebrate species. The reconstruction of ATOH8 phylogeny and sequence analysis showed that this gene underwent notable divergences during evolution. For those vertebrate species investigated, we analyzed the gene structure and regulatory elements of ATOH8. We found that the bHLH domain of vertebrate ATOH8 was highly conserved. Mammals retained some specific amino acids in contrast to the non-mammalian orthologues. Mammals also developed another potential isoform, verified by a human expressed sequence tag (EST). Comparative genomic analyses of the regulatory elements revealed a replacement of the ancestral TATA box by CpG-islands in the eutherian mammals and an evolutionary tendency for TATA box reduction in vertebrates in general. We furthermore identified the region of the effective promoter of human ATOH8 which could drive the expression of EGFP reporter in the chicken embryo. In the opossum, both the coding region and regulatory elements of ATOH8 have some special features, such as the unique extended C-terminus encoded by the third exon and absence of both CpG islands and TATA elements in the regulatory region. Our gene mapping data showed that in human, ATOH8 was hosted in one chromosome which is a fusion product of two orthologous chromosomes in non-human primates. This unique chromosomal environment of human ATOH8 probably subjects its expression to the regulation at chromosomal level. We deduce that the great interspecific differences found in both ATOH8 gene sequence and its regulatory elements might be significant for the fine regulation of its spatiotemporal expression and roles of ATOH8, thus orchestrating its function in different tissues and organisms.
PMCID: PMC3150394  PMID: 21857980
5.  Correction: Y Chromosomal Variation Tracks the Evolution of Mating Systems in Chimpanzee and Bonobo 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(11):10.1371/annotation/14d47e6a-400a-429e-a487-6dd375e04632.
PMCID: PMC2982988
6.  Y Chromosomal Variation Tracks the Evolution of Mating Systems in Chimpanzee and Bonobo 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(9):e12482.
The male-specific regions of the Y chromosome (MSY) of the human and the chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) are fully sequenced. The most striking difference is the dramatic rearrangement of large parts of their respective MSYs. These non-recombining regions include ampliconic gene families that are known to be important for male reproduction,and are consequently under significant selective pressure. However, whether the published Y-chromosomal pattern of ampliconic fertility genes is invariable within P. troglodytes is an open but fundamental question pertinent to discussions of the evolutionary fate of the Y chromosome in different primate mating systems. To solve this question we applied fluorescence in situ hybridisation (FISH) of testis-specific expressed ampliconic fertility genes to metaphase Y chromosomes of 17 chimpanzees derived from 11 wild-born males and 16 bonobos representing seven wild-born males. We show that of eleven P. troglodytes Y-chromosomal lines, ten Y-chromosomal variants were detected based on the number and arrangement of the ampliconic fertility genes DAZ (deleted in azoospermia) and CDY (chromodomain protein Y)—a so-far never-described variation of a species' Y chromosome. In marked contrast, no variation was evident among seven Y-chromosomal lines of the bonobo, P. paniscus, the chimpanzee's closest living relative. Although, loss of variation of the Y chromosome in the bonobo by a founder effect or genetic drift cannot be excluded, these contrasting patterns might be explained in the context of the species' markedly different social and mating behaviour. In chimpanzees, multiple males copulate with a receptive female during a short period of visible anogenital swelling, and this may place significant selection on fertility genes. In bonobos, however, female mate choice may make sperm competition redundant (leading to monomorphism of fertility genes), since ovulation in this species is concealed by the prolonged anogenital swelling, and because female bonobos can occupy high-ranking positions in the group and are thus able to determine mate choice more freely.
PMCID: PMC2931694  PMID: 20824190
7.  A Novel System of Polymorphic and Diverse NK Cell Receptors in Primates 
PLoS Genetics  2009;5(10):e1000688.
There are two main classes of natural killer (NK) cell receptors in mammals, the killer cell immunoglobulin-like receptors (KIR) and the structurally unrelated killer cell lectin-like receptors (KLR). While KIR represent the most diverse group of NK receptors in all primates studied to date, including humans, apes, and Old and New World monkeys, KLR represent the functional equivalent in rodents. Here, we report a first digression from this rule in lemurs, where the KLR (CD94/NKG2) rather than KIR constitute the most diverse group of NK cell receptors. We demonstrate that natural selection contributed to such diversification in lemurs and particularly targeted KLR residues interacting with the peptide presented by MHC class I ligands. We further show that lemurs lack a strict ortholog or functional equivalent of MHC-E, the ligands of non-polymorphic KLR in “higher” primates. Our data support the existence of a hitherto unknown system of polymorphic and diverse NK cell receptors in primates and of combinatorial diversity as a novel mechanism to increase NK cell receptor repertoire.
Author Summary
Most receptors of natural killer (NK) cells interact with highly polymorphic major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I molecules and thereby regulate the activity of NK cells against infected or malignant target cells. Whereas humans, apes, and Old and New World monkeys use the family of killer cell immunoglobulin-like receptors (KIR) as highly diverse NK cell receptors, this function is performed in rodents by the diverse family of lectin-like receptors Ly49. When did this functional separation occur in evolution? We followed this by investigating lemurs, primates that are distantly related to humans. We show here that lemurs employ the CD94/NKG2 family as their highly diversified NK cell receptors. The CD94/NKG2 receptors also belong to the lectin-like receptor family, but are rather conserved in “higher” primates and rodents. We could further demonstrate that lemurs have a single Ly49 gene like other primates but lack functional KIR genes of the KIR3DL lineage and show major deviations in their MHC class I genomic organisation. Thus, lemurs have evolved a “third way” of polymorphic and diverse NK cell receptors. In addition, the multiplied lemur CD94/NKG2 receptors can be freely combined, thereby forming diverse receptors. This is, therefore, the first description of some combinatorial diversity of NK cell receptors.
PMCID: PMC2757895  PMID: 19834558
8.  Complex Evolution of a Y-Chromosomal Double Homeobox 4 (DUX4)-Related Gene Family in Hominoids 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(4):e5288.
The human Y chromosome carries four human Y-chromosomal euchromatin/heterochromatin transition regions, all of which are characterized by the presence of interchromosomal segmental duplications. The Yq11.1/Yq11.21 transition region harbours a peculiar segment composed of an imperfectly organized tandem-repeat structure encoding four members of the double homeobox (DUX) gene family. By comparative fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) analysis we have documented the primary appearance of Y-chromosomal DUX genes (DUXY) on the gibbon Y chromosome. The major amplification and dispersal of DUXY paralogs occurred after the gibbon and hominid lineages had diverged. Orthologous DUXY loci of human and chimpanzee show a highly similar structural organization. Sequence alignment survey, phylogenetic reconstruction and recombination detection analyses of human and chimpanzee DUXY genes revealed the existence of all copies in a common ancestor. Comparative analysis of the circumjacent beta-satellites indicated that DUXY genes and beta-satellites evolved in concert. However, evolutionary forces acting on DUXY genes may have induced amino acid sequence differences in the orthologous chimpanzee and human DUXY open reading frames (ORFs). The acquisition of complete ORFs in human copies might relate to evolutionary advantageous functions indicating neo-functionalization. We propose an evolutionary scenario in which an ancestral tandem array DUX gene cassette transposed to the hominoid Y chromosome followed by lineage-specific chromosomal rearrangements paved the way for a species-specific evolution of the Y-chromosomal members of a large highly diverged homeobox gene family.
PMCID: PMC2671837  PMID: 19404400
9.  Chromosomal evolution of the PKD1 gene family in primates 
Correction to Kirsch S, Pasantes J, Wolf A, Bogdanova N, Münch C, Pennekamp P, Krawczak M, Dworniczak B, Schempp W: Chromosomal evolution of the PKD1 gene family in primates. BMC Evolutionary Biology 2008, 8:263 (doi:10.1186/1471-2148-8-263)
PMCID: PMC2649905
10.  Evolutionary analysis of the highly dynamic CHEK2 duplicon in anthropoids 
Segmental duplications (SDs) are euchromatic portions of genomic DNA (≥ 1 kb) that occur at more than one site within the genome, and typically share a high level of sequence identity (>90%). Approximately 5% of the human genome is composed of such duplicated sequences. Here we report the detailed investigation of CHEK2 duplications. CHEK2 is a multiorgan cancer susceptibility gene encoding a cell cycle checkpoint kinase acting in the DNA-damage response signalling pathway. The continuous presence of the CHEK2 gene in all eukaryotes and its important role in maintaining genome stability prompted us to investigate the duplicative evolution and phylogeny of CHEK2 and its paralogs during anthropoid evolution.
To study CHEK2 duplicon evolution in anthropoids we applied a combination of comparative FISH and in silico analyses. Our comparative FISH results with a CHEK2 fosmid probe revealed the single-copy status of CHEK2 in New World monkeys, Old World monkeys and gibbons. Whereas a single CHEK2 duplication was detected in orangutan, a multi-site signal pattern indicated a burst of duplication in African great apes and human. Phylogenetic analysis of paralogous and ancestral CHEK2 sequences in human, chimpanzee and rhesus macaque confirmed this burst of duplication, which occurred after the radiation of orangutan and African great apes. In addition, we used inter-species quantitative PCR to determine CHEK2 copy numbers. An amplification of CHEK2 was detected in African great apes and the highest CHEK2 copy number of all analysed species was observed in the human genome. Furthermore, we detected variation in CHEK2 copy numbers within the analysed set of human samples.
Our detailed analysis revealed the highly dynamic nature of CHEK2 duplication during anthropoid evolution. We determined a burst of CHEK2 duplication after the radiation of orangutan and African great apes and identified the highest CHEK2 copy number in human. In conclusion, our analysis of CHEK2 duplicon evolution revealed that SDs contribute to inter-species variation. Furthermore, our qPCR analysis led us to presume CHEK2 copy number variation in human, and molecular diagnostics of the cancer susceptibility gene CHEK2 inside the duplicated region might be hampered by the individual-specific set of duplicons.
PMCID: PMC2566985  PMID: 18831734
11.  Chromosomal evolution of the PKD1 gene family in primates 
The autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease (ADPKD) is mostly caused by mutations in the PKD1 (polycystic kidney disease 1) gene located in 16p13.3. Moreover, there are six pseudogenes of PKD1 that are located proximal to the master gene in 16p13.1. In contrast, no pseudogene could be detected in the mouse genome, only a single copy gene on chromosome 17. The question arises how the human situation originated phylogenetically. To address this question we applied comparative FISH-mapping of a human PKD1-containing genomic BAC clone and a PKD1-cDNA clone to chromosomes of a variety of primate species and the dog as a non-primate outgroup species.
Comparative FISH with the PKD1-cDNA clone clearly shows that in all primate species studied distinct single signals map in subtelomeric chromosomal positions orthologous to the short arm of human chromosome 16 harbouring the master PKD1 gene. Only in human and African great apes, but not in orangutan, FISH with both BAC and cDNA clones reveals additional signal clusters located proximal of and clearly separated from the PKD1 master genes indicating the chromosomal position of PKD1 pseudogenes in 16p of these species, respectively. Indeed, this is in accordance with sequencing data in human, chimpanzee and orangutan. Apart from the master PKD1 gene, six pseudogenes are identified in both, human and chimpanzee, while only a single-copy gene is present in the whole-genome sequence of orangutan. The phylogenetic reconstruction of the PKD1-tree reveals that all human pseudogenes are closely related to the human PKD1 gene, and all chimpanzee pseudogenes are closely related to the chimpanzee PKD1 gene. However, our statistical analyses provide strong indication that gene conversion events may have occurred within the PKD1 family members of human and chimpanzee, respectively.
PKD1 must have undergone amplification very recently in hominid evolution. Duplicative transposition of the PKD1 gene and further amplification and evolution of the PKD1 pseudogenes may have arisen in a common ancestor of Homo, Pan and Gorilla ~8 MYA. Reticulate evolutionary processes such as gene conversion and non-allelic homologous recombination (NAHR) may have resulted in concerted evolution of PKD1 family members in human and chimpanzee and, thus, simulate an independent evolution of the PKD1 pseudogenes from their master PKD1 genes in human and chimpanzee.
PMCID: PMC2564946  PMID: 18822117
12.  Evolution of the DAZ gene and the AZFc region on primate Y chromosomes 
The Azoospermia Factor c (AZFc) region of the human Y chromosome is a unique product of segmental duplication. It consists almost entirely of very long amplicons, represented by different colors, and is frequently deleted in subfertile men. Most of the AZFc amplicons have high sequence similarity with autosomal segments, indicating recent duplication and transposition to the Y chromosome. The Deleted in Azoospermia (DAZ) gene within the red-amplicon arose from an ancestral autosomal DAZ-like (DAZL) gene. It varies significantly between different men regarding to its copy number and the numbers of RNA recognition motif and DAZ repeat it encodes. We used Southern analyses to study the evolution of DAZ and AZFc amplicons on the Y chromosomes of primates.
The Old World monkey rhesus macaque has only one DAZ gene. In contrast, the great apes have multiple copies of DAZ, ranging from 2 copies in bonobos and gorillas to at least 6 copies in orangutans, and these DAZ genes have polymorphic structures similar to those of their human counterparts. Sequences homologous to the various AZFc amplicons are present on the Y chromosomes of some but not all primates, indicating that they arrived on the Y chromosome at different times during primate evolution.
The duplication and transposition of AZFc amplicons to the human Y chromosome occurred in three waves, i.e., after the branching of the New World monkey, the gorilla, and the chimpanzee/bonobo lineages, respectively. The red-amplicon, one of the first to arrive on the Y chromosome, amplified by inverted duplication followed by direct duplication after the separation of the Old World monkey and the great ape lineages. Subsequent duplication/deletion in the various lineages gave rise to a spectrum of DAZ gene structure and copy number found in today's great apes.
PMCID: PMC2322974  PMID: 18366765
13.  Human Endogenous Retrovirus HERV-K14 Families: Status, Variants, Evolution, and Mobilization of Other Cellular Sequences†  
Journal of Virology  2005;79(5):2941-2949.
The human genome harbors many distinct families of human endogenous retroviruses (HERVs) that stem from exogenous retroviruses that infected the germ line millions of years ago. Many HERV families remain to be investigated. We report in the present study the detailed characterization of the HERV-K14I and HERV-K14CI families as they are represented in the human genome. Most of the 68 HERV-K14I and 23 HERV-K14CI proviruses are severely mutated, frequently displaying uniform deletions of retroviral genes and long terminal repeats (LTRs). Both HERV families entered the germ line ∼39 million years ago, as evidenced by homologous sequences in hominoids and Old World primates and calculation of evolutionary ages based on a molecular clock. Proviruses of both families were formed during a brief period. A majority of HERV-K14CI proviruses on the Y chromosome mimic a higher evolutionary age, showing that LTR-LTR divergence data can indicate false ages. Fully translatable consensus sequences encoding major retroviral proteins were generated. Most HERV-K14I loci lack an env gene and are structurally reminiscent of LTR retrotransposons. A minority of HERV-K14I variants display an env gene. HERV-K14I proviruses are associated with three distinct LTR families, while HERV-K14CI is associated with a single LTR family. Hybrid proviruses consisting of HERV-K14I and HERV-W sequences that appear to have produced provirus progeny in the genome were detected. Several HERV-K14I proviruses harbor TRPC6 mRNA portions, exemplifying mobilization of cellular transcripts by HERVs. Our analysis contributes essential information on two more HERV families and on the biology of HERV sequences in general.
PMCID: PMC548434  PMID: 15709013
14.  Human Endogenous Retrovirus Family HERV-K(HML-5): Status, Evolution, and Reconstruction of an Ancient Betaretrovirus in the Human Genome†  
Journal of Virology  2004;78(16):8788-8798.
The human genome harbors numerous distinct families of so-called human endogenous retroviruses (HERV) which are remnants of exogenous retroviruses that entered the germ line millions of years ago. We describe here the hitherto little-characterized betaretrovirus HERV-K(HML-5) family (named HERVK22 in Repbase) in greater detail. Out of 139 proviruses, only a few loci represent full-length proviruses, and many lack gag protease and/or env gene regions. We generated a consensus sequence from multiple alignment of 62 HML-5 loci that displays open reading frames for the four major retroviral proteins. Four HML-5 long terminal repeat (LTR) subfamilies were identified that are associated with monophyletic proviral bodies, implying different evolution of HML-5 LTRs and genes. Sequence analysis indicated that the proviruses formed approximately 55 million years ago. Accordingly, HML-5 proviral sequences were detected in Old World and New World primates but not in prosimians. No recent activity is associated with this HERV family. We also conclude that the HML-5 consensus sequence primer binding site is identical to methionine tRNA. Therefore, the family should be designated HERV-M. Our study provides important insights into the structure and evolution of the oldest betaretrovirus in the primate genome known to date.
PMCID: PMC479102  PMID: 15280487

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