Copy number variation is a common polymorphic phenomenon within the human genome. While the majority of these events are non-deleterious they can also be highly pathogenic. Herein we characterize five families with parkinsonism that have been identified to harbor multiplication of the chromosomal 4q21 locus containing the α-synuclein gene (SNCA).
A methodological approach employing fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH) and Affymetrix 250K SNP microarrays (CHIPs) was used to characterize the multiplication in each family and identify the genes encoded within the region. The telomeric and centromeric breakpoints of each family were further narrowed using semi-quantitative PCR with microsatellite markers and then screened for transposable repeat elements.
The severity of clinical presentation is correlated with SNCA dosage and does not appear to be overtly effected by the presence of other genes in the multiplicated region. With the exception of the Lister kindred, in each family the multiplication event appears de novo. The type and position of Alu/LINE repeats are also different at each breakpoint. Microsatellite analysis demonstrates two genomic mechanisms are responsible for chromosome 4q21 multiplications, including both SNCA duplication and triplication.
SNCA dosage is responsible for parkinsonism, autonomic dysfunction and dementia observed within each family. We hypothesize dysregulated expression of wild-type α-synuclein results in parkinsonism and may explain the recent association of common SNCA variants in sporadic Parkinson’s disease. SNCA genomic duplication results from intra-allelic (segmental duplication) or inter-allelic recombination with unequal crossing-over, whereas both mechanisms appear to be required for genomic SNCA triplication.
Parkinsonism; SNCA; Genomic multiplication; Alu repeat; Parkinson’s disease
Our understanding of the molecular mechanisms of many neurological disorders has been greatly enhanced by the discovery of mutations in genes linked to familial forms of these diseases. These have facilitated the generation of cell and animal models that can be used to understand the underlying molecular pathology. Recently, there has been a surge of interest in the use of patient-derived cells, due to the development of induced pluripotent stem cells and their subsequent differentiation into neurons and glia. Access to patient cell lines carrying the relevant mutations is a limiting factor for many centres wishing to pursue this research. We have therefore generated an open-access collection of fibroblast lines from patients carrying mutations linked to neurological disease. These cell lines have been deposited in the National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) Repository at the Coriell Institute for Medical Research and can be requested by any research group for use in in vitro disease modelling. There are currently 71 mutation-defined cell lines available for request from a wide range of neurological disorders and this collection will be continually expanded. This represents a significant resource that will advance the use of patient cells as disease models by the scientific community.
A major barrier to research on Parkinson's disease is inaccessibility of diseased tissue for study. One solution is to derive induced pluripotent stem cells from patients and differentiate them into neurons affected by disease. Triplication of SNCA, encoding α-synuclein, causes a fully penetrant, aggressive form of Parkinson's disease with dementia. α-Synuclein dysfunction is the critical pathogenic event in Parkinson's disease, multiple system atrophy and dementia with Lewy bodies. Here we produce multiple induced pluripotent stem cell lines from an SNCA triplication patient and an unaffected first-degree relative. When these cells are differentiated into midbrain dopaminergic neurons, those from the patient produce double the amount of α-synuclein protein as neurons from the unaffected relative, precisely recapitulating the cause of Parkinson's disease in these individuals. This model represents a new experimental system to identify compounds that reduce levels of α-synuclein, and to investigate the mechanistic basis of neurodegeneration caused by α-synuclein dysfunction.
Pluripotent stem cells can be generated from the somatic cells of humans and are a useful model to study disease. Here, pluripotent stem cells are made from a patient with familial Parkinson's disease, and the resulting neurons exhibit elevated levels of α-synuclein, recapitulating the molecular features of the patient's disease.
Genetic ancestry is known to impact outcomes of genotype-phenotype studies that are designed to identify risk for common diseases in human populations. Failure to control for population stratification due to genetic ancestry can significantly confound results of disease association studies. Moreover, ancestry is a critical factor in assessing lifetime risk of disease, and can play an important role in optimizing treatment. As modern medicine moves towards using personal genetic information for clinical applications, it is important to determine genetic ancestry in an accurate, cost-effective and efficient manner. Self-identified race is a common method used to track and control for population stratification; however, social constructs of race are not necessarily informative for genetic applications. The use of ancestry informative markers (AIMs) is a more accurate method for determining genetic ancestry for the purposes of population stratification.
Here we introduce a novel panel of 36 microsatellite (MSAT) AIMs that determines continental admixture proportions. This panel, which we have named Continental Ancestry Informative Markers or CoAIMs, consists of MSAT AIMs that were chosen based upon their measure of genetic variance (Fst), allele frequencies and their suitability for efficient genotyping. Genotype analysis using CoAIMs along with a Bayesian clustering method (STRUCTURE) is able to discern continental origins including Europe/Middle East (Caucasians), East Asia, Africa, Native America, and Oceania. In addition to determining continental ancestry for individuals without significant admixture, we applied CoAIMs to ascertain admixture proportions of individuals of self declared race.
CoAIMs can be used to efficiently and effectively determine continental admixture proportions in a sample set. The CoAIMs panel is a valuable resource for genetic researchers performing case-control genetic association studies, as it can control for the confounding effects of population stratification. The MSAT-based approach used here has potential for broad applicability as a cost effective tool toward determining admixture proportions.
It is well known that genetic components play an important role in the etiology of mandibular prognathism, but few susceptibility loci have been mapped.
In order to identify linkage regions for mandibular prognathism, we analyzed two Chinese pedigrees with 6,090 genome-wide single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) markers from Illumina Linkage-12 DNA Analysis Kit (average spacing 0.58 cM). Multipoint parametric and non-parametric (model-free) linkage analyses were used for the pedigrees.
The most statistically significant linkage results were with markers on chromosome 4 (LOD = 3.166 and NPL = 3.65 with rs 875864, 4p16.1, 8.38 cM). Candidate genes within the 4p16.1 include EVC, EVC2.
We detected a novel suggestive linkage locus for mandibular prognathism in two Chinese pedigrees, and this linkage region provides target for susceptibility gene identification, a process that will provide important insights into the molecular and cellular basis of mandibular prognathism.
Multiple genome-wide and targeted association studies reveal a significant association of variants in the CHRNA5-CHRNA3-CHRNB4 (CHRNA5/A3/B4) gene cluster on chromosome 15 with nicotine dependence. The subjects examined in most of these studies had a European origin. However, considering the distinct linkage disequilibrium patterns in European and other ethnic populations, it would be of tremendous interest to determine whether such associations could be replicated in populations of other ethnicities, such as Asians. In this study, we performed comprehensive association and interaction analyses for 32 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in CHRNA5/A3/B4 with smoking initiation (SI), smoking quantity (SQ), and smoking cessation (SC) in a Korean sample (N = 8,842). We found nominally significant associations of 7 SNPs with at least one smoking-related phenotype in the total sample (SI: P = 0.015∼0.023; SQ: P = 0.008∼0.028; SC: P = 0.018∼0.047) and the male sample (SI: P = 0.001∼0.023; SQ: P = 0.001∼0.046; SC: P = 0.01). A spectrum of haplotypes formed by three consecutive SNPs located between rs16969948 in CHRNA5 and rs6495316 in the intergenic region downstream from the 5′ end of CHRNB4 was associated with these three smoking-related phenotypes in both the total and the male sample. Notably, associations of these variants and haplotypes with SC appear to be much weaker than those with SI and SQ. In addition, we performed an interaction analysis of SNPs within the cluster using the generalized multifactor dimensionality reduction method and found a significant interaction of SNPs rs7163730 in LOC123688, rs6495308 in CHRNA3, and rs7166158, rs8043123, and rs11072793 in the intergenic region downstream from the 5′ end of CHRNB4 to be influencing SI in the male sample. Considering that fewer than 5% of the female participants were smokers, we did not perform any analysis on female subjects specifically. Together, our detected associations of variants in the CHRNA5/A3/B4 cluster with SI, SQ, and SC in the Korean smoker samples provide strong evidence for the contribution of this cluster to the etiology of SI, ND, and SC in this Asian population.
ZK 200775 is an antagonist at the α-Amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionate (AMPA) receptor and had earned attention as a possible neuroprotective agent in cerebral ischemia. Probands receiving the agent within phase I trials reported on an alteration of visual perception. In this trial, the effects of ZK 200775 on the visual system were analyzed in detail.
In a randomised controlled trial we examined eyes and vision before and after the intravenous administration of two different doses of ZK 200775 and placebo. There were 3 groups of 6 probands each: Group 1 recieved 0.03 mg/kg/h, group 2 0.75 mg/kg/h of ZK 200775, the control group received 0.9% sodium chloride solution. Probands were healthy males aged between 57 and 69 years. The following methods were applied: clinical examination, visual acuity, ophthalmoscopy, colour vision, rod absolute threshold, central visual field, pattern-reversal visual evoked potentials (pVEP), ON-OFF and full-field electroretinogram (ERG).
No effect of ZK 200775 was seen on eye position or motility, stereopsis, pupillary function or central visual field testing. Visual acuity and dark vision deteriorated significantly in both treated groups. Color vision was most remarkably impaired. The dark-adapted ERG revealed a reduction of oscillatory potentials (OP) and partly of the a- and b-wave, furthermore an alteration of b-wave morphology and an insignificantly elevated b/a-ratio. Cone-ERG modalities showed decreased amplitudes and delayed implicit times. In the ON-OFF ERG the ON-answer amplitudes increased whereas the peak times of the OFF-answer were reduced. The pattern VEP exhibited lower amplitudes and prolonged peak times.
The AMPA receptor blockade led to a strong impairment of typical OFF-pathway functions like color vision and the cone ERG. On the other hand the ON-pathway as measured by dark vision and the scotopic ERG was affected as well. This further elucidates the interdependence of both pathways.
Although, on average, cognition declines with age, cognition in older adults is a dynamic process. Hypertension is associated with greater decline in cognition with age, but whether treatment of hypertension affects this is uncertain. Here, we modelled dynamics of cognition in relation to the treatment of hypertension, to see if treatment effects might better be discerned by a model that included baseline measures of cognition and consequent mortality
This is a secondary analysis of the Hypertension in the Very Elderly Trial (HYVET), a double blind, placebo controlled trial of indapamide, with or without perindopril, in people aged 80+ years at enrollment. Cognitive states were defined in relation to errors on the Mini-Mental State Examination, with more errors signifying worse cognition. Change in cognitive state was evaluated using a dynamic model of cognitive transition. In the model, the probabilities of transitions between cognitive states is represented by a Poisson distribution, with the Poisson mean dependent on the baseline cognitive state.
The dynamic model of cognitive transition was good (R2 = 0.74) both for those on placebo and (0.86) for those on active treatment. The probability of maintaining cognitive function, based on baseline function, was slightly higher in the actively treated group (e.g., for those with the fewest baseline errors, the chance of staying in that state was 63% for those on treatment, compared with 60% for those on placebo). Outcomes at two and four years could be predicted based on the initial state and treatment.
A dynamic model of cognition that allows all outcomes (cognitive worsening, stability improvement or death) to be categorized simultaneously detected small but consistent differences between treatment and control groups (in favour of treatment) amongst very elderly people treated for hypertension. The model showed good fit, and suggests that most change in cognition in very elderly people is small, and depends on their baseline state and on treatment. Additional work is needed to understand whether this modelling approach is well suited to the valuation of small effects, especially in the face of mortality differences between treatment groups.
Rett syndrome (RTT) is an X-linked postnatal neurodevelopmental disorder caused by mutations in the gene encoding methyl-CpG binding protein 2 (MeCP2) and one of the leading causes of mental retardation in females. RTT is characterized by psychomotor retardation, purposeless hand movements, autistic-like behavior and abnormal gait. We studied the effects of environmental enrichment (EE) on the phenotypic manifestations of a RTT mouse model that lacks MeCP2 (Mecp2−/y).
We found that EE delayed and attenuated some neurological alterations presented by Mecp2−/y mice and prevented the development of motor discoordination and anxiety-related abnormalities. To define the molecular correlate of this beneficial effect of EE, we analyzed the expression of several synaptic marker genes whose expression is increased by EE in several mouse models.
We found that EE induced downregulation of several synaptic markers, suggesting that the partial prevention of RTT-associated phenotypes is achieved through a non-conventional transcriptional program.
We performed a genome-wide association study (GWAS) in 1,713 Caucasian patients with Parkinson’s disease (PD) and 3,978 controls. After replication in 3,361 cases and 4,573 controls, two strong association signals were observed: in the α-synuclein gene(SNCA) (rs2736990, OR=1.23, p=2.24×10−16) and at the MAPT locus (rs393152, OR=0.77, p=1.95×10−16). We exchanged data with colleagues performing a GWAS in Asian PD cases. Association at SNCA was replicated in the Asian GWAS1, confirming this as a major risk locus across populations. We were able to replicate the effect of a novel locus detected in the Asian cohort (PARK16, rs823128, OR=0.66, p=7.29×10−8) and provide evidence supporting the role of common variability around LRRK2 in modulating risk for PD (rs1491923, OR=1.14, p=1.55×10−5). These data demonstrate an unequivocal role for common genetic variability in the etiology of typical PD and suggest population specific genetic heterogeneity in this disease.
Freezing of gait (FOG) in Parkinson's disease (PD) rises in prevalence when the effect of medications decays. It is known that auditory rhythmic stimulation improves gait in patients without FOG (PD-FOG), but its putative effect on patients with FOG (PD+FOG) at the end of dose has not been evaluated yet. This work evaluates the effect of auditory rhythmic stimulation on PD+FOG at the end of dose. 10 PD+FOG and 9 PD-FOG patients both at the end of dose periods, and 10 healthy controls were asked to perform several walking tasks. Tasks were performed in the presence and absence of auditory sensory stimulation. All PD+FOG suffered FOG during the task. The presence of auditory rhythmic stimulation (10% above preferred walking cadence) led PD+FOG to significantly reduce FOG. Velocity and cadence were increased, and turn time reduced in all groups. We conclude that auditory stimulation at the frequency proposed may be useful to avoid freezing episodes in PD+FOG.
Successful object manipulation relies on the ability to form and retrieve sensorimotor memories of digit forces and positions used in previous object lifts. Past studies of patients affected by Parkinson's disease (PD) have revealed that the basal ganglia play a crucial role in the acquisition and/or retrieval of sensorimotor memories for grasp control. Whereas it is known that PD impairs anticipatory control of digit forces during grasp, learning deficits associated with the planning of digit placement have yet to be explored. This question is motivated by recent work in healthy subjects revealing that anticipatory control of digit placement plays a crucial role for successful manipulation.
We asked ten PD patients off medication and ten age-matched controls to reach, grasp and lift an object whose center of mass (CM) was on the left, right or center. The only task requirement was to minimize object roll during lift. The CM remained the same across consecutive trials (blocked condition) or was altered from trial to trial (random condition). We hypothesized that impairment of the basal ganglia-thalamo-cortical circuits in PD patients would reduce their ability to anticipate digit placement appropriate to the CM location. Consequently, we predicted that PD patients would exhibit similar digit placement in the blocked vs. random conditions and produce larger peak object rolls than that of control subjects. In the blocked condition, PD patients exhibited significantly weaker modulation of fingertip contact points to CM location and larger object roll than controls (p<0.05 and p<0.01, respectively). Nevertheless, both controls and PD patients minimized object roll more in the blocked than in the random condition (p<0.01).
Our findings indicate that, even though PD patients may have a residual ability of anticipatory control of digit contact points and forces, they fail to implement a motor plan with the same degree of effectiveness as controls. We conclude that intact basal ganglia-thalamo-cortical circuits are necessary for successful sensorimotor learning of both grasp kinematics and kinetics required for dexterous hand-object interactions.
Interrelationships between genetic and biochemical factors underlying ischemic stroke and ischemic heart disease are poorly understood. We: 1) undertook the most comprehensive meta-analysis of genetic polymorphisms in ischemic stroke to date; 2) compared genetic determinants of ischemic stroke with those of ischemic heart disease, and 3) compared effect sizes of gene-stroke associations with those predicted from independent biochemical data using a mendelian randomization strategy. Electronic databases were searched up to January 2009. We identified: 1) 187 ischemic stroke studies (37,481 cases; 95,322 controls) interrogating 43 polymorphisms in 29 genes; 2) 13 meta-analyses testing equivalent polymorphisms in ischemic heart disease; and 3) for the top five gene-stroke associations, 146 studies (65,703 subjects) describing equivalent gene-biochemical relationships, and 28 studies (46,928 subjects) describing biochemical-stroke relationships. Meta-analyses demonstrated positive associations with ischemic stroke for factor V Leiden Gln506, ACE I/D, MTHFR C677T, prothrombin G20210A, PAI-1 5G allele and glycoprotein IIIa Leu33Pro polymorphisms (ORs: 1.11 – 1.60). Most genetic associations show congruent levels of risk comparing ischemic stroke with ischemic heart disease, but three genes—glycoprotein IIIa, PAI-1 and angiotensinogen—show significant dissociations. The magnitudes of stroke risk observed for factor V Leiden, ACE, MTHFR and prothrombin, but not PAI-1, polymorphisms, are consistent with risks associated with equivalent changes in activated protein C resistance, ACE activity, homocysteine, prothrombin, and PAI-1 levels, respectively. Our results demonstrate causal relationships for four of the most robust genes associated with stroke while also showing that PAI-1 4G/5G polymorphism influences cardiovascular risk via a mechanism not simply related to plasma levels of PAI-1 (or tPA) alone.
The weeble mutant mouse has a frame shift mutation in inositol polyphosphate 4-phosphatase type I (Inpp4a). The phenotype is characterized by an early onset cerebellar ataxia and neurodegeneration, especially apparent in the Purkinje cells. Purkinje cell loss is a common pathological finding in many human and mouse ataxic disorders. Here we show that in the Inpp4awbl mutant, Purkinje cells are lost in a specific temporal and spatial pattern. Loss occurs early in postnatal development; however, prior to the appearance of climbing fibers in the developing molecular layer, the mutant has a normal complement of Purkinje cells and they are properly positioned. Degeneration and reactive gliosis are present at postnatal day 5 and progress rapidly in a defined pattern of patches; however, Inpp4a is expressed uniformly across Purkinje cells. In late stage mutants, patches of surviving Purkinje cells appear remarkably normal with the exception that the climbing fibers have been excessively eliminated. Surviving Purkinje cells express Eaat4, a glutamate transporter that is differentially expressed in subsets of Purkinje cells during development and into adult stages. Prior to Purkinje cell loss, reactive gliosis and dendritic atrophy can be seen in Eaat4 negative stripes. Our data suggest that Purkinje cell loss in the Inpp4awbl mutant is due to glutamate excitotoxicity initiated by the climbing fiber, and that Eaat4 may exert a protective effect.
A great majority of genetic markers discovered in recent genome-wide association studies have small effect sizes, and they explain only a small fraction of the genetic contribution to the diseases. How many more variants can we expect to discover and what study sizes are needed? We derive the connection between the cumulative risk of the SNP variants to the latent genetic risk model and heritability of the disease. We determine the sample size required for case-control studies in order to achieve a certain expected number of discoveries in a collection of most significant SNPs. Assuming similar allele frequencies and effect sizes of the currently validated SNPs, complex phenotypes such as type-2 diabetes would need approximately 800 variants to explain its 40% heritability. Much smaller numbers of variants are needed if we assume rare-variants but higher penetrance models. We estimate that up to 50,000 cases and an equal number of controls are needed to discover 800 common low-penetrant variants among the top 5000 SNPs. Under common and rare low-penetrance models, the very large studies required to discover the numerous variants are probably at the limit of practical feasibility. Under rare-variant with medium- to high-penetrance models (odds-ratios between 1.6 and 4.0), studies comparable in size to many existing studies are adequate provided the genotyping technology can interrogate more and rarer variants.
Normal-pressure hydrocephalus (NPH) is a neurodegenerative disorder that usually occurs late in adult life. Clinically, the cardinal features include gait disturbances, urinary incontinence, and cognitive decline.
Herein we report the characterization of a novel mouse model of NPH (designated p23-ST1), created by N-ethyl-N-nitrosourea (ENU)-induced mutagenesis. The ventricular size in the brain was measured by 3-dimensional micro-magnetic resonance imaging (3D-MRI) and was found to be enlarged. Intracranial pressure was measured and was found to fall within a normal range. A histological assessment and tracer flow study revealed that the cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) pathway of p23-ST1 mice was normal without obstruction. Motor functions were assessed using a rotarod apparatus and a CatWalk gait automatic analyzer. Mutant mice showed poor rotarod performance and gait disturbances. Cognitive function was evaluated using auditory fear-conditioned responses with the mutant displaying both short- and long-term memory deficits. With an increase in urination frequency and volume, the mutant showed features of incontinence. Nissl substance staining and cell-type-specific markers were used to examine the brain pathology. These studies revealed concurrent glial activation and neuronal loss in the periventricular regions of mutant animals. In particular, chronically activated microglia were found in septal areas at a relatively young age, implying that microglial activation might contribute to the pathogenesis of NPH. These defects were transmitted in an autosomal dominant mode with reduced penetrance. Using a whole-genome scan employing 287 single-nucleotide polymorphic (SNP) markers and further refinement using six additional SNP markers and four microsatellite markers, the causative mutation was mapped to a 5.3-cM region on chromosome 4.
Our results collectively demonstrate that the p23-ST1 mouse is a novel mouse model of human NPH. Clinical observations suggest that dysfunctions and alterations in the brains of patients with NPH might occur much earlier than the appearance of clinical signs. p23-ST1 mice provide a unique opportunity to characterize molecular changes and the pathogenic mechanism of NPH.
The striatum is the major input structure of basal ganglia and is involved in adaptive control of behaviour through the selection of relevant informations. Dopaminergic neurons that innervate striatum die in Parkinson disease, leading to inefficient adaptive behaviour. Neuronal activity of striatal medium spiny neurons (MSN) is modulated by dopamine receptors. Although dopamine signalling had received substantial attention, consequences of dopamine depletion on MSN intrinsic excitability remain unclear. Here we show, by performing perforated patch clamp recordings on brain slices, that dopamine depletion leads to an increase in MSN intrinsic excitability through the decrease of an inactivating A-type potassium current, IA. Despite the large decrease in their excitatory synaptic inputs determined by the decreased dendritic spines density and the increase in minimal current to evoke the first EPSP, this increase in intrinsic excitability resulted in an enhanced responsiveness to their remaining synapses, allowing them to fire similarly or more efficiently following input stimulation than in control condition. Therefore, this increase in intrinsic excitability through the regulation of IA represents a form of homeostatic plasticity allowing neurons to compensate for perturbations in synaptic transmission and to promote stability in firing. The present observations show that this homeostatic ability to maintain firing rates within functional range also occurs in pathological conditions, allowing stabilizing neural computation within affected neuronal networks.
Oral glutamine decreases whole body protein breakdown in Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). We evaluated the functional benefit of 4 months oral glutamine in DMD.
30 ambulant DMD boys were included in this double-blind, randomized crossover trial with 2 intervention periods: glutamine (0.5 g/kg/d) and placebo, 4 months each, separated by a 1-month wash-out, at 3 outpatient clinical investigation centers in France. Functional benefit was tested by comparing glutamine versus placebo on change in walking speed at 4 months. Secondary outcome measures were: 2-minute walk test, work, power, muscle mass (urinary creatinine), markers of myofibrillar protein breakdown (urinary 3-methyl-histidine/creatinine), serum creatine phospho-kinase, body composition (fat free mass, fat mass percentage), safety and oral nutrient intake. There was no improvement in the primary end point (walking speed) or in secondary measures of muscle function (2-minute walk test, work, power) in the glutamine group compared with placebo. However, subjects receiving glutamine or placebo showed no deterioration in functional measures over the course of the 9-month trial. No differences in muscle mass, markers of protein breakdown or serum creatine phosho-kinase were observed, except for a blunted increase in fat free mass in the glutamine group which led to a greater increase in fat mass percentage. Glutamine was safe and well-tolerated.
This trial did not identify additional benefit of 4 months oral glutamine over placebo on muscle mass or function in ambulatory DMD boys. Although apparently safe, current data cannot support routine supplementation in this population as a whole, until further research proves otherwise.
Fetal haemoglobin (HbF) is a major ameliorating factor in sickle cell disease. We investigated if a quantitative trait locus on chromosome 6q23 was significantly associated with HbF and F cell levels in individuals of African descent. Single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in a 24-kb intergenic region, 33-kb upstream of the HBS1L gene and 80-kb upstream of the MYB gene, were typed in 177 healthy Afro-Caribbean subjects (AC) of approximately 7% European admixture, 631 healthy Afro-Germans (AG, a group of African and German descendents located in rural Jamaica with about 20% European admixture), 87 West African and Afro-Caribbean individuals with sickle cell anaemia (HbSS), as well as 75 Northern Europeans, which served as a contrasting population. Association with a tag SNP for the locus was detected in all four groups (AC, P = 0.005, AG, P = 0.002, HbSS patients, P = 0.019, Europeans, P = 1.5×10−7). The association signal varied across the interval in the African-descended groups, while it is more uniform in Europeans. The 6q QTL for HbF traits is present in populations of African origin and is also acting in sickle cell anaemia patients. We have started to distinguish effects originating from European and African ancestral populations in our admixed study populations.
The genetic basis of myotonic dystrophy type I (DM1) is the expansion of a CTG tract located in the 3′ untranslated region of DMPK. Expression of mutant RNAs encoding expanded CUG repeats plays a central role in the development of cardiac disease in DM1. Expanded CUG tracts form both nuclear and cytoplasmic aggregates, yet the relative significance of such aggregates in eliciting DM1 pathology is unclear. To test the pathophysiology of CUG repeat encoding RNAs, we developed and analyzed mice with cardiac-specific expression of a beta-galactosidase cassette in which a (CTG)400 repeat tract was positioned 3′ of the termination codon and 5′ of the bovine growth hormone polyadenylation signal. In these animals CUG aggregates form exclusively in the cytoplasm of cardiac cells. A key pathological consequence of expanded CUG repeat RNA expression in DM1 is aberrant RNA splicing. Abnormal splicing results from the functional inactivation of MBNL1, which is hypothesized to occur due to MBNL1 sequestration in CUG foci or from elevated levels of CUG-BP1. We therefore tested the ability of cytoplasmic CUG foci to elicit these changes. Aggregation of CUG RNAs within the cytoplasm results both in Mbnl1 sequestration and in approximately a two fold increase in both nuclear and cytoplasmic Cug-bp1 levels. Significantly, despite these changes RNA splice defects were not observed and functional analysis revealed only subtle cardiac dysfunction, characterized by conduction defects that primarily manifest under anesthesia. Using a human myoblast culture system we show that this transgene, when expressed at similar levels to a second transgene, which encodes expanded CTG tracts and facilitates both nuclear focus formation and aberrant splicing, does not elicit aberrant splicing. Thus the lack of toxicity of cytoplasmic CUG foci does not appear to be a consequence of low expression levels. Our results therefore demonstrate that the cellular location of CUG RNA aggregates is an important variable that influences toxicity and support the hypothesis that small molecules that increase the rate of transport of the mutant DMPK RNA from the nucleus into the cytoplasm may significantly improve DM1 pathology.
Myosin Va is a motor protein involved in vesicular transport and its absence leads to movement disorders in humans (Griscelli and Elejalde syndromes) and rodents (e.g. dilute lethal phenotype in mice). We examined the role of myosin Va in the postsynaptic plasticity of the vertebrate neuromuscular junction (NMJ).
Dilute lethal mice showed a good correlation between the propensity for seizures, and fragmentation and size reduction of NMJs. In an aneural C2C12 myoblast cell culture, expression of a dominant-negative fragment of myosin Va led to the accumulation of punctate structures containing the NMJ marker protein, rapsyn-GFP, in perinuclear clusters. In mouse hindlimb muscle, endogenous myosin Va co-precipitated with surface-exposed or internalised acetylcholine receptors and was markedly enriched in close proximity to the NMJ upon immunofluorescence. In vivo microscopy of exogenous full length myosin Va as well as a cargo-binding fragment of myosin Va showed localisation to the NMJ in wildtype mouse muscles. Furthermore, local interference with myosin Va function in live wildtype mouse muscles led to fragmentation and size reduction of NMJs, exclusion of rapsyn-GFP from NMJs, reduced persistence of acetylcholine receptors in NMJs and an increased amount of punctate structures bearing internalised NMJ proteins.
In summary, our data show a crucial role of myosin Va for the plasticity of live vertebrate neuromuscular junctions and suggest its involvement in the recycling of internalised acetylcholine receptors back to the postsynaptic membrane.
Visuo-motor coordination (VMC) requires normal cognitive executive functionality, an ability to transform visual inputs into movement plans and motor-execution skills, all of which are known to be impaired in Parkinson's disease (PD). Not surprisingly, a VMC deficit in PD is well documented. Still, it is not known how this deficit relates to motor symptoms that are assessed routinely in the neurological clinic. Such relationship should reveal how particular motor dysfunctions combine with cognitive and sensory–motor impairments to produce a complex behavioral disability.
Methods and Findings
Thirty nine early/moderate PD patients were routinely evaluated, including motor Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale (UPDRS) based assessment, A VMC testing battery in which the subjects had to track a target moving on screen along 3 different paths, and to freely trace these paths followed. Detailed kinematic analysis of tracking/tracing performance was done. Statistical analysis of the correlations between measures depicting various aspects of VMC control and UPDRS items was performed. The VMC measures which correlated most strongly with clinical symptoms represent the ability to organize tracking movements and program their direction, rather than measures representing motor-execution skills of the hand. The strong correlations of these VMC measures with total UPDRS score were weakened when the UPDRS hand-motor part was considered specifically, and were insignificant in relation to tremor of the hand. In contrast, all correlations of VMC measures with the gait/posture part of the UPDRS were found to be strongest.
Our apparently counterintuitive findings suggest that the VMC deficit pertains more strongly to a PD related change in cognitive-executive control, than to a reduction in motor capabilities. The recently demonstrated relationship between gait/posture impairment and a cognitive decline, as found in PD, concords with this suggestion and may explain the strong correlation between VMC dysfunction and gait/posture impairment. Accordingly, we propose that what appears to reflect a motor deficit in fact represents a multisystem failure, dominated by a cognitive decline.
Multiple sclerosis is a chronic inflammatory demyelinating disease of the central nervous system with an important genetic component and strongest association driven by the HLA genes. We performed a pooling-based genome-wide association study of 500,000 SNPs in order to find new loci associated with the disease. After applying several criteria, 320 SNPs were selected from the microarrays and individually genotyped in a first and independent Spanish Caucasian replication cohort. The 8 most significant SNPs validated in this cohort were also genotyped in a second US Caucasian replication cohort for confirmation. The most significant association was obtained for SNP rs3129934, which neighbors the HLA-DRB/DQA loci and validates our pooling-based strategy. The second strongest association signal was found for SNP rs1327328, which resides in an unannotated region of chromosome 13 but is in linkage disequilibrium with nearby functional elements that may play important roles in disease susceptibility. This region of chromosome 13 has not been previously identified in MS linkage genome screens and represents a novel risk locus for the disease.