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1.  Differences in the clinical spectrum of two adolescent male patients with Alström syndrome 
Clinical dysmorphology  2013;22(1):7-12.
Alström syndrome is a rare disorder typified by early childhood obesity, neurosensory deficits, cardiomyopathy, progressive renal and hepatic dysfunction, and endocrinological features such as severe insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, hyperlipidemia, and hypogonadism. Widespread fibrosis leads to multiple organ failure. Mutations in ALMS1 cause Alström’s syndrome. Two age-matched, unrelated adolescent males of Serbian descent with Alström syndrome underwent an extensive workup of blood chemistries, and ophthalmological, audiological, and genetic evaluations. Although both showed typical features of Alström syndrome in childhood, several differences were observed that have not been reported previously. Patient 1 was first studied at the age of 13 years for multisystemic disease and re-evaluated at the age of 15.5 years. Patient 2 is a 15-year-old boy who presented at birth with epilepsy and psychomotor developmental delay and generalized tonic–clonic seizures with severe cognitive impairment, features not documented previously in this syndrome. Sequencing analysis indicated two novel ALMS1 mutations in exon 8: p.E1055GfsX4 and p.T1386NfsX15. Metabolic and physiological similarities were observed in both patients, including severe insulin resistance, and truncal obesity with fat loss suggestive of partial lipodystrophy, supporting evidence for a role for ALMS1 in adipose tissue function. The unusual phenotypes of clonic–tonic seizures and severe cognitive abnormalities and lipodystrophy-like adiposity pattern have not been documented previously in Alström syndrome and may be an under-reported abnormality.
PMCID: PMC3619948  PMID: 23188138
ALMS1; Alström syndrome; hypogonadotropic hypogonadism; partial lipodystrophy; tonic–clonic epilepsy
2.  Gene Profiling of Postnatal Mfrprd6 Mutant Eyes Reveals Differential Accumulation of Prss56, Visual Cycle and Phototransduction mRNAs 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(10):e110299.
Mutations in the membrane frizzled-related protein (MFRP/Mfrp) gene, specifically expressed in the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) and ciliary body, cause nanophthalmia or posterior microphthalmia with retinitis pigmentosa in humans, and photoreceptor degeneration in mice. To better understand MFRP function, microarray analysis was performed on eyes of homozygous Mfrprd6 and C57BL/6J mice at postnatal days (P) 0 and P14, prior to photoreceptor loss. Data analysis revealed no changes at P0 but significant differences in RPE and retina-specific transcripts at P14, suggesting a postnatal influence of the Mfrprd6 allele. A subset of these transcripts was validated by quantitative real-time PCR (qRT-PCR). In Mfrprd6 eyes, a significant 1.5- to 2.0-fold decrease was observed among transcripts of genes linked to retinal degeneration, including those involved in visual cycle (Rpe65, Lrat, Rgr), phototransduction (Pde6a, Guca1b, Rgs9), and photoreceptor disc morphogenesis (Rpgrip1 and Fscn2). Levels of RPE65 were significantly decreased by 2.0-fold. Transcripts of Prss56, a gene associated with angle-closure glaucoma, posterior microphthalmia and myopia, were increased in Mfrprd6 eyes by 17-fold. Validation by qRT-PCR indicated a 3.5-, 14- and 70-fold accumulation of Prss56 transcripts relative to controls at P7, P14 and P21, respectively. This trend was not observed in other RPE or photoreceptor mutant mouse models with similar disease progression, suggesting that Prss56 upregulation is a specific attribute of the disruption of Mfrp. Prss56 and Glul in situ hybridization directly identified Müller glia in the inner nuclear layer as the cell type expressing Prss56. In summary, the Mfrprd6 allele causes significant postnatal changes in transcript and protein levels in the retina and RPE. The link between Mfrp deficiency and Prss56 up-regulation, together with the genetic association of human MFRP or PRSS56 variants and ocular size, raises the possibility that these genes are part of a regulatory network influencing postnatal posterior eye development.
PMCID: PMC4214712  PMID: 25357075
3.  GLUT4 Defects in Adipose Tissue Are Early Signs of Metabolic Alterations in Alms1GT/GT, a Mouse Model for Obesity and Insulin Resistance 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(10):e109540.
Dysregulation of signaling pathways in adipose tissue leading to insulin resistance can contribute to the development of obesity-related metabolic disorders. Alström Syndrome, a recessive ciliopathy, caused by mutations in ALMS1, is characterized by progressive metabolic alterations such as childhood obesity, hyperinsulinemia, and type 2 diabetes. Here we investigated the role of Alms1 disruption in AT expansion and insulin responsiveness in a murine model for Alström Syndrome. A gene trap insertion in Alms1 on the insulin sensitive C57BL6/Ei genetic background leads to early hyperinsulinemia and a progressive increase in body weight. At 6 weeks of age, before the onset of the metabolic disease, the mutant mice had enlarged fat depots with hypertrophic adipocytes, but without signs of inflammation. Expression of lipogenic enzymes was increased. Pre-adipocytes isolated from mutant animals demonstrated normal adipogenic differentiation but gave rise to mature adipocytes with reduced insulin-stimulated glucose uptake. Assessment of whole body glucose homeostasis revealed glucose intolerance. Insulin stimulation resulted in proper AKT phosphorylation in adipose tissue. However, the total amount of glucose transporter 4 (SLC4A2) and its translocation to the plasma membrane were reduced in mutant adipose depots compared to wildtype littermates. Alterations in insulin stimulated trafficking of glucose transporter 4 are an early sign of metabolic dysfunction in Alström mutant mice, providing a possible explanation for the reduced glucose uptake and the compensatory hyperinsulinemia. The metabolic signaling deficits either reside downstream or are independent of AKT activation and suggest a role for ALMS1 in GLUT4 trafficking. Alström mutant mice represent an interesting model for the development of metabolic disease in which adipose tissue with a reduced glucose uptake can expand by de novo lipogenesis to an obese state.
PMCID: PMC4192353  PMID: 25299671
4.  Mutations in Alström Protein Impair Terminal Differentiation of Cardiomyocytes 
Nature communications  2014;5:3416.
Cardiomyocyte cell division and replication in mammals proceed through embryonic development and abruptly decline soon after birth. The process governing cardiomyocyte cell cycle arrest is poorly understood. Here we carry out whole exome sequencing in an infant with evidence of persistent postnatal cardiomyocyte replication to determine the genetic risk factors. We identify compound heterozygous ALMS1 mutations in the proband, and confirm their presence in her affected sibling, one copy inherited from each heterozygous parent. Next, we recognise homozygous or compound heterozygous truncating mutations in ALMS1 in four other children with high levels of postnatal cardiomyocyte proliferation. Alms1 mRNA knockdown increases multiple markers of proliferation in cardiomyocytes, the percentage of cardiomyocytes in G2/M phases, and the number of cardiomyocytes by 10% in cultured cells. Homozygous Alms1-mutant mice have increased cardiomyocyte proliferation at two weeks postnatal compared to wild-type littermates. We conclude that deficiency of Alström protein impairs postnatal cardiomyocyte cell cycle arrest.
PMCID: PMC3992616  PMID: 24595103
5.  Extreme clinical variability of dilated cardiomyopathy in two siblings with Alström syndrome 
Pediatric cardiology  2012;34(2):455-458.
Alström syndrome (ALMS) is a rare autosomal recessive disorder caused by mutations in the ALMS1 gene. We report on two brothers, 2 and 3 years of age, diagnosed with Alström syndrome who initially presented in infancy with severe dilated cardiomyopathy during febrile respiratory infection. The disease course in the two siblings was marked by significant intra-familial variability. While cardiomyopathy in the older sibling has mainly resolved allowing for the discontinuation of medical therapy, heart function in the younger sibling continues to deteriorate despite maximal drug support with furosemide, carvedilol, captopril and aldospirone. Genetic analysis revealed homozygous mutations, c.8008C>T (R2670X), in ALMS1 resulting in premature protein truncation. This report further emphasizes the exceptional intra-familial variability of ALMS, mainly in the natural course of cardiac disease.
PMCID: PMC3779600  PMID: 22447358
Alström syndrome; dilated cardiomyopathy; autosomal recessive; ALMS1 gene
6.  Novel Alu Retrotransposon Insertion Leading to Alström Syndrome 
Human Genetics  2011;131(3):407-413.
Alström Syndrome is a clinically complex disorder characterized by childhood retinal degeneration leading to blindness, sensorineural hearing loss, obesity, type 2 diabetes mellitus, cardiomyopathy, systemic fibrosis, and pulmonary, hepatic, and renal failure. Alström Syndrome is caused by recessively inherited mutations in the ALMS1 gene, which codes for a putative ciliary protein. Alström Syndrome is characterized by extensive allelic heterogeneity, however founder effects have been observed in some populations. To date, more than 100 causative ALMS1 mutations have been identified, mostly frameshift and nonsense alterations resulting in termination signals in ALMS1. Here we report a complex Turkish kindred in which sequence analysis uncovered an insertion of a novel 333 basepair Alu Ya5 SINE retrotransposon in the ALMS1 coding sequence, a previously unrecognized mechanism underlying mutations causing Alström Syndrome. It is extraordinarily rare to encounter the insertion of an Alu retrotransposon in the coding sequence of a gene. The high frequency of the mutant ALMS1 allele in this isolated population suggests that this recent retrotransposition event spread quickly, and may be used as a model to study the population dynamics of deleterious alleles in isolated communities.
PMCID: PMC3264847  PMID: 21877133
Alström Syndrome; ALMS1; Alu Ya5; Insertion Mutation; Short Interspersed Nuclear Elements (SINE)
7.  Meckelin Is Necessary for Photoreceptor Intraciliary Transport and Outer Segment Morphogenesis 
This study revealed a role for meckelin in the intraciliary trafficking of phototransduction molecules and in the elongation and maintenance of the photoreceptor outer segments.
Cilia, complex structures found ubiquitously in most vertebrate cells, serve a variety of functions ranging from cell and fluid movement, cell signaling, tissue homeostasis, to sensory perception. Meckelin is a component of ciliary and cell membranes and is encoded by Tmem67 (Mks3). In this study, the retinal morphology and ciliary function in a mouse model for Meckel Syndrome Type 3 (MKS3) throughout the course of photoreceptor development was examined.
To study the effects of a disruption in the Mks3 gene on the retina, the authors introduced a functional allele of Pde6b into B6C3Fe a/a-bpck/J mice and evaluated their retinas by ophthalmoscopic, histologic, and ultrastructural examination. In addition, immunofluorescence microscopy was used to assess protein trafficking through the connecting cilium and to examine the localization of ciliary and synaptic proteins in Tmem67bpck mice and controls.
Photoreceptors degenerate early and rapidly in bpck/bpck mutant mice. In addition, phototransduction proteins, such as rhodopsin, arrestin, and transducin, are mislocalized. Ultrastructural examination of photoreceptors reveal morphologically intact connecting cilia but dysmorphic and misoriented outer segment (OS) discs, at the earliest time point examined.
These findings underscore the important role for meckelin in intraciliary transport of phototransduction molecules and their effects on subsequent OS morphogenesis and maintenance.
PMCID: PMC3317434  PMID: 22247471
8.  The Alström Syndrome Protein, ALMS1, Interacts with α-Actinin and Components of the Endosome Recycling Pathway 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(5):e37925.
Alström syndrome (ALMS) is a progressive multi-systemic disorder characterized by cone-rod dystrophy, sensorineural hearing loss, childhood obesity, insulin resistance and cardiac, renal, and hepatic dysfunction. The gene responsible for Alström syndrome, ALMS1, is ubiquitously expressed and has multiple splice variants. The protein encoded by this gene has been implicated in ciliary function, cell cycle control, and intracellular transport. To gain better insight into the pathways through which ALMS1 functions, we carried out a yeast two hybrid (Y2H) screen in several mouse tissue libraries to identify ALMS1 interacting partners. The majority of proteins found to interact with the murine carboxy-terminal end (19/32) of ALMS1 were α-actinin isoforms. Interestingly, several of the identified ALMS1 interacting partners (α-actinin 1, α-actinin 4, myosin Vb, rad50 interacting 1 and huntingtin associated protein1A) have been previously associated with endosome recycling and/or centrosome function. We examined dermal fibroblasts from human subjects bearing a disruption in ALMS1 for defects in the endocytic pathway. Fibroblasts from these patients had a lower uptake of transferrin and reduced clearance of transferrin compared to controls. Antibodies directed against ALMS1 N- and C-terminal epitopes label centrosomes and endosomal structures at the cleavage furrow of dividing MDCK cells, respectively, suggesting isoform-specific cellular functions. Our results suggest a role for ALMS1 variants in the recycling endosome pathway and give us new insights into the pathogenesis of a subset of clinical phenotypes associated with ALMS.
PMCID: PMC3365098  PMID: 22693585
9.  Arrayed primer extension technology simplifies mutation detection in Bardet–Biedl and Alström syndrome 
Bardet–Biedl syndrome (BBS; OMIM no. 209 900) and Alström syndrome (ALMS; OMIM no. 203 800) are rare, multisystem genetic disorders showing both a highly variable phenotype and considerable phenotypic overlap; they are included in the emerging group of diseases called ciliopathies. The genetic heterogeneity of BBS with 14 causal genes described to date, serves to further complicate mutational analysis. The development of the BBS–ALMS array which detects known mutations in these genes has allowed us to detect at least one mutation in 40.5% of BBS families and in 26.7% of ALMS families validating this as an efficient and cost-effective first pass screening modality. Furthermore, using this method, we found two BBS families segregating three BBS alleles further supporting oligogenicity or modifier roles for additional mutations. We did not observe more than two mutations in any ALMS family.
PMCID: PMC3060323  PMID: 21157496
Bardet–Biedl syndrome; BBS; Alström syndrome; ALMS1; arrayed primer extension; mutation analysis
10.  Alström Syndrome: Genetics and Clinical Overview 
Current Genomics  2011;12(3):225-235.
Alström syndrome is a rare autosomal recessive genetic disorder characterized by cone-rod dystrophy, hearing loss, childhood truncal obesity, insulin resistance and hyperinsulinemia, type 2 diabetes, hypertriglyceridemia, short stature in adulthood, cardiomyopathy, and progressive pulmonary, hepatic, and renal dysfunction. Symptoms first appear in infancy and progressive development of multi-organ pathology leads to a reduced life expectancy. Variability in age of onset and severity of clinical symptoms, even within families, is likely due to genetic background.
Alström syndrome is caused by mutations in ALMS1, a large gene comprised of 23 exons and coding for a protein of 4,169 amino acids. In general, ALMS1 gene defects include insertions, deletions, and nonsense mutations leading to protein truncations and found primarily in exons 8, 10 and 16. Multiple alternate splice forms exist. ALMS1 protein is found in centrosomes, basal bodies, and cytosol of all tissues affected by the disease. The identification of ALMS1 as a ciliary protein explains the range of observed phenotypes and their similarity to those of other ciliopathies such as Bardet-Biedl syndrome.
Studies involving murine and cellular models of Alström syndrome have provided insight into the pathogenic mechanisms underlying obesity and type 2 diabetes, and other clinical problems. Ultimately, research into the pathogenesis of Alström syndrome should lead to better management and treatments for individuals, and have potentially important ramifications for other rare ciliopathies, as well as more common causes of obesity and diabetes, and other conditions common in the general population.
PMCID: PMC3137007  PMID: 22043170
ALMS1; Alström syndrome; ciliopathy; truncal obesity.
11.  ALMS1-Deficient Fibroblasts Over-Express Extra-Cellular Matrix Components, Display Cell Cycle Delay and Are Resistant to Apoptosis 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(4):e19081.
Alström Syndrome (ALMS) is a rare genetic disorder (483 living cases), characterized by many clinical manifestations, including blindness, obesity, type 2 diabetes and cardiomyopathy. ALMS is caused by mutations in the ALMS1 gene, encoding for a large protein with implicated roles in ciliary function, cellular quiescence and intracellular transport. Patients with ALMS have extensive fibrosis in nearly all tissues resulting in a progressive organ failure which is often the ultimate cause of death. To focus on the role of ALMS1 mutations in the generation and maintenance of this pathological fibrosis, we performed gene expression analysis, ultrastructural characterization and functional assays in 4 dermal fibroblast cultures from ALMS patients. Using a genome-wide gene expression analysis we found alterations in genes belonging to specific categories (cell cycle, extracellular matrix (ECM) and fibrosis, cellular architecture/motility and apoptosis). ALMS fibroblasts display cytoskeleton abnormalities and migration impairment, up-regulate the expression and production of collagens and despite the increase in the cell cycle length are more resistant to apoptosis. Therefore ALMS1-deficient fibroblasts showed a constitutively activated myofibroblast phenotype even if they do not derive from a fibrotic lesion. Our results support a genetic basis for the fibrosis observed in ALMS and show that both an excessive ECM production and a failure to eliminate myofibroblasts are key mechanisms. Furthermore, our findings suggest new roles for ALMS1 in both intra- and extra-cellular events which are essential not only for the normal cellular function but also for cell-cell and ECM-cell interactions.
PMCID: PMC3082548  PMID: 21541333
12.  Centriolar Association of ALMS1 and Likely Centrosomal Functions of the ALMS Motif–containing Proteins C10orf90 and KIAA1731 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2010;21(21):3617-3629.
This study reveals the subcentrosomal distribution of ALMS1, a human protein implicated in primary cilium formation and maintenance, and provides new insight into its centrosome-related functions. The first functional data on two human proteins sharing C-terminal sequence similarity with ALMS1 are also presented.
Mutations in the human gene ALMS1 cause Alström syndrome, a rare progressive condition characterized by neurosensory degeneration and metabolic defects. ALMS1 protein localizes to the centrosome and has been implicated in the assembly and/or maintenance of primary cilia; however its precise function, distribution within the centrosome, and mechanism of centrosomal recruitment are unknown. The C-terminus of ALMS1 contains a region with similarity to the uncharacterized human protein C10orf90, termed the ALMS motif. Here, we show that a third human protein, the candidate centrosomal protein KIAA1731, contains an ALMS motif and that exogenously expressed KIAA1731 and C10orf90 localize to the centrosome. However, based on deletion analysis of ALMS1, the ALMS motif appears unlikely to be critical for centrosomal targeting. RNAi analyses suggest that C10orf90 and KIAA1731 have roles in primary cilium assembly and centriole formation/stability, respectively. We also show that ALMS1 localizes specifically to the proximal ends of centrioles and basal bodies, where it colocalizes with the centrosome cohesion protein C-Nap1. RNAi analysis reveals markedly diminished centrosomal levels of C-Nap1 and compromised cohesion of parental centrioles in ALMS1-depleted cells. In summary, these data suggest centrosomal functions for C10orf90 and KIAA1731 and new centriole-related functions for ALMS1.
PMCID: PMC2965680  PMID: 20844083
13.  Photoreceptor Degeneration, Azoospermia, Leukoencephalopathy, and Abnormal RPE Cell Function in Mice Expressing an Early Stop Mutation in CLCN2 
This study characterizes a chemically induced mutation leading to an early stop codon in CLCN2 that causes photoreceptor degeneration, leukoencephalopathy, and azoospermia. Loss of one functional Clcn2 allele significantly reduced the electroretinogram light peak response, suggesting that this chloride channel is necessary for the generation of this response.
To determine the molecular basis and the pathologic consequences of a chemically induced mutation in a mouse model of photoreceptor degeneration, nmf240.
Mice from a G3 N-ethyl-N-nitrosourea mutagenesis program were screened by indirect ophthalmoscopy for abnormal fundi. A chromosomal position for the recessive nmf240 mutation was determined by a genome-wide linkage analysis by use of simple sequence length polymorphic markers in an F2 intercross. The critical region was refined, and candidate genes were screened by direct sequencing. The nmf240 phenotype was characterized by histologic analysis of the retina, brain, and male reproductive organs and by electroretinogram (ERG)-based studies of the retina and retinal pigment epithelium (RPE).
Clinically, homozygous nmf240 mutants exhibit a grainy retina that progresses to panretinal patches of depigmentation. The mutation was localized to a region on chromosome 16 containing Clcn2, a gene associated with retinal degeneration. Sequencing identified a missense C-T mutation at nucleotide 1063 in Clcn2 that converts a glutamine to a stop codon. Mice homozygous for the Clcn2nmf240 mutation experience a severe loss of photoreceptor cells at 14 days of age that is preceded by an elongation of RPE apical microvilli. Homozygous mutants also experience leukoencephalopathy in multiple brain areas and male sterility. Despite a normal retinal histology in nmf240 heterozygotes, the ERG light peak, generated by the RPE, is reduced.
The nmf240 phenotype closely resembles that reported for Clcn2 knockout mice. The observation that heterozygous nmf240 mice present with a reduced ERG light peak component suggests that CLCN2 is necessary for the generation of this response component.
PMCID: PMC2891478  PMID: 20071672
14.  Caloric restriction in Alström syndrome prevents hyperinsulinemia 
Alström syndrome (AS; MIM 203800) is an autosomal recessive disorder characterized by cone-rod dystrophy, dilated cardiomyopathy, sensorineural hearing impairment, developmental delay, and most case had both childhood-onset obesity and hyperinsulinemia. Currently, the pathogenesis of this disease is not clear. Here we report an 18-month-old boy with Alström syndrome. He had obesity but with normal insulin and glucose levels. Molecular analysis of the ALMS1 gene revealed a homozygous deletion 11116_11134 del n(19) in exon 16. His body mass index decreased from 25.0 to 20.7 after calorie restriction for 9 months, and his insulin and glucose levels remained normal. Finding in this case suggests that hyperinsulinemia is a secondary event in Alström syndrome, and early-commenced treatment prevents hyperinsulinemia.
PMCID: PMC2820246  PMID: 19283853
Alström syndrome; ALMS1; obesity; hyperinsulinemia; calorie restriction

Results 1-14 (14)