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1.  Mutation of SALL2 causes recessive ocular coloboma in humans and mice 
Human Molecular Genetics  2014;23(10):2511-2526.
Ocular coloboma is a congenital defect resulting from failure of normal closure of the optic fissure during embryonic eye development. This birth defect causes childhood blindness worldwide, yet the genetic etiology is poorly understood. Here, we identified a novel homozygous mutation in the SALL2 gene in members of a consanguineous family affected with non-syndromic ocular coloboma variably affecting the iris and retina. This mutation, c.85G>T, introduces a premature termination codon (p.Glu29*) predicted to truncate the SALL2 protein so that it lacks three clusters of zinc-finger motifs that are essential for DNA-binding activity. This discovery identifies SALL2 as the third member of the Drosophila homeotic Spalt-like family of developmental transcription factor genes implicated in human disease. SALL2 is expressed in the developing human retina at the time of, and subsequent to, optic fissure closure. Analysis of Sall2-deficient mouse embryos revealed delayed apposition of the optic fissure margins and the persistence of an anterior retinal coloboma phenotype after birth. Sall2-deficient embryos displayed correct posterior closure toward the optic nerve head, and upon contact of the fissure margins, dissolution of the basal lamina occurred and PAX2, known to be critical for this process, was expressed normally. Anterior closure was disrupted with the fissure margins failing to meet, or in some cases misaligning leading to a retinal lesion. These observations demonstrate, for the first time, a role for SALL2 in eye morphogenesis and that loss of function of the gene causes ocular coloboma in humans and mice.
doi:10.1093/hmg/ddt643
PMCID: PMC3990155  PMID: 24412933
2.  Bardet–Biedl syndrome 
Bardet–Biedl syndrome (BBS) is a rare autosomal recessive ciliopathy characterised by retinal dystrophy, obesity, post-axial polydactyly, renal dysfunction, learning difficulties and hypogonadism. Many associated minor features can be helpful in making a diagnosis and are important in the clinical management of BBS. The diagnosis is based on clinical findings and can be confirmed by sequencing of known disease-causing genes in 80% of patients. BBS genes encode proteins that localise to the cilia and basal body and are involved in cilia biogenesis and function. Mutations lead to defective cilia accounting in part for the pleiotropic effects observed in BBS. We provide an overview of BBS including the clinical findings, current understanding of cilia biology, and a practical approach to diagnosis, genetic counselling and up-to-date management.
doi:10.1038/ejhg.2012.115
PMCID: PMC3522196  PMID: 22713813
Bardet–Biedl syndrome; ciliopathies; autosomal recessive inheritance; BBS genes
3.  Development of an Automated Imaging Pipeline for the Analysis of the Zebrafish Larval Kidney 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e82137.
The analysis of kidney malformation caused by environmental influences during nephrogenesis or by hereditary nephropathies requires animal models allowing the in vivo observation of developmental processes. The zebrafish has emerged as a useful model system for the analysis of vertebrate organ development and function, and it is suitable for the identification of organotoxic or disease-modulating compounds on a larger scale. However, to fully exploit its potential in high content screening applications, dedicated protocols are required allowing the consistent visualization of inner organs such as the embryonic kidney. To this end, we developed a high content screening compatible pipeline for the automated imaging of standardized views of the developing pronephros in zebrafish larvae. Using a custom designed tool, cavities were generated in agarose coated microtiter plates allowing for accurate positioning and orientation of zebrafish larvae. This enabled the subsequent automated acquisition of stable and consistent dorsal views of pronephric kidneys. The established pipeline was applied in a pilot screen for the analysis of the impact of potentially nephrotoxic drugs on zebrafish pronephros development in the Tg(wt1b:EGFP) transgenic line in which the developing pronephros is highlighted by GFP expression. The consistent image data that was acquired allowed for quantification of gross morphological pronephric phenotypes, revealing concentration dependent effects of several compounds on nephrogenesis. In addition, applicability of the imaging pipeline was further confirmed in a morpholino based model for cilia-associated human genetic disorders associated with different intraflagellar transport genes. The developed tools and pipeline can be used to study various aspects in zebrafish kidney research, and can be readily adapted for the analysis of other organ systems.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0082137
PMCID: PMC3852951  PMID: 24324758
4.  Bardet–Biedl syndrome proteins control the cilia length through regulation of actin polymerization 
Human Molecular Genetics  2013;22(19):3858-3868.
Primary cilia are cellular appendages important for signal transduction and sensing the environment. Bardet–Biedl syndrome proteins form a complex that is important for several cytoskeleton-related processes such as ciliogenesis, cell migration and division. However, the mechanisms by which BBS proteins may regulate the cytoskeleton remain unclear. We discovered that Bbs4- and Bbs6-deficient renal medullary cells display a characteristic behaviour comprising poor migration, adhesion and division with an inability to form lamellipodial and filopodial extensions. Moreover, fewer mutant cells were ciliated [48% ± 6 for wild-type (WT) cells versus 23% ± 7 for Bbs4 null cells; P < 0.0001] and their cilia were shorter (2.55 μm ± 0.41 for WT cells versus 2.16 μm ± 0.23 for Bbs4 null cells; P < 0.0001). While the microtubular cytoskeleton and cortical actin were intact, actin stress fibre formation was severely disrupted, forming abnormal apical stress fibre aggregates. Furthermore, we observed over-abundant focal adhesions (FAs) in Bbs4-, Bbs6- and Bbs8-deficient cells. In view of these findings and the role of RhoA in regulation of actin filament polymerization, we showed that RhoA-GTP levels were highly upregulated in the absence of Bbs proteins. Upon treatment of Bbs4-deficient cells with chemical inhibitors of RhoA, we were able to restore the cilia length and number as well as the integrity of the actin cytoskeleton. Together these findings indicate that Bbs proteins play a central role in the regulation of the actin cytoskeleton and control the cilia length through alteration of RhoA levels.
doi:10.1093/hmg/ddt241
PMCID: PMC3766180  PMID: 23716571
5.  Generation and validation of a zebrafish model of EAST (epilepsy, ataxia, sensorineural deafness and tubulopathy) syndrome 
Disease Models & Mechanisms  2013;6(3):652-660.
SUMMARY
Recessive mutations in KCNJ10, which encodes an inwardly rectifying potassium channel, were recently identified as the cause of EAST syndrome, a severe and disabling multi-organ disorder consisting of epilepsy, ataxia, sensorineural deafness and tubulopathy that becomes clinically apparent with seizures in infancy. A Kcnj10 knockout mouse shows postnatal mortality and is therefore not suitable for drug discovery. Because zebrafish are ideal for in vivo screening for potential therapeutics, we tested whether kcnj10 knockdown in zebrafish would fill this need. We cloned zebrafish kcnj10 and demonstrated that its function is equivalent to that of human KCNJ10. We next injected splice- and translation-blocking kcnj10 antisense morpholino oligonucleotides and reproduced the cardinal symptoms of EAST syndrome – ataxia, epilepsy and renal tubular defects. Several of these phenotypes could be assayed in an automated manner. We could rescue the morphant phenotype with complementary RNA (cRNA) encoding human wild-type KCNJ10, but not with cRNA encoding a KCNJ10 mutation identified in individuals with EAST syndrome. Our results suggest that zebrafish will be a valuable tool to screen for compounds that are potentially therapeutic for EAST syndrome or its individual symptoms. Knockdown of kcnj10 represents the first zebrafish model of a salt-losing tubulopathy, which has relevance for blood pressure control.
doi:10.1242/dmm.009480
PMCID: PMC3634649  PMID: 23471908
6.  CILIA2012: Cilia in development and disease 
Cilia  2012;1(Suppl 1):I1.
doi:10.1186/2046-2530-1-S1-I1
PMCID: PMC3555753  PMID: 23391289
7.  Mutations in axonemal dynein assembly factor DNAAF3 cause primary ciliary dyskinesia 
Nature genetics  2012;44(4):381-S2.
Primary Ciliary Dyskinesia (PCD) most often arises from loss of the dynein motors that power ciliary beating. Here we show that PF22/DNAAF3, a previously uncharacterized protein, is essential for the preassembly of dyneins into complexes prior to their transport into cilia. We identified loss-of-function mutations in the human DNAAF3 gene in patients from families with situs inversus and defects in assembly of inner and outer dynein arms. Zebrafish dnaaf3 knockdown likewise disrupts dynein arm assembly and ciliary motility, causing PCD phenotypes including hydrocephalus and laterality malformations. Chlamydomonas reinhardtii PF22 is exclusively cytoplasmic, and a null mutant fails to assemble outer and some inner dynein arms. Altered abundance of dynein subunits in mutant cytoplasm suggests PF22/DNAAF3 acts at a similar stage to other preassembly proteins, PF13/KTU and ODA7/LRRC50, in the dynein preassembly pathway. These results support the existence of a conserved multi-step pathway for cytoplasmic formation of assembly-competent ciliary dynein complexes.
doi:10.1038/ng.1106
PMCID: PMC3315610  PMID: 22387996
Kartagener syndrome; primary ciliary dyskinesia; Chlamydomonas; flagella; dynein assembly; zebrafish
8.  Heat shock induces rapid resorption of primary cilia 
Journal of Cell Science  2012;125(18):4297-4305.
Summary
Primary cilia are involved in important developmental and disease pathways, such as the regulation of neurogenesis and tumorigenesis. They function as sensory antennae and are essential in the regulation of key extracellular signalling systems. We have investigated the effects of cell stress on primary cilia. Exposure of mammalian cells in vitro, and zebrafish cells in vivo, to elevated temperature resulted in the rapid loss of cilia by resorption. In mammalian cells loss of cilia correlated with a reduction in hedgehog signalling. Heat-shock-dependent loss of cilia was decreased in cells where histone deacetylases (HDACs) were inhibited, suggesting resorption is mediated by the axoneme-localised tubulin deacetylase HDAC6. In thermotolerant cells the rate of ciliary resorption was reduced. This implies a role for molecular chaperones in the maintenance of primary cilia. The cytosolic chaperone Hsp90 localises to the ciliary axoneme and its inhibition resulted in cilia loss. In the cytoplasm of unstressed cells, Hsp90 is known to exist in a complex with HDAC6. Moreover, immediately after heat shock Hsp90 levels were reduced in the remaining cilia. We hypothesise that ciliary resorption serves to attenuate cilia-mediated signalling pathways in response to extracellular stress, and that this mechanism is regulated in part by HDAC6 and Hsp90.
doi:10.1242/jcs.100545
PMCID: PMC3516438  PMID: 22718348
Heat shock; Molecular chaperone; Primary cilia
10.  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.
doi:10.1038/ejhg.2010.207
PMCID: PMC3060323  PMID: 21157496
Bardet–Biedl syndrome; BBS; Alström syndrome; ALMS1; arrayed primer extension; mutation analysis
11.  An Ift80 mouse model of short rib polydactyly syndromes shows defects in hedgehog signalling without loss or malformation of cilia 
Human Molecular Genetics  2011;20(7):1306-1314.
IFT80, a protein component of intraflagellar transport (IFT) complex B, is required for the formation, maintenance and functionality of cilia. Mutations in IFT80 cause Jeune asphyxiating thoracic dystrophy (JATD) and short rib polydactyly (SRP) type III. Both diseases are autosomal recessive chondrodysplasias and share clinical and radiological similarities, including shortening of the long bones and constriction of the thoracic cage. A murine Ift80 gene-trap line was used to investigate the role of Ift80 during development. The homozygote appears hypomorphic rather than a true null due to low level wild-type transcript production by alternative splicing around the gene-trap cassette. Hypomorphic levels of Ift80 result in embryonic lethality highlighting a key role for Ift80 in development. In rare cases, gene-trap homozygotes survive to postnatal stages and phenocopy both JATD and SRP type III by exhibiting growth retardation, shortening of the long bones, constriction of the ribcage and polydactyly. Mouse embryonic fibroblasts made from this line showed a significant reduction in hedgehog pathway activation in response to Hedgehog analog treatment. This defective signalling was not accompanied by the loss or malformation of cilia as seen in some knockout models of other IFT component genes. Phenotypes indicative of defects in cilia structure or function such as situs inversus, cystic renal disease and retinal degeneration were not observed in this line. These data suggest that there is an absolute requirement for Ift80 in hedgehog signalling, but low level expression permits ciliogenesis indicating separate but linked roles for this protein in formation and function.
doi:10.1093/hmg/ddr013
PMCID: PMC3049354  PMID: 21227999
12.  Combining Cep290 and Mkks ciliopathy alleles in mice rescues sensory defects and restores ciliogenesis  
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2012;122(4):1233-1245.
Cilia are highly specialized microtubule-based organelles that have pivotal roles in numerous biological processes, including transducing sensory signals. Defects in cilia biogenesis and transport cause pleiotropic human ciliopathies. Mutations in over 30 different genes can lead to cilia defects, and complex interactions exist among ciliopathy-associated proteins. Mutations of the centrosomal protein 290 kDa (CEP290) lead to distinct clinical manifestations, including Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA), a hereditary cause of blindness due to photoreceptor degeneration. Mice homozygous for a mutant Cep290 allele (Cep290rd16 mice) exhibit LCA-like early-onset retinal degeneration that is caused by an in-frame deletion in the CEP290 protein. Here, we show that the domain deleted in the protein encoded by the Cep290rd16 allele directly interacts with another ciliopathy protein, MKKS. MKKS mutations identified in patients with the ciliopathy Bardet-Biedl syndrome disrupted this interaction. In zebrafish embryos, combined subminimal knockdown of mkks and cep290 produced sensory defects in the eye and inner ear. Intriguingly, combinations of Cep290rd16 and Mkksko alleles in mice led to improved ciliogenesis and sensory functions compared with those of either mutant alone. We propose that altered association of CEP290 and MKKS affects the integrity of multiprotein complexes at the cilia transition zone and basal body. Amelioration of the sensory phenotypes caused by specific mutations in one protein by removal of an interacting domain/protein suggests a possible novel approach for treating human ciliopathies.
doi:10.1172/JCI60981
PMCID: PMC3314468  PMID: 22446187
13.  Clinical and Genetic Epidemiology of Bardet–Biedl Syndrome in Newfoundland: A 22-Year Prospective, Population-Based, Cohort Study 
Bardet–Biedl syndrome (BBS) and Laurence–Moon syndrome (LMS) have a similar phenotype, which includes retinal dystrophy, obesity, and hypogenitalism. They are differentiated by the presence of spasticity and the absence of polydactyly in LMS. The aims of this study were to describe the epidemiology of BBS and LMS, further define the phenotype, and examine genotype–phenotype correlation. The study involved 46 patients (26 males, 20 females) from 26 families, with a median age of 44 years (range 1–68 years). Assessments were performed in 1986, 1993, and 2001 and included neurological assessments, anthropometric measurements, and clinical photographs to assess dysmorphic features. The phenotype was highly variable within and between families. Impaired co-ordination and ataxia occurred in 86% (18/21). Thirty percent (14/46) met criteria for psychiatric illness; other medical problems included cholecystectomy in 37% (17/46) and asthma in 28% (13/46). Dysmorphic features included brachycephaly, large ears, and short, narrow palpebral fissures. There was no apparent correlation of clinical or dysmorphic features with genotype. Two patients were diagnosed clinically as LMS but both had mutations in a BBS gene. The features in this population do not support the notion that BBS and LMS are distinct. The lack of a genotype–phenotype correlation implies that BBS proteins interact and are necessary for the development of many organs.
doi:10.1002/ajmg.a.30406
PMCID: PMC3295827  PMID: 15637713 CAMSID: cams2132
Bardet–Biedl syndrome; Laurence-Moon-Biedl syndrome; genotype–phenotype correlation
14.  Identification of 11 Novel Mutations in 8 BBS Genes by High-Resolution Homozygosity Mapping 
Journal of medical genetics  2009;47(4):262-267.
Bardet-Biedl syndrome (BBS) is primarily an autosomal recessive disorder characterized by the five cardinal features retinitis pigmentosa, postaxial polydactyly, mental retardation, obesity and hypogenitalism. In addition, renal cysts and other anomalies of the kidney and urinary tract can be present. To date, mutations in 12 BBS genes as well as in MKS1 and CEP290 have been identified as causing BBS. The vast genetic heterogeneity of BBS renders molecular genetic diagnosis difficult in terms of both the time and cost required to screen all 204 coding exons. Here, we report the use of genome-wide homozygosity mapping as a tool to identify homozygous segments at known BBS loci in BBS individuals from inbred and outbred background. In a worldwide cohort of 45 families, we identified, via direct exon sequencing, causative homozygous mutations in 20 families. Eleven of these mutations were novel, thereby increasing the number of known BBS mutations by 5% (11/218). Thus, in the presence of extreme genetic locus heterogeneity, homozygosity mapping provides a valuable approach to the molecular genetic diagnosis of BBS and will facilitate the discovery of novel pathogenic mutations.
doi:10.1136/jmg.2009.071365
PMCID: PMC3017466  PMID: 19797195
Molecular Genetics
15.  Ciliopathies: an expanding disease spectrum 
Ciliopathies comprise a group of disorders associated with genetic mutations encoding defective proteins, which result in either abnormal formation or function of cilia. As cilia are a component of almost all vertebrate cells, cilia dysfunction can manifest as a constellation of features that include characteristically, retinal degeneration, renal disease and cerebral anomalies. Additional manifestations include congenital fibrocystic diseases of the liver, diabetes, obesity and skeletal dysplasias. Ciliopathic features have been associated with mutations in over 40 genes to date. However, with over 1,000 polypeptides currently identified within the ciliary proteome, several other disorders associated with this constellation of clinical features will likely be ascribed to mutations in other ciliary genes. The mechanisms underlying many of the disease phenotypes associated with ciliary dysfunction have yet to be fully elucidated. Several elegant studies have crucially demonstrated the dynamic ciliary localisation of components of the Hedgehog and Wnt signalling pathways during signal transduction. Given the critical role of the cilium in transducing “outside-in” signals, it is not surprising therefore, that the disease phenotypes consequent to ciliary dysfunction are a manifestation of aberrant signal transduction. Further investigation is now needed to explore the developmental and physiological roles of aberrant signal transduction in the manifestation of ciliopathy phenotypes. Utilisation of conditional and inducible murine models to delete or overexpress individual ciliary genes in a spatiotemporal and organ/cell-specific manner should help clarify some of the functional roles of ciliary proteins in the manifestation of phenotypic features.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00467-010-1731-7) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorised users.
doi:10.1007/s00467-010-1731-7
PMCID: PMC3098370  PMID: 21210154
Ciliopathy; Renal disease; Retinal disease; Heterogeneous
16.  Basal body stability and ciliogenesis requires the conserved component Poc1 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2009;187(6):905-920.
Poc1 shores up basal bodies to support cilia formation in Tetrahymena thermophila, zebrafish, and humans; Poc1 depletion causes phenotypes commonly seen in ciliopathies.
Centrioles are the foundation for centrosome and cilia formation. The biogenesis of centrioles is initiated by an assembly mechanism that first synthesizes the ninefold symmetrical cartwheel and subsequently leads to a stable cylindrical microtubule scaffold that is capable of withstanding microtubule-based forces generated by centrosomes and cilia. We report that the conserved WD40 repeat domain–containing cartwheel protein Poc1 is required for the structural maintenance of centrioles in Tetrahymena thermophila. Furthermore, human Poc1B is required for primary ciliogenesis, and in zebrafish, DrPoc1B knockdown causes ciliary defects and morphological phenotypes consistent with human ciliopathies. T. thermophila Poc1 exhibits a protein incorporation profile commonly associated with structural centriole components in which the majority of Poc1 is stably incorporated during new centriole assembly. A second dynamic population assembles throughout the cell cycle. Our experiments identify novel roles for Poc1 in centriole stability and ciliogenesis.
doi:10.1083/jcb.200908019
PMCID: PMC2806327  PMID: 20008567
17.  Combined exome and whole-genome sequencing identifies mutations in ARMC4 as a cause of primary ciliary dyskinesia with defects in the outer dynein arm 
Journal of Medical Genetics  2013;51(1):61-67.
Background
Primary ciliary dyskinesia (PCD) is a rare, genetically heterogeneous ciliopathy disorder affecting cilia and sperm motility. A range of ultrastructural defects of the axoneme underlie the disease, which is characterised by chronic respiratory symptoms and obstructive lung disease, infertility and body axis laterality defects. We applied a next-generation sequencing approach to identify the gene responsible for this phenotype in two consanguineous families.
Methods and results
Data from whole-exome sequencing in a consanguineous Turkish family, and whole-genome sequencing in the obligate carrier parents of a consanguineous Pakistani family was combined to identify homozygous loss-of-function mutations in ARMC4, segregating in all five affected individuals from both families. Both families carried nonsense mutations within the highly conserved armadillo repeat region of ARMC4: c.2675C>A; pSer892* and c.1972G>T; p.Glu658*. A deficiency of ARMC4 protein was seen in patient's respiratory cilia accompanied by loss of the distal outer dynein arm motors responsible for generating ciliary beating, giving rise to cilia immotility. ARMC4 gene expression is upregulated during ciliogenesis, and we found a predicted interaction with the outer dynein arm protein DNAI2, mutations in which also cause PCD.
Conclusions
We report the first use of whole-genome sequencing to identify gene mutations causing PCD. Loss-of-function mutations in ARMC4 cause PCD with situs inversus and cilia immotility, associated with a loss of the distal outer (but not inner) dynein arms. This addition of ARMC4 to the list of genes associated with ciliary outer dynein arm defects expands our understanding of the complexities of PCD genetics.
doi:10.1136/jmedgenet-2013-101938
PMCID: PMC3888613  PMID: 24203976
Clinical Genetics; Developmental; Genetics; Molecular Genetics; Other Respiratory Medicine
18.  Targeted NGS gene panel identifies mutations in RSPH1 causing primary ciliary dyskinesia and a common mechanism for ciliary central pair agenesis due to radial spoke defects 
Human Molecular Genetics  2014;23(13):3362-3374.
Primary ciliary dyskinesia (PCD) is an inherited chronic respiratory obstructive disease with randomized body laterality and infertility, resulting from cilia and sperm dysmotility. PCD is characterized by clinical variability and extensive genetic heterogeneity, associated with different cilia ultrastructural defects and mutations identified in >20 genes. Next generation sequencing (NGS) technologies therefore present a promising approach for genetic diagnosis which is not yet in routine use. We developed a targeted panel-based NGS pipeline to identify mutations by sequencing of selected candidate genes in 70 genetically undefined PCD patients. This detected loss-of-function RSPH1 mutations in four individuals with isolated central pair (CP) agenesis and normal body laterality, from two unrelated families. Ultrastructural analysis in RSPH1-mutated cilia revealed transposition of peripheral outer microtubules into the ‘empty’ CP space, accompanied by a distinctive intermittent loss of the central pair microtubules. We find that mutations in RSPH1, RSPH4A and RSPH9, which all encode homologs of components of the ‘head’ structure of ciliary radial spoke complexes identified in Chlamydomonas, cause clinical phenotypes that appear to be indistinguishable except at the gene level. By high-resolution immunofluorescence we identified a loss of RSPH4A and RSPH9 along with RSPH1 from RSPH1-mutated cilia, suggesting RSPH1 mutations may result in loss of the entire spoke head structure. CP loss is seen in up to 28% of PCD cases, in whom laterality determination specified by CP-less embryonic node cilia remains undisturbed. We propose this defect could arise from instability or agenesis of the ciliary central microtubules due to loss of their normal radial spoke head tethering.
doi:10.1093/hmg/ddu046
PMCID: PMC4049301  PMID: 24518672
19.  Loss of FTO Antagonises Wnt Signaling and Leads to Developmental Defects Associated with Ciliopathies 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(2):e87662.
Common intronic variants in the Human fat mass and obesity-associated gene (FTO) are found to be associated with an increased risk of obesity. Overexpression of FTO correlates with increased food intake and obesity, whilst loss-of-function results in lethality and severe developmental defects. Despite intense scientific discussions around the role of FTO in energy metabolism, the function of FTO during development remains undefined. Here, we show that loss of Fto leads to developmental defects such as growth retardation, craniofacial dysmorphism and aberrant neural crest cells migration in Zebrafish. We find that the important developmental pathway, Wnt, is compromised in the absence of FTO, both in vivo (zebrafish) and in vitro (Fto−/− MEFs and HEK293T). Canonical Wnt signalling is down regulated by abrogated β-Catenin translocation to the nucleus whilst non-canonical Wnt/Ca2+ pathway is activated via its key signal mediators CaMKII and PKCδ. Moreover, we demonstrate that loss of Fto results in short, absent or disorganised cilia leading to situs inversus, renal cystogenesis, neural crest cell defects and microcephaly in Zebrafish. Congruently, Fto knockout mice display aberrant tissue specific cilia. These data identify FTO as a protein-regulator of the balanced activation between canonical and non-canonical branches of the Wnt pathway. Furthermore, we present the first evidence that FTO plays a role in development and cilia formation/function.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0087662
PMCID: PMC3913654  PMID: 24503721
20.  KIF7 mutations cause fetal hydrolethalus and acrocallosal syndromes 
Nature genetics  2011;43(6):601-606.
KIF7, the human ortholog of Drosophila Costal2, is a key component of the Hedgehog signaling pathway. Here we report mutations in KIF7 in individuals with hydrolethalus and acrocallosal syndromes, two multiple malformation disorders with overlapping features that include polydactyly, brain abnormalities and cleft palate. Consistent with a role of KIF7 in Hedgehog signaling, we show deregulation of most GLI transcription factor targets and impaired GLI3 processing in tissues from individuals with KIF7 mutations. KIF7 is also a likely contributor of alleles across the ciliopathy spectrum, as sequencing of a diverse cohort identified several missense mutations detrimental to protein function. In addition, in vivo genetic interaction studies indicated that knockdown of KIF7 could exacerbate the phenotype induced by knockdown of other ciliopathy transcripts. Our data show the role of KIF7 in human primary cilia, especially in the Hedgehog pathway through the regulation of GLI targets, and expand the clinical spectrum of ciliopathies.
doi:10.1038/ng.826
PMCID: PMC3674836  PMID: 21552264
21.  Mutations in the lectin complement pathway genes COLEC11 and MASP1 cause 3MC syndrome 
Nature genetics  2011;43(3):197-203.
3MC syndrome has been proposed as a unifying term to integrate the overlapping Carnevale, Mingarelli, Malpuech and Michels syndromes. These rare autosomal recessive disorders of unknown cause comprise a spectrum of developmental features including characteristic facial dysmorphism, cleft lip and/or palate, craniosynostosis, learning disability, and genital, limb and vesicorenal anomalies. In a cohort of eleven 3MC families, we identified two mutated genes COLEC11 and MASP1 both of which encode proteins within the lectin complement pathway (CL-K1 and MASP-1 & −3 respectively). CL-K1 is highly expressed in embryonic murine craniofacial cartilage, heart, bronchi, kidney, and vertebral bodies. Zebrafish morphants develop pigment defects and severe craniofacial abnormalities.
Here, we show that CL-K1 serves as a key guidance cue for neural crest cell migration thus demonstrating for the first time, a role for complement pathway factors in fundamental developmental processes and the origin of 3MC syndrome.
doi:10.1038/ng.757
PMCID: PMC3045628  PMID: 21258343
22.  TTC21B contributes both causal and modifying alleles across the ciliopathy spectrum 
Nature genetics  2011;43(3):189-196.
Ciliary dysfunction leads to a broad range of overlapping phenotypes, termed collectively as ciliopathies. This grouping is underscored by genetic overlap, where causal genes can also contribute modifying alleles to clinically distinct disorders. Here we show that mutations in TTC21B/IFT139, encoding a retrograde intraflagellar transport (IFT) protein, cause both isolated nephronophthisis (NPHP) and syndromic Jeune Asphyxiating Thoracic Dystrophy (JATD). Moreover, although systematic medical resequencing of a large, clinically diverse ciliopathy cohort and matched controls showed a similar frequency of rare changes, in vivo and in vitro evaluations unmasked a significant enrichment of pathogenic alleles in cases, suggesting that TTC21B contributes pathogenic alleles to ∼5% of ciliopathy patients. Our data illustrate how genetic lesions can be both causally associated with diverse ciliopathies, as well as interact in trans with other disease-causing genes, and highlight how saturated resequencing followed by functional analysis of all variants informs the genetic architecture of disorders.
doi:10.1038/ng.756
PMCID: PMC3071301  PMID: 21258341
23.  A common allele in RPGRIP1L is a modifier of retinal degeneration in ciliopathies 
Nature genetics  2009;41(6):739-745.
Despite rapid advances in disease gene identification, the predictive power of the genotype remains limited, in part due to poorly understood effects of second-site modifiers. Here we demonstrate that a polymorphic coding variant of RPGRIP1L (retinitis pigmentosa GTPase regulator-interacting protein-1 like), a ciliary gene mutated in Meckel-Gruber (MKS) and Joubert (JBTS) syndromes, is associated with the development of retinal degeneration in patients with ciliopathies caused by mutations in other genes. As part of our resequencing efforts of the ciliary proteome, we identified several putative loss of function RPGRIP1L mutations, including one common variant, A229T. Multiple genetic lines of evidence showed this allele to be associated with photoreceptor loss in ciliopathies. Moreover, we show that RPGRIP1L interacts biochemically with RPGR, loss of which causes retinal degeneration, and that the 229T-encoded protein significantly compromises this interaction. Our data represent an example of modification of a discrete phenotype of syndromic disease and highlight the importance of a multifaceted approach for the discovery of modifier alleles of intermediate frequency and effect.
doi:10.1038/ng.366
PMCID: PMC2783476  PMID: 19430481
24.  Exome sequencing identifies DYNC2H1 mutations as a common cause of asphyxiating thoracic dystrophy (Jeune syndrome) without major polydactyly, renal or retinal involvement 
Journal of Medical Genetics  2013;50(5):309-323.
Background
Jeune asphyxiating thoracic dystrophy (JATD) is a rare, often lethal, recessively inherited chondrodysplasia characterised by shortened ribs and long bones, sometimes accompanied by polydactyly, and renal, liver and retinal disease. Mutations in intraflagellar transport (IFT) genes cause JATD, including the IFT dynein-2 motor subunit gene DYNC2H1. Genetic heterogeneity and the large DYNC2H1 gene size have hindered JATD genetic diagnosis.
Aims and methods
To determine the contribution to JATD we screened DYNC2H1 in 71 JATD patients JATD patients combining SNP mapping, Sanger sequencing and exome sequencing.
Results and conclusions
We detected 34 DYNC2H1 mutations in 29/71 (41%) patients from 19/57 families (33%), showing it as a major cause of JATD especially in Northern European patients. This included 13 early protein termination mutations (nonsense/frameshift, deletion, splice site) but no patients carried these in combination, suggesting the human phenotype is at least partly hypomorphic. In addition, 21 missense mutations were distributed across DYNC2H1 and these showed some clustering to functional domains, especially the ATP motor domain. DYNC2H1 patients largely lacked significant extra-skeletal involvement, demonstrating an important genotype–phenotype correlation in JATD. Significant variability exists in the course and severity of the thoracic phenotype, both between affected siblings with identical DYNC2H1 alleles and among individuals with different alleles, which suggests the DYNC2H1 phenotype might be subject to modifier alleles, non-genetic or epigenetic factors. Assessment of fibroblasts from patients showed accumulation of anterograde IFT proteins in the ciliary tips, confirming defects similar to patients with other retrograde IFT machinery mutations, which may be of undervalued potential for diagnostic purposes.
doi:10.1136/jmedgenet-2012-101284
PMCID: PMC3627132  PMID: 23456818
Clinical Genetics; Molecular Genetics; Developmental; Diagnostics; Genetic Screening/Counselling

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