Purpose of review
Ciliopathies are genetic disorders caused by defects of primary ciliary structure and/or function and are characterized by pleiotropic clinical features. The ciliopathies include several partially overlapping syndromes such as Joubert syndrome, Bardet–Biedl syndrome and Meckel–Gruber syndrome, all of which have pronounced neurodevelopmental features. Here we focus on potential roles of cilia in central nervous system function, to explore how impairments may cause brain malformation and neurodevelopmental disease.
Cilia have long been considered as ‘sensory cellular antennae’, responding as chemo-sensors, mechano-sensors and thermo-sensors, although their roles in development were not well understood until recently. The surprising finding that disparate syndromes are all due to defects of the primary cilia, along with the recent advances in genetics, has helped elucidate further roles of primary cilia beyond sensory functions. Several molecules that are associated with key signaling pathways have been discovered in primary cilia. These include sonic hedgehog, wingless, planar cell polarity and fibroblast growth factor, which are essential for many cellular processes. Additionally, mutations in ‘ciliome’ genes have largely shown developmental defects such as abnormal body axis and brain malformation, implying disrupted cilia-related signaling pathways. Accordingly, the emerging theme is that primary cilia may play roles as modulators of signal transduction to help shape cellular responses within the environmental context during both development and homeostasis.
The link between cilia and signal pathways has become a framework for understanding the pathogenesis of ciliopathies. Despite recent progress in ciliary biology, fundamental questions remain about how cilia regulate neuronal function in the central nervous system. Therefore, investigation of ciliary function in the nervous system may reveal cilia-modulating mechanisms in neurodevelopmental processes, as well as suggest new treatments for disease.
brain; central nervous system; cilia; ciliopathy; Joubert syndrome; neuron; signaling pathways
In the September 12, 2013 issue of Nature, the Epi4K consortium and the Epilepsy Phenome/Genome Project (EPGP) reported sequencing 264 patient trios with epileptic encephalopathies. The consortia focused on genes exceptionally intolerant to sequence variations and found substantial interconnections with autism and intellectual disability gene networks.
A group of disorders with disparate symptomatology, including congenital cerebellar ataxia, retinal blindness, liver fibrosis, polycystic kidney disease, and polydactyly, have recently been united under a single disease mechanism called ‘ciliopathies’. The ciliopathies are due to defects of the cellular antenna known as the primary cilium, a microtubule-based extension of cellular membranes found in nearly all cell types. Key among these ciliopathies is Joubert syndrome, displaying ataxia, oculomotor apraxia, and mental retardation* with a pathognomonic ‘molar tooth sign’ on brain magnetic resonance imaging. The importance of ciliary function in neuronal development has been appreciated only in the last decade with the classification of Joubert syndrome as a ciliopathy. This, together with the identification of many of the clinical features of ciliopathies in individuals with Joubert syndrome and the localization of Joubert syndrome’s causative gene products at or near the primary cilium, have defined a new class of neurological disease. Cilia are involved in diverse cellular processes including protein trafficking, photoreception, embryonic axis patterning, and cell cycle regulation. Ciliary dysfunction can affect a single tissue or manifest as multi-organ involvement. Ciliary defects have been described in retinopathies such as retinitis pigmentosa and Leber congenital amaurosis (defects in photoreceptor ciliary protein complexes), renal syndromes with nephronophthisis and cystic dysplastic kidneys, and liver conditions such as fibrosis and biliary cirrhosis. Recognizing the diverse presentations of the ciliopathies and screening strategies following diagnosis is an important part of the treatment plan of children with cilia-related disorders.
Purine biosynthesis and metabolism, conserved in all living organisms, is essential for cellular energy homeostasis and nucleic acids synthesis. The de novo synthesis of purine precursors is under tight negative feedback regulation mediated by adenosine and guanine nucleotides. We describe a new distinct early-onset neurodegenerative condition resulting from mutations in the adenosine monophosphate deaminase 2 gene (AMPD2). Patients have characteristic brain imaging features of pontocerebellar hypoplasia (PCH), due to loss of brainstem and cerebellar parenchyma. We found that AMPD2 plays an evolutionary conserved role in the maintenance of cellular guanine nucleotide pools by regulating the feedback inhibition of adenosine derivatives on de novo purine synthesis. AMPD2 deficiency results in defective GTP-dependent initiation of protein translation, which can be rescued by administration of purine precursors. These data suggest AMPD2-related PCH as a new, potentially treatable early-onset neurodegenerative disease.
Purine; pyrimidine; deaminase; salvage; translation; GTP; de novo synthesis; neurodegeneration
Walcott-Rallison syndrome (WRS) and the recently delineated microcephaly with simplified gyration, epilepsy and permanent neonatal diabetes syndrome (MEDS) are clinically overlapping autosomal recessive disorders characterized by early-onset diabetes, skeletal defects, and growth retardation. While liver and renal symptoms are more severe in WRS, neurodevelopmental characteristics are more pronounced in MEDS patients, in which microcephaly and uncontrolled epilepsy are uniformly present. Mutations in the EIF2AK3 gene were described in patients with WRS and defects in this gene lead to increased susceptibility to apoptotic cell death. Mutations in IER3IP1 have been reported in patients with MEDS and similarly, loss of activity results in apoptosis of neurons and pancreatic beta cells in patients. Here we report on a homozygous mutation of the IER3IP1 gene in four patients from two unrelated consanguineous Egyptian families presenting with MEDS who display burst suppression patterns on EEG. All patients presented with mildly elevated liver enzymes, microalbuminuria, and skeletal changes such as scoliosis and osteopenia, leading to repeated bone fractures. We expand the phenotypic spectrum of MEDS caused by IER3IP1 gene mutations and propose that WRS and MEDS are overlapping clinical syndromes, displaying significant gene-dependent clinical variability.
microcephaly; epilepsy; autosomal recessive; infantile diabetes mellitus; burst suppression; Walcott-Rallison syndrome
We describe six cases from three unrelated consanguineous Egyptian families with a novel characteristic brain malformation at the level of the diencephalic–mesencephalic junction. Brain magnetic resonance imaging demonstrated a dysplasia of the diencephalic–mesencephalic junction with a characteristic ‘butterfly’-like contour of the midbrain on axial sections. Additional imaging features included variable degrees of supratentorial ventricular dilatation and hypoplasia to complete agenesis of the corpus callosum. Diffusion tensor imaging showed diffuse hypomyelination and lack of an identifiable corticospinal tract. All patients displayed severe cognitive impairment, post-natal progressive microcephaly, axial hypotonia, spastic quadriparesis and seizures. Autistic features were noted in older cases. Talipes equinovarus, non-obstructive cardiomyopathy and persistent hyperplastic primary vitreous were additional findings in two families. One of the patients required shunting for hydrocephalus; however, this yielded no change in ventricular size suggestive of dysplasia rather than obstruction. We propose the term ‘diencephalic–mesencephalic junction dysplasia’ to characterize this autosomal recessive malformation.
diencephalon; mesencephalon; mental retardation; brainstem malformation; brain wiring
Autosomal-recessive loss of the NSUN2 gene has been identified as a causative link to intellectual disability disorders in humans. NSun2 is an RNA methyltransferase modifying cytosine-5 in transfer RNAs (tRNAs), yet the identification of cytosine methylation in other RNA species has been hampered by the lack of sensitive and reliable molecular techniques. Here, we describe miCLIP as an additional approach for identifying RNA methylation sites in transcriptomes. miCLIP is a customized version of the individual-nucleotide-resolution crosslinking and immunoprecipitation (iCLIP) method. We confirm site-specific methylation in tRNAs and additional messenger and noncoding RNAs (ncRNAs). Among these, vault ncRNAs contained six NSun2-methylated cytosines, three of which were confirmed by RNA bisulfite sequencing. Using patient cells lacking the NSun2 protein, we further show that loss of cytosine-5 methylation in vault RNAs causes aberrant processing into Argonaute-associated small RNA fragments that can function as microRNAs. Thus, impaired processing of vault ncRNA may contribute to the etiology of NSun2-deficiency human disorders.
•miCLIP detects NSun2-mediated cytosine-5 methylation in RNA•Vault noncoding RNA is methylated by NSun2•Cytosine-5 in Vault RNA determines its processing into small RNA (svRNA)•svRNAs bind to Argonaute proteins and exhibit microRNA-like functions
Comprehensive analyses of cytosine-5 methylation in the RNA transcriptome have previously been hampered by the lack of sensitive and reliable molecular techniques. In this work, Ule, Frye, and colleagues describe the methylation-iCLIP (miCLIP) method that they used to identify target sites of the RNA methyltransferase, NSun2. Among the targeted noncoding RNAs were vault RNAs, previously associated with resistance to chemotherapy in cancer. They further show how NSun2-mediated methylation of vault ncRNAs influences their processing into small microRNA-like molecules.
Autism spectrum disorders are a genetically heterogeneous constellation of syndromes characterized by impairments in reciprocal social interaction. Available somatic treatments have limited efficacy. We have identified inactivating mutations in the gene BCKDK (Branched Chain Ketoacid Dehydrogenase Kinase) in consanguineous families with autism, epilepsy, and intellectual disability. The encoded protein is responsible for phosphorylation-mediated inactivation of the E1α subunit of branched-chain ketoacid dehydrogenase (BCKDH). Patients with homozygous BCKDK mutations display reductions in BCKDK messenger RNA and protein, E1α phosphorylation, and plasma branched-chain amino acids. Bckdk knockout mice show abnormal brain amino acid profiles and neurobehavioral deficits that respond to dietary supplementation. Thus, autism presenting with intellectual disability and epilepsy caused by BCKDK mutations represents a potentially treatable syndrome.
Neighboring genes are often coordinately expressed within cis-regulatory modules, but evidence that nonparalogous genes share functions in mammals is lacking. Here, we report that mutation of either TMEM138 or TMEM216 causes a phenotypically indistinguishable human ciliopathy, Joubert syndrome. Despite a lack of sequence homology, the genes are aligned in a head-to-tail configuration and joined by chromosomal rearrangement at the amphibian-to-reptile evolutionary transition. Expression of the two genes is mediated by a conserved regulatory element in the noncoding intergenic region. Coordinated expression is important for their interdependent cellular role in vesicular transport to primary cilia. Hence, during vertebrate evolution of genes involved in ciliogenesis, nonparalogous genes were arranged to a functional gene cluster with shared regulatory elements.
'Ciliopathies' are an emerging class of genetic multisystemic human disorders that are caused by a multitude of largely unrelated genes that affect ciliary structure/function. They are unified by shared clinical features, such as mental retardation, cystic kidney, retinal defects and polydactyly, and by the common localization of the protein products of these genes at or near the primary cilium of cells. With the realization that many previously disparate conditions are a part of this spectrum of disorders, there has been tremendous interest in the function of cilia in developmental signaling and homeostasis. Ciliopathies are mostly inherited as simple recessive traits, but phenotypic expressivity is under the control of numerous genetic modifiers, putting these conditions at the interface of simple and complex genetics. In this review, we discuss the ever-expanding ciliopathy field, which has three interrelated goals: developing a comprehensive understanding of genes mutated in the ciliopathies and required for ciliogenesis; understanding how the encoded proteins work together in complexes and networks to modulate activity and structure-function relationships; and uncovering signaling pathways and modifier relationships.
Dysequilibrium syndrome is a genetically heterogeneous condition that combines autosomal recessive, nonprogressive cerebellar ataxia with mental retardation. The condition has been classified into cerebellar ataxia, mental retardation and disequilibrium syndrome types 1 (CAMRQ1), 2 (CAMRQ2) and 3 (CAMRQ3) and attributed to mutations in VLDLR, CA8 and WDR81 genes, respectively. Quadrupedal locomotion in this syndrome has been reported in association with mutations in all three genes.
SNP mapping and candidate gene sequencing in one consanguineous Omani family from the United Arab Emirates with cerebellar hypoplasia, moderate mental retardation, delayed ambulation and truncal ataxia was used to identify the mutation. In a second unrelated consanguineous Omani family, massively parallel exonic sequencing was used.
We identified a homozygous missense mutation (c.2117 G > T, p.C706F) in the VLDLR gene in both families on a shared affected haplotype block.This is the first reported homozygous missense mutation in VLDLR and it occurs in a highly conserved residue and predicted to be damaging to protein function.
We have delineated the phenotype associated with dysequilibrium syndrome in two Omani families and identified the first homozygous missense pathogenic mutation in VLDLR gene with likely founder effect in the southeastern part of the Arabian Peninsula.
Disorders within the “ciliopathy” spectrum include Joubert (JS), Bardet-Biedl syndromes (BBS) and nephronophthisis (NPHP). Although mutations in single ciliopathy genes can lead to these different syndromes between families, there have been no reports of phenotypic discordance within a single family. We report on two consanguineous families with discordant ciliopathies in sibling. In Ciliopathy-672, the older child displayed dialysis-dependent NPHP whereas the younger displayed the pathognomonic molar tooth MRI sign (MTS) of JS. A second branch displayed two additional children with NPHP. In Ciliopathy-1491, the oldest child displayed classical features of BBS whereas the two younger children displayed the MTS. Importantly, the children with BBS and NPHP lacked MTS, whereas children with JS lacked obesity or NPHP, and the child with BBS lacked MTS and NPHP. Features common to all three disorders included intellectual disability, postaxial polydactyly, and visual reduction. The variable phenotypic expressivity in this family suggests that genetic modifiers may determine specific clinical features within the ciliopathy spectrum.
Molar-tooth; polydactyly; intellectual disability; retinal blindness; obesity; nephronophthisis
We identified a two-branch consanguineous family in which four affected members (three females and one male) presenting with constitutive growth delay, severe psychomotor retardation, microcephaly, cerebellar hypoplasia, and second degree heart block. They also shared distinct facial features and similar appearance of their hands and feet. Childhood-onset insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus developed in one affected child around the age of 9 years. Molecular analysis excluded mutations in potentially related genes such as PTF1A, EIF2AK3, EOMES and WDR62. This condition appears to be unique of other known conditions, suggesting a unique clinical entity of autosomal recessive mode of inheritance.
Microcephaly; insulin-dependent diabetes; cerebellar hypoplasia; mental retardation; heart block
Tubulin glutamylation is a post-translational modification (PTM) occurring predominantly on ciliary axonemal tubulin and has been suggested to be important for ciliary function 1,2. However, its relationship to disorders of the primary cilium, termed ‘ciliopathies’, has not been explored. Here, in Joubert syndrome (JBTS) 3, we identify the JBTS15 locus and the responsible gene as CEP41, encoding a centrosomal protein of 41 KDa 4. We show that CEP41 is localized to the basal body/primary cilium, and regulates the ciliary entry of TTLL6, an evolutionarily conserved polyglutamylase enzyme 5. Depletion of CEP41 causes ciliopathy-related phenotypes in zebrafish and mouse, and induces cilia axonemal glutamylation defects. Our data identify loss of CEP41 as a cause of JBTS ciliopathy and highlight involvement of tubulin PTM in pathogenesis of the ciliopathy spectrum.
We previously reported the existence of a unique autosomal recessive syndrome consisting of macrocephaly, multiple epiphyseal dysplasia and distinctive facial appearance mapping to chromosome 15q26.
In this manuscript, we have used whole exome sequencing on two affected members of a consanguineous family with this condition and carried out detailed bioinformatics analysis to elucidate the causative mutation.
Our analysis resulted in the identification of a homozygous p.N1060S missense mutation in a highly conserved residue in KIF7, a regulator of Hedgehog signaling that has been recently found to be causing Joubert syndrome, fetal hydrolethalus and acrocallosal syndromes. The phenotype in our patients partially overlaps with the phenotypes associated with those syndromes but they also exhibit some distinctive features including multiple epiphyseal dysplasia.
We report the first missense homozygous disease-causing mutation in KIF7 and expand the clinical spectrum associated with mutations in this gene to include multiple epiphyseal dysplasia. The missense nature of the mutation might account for the unique presentation in our patients.
KIF7; Acrocallosal; Joubert; Sonic hedgehog; Dysmorphism; Multiple epiphyseal dysplasia; Fetal hydrolethalus
Mechanisms of signal transduction regulation remain a fundamental question in a variety of biological processes and diseases. Previous evidence suggests the primary cilium can act as a signaling hub1, but its exact role in many of its described pathways has remained elusive. Here, we investigate the mechanism of cilia regulation of the canonical Wnt pathway through systematic knock-down and knock-out approaches. We found that the primary cilium dampens canonical Wnt signaling through a unique spatial mechanism involving compartmentalization of signaling components. The cilium, through regulated intraflagellar transport (IFT), diverts Jouberin (Jbn), a ciliopathy protein and context specific Wnt pathway regulator2, away from the nucleus and limits β-catenin nuclear entry. This repressive regulation does not silence the pathway, but instead maintains a discrete range of Wnt responsiveness; cells without cilia have potentiated Wnt responses whereas cells with more than one cilium display inhibited responses. Furthermore, we show that this regulation occurs during embryonic development and is disrupted in cancer cell proliferation. Together these data explain a unique spatial mechanism of regulation of Wnt signaling which may provide insight into ciliary regulation of other signaling pathways.
Signaling; cilia; Wnt; β-catenin; Jouberin; Ahi1; Intraflagellar transport; Kif3A; Dnchc2; ciliopathy
The ciliopathy Joubert syndrome is marked by cerebellar vermis hypoplasia, a phenotype for which the pathogenic mechanism is unclear1–3. In order to investigate Joubert syndrome pathogenesis, we have examined mice with mutated Ahi1, the first identified Joubert syndrome gene4,5. These mice exhibit cerebellar hypoplasia with a vermis/midline fusion defect early in development. This defect is concomitant with expansion of the roof plate and is also evident in a mouse mutant for another Joubert syndrome gene, Cep2906,7. Further, fetal magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) from human subjects with Joubert syndrome reveals a similar midline cleft suggesting parallel pathogenic mechanisms. Previous evidence has suggested a role for Jouberin (Jbn), the protein encoded by Ahi1, in canonical Wnt signaling8. Consistent with this, we found decreased Wnt reporter activity at the site of hemisphere fusion in the developing cerebellum of Ahi1 mutant mice. This decrease was accompanied by reduced proliferation at the site of fusion. Finally, treatment with lithium, a Wnt pathway agonist9, partially rescued this phenotype. Our findings implicate a defect in Wnt signaling in the cerebellar midline phenotype seen in Joubert syndrome, which can be overcome with Wnt stimulation.
Neuroscience; signaling; Wnt; ataxia; cerebellum; cilia; Joubert syndrome; Jouberin; Ahi1
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.
Wnt signaling encompasses a variety of signaling cascades that can be activated by secreted Wnt ligands. Two such pathways, the canonical or β-catenin pathway and the planar cell polarity pathway, have recently received attention for their roles in multiple cellular processes within the kidney. Both of these pathways are important for kidney development as well as homeostasis and injury repair. Disruption of either pathway can lead to cystic kidney disease, a class of genetic diseases that includes the most common hereditary life-threatening syndrome polycystic kidney disease. Recent evidence implicates canonical and noncanonical Wnt pathways in cyst formation and points to a remarkable role for developmental processes in the adult kidney.
cyst; Wnt; cilia; ciliopathy; signaling; planar cell polarity; kidney; injury; repair; development
Hereditary spastic paraplegia (HSP) represents a large group of neurological disorders characterized by progressive spasticity of the lower limbs. One subtype of HSP shows an autosomal recessive form of inheritance with this corpus callosum (ARHSP-TCC), and displays genetic heterogeneity with four known loci. We identified a consanguineous Egyptian family with five affected individuals with ARHSP-TCC. We found linkage to the SPG11 locus and identified a novel homozygous p.Q498X stop codon mutation in exon 7 in the SPG11 gene encoding Spatacsin. Cognitive impairment and polyneuropathy, reported as frequent in SPG11, were not evident. This family supports the importance of SPG11 as a frequent cause for ARHSP-TCC, and expands the clinic SPG11 spectrum.
Hereditary spastic paraparesis; Thin corpus callosum; SPG11; Spatacsin; Linkage analysis; Autosomal recessive
Human ciliopathies are hereditary conditions caused by defects of proteins expressed at the primary cilium. Among ciliopathies, Joubert syndrome and related disorders (JSRD), Meckel syndrome (MKS) and nephronophthisis (NPH) present clinical and genetic overlap, being allelic at several loci. One of the most interesting gene is TMEM67, encoding the transmembrane protein meckelin. We performed mutation analysis of TMEM67 in 341 probands, including 265 JSRD representative of all clinical subgroups and 76 MKS fetuses. We identified 33 distinct mutations, of which 20 were novel, in 8/10 (80%) JS with liver involvement (COACH phenotype) and 12/76 (16%) MKS fetuses. No mutations were found in other JSRD subtypes, confirming the strong association between TMEM67 mutations and liver involvement. Literature review of all published TMEM67 mutated cases was performed to delineate genotype-phenotype correlates. In particular, comparison of the types of mutations and their distribution along the gene in lethal versus non lethal phenotypes showed in MKS patients a significant enrichment of missense mutations falling in TMEM67 exons 8 to 15, especially when in combination with a truncating mutation. These exons encode for a region of unknown function in the extracellular domain of meckelin.
TMEM67; MKS3; Joubert syndrome; Meckel syndrome; congenital hepatic fibrosis; COACH syndrome
Multiphoton microscopy (MPM) offers many advantages over conventional wide-field and confocal laser scanning microscopy (CLSM) for imaging biological samples such as 3D resolution of excitation, reduced phototoxicity, and deeper tissue imaging. However, adapting MPM for critical multi-color measurements presents a challenge because of the largely overlapping two-photon absorption (TPA) peaks of common biological fluorophores. Currently, most multi-color MPM relies on the absorbance at one intermediate wavelength of multiple dyes, which introduces problems such as decreased and unequal excitation efficiency across the set of dyes.
Here we describe an MPM system incorporating two, independently controlled sources of two-photon excitation whose wavelengths are adjusted to maximally excite one dye while minimally exciting the other. We report increased signal-to-noise ratios and decreased false positive emission bleed-through using this novel multiple-excitation MPM (ME-MPM) compared to conventional single-excitation MPM (SE-MPM) in a variety of multi-color imaging applications.
Similar to the tremendous gain in popularity of CLSM after the introduction of multi-color imaging, we anticipate that the ME-MPM system will further increase the popularity of MPM. In addition, ME-MPM provides an excellent tool to more rapidly design and optimize pairs of fluorescence probes for multi-color two-photon imaging, such as CFP/YFP or GFP/DsRed for CLSM.
N-linked glycosylation is the most frequent modification of secreted and membrane-bound proteins in eukaryotic cells, disruption of which is the basis of the Congenital Disorders of Glycosylation (CDG). We describe a new type of CDG caused by mutations in the steroid 5α-reductase type 3 (SRD5A3) gene. Patients have mental retardation, ophthalmologic and cerebellar defects. We found that SRD5A3 is necessary for the reduction of the alpha-isoprene unit of polyprenols to form dolichols, required for synthesis of dolichol-linked monosaccharides and the oligosaccharide precursor used for N-glycosylation. The presence of residual dolichol in cells depleted for this enzyme suggests the existence of an unexpected alternative pathway for dolichol de novo biosynthesis. Our results thus suggest that SRD5A3 is likely to be the long-sought polyprenol reductase and reveal the genetic basis of one of the earliest steps in protein N-linked glycosylation.
N-glycosylation; dolichol; polyprenol; SRD5A3