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1.  Genome-wide CpG island methylation analysis implicates novel genes in the pathogenesis of renal cell carcinoma 
Epigenetics  2012;7(3):278-290.
In order to identify novel candidate tumor suppressor genes (TSGs) implicated in renal cell carcinoma (RCC), we performed genome-wide methylation profiling of RCC using the HumanMethylation27 BeadChips to assess methylation at >14,000 genes. Two hundred and twenty hypermethylated probes representing 205 loci/genes were identified in genomic CpG islands. A subset of TSGs investigated in detail exhibited frequent tumor methylation, promoter methylation associated transcriptional silencing and reactivation after demethylation in RCC cell lines and downregulation of expression in tumor tissue (e.g., SLC34A2 specifically methylated in 63% of RCC, OVOL1 in 40%, DLEC1 in 20%, TMPRSS2 in 26%, SST in 31% and BMP4 in 35%). As OVOL1, a putative regulator of c-Myc transcription, and SST (somatostatin) had not previously been linked to cancer and RCC, respectively, we (1) investigated their potential relevance to tumor growth by RNAi knockdown and found significantly increased anchorage-independent growth and (2) demonstrated that OVOL1 knockdown increased c-Myc mRNA levels.
PMCID: PMC3335951  PMID: 22430804
renal cell carcinoma (RCC); methylation; epigenetics
2.  Mutation in the TCRα subunit constant gene (TRAC) leads to a human immunodeficiency disorder characterized by a lack of TCRαβ+ T cells  
Inherited immunodeficiency disorders can be caused by mutations in any one of a large number of genes involved in the function of immune cells. Here, we describe two families with an autosomal recessive inherited immunodeficiency disorder characterized by increased susceptibility to infection and autoimmunity. Genetic linkage studies mapped the disorder to chromosomal region 14q11.2, and a homozygous guanine-to-adenine substitution was identified at the last base of exon 3 immediately following the translational termination codon in the TCRα subunit constant gene (TRAC). RT-PCR analysis in the two affected individuals revealed impaired splicing of the mRNA, as exon 3 was lost from the TRAC transcript. The mutant TCRα chain protein was predicted to lack part of the connecting peptide domain and all of the transmembrane and cytoplasmic domains, which have a critical role in the regulation of the assembly and/or intracellular transport of TCR complexes. We found that T cells from affected individuals were profoundly impaired for surface expression of the TCRαβ complex. We believe this to be the first report of a disease-causing human TRAC mutation. Although the absence of TCRαβ+ T cells in the affected individuals was associated with immune dysregulation and autoimmunity, they had a surprising level of protection against infection.
PMCID: PMC3026716  PMID: 21206088
3.  Cargos and genes: insights into vesicular transport from inherited human disease 
Journal of Medical Genetics  2007;44(9):545-555.
Many cellular functions depend on the correct delivery of proteins to specific intracellular destinations. Mutations that alter protein structure and disrupt trafficking of the protein (the “cargo”) occur in many genetic disorders. In addition, an increasing number of disorders have been linked to mutations in the genes encoding components of the vesicular transport machinery responsible for normal protein trafficking. We review the clinical phenotypes and molecular pathology of such inherited “protein‐trafficking disorders”, which provide seminal insights into the molecular mechanisms of protein trafficking. Further characterisation of this expanding group of disorders will provide a basis for developing new diagnostic techniques and treatment strategies and offer insights into the molecular pathology of common multifactorial diseases that have been linked to disordered trafficking mechanisms.
PMCID: PMC2597945  PMID: 17526798
inherited trafficking disorders; vesicular trafficking; intracellular protein trafficking
4.  Nonsense mutation in TMEM126A causing autosomal recessive optic atrophy and auditory neuropathy 
Molecular Vision  2010;16:650-664.
To define the phenotype and elucidate the molecular basis for an autosomal recessively inherited optic atrophy and auditory neuropathy in a consanguineous family with two affected children.
Family members underwent detailed ophthalmologic, electrophysiological, and audiological assessments. An autozygosity mapping strategy using high-density single nucleotide polymorphism microarrays and microsatellite markers was used to detect regions of genome homozygosity that might contain the disease gene. Candidate genes were then screened for mutations by direct sequencing.
Both affected subjects had poor vision from birth and complained of progressive visual loss over time. Current visual acuity ranged from 6/60 to 6/120. Fundus examination revealed bilateral temporal optic nerve pallor in both patients with otherwise normal retinal findings. International-standard full-field electroretinograms were normal in both individuals, with no evidence of generalized retinal dysfunction. Pattern cortical visual evoked potentials were grossly abnormal bilaterally in both cases. The pattern electroretinogram N95:P50 ratio was subnormal, and the P50 was of shortened peak time bilaterally in both patients. The electrophysiological findings were consistent with bilateral retinal ganglion cell/optic nerve dysfunction. Audiological investigation in both siblings revealed abnormalities falling within the auditory neuropathy/dysynchrony spectrum. There were no auditory symptoms and good outer hair cell function (as demonstrated by transient evoked otoacoustic emissions) but impaired inner hair cell/neural function with abnormal stapedial reflex thresholds and abnormal or absent auditory brainstem-evoked responses. The single nucleotide polymorphism microarray data demonstrated a 24.17 Mb region of homozygosity at 11q14.1–11q22.3, which was confirmed by microsatellite marker analysis. The candidate target region contained the transmembrane protein 126A (TMEM126A) gene, and direct sequencing identified a previously described nonsense mutation (c.163C>T; p.Arg55X).
We describe the first detailed phenotyping of patients with autosomal recessive TMEM126A-associated optic atrophy and auditory neuropathy. These findings will facilitate the identification of individuals with this recently described disorder.
PMCID: PMC2855733  PMID: 20405026
5.  Homozygous loss-of-function mutations in the gene encoding the dopamine transporter are associated with infantile parkinsonism-dystonia 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2009;119(6):1595-1603.
Genetic variants of the SLC6A3 gene that encodes the human dopamine transporter (DAT) have been linked to a variety of neuropsychiatric disorders, particularly attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. In addition, the homozygous Slc6a3 knockout mouse displays a hyperactivity phenotype. Here, we analyzed 2 unrelated consanguineous families with infantile parkinsonism-dystonia (IPD) syndrome and identified homozygous missense SLC6A3 mutations (p.L368Q and p.P395L) in both families. Functional studies demonstrated that both mutations were loss-of-function mutations that severely reduced levels of mature (85-kDa) DAT while having a differential effect on the apparent binding affinity of dopamine. Thus, in humans, loss-of-function SLC6A3 mutations that impair DAT-mediated dopamine transport activity are associated with an early-onset complex movement disorder. Identification of the molecular basis of IPD suggests SLC6A3 as a candidate susceptibility gene for other movement disorders associated with parkinsonism and/or dystonic features.
PMCID: PMC2689114  PMID: 19478460
6.  Initiation codon mutation in βB1-crystallin (CRYBB1) associated with autosomal recessive nuclear pulverulent cataract 
Molecular Vision  2009;15:1014-1019.
To identify the molecular basis for autosomal recessively inherited congenital non-syndromic pulverulent cataracts in a consanguineous family with four affected children.
An autozygosity mapping strategy using high density SNP microarrays and microsatellite markers was employed to detect regions of homozygosity. Subsequently good candidate genes were screened for mutations by direct sequencing.
The SNP microarray data demonstrated a 24.96 Mb region of homozygosity at 22q11.21-22q13.2 which was confirmed by microsatellite marker analysis. The candidate target region contained the β-crystallin gene cluster and direct sequencing in affected family members revealed a novel mutation in CRYBB1 (c.2T>A; p.Met1Lys).
To our knowledge this is the first case of an initiation codon mutation in a human crystallin gene, and only the second report of a CRYBB1 mutation associated with autosomal recessive congenital cataracts. In addition, although a number of genetic causes of autosomal dominant pulverulent cataracts have been identified (including CRYBB1) this is the first gene to have been implicated in autosomal recessive nuclear pulverulent cataract.
PMCID: PMC2684559  PMID: 19461930
7.  Three Different Cone Opsin Gene Array Mutational Mechanisms with Genotype–Phenotype Correlation and Functional Investigation of Cone Opsin Variants 
Human Mutation  2014;35(11):1354-1362.
Mutations in the OPN1LW (L-) and OPN1MW (M-)cone opsin genes underlie a spectrum of cone photoreceptor defects from stationary loss of color vision to progressive retinal degeneration. Genotypes of 22 families with a range of cone disorders were grouped into three classes: deletions of the locus control region (LCR); missense mutation (p.Cys203Arg) in an L-/M-hybrid gene; and exon 3 single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) interchange haplotypes in an otherwise normal gene array. Moderate-to-high myopia was observed in all mutation categories. Individuals with LCR deletions or p.Cys203Arg mutations were more likely to have nystagmus and poor vision, with disease progression in some p.Cys203Arg patients. Three disease-associated exon 3 SNP haplotypes encoding LIAVA, LVAVA, or MIAVA were identified in our cohort. These patients were less likely to have nystagmus but more likely to show progression, with all patients over the age of 40 years having marked macular abnormalities. Previously, the haplotype LIAVA has been shown to result in exon 3 skipping. Here, we show that haplotypes LVAVA and MIAVA also result in aberrant splicing, with a residual low level of correctly spliced cone opsin. The OPN1LW/OPN1MW:c.532A>G SNP, common to all three disease-associated haplotypes, appears to be principally responsible for this mutational mechanism.
PMCID: PMC4285181  PMID: 25168334
opsin; blue cone monochromacy; splicing; cone dystrophy; OPN1LW; OPN1MW
8.  The Development of a Clinical Screening Instrument For Tumour Predisposition Syndromes In Childhood Cancer Patients 
Identification of tumour predisposition syndromes in patients who have cancer in childhood is paramount for optimal care. A screening instrument that can help to identify such patients will facilitate physicians caring for children with cancer. The complete screening instrument should consist of a standardized series of pictures and a screening form for manifestations not visible in the pictures. Here we describe the development of such a screening form based on an international two-stage Delphi process and an initial validation of the complete instrument.
Patients and Methods
We identified manifestations that may contribute to the diagnosis of a tumour predisposition syndrome through the Winter-Baraitser Dysmorphology Database and the textbook “Gorlin's Syndromes of the Head and Neck”. In a two-round Delphi process, eight international content-experts scored the contribution of each of these manifestations. We performed a clinical validation of the instrument in a selected cohort of ten paediatric cancer patients from another centre.
In total, 49 manifestations were found to contribute to the diagnosis of a tumour predisposition syndrome and were included in the screening form. The pilot validation study showed that patients suspect for having a tumour predisposition syndrome were recognized. Excellent correlation for indication for referral of a patient between the screening instrument and the reference standard (personal evaluation by an experienced clinical geneticist) was found.).
The Delphi process performed by international specialists with a function as opinion leaders in their field of expertise has led to a screening form and instrument with which those childhood cancer patients can be identified who may have a tumour predisposition syndrome and thus have an indication to be referred for further genetic analysis.
PMCID: PMC4277698  PMID: 23855994
Paediatric oncology; childhood cancer; screening instrument; tumour predisposition syndromes; Delphi process; questionnaires
10.  Germline mutations in RYR1 are associated with foetal akinesia deformation sequence/lethal multiple pterygium syndrome 
Foetal akinesia deformation sequence syndrome (FADS) is a genetically heterogeneous disorder characterised by the combination of foetal akinesia and developmental defects which may include pterygia (joint webbing). Traditionally multiple pterygium syndrome (MPS) has been divided into two forms: prenatally lethal (LMPS) and non-lethal Escobar type (EVMPS) types. Interestingly, FADS, LMPS and EVMPS may be allelic e.g. each of these phenotypes may result from mutations in the foetal acetylcholine receptor gamma subunit gene (CHRNG). Many cases of FADS and MPS do not have a mutation in a known FADS/MPS gene and we undertook molecular genetic studies to identify novel causes of these phenotypes.
After mapping a novel locus for FADS/LMPS to chromosome 19, we identified a homozygous null mutation in the RYR1 gene in a consanguineous kindred with recurrent LMPS pregnancies. Resequencing of RYR1 in a cohort of 66 unrelated probands with FADS/LMPS/EVMPS (36 with FADS/LMPS and 30 with EVMPS) revealed two additional homozygous mutations (in frame deletions). The overall frequency of RYR1 mutations in probands with FADS/LMPS was 8.3%.
Our findings report, for the first time, a homozygous RYR1 null mutation and expand the range of RYR1-related phenotypes to include early lethal FADS/LMPS. We suggest that RYR1 mutation analysis should be performed in cases of severe FADS/LMPS even in the absence of specific histopathological indicators of RYR1-related disease.
PMCID: PMC4271450  PMID: 25476234
Multiple pterygium syndrome; Foetal akinesia; RYR1 mutations; Myopathy
11.  Combined NGS Approaches Identify Mutations in the Intraflagellar Transport Gene IFT140 in Skeletal Ciliopathies with Early Progressive Kidney Disease 
Human mutation  2013;34(5):714-724.
Ciliopathies are genetically heterogeneous disorders characterized by variable expressivity and overlaps between different disease entities. This is exemplified by the short rib-polydactyly syndromes, Jeune, Sensenbrenner, and Mainzer-Saldino chondrodysplasia syndromes. These three syndromes are frequently caused by mutations in intraflagellar transport (IFT) genes affecting the primary cilia, which play a crucial role in skeletal and chondral development. Here, we identified mutations in IFT140, an IFT complex A gene, in five Jeune asphyxiating thoracic dystrophy (JATD) and two Mainzer-Saldino syndrome (MSS) families, by screening a cohort of 66 JATD/MSS patients using whole exome sequencing and targeted resequencing of a customized ciliopathy gene panel. We also found an enrichment of rare IFT140 alleles in JATD compared with nonciliopathy diseases, implying putative modifier effects for certain alleles. IFT140 patients presented with mild chest narrowing, but all had end-stage renal failure under 13 years of age and retinal dystrophy when examined for ocular dysfunction. This is consistent with the severe cystic phenotype of Ift140 conditional knockout mice, and the higher level of Ift140 expression in kidney and retina compared with the skeleton at E15.5 in the mouse. IFT140 is therefore a major cause of cono-renal syndromes (JATD and MSS). The present study strengthens the rationale for IFT140 screening in skeletal ciliopathy spectrum patients that have kidney disease and/or retinal dystrophy.
PMCID: PMC4226634  PMID: 23418020
cilia; Jeune asphyxiating thoracic dystrophy; Mainzer-Saldino syndrome; IFT140; NGS
12.  RASSF2 methylation is a strong prognostic marker in younger age patients with Ewing sarcoma 
Epigenetics  2013;8(9):893-898.
Ras-association domain family of genes consist of 10 members (RASSF1-RASSF10), all containing a Ras-association (RA) domain in either the C- or the N-terminus. Several members of this gene family are frequently methylated in common sporadic cancers; however, the role of the RASSF gene family in rare types of cancers, such as bone cancer, has remained largely uninvestigated. In this report, we investigated the methylation status of RASSF1A and RASSF2 in Ewing sarcoma (ES). Quantitative real-time methylation analysis (MethyLight) demonstrated that both genes were frequently methylated in Ewing sarcoma tumors (52.5% and 42.5%, respectively) as well as in ES cell lines and gene expression was upregulated in methylated cell lines after treatment with 5-aza-2′-deoxcytidine. Overexpression of either RASSF1A or RASSF2 reduced colony formation ability of ES cells. RASSF2 methylation correlated with poor overall survival (p = 0.028) and this association was more pronounced in patients under the age of 18 y (p = 0.002). These results suggest that both RASSF1A and RASSF2 are novel epigenetically inactivated tumor suppressor genes in Ewing sarcoma and RASSF2 methylation may have prognostic implications for ES patients.
PMCID: PMC3883766  PMID: 23887284
ewing sarcoma; RASSF2; methylation; survival; RASSF1A
13.  Stability of the CpG island methylator phenotype during glioma progression and identification of methylated loci in secondary glioblastomas 
BMC Cancer  2014;14:506.
Grade IV glioblastomas exist in two forms, primary (de novo) glioblastomas (pGBM) that arise without precursor lesions, and the less common secondary glioblastomas (sGBM) which develop from earlier lower grade lesions. Genetic heterogeneity between pGBM and sGBM has been documented as have differences in the methylation of individual genes. A hypermethylator phenotype in grade IV GBMs is now well documented however there has been little comparison between global methylation profiles of pGBM and sGBM samples or of methylation profiles between paired early and late sGBM samples.
We performed genome-wide methylation profiling of 20 matched pairs of early and late gliomas using the Infinium HumanMethylation450 BeadChips to assess methylation at >485,000 cytosine positions within the human genome.
Clustering of our data demonstrated a frequent hypermethylator phenotype that associated with IDH1 mutation in sGBM tumors. In 80% of cases, the hypermethylator status was retained in both the early and late tumor of the same patient, indicating limited alterations to genome-wide methylation during progression and that the CIMP phenotype is an early event. Analysis of hypermethylated loci identified 218 genes frequently methylated across grade II, III and IV tumors indicating a possible role in sGBM tumorigenesis. Comparison of our sGBM data with TCGA pGBM data indicate that IDH1 mutated GBM samples have very similar hypermethylator phenotypes, however the methylation profiles of the majority of samples with WT IDH1 that do not demonstrate a hypermethylator phenotype cluster separately from sGBM samples, indicating underlying differences in methylation profiles. We also identified 180 genes that were methylated only in sGBM. Further analysis of these genes may lead to a better understanding of the pathology of sGBM vs pGBM.
This is the first study to have documented genome-wide methylation changes within paired early/late astrocytic gliomas on such a large CpG probe set, revealing a number of genes that maybe relevant to secondary gliomagenesis.
PMCID: PMC4227105  PMID: 25012071
Primary and secondary glioblastoma (pGBM; sGBM); HumanMethylation450; Methylation; IDH1; CIMP
14.  Methylation analysis and diagnostics of Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome in 1,000 subjects 
Clinical Epigenetics  2014;6(1):11.
Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome (BWS), a congenital overgrowth disorder with variable expressivity and a predisposition to tumorigenesis, results from disordered expression and/or function of imprinted genes at chromosome 11p15.5. There are no generally agreed clinical diagnostic criteria, with molecular studies commonly performed to confirm diagnosis. In particular, methylation status analysis at two 11p15.5 imprinting control centres (IC1 and IC2) detects up to 80% of BWS cases (though low-level mosaicism may not be detected). In order to evaluate the relationship between the clinical presentation of suspected BWS and IC1/2 methylation abnormalities we reviewed the results of >1,000 referrals for molecular diagnostic testing.
Out of 1,091 referrals, 507 (46.5%) had a positive diagnostic test for BWS. The frequency of tumours was 3.4% in those with a molecular diagnosis of BWS. Previously reported genotype-phenotype associations with paternal uniparental disomy, IC1, and IC2 epimutation groups were confirmed and potential novel associations detected. Predictive values of previously described clinical diagnostic criteria were compared and, although there were differences in their sensitivity and specificity, receiver operating characteristic (ROC) analysis demonstrated that these were not optimal in predicting 11p15.5 methylation abnormalities. Using logistic regression, we identified clinical features with the best predictive value for a positive methylation abnormality. Furthermore, we developed a weighted scoring system (sensitivity 75.9%, and specificity 81.8%) to prioritise patients presenting with the most common features of BWS, and ROC analysis demonstrated superior performance (area under the curve 0.85, 95% CI 0.83 to 0.87) compared to previous criteria.
We suggest that this novel tool will facilitate selection of patients with suspected BWS for routine diagnostic testing and so improve the diagnosis of the disorder.
PMCID: PMC4064264  PMID: 24982696
Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome; Imprinting; 11p15; Diagnostic criteria; Scoring system
15.  DNA methylation profiling distinguishes histological subtypes of renal cell carcinoma 
Epigenetics  2013;8(3):252-267.
Renal cell carcinoma (RCC) accounts for around 3% of cancers in the UK, and both incidence and mortality are increasing with the aging population. RCC can be divided into several subtypes: conventional RCC (the most common, comprising 75% of all cases), papillary RCC (15%) and chromophobe RCC (5%). Renal oncocytoma is a benign tumor and accounts for 5% of RCC. Cancer and epigenetics are closely associated, with DNA hypermethylation being widely accepted as a feature of many cancers. In this study the DNA methylation profiles of chromophobe RCC and renal oncocytomas were investigated by utilizing the Infinium HumanMethylation450 BeadChips. Cancer-specific hypermethylation was identified in 9.4% and 5.2% of loci in chromophobe RCC and renal oncocytoma samples, respectively, while the majority of the genome was hypomethylated. Thirty (hypermethylated) and 41 (hypomethylated) genes were identified as differentially methylated between chromophobe RCC and renal oncocytomas (p < 0.05). Pathway analysis identified some of the differentially hypermethylated genes to be involved in Wnt (EN2), MAPK (CACNG7) and TGFβ (AMH) signaling, Hippo pathway (NPHP4), and cell death and apoptosis (SPG20, NKX6-2, PAX3 and BAG2). In addition, we analyzed ccRCC and papillary RCC data available from The Cancer Genome Atlas portal to identify differentially methylated loci in chromophobe RCC and renal oncocytoma in relation to the other histological subtypes, providing insight into the pathology of RCC subtypes and classification of renal tumors.
PMCID: PMC3669118  PMID: 23428843
renal cell carcinoma; renal oncocytoma; chromophobe renal cell carcinoma; hypermethylation; hypomethylation
16.  DNA methylation profiles of long- and short-term glioblastoma survivors 
Epigenetics  2013;8(2):149-156.
Glioblastoma (GBM) is the most common and malignant type of primary brain tumor in adults and prognosis of most GBM patients is poor. However, a small percentage of patients show a long term survival of 36 mo or longer after diagnosis. Epigenetic profiles can provide molecular markers for patient prognosis: recently, a G-CIMP positive phenotype associated with IDH1 mutations has been described for GBMs with good prognosis. In the present analysis we performed genome-wide DNA methylation profiling of short-term survivors (STS; overall survival < 1 y) and long-term survivors (LTS; overall survival > 3 y) by utilizing the HumanMethylation450K BeadChips to assess quantitative methylation at > 480,000 CpG sites. Cluster analysis has shown that a subset of LTS showed a G-CIMP positive phenotype that was tightly associated with IDH1 mutation status and was confirmed by analysis of the G-CIMP signature genes. Using high stringency criteria for differential hypermethylation between non-cancer brain and tumor samples, we identified 2,638 hypermethylated CpG loci (890 genes) in STS GBMs, 3,101 hypermethylated CpG loci (1,062 genes) in LTS (wild type IDH1) and 11,293 hypermethylated CpG loci in LTS (mutated for IDH1), reflecting the CIMP positive phenotype. The location of differentially hypermethylated CpG loci with respect to CpG content, neighborhood context and functional genomic distribution was similar in our sample set, with the majority of CpG loci residing in CpG islands and in gene promoters. Our preliminary study also identified a set of CpG loci differentially hypermethylated between STS and LTS cases, including members of the homeobox gene family (HOXD8, HOXD13 and HOXC4), the transcription factors NR2F2 and TFAP2A, and Dickkopf 2, a negative regulator of the wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway.
PMCID: PMC3592900  PMID: 23291739
DNA methylation; gliomas; IDH1; long-term survivors; short-term survivors
17.  Exome sequencing improves genetic diagnosis of structural fetal abnormalities revealed by ultrasound 
Human Molecular Genetics  2014;23(12):3269-3277.
The genetic etiology of non-aneuploid fetal structural abnormalities is typically investigated by karyotyping and array-based detection of microscopically detectable rearrangements, and submicroscopic copy-number variants (CNVs), which collectively yield a pathogenic finding in up to 10% of cases. We propose that exome sequencing may substantially increase the identification of underlying etiologies. We performed exome sequencing on a cohort of 30 non-aneuploid fetuses and neonates (along with their parents) with diverse structural abnormalities first identified by prenatal ultrasound. We identified candidate pathogenic variants with a range of inheritance models, and evaluated these in the context of detailed phenotypic information. We identified 35 de novo single-nucleotide variants (SNVs), small indels, deletions or duplications, of which three (accounting for 10% of the cohort) are highly likely to be causative. These are de novo missense variants in FGFR3 and COL2A1, and a de novo 16.8 kb deletion that includes most of OFD1. In five further cases (17%) we identified de novo or inherited recessive or X-linked variants in plausible candidate genes, which require additional validation to determine pathogenicity. Our diagnostic yield of 10% is comparable to, and supplementary to, the diagnostic yield of existing microarray testing for large chromosomal rearrangements and targeted CNV detection. The de novo nature of these events could enable couples to be counseled as to their low recurrence risk. This study outlines the way for a substantial improvement in the diagnostic yield of prenatal genetic abnormalities through the application of next-generation sequencing.
PMCID: PMC4030780  PMID: 24476948
18.  Epimutation profiling in Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome: relationship with assisted reproductive technology 
Clinical Epigenetics  2013;5(1):23.
Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome (BWS) is a congenital overgrowth disorder associated with abnormalities in 11p15.5 imprinted genes. The most common cause is loss of methylation (epimutation) at the imprinting control centre 2 (IC2/KvDMR1). Most IC2 epimutations occur sporadically but an association with conception after assisted reproductive technologies (ART) has been reported. A subgroup of IC2 epimutation cases also harbour epimutations at other imprinting centres (ICs) outside of 11p15.5. We have investigated the relationship between these multiple epimutation cases (ME+), history of ART and clinical phenotype in a cohort of 187 BWS IC2 epimutation patients.
Methylation analysis at PLAGL1, MEST and IGF2R ICs demonstrated an over-representation of patients with abnormally low methylation (8.5%, 12% and 6% respectively). At IGF2R some patients (2%) had gain of methylation but this was also detected in controls. Though there were no significant correlations between the methylation index (MIs) at the three ICs tested, a subset of patients appeared to be susceptible to multiple epimutations (ME+) and 21.2% of ME + patients had been conceived by ART compared to 4.5% (P = 0.0033) without additional epimutations. Methylation array profiling (Illumina Goldengate®) of patients and controls (excluding 11p15.5 loci) demonstrated significant differences between patients and controls. No significant associations were found between aspects of the BWS phenotype and individual epimutations but we describe a case presenting with a post-ART BWS-like phenotype in which molecular analysis demonstrated loss of paternal allele methylation at the 11p15.5 IC1 locus (IC1 regulates imprinting of IGF2 and H19). Loss of paternal allele methylation at the IC1 is the molecular finding associated with Silver-Russell syndrome whereas BWS is associated with gain of maternal allele methylation at IC1. Further analysis demonstrated epimutations at PLAGL1 and MEST consistent with the hypothesis that the presence of multiple epimutations may be of clinical relevance.
These findings suggest that the ME + subgroup of BWS patients are preferentially, but not exclusively, associated with a history of ART and that, though at present, there are no clear epigenotype-phenotype correlations for ME + BWS patients, non-11p15.5 IC epimutations can influence clinical phenotype.
PMCID: PMC3878854  PMID: 24325814
Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome; Assisted reproductive technology; Imprinting; Genetics
19.  Homozygous PLCB1 Deletion Associated with Malignant Migrating Partial Seizures in Infancy 
Epilepsia  2012;53(8):10.1111/j.1528-1167.2012.03538.x.
Malignant migrating partial seizures in infancy (MMPEI) is an early onset epileptic encephalopathy with few known etiologies. We sought to identify a novel cause of MMPEI in a child with MMPEI whose healthy parents were consanguineous. We used array comparative genomic hybridization (CGH) to identify copy number variants (CNVs) genome-wide and long-range PCR to further delineate the breakpoints of a deletion found by CGH. The proband had an inherited homozygous deletion of chromosome 20p13, disrupting the promoter region and first three coding exons of the gene PLCB1. Additional MMPEI cases were screened for similar deletions or mutations in PLCB1 but did not harbor mutations. Our results suggest that loss of PLCβ1 function is one cause of MMPEI, consistent with prior studies in a Plcb1 knockout mouse model that develops early onset epilepsy. We provide novel insight into the molecular mechanisms underlying MMPEI and further implicate PLCB1 as a candidate gene for severe childhood epilepsies. This work highlights the importance of pursuing genetic etiologies for severe early onset epilepsy syndromes.
PMCID: PMC3851296  PMID: 22690784
Focal epilepsy; migrating partial seizures in infancy; genetics; phospholipase C beta 1 (PLCB1)
20.  Methylation profiling and evaluation of demethylating therapy in renal cell carcinoma 
Clinical Epigenetics  2013;5(1):16.
Despite therapeutic advances in targeted therapy, metastatic renal cell carcinoma (RCC) remains incurable for the vast majority of patients. Key molecular events in the pathogenesis of RCC include inactivation of the VHL tumour suppressor gene (TSG), inactivation of chromosome 3p TSGs implicated in chromatin modification and remodelling and de novo tumour-specific promoter methylation of renal TSGs. In the light of these observations it can be proposed that, as in some haematological malignancies, demethylating agents such as azacitidine might be beneficial for the treatment of advanced RCC.
Here we report that the treatment of RCC cell lines with azacitidine suppressed cell proliferation in all 15 lines tested. A marked response to azacitidine therapy (>50% reduction in colony formation assay) was detected in the three cell lines with VHL promoter methylation but some RCC cell lines without VHL TSG methylation also demonstrated a similar response suggesting that multiple methylated TSGs might determine the response to demethylating therapies. To identify novel candidate methylated TSGs implicated in RCC we undertook a combined analysis of copy number and CpG methylation array data. Candidate novel epigenetically inactivated TSGs were further prioritised by expression analysis of RCC cell lines pre and post-azacitidine therapy and comparative expression analysis of tumour/normal pairs. Thus, with subsequent investigation two candidate genes were found to be methylated in more than 25% of our series and in the TCGA methylation dataset for 199 RCC samples: RGS7 (25.6% and 35.2% of tumours respectively) and NEFM in (25.6% and 30.2%). In addition three candidate genes were methylated in >10% of both datasets (TMEM74 (15.4% and 14.6%), GCM2 (41.0% and 14.6%) and AEBP1 (30.8% and 13.1%)). Methylation of GCM2 (P = 0.0324), NEFM (P = 0.0024) and RGS7 (P = 0.0067) was associated with prognosis.
These findings provide preclinical evidence that treatment with demethylating agents such as azacitidine might be useful for the treatment of advanced RCC and further insights into the role of epigenetic changes in the pathogenesis of RCC.
PMCID: PMC3848591  PMID: 24034811
Renal cancer; Epigenetics; Methylation; Demethylation; VHL; Renal cell carcinoma; Methylation; Therapy
21.  Canadian guideline on genetic screening for hereditary renal cell cancers 
Hereditary renal cell cancer (RCC) is an ideal model for germline genetic testing. We propose a guideline of hereditary RCC specific criteria to suggest referral for genetic assessment.
A review of the literature and stakeholder resources for existing guidelines or consensus statements was performed. Referral criteria were developed by expert consensus.
The criteria included characteristics for patients with RCC (age ≤45 years, bilateral or multifocal tumours, associated medical conditions and non-clear cell histologies with unusual features) and for patients with or without RCC, but a family history of specific clinical or genetic diagnoses.
This guideline represents a practical RCC-specific reference to allow healthcare providers to identify patients who may have a hereditary RCC syndrome, without extensive knowledge of each syndrome. RCC survivors and their families can also use the document to guide their discussions with healthcare providers about their need for referral. The criteria refer to the most common hereditary renal tumour syndromes and do not represent a comprehensive or exclusive list. Prospective validation of the criteria is warranted.
PMCID: PMC3854468  PMID: 24319509
22.  VHL-dependent regulation of a β-dystroglycan glycoform and glycogene expression in renal cancer 
International Journal of Oncology  2013;43(5):1368-1376.
Identification of novel biomarkers and targets in renal cell carcinoma (RCC) remains a priority and one cellular compartment that is a rich potential source of such molecules is the plasma membrane. A shotgun proteomic analysis of cell surface proteins enriched by cell surface biotinylation and avidin affinity chromatography was explored using the UMRC2- renal cancer cell line, which lacks von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) tumour suppressor gene function, to determine whether proteins of interest could be detected. Of the 814 proteins identified ∼22% were plasma membrane or membrane-associated, including several with known associations with cancer. This included β-dystroglycan, the transmembrane subunit of the DAG1 gene product. VHL-dependent changes in the form of β-dystroglycan were detected in UMRC2−/+VHL transfectants. Deglycosylation experiments showed that this was due to differential sialylation. Analysis of normal kidney cortex and conventional RCC tissues showed that a similar change also occurred in vivo. Investigation of the expression of genes involved in glycosylation in UMRC2−/+VHL cells using a focussed microarray highlighted a number of enzymes involved in sialylation; upregulation of bifunctional UDP-N-acetylglucosamine 2-epimerase/N-acetylmannosamine kinase (GNE) was validated in UMRC2− cells compared with their +VHL counterparts and also found in conventional RCC tissue. These results implicate VHL in the regulation of glycosylation and raise interesting questions regarding the extent and importance of such changes in RCC.
PMCID: PMC3823392  PMID: 23970118
dystroglycan; glycosylation; renal cell carcinoma; shotgun proteomics; von Hippel-Lindau
23.  A combination of mutations in AKR1D1 and SKIV2L in a family with severe infantile liver disease 
Infantile cholestatic diseases can be caused by mutations in a number of genes involved in different hepatocyte molecular pathways. Whilst some of the essential pathways have a well understood function, such as bile biosynthesis and transport, the role of the others is not known. Here we report the findings of a clinical, biochemical and molecular study of a family with three patients affected with a severe infantile cholestatic disease. A novel homozygous frameshift germline mutation (c.587delG) in the AKR1D1 gene; which encodes the enzyme Δ 4-3-oxosteroid 5β–reductase that is required for synthesis of primary bile acids and is crucial for establishment of normal bile flow, was found in all 3 patients. Although the initial bile acid analysis was inconclusive, subsequent testing confirmed the diagnosis of a bile acid biogenesis disorder. An additional novel homozygous frameshift mutation (c.3391delC) was detected in SKIV2L in one of the patients. SKIV2L encodes a homologue of a yeast ski2 protein proposed to be involved in RNA processing and mutations in SKIV2L were recently described in patients with Tricohepatoenteric syndrome (THES). A combination of autozygosity mapping and whole-exome-sequencing allowed the identification of causal mutations in this family with a complex liver phenotype. Although the initial 2 affected cousins died in the first year of life, accurate diagnosis and management of the youngest patient led to successful treatment of the liver disease and disease-free survival.
PMCID: PMC3659031  PMID: 23679950
Bile acid metabolism; Diarrhoea; Gene mutation; Whole exome sequencing; Paediatric liver disease
24.  Identification of Novel Gene Expression Targets for the Ras Association Domain Family 1 (RASSF1A) Tumor Suppressor Gene in Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer and Neuroblastoma1 
Cancer research  2003;63(17):5344-5351.
RASSF1A is a recently identified 3p21.3 tumor suppressor gene. The high frequency of epigenetic inactivation of this gene in a wide range of human sporadic cancers including non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and neuroblastoma suggests that RASSF1A inactivation is important for tumor development. Although little is known about the function of RASSF1A, preliminary data suggests that it may have multiple functions. To gain insight into RASSF1A functions in an unbiased manner, we have characterized the expression profile of a lung cancer cell line (A549) transfected with RASSF1A. Initially we demonstrated that transient expression of RASSF1A into the NSCLC cell line A549 induced G1 cell cycle arrest, as measured by propidium iodide staining. Furthermore, an-nexin-V staining showed that RASSF1A-expressing cells had an increased sensitivity to staurosporine-induced apoptosis. We then screened a cDNA microarray containing more than 6000 probes to identify genes differentially regulated by RASSF1A. Sixty-six genes showed at least a 2-fold change in expression. Among these were many genes with relevance to tumorigenesis involved in transcription, cytoskeleton, signaling, cell cycle, cell adhesion, and apoptosis. For 22 genes we confirmed the microarray results by real-time RT-PCR and/or Northern blotting. In silico, we were able to confirm the majority of these genes in other NSCLC cell lines using published data on gene expression profiles. Furthermore, we confirmed 10 genes at the RNA level in two neuroblastoma cell lines, indicating that these RASSF1A target genes have relevance in non-lung cell backgrounds. Protein analysis of six genes (ETS2, Cyclin D3, CDH2, DAPK1, TXN, and CTSL) showed that the changes induced by RASSF1A at the RNA level correlated with changes in protein expression in both non-small cell lung cancer and neuroblastoma cell lines. Finally, we have used a transient assay to demonstrate the induction of CDH2 and TGM2 by RASSF1A in NSCLC cell lines. We have identified several novel targets for RASSF1A tumor suppressor gene both at the RNA and the protein levels in two different cellular backgrounds. The identified targets are involved in diverse cellular processes; this should help toward understanding mechanisms that contribute to RASSF1A biological activity.
PMCID: PMC3484890  PMID: 14500366
25.  Folliculin interacts with p0071 (plakophilin-4) and deficiency is associated with disordered RhoA signalling, epithelial polarization and cytokinesis 
Human Molecular Genetics  2012;21(24):5268-5279.
Inherited mutations in the folliculin (FLCN) gene cause the Birt–Hogg–Dubé syndrome of familial hair follicle tumours (fibrofolliculomas), lung cysts and kidney tumours. Though folliculin has features of a tumour suppressor, the precise function of the FLCN gene product is not well characterized. We identified plakophilin-4 (p0071) as a potential novel folliculin interacting protein by yeast two-hybrid analysis. We confirmed the interaction of folliculin with p0071 by co-immunoprecipitation studies and, in view of previous studies linking p0071 to the regulation of rho-signalling, cytokinesis and intercellular junction formation, we investigated the effect of cell folliculin status on p0071-related functions. Folliculin and p0071 partially co-localized at cell junctions and in mitotic cells, at the midbody during cytokinesis. Previously, p0071 has been reported to regulate RhoA signalling during cytokinesis and we found that folliculin deficiency was associated with increased expression and activity of RhoA and evidence of disordered cytokinesis. Treatment of folliculin-deficient cells with a downstream inhibitor of RhoA signalling (the ROCK inhibitor Y-27632) reversed the increased cell migration phenotype observed in folliculin-deficient cells. Deficiency of folliculin and of p0071 resulted in tight junction defects and mislocalization of E-cadherin in mouse inner medullary collecting duct-3 renal tubular cells. These findings suggest that aspects of folliculin tumour suppressor function are linked to interaction with p0071 and the regulation of RhoA signalling.
PMCID: PMC3755511  PMID: 22965878

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