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1.  Mitochondrial Disease Genetic Diagnostics: Optimized whole-exome analysis for all MitoCarta nuclear genes and the mitochondrial genome 
Discovery medicine  2012;14(79):389-399.
Discovering causative genetic variants in individual cases of suspected mitochondrial disease requires interrogation of both the mitochondrial (mtDNA) and nuclear genomes. Whole-exome sequencing can support simultaneous dual-genome analysis, although currently available capture kits do not target the mtDNA genome and provide insufficient capture for some nuclear-encoded mitochondrial genes. To optimize interrogation of nuclear and mtDNA genes relevant to mitochondrial biology and disease, a custom SureSelect “Mito-Plus” whole-exome library was formulated by blending RNA “baits” from three separate designs: (A) Agilent Technologies SureSelectXT 50 Mb All Exon PLUS Targeted Enrichment Kit, (B) 16-gene nuclear panel targeting sequences for known MitoCarta proteins not included in the 50 Mb All-Exon design, and (C) sequences targeting the entire mtDNA genome. The final custom formulations consisted of a 1:1 ratio of nuclear baits to which a 1 to 1,000-fold diluted ratio of mtDNA genome baits were blended. Patient sample capture libraries were paired-end sequenced on an Illumina HiSeq 2000 system using v3.0 SBS chemistry. mtDNA genome coverage varied depending on the mtDNA:nuclear blend ratio, where a 1:100 ratio provided optimal dual-genome coverage with 10X coverage for over 97.5% of all targeted nuclear regions and 1,000X coverage for 99.8% of the mtDNA genome. mtDNA mutations were reliably detected to at least an 8% heteroplasmy level, as discriminated both from sequencing errors and potential contamination from nuclear mtDNA transcripts (Numts). The “1:100 Mito-Plus Whole-Exome” Agilent capture kit offers an optimized tool for whole-exome analysis of nuclear and mtDNA genes relevant to the diagnostic evaluation of mitochondrial disease.
PMCID: PMC3923327  PMID: 23272691
Exome; Capture; Mitochondria; MitoCarta; heteroplasmy; variants; Agilent; SureSelect; HiSeq; NUMT
2.  Transcriptome analyses of the human retina identify unprecedented transcript diversity and 3.5 Mb of novel transcribed sequence via significant alternative splicing and novel genes 
BMC Genomics  2013;14:486.
Background
The retina is a complex tissue comprised of multiple cell types that is affected by a diverse set of diseases that are important causes of vision loss. Characterizing the transcripts, both annotated and novel, that are expressed in a given tissue has become vital for understanding the mechanisms underlying the pathology of disease.
Results
We sequenced RNA prepared from three normal human retinas and characterized the retinal transcriptome at an unprecedented level due to the increased depth of sampling provided by the RNA-seq approach. We used a non-redundant reference transcriptome from all of the empirically-determined human reference tracks to identify annotated and novel sequences expressed in the retina. We detected 79,915 novel alternative splicing events, including 29,887 novel exons, 21,757 3′ and 5′ alternate splice sites, and 28,271 exon skipping events. We also identified 116 potential novel genes. These data represent a significant addition to the annotated human transcriptome. For example, the novel exons detected increase the number of identified exons by 3%. Using a high-throughput RNA capture approach to validate 14,696 of these novel transcriptome features we found that 99% of the putative novel events can be reproducibly detected. Further, 15-36% of the novel splicing events maintain an open reading frame, suggesting they produce novel protein products.
Conclusions
To our knowledge, this is the first application of RNA capture to perform large-scale validation of novel transcriptome features. In total, these analyses provide extensive detail about a previously uncharacterized level of transcript diversity in the human retina.
doi:10.1186/1471-2164-14-486
PMCID: PMC3924432  PMID: 23865674
RNA-Seq; Transcriptome; Inherited retinal degeneration; Retina; Novel genes; Alternative splicing
3.  Mitochondrial Atpif1 regulates heme synthesis in developing erythroblasts 
Nature  2012;491(7425):608-612.
SUMMARY
Defects in the availability of heme substrates or the catalytic activity of the terminal enzyme in heme biosynthesis, ferrochelatase (Fech), impair heme synthesis, and thus cause human congenital anemias1,2. The inter-dependent functions of regulators of mitochondrial homeostasis and enzymes responsible for heme synthesis are largely unknown. To uncover this unmet need, we utilized zebrafish genetic screens and cloned mitochondrial ATPase inhibitory factor 1 (atpif1) from a zebrafish mutant with profound anemia, pinotage (pnt tq209). We now report a direct mechanism establishing that Atpif1 regulates the catalytic efficiency of vertebrate Fech to synthesize heme. The loss of Atpif1 impairs hemoglobin synthesis in zebrafish, mouse, and human hematopoietic models as a consequence of diminished Fech activity, and elevated mitochondrial pH. To understand the relationship among mitochondrial pH, redox potential, [2Fe-2S] clusters, and Fech activity, we used (1) genetic complementation studies of Fech constructs with or without [2Fe-2S] clusters in pnt, and (2) pharmacological agents modulating mitochondrial pH and redox potential. The presence of [2Fe-2S] cluster renders vertebrate Fech vulnerable to Atpif1-regulated mitochondrial pH and redox potential perturbations. Therefore, Atpif1 deficiency reduces the efficiency of vertebrate Fech to synthesize heme, resulting in anemia. The novel mechanism of Atpif1 as a regulator of heme synthesis advances the understanding of mitochondrial heme homeostasis and red blood cell development. A deficiency of Atpif1 may contribute to important human diseases, such as congenital sideroblastic anemias and mitochondriopathies.
doi:10.1038/nature11536
PMCID: PMC3504625  PMID: 23135403
4.  Mitochondrial tRNA-serine (AGY) m.C12264T mutation causes severe multisystem disease with cataracts 
Discovery medicine  2012;13(69):143-150.
Progressive multisystem disease should invoke consideration of potential mitochondrial etiologies. Mitochondrial disease can affect any organ system at any time, particularly involving neurologic, cardiac, muscular, gastroenterologic, and/or ophthalmologic manifestations. We report here a 19-year-old Caucasian man who was followed since birth in multiple pediatric subspecialty clinics for myelomeningocele complications. However, he progressively developed a host of additional problems that were not readily attributable to his neural tube defect but involved developmental, ophthalmologic, cardiac, muscular, endocrine, and intermediary metabolic manifestations. Clinical diagnostic testing limited to analysis for common point mutations and deletions in his blood mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) was not revealing. Skeletal muscle biopsy revealed abnormal mitochondrial morphology and immunostaining, mitochondrial proliferation, and mildly reduced respiratory chain complex I–III activity. Whole mitochondrial genome sequencing analysis in muscle identified an apparently homoplasmic, novel, 12264C>T transition in the tRNA serine (AGY) gene. The pathogenicity of this mutation was supported by identification of it being present at low heteroplasmy load in his blood (34 percent) as well as in blood from his maternal grandmother (1 percent). Interestingly, the proband developed severe nuclear cataracts that proved to be homoplasmic for the pathogenic mtDNA 12264C>T mutation. This case highlights the value of pursuing whole mitochondrial genome sequencing in symptomatic tissues in the diagnostic evaluation of suspected mitochondrial disease. Furthermore, it is the first report to directly implicate an mtDNA mutation in the pathogenesis of ocular cataracts and clearly illustrates the important contribution of normal metabolic activity to the function of the ocular lens.
PMCID: PMC3618896  PMID: 22369973
5.  NMNAT1 mutations cause Leber congenital amaurosis 
Nature genetics  2012;44(9):1040-1045.
Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA) is an infantile-onset form of inherited retinal degeneration characterized by severe vision loss1, 2. Two-thirds of LCA cases are caused by mutations in 17 known disease genes3 (RetNet Retinal Information Network). Using exome sequencing, we identified a homozygous missense mutation (c.25G>A, p.Val9Met) in NMNAT1 as likely disease-causing in two siblings of a consanguineous Pakistani kindred affected by LCA. This mutation segregated with disease in their kindred, including in three other children with LCA. NMNAT1 resides in the previously identified LCA9 locus and encodes the nuclear isoform of nicotinamide mononucleotide adenylyltransferase, a rate-limiting enzyme in nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+) biosynthesis4, 5. Functional studies showed the p.Val9Met mutation decreased NMNAT1 enzyme activity. Sequencing NMNAT1 in 284 unrelated LCA families identified 14 rare mutations in 13 additional affected individuals. These results are the first to link an NMNAT isoform to disease and indicate that NMNAT1 mutations cause LCA.
doi:10.1038/ng.2361
PMCID: PMC3454532  PMID: 22842227
6.  Knockdown of ttc26 disrupts ciliogenesis of the photoreceptor cells and the pronephros in zebrafish 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2012;23(16):3069-3078.
The article describes characterization of the cilia protein Ttc26. The data show that Ttc26 is localized in the transition zone of primary cilia and photoreceptor cells. Knockdown of Ttc26 produced defective cilia in murine inner medullary collecting duct 3 cells and ciliogenesis defects in retinal photoreceptor and motile cilia in the pronephros in zebrafish.
In our effort to understand genetic disorders of the photoreceptor cells of the retina, we have focused on intraflagellar transport in photoreceptor sensory cilia. From previous mouse proteomic data we identified a cilia protein Ttc26, orthologue of dyf-13 in Caenorhabditis elegans, as a target. We localized Ttc26 to the transition zone of photoreceptor and to the transition zone of cilia in cultured murine inner medullary collecting duct 3 (mIMCD3) renal cells. Knockdown of Ttc26 in mIMCD3 cells produced shortened and defective primary cilia, as revealed by immunofluorescence and scanning electron microscopy. To study Ttc26 function in sensory cilia in vivo, we utilized a zebrafish vertebrate model system. Morpholino knockdown of ttc26 in zebrafish embryos caused ciliary defects in the pronephric kidney at 27 h postfertilization and distension/dilation of pronephros at 5 d postfertilization (dpf). In the eyes, the outer segments of photoreceptor cells appeared shortened or absent, whereas cellular lamination appeared normal in retinas at 5 dpf. This suggests that loss of ttc26 function prevents normal ciliogenesis and differentiation in the photoreceptor cells, and that ttc26 is required for normal development and differentiation in retina and pronephros. Our studies support the importance of Ttc26 function in ciliogenesis and suggest that screening for TTC26 mutations in human ciliopathies is justified.
doi:10.1091/mbc.E12-01-0019
PMCID: PMC3418303  PMID: 22718903
7.  Comparative analysis of RNA-Seq alignment algorithms and the RNA-Seq unified mapper (RUM) 
Bioinformatics  2011;27(18):2518-2528.
Motivation: A critical task in high-throughput sequencing is aligning millions of short reads to a reference genome. Alignment is especially complicated for RNA sequencing (RNA-Seq) because of RNA splicing. A number of RNA-Seq algorithms are available, and claim to align reads with high accuracy and efficiency while detecting splice junctions. RNA-Seq data are discrete in nature; therefore, with reasonable gene models and comparative metrics RNA-Seq data can be simulated to sufficient accuracy to enable meaningful benchmarking of alignment algorithms. The exercise to rigorously compare all viable published RNA-Seq algorithms has not been performed previously.
Results: We developed an RNA-Seq simulator that models the main impediments to RNA alignment, including alternative splicing, insertions, deletions, substitutions, sequencing errors and intron signal. We used this simulator to measure the accuracy and robustness of available algorithms at the base and junction levels. Additionally, we used reverse transcription–polymerase chain reaction (RT–PCR) and Sanger sequencing to validate the ability of the algorithms to detect novel transcript features such as novel exons and alternative splicing in RNA-Seq data from mouse retina. A pipeline based on BLAT was developed to explore the performance of established tools for this problem, and to compare it to the recently developed methods. This pipeline, the RNA-Seq Unified Mapper (RUM), performs comparably to the best current aligners and provides an advantageous combination of accuracy, speed and usability.
Availability: The RUM pipeline is distributed via the Amazon Cloud and for computing clusters using the Sun Grid Engine (http://cbil.upenn.edu/RUM).
Contact: ggrant@pcbi.upenn.edu; epierce@mail.med.upenn.edu
Supplementary Information:The RNA-Seq sequence reads described in the article are deposited at GEO, accession GSE26248.
doi:10.1093/bioinformatics/btr427
PMCID: PMC3167048  PMID: 21775302
8.  Expression of Wild-Type Rp1 Protein in Rp1 Knock-in Mice Rescues the Retinal Degeneration Phenotype 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(8):e43251.
Mutations in the retinitis pigmentosa 1 (RP1) gene are a common cause of autosomal dominant retinitis pigmentosa (adRP), and have also been found to cause autosomal recessive RP (arRP) in a few families. The 33 dominant mutations and 6 recessive RP1 mutations identified to date are all nonsense or frameshift mutations, and almost exclusively (38 out of 39) are located in the 4th and final exon of RP1. To better understand the underlying disease mechanisms of and help develop therapeutic strategies for RP1 disease, we performed a series of human genetic and animal studies using gene targeted and transgenic mice. Here we report that a frameshift mutation in the 3rd exon of RP1 (c.686delC; p.P229QfsX35) found in a patient with recessive RP1 disease causes RP in the homozygous state, whereas the heterozygous carriers are unaffected, confirming that haploinsufficiency is not the causative mechanism for RP1 disease. We then generated Rp1 knock-in mice with a nonsense Q662X mutation in exon 4, as well as Rp1 transgenic mice carrying a wild-type BAC Rp1 transgene. The Rp1-Q662X allele produces a truncated Rp1 protein, and homozygous Rp1-Q662X mice experience a progressive photoreceptor degeneration characterized disorganization of photoreceptor outer segments. This phenotype could be prevented by expression of a normal amount of Rp1 protein from the BAC transgene without removal of the mutant Rp1-Q662X protein. Over-expression of Rp1 protein in additional BAC Rp1 transgenic lines resulted in retinal degeneration. These findings suggest that the truncated Rp1-Q662X protein does not exert a toxic gain-of-function effect. These results also imply that in principle gene augmentation therapy could be beneficial for both recessive and dominant RP1 patients, but the levels of RP1 protein delivered for therapy will have to be carefully controlled.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0043251
PMCID: PMC3424119  PMID: 22927954
9.  Bayesian Analysis of Trinomial Data in Behavioral Experiments and Its Application to Human Studies of General Anesthesia 
Conference Proceedings  2011;2011:4705-4708.
Accurate quantification of loss of response to external stimuli is essential for understanding the mechanisms of loss of consciousness under general anesthesia. We present a new approach for quantifying three possible outcomes that are encountered in behavioral experiments during general anesthesia: correct responses, incorrect responses and no response. We use a state-space model with two state variables representing a probability of response and a conditional probability of correct response. We show applications of this approach to an example of responses to auditory stimuli at varying levels of propofol anesthesia ranging from light sedation to deep anesthesia in human subjects. The posterior probability densities of model parameters and the response probability are computed within a Bayesian framework using Markov Chain Monte Carlo methods.
doi:10.1109/IEMBS.2011.6091165
PMCID: PMC3282046  PMID: 22255388
10.  Robust Time-Varying Multivariate Coherence Estimation: Application to Electroencephalogram Recordings During General Anesthesia 
Conference Proceedings  2011;2011:4725-4728.
Coherence analysis characterizes frequency-dependent covariance between signals, and is useful for multivariate oscillatory data often encountered in neuroscience. The global coherence provides a summary of coherent behavior in high-dimensional multivariate data by quantifying the concentration of variance in the first mode of an eigenvalue decomposition of the cross-spectral matrix. Practical application of this useful method is sensitive to noise, and can confound coherent activity in disparate neural populations or spatial locations that have a similar frequency structure. In this paper we describe two methodological enhancements to the global coherence procedure that increase robustness of the technique to noise, and that allow characterization of how power within specific coherent modes change through time.
doi:10.1109/IEMBS.2011.6091170
PMCID: PMC3293406  PMID: 22255393
11.  Dynamic Assessment of Baroreflex Control of Heart Rate during Induction of Propofol Anesthesia Using a Point Process Method 
Annals of biomedical engineering  2010;39(1):260-276.
In this paper, we present a point process method to assess dynamic baroreflex sensitivity by estimating the baroreflex gain as focal component of a simplified closed-loop model of the cardiovascular system. Specifically, an inverse Gaussian probability distribution is used to model the heartbeat interval, whereas the instantaneous mean is identified by linear and bilinear bivariate regressions on both the previous R-R intervals (RR) and blood pressure (BP) beat-to-beat measures. The instantaneous baroreflex gain is estimated as the feedback branch of the loop with a point-process filter, while the RR→BP feedforward transfer function representing heart contractility and vasculature effects is simultaneously estimated by a recursive least-squares (RLS) filter. These two closed-loop gains provide a direct assessment of baroreflex control of heart rate. In addition, the dynamic coherence, cross-bispectrum, and their power ratio can also be estimated. All statistical indices provide a valuable quantitative assessment of the interaction between heartbeat dynamics and hemodynamics. To illustrate the application, we have applied the proposed point process model to experimental recordings from eleven healthy subjects in order to monitor cardiovascular regulation under propofol anesthesia. We present quantitative results during transient periods, as well as statistical analyses on steady state epochs before and after propofol administration. Our findings validate the ability of the algorithm to provide a reliable and fast-tracking assessment of baroreflex sensitivity (BRS), and show a clear overall reduction in baroreflex gain from the baseline period to the start of propofol anesthesia, confirming that instantaneous evaluation of arterial baroreflex control of heart rate may yield important implications in clinical practice, particularly during anesthesia and in postoperative care.
doi:10.1007/s10439-010-0179-z
PMCID: PMC3010293  PMID: 20945159
Baroreflex control; Baroreflex sensitivity; Heart rate variability; Hemodynamics; Point processes; Adaptive filters; Volterra series; Closed-loop feedback control; Cardiovascular system
12.  Generation of Cre Transgenic Mice with Postnatal RPE-Specific Ocular Expression 
The authors characterize a new transgenic mouse line, BEST1-cre, that provides RPE-specific ocular cre expression. These mice begin expressing cre at postnatal day 10 and maintain expression into adulthood without causing retinal dysfunction. Cre expression is present in up to 90% of RPE nuclei. Therefore, these mice provide a useful tool for studying the postnatal function of genes within the RPE.
Purpose.
To generate and characterize a constitutively active, RPE-specific, cre-expressing transgenic mouse line. This line can be used to create RPE-specific knockouts by crossing with mice harboring loxP-flanked (floxed) genes.
Methods.
A transgene construct was assembled with the BEST1 promoter driving cre expression. Transgenic mice were generated on a C57BL/6 background. Cre expression was assessed by immunofluorescence and Western blot analysis. Cre enzymatic activity was tested by crossing to three lines with floxed DNA regions and detecting deletion of the intervening sequences or through histochemical detection of lacZ activity. Potential cre-mediated toxicity was assessed by retinal histology up to 24 months of age and by electroretinography.
Results.
The BEST1-cre line with expression in the highest percentage of RPE cells displayed a patchy mosaic expression pattern, with 50% to 90% of RPE cells expressing cre. In mice outcrossed to a mixed B6/129 background, expression was consistently found in 90% of RPE cells. Within the eye, only the RPE cells were immunoreactive with an anti-cre antibody. Maximum cre expression quantified by Western blot analysis occurred at P28. Crosses with three lines containing floxed sequences revealed RPE-specific cre activity in the eye and extraocular expression limited to the testes. Histology and electroretinography showed no cre-mediated RPE toxicity.
Conclusions.
This BEST1-cre transgenic line enables generation of RPE-specific knockout mice. The mosaic expression pattern provides an internal control; the non–cre-expressing RPE cells continue to express the floxed genes. These mice should facilitate study of the multifunctional RPE and the generation of mouse models of human retinal disease.
doi:10.1167/iovs.10-6347
PMCID: PMC3101664  PMID: 21212186
13.  Three Gene-Targeted Mouse Models of RNA Splicing Factor RP Show Late-Onset RPE and Retinal Degeneration 
To investigate the pathogenesis of the RNA splicing factor forms of RP, the authors generated and characterized the retinal phenotypes of Prpf3-T494M, Prpf8-H2309P knockin mice, and evaluated the retinal ultrastructure of Prpf31-knockout mice. All three mouse models demonstrate degenerative changes in the RPE with age, suggesting that the RPE may be the primary cell type affected in the RNA splicing factor forms of RP.
Purpose.
Mutations in genes that produce proteins involved in mRNA splicing, including pre-mRNA processing factors 3, 8, and 31 (PRPF3, 8, and 31), RP9, and SNRNP200 are common causes of the late-onset inherited blinding disorder retinitis pigmentosa (RP). It is not known how mutations in these ubiquitously expressed genes lead to retina-specific disease. To investigate the pathogenesis of the RNA splicing factor forms of RP, the authors generated and characterized the retinal phenotypes of Prpf3-T494M, Prpf8-H2309P knockin mice. The retinal ultrastructure of Prpf31-knockout mice was also investigated.
Methods.
The knockin mice have single codon alterations in their endogenous Prpf3 and Prpf8 genes that mimic the most common disease causing mutations in human PRPF3 and PRPF8. The Prpf31-knockout mice mimic the null alleles that result from the majority of mutations identified in PRPF31 patients. The retinal phenotypes of the gene targeted mice were evaluated by electroretinography (ERG), light, and electron microscopy.
Results.
The RPE cells of heterozygous Prpf3+/T494M and Prpf8+/H2309P knockin mice exhibited loss of the basal infoldings and vacuolization, with accumulation of amorphous deposits between the RPE and Bruch[b]'s membrane at age two years. These changes were more severe in the homozygous mice, and were associated with decreased rod function in the Prpf3-T494M mice. Similar degenerative changes in the RPE were detected in Prpf31± mice at one year of age.
Conclusions.
The finding of similar degenerative changes in RPE cells of all three mouse models suggests that the RPE may be the primary cell type affected in the RNA splicing factor forms of RP. The relatively late-onset phenotype observed in these mice is consistent with the typical adult onset of disease in patients with RP.
doi:10.1167/iovs.10-5194
PMCID: PMC3053274  PMID: 20811066
14.  Identification of Disease-Causing Mutations in Autosomal Dominant Retinitis Pigmentosa (adRP) Using Next-Generation DNA Sequencing 
In this study, high-throughput, next-generation sequencing was used to identify disease-causing mutations in a large set of unrelated families with autosomal dominant retinitis pigmentosa (adRP), a highly heterogeneous inherited disease. This is one of the first reports of the application of the technology to a large set of adRP families. Next-generation sequencing of a large set of candidate genes identified mutations in 24% of the families tested, bringing the mutation identification rate in this adRP cohort to 65%.
Purpose.
To determine whether massively parallel next-generation DNA sequencing offers rapid and efficient detection of disease-causing mutations in patients with monogenic inherited diseases. Retinitis pigmentosa (RP) is a challenging application for this technology because it is a monogenic disease in individuals and families but is highly heterogeneous in patient populations. RP has multiple patterns of inheritance, with mutations in many genes for each inheritance pattern and numerous, distinct, disease-causing mutations at each locus; further, many RP genes have not been identified yet.
Methods.
Next-generation sequencing was used to identify mutations in pairs of affected individuals from 21 families with autosomal dominant RP, selected from a cohort of families without mutations in “common” RP genes. One thousand amplicons targeting 249,267 unique bases of 46 candidate genes were sequenced with the 454GS FLX Titanium (Roche Diagnostics, Indianapolis, IN) and GAIIx (Illumina/Solexa, San Diego, CA) platforms.
Results.
An average sequence depth of 70× and 125× was obtained for the 454GS FLX and GAIIx platforms, respectively. More than 9000 sequence variants were identified and analyzed, to assess the likelihood of pathogenicity. One hundred twelve of these were selected as likely candidates and tested for segregation with traditional di-deoxy capillary electrophoresis sequencing of additional family members and control subjects. Five disease-causing mutations (24%) were identified in the 21 families.
Conclusion.
This project demonstrates that next-generation sequencing is an effective approach for detecting novel, rare mutations causing heterogeneous monogenic disorders such as RP. With the addition of this technology, disease-causing mutations can now be identified in 65% of autosomal dominant RP cases.
doi:10.1167/iovs.10-6180
PMCID: PMC3053293  PMID: 20861475
15.  Temporal and Tissue Specific Regulation of RP-Associated Splicing Factor Genes PRPF3, PRPF31 and PRPC8—Implications in the Pathogenesis of RP 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(1):e15860.
Background
Genetic mutations in several ubiquitously expressed RNA splicing genes such as PRPF3, PRP31 and PRPC8, have been found to cause retina-specific diseases in humans. To understand this intriguing phenomenon, most studies have been focused on testing two major hypotheses. One hypothesis assumes that these mutations interrupt retina-specific interactions that are important for RNA splicing, implying that there are specific components in the retina interacting with these splicing factors. The second hypothesis suggests that these mutations have only a mild effect on the protein function and thus affect only the metabolically highly active cells such as retinal photoreceptors.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We examined the second hypothesis using the PRPF3 gene as an example. We analyzed the spatial and temporal expression of the PRPF3 gene in mice and found that it is highly expressed in retinal cells relative to other tissues and its expression is developmentally regulated. In addition, we also found that PRP31 and PRPC8 as well as snRNAs are highly expressed in retinal cells.
Conclusions/Significance
Our data suggest that the retina requires a relatively high level of RNA splicing activity for optimal tissue-specific physiological function. Because the RP18 mutation has neither a debilitating nor acute effect on protein function, we suggest that retinal degeneration is the accumulative effect of decades of suboptimal RNA splicing due to the mildly impaired protein.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0015860
PMCID: PMC3023711  PMID: 21283520
16.  Retinal degeneration and failure of photoreceptor outer segment formation in mice with targeted deletion of the Joubert syndrome gene, Ahi1 
Vertebrate photoreceptors have a modified cilium composed of a basal body, axoneme and outer segment. The outer segment includes stacked membrane discs, containing opsin and the signal transduction apparatus mediating phototransduction. In photoreceptors, two distinct classes of vesicles are trafficked. Synaptic vesicles are transported down the axon to the synapse, while opsin-containing vesicles are transported to the outer segment. The continuous replacement of the outer segments imposes a significant biosynthetic and trafficking burden on the photoreceptors. Here, we show that Ahi1, a gene that when mutated results in the neurodevelopmental disorder, Joubert syndrome (JBTS), is required for photoreceptor sensory cilia formation and the development of photoreceptor outer segments. In mice with a targeted deletion of Ahi1, photoreceptors undergo early degeneration. While synaptic proteins are correctly trafficked, photoreceptor outer segment proteins fail to be transported appropriately or are significantly reduced in their expression levels (i.e., transducin and Rom1) in Ahi1−/− mice. We show that vesicular targeting defects in Ahi1−/− mice are cilium-specific, and our evidence suggests that the defects are caused by a decrease in expression of the small GTPase Rab8a, a protein required for accurate polarized vesicular trafficking. Thus, our results suggest that Ahi1 plays a role in stabilizing the outer segment proteins, transducin and Rom1, and that Ahi1 is an important component of Rab8a-mediated vesicular trafficking in photoreceptors. The retinal degeneration observed in Ahi1−/− mice recapitulates aspects of the retinal phenotype observed in patients with JBTS, and suggests the importance of Ahi1 in photoreceptor function.
doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.5229-09.2010
PMCID: PMC2923804  PMID: 20592197
photoreceptor; degeneration; knockout; cilia; retina; outer segments
17.  The in vivo inactivation of MASTL kinase results in thrombocytopenia 
Experimental hematology  2009;37(8):901-908.
Objective
A missense mutation in the Microtubule Associated Serine/Threonine Like kinase gene (MASTL, FLJ14813) on human chromosome 10 was previously linked to a novel form of autosomal dominant inherited thrombocytopenia in a single pedigree. The mutation results in an amino acid change from glutamic acid at position 167 to aspartic acid and segregates perfectly with thrombocytopenic individuals within this extended family. The phenotype is characterized by mild thrombocytopenia with an average platelet count of 60,000 platelets per microliter of blood. We wanted to determine the expression and localization of MASTL, as well as its role in developing thrombocytes using an in vivo model system.
Methods
Northern blot analysis allowed us to examine expression patterns. Morpholino knockdown assays in zebrafish (Danio rerio) were employed to determine in vivo contribution to thrombocyte development. Transient expression in BHK cells resulted in localization of both the wild type and E167D mutant forms of MASTL kinase to the nucleus.
Results
Northern blot analysis indicates that MASTL mRNA is restricted in its expression to hematopoietic and cancer cell lines. A transient knockdown of MASTL in zebrafish results in deficiency of circulating thrombocytes. Transient expression of recombinant MASTL kinase in vitro demonstrates localization to the nucleus. Conclusions: Functional studies presented here demonstrate a direct relationship between the transient knockdown of the MASTL kinase expression and the reduction of circulating thrombocytes in zebrafish. This transient knockdown of MASTL in zebrafish correlates with a decrease in the expression of the thrombopoietin receptor, c-mpl, and the CD41 platelet adhesion protein, GpIIb, but has no effect on essential housekeeping zebrafish gene, EF1α.
doi:10.1016/j.exphem.2009.05.005
PMCID: PMC2729505  PMID: 19460416
18.  Discovery of genes essential for heme biosynthesis through large-scale gene expression analysis 
Cell metabolism  2009;10(2):119-130.
Summary
Heme biosynthesis consists of a series of eight enzymatic reactions that originate in mitochondria and continue in the cytosol before returning to mitochondria. Although these core enzymes are well studied, additional mitochondrial transporters and regulatory factors are predicted to be required. To discover such unknown components, we utilized a large-scale computational screen to identify mitochondrial proteins whose transcripts consistently co-express with the core machinery of heme biosynthesis. We identified SLC25A39, SLC22A4 and TMEM14C, which are putative mitochondrial transporters, as well as C1orf69 and ISCA1, which are iron-sulfur cluster proteins. Targeted knockdowns of all five genes in zebrafish resulted in profound anemia without impacting erythroid lineage specification. Moreover, silencing of Slc25a39 in murine erythroleukemia cells impaired iron incorporation into protoporphyrin IX, and vertebrate Slc25a39 complemented an iron homeostasis defect in the orthologous yeast mtm1Δ deletion mutant. Our results advance the molecular understanding of heme biosynthesis and offer promising candidate genes for inherited anemias.
doi:10.1016/j.cmet.2009.06.012
PMCID: PMC2745341  PMID: 19656490
19.  Targeted High-Throughput DNA Sequencing for Gene Discovery in Retinitis Pigmentosa 
The causes of retinitis pigmentosa (RP) are highly heterogeneous, with mutations in more than 60 genes known to cause syndromic and non-syndromic forms of disease. The prevalence of detectable mutations in known genes ranges from 25 to 85%, depending on mode of inheritance. For example, the likelihood of detecting a disease-causing mutation in known genes in patients with autosomal dominant RP (adRP) is 60% in Americans and less in other populations. Thus many RP genes are still unknown or mutations lie outside of commonly tested regions. Furthermore, current screening strategies can be costly and time-consuming.
We are developing targeted high-throughput DNA sequencing to address these problems. In this approach, a microarray with oligonucleotides targeted to hundreds of genes is used to capture sheared human DNA, and the sequence of the eluted DNA is determined by ultra-high-throughput sequencing using next-generation DNA sequencing technology. The first capture array we have designed contains 62 full-length retinal disease genes, including introns and promoter regions, and an additional 531 genes limited to exons and flanking sequences. The full-length genes include all genes known to cause at least 1% of RP or other inherited retinal diseases. All of the genes listed in the RetNet database are included on the capture array as well as many additional retinal-expressed genes. After validation studies, the first DNA's tested will be from 89 unrelated adRP families in which the prevalent RP genes have been excluded. This approach should identify new RP genes and will substantially reduce the cost per patient.
doi:10.1007/978-1-4419-1399-9_37
PMCID: PMC2909649  PMID: 20238032
20.  Photoreceptor Sensory Cilia and Inherited Retinal Degeneration 
The outer segments of photoreceptor cells are specialized sensory cilia, and share many features with other primary and sensory cilia. Like other cilia, photoreceptor sensory cilium (PSC) comprises a membrane domain of outer segment and its cytoskeleton. We have recently identified the protein components of mouse PSCs, and found that the list of PSC proteins, called the PSC proteome, contains many novel cilia proteins. Studies have shown that many of the identified retinal degeneration (IRD) disease genes encode proteins which are part of the PSC. Furthermore, mutations in genes encoding proteins expressed both in photoreceptors and other cilia result in systemic diseases, such as Usher syndrome, Bardet-Biedl syndrome (BBS), and Senior-Loken syndrome that involve retinal degeneration along with other disorders consequent to cilia dysfunction such as deafness and polycystic kidney disease. Based on these findings, we hypothesize that genes that encode proteins required for formation of PSCs are good candidate retinal degeneration disease genes. This chapter will summarize our studies on identifying novel PSC proteins from the PSC proteome. As an example of these studies, we demonstrated that tetratricopeptide the repeat domain 21B (TTC21B) protein is a novel PSC protein and is required for normal cilia formation in primary and photoreceptor sensory cilia.
doi:10.1007/978-1-4419-1399-9_26
PMCID: PMC2888132  PMID: 20238021
21.  Simultaneous Electroencephalography and Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging of General Anesthesia 
It has been long appreciated that anesthetic drugs induce stereotyped changes in electroencephalogram (EEG), but the relationships between EEG and underlying brain function remain poorly understood. Functional imaging methods including positron emission tomography (PET) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), have become important tools for studying how anesthetic drugs act in the human brain to induce the state of general anesthesia. To date, no investigation has combined functional MRI with EEG to study general anesthesia. We report here a paradigm for conducting combined fMRI and EEG studies of human subjects under general anesthesia. We discuss the several technical and safety problems that must be solved to undertake this type of multimodal functional imaging and show combined recordings from a human subject. Combined fMRI and EEG exploits simultaneously the high spatial resolution of fMRI and the high temporal resolution of EEG. In addition, combined fMRI and EEG offers a direct way to relate established EEG patterns induced by general anesthesia to changes neural activity in specific brain regions as measured by changes in fMRI blood oxygen level dependent (BOLD) signals.
doi:10.1111/j.1749-6632.2008.04119.x
PMCID: PMC2855224  PMID: 19351356
22.  The Severity of Retinal Degeneration in Rp1h Gene-Targeted Mice Is Dependent on Genetic Background 
Purpose
The severity of disease in patients with retinitis pigmentosa (RP) can vary significantly, even among patients with the same primary mutations. It is hypothesized that modifier genes play important roles in determining the severity of RP, including the retinitis pigmentosa 1 (RP1) form of disease. To investigate the basis of variation in disease expression for RP1 disease, the authors generated congenic mice with a gene-targeted retinitis pigmentosa 1 homolog (Rp1h) allele (Rp1htm1Eap) on several different genetic backgrounds and analyzed their retinal phenotypes.
Methods
The Rp1htm1Eap allele was placed onto the C57BL/6J, DBA1/J, and A/J backgrounds. Retinal function of the resultant congenic mice was evaluated using electroretino-graphic analyses. Retinal structure and ultrastructure were evaluated using light and electron microscopy. Rp1h protein location was determined with immunofluorescence microscopy.
Results
Analysis of the retinal phenotype of incipient congenic (N6) B6.129S-Rp1h+/tm1Eap, DBA.129S(B6)-Rp1h+/tm1Eap, and A.129S(B6)-Rp1h+/tm1Eap mice at 1 year of age showed retinal degeneration only in the A.129S(B6)-Rp1h+/tm1Eap mice. Further analyses revealed that the photoreceptors of the fully congenic A.129S(B6)-Rp1h+/tm1Eap mice show evidence of degeneration at 6 months of age and are almost completely lost by 18 months of age. In contrast, the photoreceptor cells in the fully congenic B6.129S-Rp1h+/tm1Eap mice remain healthy up to 18 months.
Conclusions
The severity of the retinal degeneration caused by the Rp1htm1Eap allele is notably dependent on genetic background. The development and characterization of the B6.129S-Rp1h+/tm1Eap and A.129S(B6)-Rp1h+/tm1Eap congenic mouse lines will facilitate identification of sequence alterations in genes that modify the severity of RP1 disease.
doi:10.1167/iovs.08-2776
PMCID: PMC2701263  PMID: 19060274
23.  Gene Therapy for Leber's Congenital Amaurosis is Safe and Effective Through 1.5 Years After Vector Administration 
Molecular Therapy  2009;18(3):643-650.
The safety and efficacy of gene therapy for inherited retinal diseases is being tested in humans affected with Leber's congenital amaurosis (LCA), an autosomal recessive blinding disease. Three independent studies have provided evidence that the subretinal administration of adeno-associated viral (AAV) vectors encoding RPE65 in patients affected with LCA2 due to mutations in the RPE65 gene, is safe and, in some cases, results in efficacy. We evaluated the long-term safety and efficacy (global effects on retinal/visual function) resulting from subretinal administration of AAV2-hRPE65v2. Both the safety and the efficacy noted at early timepoints persist through at least 1.5 years after injection in the three LCA2 patients enrolled in the low dose cohort of our trial. A transient rise in neutralizing antibodies to AAV capsid was observed but there was no humoral response to RPE65 protein. The persistence of functional amelioration suggests that AAV-mediated gene transfer to the human retina does not elicit immunological responses which cause significant loss of transduced cells. The persistence of physiologic effect supports the possibility that gene therapy may influence LCA2 disease progression. The safety of the intervention and the stability of the improvement in visual and retinal function in these subjects support the use of AAV-mediated gene augmentation therapy for treatment of inherited retinal diseases.
doi:10.1038/mt.2009.277
PMCID: PMC2839440  PMID: 19953081
24.  Safety and Efficacy of Gene Transfer for Leber’s Congenital Amaurosis 
The New England journal of medicine  2008;358(21):2240-2248.
SUMMARY
Leber’s congenital amaurosis (LCA) is a group of inherited blinding diseases with onset during childhood. One form of the disease, LCA2, is caused by mutations in the retinal pigment epithelium–specific 65-kDa protein gene (RPE65). We investigated the safety of subretinal delivery of a recombinant adeno-associated virus (AAV) carrying RPE65 complementary DNA (cDNA) (ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT00516477). Three patients with LCA2 had an acceptable local and systemic adverse-event profile after delivery of AAV2.hRPE65v2. Each patient had a modest improvement in measures of retinal function on subjective tests of visual acuity. In one patient, an asymptomatic macular hole developed, and although the occurrence was considered to be an adverse event, the patient had some return of retinal function. Although the follow-up was very short and normal vision was not achieved, this study provides the basis for further gene therapy studies in patients with LCA.
doi:10.1056/NEJMoa0802315
PMCID: PMC2829748  PMID: 18441370
25.  Loss of the Metalloprotease ADAM9 Leads to Cone-Rod Dystrophy in Humans and Retinal Degeneration in Mice 
Cone-rod dystrophy (CRD) is an inherited progressive retinal dystrophy affecting the function of cone and rod photoreceptors. By autozygosity mapping, we identified null mutations in the ADAM metallopeptidase domain 9 (ADAM9) gene in four consanguineous families with recessively inherited early-onset CRD. We also found reduced photoreceptor responses in Adam9 knockout mice, previously reported to be asymptomatic. In 12-month-old knockout mice, photoreceptors appear normal, but the apical processes of the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) cells are disorganized and contact between photoreceptor outer segments (POSs) and the RPE apical surface is compromised. In 20-month-old mice, there is clear evidence of progressive retinal degeneration with disorganized POS and thinning of the outer nuclear layer (ONL) in addition to the anomaly at the POS-RPE junction. RPE basal deposits and macrophages were also apparent in older mice. These findings therefore not only identify ADAM9 as a CRD gene but also identify a form of pathology wherein retinal disease first manifests at the POS-RPE junction.
doi:10.1016/j.ajhg.2009.04.005
PMCID: PMC2681008  PMID: 19409519

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