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1.  Variable expressivity of ciliopathy neurological phenotypes that encompass Meckel–Gruber syndrome and Joubert syndrome is caused by complex de-regulated ciliogenesis, Shh and Wnt signalling defects 
Human Molecular Genetics  2013;22(7):1358-1372.
The ciliopathies are a group of heterogeneous diseases with considerable variations in phenotype for allelic conditions such as Meckel–Gruber syndrome (MKS) and Joubert syndrome (JBTS) even at the inter-individual level within families. In humans, mutations in TMEM67 (also known as MKS3) cause both MKS and JBTS, with TMEM67 encoding the orphan receptor meckelin (TMEM67) that localizes to the ciliary transition zone. We now describe the Tmem67tm1(Dgen/H) knockout mouse model that recapitulates the brain phenotypic variability of these human ciliopathies, with categorization of Tmem67 mutant animals into two phenotypic groups. An MKS-like incipient congenic group (F6 to F10) manifested very variable neurological features (including exencephaly, and frontal/occipital encephalocele) that were associated with the loss of primary cilia, diminished Shh signalling and dorsalization of the caudal neural tube. The ‘MKS-like’ group also had high de-regulated canonical Wnt/β-catenin signalling associated with hyper-activated Dishevelled-1 (Dvl-1) localized to the basal body. Conversely, a second fully congenic group (F > 10) had less variable features pathognomonic for JBTS (including cerebellar hypoplasia), and retention of abnormal bulbous cilia associated with mild neural tube ventralization. The ‘JBTS-like’ group had de-regulated low levels of canonical Wnt signalling associated with the loss of Dvl-1 localization to the basal body. Our results suggest that modifier alleles partially determine the variation between MKS and JBTS, implicating the interaction between Dvl-1 and meckelin, or other components of the ciliary transition zone. The Tmem67tm1(Dgen/H) line is unique in modelling the variable expressivity of phenotypes in these two ciliopathies.
PMCID: PMC3596847  PMID: 23283079
2.  A meckelin–filamin A interaction mediates ciliogenesis 
Human Molecular Genetics  2011;21(6):1272-1286.
MKS3, encoding the transmembrane receptor meckelin, is mutated in Meckel–Gruber syndrome (MKS), an autosomal-recessive ciliopathy. Meckelin localizes to the primary cilium, basal body and elsewhere within the cell. Here, we found that the cytoplasmic domain of meckelin directly interacts with the actin-binding protein filamin A, potentially at the apical cell surface associated with the basal body. Mutations in FLNA, the gene for filamin A, cause periventricular heterotopias. We identified a single consanguineous patient with an MKS-like ciliopathy that presented with both MKS and cerebellar heterotopia, caused by an unusual in-frame deletion mutation in the meckelin C-terminus at the region of interaction with filamin A. We modelled this mutation and found it to abrogate the meckelin–filamin A interaction. Furthermore, we found that loss of filamin A by siRNA knockdown, in patient cells, and in tissues from FlnaDilp2 null mouse embryos results in cellular phenotypes identical to those caused by meckelin loss, namely basal body positioning and ciliogenesis defects. In addition, morpholino knockdown of flna in zebrafish embryos significantly increases the frequency of dysmorphology and severity of ciliopathy developmental defects caused by mks3 knockdown. Our results suggest that meckelin forms a functional complex with filamin A that is disrupted in MKS and causes defects in neuronal migration and Wnt signalling. Furthermore, filamin A has a crucial role in the normal processes of ciliogenesis and basal body positioning. Concurrent with these processes, the meckelin–filamin A signalling axis may be a key regulator in maintaining correct, normal levels of Wnt signalling.
PMCID: PMC3284117  PMID: 22121117
3.  Founder mutations and genotype-phenotype correlations in Meckel-Gruber syndrome and associated ciliopathies 
Cilia  2012;1:18.
Meckel-Gruber syndrome (MKS) is an autosomal recessive lethal condition that is a ciliopathy. MKS has marked phenotypic variability and genetic heterogeneity, with mutations in nine genes identified as causative to date.
Families diagnosed with Meckel-Gruber syndrome were recruited for research studies following informed consent. DNA samples were analyzed by microsatellite genotyping and direct Sanger sequencing.
We now report the genetic analyses of 87 individuals from 49 consanguineous and 19 non-consanguineous families in an unselected cohort with reported MKS, or an associated severe ciliopathy in a kindred. Linkage and/or direct sequencing were prioritized for seven MKS genes (MKS1, TMEM216, TMEM67/MKS3, RPGRIP1L, CC2D2A, CEP290 and TMEM237) selected on the basis of reported frequency of mutations or ease of analysis. We have identified biallelic mutations in 39 individuals, of which 13 mutations are novel and previously unreported. We also confirm general genotype-phenotype correlations.
TMEM67 was the most frequently mutated gene in this cohort, and we confirm two founder splice-site mutations (c.1546 + 1 G > A and c.870-2A > G) in families of Pakistani ethnic origin. In these families, we have also identified two separate founder mutations for RPGRIP1L (c. 1945 C > T p.R649X) and CC2D2A (c. 3540delA p.R1180SfsX6). Two missense mutations in TMEM67 (c. 755 T > C p.M252T, and c. 1392 C > T p.R441C) are also probable founder mutations. These findings will contribute to improved genetic diagnosis and carrier testing for affected families, and imply the existence of further genetic heterogeneity in this syndrome.
PMCID: PMC3579735  PMID: 23351400
Meckel-Gruber syndrome; Genotype-phenotype; Founder mutation
4.  The transition zone: an essential functional compartment of cilia 
Cilia  2012;1:10.
Recent studies of the primary cilium have begun to provide further insights into ciliary ultrastructure, with an emerging picture of complex compartmentalization and molecular components that combine in functional modules. Many proteins that are mutated in ciliopathies are localized to the transition zone, a compartment of the proximal region of the cilium. The loss of these components can disrupt ciliary functions such as the control of protein entry and exit from the cilium, the possible trafficking of essential ciliary components, and the regulation of signaling cascades and control of the cell cycle. The discovery of functional modules within the primary cilium may help in understanding the variable phenotypes and pleiotropy in ciliopathies.
PMCID: PMC3555838  PMID: 23352055
Cilia; Transition zone; IFT; Ciliopathies
5.  TTC21B contributes both causal and modifying alleles across the ciliopathy spectrum 
Nature genetics  2011;43(3):189-196.
Ciliary dysfunction leads to a broad range of overlapping phenotypes, termed collectively as ciliopathies. This grouping is underscored by genetic overlap, where causal genes can also contribute modifying alleles to clinically distinct disorders. Here we show that mutations in TTC21B/IFT139, encoding a retrograde intraflagellar transport (IFT) protein, cause both isolated nephronophthisis (NPHP) and syndromic Jeune Asphyxiating Thoracic Dystrophy (JATD). Moreover, although systematic medical resequencing of a large, clinically diverse ciliopathy cohort and matched controls showed a similar frequency of rare changes, in vivo and in vitro evaluations unmasked a significant enrichment of pathogenic alleles in cases, suggesting that TTC21B contributes pathogenic alleles to ∼5% of ciliopathy patients. Our data illustrate how genetic lesions can be both causally associated with diverse ciliopathies, as well as interact in trans with other disease-causing genes, and highlight how saturated resequencing followed by functional analysis of all variants informs the genetic architecture of disorders.
PMCID: PMC3071301  PMID: 21258341
6.  Mutations in TMEM216 perturb ciliogenesis and cause Joubert, Meckel and related syndromes 
Nature genetics  2010;42(7):619-625.
Joubert syndrome (JBTS), related disorders (JSRD) and Meckel syndrome (MKS) are ciliopathies. We now report that MKS2 and JBTS2 loci are allelic and due to mutations in TMEM216, encoding an uncharacterized tetraspan transmembrane protein. JBTS2 patients displayed frequent nephronophthisis and polydactytly, and two cases conformed to the Oro-Facio-Digital type VI phenotype, whereas skeletal dysplasia was common in MKS fetuses. A single p.R73L mutation was identified in all patients of Ashkenazi Jewish descent (n=10). TMEM216 localized to the base of primary cilia, and loss of TMEM216 in patient fibroblasts or following siRNA knockdown caused defective ciliogenesis and centrosomal docking, with concomitant hyperactivation of RhoA and Dishevelled. TMEM216 complexed with Meckelin, encoded by a gene also mutated in JSRD and MKS. Abrogation of tmem216 expression in zebrafish led to gastrulation defects that overlap with other ciliary morphants. The data implicate a new family of proteins in the ciliopathies, and further support allelism between ciliopathy disorders.
PMCID: PMC2894012  PMID: 20512146
7.  MKS3-Related Ciliopathy with Features of Autosomal Recessive Polycystic Kidney Disease, Nephronophthisis, and Joubert Syndrome 
The Journal of pediatrics  2009;155(3):386-92.e1.
To describe 3 children with mutations in a Meckel syndrome gene (MKS3), with features of autosomal recessive polycystic kidney disease (ARPKD), nephronophthisis, and Joubert syndrome (JS).
Study design
Biochemical evaluations, magnetic resonance and ultrasound imaging, electroretinograms, IQ testing, and sequence analysis of the PKHD1 and MKS3 genes were performed. Functional consequences of the MKS3 mutations were evaluated by cDNA sequencing and transfection studies with constructs of meckelin, the protein product of MKS3.
These 3 children with MKS3 mutations had features typical of ARPKD, that is, enlarged, diffusely microcystic kidneys and early-onset severe hypertension. They also exhibited early-onset chronic anemia, a feature of nephronophthisis, and speech and oculomotor apraxia, suggestive of JS. Magnetic resonance imaging of the brain, originally interpreted as normal, revealed midbrain and cerebellar abnormalities in the spectrum of the “molar tooth sign” that characterizes JS.
These findings expand the phenotypes associated with MKS3 mutations. MKS3-related ciliopathies should be considered in patients with an ARPKD-like phenotype, especially in the presence of speech and oculomotor apraxia. In such patients, careful expert evaluation of the brain images can be beneficial because the brain malformations can be subtle.
PMCID: PMC2925444  PMID: 19540516

Results 1-7 (7)