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1.  Phenotypic spectrum and prevalence of INPP5E mutations in Joubert Syndrome and related disorders 
European Journal of Human Genetics  2013;21(10):1074-1078.
Joubert syndrome and related disorders (JSRD) are clinically and genetically heterogeneous ciliopathies sharing a peculiar midbrain–hindbrain malformation known as the ‘molar tooth sign'. To date, 19 causative genes have been identified, all coding for proteins of the primary cilium. There is clinical and genetic overlap with other ciliopathies, in particular with Meckel syndrome (MKS), that is allelic to JSRD at nine distinct loci. We previously identified the INPP5E gene as causative of JSRD in seven families linked to the JBTS1 locus, yet the phenotypic spectrum and prevalence of INPP5E mutations in JSRD and MKS remain largely unknown. To address this issue, we performed INPP5E mutation analysis in 483 probands, including 408 JSRD patients representative of all clinical subgroups and 75 MKS fetuses. We identified 12 different mutations in 17 probands from 11 JSRD families, with an overall 2.7% mutation frequency among JSRD. The most common clinical presentation among mutated families (7/11, 64%) was Joubert syndrome with ocular involvement (either progressive retinopathy and/or colobomas), while the remaining cases had pure JS. Kidney, liver and skeletal involvement were not observed. None of the MKS fetuses carried INPP5E mutations, indicating that the two ciliopathies are not allelic at this locus.
PMCID: PMC3778343  PMID: 23386033
INPP5E; Joubert syndrome and related disorders; Meckel syndrome; ciliopathies
2.  Frataxin Silencing Inactivates Mitochondrial Complex I in NSC34 Motoneuronal Cells and Alters Glutathione Homeostasis 
Friedreich’s ataxia (FRDA) is a hereditary neurodegenerative disease characterized by a reduced synthesis of the mitochondrial iron chaperon protein frataxin as a result of a large GAA triplet-repeat expansion within the first intron of the frataxin gene. Despite neurodegeneration being the prominent feature of this pathology involving both the central and the peripheral nervous system, information on the impact of frataxin deficiency in neurons is scant. Here, we describe a neuronal model displaying some major biochemical and morphological features of FRDA. By silencing the mouse NSC34 motor neurons for the frataxin gene with shRNA lentiviral vectors, we generated two cell lines with 40% and 70% residual amounts of frataxin, respectively. Frataxin-deficient cells showed a specific inhibition of mitochondrial Complex I (CI) activity already at 70% residual frataxin levels, whereas the glutathione imbalance progressively increased after silencing. These biochemical defects were associated with the inhibition of cell proliferation and morphological changes at the axonal compartment, both depending on the frataxin amount. Interestingly, at 70% residual frataxin levels, the in vivo treatment with the reduced glutathione revealed a partial rescue of cell proliferation. Thus, NSC34 frataxin silenced cells could be a suitable model to study the effect of frataxin deficiency in neurons and highlight glutathione as a potential beneficial therapeutic target for FRDA.
PMCID: PMC4013596  PMID: 24714088
Friedreich’s ataxia; neurodegeneration; glutathione; oxidative stress; mitochondrial enzymes
3.  Dandy-Walker malformation and Wisconsin syndrome: novel cases add further insight into the genotype-phenotype correlations of 3q23q25 deletions 
The Dandy-Walker malformation (DWM) is one of the commonest congenital cerebellar defects, and can be associated with multiple congenital anomalies and chromosomal syndromes. The occurrence of overlapping 3q deletions including the ZIC1 and ZIC4 genes in few patients, along with data from mouse models, have implicated both genes in the pathogenesis of DWM.
Methods and results
Using a SNP-array approach, we recently identified three novel patients carrying heterozygous 3q deletions encompassing ZIC1 and ZIC4. Magnetic resonance imaging showed that only two had a typical DWM, while the third did not present any defect of the DWM spectrum. SNP-array analysis in further eleven children diagnosed with DWM failed to identify deletions of ZIC1-ZIC4. The clinical phenotype of the three 3q deleted patients included multiple congenital anomalies and peculiar facial appearance, related to the localization and extension of each deletion. In particular, phenotypes resulted from the variable combination of three recognizable patterns: DWM (with incomplete penetrance); blepharophimosis, ptosis, and epicanthus inversus syndrome; and Wisconsin syndrome (WS), recently mapped to 3q.
Our data indicate that the 3q deletion is a rare defect associated with DWM, and suggest that the hemizygosity of ZIC1-ZIC4 genes is neither necessary nor sufficient per se to cause this condition. Furthermore, based on a detailed comparison of clinical features and molecular data from 3q deleted patients, we propose clinical diagnostic criteria and refine the critical region for WS.
PMCID: PMC3667004  PMID: 23679990
Dandy-Walker malformation; Wisconsin syndrome; 3q deletion; ZIC1-ZIC4 genes
4.  Frataxin Deficiency Leads to Reduced Expression and Impaired Translocation of NF-E2-Related Factor (Nrf2) in Cultured Motor Neurons 
Oxidative stress has been implicated in the pathogenesis of Friedreich’s Ataxia (FRDA), a neurodegenerative disease caused by the decreased expression of frataxin, a mitochondrial protein responsible of iron homeostasis. Under conditions of oxidative stress, the activation of the transcription factor NF-E2-related factor (Nrf2) triggers the antioxidant cellular response by inducing antioxidant response element (ARE) driven genes. Increasing evidence supports a role for the Nrf2-ARE pathway in neurodegenerative diseases. In this study, we analyzed the expression and the distribution of Nrf2 in silenced neurons for frataxin gene. Decreased Nrf2 mRNA content and a defective activation after treatment with pro-oxidants have been evidenced in frataxin-silenced neurons by RT-PCR and confocal microscopy. The loss of Nrf2 in FRDA may greatly enhance the cellular susceptibility to oxidative stress and make FRDA neurons more vulnerable to injury. Our findings may help to focus on this promising target, especially in its emerging role in the neuroprotective response.
PMCID: PMC3645720  PMID: 23574943
FRDA; frataxin; Nrf2; GSSG; oxidative stress; NSC34 neurons
5.  Novel TMEM67 Mutations and Genotype-phenotype Correlates in Meckelin-related Ciliopathies 
Human mutation  2010;31(5):E1319-E1331.
Human ciliopathies are hereditary conditions caused by defects of proteins expressed at the primary cilium. Among ciliopathies, Joubert syndrome and related disorders (JSRD), Meckel syndrome (MKS) and nephronophthisis (NPH) present clinical and genetic overlap, being allelic at several loci. One of the most interesting gene is TMEM67, encoding the transmembrane protein meckelin. We performed mutation analysis of TMEM67 in 341 probands, including 265 JSRD representative of all clinical subgroups and 76 MKS fetuses. We identified 33 distinct mutations, of which 20 were novel, in 8/10 (80%) JS with liver involvement (COACH phenotype) and 12/76 (16%) MKS fetuses. No mutations were found in other JSRD subtypes, confirming the strong association between TMEM67 mutations and liver involvement. Literature review of all published TMEM67 mutated cases was performed to delineate genotype-phenotype correlates. In particular, comparison of the types of mutations and their distribution along the gene in lethal versus non lethal phenotypes showed in MKS patients a significant enrichment of missense mutations falling in TMEM67 exons 8 to 15, especially when in combination with a truncating mutation. These exons encode for a region of unknown function in the extracellular domain of meckelin.
PMCID: PMC2918781  PMID: 20232449
TMEM67; MKS3; Joubert syndrome; Meckel syndrome; congenital hepatic fibrosis; COACH syndrome
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.  Mutations in the inositol polyphosphate-5-phosphatase E gene link phosphatidyl inositol signaling to the ciliopathies 
Nature genetics  2009;41(9):1032-1036.
Phosphotidylinositol (PtdIns) signaling is tightly regulated, both spatially and temporally, by subcellularly localized PtdIns kinases and phosphatases that dynamically alter downstream signaling events 1. Joubert Syndrome (JS) characterized by a specific midbrain-hindbrain malformation (“molar tooth sign”) and variably associated retinal dystrophy, nephronophthisis, liver fibrosis and polydactyly 2, and is included in the newly emerging group of “ciliopathies”. In patients linking to JBTS1, we identified mutations in the INPP5E gene, encoding inositol polyphosphate-5-phosphatase E, which hydrolyzes the 5-phosphate of PtdIns(3,4,5)P3 and PtdIns(4,5)P2. Mutations clustered in the phosphatase domain and impaired 5-phosphatase activity, resulting in altered cellular PtdIns ratios. INPP5E localized to cilia in major organs affected in JS, and mutations promoted premature destabilization of cilia in response to stimulation. Thus, these data links PtdIns signaling to the primary cilium, a cellular structure that is becoming increasingly appreciated for its role in mediating cell signals and neuronal function.
PMCID: PMC2746682  PMID: 19668216
8.  MKS3/TMEM67 Mutations Are a Major Cause of COACH Syndrome, a Joubert Syndrome Related Disorder with Liver Involvement 
Human mutation  2009;30(2):E432-E442.
The acronym COACH defines an autosomal recessive condition of Cerebellar vermis hypo/aplasia, Oligophrenia, congenital Ataxia, Coloboma and Hepatic fibrosis. Patients present the “molar tooth sign”, a midbrain-hindbrain malformation pathognomonic for Joubert Syndrome (JS) and Related Disorders (JSRDs). The main feature of COACH is congenital hepatic fibrosis (CHF), resulting from malformation of the embryonic ductal plate. CHF is invariably found also in Meckel syndrome (MS), a lethal ciliopathy already found to be allelic with JSRDs at the CEP290 and RPGRIP1L genes. Recently, mutations in the MKS3 gene (approved symbol TMEM67), causative of about 7% MS cases, have been detected in few Meckel-like and pure JS patients. Analysis of MKS3 in 14 COACH families identified mutations in 8 (57%). Features such as colobomas and nephronophthisis were found only in a subset of mutated cases. These data confirm COACH as a distinct JSRD subgroup with core features of JS plus CHF, which major gene is MKS3, and further strengthen gene-phenotype correlates in JSRDs.
PMCID: PMC2635428  PMID: 19058225
COACH syndrome; MKS3; TMEM67; Joubert syndrome and related disorders; congenital hepatic fibrosis
9.  RPGRIP1L mutations are mainly associated with the cerebellorenal phenotype of Joubert Syndrome Related Disorders 
Clinical genetics  2008;74(2):164-170.
Joubert Syndrome Related Disorders (JSRDs) are autosomal recessive pleiotropic conditions sharing a peculiar cerebellar and brainstem malformation known as the “molar tooth sign” (MTS). Recently, mutations in a novel ciliary gene, RPGRIP1L, have been shown to cause both JSRDs and Meckel-Gruber syndrome. We searched for RPGRIP1L mutations in 120 patients with proven MTS and phenotypes representative of all JSRD clinical subgroups. Two homozygous mutations, the previously reported p.T615P in exon 15 and the novel c.2268_2269delA in exon 16, were detected in two out of 16 families with cerebello-renal presentation (~12%). Conversely, no pathogenic changes were found in patients with other JSRD phenotypes, suggesting that RPGRIP1L mutations are largely confined to the cerebello-renal subgroup, while they overall represent a rare cause of JSRD (<2%).
PMCID: PMC2752690  PMID: 18565097
RPGRIP1L; Joubert Syndrome Related Disorders; molar tooth sign; nephronophthisis

Results 1-9 (9)