Thoracic aortic aneurysm / dissection (TAAD) is a common phenotype that may occur as an isolated manifestation or within the constellation of a defined syndrome. In contrast to syndromic TAAD, the elucidation of the genetic basis of isolated TAAD has only recently started. To date, defects have been found in genes encoding extracellular matrix proteins (fibrillin-1, FBN1; collagen type III alpha 1, COL3A1), proteins involved in transforming growth factor beta (TGFβ) signaling (TGFβ receptor 1 and 2, TGFBR1/2; and SMAD3) or proteins that build up the contractile apparatus of aortic smooth muscle cells (myosin heavy chain 11, MYH11; smooth muscle actin alpha 2, ACTA2; and MYLK).
Methods and results
In 110 non-syndromic TAAD patients that previously tested negative for FBN1 or TGFBR1/2 mutations, we identified 7 ACTA2 mutations in a cohort of 43 familial TAAD patients, including 2 premature truncating mutations. Sequencing of MYH11 revealed an in frame splice-site alteration in one out of two probands with TAA(D) associated with PDA but none in the series of 22 probands from the cohort of 110 patients with non-syndromic TAAD. Interestingly, immunohistochemical staining of aortic biopsies of a patient and a family member with MYH11 and patients with ACTA2 missense mutations showed upregulation of the TGFβ signaling pathway.
MYH11 mutations are rare and typically identified in patients with TAAD associated with PDA. ACTA2 mutations were identified in 16% of a cohort presenting familial TAAD. Different molecular defects in TAAD may account for a different pathogenic mechanism of enhanced TGFβ signaling.
thoracic aortic aneurysm; myosin heavy chain 11; smooth muscle α-actin; TGFβ signaling
Osteogenesis imperfecta (OI) is a clinically and genetically heterogeneous brittle bone disorder. Whereas dominant OI is mostly due to heterozygous mutations in either COL1A1 or COL1A2, encoding type I procollagen, recessive OI is caused by biallelic mutations in genes encoding proteins involved in type I procollagen processing or chaperoning. Hitherto, some OI cases remain molecularly unexplained. We detected a homozygous genomic deletion of CREB3L1 in a family with severe OI. CREB3L1 encodes OASIS, an endoplasmic reticulum-stress transducer that regulates type I procollagen expression during murine bone formation. This is the first report linking CREB3L1 to human recessive OI, thereby expanding the OI gene spectrum.
Osteogenesis imperfecta; Type I collagen; OASIS; CREB3L1; Endoplasmic reticulum stress
Zebrafish (ZF, Danio rerio) has emerged as an important and popular model species to study different human diseases. Key regulators of skeletal development and calcium metabolism are highly conserved between mammals and ZF. The corresponding orthologs share significant sequence similarities and an overlap in expression patterns when compared to mammals, making ZF a potential model for the study of mineralization-related disorders and soft tissue mineralization. To characterize the function of early mineralization-related genes in ZF, these genes can be knocked down by injecting morpholinos into early stage embryos. Validation of the morpholino needs to be performed and the concern of aspecific effects can be addressed by applying one or more independent techniques to knock down the gene of interest. Post-injection assessment of early mineralization defects can be done using general light microscopy, calcein staining, Alizarin red staining, Alizarin red-Alcian blue double staining, and by the use of transgenic lines. Examination of general molecular defects can be done by performing protein and gene expression analysis, and more specific processes can be explored by investigating ectopic mineralization-related mechanisms such as apoptosis and mitochondrial dysfunction. In this paper, we will discuss all details about the aforementioned techniques; shared knowledge will be very useful for the future investigation of ZF models for ectopic mineralization disorders and to understand the underlying pathways involved in soft tissue calcification.
zebrafish; embryos; morpholino; mineralization; osteogenic pathways
Growth factor signaling results in dramatic phenotypic changes in cells, which require commensurate alterations in cellular metabolism. Mutations in SLC2A10/GLUT10, a member of the facilitative glucose transporter family, are associated with altered transforming growth factor-β (TGFβ) signaling in patients with arterial tortuosity syndrome (ATS). The objective of this work was to test whether SLC2A10/GLUT10 can serve as a link between TGFβ-related transcriptional regulation and metabolism during development. In zebrafish embryos, knockdown of slc2a10 using antisense morpholino oligonucleotide injection caused a wavy notochord and cardiovascular abnormalities with a reduced heart rate and blood flow, which was coupled with an incomplete and irregular vascular patterning. This was phenocopied by treatment with a small-molecule inhibitor of TGFβ receptor (tgfbr1/alk5). Array hybridization showed that the changes at the transcriptome level caused by the two treatments were highly correlated, revealing that a reduced tgfbr1 signaling is a key feature of ATS in early zebrafish development. Interestingly, a large proportion of the genes, which were specifically dysregulated after glut10 depletion gene and not by tgfbr1 inhibition, play a major role in mitochondrial function. Consistent with these results, slc2a10 morphants showed decreased respiration and reduced TGFβ reporter gene activity. Finally, co-injection of antisense morpholinos targeting slc2a10 and smad7 (a TGFβ inhibitor) resulted in a partial rescue of smad7 morphant phenotypes, suggesting scl2a10/glut10 functions downstream of smads. Taken together, glut10 is essential for cardiovascular development by facilitating both mitochondrial respiration and TGFβ signaling.
Elastin gene mutations have been associated with a variety of phenotypes. Autosomal dominant cutis laxa (ADCL) is a rare disorder that presents with lax skin, typical facial characteristics, inguinal hernias, aortic root dilatation and pulmonary emphysema. In most patients, frameshift mutations are found in the 3’ region of the elastin gene (exons 30-34) which result in a C-terminally extended protein, though exceptions have been reported.
We clinically and molecularly characterized the thus far largest cohort of ADCL patients, consisting of 19 patients from six families and one sporadic patient.
Molecular analysis showed C-terminal frameshift mutations in exon 30, 32, and 34 of the elastin gene and identified a mutational hotspot in exon 32 (c.2262delA). This cohort confirms the previously reported clinical constellation of skin laxity (100%), inguinal hernias (51%), aortic root dilatation (55%) and emphysema (37%).
ADCL is a clinically and molecularly homogeneous disorder, but intra- and interfamilial variability in the severity of organ involvement needs to be taken into account. Regular cardiovascular and pulmonary evaluations are imperative in the clinical follow-up of these patients.
Elastin; ELN; Autosomal dominant cutis laxa; Genotype; Phenotype
Vascular elasticity is crucial for maintaining hemodynamics. Molecular
mechanisms involved in human elastogenesis are incompletely understood. We
describe a syndrome of lethal arteriopathy associated with a novel,
identical mutation in the fibulin 4 gene (FBLN4) in a unique cohort
of infants from South India.
Clinical characteristics, cardiovascular findings, outcomes and molecular
genetics of twenty-two infants from a distinct population subgroup,
presenting with characteristic arterial dilatation and tortuosity during the
period August 2004 to June 2011 were studied.
Patients (11 males, 11 females) presented at median age of 1.5 months,
belonging to unrelated families from identical ethno-geographical
background; eight had a history of consanguinity. Cardiovascular features
included aneurysmal dilatation, elongation, tortuosity and narrowing of the
aorta, pulmonary artery and their branches. The phenotype included a
variable combination of cutis laxa (52%), long philtrum-thin vermillion
(90%), micrognathia (43%), hypertelorism (57%), prominent eyes (43%),
sagging cheeks (43%), long slender digits (48%), and visible arterial
pulsations (38%). Genetic studies revealed an identical
c.608A > C (p. Asp203Ala) mutation in exon 7 of the FBLN4
gene in all 22 patients, homozygous in 21, and compound heterozygous in one
patient with a p. Arg227Cys mutation in the same conserved cbEGF sequence.
Homozygosity was lethal (17/21 died, median age 4 months). Isthmic
hypoplasia (n = 9) correlated with early death
A lethal, genetic disorder characterized by severe deformation of elastic
arteries, was linked to novel mutations in the FBLN4 gene. While describing
a hitherto unreported syndrome in this population subgroup, this study
emphasizes the critical role of fibulin-4 in human elastogenesis.
Arterial tortuosity; Fibulin-4 mutation; Aortic aneurysm; Vascular elasticity; Genetic vasculopathy; Mappila muslims; Founder effect; Cardiovascular imaging; Lethal mutation; Connective tissue disorder; Abnormal elastogenesis; Malabar
Autosomal dominant cutis laxa (ADCL) is characterized by a typical facial appearance and generalized loose skin folds, occasionally associated with aortic root dilatation and emphysema. We sequenced exons 28–34 of the ELN gene in 5 probands with ADCL features and found 5 de novo heterozygous mutations: c.2296_2299dupGCAG (CL-1), c.2333delC (CL-2), c.2137delG (CL-3), c.2262delA (monozygotic twin CL-4 and CL-5) and c.2124del25 (CL-6). Four probands (CL-1, -2, -3, -6) presented with progressive aortic root dilatation. CL-2 and CL-3 also had bicuspid aortic valves. CL-2 presented with severe emphysema. Electron microscopy revealed elastic fiber fragmentation and diminished dermal elastin deposition. RT-PCR studies showed stable mutant mRNA in all patients. Exon 32 skipping explains a milder phenotype in patients with exon 32 mutations. Mutant protein expression in fibroblast cultures impaired deposition of tropoelastin onto microfibril-containing fibers, and enhanced tropoelastin coacervation and globule formation leading to lower amounts of mature, insoluble elastin. Mutation-specific effects also included endoplasmic reticulum stress and increased apoptosis. Increased pSMAD2 staining in ADCL fibroblasts indicated enhanced transforming growth factor beta (TGFβ) signaling. We conclude that ADCL is a systemic disease with cardiovascular and pulmonary complications, associated with increased TGFβ signaling and mutation-specific differences in endoplasmic reticulum stress and apoptosis.
ELN; CL; connective tissue; skin; aneurysm; emphysema
Hereditary hearing loss (HL) can originate from mutations in one of many genes involved in the complex process of hearing. Identification of the genetic defects in patients is currently labor intensive and expensive. While screening with Sanger sequencing for GJB2 mutations is common, this is not the case for the other known deafness genes (> 60). Next generation sequencing technology (NGS) has the potential to be much more cost efficient. Published methods mainly use hybridization based target enrichment procedures that are time saving and efficient, but lead to loss in sensitivity. In this study we used a semi-automated PCR amplification and NGS in order to combine high sensitivity, speed and cost efficiency.
In this proof of concept study, we screened 15 autosomal recessive deafness genes in 5 patients with congenital genetic deafness. 646 specific primer pairs for all exons and most of the UTR of the 15 selected genes were designed using primerXL. Using patient specific identifiers, all amplicons were pooled and analyzed using the Roche 454 NGS technology. Three of these patients are members of families in which a region of interest has previously been characterized by linkage studies. In these, we were able to identify two new mutations in CDH23 and OTOF. For another patient, the etiology of deafness was unclear, and no causal mutation was found. In a fifth patient, included as a positive control, we could confirm a known mutation in TMC1.
We have developed an assay that holds great promise as a tool for screening patients with familial autosomal recessive nonsyndromal hearing loss (ARNSHL). For the first time, an efficient, reliable and cost effective genetic test, based on PCR enrichment, for newborns with undiagnosed deafness is available.
Deafness; Next generation sequencing; PCR based enrichment; Genetic diagnostics
Osteogenesis Imperfecta (OI) is a heritable connective tissue disorder mainly caused by mutations in the genes COL1A1 and COL1A2 and is associated with hearing loss in approximately half of the cases. The hearing impairment usually starts between the second and fourth decade of life as a conductive hearing loss, frequently evolving to mixed hearing loss thereafter. A minority of patients develop pure sensorineural hearing loss. The interindividual variability in the audiological characteristics of the hearing loss is unexplained.
With the purpose of evaluating inter- and intrafamilial variability, hearing was thorougly examined in 184 OI patients (type I: 154; type III: 4; type IV: 26), aged 3-89 years, with a mutation in either COL1A1 or COL1A2 and originating from 89 different families. Due to the adult onset of hearing loss in OI, correlations between the presence and/or characteristics of the hearing loss and the underlying mutation were investigated in a subsample of 114 OI patients from 64 different families who were older than 40 years of age or had developed hearing loss before the age of 40.
Hearing loss was diagnosed in 48.4% of the total sample of OI ears with increasing prevalence in the older age groups. The predominant type was a mixed hearing loss (27.5%). A minority presented a pure conductive (8.4%) or pure sensorineural (12.5%) loss. In the subsample of 114 OI subjects, no association was found between the nature of the mutation in COL1A1 or COL1A2 genes and the occurrence, type or severity of hearing loss. Relatives originating from the same family differed in audiological features, which may partially be attributed to their dissimilar age.
Our study confirms that hearing loss in OI shows a strong intrafamilial variability. Additional modifications in other genes are assumed to be responsible for the expression of hearing loss in OI.
Osteogenesis Imperfecta; COL1A1; COL1A2; hearing loss; genotype-phenotype correlation
Despite improvements in terms of sequence quality and price per basepair, Sanger sequencing remains restricted to screening of individual disease genes. The development of massively parallel sequencing (MPS) technologies heralded an era in which molecular diagnostics for multigenic disorders becomes reality. Here, we outline different PCR amplification based strategies for the screening of a multitude of genes in a patient cohort. We performed a thorough evaluation in terms of set-up, coverage and sequencing variants on the data of 10 GS-FLX experiments (over 200 patients). Crucially, we determined the actual coverage that is required for reliable diagnostic results using MPS, and provide a tool to calculate the number of patients that can be screened in a single run. Finally, we provide an overview of factors contributing to false negative or false positive mutation calls and suggest ways to maximize sensitivity and specificity, both important in a routine setting. By describing practical strategies for screening of multigenic disorders in a multitude of samples and providing answers to questions about minimum required coverage, the number of patients that can be screened in a single run and the factors that may affect sensitivity and specificity we hope to facilitate the implementation of MPS technology in molecular diagnostics.
Fibulin-4 is a member of the fibulin family, a group of extracellular matrix proteins prominently expressed in medial layers of large veins and arteries. Involvement of the FBLN4 gene in cardiovascular pathology was shown in a murine model and in three patients affected with cutis laxa in association with systemic involvement. To elucidate the contribution of FBLN4 in human disease, we investigated two cohorts of patients. Direct sequencing of 17 patients with cutis laxa revealed no FBLN4 mutations. In a second group of 22 patients presenting with arterial tortuosity, stenosis and aneurysms, FBLN4 mutations were identified in three patients, two homozygous missense mutations (p.Glu126Lys and p.Ala397Thr) and compound heterozygosity for missense mutation p.Glu126Val and frameshift mutation c.577delC. Immunoblotting analysis showed a decreased amount of fibulin-4 protein in the fibroblast culture media of two patients, a finding sustained by diminished fibulin-4 in the extracellular matrix of the aortic wall on immunohistochemistry. pSmad2 and CTGF immunostaining of aortic and lung tissue revealed an increase in transforming growth factor (TGF)β signaling. This was confirmed by pSmad2 immunoblotting of fibroblast cultures. In conclusion, patients with recessive FBLN4 mutations are predominantly characterized by aortic aneurysms, arterial tortuosity and stenosis. This confirms the important role of fibulin-4 in vascular elastic fiber assembly. Furthermore, we provide the first evidence for the involvement of altered TGFβ signaling in the pathogenesis of FBLN4 mutations in humans.
TGFβ; fibulin-4; cutis laxa; aortic aneurysm; arterial tortuosity
Pseudoxanthoma elasticum (PXE), an autosomal recessive disorder with considerable phenotypic variability, mainly affects the eyes, skin and cardiovascular system, characterised by dystrophic mineralization of connective tissues. It is caused by mutations in the ABCC6 (ATP binding cassette family C member 6) gene, which encodes MRP6 (multidrug resistance‐associated protein 6).
To investigate the mutation spectrum of ABCC6 and possible genotype–phenotype correlations.
Mutation data were collected on an international case series of 270 patients with PXE (239 probands, 31 affected family members). A denaturing high‐performance liquid chromatography‐based assay was developed to screen for mutations in all 31 exons, eliminating pseudogene coamplification. In 134 patients with a known phenotype and both mutations identified, genotype–phenotype correlations were assessed.
In total, 316 mutant alleles in ABCC6, including 39 novel mutations, were identified in 239 probands. Mutations were found to cluster in exons 24 and 28, corresponding to the second nucleotide‐binding fold and the last intracellular domain of the protein. Together with the recurrent R1141X and del23–29 mutations, these mutations accounted for 71.5% of the total individual mutations identified. Genotype–phenotype analysis failed to reveal a significant correlation between the types of mutations identified or their predicted effect on the expression of the protein and the age of onset and severity of the disease.
This study emphasises the principal role of ABCC6 mutations in the pathogenesis of PXE, but the reasons for phenotypic variability remain to be explored.
pseudoxanthoma elasticum; ABC transporters; genotype–phenotype correlations; heritable skin diseases
Next-generation amplicon sequencing enables high-throughput genetic diagnostics, sequencing multiple genes in several patients together in one sequencing run. Currently, no open-source out-of-the-box software solution exists that reliably reports detected genetic variations and that can be used to improve future sequencing effectiveness by analyzing the PCR reactions.
We developed an integrated database oriented software pipeline for analysis of 454/Roche GS-FLX amplicon resequencing experiments using Perl and a relational database. The pipeline enables variation detection, variation detection validation, and advanced data analysis, which provides information that can be used to optimize PCR efficiency using traditional means. The modular approach enables customization of the pipeline where needed and allows researchers to adopt their analysis pipeline to their experiments. Clear documentation and training data is available to test and validate the pipeline prior to using it on real sequencing data.
We designed an open-source database oriented pipeline that enables advanced analysis of 454/Roche GS-FLX amplicon resequencing experiments using SQL-statements. This modular database approach allows easy coupling with other pipeline modules such as variant interpretation or a LIMS system. There is also a set of standard reporting scripts available.
Mutations in the FBN1 gene cause Marfan syndrome (MFS) and a wide range of overlapping phenotypes. The severe end of the spectrum is represented by neonatal MFS, the vast majority of probands carrying a mutation within exons 24-32. We previously showed that a mutation in exons 24-32 is predictive of a severe cardiovascular phenotype even in non-neonatal cases, and that mutations leading to premature truncation codons are under-represented in this region. To describe patients carrying a mutation in this so-called “neonatal” region, we studied the clinical and molecular characteristics of 198 probands with a mutation in exons 24-32 from a series of 1013 probands with a FBN1 mutation (20%). When comparing patients with mutations leading to a premature termination codon within exons 24-32 to patients with an in-frame mutation within the same region, a significantly higher probability of developing ectopia lentis and mitral insufficiency were found in the second group. Patients with a premature termination codon within exons 24-32 rarely displayed a neonatal or severe MFS presentation. We also found a higher probability of neonatal presentations associated with exon 25 mutations, as well as a higher probability of cardiovascular manifestations. A high phenotypic heterogeneity could be described for recurrent mutations, ranging from neonatal to classical MFS phenotype. In conclusion, even if the exon 24-32 location appears as a major cause of the severity of the phenotype in patients with a mutation in this region, other factors such as the type of mutation or modifier genes might also be relevant.
Codon, Nonsense; DNA Mutational Analysis; Ectopia Lentis; genetics; Exons; genetics; Humans; Marfan Syndrome; genetics; Microfilament Proteins; genetics; metabolism; Mutation; Phenotype
Leber Congenital Amaurosis (LCA), the most severe inherited retinal dystrophy, is genetically heterogeneous, with 14 genes accounting for 70% of patients. Here, 91 LCA probands underwent LCA chip analysis and subsequent sequencing of 6 genes (CEP290, CRB1, RPE65, GUCY2D, AIPL1and CRX), revealing mutations in 69% of the cohort, with major involvement of CEP290 (30%). In addition, 11 patients with early-onset retinal dystrophy (EORD) and 13 patients with Senior-Loken syndrome (SLS), LCA-Joubert syndrome (LCA-JS) or cerebello-oculo-renal syndrome (CORS) were included. Exhaustive re-inspection of the overall phenotypes in our LCA cohort revealed novel insights mainly regarding the CEP290-related phenotype. The AHI1 gene was screened as a candidate modifier gene in three patients with the same CEP290 genotype but different neurological involvement. Interestingly, a heterozygous novel AHI1 mutation, p.Asn811Lys, was found in the most severely affected patient. Moreover, AHI1 screening in five other patients with CEP290-related disease and neurological involvement revealed a second novel missense variant, p.His758Pro, in one LCA patient with mild mental retardation and autism. These two AHI1 mutations might thus represent neurological modifiers of CEP290-related disease. © 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.
LCA; CEP290; AHI1; modifier; genotype-phenotype correlation