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1.  Altered Cardiac Electrophysiology and SUDEP in a Model of Dravet Syndrome 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(10):e77843.
Dravet syndrome is a severe form of intractable pediatric epilepsy with a high incidence of SUDEP: Sudden Unexpected Death in epilepsy. Cardiac arrhythmias are a proposed cause for some cases of SUDEP, yet the susceptibility and potential mechanism of arrhythmogenesis in Dravet syndrome remain unknown. The majority of Dravet syndrome patients have de novo mutations in SCN1A, resulting in haploinsufficiency. We propose that, in addition to neuronal hyperexcitability, SCN1A haploinsufficiency alters cardiac electrical function and produces arrhythmias, providing a potential mechanism for SUDEP.
Postnatal day 15-21 heterozygous SCN1A-R1407X knock-in mice, expressing a human Dravet syndrome mutation, were used to investigate a possible cardiac phenotype. A combination of single cell electrophysiology and in vivo electrocardiogram (ECG) recordings were performed.
We observed a 2-fold increase in both transient and persistent Na+ current density in isolated Dravet syndrome ventricular myocytes that resulted from increased activity of a tetrodotoxin-resistant Na+ current, likely Nav1.5. Dravet syndrome myocytes exhibited increased excitability, action potential duration prolongation, and triggered activity. Continuous radiotelemetric ECG recordings showed QT prolongation, ventricular ectopic foci, idioventricular rhythms, beat-to-beat variability, ventricular fibrillation, and focal bradycardia. Spontaneous deaths were recorded in 2 DS mice, and a third became moribund and required euthanasia.
These data from single cell and whole animal experiments suggest that altered cardiac electrical function in Dravet syndrome may contribute to the susceptibility for arrhythmogenesis and SUDEP. These mechanistic insights may lead to critical risk assessment and intervention in human patients.
PMCID: PMC3796479  PMID: 24155976
2.  Murine Fig4 is dispensable for muscle development but required for muscle function 
Skeletal Muscle  2013;3:21.
Phosphatidylinositol phosphates (PIPs) are low-abundance phospholipids that participate in a range of cellular processes, including cell migration and membrane traffic. PIP levels and subcellular distribution are regulated by a series of lipid kinases and phosphatases. In skeletal muscle, PIPs and their enzymatic regulators serve critically important functions exemplified by mutations of the PIP phosphatase MTM1 in myotubular myopathy (MTM), a severe muscle disease characterized by impaired muscle structure and abnormal excitation–contraction coupling. FIG4 functions as a PIP phosphatase that participates in both the synthesis and breakdown of phosphatidylinositol 3,5-bisphosphate (PI(3,5)P2). Mutation of FIG4 results in a severe neurodegenerative disorder in mice and a progressive peripheral polyneuropathy in humans. The effect of FIG4 mutation on skeletal muscle has yet to be examined.
Herein we characterize the impact of FIG4 on skeletal muscle development and function using the spontaneously occurring mouse mutant pale tremor (plt), a mouse line with a loss of function mutation in Fig4.
In plt mice, we characterized abnormalities in skeletal muscle, including reduced muscle size and specific force generation. We also uncovered ultrastructural abnormalities and increased programmed cell death. Conversely, we detected no structural or functional abnormalities to suggest impairment of excitation–contraction coupling, a process previously shown to be influenced by PI(3,5)P2 levels. Conditional rescue of Fig4 mutation in neurons prevented overt muscle weakness and the development of obvious muscle abnormalities, suggesting that the changes observed in the plt mice were primarily related to denervation of skeletal muscle. On the basis of the ability of reduced FIG4 levels to rescue aspects of Mtmr2-dependent neuropathy, we evaluated the effect of Fig4 haploinsufficiency on the myopathy of Mtm1-knockout mice. Male mice with a compound Fig4+/−/Mtm1–/Y genotype displayed no improvements in muscle histology, muscle size or overall survival, indicating that FIG4 reduction does not ameliorate the Mtm1-knockout phenotype.
Overall, these data indicate that loss of Fig4 impairs skeletal muscle function but does not significantly affect its structural development.
PMCID: PMC3844516  PMID: 24004519
Autophagy; Congenital myopathies; FIG4; MTM1; Phosphatidylinositol
3.  Congenital CNS hypomyelination and reduced number of mature oligodendrocytes in mice null for the phosphatidylinositol phosphatase Fig4 
The pale tremor (plt) mouse carries a null mutation in the Fig4(Sac3) gene that results in tremor, hypopigmentation, spongiform degeneration of the brain and juvenile lethality. FIG4 is a ubiquitously expressed phosphatidylinositol 3,5-bisphosphate phosphatase that regulates intracellular vesicle trafficking along the endosomal-lysosomal pathway. In humans, the missense mutation FIG4I41T combined with a FIG4 null allele causes Charcot-Marie-Tooth 4J disease, a severe form of peripheral neuropathy. Here we show that Fig4 null mice exhibit a dramatic reduction of myelin in the brain and spinal cord. In the optic nerve, smaller caliber axons lack myelin sheaths entirely, while many large and intermediate caliber axons are myelinated but show structural defects at nodes of Ranvier, leading to delayed propagation of action potentials. In the Fig4 null brain and optic nerve, oligodendrocyte (OL) progenitor cells are present at normal abundance and distribution but the number of myelinating OLs is greatly compromised. The total number of axons in the Fig4 null optic nerve is not reduced. Developmental studies reveal incomplete myelination rather than elevated cell death in the OL linage. Strikingly, there is rescue of CNS myelination and tremor in transgenic mice with neuron-specific expression of Fig4, demonstrating a non-cell-autonomous function of Fig4 in OL maturation and myelin development. In transgenic mice with global over-expression of the human pathogenic FIG4 variant I41T there is rescue of the myelination defect, suggesting that the CNS of CMT4J patients may be protected from myelin deficiency by expression of the FIG4I41T mutant protein.
PMCID: PMC3711465  PMID: 22131434
4.  Distinctive genetic and clinical features of CMT4J: a severe neuropathy caused by mutations in the PI(3,5)P2 phosphatase FIG4 
Brain  2011;134(7):1959-1971.
Charcot–Marie–Tooth disease is a genetically heterogeneous group of motor and sensory neuropathies associated with mutations in more than 30 genes. Charcot–Marie–Tooth disease type 4J (OMIM 611228) is a recessive, potentially severe form of the disease caused by mutations of the lipid phosphatase FIG4. We provide a more complete view of the features of this disorder by describing 11 previously unreported patients with Charcot–Marie–Tooth disease type 4J. Three patients were identified from a small cohort selected for screening because of their early onset disease and progressive proximal as well as distal weakness. Eight patients were identified by large-scale exon sequencing of an unselected group of 4000 patients with Charcot–Marie–Tooth disease. In addition, 34 new FIG4 variants were detected. Ten of the new CMT4J cases have the compound heterozygous genotype FIG4I41T/null described in the original four families, while one has the novel genotype FIG4L17P/null. The population frequency of the I41T allele was found to be 0.001 by genotyping 5769 Northern European controls. Thirty four new variants of FIG4 were identified. The severity of Charcot–Marie–Tooth disease type 4J ranges from mild clinical signs to severe disability requiring the use of a wheelchair. Both mild and severe forms have been seen in patients with the same genotype. The results demonstrate that Charcot–Marie–Tooth disease type 4J is characterized by highly variable onset and severity, proximal as well as distal and asymmetric muscle weakness, electromyography demonstrating denervation in proximal and distal muscles, and frequent progression to severe amyotrophy. FIG4 mutations should be considered in Charcot–Marie–Tooth patients with these characteristics, especially if found in combination with sporadic or recessive inheritance, childhood onset and a phase of rapid progression.
PMCID: PMC3122378  PMID: 21705420
Charcot–Marie–Tooth disease; neurodegenerative disorders; clinical characteristics; demyelinating disease; molecular genetics
5.  Pathogenic Mechanism of the FIG4 Mutation Responsible for Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease CMT4J 
PLoS Genetics  2011;7(6):e1002104.
CMT4J is a severe form of Charcot-Marie-Tooth neuropathy caused by mutation of the phosphoinositide phosphatase FIG4/SAC3. Affected individuals are compound heterozygotes carrying the missense allele FIG4-I41T in combination with a null allele. Analysis using the yeast two-hybrid system demonstrated that the I41T mutation impairs interaction of FIG4 with the scaffold protein VAC14. The critical role of this interaction was confirmed by the demonstration of loss of FIG4 protein in VAC14 null mice. We developed a mouse model of CMT4J by expressing a Fig4-I41T cDNA transgene on the Fig4 null background. Expression of the mutant transcript at a level 5× higher than endogenous Fig4 completely rescued lethality, whereas 2× expression gave only partial rescue, providing a model of the human disease. The level of FIG4-I41T protein in transgenic tissues is only 2% of that predicted by the transcript level, as a consequence of the protein instability caused by impaired interaction of the mutant protein with VAC14. Analysis of patient fibroblasts demonstrated a comparably low level of mutant I41T protein. The abundance of FIG4-I41T protein in cultured cells is increased by treatment with the proteasome inhibitor MG-132. The data demonstrate that FIG4-I41T is a hypomorphic allele encoding a protein that is unstable in vivo. Expression of FIG4-I41T protein at 10% of normal level is sufficient for long-term survival, suggesting that patients with CMT4J could be treated by increased production or stabilization of the mutant protein. The transgenic model will be useful for testing in vivo interventions to increase the abundance of the mutant protein.
Author Summary
Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease type 4J is a severe neurological disorder with childhood or adult onset and progression to loss of mobility and death. Patients inherit a mutation that changes amino acid residue 41 of the FIG4 protein from isoleucine to threonine. We report that this mutation destabilizes the FIG4 protein by blocking its interaction with a stabilizing protein partner. We developed a mouse model of CMT4J and found that a low level of expression of the mutant protein, 10% of wildtype level, is sufficient to prevent lethality. This work provides the scientific basis for development of a directed treatment for this rare, lethal disorder.
PMCID: PMC3107197  PMID: 21655088
6.  Binding Sites for Ets Family of Transcription Factors Dominate the Promoter Regions of Differentially Expressed Genes in Abdominal Aortic Aneurysms 
Previously, we identified 3,274 distinct differentially expressed genes in abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) tissue compared to non-aneurysmal controls. As transcriptional control is responsible for these expression changes, we sought to find common transcriptional elements in the promoter regions of the differentially expressed genes.
Methods and Results
We analyzed the up- and downregulated gene sets with Whole Genome rVISTA to determine the transcription factor binding sites (TFBSs) overrepresented in the 5 kb promoter regions of the 3,274 genes. The downregulated gene set yielded 144 TFBSs that were overrepresented in the subset when compared to the entire genome. In contrast, the upregulated gene set yielded only 13 distinct overrepresented TFBSs. Interestingly, as classified by TRANSFAC®, 8 of the 13 transcription factors (TFs) binding to these regions belong to the ETS family. Additionally, NFKB and its subunits p50 and p65 showed enrichment. Immunohistochemical analyses in 10 of the TFs from the upregulated analysis showed 9 to be present in AAA tissue. Based on Gene Ontology analysis of biological process categories of the upregulated target genes of enriched TFs, 10 TFs had enrichment in immune system process among their target genes.
Our genome-wide analysis provides further evidence of ETS and NFKB involvement in AAA. Additionally, our results provide novel insight for future studies aiming to dissect the pathogenesis of AAA and have uncovered potential therapeutic targets for AAA prevention.
PMCID: PMC3089770  PMID: 20031636
Aneurysm; Aorta; Genomics; Transcription Factors
7.  Analysis of positional candidate genes in the AAA1 susceptibility locus for abdominal aortic aneurysms on chromosome 19 
BMC Medical Genetics  2011;12:14.
Abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) is a complex disorder with multiple genetic risk factors. Using affected relative pair linkage analysis, we previously identified an AAA susceptibility locus on chromosome 19q13. This locus has been designated as the AAA1 susceptibility locus in the Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man (OMIM) database.
Nine candidate genes were selected from the AAA1 locus based on their function, as well as mRNA expression levels in the aorta. A sample of 394 cases and 419 controls was genotyped for 41 SNPs located in or around the selected nine candidate genes using the Illumina GoldenGate platform. Single marker and haplotype analyses were performed. Three genes (CEBPG, PEPD and CD22) were selected for DNA sequencing based on the association study results, and exonic regions were analyzed. Immunohistochemical staining of aortic tissue sections from AAA and control individuals was carried out for the CD22 and PEPD proteins with specific antibodies.
Several SNPs were nominally associated with AAA (p < 0.05). The SNPs with most significant p-values were located near the CCAAT enhancer binding protein (CEBPG), peptidase D (PEPD), and CD22. Haplotype analysis found a nominally associated 5-SNP haplotype in the CEBPG/PEPD locus, as well as a nominally associated 2-SNP haplotype in the CD22 locus. DNA sequencing of the coding regions revealed no variation in CEBPG. Seven sequence variants were identified in PEPD, including three not present in the NCBI SNP (dbSNP) database. Sequencing of all 14 exons of CD22 identified 20 sequence variants, five of which were in the coding region and six were in the 3'-untranslated region. Five variants were not present in dbSNP. Immunohistochemical staining for CD22 revealed protein expression in lymphocytes present in the aneurysmal aortic wall only and no detectable expression in control aorta. PEPD protein was expressed in fibroblasts and myofibroblasts in the media-adventitia border in both aneurysmal and non-aneurysmal tissue samples.
Association testing of the functional positional candidate genes on the AAA1 locus on chromosome 19q13 demonstrated nominal association in three genes. PEPD and CD22 were considered the most promising candidate genes for altering AAA risk, based on gene function, association evidence, gene expression, and protein expression.
PMCID: PMC3037298  PMID: 21247474
8.  PtdIns(3,5)P2 and autophagy in mouse models of neurodegeneration 
Autophagy  2010;6(1):170-171.
PMCID: PMC2859463  PMID: 20009544
phosphatidylinositol 3,5 diphosphate; PI(3,5)P2; FIG4; VAC14; FAB1; lysosome; autolysosome; ALS; CMT; spongiform neurodegeneration
9.  Defective autophagy in neurons and astrocytes from mice deficient in PI(3,5)P2 
Human Molecular Genetics  2009;18(24):4868-4878.
Mutations affecting the conversion of PI3P to the signaling lipid PI(3,5)P2 result in spongiform degeneration of mouse brain and are associated with the human disorders Charcot–Marie–Tooth disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). We now report accumulation of the proteins LC3-II, p62 and LAMP-2 in neurons and astrocytes of mice with mutations in two components of the PI(3,5)P2 regulatory complex, Fig4 and Vac14. Cytoplasmic inclusion bodies containing p62 and ubiquinated proteins are present in regions of the mutant brain that undergo degeneration. Co-localization of p62 and LAMP-2 in affected cells indicates that formation or recycling of the autolysosome is impaired. These results establish a role for PI(3,5)P2 in autophagy in the mammalian central nervous system (CNS) and demonstrate that mutations affecting PI(3,5)P2 can contribute to inclusion body disease.
PMCID: PMC2778378  PMID: 19793721
10.  Whole genome expression profiling reveals a significant role for immune function in human abdominal aortic aneurysms 
BMC Genomics  2007;8:237.
Abdominal aortic aneurysms are a common disorder with an incompletely understood etiology. We used Illumina and Affymetrix microarray platforms to generate global gene expression profiles for both aneurysmal (AAA) and non-aneurysmal abdominal aorta, and identified genes that were significantly differentially expressed between cases and controls.
Affymetrix and Illumina arrays included 18,057 genes in common; 11,542 (64%) of these genes were considered to be expressed in either aneurysmal or normal abdominal aorta. There were 3,274 differentially expressed genes with a false discovery rate (FDR) ≤ 0.05. Many of these genes were not previously known to be involved in AAA, including SOST and RUNX3, which were confirmed using Q-RT-PCR (Pearson correlation coefficient for microarray and Q-RT-PCR data = 0.89; p-values for differences in expression between AAA and controls for SOST: 4.87 × 10-4 and for RUNX3: 4.33 × 10-5). Analysis of biological pathways, including Gene Ontology (GO) and Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes (KEGG), indicated extreme overrepresentation of immune related categories. The enriched categories included the GO category Immune Response (GO:0006955; FDR = 2.1 × 10-14), and the KEGG pathways natural killer cell mediated cytotoxicity (hsa04650; FDR = 5.9 × 10-6) and leukocyte transendothelial migration (hsa04670; FDR = 1.1 × 10-5).
Previous studies have provided evidence for the involvement of the immune system in AAA. The current expression analysis extends these findings by demonstrating broad coordinate gene expression in immunological pathways. A large number of genes involved in immune function were differentially expressed in AAA, and the pathway analysis gave these results a biological context. The data provide valuable insight for future studies to dissect the pathogenesis of human AAA. These pathways might also be used as targets for the development of therapeutic agents for AAA.
PMCID: PMC1934369  PMID: 17634102
11.  C9ORF72 expansion in a family with bipolar disorder 
Bipolar Disorders  2013;15(3):326-332.
To investigate the role in bipolar disorder of the C9ORF72 hexanucleotide repeat expansion responsible for frontotemporal lobe dementia and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
Eighty-nine subjects from a previously described panel of individuals with bipolar disorder ascertained for genetic studies were screened to detect expansion of the C9ORF72 repeat. One two-generation family with bipolar disorder and an expanded repeat was characterized in depth using molecular diagnostics, imaging, histopathology, and neurological and neuropsychological evaluation.
One proband, with the typical clinical presentation of bipolar disorder, carried an expanded C9ORF72 allele of heterogeneous length between 14 and 20 kilobases (kb) as assessed by Southern blot. The expanded allele was inherited from a parent with atypical, late onset clinical features of bipolar disorder, who subsequently progressed to frontotemporal lobe dementia. The expansion in peripheral blood of the parent ranged from 8.5 to 20 kb. Cultured lymphoblastoid cells from this parent exhibited a homogeneous expansion of only 8.5 kb.
The disease course in the two generations described here demonstrates that expansion of the C9ORF72 may be associated with a form of bipolar disorder that presents clinically with classic phenomenology and progression to neurodegenerative disease. The frequency in our bipolar disorder cohort was only 1%, indicating that C9ORF72 is not a major contributor to bipolar disorder. DNA from cultured cells may be biased towards shorter repeats and nonrepresentative of the endogenous C9ORF72 expansion.
PMCID: PMC3660726  PMID: 23551834
atypical bipolar; C9ORF72; repeat expansion
12.  Regional expression of HOXA4 along the aorta and its potential role in human abdominal aortic aneurysms 
BMC Physiology  2011;11:9.
The infrarenal abdominal aorta exhibits increased disease susceptibility relative to other aortic regions. Allograft studies exchanging thoracic and abdominal segments showed that regional susceptibility is maintained regardless of location, suggesting substantial roles for embryological origin, tissue composition and site-specific gene expression.
We analyzed gene expression with microarrays in baboon aortas, and found that members of the HOX gene family exhibited spatial expression differences. HOXA4 was chosen for further study, since it had decreased expression in the abdominal compared to the thoracic aorta. Western blot analysis from 24 human aortas demonstrated significantly higher HOXA4 protein levels in thoracic compared to abdominal tissues (P < 0.001). Immunohistochemical staining for HOXA4 showed nuclear and perinuclear staining in endothelial and smooth muscle cells in aorta. The HOXA4 transcript levels were significantly decreased in human abdominal aortic aneurysms (AAAs) compared to age-matched non-aneurysmal controls (P < 0.00004). Cultured human aortic endothelial and smooth muscle cells stimulated with INF-γ (an important inflammatory cytokine in AAA pathogenesis) showed decreased levels of HOXA4 protein (P < 0.0007).
Our results demonstrated spatial variation in expression of HOXA4 in human aortas that persisted into adulthood and that downregulation of HOXA4 expression was associated with AAAs, an important aortic disease of the ageing population.
PMCID: PMC3125234  PMID: 21627813

Results 1-12 (12)