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1.  Chromosomal copy number changes in patients with non‐syndromic X linked mental retardation detected by array CGH 
Journal of Medical Genetics  2005;43(4):362-370.
Several studies have shown that array based comparative genomic hybridisation (CGH) is a powerful tool for the detection of copy number changes in the genome of individuals with a congenital disorder. In this study, 40 patients with non‐specific X linked mental retardation were analysed with full coverage, X chromosomal, bacterial artificial chromosome arrays. Copy number changes were validated by multiplex ligation dependent probe amplification as a fast method to detect duplications and deletions in patient and control DNA. This approach has the capacity to detect copy number changes as small as 100 kb. We identified three causative duplications: one family with a 7 Mb duplication in Xp22.2 and two families with a 500 kb duplication in Xq28 encompassing the MECP2 gene. In addition, we detected four regions with copy number changes that were frequently identified in our group of patients and therefore most likely represent genomic polymorphisms. These results confirm the power of array CGH as a diagnostic tool, but also emphasise the necessity to perform proper validation experiments by an independent technique.
PMCID: PMC2563232  PMID: 16169931
Array CGH; XLMR; duplications; copy number polymorphisms (CNPs); MLPA
2.  ΔNp63 is an ectodermal gatekeeper of epidermal morphogenesis 
Cell Death and Differentiation  2010;18(5):887-896.
p63, a member of p53 family, has a significant role in the development and maintenance of stratified epithelia. However, a persistent dispute remained over the last decade concerning the interpretation of the severe failure of p63-null embryos to develop stratified epithelia. In this study, by investigating both p63-deficient strains, we demonstrated that p63-deficient epithelia failed to develop beyond ectodermal stage as they remained a monolayer of non-proliferating cells expressing K8/K18. Importantly, in the absence of p63, corneal-epithelial commitment (which occurs at embryonic day 12.5 of mouse embryogenesis) was hampered 3 weeks before corneal stem cell renewal (that begins at P14). Taken together, these data illustrate the significant role of p63 in epithelial embryogenesis, before and independently of other functions of p63 in adult stem cells regulation. Transcriptome analysis of laser captured-embryonic tissues confirmed the latter hypothesis, demonstrating that a battery of epidermal genes that were activated in wild-type epidermis remained silent in p63-null tissues. Furthermore, we defined a subset of novel bona fide p63-induced genes orchestrating first epidermal stratification and a subset of p63-repressed mesodermal-specific genes. These data highlight the earliest recognized action of ΔNp63 in the induction epidermal morphogenesis at E11.5. In the absence of p63, a mesodermal program is activated while epidermal morphogenesis does not initiate.
PMCID: PMC3131930  PMID: 21127502
p63; epidermis; epithelia; commitment; stratification; self renewal
3.  Update on Kleefstra Syndrome 
Molecular Syndromology  2012;2(3-5):202-212.
Kleefstra syndrome is characterized by the core phenotype of developmental delay/intellectual disability, (childhood) hypotonia and distinct facial features. The syndrome can be either caused by a microdeletion in chromosomal region 9q34.3 or by a mutation in the euchromatin histone methyltransferase 1 (EHMT1) gene. Since the early 1990s, 85 patients have been described, of which the majority had a 9q34.3 microdeletion (>85%). So far, no clear genotype-phenotype correlation could be observed by studying the clinical and molecular features of both 9q34.3 microdeletion patients and patients with an intragenic EHMT1 mutation. Thus, to further expand the genotypic and phenotypic knowledge about the syndrome, we here report 29 newly diagnosed patients, including 16 patients with a 9q34.3 microdeletion and 13 patients with an EHMT1 mutation, and review previous literature. The present findings are comparable to previous reports. In addition to our former findings and recommendations, we suggest cardiac screening during follow-up, because of the possible occurrence of cardiac arrhythmias. In addition, clinicians and caretakers should be aware of the regressive behavioral phenotype that might develop at adolescent/adult age and seems to have no clear neurological substrate, but is rather a so far unexplained neuropsychiatric feature.
PMCID: PMC3366700  PMID: 22670141
EHMT1; Kleefstra syndrome; 9q34.3 microdeletion; Review; 9q subtelomeric deletion syndrome
4.  MicroRNA networks direct neuronal development and plasticity 
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) constitute a class of small, non-coding RNAs that act as post-transcriptional regulators of gene expression. In neurons, the functions of individual miRNAs are just beginning to emerge, and recent studies have elucidated roles for neural miRNAs at various stages of neuronal development and maturation, including neurite outgrowth, dendritogenesis, and spine formation. Notably, miRNAs regulate mRNA translation locally in the axosomal and synaptodendritic compartments, and thereby contribute to the dynamic spatial organization of axonal and dendritic structures and their function. Given the critical role for miRNAs in regulating early brain development and in mediating synaptic plasticity later in life, it is tempting to speculate that the pathology of neurological disorders is affected by altered expression or functioning of miRNAs. Here we provide an overview of recently identified mechanisms of neuronal development and plasticity involving miRNAs, and the consequences of miRNA dysregulation.
PMCID: PMC3249201  PMID: 21833581
MicroRNA; Neuronal development; Synapse; Learning and memory; Neurological diseases
5.  Periventricular Heterotopia in Common Microdeletion Syndromes 
Molecular Syndromology  2010;1(1):35-41.
Periventricular heterotopia (PH) is a brain malformation characterised by heterotopic nodules of neurons lining the walls of the cerebral ventricles. Mutations in FLNA account for 20–24% of instances but a majority have no identifiable genetic aetiology. Often the co-occurrence of PH with a chromosomal anomaly is used to infer a new locus for a Mendelian form of PH. This study reports four PH patients with three different microdeletion syndromes, each characterised by high-resolution genomic microarray. In three patients the deletions at 1p36 and 22q11 are conventional in size, whilst a fourth child had a deletion at 7q11.23 that was larger in extent than is typically seen in Williams syndrome. Although some instances of PH associated with chromosomal deletions could be attributed to the unmasking of a recessive allele or be indicative of more prevalent subclinical migrational anomalies, the rarity of PH in these three microdeletion syndromes and the description of other non-recurrent chromosomal defects do suggest that PH may be a manifestation of multiple different forms of chromosomal imbalance. In many, but possibly not all, instances the co-occurrence of PH with a chromosomal deletion is not necessarily indicative of uncharacterised underlying monogenic loci for this particular neuronal migrational anomaly.
PMCID: PMC2883850  PMID: 20648244
Periventricular heterotopia; Microdeletion syndrome; Neuronal migration
6.  A second locus for Aicardi‐Goutières syndrome at chromosome 13q14–21 
Journal of Medical Genetics  2005;43(5):444-450.
Aicardi‐Goutières syndrome (AGS) is an autosomal recessive, early onset encephalopathy characterised by calcification of the basal ganglia, chronic cerebrospinal fluid lymphocytosis, and negative serological investigations for common prenatal infections. AGS may result from a perturbation of interferon α metabolism. The disorder is genetically heterogeneous with approximately 50% of families mapping to the first known locus at 3p21 (AGS1).
A genome‐wide scan was performed in 10 families with a clinical diagnosis of AGS in whom linkage to AGS1 had been excluded. Higher density genotyping in regions of interest was also undertaken using the 10 mapping pedigrees and seven additional AGS families.
Our results demonstrate significant linkage to a second AGS locus (AGS2) at chromosome 13q14–21 with a maximum multipoint heterogeneity logarithm of the odds (LOD) score of 5.75 at D13S768. The AGS2 locus lies within a 4.7 cM region as defined by a 1 LOD‐unit support interval.
We have identified a second AGS disease locus and at least one further locus. As in a number of other conditions, genetic heterogeneity represents a significant obstacle to gene identification in AGS. The localisation of AGS2 represents an important step in this process.
PMCID: PMC2649012  PMID: 15908569
AGS2; Aicardi‐Goutières syndrome; interferon α; intracranial calcification; 13q14–21
7.  POMT2 mutations cause α-dystroglycan hypoglycosylation and Walker-Warburg syndrome 
Journal of Medical Genetics  2005;42(12):907-912.
Background: Walker-Warburg syndrome (WWS) is an autosomal recessive condition characterised by congenital muscular dystrophy, structural brain defects, and eye malformations. Typical brain abnormalities are hydrocephalus, lissencephaly, agenesis of the corpus callosum, fusion of the hemispheres, cerebellar hypoplasia, and neuronal overmigration, which causes a cobblestone cortex. Ocular abnormalities include cataract, microphthalmia, buphthalmos, and Peters anomaly. WWS patients show defective O-glycosylation of α-dystroglycan (α-DG), which plays a key role in bridging the cytoskeleton of muscle and CNS cells with extracellular matrix proteins, important for muscle integrity and neuronal migration. In 20% of the WWS patients, hypoglycosylation results from mutations in either the protein O-mannosyltransferase 1 (POMT1), fukutin, or fukutin related protein (FKRP) genes. The other genes for this highly heterogeneous disorder remain to be identified.
Objective: To look for mutations in POMT2 as a cause of WWS, as both POMT1 and POMT2 are required to achieve protein O-mannosyltransferase activity.
Methods: A candidate gene approach combined with homozygosity mapping.
Results: Homozygosity was found for the POMT2 locus at 14q24.3 in four of 11 consanguineous WWS families. Homozygous POMT2 mutations were present in two of these families as well as in one patient from another cohort of six WWS families. Immunohistochemistry in muscle showed severely reduced levels of glycosylated α-DG, which is consistent with the postulated role for POMT2 in the O-mannosylation pathway.
Conclusions: A fourth causative gene for WWS was uncovered. These genes account for approximately one third of the WWS cases. Several more genes are anticipated, which are likely to play a role in glycosylation of α-DG.
PMCID: PMC1735967  PMID: 15894594
8.  Mutations in PHF8 are associated with X linked mental retardation and cleft lip/cleft palate 
Journal of Medical Genetics  2005;42(10):780-786.
Truncating mutations were found in the PHF8 gene (encoding the PHD finger protein 8) in two unrelated families with X linked mental retardation (XLMR) associated with cleft lip/palate (MIM 300263). Expression studies showed that this gene is ubiquitously transcribed, with strong expression of the mouse orthologue Phf8 in embryonic and adult brain structures. The coded PHF8 protein harbours two functional domains, a PHD finger and a JmjC (Jumonji-like C terminus) domain, implicating it in transcriptional regulation and chromatin remodelling. The association of XLMR and cleft lip/palate in these patients with mutations in PHF8 suggests an important function of PHF8 in midline formation and in the development of cognitive abilities, and links this gene to XLMR associated with cleft lip/palate. Further studies will explore the specific mechanisms whereby PHF8 alterations lead to mental retardation and midline defects.
PMCID: PMC1735927  PMID: 16199551
9.  Disruption of the gene Euchromatin Histone Methyl Transferase1 (Eu-HMTase1) is associated with the 9q34 subtelomeric deletion syndrome 
Journal of Medical Genetics  2005;42(4):299-306.
Background: A new syndrome has been recognised following thorough analysis of patients with a terminal submicroscopic subtelomeric deletion of chromosome 9q. These have in common severe mental retardation, hypotonia, brachycephaly, flat face with hypertelorism, synophrys, anteverted nares, thickened lower lip, carp mouth with macroglossia, and conotruncal heart defects. The minimum critical region responsible for this 9q subtelomeric deletion syndrome (9q–) is approximately 1.2 Mb and encompasses at least 14 genes.
Objective: To characterise the breakpoints of a de novo balanced translocation t(X;9)(p11.23;q34.3) in a mentally retarded female patient with clinical features similar to the 9q– syndrome.
Results: Sequence analysis of the break points showed that the translocation was fully balanced and only one gene on chromosome 9 was disrupted—Euchromatin Histone Methyl Transferase1 (Eu-HMTase1)—encoding a histone H3 lysine 9 methyltransferase (H3-K9 HMTase). This indicates that haploinsufficiency of Eu-HMTase1 is responsible for the 9q submicroscopic subtelomeric deletion syndrome. This observation was further supported by the spatio-temporal expression of the gene. Using tissue in situ hybridisation studies in mouse embryos and adult brain, Eu-HMTase1 was shown to be expressed in the developing nervous system and in specific peripheral tissues. While expression is selectively downregulated in adult brain, substantial expression is retained in the olfactory bulb, anterior/ventral lateral ventricular wall, and hippocampus and weakly in the piriform cortex.
Conclusions: The expression pattern of this gene suggests a role in the CNS development and function, which is in line with the severe mental retardation and behaviour problems in patients who lack one copy of the gene.
PMCID: PMC1736026  PMID: 15805155
14.  Analysis of the p63 gene in classical EEC syndrome, related syndromes, and non-syndromic orofacial clefts 
Journal of Medical Genetics  2002;39(8):559-566.
EEC syndrome is an autosomal dominant disorder with the cardinal signs of ectrodactyly, ectodermal dysplasia, and orofacial clefts. EEC syndrome has been linked to chromosome 3q27 and heterozygous p63 mutations were detected in unrelated EEC families. In addition, homozygous p63 null mice exhibit craniofacial abnormalities, limb truncations, and absence of epidermal appendages, such as hair follicles and tooth primordia. In this study, we screened 39 syndromic patients, including four with EEC syndrome, five with syndromes closely related to EEC syndrome, and 30 with other syndromic orofacial clefts and/or limb anomalies. We identified heterozygous p63 mutations in three unrelated cases of EEC syndrome, two Iowa white families and one sporadic case in a Filipino boy. One family is atypical for EEC and has features consistent with Hay-Wells syndrome. In this family, the mutation ablates a splice acceptor site and, in the other two, mutations produce amino acid substitutions, R280C and R304Q, which alter conserved DNA binding sites. Germline mosaicism was detected in the founder of the mutation in one case. These three cases show significant interfamilial and intrafamilial variability in expressivity. We also screened p63 in 62 patients with non-syndromic orofacial clefts, identifying an intronic single nucleotide polymorphism but finding no evidence of mutations that would explain even a subset of non-syndromic orofacial clefts. This study supports a common role for p63 in classical EEC syndrome, both familial and sporadic, but not in other related or non-syndromic forms of orofacial clefts.
PMCID: PMC1735218  PMID: 12161593
16.  The p63 gene in EEC and other syndromes 
Journal of Medical Genetics  2002;39(6):377-381.
PMCID: PMC1735150  PMID: 12070241
18.  Localisation of a gene for non-specific X linked mental retardation (MRX46) to Xq25-q26. 
Journal of Medical Genetics  1998;35(10):801-805.
We report linkage data on a new large family with non-specific X linked mental retardation (MRX), using 24 polymorphic markers covering the entire X chromosome. We could assign the underlying disease gene, denoted MRX46, to the Xq25-q26 region. MRX46 is tightly linked to the markers DXS8072, HPRT, and DXS294 with a maximum lod score of 5.12 at theta=0. Recombination events were observed with DXS425 in Xq25 and DXS984 at the Xq26-Xq27 boundary, which localises MRX46 to a 20.9 cM (12 Mb) interval. Several X linked mental retardation syndromes have been mapped to the same region of the X chromosome. In addition, the localisation of two MRX genes, MRX27 and MRX35, partially overlaps with the linkage interval obtained for MRX46. Although an extension of the linkage analysis for MRX35 showed only a minimal overlap with MRX46, it cannot be excluded that the same gene is involved in several of these MRX disorders. On the other hand, given the considerable genetic heterogeneity in MRX, one should be extremely cautious in using interfamilial linkage data to narrow down the localisation of MRX genes. Therefore, unless the underlying gene(s) is characterised by the analysis of candidate genes, MRX46 can be considered a new independent MRX locus.
PMCID: PMC1051453  PMID: 9783701

Results 1-18 (18)