Mutations in numerous genes encoding ribosomal proteins (RPs) occur in 50%–70% of individuals with Diamond-Blackfan anemia (DBA), establishing the disease as a ribosomopathy. As described in this issue of JCI, Sankaran, Gazda, and colleagues used genome-wide exome sequencing to study DBA patients with no detectable mutations in RP genes. They identified two unrelated pedigrees in which the disease is associated with mutations in GATA1, which encodes an essential hematopoietic transcription factor with no known mechanistic links to ribosomes. These findings ignite an interesting and potentially emotional debate on how we define DBA and whether the term should be restricted to pure ribosomopathies. More generally, the work reflects the powerful knowledge and controversies arising from the deluge of data generated by new genetic technologies that are being used to analyze human diseases.
Dyskeratosis congenita(DC) is an inherited bone marrow failure syndrome associated with characteristic mucocutaneous features and a variable series of other somatic abnormalities. The disease is heterogeneous at the genetic and clinical levels. Determination of the genetic basis of DC has established that the disease is caused by a number of genes, all of which encode products involved in telomere maintenance, either as part of telomerase or as part of the shelterin complex that caps and protects telomeres. There is overlap at the genetic and clinical levels with other, more common conditions, including aplastic anemia (AA), pulmonary fibrosis (PF)and liver cirrhosis. Although part of the spectrum of disorders known to be associated with DC it has emerged that mutations in telomere maintenance genes can lead to the development of AA and PF in the absence of other DC features. Here we discuss the genetics of DC and its relationship to disease presentation.
Bone marrow failure; telomerase; dyskerin; short telomeres; anticipation
Mutations in DKC1, encoding telomerase associated protein dyskerin, cause X-linked dyskeratosis congenita (DC), a bone marrow failure and cancer susceptibility syndrome. Decreased accumulation of telomerase RNA resulting in excessive telomere shortening and premature cellular senescence is thought to be the primary cause of disease in X-linked DC. Affected tissues are those that require constant renewal by stem cell activity. We previously showed that in Dkc1Δ15 mice, which contain a mutation that is a copy of a human mutation causing DC, mutant cells have a telomerase dependent proliferative defect and increased accumulation of DNA damage in the first generation before the telomeres are short. We now demonstrate the presence of the growth defect in Dkc1Δ15 mouse embryonic fibroblasts in vitro and show that accumulation of DNA damage and levels of reactive oxygen species increase with increasing population doublings. Treatment with the antioxidant, N-acetyl cysteine, partially rescued the growth disadvantage of mutant cells in vitro and in vivo. Competitive bone marrow repopulation experiments showed that the Dkc1Δ15 mutation is associated with a functional stem cell defect that becomes more severe with increasing age, consistent with accelerated senescence, a hallmark of DC hematopoiesis. This stem cell phenotype was partially corrected by N-acetyl cysteine treatment. These results suggest that a pathogenic Dkc1 mutation, accelerates stem cell aging, that increased oxidative stress might play a role in the pathogenesis of X-linked DC, and that some manifestations of DC may be prevented or delayed by antioxidant treatment.
dyskeratosis congenita; N-acetyl cysteine; Stem cell aging; telomerase; oxidative stress; ROS
The hallmarks of the rare inherited disorder Fanconi anemia (FA) are progressive bone marrow failure and susceptibility to cancer. The former is the major cause of death for patients with FA, as it usually occurs earlier in life than cancer development. Despite spectacular advances in unraveling the molecular details of FA, the origin of the bone marrow failure that is central to this condition for most patients has long been puzzling and controversial. Two studies recently published in the JCI, including one in this issue, will add to the debate. They also highlight the fact that studying rare disorders can elucidate important new clinical and biological principles.
Dyskeratosis congenita (DC) was originally defined as a rare inherited bone marrow failure syndrome associated with distinct mucocutaneous features. Today DC is defined by its pathogenetic mechanism and mutations in components of the telomere maintenance machinery resulting in excessively short telomeres in highly proliferating tissues. With this new definition the disease spectrum has broadened and ranges from intrauterine growth retardation, cerebellar hypoplasia, and death in early childhood to asymptomatic mutation carriers whose descendants are predisposed to malignancy, bone marrow failure, or pulmonary disease. The degree of telomere dysfunction is the major determinant of disease onset and manifestations.
dyskeratosis congenita; telomerase; pulmonary fibrosis; aplastic anemia; anticipation; telomere
Diamond Blackfan anaemia (DBA) is a rare, genetically and clinically heterogeneous, inherited red cell aplasia. Classical DBA affects about seven per million live births and presents during the first year of life. However, as mutated genes have been discovered in DBA, non-classical cases with less distinct phenotypes are being described in adults as well as children. In caring for these patients it is often difficult to have a clear understanding of the treatment options and their outcomes because of the lack of complete information on the natural history of the disease. The purpose of this document is to review the criteria for diagnosis, evaluate the available treatment options, including corticosteroid and transfusion therapies and stem cell transplantation, and propose a plan for optimizing patient care. Congenital anomalies, mode of inheritance, cancer predisposition, and pregnancy in DBA are also reviewed. Evidence-based conclusions will be made when possible; however, as in many rare diseases, the data are often anecdotal and the recommendations are based upon the best judgment of experienced clinicians. The recommendations regarding the diagnosis and management described in this report are the result of deliberations and discussions at an international consensus conference.
Diamond Blackfan anaemia; bone marrow failure; cancer predisposition; genetics; treatment
Small nucleolar RNAs (snoRNAs) are key components of ribonucleoprotein particles (snoRNPs) involved in modifying specific residues of ribosomal and other RNAs by pseudouridylation (H/ACA snoRNAs) or methylation (C/D snoRNAs). They are encoded within the introns of host genes, which tend to be genes whose products are involved in ribosome biogenesis or function. Though snoRNPs are abundant and ubiquitous and their components highly conserved, information concerning their expression during development or how their expression is altered in diseased states is sparse. To facilitate these studies we have developed a snoRNA microarray platform for the analysis of the abundance of snoRNAs in different RNA samples. Here we show that the microarray is sensitive and specific for the detection of snoRNAs. A mouse snoRNA microarray was used to monitor changes in abundance of snoRNAs after ablation of dyskerin, an H/ACA RNA protein component, from mouse liver, which causes a decrease in ribosome production. H/ACA snoRNAs were decreased in abundance in these livers while, unexpectedly, C/D snoRNAs were increased. The increase in C/D snoRNAs corresponded with an increase in the abundance of the mRNAs transcribed from snoRNA host genes, suggesting the increase may be part of a cellular response to defective ribosome synthesis.
H/ACA RNA; dyskerin ablation; ribosome biogenesis
Mutations in the X-linked gene, DKC1, encoding dyskerin, cause dyskeratosis congenita by leading to decreased telomerase activity and causing short telomeres. Dyskerin is also a pseudouridine synthase that modifies nascent ribosomal and other RNAs and it is not known if this function is affected by the mutations. Here we show that newly synthesized ribosomal RNA, extracted from human and mouse cells with pathogenic mutations, shows anomalous mobility in agarose gels under certain denaturation conditions. The anomalously migrating RNA is turned over rapidly. Analysis of ribosomal RNA in these cells suggests the altered mobility is due to inefficient pseudouridylation.
pseudouridine; ribosomal RNA; dyskerin; electrophoretic mobility; denaturing agarose gels
Dyskerin is a component of small nucleolar ribonucleoprotein complexes and acts as a pseudouridine synthase to modify newly synthesized ribosomal, spliceosomal, and possibly other RNAs. It is encoded by the DKC1 gene, the gene mutated in X-linked dyskeratosis congenita, and is also part of the telomerase complex. The yeast ortholog, Cbf5, is an essential protein, but in mammals the effect of dyskerin ablation at the cellular level is not known. Here we show that mouse hepatocytes can survive after induction of a Dkc1 deletion. In the absence of dyskerin, rRNA processing is inhibited with the accumulation of large precursors, and fibrillarin does not accumulate in nucleoli. A low rate of apoptosis is induced in the hepatocytes, which show an induction of the p53-dependent cell cycle checkpoint pathway. Signs of liver damage including an increase in serum alanine aminotransferase activity and a disordered structure at the histological and macroscopic levels are observed. In response to carbon tetrachloride administration, when wild-type hepatocytes mount a rapid proliferative response, those without dyskerin do not divide. We conclude that hepatocytes can survive without dyskerin but that the role of dyskerin in RNA modification is essential for cellular proliferation.
In humans mutations in DKC1, cause the rare bone marrow failure syndrome dyskeratosis congenita. We have used gene targeting to produce mouse ES cells with Dkc1 mutations that cause DC when in humans. The mutation A353V, the most common human mutation, causes typical DC to very severe DC in humans. Male chimeric mice carrying this mutation do not pass the mutated allele to their offspring. The mutation G402E accounts for a single typical case of DC in a human family. The allele carrying this mutation was transmitted to the offspring with high efficiency. Expression of RNA and protein was reduced compared to wild type animals but no abnormalities of growth and development or in blood values were found in mutant mice. Thus Dkc1 mutations have variable expression in mice, as in humans.
Diamond Blackfan anemia (DBA) is a rare, genetically and clinically heterogeneous, inherited red cell aplasia. Classical DBA presents during the first year of life, affecting about 7 per million live births. However, as genes mutated in DBA have been discovered, non-classical cases with less distinct phenotypes are being described in adults as well as children. In caring for these patients it is often difficult to have a clear understanding of the treatment options and their outcomes because of the lack of complete information on the natural history of the disease. The purpose of this document is to review the criteria for diagnosis, evaluate the available treatment options, including corticosteroid and transfusion therapies and stem cell transplantation, and propose a plan for optimizing patient care. Congenital anomalies, mode of inheritance, cancer predisposition, and pregnancy in DBA are also reviewed. Evidence-based conclusions will be made when possible; however, as in many rare diseases, the data are often anecdotal and the recommendations are based upon the best judgment of experienced clinicians. The recommendations regarding the diagnosis and management described in this report are the result of deliberations and discussions at an international consensus conference.
Diamond Blackfan anemia (DBA); bone marrow failure; cancer predisposition; genetics; treatment
Telomerase, which maintains the ends of chromosomes, consists of two core components, the telomerase reverse transcriptase (TERT) and the telomerase RNA (TERC). Haploinsufficiency for TERC or TERT leads to progressive telomere shortening and autosomal dominant dyskeratosis congenita (DC). The clinical manifestations of autosomal dominant DC are thought to occur when telomeres become critically short, but the rate of telomere shortening in this condition is unknown. Here, we investigated the consequences of de novo TERT gene deletions in a large cohort of individuals with 5p– syndrome. The study group included 41 individuals in which the chromosome deletion resulted in loss of one copy of the TERT gene at 5p15.33. Telomere length in peripheral blood cells from these individuals, although within the normal range, was on average shorter than in normal controls. The shortening was more significant in older individuals suggesting an accelerated age-dependent shortening. In contrast, individuals with autosomal dominant DC due to an inherited TERC gene deletion had very short telomeres, and the telomeres were equally short regardless of the age. Although some individuals with 5p– syndrome showed clinical features that were reminiscent of autosomal dominant DC, these features did not correlate with telomere length, suggesting that these were not caused by critically short telomeres. We conclude that a TERT gene deletion leads to slightly shorter telomeres within one generation. However, our results suggest that several generations of TERT haploinsufficiency are needed to produce the very short telomeres seen in patients with DC.
5p– syndrome; dyskeratosis congenita; haploinsufficiency; telomerase reverse transcriptase; telomerase RNA component; telomere
Mutations in the gene coding for the RNA component of telomerase, hTERC, have been found in autosomal dominant dyskeratosis congenita (DC) and aplastic anemia. Paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria (PNH) is a clonal blood disorder associated with aplastic anemia and characterized by the presence of one or more clones of blood cells lacking glycosylphosphatidylinositol (GPI) anchored proteins due to a somatic mutation in the PIGA gene.
We searched for mutations in DNA extracted from PNH patients by amplification of the hTERC gene and denaturing high performance liquid chromatography (dHPLC). After a mutation was found in a potential transcription factor binding site in one patient electrophoretic mobility shift assays were used to detect binding of transcription factors to that site. The effect of the mutation on the function of the promoter was tested by transient transfection constructs in which the promoter is used to drive a reporter gene.
Here we report the finding of a novel promoter mutation (-99C->G) in the hTERC gene in a patient with PNH. The mutation disrupts an Sp1 binding site and destroys its ability to bind Sp1. Transient transfection assays show that mutations in this hTERC site including C-99G cause either up- or down-regulation of promoter activity and suggest that the site regulates core promoter activity in a context dependent manner in cancer cells.
These data are the first report of an hTERC promoter mutation from a patient sample which can modulate core promoter activity in vitro, raising the possibility that the mutation may affect the transcription of the gene in hematopoietic stem cells in vivo, and that dysregulation of telomerase may play a role in the development of bone marrow failure and the evolution of PNH clones.
A somatic mutation in the X-linked phosphatidylinositol glycan class A (PIGA) gene causes the loss of glycosyl phosphatidylinositol (GPI)-linked proteins on blood cells from patients with paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria. Because all blood cell lineages may be affected it is thought that the mutation occurs in a hematopoietic stem cell. In transgenic mice, germline transmission of an inactive Piga gene is embryonic lethal. To inactivate the murine Piga gene in early hematopoiesis we therefore chose conditional gene inactivation using the Cre/loxP system. We expressed Cre recombinase under the transcription regulatory sequences of the human c-fes gene. FES-Cre inactivated PIGA in hematopoietic cells of mice carrying a floxed Piga allele (LF mice). PIGA− cells were found in all hematopoietic lineages of definitive but not primitive hematopoiesis. Their proportions were low in newborn mice but subsequently increased continuously to produce for the first time mice that have almost exclusively PIGA− blood cells. The loss of GPI-linked proteins occurred mainly in c-kit+CD34+Lin− progenitor cells before the CFU-GEMM stage. Using bone marrow reconstitution experiments with purified PIGA− cells we demonstrate that LF mice have long-term bone marrow repopulating cells that lack GPI-linked proteins, indicating that recombination of the floxed Piga allele occurs in the hematopoietic stem cell.
hematopoiesis; stem cell; c-fes; paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria; conditional gene inactivation