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1.  Mutations in STAMBP, encoding a deubiquitinating enzyme, cause Microcephaly-Capillary Malformation syndrome 
Nature genetics  2013;45(5):556-562.
Microcephaly-capillary malformation (MIC-CAP) syndrome exhibits severe microcephaly with progressive cortical atrophy, intractable epilepsy, profound developmental delay and multiple small capillary malformations on the skin. We employed whole-exome sequencing of five patients with MIC-CAP syndrome and identified novel recessive mutations in STAMBP, a gene encoding the deubiquitinating (DUB) isopeptidase STAMBP (STAM-binding protein)/AMSH (Associated Molecule with the SH3 domain of STAM), that plays a key role in cell surface receptor-mediated endocytosis and sorting. Patient cell lines showed reduced STAMBP expression associated with accumulation of ubiquitin-conjugated protein aggregates, elevated apoptosis and insensitive activation of the RAS-MAPK and PI3K-AKT-mTOR pathways. The latter cellular phenotype is significant considering the established connection between these pathways and their association with vascular and capillary malformations. Furthermore, our findings of a congenital human disorder caused by a defective DUB protein that functions in endocytosis, implicates ubiquitin-conjugate aggregation and elevated apoptosis as factors potentially influencing the progressive neuronal loss underlying MIC-CAP.
doi:10.1038/ng.2602
PMCID: PMC4000253  PMID: 23542699 CAMSID: cams4064
2.  Compound heterozygous mutations in glycyl-tRNA synthetase are a proposed cause of systemic mitochondrial disease 
BMC Medical Genetics  2014;15:36.
Background
Glycyl-tRNA synthetase (GARS) is an aminoacyl-tRNA synthetase (ARS) that links the amino acid glycine to its corresponding tRNA prior to protein translation and is one of three bifunctional ARS that are active within both the cytoplasm and mitochondria. Dominant mutations in GARS cause rare forms of Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease and distal spinal muscular atrophy.
Case presentation
We report a 12-year old girl who presented with clinical and biochemical features of a systemic mitochondrial disease including exercise-induced myalgia, non-compaction cardiomyopathy, persistent elevation of blood lactate and alanine and MRI evidence of mild periventricular leukomalacia. Using exome sequencing she was found to harbor compound heterozygous mutations within the glycyl-tRNA synthetase (GARS) gene; c.1904C > T; p.Ser635Leu and c.1787G > A; p.Arg596Gln. Each mutation occurred at a highly conserved site within the anticodon binding domain.
Conclusion
Our findings suggest that recessive mutations in GARS may cause systemic mitochondrial disease. This phenotype is distinct from patients with previously reported dominant mutations in this gene, thereby expanding the spectrum of disease associated with GARS dysregulation.
doi:10.1186/1471-2350-15-36
PMCID: PMC3973608  PMID: 24669931
Glycyl-tRNA synthetase; Amino acyl-tRNA synthetase; Cardiomyopathy; Charcot-Marie-tooth disease
3.  The utility of exome sequencing for genetic diagnosis in a familial microcephaly epilepsy syndrome 
BMC Neurology  2014;14:22.
Background
Despite remarkable advances in genetic testing, many adults with syndromic epilepsy remain without a molecular diagnosis. The challenge in providing genetic testing for this patient population lies in the extensive genetic heterogeneity associated with epilepsy. Even for the subset of epilepsy patients that present with a defining feature, such as microcephaly, the number of possible genes that would require interrogation by Sanger sequencing is extensive and often prohibitively expensive.
Case presentation
We report a family of French Canadian descent with four adult children affected with severe intellectual disability, epilepsy and microcephaly born to consanguineous parents and evaluated by the Genetics Service to provide informed genetic counseling to unaffected family members regarding possible recurrence risks. We used whole-exome sequencing (WES) of DNA from one affected sibling as a first-line diagnostic tool and compared the prioritization of variants using two strategies: 1) focusing on genes with homozygous variants; and, 2) focusing on genes associated with microcephaly. Both approaches prioritized the same homozygous novel frameshift mutation (p.Arg608Serfs*26) in WDR62, a gene known to cause autosomal recessive primary microcephaly. Sanger sequencing confirmed the presence of the homozygous mutation in the other three affected siblings.
Conclusions
WES and subsequent filtering of the rare variants in a single affected family member led to the rapid and cost-effective identification of a novel homozygous frameshift mutation in WDR62, thereby explaining the severe neurodevelopmental disorder in this family and facilitating genetic counseling. Our findings support WES as an effective first-line diagnostic tool in families presenting with rare genetically heterogeneous neurological disorders.
doi:10.1186/1471-2377-14-22
PMCID: PMC3916514  PMID: 24479948
Primary microcephaly; Epilepsy; Whole-exome sequencing; WDR62
4.  The phenotype of Floating-Harbor syndrome: clinical characterization of 52 individuals with mutations in exon 34 of SRCAP 
Background
Floating-Harbor syndrome (FHS) is a rare condition characterized by short stature, delays in expressive language, and a distinctive facial appearance. Recently, heterozygous truncating mutations in SRCAP were determined to be disease-causing. With the availability of a DNA based confirmatory test, we set forth to define the clinical features of this syndrome.
Methods and results
Clinical information on fifty-two individuals with SRCAP mutations was collected using standardized questionnaires. Twenty-four males and twenty-eight females were studied with ages ranging from 2 to 52 years. The facial phenotype and expressive language impairments were defining features within the group. Height measurements were typically between minus two and minus four standard deviations, with occipitofrontal circumferences usually within the average range. Thirty-three of the subjects (63%) had at least one major anomaly requiring medical intervention. We did not observe any specific phenotype-genotype correlations.
Conclusions
This large cohort of individuals with molecularly confirmed FHS has allowed us to better delineate the clinical features of this rare but classic genetic syndrome, thereby facilitating the development of management protocols.
doi:10.1186/1750-1172-8-63
PMCID: PMC3659005  PMID: 23621943
SRCAP; Floating Harbor syndrome; Phenotype; Short stature
5.  De novo germline and postzygotic mutations in AKT3, PIK3R2 and PIK3CA cause a spectrum of related megalencephaly syndromes 
Nature genetics  2012;44(8):934-940.
Megalencephaly-capillary malformation (MCAP) and megalencephaly-polymicrogyria-polydactyly-hydrocephalus (MPPH) syndromes are sporadic overgrowth disorders associated with markedly enlarged brain size and other recognizable features1-5. We performed exome sequencing in three families with MCAP or MPPH and confirmed our initial observations in exomes from 7 MCAP and 174 control individuals, as well as in 40 additional megalencephaly subjects using a combination of Sanger sequencing, restriction-enzyme assays, and targeted deep sequencing. We identified de novo germline or postzygotic mutations in three core components of the phosphatidylinositol-3-kinase (PI3K)/AKT pathway. These include two mutations of AKT3, one recurrent mutation of PIK3R2 in 11 unrelated MPPH families, and 15 mostly postzygotic mutations of PIK3CA in 23 MCAP and one MPPH patients. Our data highlight the central role of PI3K/AKT signaling in vascular, limb and brain development, and emphasize the power of massively parallel sequencing in a challenging context of phenotypic and genetic heterogeneity combined with postzygotic mosaicism.
doi:10.1038/ng.2331
PMCID: PMC3408813  PMID: 22729224
6.  Specific combination of compound heterozygous mutations in 17β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 4 (HSD17B4) defines a new subtype of D-bifunctional protein deficiency 
Background
D-bifunctional protein (DBP) deficiency is typically apparent within the first month of life with most infants demonstrating hypotonia, psychomotor delay and seizures. Few children survive beyond two years of age. Among patients with prolonged survival all demonstrate severe gross motor delay, absent language development, and severe hearing and visual impairment. DBP contains three catalytically active domains; an N-terminal dehydrogenase, a central hydratase and a C-terminal sterol carrier protein-2-like domain. Three subtypes of the disease are identified based upon the domain affected; DBP type I results from a combined deficiency of dehydrogenase and hydratase activity; DBP type II from isolated hydratase deficiency and DBP type III from isolated dehydrogenase deficiency. Here we report two brothers (16½ and 14 years old) with DBP deficiency characterized by normal early childhood followed by sensorineural hearing loss, progressive cerebellar and sensory ataxia and subclinical retinitis pigmentosa.
Methods and results
Biochemical analysis revealed normal levels of plasma VLCFA, phytanic acid and pristanic acid, and normal bile acids in urine; based on these results no diagnosis was made. Exome analysis was performed using the Agilent SureSelect 50Mb All Exon Kit and the Illumina HiSeq 2000 next-generation-sequencing (NGS) platform. Compound heterozygous mutations were identified by exome sequencing and confirmed by Sanger sequencing within the dehydrogenase domain (c.101C>T; p.Ala34Val) and hydratase domain (c.1547T>C; p.Ile516Thr) of the 17β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 4 gene (HSD17B4). These mutations have been previously reported in patients with severe-forms of DBP deficiency, however each mutation was reported in combination with another mutation affecting the same domain. Subsequent studies in fibroblasts revealed normal VLCFA levels, normal C26:0 but reduced pristanic acid beta-oxidation activity. Both DBP hydratase and dehydrogenase activity were markedly decreased but detectable.
Conclusions
We propose that the DBP phenotype seen in this family represents a distinct and novel subtype of DBP deficiency, which we have termed type IV based on the presence of a missense mutation in each of the domains of DBP resulting in markedly reduced but detectable hydratase and dehydrogenase activity of DBP. Given that the biochemical testing in plasma was normal in these patients, this is likely an underdiagnosed form of DBP deficiency.
doi:10.1186/1750-1172-7-90
PMCID: PMC3551712  PMID: 23181892
Polyneuropathy; Sensorineural hearing loss; Retinitis pigmentosa; Peroxisomes; Cerebellar ataxia; HSD17B4
7.  A generalizable pre-clinical research approach for orphan disease therapy 
With the advent of next-generation DNA sequencing, the pace of inherited orphan disease gene identification has increased dramatically, a situation that will continue for at least the next several years. At present, the numbers of such identified disease genes significantly outstrips the number of laboratories available to investigate a given disorder, an asymmetry that will only increase over time. The hope for any genetic disorder is, where possible and in addition to accurate diagnostic test formulation, the development of therapeutic approaches. To this end, we propose here the development of a strategic toolbox and preclinical research pathway for inherited orphan disease. Taking much of what has been learned from rare genetic disease research over the past two decades, we propose generalizable methods utilizing transcriptomic, system-wide chemical biology datasets combined with chemical informatics and, where possible, repurposing of FDA approved drugs for pre-clinical orphan disease therapies. It is hoped that this approach may be of utility for the broader orphan disease research community and provide funding organizations and patient advocacy groups with suggestions for the optimal path forward. In addition to enabling academic pre-clinical research, strategies such as this may also aid in seeding startup companies, as well as further engaging the pharmaceutical industry in the treatment of rare genetic disease.
doi:10.1186/1750-1172-7-39
PMCID: PMC3458970  PMID: 22704758
Orphan disease therapy; Preclinical drug development; Generalizable screening methods; Translational toolbox
8.  Exome Sequencing as a Diagnostic Tool for Pediatric-Onset Ataxia 
Human Mutation  2013;35(1):45-49.
Ataxia demonstrates substantial phenotypic and genetic heterogeneity. We set out to determine the diagnostic yield of exome sequencing in pediatric patients with ataxia without a molecular diagnosis after standard-of-care assessment in Canada. FORGE (Finding Of Rare disease GEnes) Canada is a nation-wide project focused on identifying novel disease genes for rare pediatric diseases using whole-exome sequencing. We retrospectively selected all FORGE Canada projects that included cerebellar ataxia as a feature. We identified 28 such families and a molecular diagnosis was made in 13; a success rate of 46%. In 11 families, we identified mutations in genes associated with known neurological syndromes and in two we identified novel disease genes. Exome analysis of sib pairs and/or patients born to consanguineous parents was more likely to be successful (9/13) than simplex cases (4/15). Our data suggest that exome sequencing is an effective first line test for pediatric patients with ataxia where a specific single gene is not immediately suspected to be causative.
doi:10.1002/humu.22451
PMCID: PMC4255313  PMID: 24108619
ataxia; whole-exome sequencing; clinical diagnosis

Results 1-8 (8)