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1.  Up-regulation of neural and cell cycle-related microRNAs in brain of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis mice at late disease stage 
Molecular Brain  2015;8:5.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a fatal neurodegenerative disease characterized by selective motor neuron degeneration in motor cortex, brainstem and spinal cord. microRNAs (miRNAs) are small non-coding RNAs that bind complementary target sequences and modulate gene expression; they are key molecules for establishing a neuronal phenotype, and in neurodegeneration. Here we investigated neural miR-9, miR-124a, miR-125b, miR-219, miR-134, and cell cycle-related miR-19a and -19b, in G93A-SOD1 mouse brain in pre-symptomatic and late stage disease.
Expression of miR-9, miR-124a, miR-19a and -19b was significantly increased in G93A-SOD1 whole brain at late stage disease compared to B6.SJL and Wt-SOD1 control brains. These miRNAs were then analyzed in manually dissected SVZ, hippocampus, primary motor cortex and brainstem motor nuclei in 18-week-old ALS mice compared to same age controls. In SVZ and hippocampus miR-124a was up-regulated, miR-219 was down-regulated, and numbers of neural stem progenitor cells (NSPCs) were significantly increased. In G93A-SOD1 brainstem motor nuclei and primary motor cortex, miR-9 and miR-124a were significantly up-regulated, miR-125b expression was also increased. miR-19a and -19b were up-regulated in primary motor cortex and hippocampus, respectively. Expression analysis of predicted miRNA targets identified miRNA/target gene pairs differentially expressed in G93A-SOD1 brain regions compared to controls.
Hierarchical clustering analysis, identifying two clusters of miRNA/target genes, one characterizing brainstem motor nuclei and primary motor cortex, the other hippocampus and SVZ, suggests that altered expression of neural and cell cycle-related miRNAs in these brain regions might contribute to ALS pathogenesis in G93A-SOD1 mice. Re-establishing their expression to normal levels could be a new therapeutic approach to ALS.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13041-015-0095-0) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4318136  PMID: 25626686
G93A-SOD1 mice; microRNAs; Neural stem progenitor cells
2.  Novel phenotype associated with a mutation in the KCNA1(Kv1.1) gene 
Episodic ataxia type 1 (EA1) is an autosomal dominant K+ channelopathy which manifests with short attacks of cerebellar ataxia and dysarthria, and may also show interictal myokymia. Episodes can be triggered by emotional or physical stress, startle response, sudden postural change or fever. Here we describe a 31-year-old man displaying markedly atypical symptoms, including long-lasting attacks of jerking muscle contractions associated with hyperthermia, severe migraine, and a relatively short-sleep phenotype. A single nucleotide change in KCNA1 (c.555C>G) was identified that changes a highly conserved residue (p.C185W) in the first transmembrane segment of the voltage-gated K+ channel Kv1.1. The patient is heterozygous and the mutation was inherited from his asymptomatic mother. Next generation sequencing revealed no variations in the CACNA1A, CACNB4, KCNC3, KCNJ10, PRRT2 or SCN8A genes of either the patient or mother, except for a benign variant in SLC1A3. Functional analysis of the p.C185W mutation in KCNA1 demonstrated a deleterious dominant-negative phenotype where the remaining current displayed slower activation kinetics, subtle changes in voltage-dependence and faster recovery from slow inactivation. Structural modeling also predicts the C185W mutation to be functionally deleterious. This description of novel clinical features, associated with a Kv1.1 mutation highlights a possibly unrecognized relationship between K+ channel dysfunction, hyperthermia and migraine in EA1, and suggests that thorough assessments for these symptoms should be carefully considered for all patients affected by EA1.
PMCID: PMC4295438  PMID: 25642194
episodic ataxia type 1; hyperthermia; sleep; migraine; Shaker potassium channels; C185W
3.  Autophagy, Inflammation and Innate Immunity in Inflammatory Myopathies 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(11):e111490.
Autophagy has a large range of physiological functions and its dysregulation contributes to several human disorders, including autoinflammatory/autoimmune diseases such as inflammatory myopathies (IIMs). In order to better understand the pathogenetic mechanisms of these muscular disorders, we sought to define the role of autophagic processes and their relation with the innate immune system in the three main subtypes of IIM, specifically sporadic inclusion body myositis (sIBM), polymyositis (PM), dermatomyositis (DM) and juvenile dermatomyositis (JDM). We found that although the mRNA transcript levels of the autophagy-related genes BECN1, ATG5 and FBXO32 were similar in IIM and controls, autophagy activation in all IIM subgroups was suggested by immunoblotting results and confirmed by immunofluorescence. TLR4 and TLR3, two potent inducers of autophagy, were highly increased in IIM, with TLR4 transcripts significantly more expressed in PM and DM than in JDM, sIBM and controls, and TLR3 transcripts highly up-regulated in all IIM subgroups compared to controls. Co-localization between autophagic marker, LC3, and TLR4 and TLR3 was observed not only in sIBM but also in PM, DM and JDM muscle tissues. Furthermore, a highly association with the autophagic processes was observed in all IIM subgroups also for some TLR4 ligands, endogenous and bacterial HSP60, other than the high-mobility group box 1 (HMGB1). These findings indicate that autophagic processes are active not only in sIBM but also in PM, DM and JDM, probably in response to an exogenous or endogenous ‘danger signal’. However, autophagic activation and regulation, and also interaction with the innate immune system, differ in each type of IIM. Better understanding of these differences may lead to new therapies for the different IIM types.
PMCID: PMC4218755  PMID: 25365350
4.  VAV1 and BAFF, via NFκB pathway, are genetic risk factors for myasthenia gravis 
To identify novel genetic loci that predispose to early-onset myasthenia gravis (EOMG) applying a two-stage association study, exploration, and replication strategy.
Thirty-four loci and one confirmation loci, human leukocyte antigen (HLA)-DRA, were selected as candidate genes by team members of groups involved in different research aspects of MG. In the exploration step, these candidate genes were genotyped in 384 EOMG and 384 matched controls and significant difference in allele frequency were found in eight genes. In the replication step, eight candidate genes and one confirmation loci were genotyped in 1177 EOMG patients and 814 controls, from nine European centres.
Allele frequency differences were found in four novel loci: CD86, AKAP12, VAV1, B-cell activating factor (BAFF), and tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α), and these differences were consistent in all nine cohorts. Haplotype trend test supported the differences in allele frequencies between cases and controls. In addition, allele frequency difference in female versus male patients at HLA-DRA and TNF-α loci were observed.
The genetic associations to EOMG outside the HLA complex are novel and of interest as VAV1 is a key signal transducer essential for T- and B-cell activation, and BAFF is a cytokine that plays important roles in the proliferation and differentiation of B-cells. Moreover, we noted striking epistasis between the predisposing VAV1 and BAFF haplotypes; they conferred a greater risk in combination than alone. These, and CD86, share the same signaling pathway, namely nuclear factor-kappaB (NFκB), thus implicating dysregulation of proinflammatory signaling in predisposition to EOMG.
PMCID: PMC4184684  PMID: 25356403
5.  The empowerment of translational research: lessons from laminopathies 
The need for a collaborative approach to complex inherited diseases collectively referred to as laminopathies, encouraged Italian researchers, geneticists, physicians and patients to join in the Italian Network for Laminopathies, in 2009. Here, we highlight the advantages and added value of such a multidisciplinary effort to understand pathogenesis, clinical aspects and try to find a cure for Emery-Dreifuss muscular dystrophy, Mandibuloacral dysplasia, Hutchinson-Gilford Progeria and forms of lamin-linked cardiomyopathy, neuropathy and lipodystrophy.
PMCID: PMC3458975  PMID: 22691392
Laminopathies; Emery-Dreifuss Muscular Dystrophy; Dilated Cardiomyopathy with Conduction Defects; Mandibuloacral Dysplasia; Familial Partial Lipodystrophy Type 2; Hutchinson-Gilford Progeria Syndrome; Rare Diseases; Networking activity; interdisciplinary approach to diseases
6.  Inflammation and Epstein-Barr Virus Infection Are Common Features of Myasthenia Gravis Thymus: Possible Roles in Pathogenesis 
Autoimmune Diseases  2011;2011:213092.
The thymus plays a major role in myasthenia gravis (MG). Our recent finding of a persistent Epstein-Barr (EBV) virus infection in some MG thymuses, combined with data showing that the thymus is in a proinflammatory state in most patients, supports a viral contribution to the pathogenesis of MG. Aim of this study was to gain further evidence for intrathymic chronic inflammation and EBV infection in MG patients. Transcriptional profiling by low density array and real-time PCR showed overexpression of genes involved in inflammatory and immune response in MG thymuses. Real-time PCR for EBV genome, latent (EBER1, EBNA1, LMP1) and lytic (BZLF1) transcripts, and immunohistochemistry for LMP1 and BZLF1 proteins confirmed an active intrathymic EBV infection, further supporting the hypothesis that EBV might contribute to onset or perpetuation of the autoimmune response in MG. Altogether, our results support a role of inflammation and EBV infection as pathogenic features of MG thymus.
PMCID: PMC3180177  PMID: 21961056

Results 1-6 (6)