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1.  Mutation Update and Genotype–Phenotype Correlations of Novel and Previously Described Mutations in TPM2 and TPM3 Causing Congenital Myopathies 
Human mutation  2014;35(7):779-790.
Mutations affecting skeletal muscle isoforms of the tropomyosin genes may cause nemaline myopathy, cap myopathy, core-rod myopathy, congenital fiber-type disproportion, distal arthrogryposes, and Escobar syndrome. We correlate the clinical picture of these diseases with novel (19) and previously reported (31) mutations of the TPM2 and TPM3 genes. Included are altogether 93 families: 53 with TPM2 mutations and 40 with TPM3 mutations. Thirty distinct pathogenic variants of TPM2 and 20 of TPM3 have been published or listed in the Leiden Open Variant Database ( Most are heterozygous changes associated with autosomal-dominant disease. Patients with TPM2 mutations tended to present with milder symptoms than those with TPM3 mutations, DA being present only in the TPM2 group. Previous studies have shown that five of the mutations in TPM2 and one in TPM3 cause increased Ca2+ sensitivity resulting in a hypercontractile molecular phenotype. Patients with hypercontractile phenotype more often had contractures of the limb joints (18/19) and jaw (6/19) than those with nonhypercontractile ones (2/22 and 1/22), whereas patients with the non-hypercontractile molecular phenotype more often (19/22) had axial contractures than the hypercontractile group (7/19). Our in silico predictions show that most mutations affect tropomyosin–actin association or tropomyosin head-to-tail binding.
PMCID: PMC4200603  PMID: 24692096
congenital myopathy; genotype–phenotype correlation; TPM2; TPM3; actin; hypercontractile phenotype
2.  Functional genome-wide siRNA screen identifies KIAA0586 as mutated in Joubert syndrome 
eLife  null;4:e06602.
Defective primary ciliogenesis or cilium stability forms the basis of human ciliopathies, including Joubert syndrome (JS), with defective cerebellar vermis development. We performed a high-content genome-wide small interfering RNA (siRNA) screen to identify genes regulating ciliogenesis as candidates for JS. We analyzed results with a supervised-learning approach, using SYSCILIA gold standard, Cildb3.0, a centriole siRNA screen and the GTex project, identifying 591 likely candidates. Intersection of this data with whole exome results from 145 individuals with unexplained JS identified six families with predominantly compound heterozygous mutations in KIAA0586. A c.428del base deletion in 0.1% of the general population was found in trans with a second mutation in an additional set of 9 of 163 unexplained JS patients. KIAA0586 is an orthologue of chick Talpid3, required for ciliogenesis and Sonic hedgehog signaling. Our results uncover a relatively high frequency cause for JS and contribute a list of candidates for future gene discoveries in ciliopathies.
eLife digest
Joubert syndrome is a rare disorder that affects the brain and causes physical, mental, and sometimes visual impairments. In individuals with this condition, two parts of the brain called the cerebellar vermis and the brainstem do not develop properly. This is thought to be due to defects in the development and maintenance of tiny hair-like structures called cilia, which are found on the surface of cells.
Currently, mutations in 25 different genes are known to be able to cause Joubert syndrome. However, these mutations only account for around 50% of the cases that have been studied, and the ‘unexplained’ cases suggest that mutations in other genes may also cause the disease.
Here, Roosing et al. used a technique called a ‘genome-wide siRNA screen’ to identify other genes regulating the formation of cilia that might also be connected with Joubert syndrome. This approach identified almost 600 candidate genes. The data from the screen were combined with gene sequence data from 145 individuals with unexplained Joubert syndrome. Roosing et al. found that individuals with Joubert syndrome from 15 different families had mutations in a gene called KIAA0586. In chickens and mice, this gene—known as Talpid3—is required for the formation of cilia.
Roosing et al.'s findings reveal a new gene that is involved in Joubert syndrome and also provides a list of candidate genes for future studies of other conditions caused by defects in the formation of cilia. The next challenges are to find out what causes the remaining unexplained cases of the disease and to understand what roles the genes identified in this study play in cilia.
PMCID: PMC4477441  PMID: 26026149
Joubert syndrome; ciliopathy; siRNA; high-content screen; KIAA0586; Talpid3; human
3.  Altered PLP1 splicing causes hypomyelination of early myelinating structures 
The objective of this study was to investigate the genetic etiology of the X-linked disorder “Hypomyelination of Early Myelinating Structures” (HEMS).
We included 16 patients from 10 families diagnosed with HEMS by brain MRI criteria. Exome sequencing was used to search for causal mutations. In silico analysis of effects of the mutations on splicing and RNA folding was performed. In vitro gene splicing was examined in RNA from patients’ fibroblasts and an immortalized immature oligodendrocyte cell line after transfection with mutant minigene splicing constructs.
All patients had unusual hemizygous mutations of PLP1 located in exon 3B (one deletion, one missense and two silent), which is spliced out in isoform DM20, or in intron 3 (five mutations). The deletion led to truncation of PLP1, but not DM20. Four mutations were predicted to affect PLP1/DM20 alternative splicing by creating exonic splicing silencer motifs or new splice donor sites or by affecting the local RNA structure of the PLP1 splice donor site. Four deep intronic mutations were predicted to destabilize a long-distance interaction structure in the secondary PLP1 RNA fragment involved in regulating PLP1/DM20 alternative splicing. Splicing studies in fibroblasts and transfected cells confirmed a decreased PLP1/DM20 ratio.
Brain structures that normally myelinate early are poorly myelinated in HEMS, while they are the best myelinated structures in Pelizaeus–Merzbacher disease, also caused by PLP1 alterations. Our data extend the phenotypic spectrum of PLP1-related disorders indicating that normal PLP1/DM20 alternative splicing is essential for early myelination and support the need to include intron 3 in diagnostic sequencing.
PMCID: PMC4479525  PMID: 26125040
4.  Robotic and clinical evaluation of upper limb motor performance in patients with Friedreich’s Ataxia: an observational study 
Friedreich’s ataxia (FRDA) is the most common hereditary autosomal recessive form of ataxia. In this disease there is early manifestation of gait ataxia, and dysmetria of the arms and legs which causes impairment in daily activities that require fine manual dexterity. To date there is no cure for this disease. Some novel therapeutic approaches are ongoing in different steps of clinical trial. Development of sensitive outcome measures is crucial to prove therapeutic effectiveness. The aim of the study was to assess the reliability and sensitivity of quantitative and objective assessment of upper limb performance computed by means of the robotic device and to evaluate the correlation with clinical and functional markers of the disease severity.
Here we assess upper limb performances by means of the InMotion Arm Robot, a robot designed for clinical neurological applications, in a cohort of 14 children and young adults affected by FRDA, matched for age and gender with 18 healthy subjects. We focused on the analysis of kinematics, accuracy, smoothness, and submovements of the upper limb while reaching movements were performed. The robotic evaluation of upper limb performance consisted of planar reaching movements performed with the robotic system. The motors of the robot were turned off, so that the device worked as a measurement tool. The status of the disease was scored using the Scale for the Assessment and Rating of Ataxia (SARA). Relationships between robotic indices and a range of clinical and disease characteristics were examined.
All our robotic indices were significantly different between the two cohorts except for two, and were highly and reliably discriminative between healthy and subjects with FRDA. In particular, subjects with FRDA exhibited slower movements as well as loss of accuracy and smoothness, which are typical of the disease. Duration of Movement, Normalized Jerk, and Number of Submovements were the best discriminative indices, as they were directly and easily measurable and correlated with the status of the disease, as measured by SARA.
Our results suggest that outcome measures obtained by means of robotic devices can improve the sensitivity of clinical evaluations of patients’ dexterity and can accurately and efficiently quantify changes over time in clinical trials, particularly when functional scales appear to be no longer sensitive.
PMCID: PMC4448881  PMID: 25900021
Friedreich’s ataxia; Robot-mediated evaluation; Scale for the Assessment and Rating of Ataxia; Upper limb; Reaching task; Kinematics; Accuracy; Smoothness; Submovements
5.  Mitochondria fingerprint longevity in iPSCs 
Oncotarget  2015;6(8):5475-5476.
PMCID: PMC4467380  PMID: 25848707
6.  The hyperornithinemia–hyperammonemia-homocitrullinuria syndrome 
Hyperornithinemia-hyperammonemia-homocitrullinuria (HHH) syndrome is a rare autosomal recessive disorder of the urea cycle. HHH has a panethnic distribution, with a major prevalence in Canada, Italy and Japan. Acute clinical signs include intermittent episodes of vomiting, confusion or coma and hepatitis-like attacks. Alternatively, patients show a chronic course with aversion for protein rich foods, developmental delay/intellectual disability, myoclonic seizures, ataxia and pyramidal dysfunction. HHH syndrome is caused by impaired ornithine transport across the inner mitochondrial membrane due to mutations in SLC25A15 gene, which encodes for the mitochondrial ornithine carrier ORC1. The diagnosis relies on clinical signs and the peculiar metabolic triad of hyperammonemia, hyperornithinemia, and urinary excretion of homocitrulline. HHH syndrome enters in the differential diagnosis with other inherited or acquired conditions presenting with hyperammonemia.
A systematic review of publications reporting patients with HHH syndrome was performed.
We retrospectively evaluated the clinical, biochemical and genetic profile of 111 HHH syndrome patients, 109 reported in 61 published articles, and two unpublished cases. Lethargy and coma are frequent at disease onset, whereas pyramidal dysfunction and cognitive/behavioural abnormalities represent the most common clinical features in late-onset cases or during the disease course. Two common mutations, F188del and R179* account respectively for about 30% and 15% of patients with the HHH syndrome. Interestingly, the majority of mutations are located in residues that have side chains protruding into the internal pore of ORC1, suggesting their possible interference with substrate translocation. Acute and chronic management consists in the control of hyperammonemia with protein-restricted diet supplemented with citrulline/arginine and ammonia scavengers. Prognosis of HHH syndrome is variable, ranging from a severe course with disabling manifestations to milder variants compatible with an almost normal life.
This paper provides detailed information on the clinical, metabolic and genetic profiles of all HHH syndrome patients published to date. The clinical phenotype is extremely variable and its severity does not correlate with the genotype or with recorded ammonium/ornithine plasma levels. Early intervention allows almost normal life span but the prognosis is variable, suggesting the need for a better understanding of the still unsolved pathophysiology of the disease.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13023-015-0242-9) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4358699  PMID: 25874378
HHH syndrome; Urea cycle disorders; Hyperammonemia; SLC25A15; ORC1; ORNT1
7.  Long term follow-up to evaluate the efficacy of miglustat treatment in Italian patients with Niemann-Pick disease type C 
Twenty-five patients with Niemann Pick disease type C (age range: 7 months to 44 years) were enrolled in an Italian independent multicenter trial and treated with miglustat for periods from 48 to 96 months.
Based on the age at onset of neurological manifestations patients’ phenotypes were classified as: adult (n = 6), juvenile (n = 9), late infantile (n = 6), early infantile (n = 2). Two patients had an exclusively visceral phenotype. We clinically evaluated patients’ neurological involvement, giving a score of severity ranging from 0 (best) to 3 (worst) for gait abnormalities, dystonia, dysmetria, dysarthria, and developmental delay/cognitive impairment, and from 0 to 4 for dysphagia. We calculated a mean composite severity score transforming the original scores proportionally to range from 0 to 1 to summarize the clinical picture of patients and monitor their clinical course.
We compared the results after 24 months of treatment in 23 patients showing neurological manifestations. Stabilization or improvement of all parameters was observed in the majority of patients. With the exception of developmental delay/cognitive impairment, these results persisted after 48–96 months in 41 – 55% of the patients (dystonia: 55%, dysarthria: 50%, gait abnormalities: 43%, dysmetria: 41%, respectively). After 24 months of therapy the majority of the evaluable patients (n = 20), demonstrated a stabilization or improvement in the ability to swallow four substances of different consistency (water: 65%, purée: 58%, little pasta: 60%, biscuit: 55%). These results persisted after 48–96 months in 40-50% of patients, with the exception of water swallowing. Stabilization or improvement of the composite severity score was detected in the majority (57%) of 7 patients who were treated early (within 3.5 years from onset) and rarely in patients who received treatment later.
The results of this study suggest that miglustat treatment can improve or stabilize neurological manifestations, at least for a period of time; the severity of clinical conditions at the beginning of treatment can influence the rate of disease progression. This conclusion applies particularly to patients with juvenile or adult onset of the disease.
Trial registration
EudraCT number 2006-005842-35
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13023-015-0240-y) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4359492  PMID: 25888393
Niemann-Pick disease type C; NPC; Miglustat; NB-DNJ; Substrate reduction therapy; Treatment; Therapy
8.  Functional and Morphological Improvement of Dystrophic Muscle by Interleukin 6 Receptor Blockade 
EBioMedicine  2015;2(4):285-293.
The anti-inflammatory agents glucocorticoids (GC) are the only available treatment for Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). However, long-term GC treatment causes muscle atrophy and wasting. Thus, targeting specific mediator of inflammatory response may be more specific, more efficacious, and with fewer side effects. The pro-inflammatory cytokine interleukin (IL) 6 is overproduced in patients with DMD and in the muscle of mdx, the animal model for human DMD. We tested the ability of inhibition of IL6 activity, using an interleukin-6 receptor (Il6r) neutralizing antibody, to ameliorate the dystrophic phenotype. Blockade of endogenous Il6r conferred on dystrophic muscle resistance to degeneration and alleviated both morphological and functional consequences of the primary genetic defect. Pharmacological inhibition of IL6 activity leaded to changes in the dystrophic muscle environment, favoring anti-inflammatory responses and improvement in muscle repair. This resulted in a functional homeostatic maintenance of dystrophic muscle.
These data provide an alternative pharmacological strategy for treatment of DMD and circumvent the major problems associated with conventional therapy.
Graphical abstract
•Inhibition of IL6 activity leads to changes in the dystrophic muscle environment.•IL6R neutralizing antibody ameliorates the dystrophic phenotype.•IL6 blockade counters muscle decline in mdx mice.
PMCID: PMC4485902  PMID: 26137572
IL6; Muscular dystrophy; Inflammation; Necrosis; Therapy
9.  Expanding CEP290 mutational spectrum in ciliopathies 
Ciliopathies are an expanding group of rare conditions characterised by multiorgan involvement, that are caused by mutations in genes encoding for proteins of the primary cilium or its apparatus. Among these genes, CEP290 bears an intriguing allelic spectrum, being commonly mutated in Joubert syndrome and related disorders (JSRD), Meckel syndrome (MKS), Senior-Loken syndrome and isolated Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA). Although these conditions are recessively inherited, in a subset of patients only one CEP290 mutation could be detected.
To assess whether genomic rearrangements involving the CEP290 gene could represent a possible mutational mechanism in these cases, exon dosage analysis on genomic DNA was performed in two groups of CEP290 heterozygous patients, including five JSRD/MKS cases and four LCA, respectively. In one JSRD patient, we identified a large heterozygous deletion encompassing CEP290 C-terminus, that resulted in marked reduction of mRNA expression. No copy number alterations were identified in the remaining probands.
The present work expands the CEP290 genotypic spectrum to include multiexon deletions. Although this mechanism does not appear to be frequent, screening for genomic rearrangements should be considered in patients in whom a single CEP290 mutated allele was identified.
PMCID: PMC4340070  PMID: 19764032
Joubert syndrome and related disorders; Meckel syndrome; CEP290; genomic rearrangement
10.  Leiomodin-3 dysfunction results in thin filament disorganization and nemaline myopathy 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2014;124(11):4693-4708.
Nemaline myopathy (NM) is a genetic muscle disorder characterized by muscle dysfunction and electron-dense protein accumulations (nemaline bodies) in myofibers. Pathogenic mutations have been described in 9 genes to date, but the genetic basis remains unknown in many cases. Here, using an approach that combined whole-exome sequencing (WES) and Sanger sequencing, we identified homozygous or compound heterozygous variants in LMOD3 in 21 patients from 14 families with severe, usually lethal, NM. LMOD3 encodes leiomodin-3 (LMOD3), a 65-kDa protein expressed in skeletal and cardiac muscle. LMOD3 was expressed from early stages of muscle differentiation; localized to actin thin filaments, with enrichment near the pointed ends; and had strong actin filament-nucleating activity. Loss of LMOD3 in patient muscle resulted in shortening and disorganization of thin filaments. Knockdown of lmod3 in zebrafish replicated NM-associated functional and pathological phenotypes. Together, these findings indicate that mutations in the gene encoding LMOD3 underlie congenital myopathy and demonstrate that LMOD3 is essential for the organization of sarcomeric thin filaments in skeletal muscle.
PMCID: PMC4347224  PMID: 25250574
12.  A new phenotypic variant in cleidocranial dysplasia (CCD) associated with mutation c.391C>T of the RUNX2 gene 
BMJ Case Reports  2012;2012:bcr1220115422.
The RUNX2 gene is a physiological regulatory gene implicated in the development of cleidocranial dysplasia (CCD). A 13-month-old child presented with clinical features of CCD. At the age of 3 years the diagnosis was corroborated by clinical genetic assessment and DNA analysis, revealing a missense mutation p.R131C (c.391C>T) in RUNX2. At the age of 8 years the child was found to have a unique dental phenotype, represented by lack of supernumerary teeth and congenital absence of one tooth. A simple therapeutic approach was adopted, consisting of interceptive orthodontic treatment. The presence of this specific missense mutation in RUNX2, associated with the lack of typical supernumerary teeth may suggest a phenotype–genotype association.
PMCID: PMC4542990  PMID: 23220435
13.  Natural history of pulmonary function in collagen VI-related myopathies 
Brain  2013;136(12):3625-3633.
The spectrum of clinical phenotypes associated with a deficiency or dysfunction of collagen VI in the extracellular matrix of muscle are collectively termed ‘collagen VI-related myopathies’ and include Ullrich congenital muscular dystrophy, Bethlem myopathy and intermediate phenotypes. To further define the clinical course of these variants, we studied the natural history of pulmonary function in correlation to motor abilities in the collagen VI-related myopathies by analysing longitudinal forced vital capacity data in a large international cohort. Retrospective chart reviews of genetically and/or pathologically confirmed collagen VI-related myopathy patients were performed at 10 neuromuscular centres: USA (n = 2), UK (n = 2), Australia (n = 2), Italy (n = 2), France (n = 1) and Belgium (n = 1). A total of 486 forced vital capacity measurements obtained in 145 patients were available for analysis. Patients at the severe end of the clinical spectrum, conforming to the original description of Ullrich congenital muscular dystrophy were easily identified by severe muscle weakness either preventing ambulation or resulting in an early loss of ambulation, and demonstrated a cumulative decline in forced vital capacity of 2.6% per year (P < 0.0001). Patients with better functional abilities, in whom walking with/without assistance was achieved, were initially combined, containing both intermediate and Bethlem myopathy phenotypes in one group. However, one subset of patients demonstrated a continuous decline in pulmonary function whereas the other had stable pulmonary function. None of the patients with declining pulmonary function attained the ability to hop or run; these patients were categorized as intermediate collagen VI-related myopathy and the remaining patients as Bethlem myopathy. Intermediate patients had a cumulative decline in forced vital capacity of 2.3% per year (P < 0.0001) whereas the relationship between age and forced vital capacity in patients with Bethlem myopathy was not significant (P = 0.1432). Nocturnal non-invasive ventilation was initiated in patients with Ullrich congenital muscular dystrophy by 11.3 years (±4.0) and in patients with intermediate collagen VI-related myopathy by 20.7 years (±1.5). The relationship between maximal motor ability and forced vital capacity was highly significant (P < 0.0001). This study demonstrates that pulmonary function profiles can be used in combination with motor function profiles to stratify collagen VI-related myopathy patients phenotypically. These findings improve our knowledge of the natural history of the collagen VI-related myopathies, enabling proactive optimization of care and preparing this patient population for clinical trials.
PMCID: PMC3859224  PMID: 24271325
collagen VI-related myopathies; natural history; forced vital capacity; optimization of care; outcome measure
14.  Aged iPSCs display an uncommon mitochondrial appearance and fail to undergo in vitro neurogenesis 
Aging (Albany NY)  2014;6(12):1094-1108.
Reprogramming of human fibroblasts into induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) leads to mitochondrial rejuvenation, making iPSCs a candidate model to study the mitochondrial biology during stemness and differentiation. At present, it is generally accepted that iPSCs can be maintained and propagated indefinitely in culture, but no specific studies have addressed this issue. In our study, we investigated features related to the 'biological age' of iPSCs, culturing and analyzing iPSCs kept for prolonged periods in vitro. We have demonstrated that aged iPSCs present an increased number of mitochondria per cell with an altered mitochondrial membrane potential and fail to properly undergo in vitro neurogenesis. In aged iPSCs we have also found an altered expression of genes relevant to mitochondria biogenesis. Overall, our results shed light on the mitochondrial biology of young and aged iPSCs and explore how an altered mitochondrial status may influence neuronal differentiation. Our work suggests to deepen the understanding of the iPSCs biology before considering their use in clinical applications.
PMCID: PMC4298368  PMID: 25567319
induced pluripotent stem cells; mitochondria; stem cell aging; mitochondrial dysfunction; in vitro neurogenesis
15.  Oral-facial-digital syndrome type VI: is C5orf42 really the major gene? 
Human Genetics  2014;134:123-126.
Oral-facial-digital type VI syndrome (OFDVI) is a rare phenotype of Joubert syndrome (JS). Recently, C5orf42 was suggested as the major OFDVI gene, being mutated in 9 of 11 families (82 %). We sequenced C5orf42 in 313 JS probands and identified mutations in 28 (8.9 %), most with a phenotype of pure JS. Only 2 out of 17 OFDVI patients (11.7 %) were mutated. A comparison of mutated vs. non-mutated OFDVI patients showed that preaxial and mesoaxial polydactyly, hypothalamic hamartoma and other congenital defects may predict C5orf42 mutations, while tongue hamartomas are more common in negative patients.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00439-014-1508-3) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4282684  PMID: 25407461
16.  The 6 Minute Walk Test and Performance of Upper Limb in Ambulant Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy Boys 
PLoS Currents  2014;
The Performance of Upper Limb (PUL) test was specifically developed for the assessment of upper limbs in Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). The first published data have shown that early signs of involvement can also be found in ambulant DMD boys. The aim of this longitudinal Italian multicentric study was to evaluate the correlation between the 6 Minute Walk Test (6MWT) and the PUL in ambulant DMD boys. Both 6MWT and PUL were administered to 164 ambulant DMD boys of age between 5.0 and 16.17 years (mean 8.82). The 6 minute walk distance (6MWD) ranged between 118 and 557 (mean: 376.38, SD: 90.59). The PUL total scores ranged between 52 and 74 (mean: 70.74, SD: 4.66). The correlation between the two measures was 0.499. The scores on the PUL largely reflect the overall impairment observed on the 6MWT but the correlation was not linear. The use of the PUL appeared to be less relevant in the very strong patients with 6MWD above 400 meters, who, with few exceptions had near full scores. In patients with lower 6MWD the severity of upper limb involvement was more variable and could not always be predicted by the 6MWD value or by the use of steroids. Our results confirm that upper limb involvement can already be found in DMD boys even in the ambulant phase.
PMCID: PMC4208936  PMID: 25642376
17.  Phenotypic spectrum and prevalence of INPP5E mutations in Joubert Syndrome and related disorders 
European Journal of Human Genetics  2013;21(10):1074-1078.
Joubert syndrome and related disorders (JSRD) are clinically and genetically heterogeneous ciliopathies sharing a peculiar midbrain–hindbrain malformation known as the ‘molar tooth sign'. To date, 19 causative genes have been identified, all coding for proteins of the primary cilium. There is clinical and genetic overlap with other ciliopathies, in particular with Meckel syndrome (MKS), that is allelic to JSRD at nine distinct loci. We previously identified the INPP5E gene as causative of JSRD in seven families linked to the JBTS1 locus, yet the phenotypic spectrum and prevalence of INPP5E mutations in JSRD and MKS remain largely unknown. To address this issue, we performed INPP5E mutation analysis in 483 probands, including 408 JSRD patients representative of all clinical subgroups and 75 MKS fetuses. We identified 12 different mutations in 17 probands from 11 JSRD families, with an overall 2.7% mutation frequency among JSRD. The most common clinical presentation among mutated families (7/11, 64%) was Joubert syndrome with ocular involvement (either progressive retinopathy and/or colobomas), while the remaining cases had pure JS. Kidney, liver and skeletal involvement were not observed. None of the MKS fetuses carried INPP5E mutations, indicating that the two ciliopathies are not allelic at this locus.
PMCID: PMC3778343  PMID: 23386033
INPP5E; Joubert syndrome and related disorders; Meckel syndrome; ciliopathies
18.  Long Term Natural History Data in Ambulant Boys with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy: 36-Month Changes 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(10):e108205.
The 6 minute walk test has been recently chosen as the primary outcome measure in international multicenter clinical trials in Duchenne muscular dystrophy ambulant patients. The aim of the study was to assess the spectrum of changes at 3 years in the individual measures, their correlation with steroid treatment, age and 6 minute walk test values at baseline. Ninety-six patients from 11 centers were assessed at baseline and 12, 24 and 36 months after baseline using the 6 minute walk test and the North Star Ambulatory Assessment. Three boys (3%) lost the ability to perform the 6 minute walk test within 12 months, another 13 between 12 and 24 months (14%) and 11 between 24 and 36 months (12%). The 6 minute walk test showed an average overall decline of −15.8 (SD 77.3) m at 12 months, of −58.9 (SD 125.7) m at 24 months and −104.22 (SD 146.2) m at 36 months. The changes were significantly different in the two baseline age groups and according to the baseline 6 minute walk test values (below and above 350 m) (p<0.001). The changes were also significantly different according to steroid treatment (p = 0.01). Similar findings were found for the North Star Ambulatory Assessment. These are the first 36 month longitudinal data using the 6 minute walk test and North Star Ambulatory Assessment in Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Our findings will help not only to have a better idea of the progression of the disorder but also provide reference data that can be used to compare with the results of the long term extension studies that are becoming available.
PMCID: PMC4182715  PMID: 25271887
19.  Mutations involved in Aicardi-Goutières syndrome implicate SAMHD1 as regulator of the innate immune response 
Nature genetics  2009;41(7):829-832.
Aicardi-Goutières syndrome is a mendelian mimic of congenital infection and also shows overlap with systemic lupus erythematosus at both a clinical and biochemical level. The recent identification of mutations in TREX1 and genes encoding the RNASEH2 complex and studies of the function of TREX1 in DNA metabolism have defined a previously unknown mechanism for the initiation of autoimmunity by interferon-stimulatory nucleic acid. Here we describe mutations in SAMHD1 as the cause of AGS at the AGS5 locus and present data to show that SAMHD1 may act as a negative regulator of the cell-intrinsic antiviral response.
PMCID: PMC4154505  PMID: 19525956
20.  Mutations in ADAR1 cause Aicardi-Goutières syndrome associated with a type I interferon signature 
Nature genetics  2012;44(11):1243-1248.
Adenosine deaminases acting on RNA (ADARs) catalyze the hydrolytic deamination of adenosine to inosine in double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) and thereby potentially alter the information content and structure of cellular RNAs. Notably, although the overwhelming majority of such editing events occur in transcripts derived from Alu repeat elements, the biological function of non-coding RNA editing remains uncertain. Here, we show that mutations in ADAR1 (also known as ADAR) cause the autoimmune disorder Aicardi-Goutières syndrome (AGS). As in Adar1-null mice, the human disease state is associated with upregulation of interferon-stimulated genes, indicating a possible role for ADAR1 as a suppressor of type I interferon signaling. Considering recent insights derived from the study of other AGS-related proteins, we speculate that ADAR1 may limit the cytoplasmic accumulation of the dsRNA generated from genomic repetitive elements.
PMCID: PMC4154508  PMID: 23001123
21.  Affinity proteomics within rare diseases: a BIO-NMD study for blood biomarkers of muscular dystrophies 
EMBO Molecular Medicine  2014;6(7):918-936.
Despite the recent progress in the broad-scaled analysis of proteins in body fluids, there is still a lack in protein profiling approaches for biomarkers of rare diseases. Scarcity of samples is the main obstacle hindering attempts to apply discovery driven protein profiling in rare diseases. We addressed this challenge by combining samples collected within the BIO-NMD consortium from four geographically dispersed clinical sites to identify protein markers associated with muscular dystrophy using an antibody bead array platform with 384 antibodies. Based on concordance in statistical significance and confirmatory results obtained from analysis of both serum and plasma, we identified eleven proteins associated with muscular dystrophy, among which four proteins were elevated in blood from muscular dystrophy patients: carbonic anhydrase III (CA3) and myosin light chain 3 (MYL3), both specifically expressed in slow-twitch muscle fibers and mitochondrial malate dehydrogenase 2 (MDH2) and electron transfer flavoprotein A (ETFA). Using age-matched sub-cohorts, 9 protein profiles correlating with disease progression and severity were identified, which hold promise for the development of new clinical tools for management of dystrophinopathies.
PMCID: PMC4119355  PMID: 24920607
antibody-based proteomics; disease severity biomarkers; Duchenne muscular dystrophy; plasma profilling; protein profiling
22.  Megalencephalic leukoencephalopathy with subcortical cysts protein-1 modulates endosomal pH and protein trafficking in astrocytes: Relevance to MLC disease pathogenesis 
Neurobiology of Disease  2014;66(100):1-18.
Megalencephalic leukoencephalopathy with subcortical cysts (MLC) is a rare leukodystrophy caused by mutations in the gene encoding MLC1, a membrane protein mainly expressed in astrocytes in the central nervous system. Although MLC1 function is unknown, evidence is emerging that it may regulate ion fluxes. Using biochemical and proteomic approaches to identify MLC1 interactors and elucidate MLC1 function we found that MLC1 interacts with the vacuolar ATPase (V-ATPase), the proton pump that regulates endosomal acidity. Because we previously showed that in intracellular organelles MLC1 directly binds Na, K-ATPase, which controls endosomal pH, we studied MLC1 endosomal localization and trafficking and MLC1 effects on endosomal acidity and function using human astrocytoma cells overexpressing wild-type (WT) MLC1 or MLC1 carrying pathological mutations. We found that WT MLC1 is abundantly expressed in early (EEA1+, Rab5+) and recycling (Rab11+) endosomes and uses the latter compartment to traffic to the plasma membrane during hyposmotic stress. We also showed that WT MLC1 limits early endosomal acidification and influences protein trafficking in astrocytoma cells by stimulating protein recycling, as revealed by FITC-dextran measurement of endosomal pH and transferrin protein recycling assay, respectively. WT MLC1 also favors recycling to the plasma-membrane of the TRPV4 cation channel which cooperates with MLC1 to activate calcium influx in astrocytes during hyposmotic stress. Although MLC disease-causing mutations differentially affect MLC1 localization and trafficking, all the mutated proteins fail to influence endosomal pH and protein recycling. This study demonstrates that MLC1 modulates endosomal pH and protein trafficking suggesting that alteration of these processes contributes to MLC pathogenesis.
•We studied MLC1 intracellular expression and trafficking in astrocytes.•MLC1 traffics along early/late endosomes and is subjected to Rab11-mediated recycling.•MLC1 interacts with the V-ATPase and modulates early endosome organelle acidity.•MLC1 accelerates the recycling of transferrin and TRPV4 calcium channel.•Pathological mutations impair MLC1 regulation of organelle acidity and protein recycling.
PMCID: PMC4003525  PMID: 24561067
Leukodystrophy; Early/recycling endosomes; TRPV4; V-ATPase; Na; K-ATPase; Hyposmosis; Calcium; Rab11
23.  Recessive mutations in EPG5 cause Vici syndrome, a multisystem disorder with defective autophagy 
Nature genetics  2012;45(1):83-87.
Vici syndrome is a recessively inherited multisystem disorder characterized by callosal agenesis, cataracts, cardiomyopathy, combined immunodeficiency and hypopigmentation. To investigate the molecular basis of Vici syndrome, we carried out exome and Sanger sequence analysis in a cohort of 18 patients. We identified recessive mutations in EPG5 (previously KIAA1632), indicating a causative role in Vici syndrome. EPG5 is the human homologue of the metazoan-specific autophagy gene epg-5, encoding a key autophagy regulator (ectopic P-granules autophagy protein 5) implicated in the formation of autolysosomes. Further studies demonstrated a severe block of autophagosomal clearance in muscle and fibroblasts from EPG5 mutant patients, resulting in autophagic cargo accumulation in autophagosomes. These findings indicate Vici syndrome as a paradigm of a human multisystem disorder associated with defective autophagy, and suggest a fundamental role of the autophagy pathway in the anatomical and functional formation of organs such as the brain, the heart and the immune system.
PMCID: PMC4012842  PMID: 23222957
24.  Frataxin Silencing Inactivates Mitochondrial Complex I in NSC34 Motoneuronal Cells and Alters Glutathione Homeostasis 
Friedreich’s ataxia (FRDA) is a hereditary neurodegenerative disease characterized by a reduced synthesis of the mitochondrial iron chaperon protein frataxin as a result of a large GAA triplet-repeat expansion within the first intron of the frataxin gene. Despite neurodegeneration being the prominent feature of this pathology involving both the central and the peripheral nervous system, information on the impact of frataxin deficiency in neurons is scant. Here, we describe a neuronal model displaying some major biochemical and morphological features of FRDA. By silencing the mouse NSC34 motor neurons for the frataxin gene with shRNA lentiviral vectors, we generated two cell lines with 40% and 70% residual amounts of frataxin, respectively. Frataxin-deficient cells showed a specific inhibition of mitochondrial Complex I (CI) activity already at 70% residual frataxin levels, whereas the glutathione imbalance progressively increased after silencing. These biochemical defects were associated with the inhibition of cell proliferation and morphological changes at the axonal compartment, both depending on the frataxin amount. Interestingly, at 70% residual frataxin levels, the in vivo treatment with the reduced glutathione revealed a partial rescue of cell proliferation. Thus, NSC34 frataxin silenced cells could be a suitable model to study the effect of frataxin deficiency in neurons and highlight glutathione as a potential beneficial therapeutic target for FRDA.
PMCID: PMC4013596  PMID: 24714088
Friedreich’s ataxia; neurodegeneration; glutathione; oxidative stress; mitochondrial enzymes
25.  Oligophrenin-1 (OPHN1), a Gene Involved in X-Linked Intellectual Disability, Undergoes RNA Editing and Alternative Splicing during Human Brain Development 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e91351.
Oligophrenin-1 (OPHN1) encodes for a Rho-GTPase-activating protein, important for dendritic morphogenesis and synaptic function. Mutations in this gene have been identified in patients with X-linked intellectual disability associated with cerebellar hypoplasia. ADAR enzymes are responsible for A-to-I RNA editing, an essential post-transcriptional RNA modification contributing to transcriptome and proteome diversification. Specifically, ADAR2 activity is essential for brain development and function. Herein, we show that the OPHN1 transcript undergoes post-transcriptional modifications such as A-to-I RNA editing and alternative splicing in human brain and other tissues. We found that OPHN1 editing is detectable already at the 18th week of gestation in human brain with a boost of editing at weeks 20 to 33, concomitantly with OPHN1 expression increase and the appearance of a novel OPHN1 splicing isoform. Our results demonstrate that multiple post-transcriptional events occur on OPHN1, a gene playing an important role in brain function and development.
PMCID: PMC3956665  PMID: 24637888

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