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1.  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
2.  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
induced pluripotent stem cells; mitochondria; stem cell aging; mitochondrial dysfunction; in vitro neurogenesis
3.  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
4.  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
5.  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
6.  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
7.  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
8.  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
9.  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
10.  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
11.  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
12.  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
13.  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
14.  6 Minute Walk Test in Duchenne MD Patients with Different Mutations: 12 Month Changes 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e83400.
In the last few years some of the therapeutical approaches for Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) are specifically targeting distinct groups of mutations, such as deletions eligible for skipping of individual exons. The aim of this observational study was to establish whether patients with distinct groups of mutations have different profiles of changes on the 6 minute walk test (6MWT) over a 12 month period.
The 6MWT was performed in 191 ambulant DMD boys at baseline and 12 months later. The results were analysed using a test for heterogeneity in order to establish possible differences among different types of mutations (deletions, duplications, point mutations) and among subgroups of deletions eligible to skip individual exons.
At baseline the 6MWD ranged between 180 and 560,80 metres (mean 378,06, SD 74,13). The 12 month changes ranged between −325 and 175 (mean −10.8 meters, SD 69.2). Although boys with duplications had better results than those with the other types of mutations, the difference was not significant.
Similarly, boys eligible for skipping of the exon 44 had better baseline results and less drastic changes than those eligible for skipping exon 45 or 53, but the difference was not significant.
even if there are some differences among subgroups, the mean 12 month changes in each subgroup were all within a narrow Range: from the mean of the whole DMD cohort. This information will be of help at the time of designing clinical trials with small numbers of eligible patients.
PMCID: PMC3885414  PMID: 24421885
Translational neuroscience  2013;4(2):10.2478/s13380-013-0118-1.
Astrocytes are the predominant glial cell population in the central nervous system (CNS). Once considered only passive scaffolding elements, astrocytes are now recognised as cells playing essential roles in CNS development and function. They control extracellular water and ion homeostasis, provide substrates for energy metabolism, and regulate neurogenesis, myelination and synaptic transmission. Due to these multiple activities astrocytes have been implicated in almost all brain pathologies, contributing to various aspects of disease initiation, progression and resolution. Evidence is emerging that astrocyte dysfunction can be the direct cause of neurodegeneration, as shown in Alexander’s disease where myelin degeneration is caused by mutations in the gene encoding the astrocyte-specific cytoskeleton protein glial fibrillary acidic protein. Recent studies point to a primary role for astrocytes in the pathogenesis of other genetic leukodystrophies such as megalencephalic leukoencephalopathy with subcortical cysts and vanishing white matter disease. The aim of this review is to summarize current knowledge of the pathophysiological role of astrocytes focusing on their contribution to the development of the above mentioned leukodystrophies and on new perspectives for the treatment of neurological disorders.
PMCID: PMC3856885  PMID: 24340223
Leukodystrophies; Glial cells; Myelin; Ion homeostasis; CNS diseases; Alexander’s disease; Megalencephalic leukoencephalopathy with subcortical cysts (MLC); Vanishing white matter disease
16.  Cardiomyopathy in patients with POMT1-related congenital and limb-girdle muscular dystrophy 
European Journal of Human Genetics  2012;20(12):1234-1239.
Protein-o-mannosyl transferase 1 (POMT1) is a glycosyltransferase involved in α-dystroglycan (α-DG) glycosylation. Clinical phenotype in POMT1-mutated patients ranges from congenital muscular dystrophy (CMD) with structural brain abnormalities, to limb-girdle muscular dystrophy (LGMD) with microcephaly and mental retardation, to mild LGMD. No cardiac involvement has until now been reported in POMT1-mutated patients. We report three patients who harbored compound heterozygous POMT1 mutations and showed left ventricular (LV) dilation and/or decrease in myocardial contractile force: two had a LGMD phenotype with a normal or close-to-normal cognitive profile and one had CMD with mental retardation and normal brain MRI. Reduced or absent α-DG immunolabeling in muscle biopsies were identified in all three patients. Bioinformatic tools were used to study the potential effect of POMT1-detected mutations. All the detected POMT1 mutations were predicted in silico to interfere with protein folding and/or glycosyltransferase function. The report on the patients described here has widened the clinical spectrum associated with POMT1 mutations to include cardiomyopathy. The functional impact of known and novel POMT1 mutations was predicted with a bioinformatics approach, and results were compared with previous in vitro studies of protein-o-mannosylase function.
PMCID: PMC3499746  PMID: 22549409
POMT1; LGMD; CMD; cardiomyopathy; α-dystroglycan glycosylation
18.  Glutathione imbalance in patients with X-linked adrenoleukodystrophy☆ 
Molecular Genetics and Metabolism  2013;109(4):366-370.
X-linked adrenoleukodystrophy (X-ALD) is a genetic disorder of X-linked inheritance caused by a mutation in the ABCD1 gene which determines an accumulation of long-chain fatty acids in plasma and tissues. Recent evidence shows that oxidative stress may be a hallmark in the pathogenesis of X-ALD and glutathione plays an important role in the defense against free radicals. In this study we have analyzed glutathione homeostasis in lymphocytes of 14 patients with X-ALD and evaluated the balance between oxidized and reduced forms of glutathione, in order to define the role of this crucial redox marker in this condition.
Lymphocytes, plasma and erythrocytes were obtained from the whole blood of 14 subjects with X-ALD and in 30 healthy subjects. Total, reduced and protein-bound glutathione levels were measured in lymphocytes by HPLC analysis. Erythrocyte free glutathione and antioxidant enzyme activities, plasma thiols and carbonyl content were determined by spectrophotometric assays.
A significant decrease of total and reduced glutathione was found in lymphocytes of patients, associated to high levels of all oxidized glutathione forms. A decline of free glutathione was particularly significant in erythrocytes. The increased oxidative stress in X-ALD was additionally confirmed by the decrease of plasma thiols and the high level of carbonyls.
Our results strongly support a role for oxidative stress in the pathophysiology of X-ALD and strengthen the importance of the balance among glutathione forms as a hallmark and a potential biomarker of the disease.
•All glutathione forms are abnormal in blood of X-ALD patients.•Abnormal oxidative stress in X-ALD is confirmed by decrease of thiols in plasma.•Abnormal oxidative stress in X-ALD is confirmed by increased carbonyls in plasma.•Glutathione may be considered a redox hallmark/potential biomarker in X-ALD.
PMCID: PMC3732387  PMID: 23768953
Glutathione; X-linked adrenoleukodystrophy (X-ALD); Oxidative stress; Redox markers
19.  Importance of SPP1 genotype as a covariate in clinical trials in Duchenne muscular dystrophy 
Neurology  2012;79(2):159-162.
To test the effect of the single nucleotide polymorphism −66 T>G (rs28357094) in the osteopontin gene (SPP1) on functional measures over 12 months in Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD).
This study was conducted on a cohort of ambulatory patients with DMD from a network of Italian neuromuscular centers, evaluated longitudinally with the North Star Ambulatory Assessment (NSAA) and the 6-Minute Walk Test (6MWT) at study entry and after 12 months. Genotype at rs28357094 was determined after completion of the clinical evaluations. Patients were stratified in 2 groups according to a dominant model (TT homozygotes vs TG heterozygotes and GG homozygotes) and clinical data were retrospectively compared between groups.
Eighty patients were selected (age 4.1–19.3 years; mean 8.3 ± 2.7 SD). There were no differences in age or steroid treatment between the 2 subgroups. Paired t test showed a significant difference in both NSAA (p = 0.013) and 6MWT (p = 0.03) between baseline and follow-up after 12 months in patients with DMD carrying the G allele. The difference was not significant in the T subgroup. The analysis of covariance using age and baseline values as covariate and SPP1 genotype as fixed effect showed that these parameters are significantly correlated with the 12-month values.
These data provide evidence of the role of SPP1 genotype as a disease modifier in DMD and support its relevance in the selection of homogeneous groups of patients for future clinical trials.
PMCID: PMC3390537  PMID: 22744661
20.  Characterization of a rare case of Ullrich congenital muscular dystrophy due to truncating mutations within the COL6A1 gene C-Terminal domain: a case report 
BMC Medical Genetics  2013;14:59.
Mutations within the C-terminal region of the COL6A1 gene are only detected in Ullrich/Bethlem patients on extremely rare occasions.
Case presentation
Herein we report two Brazilian brothers with a classic Ullrich phenotype and compound heterozygous for two truncating mutations in COL6A1 gene, expected to result in the loss of the α1(VI) chain C2 subdomain. Despite the reduction in COL6A1 RNA level due to nonsense RNA decay, three truncated alpha1 (VI) chains were produced as protein variants encoded by different out-of-frame transcripts. Collagen VI matrix was severely decreased and intracellular protein retention evident.
The altered deposition of the fibronectin network highlighted abnormal interactions of the mutated collagen VI, lacking the α1(VI) C2 domain, within the extracellular matrix, focusing further studies on the possible role played by collagen VI in fibronectin deposition and organization.
PMCID: PMC3681647  PMID: 23738969
Ullrich congenital dystrophy; Collagen VI; C-terminal truncating mutations
21.  Mutation Spectrum in the Large GTPase Dynamin 2, and Genotype–Phenotype Correlation in Autosomal Dominant Centronuclear Myopathy 
Human mutation  2012;33(6):949-959.
Centronuclear myopathy (CNM) is a genetically heterogeneous disorder associated with general skeletal muscle weakness, type I fiber predominance and atrophy, and abnormally centralized nuclei. Autosomal dominant CNM is due to mutations in the large GTPase dynamin 2 (DNM2), a mechanochemical enzyme regulating cytoskeleton and membrane trafficking in cells. To date, 40 families with CNM-related DNM2 mutations have been described, and here we report 60 additional families encompassing a broad genotypic and phenotypic spectrum. In total, 18 different mutations are reported in 100 families and our cohort harbors nine known and four new mutations, including the first splice-site mutation. Genotype–phenotype correlation hypotheses are drawn from the published and new data, and allow an efficient screening strategy for molecular diagnosis. In addition to CNM, dissimilar DNM2 mutations are associated with Charcot–Marie–Tooth (CMT) peripheral neuropathy (CMTD1B and CMT2M), suggesting a tissue-specific impact of the mutations. In this study, we discuss the possible clinical overlap of CNM and CMT, and the biological significance of the respective mutations based on the known functions of dynamin 2 and its protein structure. Defects in membrane trafficking due to DNM2 mutations potentially represent a common pathological mechanism in CNM and CMT.
PMCID: PMC3374402  PMID: 22396310
centronuclear myopathy; congenital myopathy; Charcot–Marie–Tooth neuropathy; DNM2; ADCNM; CMTD1B; DI-CMTB; CMT2M; hereditary motor and sensory neuropathy type II; HMSNII; MTM1; myotubular myopathy; BIN1; RYR1; endocytosis
22.  Dandy-Walker malformation and Wisconsin syndrome: novel cases add further insight into the genotype-phenotype correlations of 3q23q25 deletions 
The Dandy-Walker malformation (DWM) is one of the commonest congenital cerebellar defects, and can be associated with multiple congenital anomalies and chromosomal syndromes. The occurrence of overlapping 3q deletions including the ZIC1 and ZIC4 genes in few patients, along with data from mouse models, have implicated both genes in the pathogenesis of DWM.
Methods and results
Using a SNP-array approach, we recently identified three novel patients carrying heterozygous 3q deletions encompassing ZIC1 and ZIC4. Magnetic resonance imaging showed that only two had a typical DWM, while the third did not present any defect of the DWM spectrum. SNP-array analysis in further eleven children diagnosed with DWM failed to identify deletions of ZIC1-ZIC4. The clinical phenotype of the three 3q deleted patients included multiple congenital anomalies and peculiar facial appearance, related to the localization and extension of each deletion. In particular, phenotypes resulted from the variable combination of three recognizable patterns: DWM (with incomplete penetrance); blepharophimosis, ptosis, and epicanthus inversus syndrome; and Wisconsin syndrome (WS), recently mapped to 3q.
Our data indicate that the 3q deletion is a rare defect associated with DWM, and suggest that the hemizygosity of ZIC1-ZIC4 genes is neither necessary nor sufficient per se to cause this condition. Furthermore, based on a detailed comparison of clinical features and molecular data from 3q deleted patients, we propose clinical diagnostic criteria and refine the critical region for WS.
PMCID: PMC3667004  PMID: 23679990
Dandy-Walker malformation; Wisconsin syndrome; 3q deletion; ZIC1-ZIC4 genes
23.  Frataxin Deficiency Leads to Reduced Expression and Impaired Translocation of NF-E2-Related Factor (Nrf2) in Cultured Motor Neurons 
Oxidative stress has been implicated in the pathogenesis of Friedreich’s Ataxia (FRDA), a neurodegenerative disease caused by the decreased expression of frataxin, a mitochondrial protein responsible of iron homeostasis. Under conditions of oxidative stress, the activation of the transcription factor NF-E2-related factor (Nrf2) triggers the antioxidant cellular response by inducing antioxidant response element (ARE) driven genes. Increasing evidence supports a role for the Nrf2-ARE pathway in neurodegenerative diseases. In this study, we analyzed the expression and the distribution of Nrf2 in silenced neurons for frataxin gene. Decreased Nrf2 mRNA content and a defective activation after treatment with pro-oxidants have been evidenced in frataxin-silenced neurons by RT-PCR and confocal microscopy. The loss of Nrf2 in FRDA may greatly enhance the cellular susceptibility to oxidative stress and make FRDA neurons more vulnerable to injury. Our findings may help to focus on this promising target, especially in its emerging role in the neuroprotective response.
PMCID: PMC3645720  PMID: 23574943
FRDA; frataxin; Nrf2; GSSG; oxidative stress; NSC34 neurons
24.  Metabolic consequences of mitochondrial coenzyme A deficiency in patients with PANK2 mutations 
Molecular genetics and metabolism  2011;105(3):463-471.
Pantothenate kinase-associated neurodegeneration (PKAN) is a rare, inborn error of metabolism characterized by iron accumulation in the basal ganglia and by the presence of dystonia, dysarthria, and retinal degeneration. Mutations in pantothenate kinase 2 (PANK2), the rate-limiting enzyme in mitochondrial coenzyme A biosynthesis, represent the most common genetic cause of this disorder. How mutations in this core metabolic enzyme give rise to such a broad clinical spectrum of pathology remains a mystery. To systematically explore its pathogenesis, we performed global metabolic profiling on plasma from a cohort of 14 genetically defined patients and 18 controls. Notably, lactate is elevated in PKAN patients, suggesting dysfunctional mitochondrial metabolism. As predicted, but never previously reported, pantothenate levels are higher in patients with premature stop mutations in PANK2. Global metabolic profiling and follow-up studies in patient-derived fibroblasts also reveal defects in bile acid conjugation and lipid metabolism, pathways that require coenzyme A. These findings raise a novel therapeutic hypothesis, namely, that dietary fats and bile acid supplements may hold potential as disease-modifying interventions. Our study illustrates the value of metabolic profiling as a tool for systematically exploring the biochemical basis of inherited metabolic diseases.
PMCID: PMC3487396  PMID: 22221393
PKAN; coenzyme A; mitochondria; mass spectrometry; cholesterol
25.  Centronuclear myopathy related to dynamin 2 mutations: Clinical, morphological, muscle imaging and genetic features of an Italian cohort 
Neuromuscular Disorders  2013;23(3):229-238.
Mutations in dynamin 2 (DNM2) gene cause autosomal dominant centronuclear myopathy and occur in around 50% of patients with centronuclear myopathy. We report clinical, morphological, muscle imaging and genetic data of 10 unrelated Italian patients with centronuclear myopathy related to DNM2 mutations. Our results confirm the clinical heterogeneity of this disease, underlining some peculiar clinical features, such as severe pulmonary impairment and jaw contracture that should be considered in the clinical follow-up of these patients. Muscle MRI showed a distinct pattern of involvement, with predominant involvement of soleus and tibialis anterior in the lower leg muscles, followed by hamstring muscles and adductor magnus at thigh level and gluteus maximus. The detection of three novel DNM2 mutations and the first case of somatic mosaicism further expand the genetic spectrum of the disease.
PMCID: PMC3594745  PMID: 23394783
DNM2; Centronuclear myopathy; Muscle MRI; ‘Necklace’ fibers; Somatic mosaicism

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