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1.  Germline BRAF mutations in Noonan, LEOPARD and cardiofaciocutaneous syndromes: molecular diversity and associated phenotypic spectrum 
Human mutation  2009;30(4):695-702.
Noonan, LEOPARD and cardiofaciocutaneous syndromes (NS, LS and CFCS) are developmental disorders with overlapping features including distinctive facial dysmorphia, reduced growth, cardiac defects, skeletal and ectodermal anomalies, and variable cognitive deficits. Dysregulated RAS-mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signal traffic has been established to represent the molecular pathogenic cause underlying these conditions. To investigate the phenotypic spectrum and molecular diversity of germline mutations affecting BRAF, which encodes a serine/threonine kinase functioning as a RAS effector frequently mutated in CFCS, subjects with a diagnosis of NS (N= 270), LS (N= 6) and CFCS (N= 33), and no mutation in PTPN11, SOS1, KRAS, RAF1, MEK1 or MEK2, were screened for the entire coding sequence of the gene. Besides the expected high prevalence of mutations observed among CFCS patients (52%), a de novo heterozygous missense change was identified in one subject with LS (17%) and 5 individuals with NS (1.9%). Mutations mapped to multiple protein domains and largely did not overlap with cancer-associated defects. NS-causing mutations had not been documented in CFCS, suggesting that the phenotypes arising from germline BRAF defects might be allele specific. Selected mutant BRAF proteins promoted variable gain of function of the kinase, but appeared less activating compared than the recurrent cancer-associated p.Val600Glu mutant. Our findings provide evidence for a wide phenotypic diversity associated with mutations affecting BRAF, and occurrence of a clinical continuum associated with these molecular lesions.
doi:10.1002/humu.20955
PMCID: PMC4028130  PMID: 19206169
Noonan syndrome; LEOPARD syndrome; cardiofaciocutaneous syndrome; BRAF; CFCS; mutation analysis; genotype-phenotype correlation; functional studies
2.  Oxidative Stress and Erythrocyte Membrane Alterations in Children with Autism: Correlation with Clinical Features 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e66418.
It has been suggested that oxidative stress may play a role in the pathogenesis of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), but the literature reports somewhat contradictory results. To further investigate the issue, we evaluated a high number of peripheral oxidative stress parameters, and some related issues such as erythrocyte membrane functional features and lipid composition. Twenty-one autistic children (Au) aged 5 to 12 years, were gender and age-matched with 20 typically developing children (TD). Erythrocyte thiobarbituric acid reactive substances, urinary isoprostane and hexanoyl-lysine adduct levels were elevated in Au, thus confirming the occurrence of an imbalance of the redox status of Au, whilst other oxidative stress markers or associated parameters (urinary 8-oxo-dG, plasma radical absorbance capacity and carbonyl groups, erythrocyte superoxide dismutase and catalase activities) were unchanged. A very significant reduction of Na+/K+-ATPase activity (−66%, p<0.0001), a reduction of erythrocyte membrane fluidity and alteration in erythrocyte fatty acid membrane profile (increase in monounsaturated fatty acids, decrease in EPA and DHA-ω3 with a consequent increase in ω6/ω3 ratio) were found in Au compared to TD, without change in membrane sialic acid content. Some Au clinical features appear to be correlated with these findings; in particular, hyperactivity score appears to be related with some parameters of the lipidomic profile and membrane fluidity. Oxidative stress and erythrocyte membrane alterations may play a role in the pathogenesis of ASD and prompt the development of palliative therapeutic protocols. Moreover, the marked decrease in NKA could be potentially utilized as a peripheral biomarker of ASD.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0066418
PMCID: PMC3686873  PMID: 23840462
3.  SOS1 mutations in Noonan syndrome: molecular spectrum, structural insights on pathogenic effects, and genotype-phenotype correlations 
Human mutation  2011;32(7):760-772.
Noonan syndrome (NS) is among the most common non-chromosomal disorders affecting development and growth. NS is caused by aberrant RAS-MAPK signaling and is genetically heterogeneous, which explains, in part, the marked clinical variability documented for this Mendelian trait. Recently, we and others identified SOS1 as a major gene underlying NS. Here, we explored further the spectrum of SOS1 mutations and their associated phenotypic features. Mutation scanning of the entire SOS1 coding sequence allowed the identification of 30 different variants deemed to be of pathological significance, including 13 novel missense changes and in-frame indels. Various mutation clusters destabilizing or altering orientation of regions of the protein predicted to contribute structurally to the maintenance of autoinhibition were identified. Two previously unappreciated clusters predicted to enhance SOS1's recruitment to the plasma membrane, thus promoting a spatial reorientation of domains contributing to inhibition, were also recognized. Genotype-phenotype analysis confirmed our previous observations, establishing a high frequency of ectodermal anomalies and a low prevalence of cognitive impairment and reduced growth. Finally, mutation analysis performed on cohorts of individuals with nonsyndromic pulmonic stenosis, atrial septal defects and ventricular septal defects excluded a major contribution of germline SOS1 lesions to the isolated occurrence of these cardiac anomalies.
doi:10.1002/humu.21492
PMCID: PMC3118925  PMID: 21387466
Noonan syndrome; NS; SOS1; mutation analysis; structural analysis; genotype-phenotype correlations
4.  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.
doi:10.1186/1750-1172-7-37
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
5.  Transcriptional Hallmarks of Noonan Syndrome and Noonan-Like Syndrome with Loose Anagen Hair 
Human Mutation  2012;33(4):703-709.
Noonan syndrome (NS) is among the most common nonchromosomal disorders affecting development and growth. NS is genetically heterogeneous, being caused by germline mutations affecting various genes implicated in the RAS signaling network. This network transduces extracellular signals into intracellular biochemical and transcriptional responses controlling cell proliferation, differentiation, metabolism, and senescence. To explore the transcriptional consequences of NS-causing mutations, we performed global mRNA expression profiling on peripheral blood mononuclear cells obtained from 23 NS patients carrying heterozygous mutations in PTPN11 or SOS1. Gene expression profiling was also resolved in five subjects with Noonan-like syndrome with loose anagen hair (NS/LAH), a condition clinically related to NS and caused by an invariant mutation in SHOC2. Robust transcriptional signatures were found to specifically discriminate each of the three mutation groups from 21 age- and sex-matched controls. Despite the only partial overlap in terms of gene composition, the three signatures showed a notable concordance in terms of biological processes and regulatory circuits affected. These data establish expression profiling of peripheral blood mononuclear cells as a powerful tool to appreciate differential perturbations driven by germline mutations of transducers involved in RAS signaling and to dissect molecular mechanisms underlying NS and other RASopathies. Hum Mutat 33:703–709, 2012. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
doi:10.1002/humu.22026
PMCID: PMC3332054  PMID: 22253195
Noonan syndrome; RASopathies; PTPN11; SOS1; SHOC2
6.  A restricted spectrum of NRAS mutations causes Noonan syndrome 
Nature genetics  2009;42(1):27-29.
Noonan syndrome, a developmental disorder characterized by congenital heart defects, reduced growth, facial dysmorphism and variable cognitive deficits, is caused by constitutional dysregulation of the RAS-MAPK signaling pathway. Here we report that germline NRAS mutations conferring enhanced stimulus-dependent MAPK activation account for some cases of this disorder. These findings provide evidence for an obligate dependency on proper NRAS function in human development and growth.
doi:10.1038/ng.497
PMCID: PMC3118669  PMID: 19966803
7.  Mutation in SHOC2 promotes aberrant protein N-myristoylation and underlies Noonan-like syndrome with loose anagen hair 
Nature genetics  2009;41(9):1022-1026.
N-myristoylation is a common form of co-translational protein fatty acylation resulting from the attachment of myristate to a required N-terminal glycine residue.1,2 We show that aberrantly acquired N-myristoylation of SHOC2, a leucine-rich repeat-containing protein that positively modulates RAS-MAPK signal flow,3–6 underlies a clinically distinctive condition of the neuro-cardio-facial-cutaneous disorders family. Twenty-five subjects with a relatively consistent phenotype previously termed Noonan-like syndrome with loose anagen hair [OMIM 607721]7 shared the 4A>G missense change (Ser2Gly) in SHOC2 that introduces an N-myristoylation site, resulting in aberrant targeting of SHOC2 to the plasma membrane and impaired translocation to the nucleus upon growth factor stimulation. Expression of SHOC2S2G in vitro enhanced MAPK activation in a cell type-specific fashion. Induction of SHOC2S2G in Caenorhabditis elegans engendered protruding vulva, a neomorphic phenotype previously associated with aberrant signaling. These results document the first example of an acquired N-terminal lipid modification of a protein causing human disease.
doi:10.1038/ng.425
PMCID: PMC2765465  PMID: 19684605
8.  SOS1 Mutations in Noonan Syndrome: Molecular Spectrum, Structural Insights on Pathogenic Effects, and Genotype–Phenotype Correlations 
Human Mutation  2011;32(7):760-772.
Noonan syndrome (NS) is among the most common nonchromosomal disorders affecting development and growth. NS is caused by aberrant RAS-MAPK signaling and is genetically heterogeneous, which explains, in part, the marked clinical variability documented for this Mendelian trait. Recently, we and others identified SOS1 as a major gene underlying NS. Here, we explored further the spectrum of SOS1 mutations and their associated phenotypic features. Mutation scanning of the entire SOS1 coding sequence allowed the identification of 33 different variants deemed to be of pathological significance, including 16 novel missense changes and in-frame indels. Various mutation clusters destabilizing or altering orientation of regions of the protein predicted to contribute structurally to the maintenance of autoinhibition were identified. Two previously unappreciated clusters predicted to enhance SOS1's recruitment to the plasma membrane, thus promoting a spatial reorientation of domains contributing to inhibition, were also recognized. Genotype–phenotype analysis confirmed our previous observations, establishing a high frequency of ectodermal anomalies and a low prevalence of cognitive impairment and reduced growth. Finally, mutation analysis performed on cohorts of individuals with nonsyndromic pulmonic stenosis, atrial septal defects, and ventricular septal defects excluded a major contribution of germline SOS1 lesions to the isolated occurrence of these cardiac anomalies. Hum Mutat 32:760–772, 2011. © 2011 Wiley-Liss, Inc.
doi:10.1002/humu.21492
PMCID: PMC3118925  PMID: 21387466
Noonan syndrome; NS; SOS1; mutation analysis; structural analysis; genotype–phenotype correlations
9.  Loss of function of the E3 ubiquitin-protein ligase UBE3B causes Kaufman oculocerebrofacial syndrome 
Journal of Medical Genetics  2013;50(8):493-499.
Background
Kaufman oculocerebrofacial syndrome (KOS) is a developmental disorder characterised by reduced growth, microcephaly, ocular anomalies (microcornea, strabismus, myopia, and pale optic disk), distinctive facial features (narrow palpebral fissures, telecanthus, sparse and laterally broad eyebrows, preauricular tags, and micrognathia), mental retardation, and generalised hypotonia. KOS is a rare, possibly underestimated condition, with fewer than 10 cases reported to date. Here we investigate the molecular cause underlying KOS.
Methods
An exome sequencing approach was used on a single affected individual of an Italian consanguineous family coupled with mutation scanning using Sanger sequencing on a second unrelated subject with clinical features fitting the disorder.
Results
Exome sequencing was able to identify homozygosity for a novel truncating mutation (c.556C>T, p.Arg186stop) in UBE3B, which encodes a widely expressed HECT (homologous to the E6-AP carboxyl terminus) domain E3 ubiquitin-protein ligase. Homozygosity for a different nonsense lesion affecting the gene (c.1166G>A, p.Trp389stop) was documented in the second affected subject, supporting the recessive mode of inheritance of the disorder. Mutation scanning of the entire UBE3B coding sequence on a selected cohort of subjects with features overlapping, in part, those recurring in KOS did not reveal disease-causing mutations, suggesting phenotypic homogeneity of UBE3B lesions.
Discussion
Our data provide evidence that KOS is caused by UBE3B loss of function, and further demonstrate the impact of misregulation of protein ubiquitination on development and growth. The available clinical records, including those referring to four UBE3B mutation-positive subjects recently described as belonging to a previously unreported entity, which fits KOS, document the clinical homogeneity of this disorder.
doi:10.1136/jmedgenet-2012-101405
PMCID: PMC3717725  PMID: 23687348
Clinical genetics; Developmental; Diagnosis; Genome-wide; Molecular genetics

Results 1-9 (9)