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1.  Defective autophagy in spastizin mutated patients with hereditary spastic paraparesis type 15 
Brain  2013;136(10):3119-3139.
Hereditary spastic paraparesis type 15 is a recessive complicated form of the disease clinically characterized by slowly progressive spastic paraparesis and mental deterioration with onset between the first and second decade of life. Thinning of corpus callosum is the neuroradiological distinctive sign frequently associated with white matter abnormalities. The causative gene, ZFYVE26, encodes a large protein of 2539 amino acid residues, termed spastizin, containing three recognizable domains: a zinc finger, a leucine zipper and a FYVE domain. Spastizin protein has a diffuse cytoplasmic distribution and co-localizes partially with early endosomes, the endoplasmic reticulum, microtubules and vesicles involved in protein trafficking. In addition, spastizin localizes to the mid-body during the final step of mitosis and contributes to successful cytokinesis. Spastizin interacts with Beclin 1, a protein required for cytokinesis and autophagy, which is the major lysosome-mediated degradation process in the cell. In view of the Beclin 1–spastizin interaction, we investigated the possible role of spastizin in autophagy. We carried out this analysis by using lymphoblast and fibroblast cells derived from four different spastizin mutated patients (p.I508N, p.L243P, p.R1209fsX, p.S1312X) and from control subjects. Of note, the truncating p.R1209fsX and p.S1312X mutations lead to loss of spastizin protein. The results obtained indicate that spastizin interacts with the autophagy related Beclin 1–UVRAG–Rubicon multiprotein complex and is required for autophagosome maturation. In cells lacking spastizin or with mutated forms of the protein, spastizin interaction with Beclin 1 is lost although the formation of the Beclin 1–UVRAG–Rubicon complex can still be observed. However, in these cells we demonstrate an impairment of autophagosome maturation and an accumulation of immature autophagosomes. Autophagy defects with autophagosome accumulation can be observed also in neuronal cells upon spastizin silencing. These results indicate that autophagy is a central process in the pathogenesis of complicated forms of hereditary spastic paraparesis with thin corpus callosum.
PMCID: PMC3784282  PMID: 24030950
spastizin; autophagy; Beclin 1; autophagosome maturation; SPG15
2.  Genotype-phenotype correlation in Pompe disease, a step forward 
Pompe’s disease is a progressive myopathy caused by mutations in the lysosomal enzyme acid alphaglucosidase gene (GAA). A wide clinical variability occurs also in patients sharing the same GAA mutations, even within the same family.
For a large series of GSDII patients we collected some clinical data as age of onset of the disease, presence or absence of muscular pain, Walton score, 6-Minute Walking Test, Vital Capacity, and Creatine Kinase. DNA was extracted and tested for GAA mutations and some genetic polymorphisms able to influence muscle properties (ACE, ACTN3, AGT and PPARα genes).
We compared the polymorphisms analyzed in groups of patients with Pompe disease clustered for their homogeneous genotype.
We have been able to identify four subgroups of patients completely homogeneous for their genotype, and two groups homogeneous as far as the second mutation is defined “very severe” or “potentially less severe”. When disease free life was studied we observed a high significant difference between groups. The DD genotype in the ACE gene and the XX genotype in the ACTN3 gene were significantly associated to an earlier age of onset of the disease. The ACE DD genotype was also associated to the presence of muscle pain.
We demonstrate that ACE and ACTN3 polymorphisms are genetic factors able to modulate the clinical phenotype of patients affected with Pompe disease.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13023-014-0102-z) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4249737  PMID: 25103075
Glycogen storage disease type II; Genetic polymorphisms; Modifier genes; GAA; ACE; ACTN3
3.  Distinct disease phenotypes linked to different combinations of GAA mutations in a large late-onset GSDII sibship 
Glycogenosis type II (GSDII or Pompe disease) is an autosomal recessive disease, often characterized by a progressive accumulation of glycogen within lysosomes caused by a deficiency of α-1,4-glucosidase (GAA; acid maltase), a key enzyme of the glycogen degradation pathway. To date, more than 326 different mutations in the GAA gene have been identified in patients with GSDII but the course of the disease is difficult to be predicted on the basis of molecular genetic changes. Studies on large informative families are advisable to better define how genetics and non genetics factors like exercise and diet may influence the clinical phenotype.
Methods and results
In this study, we report on clinical, instrumental, and pathological features as well as on molecular analysis of a family with 10 out of 13 siblings affected by late-onset Pompe disease. Three mutations segregated in the family, two of which are novel mutations. Siblings showing a more severe phenotype were compound heterozygous for c.118C > T [p.R40X] and c.2647-7G > A [p.N882fs] on GAA, whereas, two patients showing a mild phenotype were compound heterozygous c.2647-7G > A [p.N882fs] and c.2276G > C [p.G759A] mutations. Quantitative expression analysis showed, in the patients carrying p.R40X/ p.N882fs, a significant (p 0.01) correlation between the levels of expression of the mutated allele and the age at onset of the disease.
As far as we know, this is the largest informative family with late-onset Pompe disease described in the literature showing a peculiar complex set of mutations of GAA gene that may partially elucidate the clinical heterogeneity of this family.
PMCID: PMC3851825  PMID: 24107549
Pompe disease; GAA gene; Mutation analysis; Genotype-phenotype correlations
5.  The empowerment of translational research: lessons from laminopathies 
The need for a collaborative approach to complex inherited diseases collectively referred to as laminopathies, encouraged Italian researchers, geneticists, physicians and patients to join in the Italian Network for Laminopathies, in 2009. Here, we highlight the advantages and added value of such a multidisciplinary effort to understand pathogenesis, clinical aspects and try to find a cure for Emery-Dreifuss muscular dystrophy, Mandibuloacral dysplasia, Hutchinson-Gilford Progeria and forms of lamin-linked cardiomyopathy, neuropathy and lipodystrophy.
PMCID: PMC3458975  PMID: 22691392
Laminopathies; Emery-Dreifuss Muscular Dystrophy; Dilated Cardiomyopathy with Conduction Defects; Mandibuloacral Dysplasia; Familial Partial Lipodystrophy Type 2; Hutchinson-Gilford Progeria Syndrome; Rare Diseases; Networking activity; interdisciplinary approach to diseases
8.  Enterococcal meningitis caused by Enterococcus casseliflavus. First case report 
Enterococcal meningitis is an uncommon disease usually caused by Enterococcus faecalis and Enterococcus faecium and is associated with a high mortality rate. Enterococcus casseliflavus has been implicated in a wide variety of infections in humans, but never in meningitis.
Case presentation
A 77-year-old Italian female presented for evaluation of fever, stupor, diarrhea and vomiting of 3 days duration. There was no history of head injury nor of previous surgical procedures. She had been suffering from rheumatoid arthritis for 30 years, for which she was being treated with steroids and methotrexate. On admission, she was febrile, alert but not oriented to time and place. Her neck was stiff, and she had a positive Kernig's sign. The patient's cerebrospinal fluid was opalescent with a glucose concentration of 14 mg/dl, a protein level of 472 mg/dl, and a white cell count of 200/μL with 95% polymorphonuclear leukocytes and 5% lymphocytes. Gram staining of CSF revealed no organisms, culture yielded E. casseliflavus. The patient was successfully treated with meropenem and ampicillin-sulbactam.
E. casseliflavus can be inserted among the etiologic agents of meningitis. Awareness of infection of central nervous system with Enterococcus species that possess an intrinsic vancomycin resistance should be increased.
PMCID: PMC547911  PMID: 15649336

Results 1-9 (9)