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1.  Cytogenetic and molecular characterization of a recombinant X chromosome in a family with a severe neurologic phenotype and macular degeneration 
Duplications of MECP2 gene in males cause a syndrome characterized by distinctive clinical features, including severe to profound mental retardation, infantile hypotonia, mild dysmorphic features, poor speech development, autistic features, seizures, progressive spasticity and recurrent infections. Patients with complex chromosome rearrangements, leading to Xq28 duplication, share most of the clinical features of individuals with tandem duplications, in particular neurologic problems, suggesting a major pathogenetic role of MECP2 overexpression.
We performed cytogenetic and molecular cytogenetic studies in a previously described family with affected males showing congenital ataxia, late-onset progressive myoclonic encephalopathy and selective macular degeneration. Microsatellite, FISH and array-CGH analyses identified a recombinant X chromosome with a deletion of the PAR1 region, encompassing SHOX, replaced by a duplicated segment of the Xq28 terminal portion, including MECP2.
Our report describes the identification of the actual genetic cause underlying a severe syndrome that previous preliminary analyses erroneously associated to a terminal Xp22.33 region. In the present family as well as in previously reported patients with similar rearrangements, the observed neurologic phenotype is ascribable to MECP2 duplication, with an undefined contribution of the other involved genes. Maculopathy, presented by affected males reported here, could be a novel clinical feature associated to Xq28 disomy due to recombinant X chromosomes, but at present the underlying pathogenetic mechanism is unknown and this potential clinical correlation should be confirmed through the collection of additional patients.
PMCID: PMC4522089
MECP2 duplication; Xq28 disomy; Recombinant X chromosome; Macular degeneration
2.  Characterization and identification of hidden rare variants in the human genome 
BMC Genomics  2015;16(1):340.
By examining the genotype calls generated by the 1000 Genomes Project we discovered that the human reference genome GRCh37 contains almost 20,000 loci in which the reference allele has never been observed in healthy individuals and around 70,000 loci in which it has been observed only in the heterozygous state.
We show that a large fraction of this rare reference allele (RRA) loci belongs to coding, functional and regulatory elements of the genome and could be linked to rare Mendelian disorders as well as cancer. We also demonstrate that classical germline and somatic variant calling tools are not capable to recognize the rare allele when present in these loci. To overcome such limitations, we developed a novel tool, named RAREVATOR, that is able to identify and call the rare allele in these genomic positions. By using a small cancer dataset we compared our tool with two state-of-the-art callers and we found that RAREVATOR identified more than 1,500 germline and 22 somatic RRA variants missed by the two methods and which belong to significantly mutated pathways.
These results show that, to date, the investigation of around 100,000 loci of the human genome has been missed by re-sequencing experiments based on the GRCh37 assembly and that our tool can fill the gap left by other methods. Moreover, the investigation of the latest version of the human reference genome, GRCh38, showed that although the GRC corrected almost all insertions and a small part of SNVs and deletions, a large number of functionally relevant RRAs still remain unchanged. For this reason, also future resequencing experiments, based on GRCh38, will benefit from RAREVATOR analysis results. RAREVATOR is freely available at
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12864-015-1481-9) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4416239  PMID: 25903059
3.  A mutation screening of oncogenes, tumor suppressor gene TP53 and nuclear encoded mitochondrial complex I genes in oncocytic thyroid tumors 
BMC Cancer  2015;15:157.
Thyroid neoplasias with oncocytic features represent a specific phenotype in non-medullary thyroid cancer, reflecting the unique biological phenomenon of mitochondrial hyperplasia in the cytoplasm. Oncocytic thyroid cells are characterized by a prominent eosinophilia (or oxyphilia) caused by mitochondrial abundance. Although disruptive mutations in the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) are the most significant hallmark of such tumors, oncocytomas may be envisioned as heterogeneous neoplasms, characterized by multiple nuclear and mitochondrial gene lesions. We investigated the nuclear mutational profile of oncocytic tumors to pinpoint the mutations that may trigger the early oncogenic hit.
Total DNA was extracted from paraffin-embedded tissues from 45 biopsies of oncocytic tumors. High-resolution melting was used for mutation screening of mitochondrial complex I subunits genes. Specific nuclear rearrangements were investigated by RT-PCR (RET/PTC) or on isolated nuclei by interphase FISH (PAX8/PPARγ). Recurrent point mutations were analyzed by direct sequencing.
In our oncocytic tumor samples, we identified rare TP53 mutations. The series of analyzed cases did not include poorly- or undifferentiated thyroid carcinomas, and none of the TP53 mutated cases had significant mitotic activity or high-grade features. Thus, the presence of disruptive TP53 mutations was completely unexpected. In addition, novel mutations in nuclear-encoded complex I genes were identified.
These findings suggest that nuclear genetic lesions altering the bioenergetics competence of thyroid cells may give rise to an aberrant mitochondria-centered compensatory mechanism and ultimately to the oncocytic phenotype.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12885-015-1122-3) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4374372  PMID: 25880213
Oncocytic carcinoma; Nuclear mitochondrial complex I subunits; Oncogene mutation analysis
5.  Single gene microdeletions and microduplication of 3p26.3 in three unrelated families: CNTN6 as a new candidate gene for intellectual disability 
Detection of submicroscopic chromosomal alterations in patients with a idiopathic intellectual disability (ID) allows significant improvement in delineation of the regions of the genome that are associated with brain development and function. However, these chromosomal regions usually contain several protein-coding genes and regulatory elements, complicating the understanding of genotype-phenotype correlations. We report two siblings with ID and an unrelated patient with atypical autism who had 3p26.3 microdeletions and one intellectually disabled patient with a 3p26.3 microduplication encompassing only the CNTN6 gene.
Two 295.1-kb microdeletions and one 766.1-kb microduplication of 3p26.3 involving a single gene, CNTN6, were identified with an Agilent 60K array. Another 271.9-kb microdeletion of 3p26.3 was detected using an Affymetrix CytoScan HD chromosome microarray platform. The CHL1 and CNTN4 genes, although adjacent to the CNTN6 gene, were not affected in either of these patients.
The protein encoded by CNTN6 is a member of the immunoglobulin superfamily and functions as a cell adhesion molecule that is involved in the formation of axon connections in the developing nervous system. Our results indicate that CNTN6 may be a candidate gene for ID.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13039-014-0097-0) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4299808  PMID: 25606055
Intellectual disability; 3p26.3 microdeletion; 3p26.3 microduplication; CNTN6; Reciprocal microdeletions/microduplications
7.  The homozygosity index (HI) approach reveals high allele frequency for Wilson disease in the Sardinian population 
European Journal of Human Genetics  2013;21(11):1308-1311.
Wilson disease (WD) is an autosomal recessive disorder resulting in pathological progressive copper accumulation in liver and other tissues. The worldwide prevalence (P) is about 30/million, while in Sardinia it is in the order of 1/10 000. However, all of these estimates are likely to suffer from an underdiagnosis bias. Indeed, a recent molecular neonatal screening in Sardinia reported a WD prevalence of 1:2707. In this study, we used a new approach that makes it possible to estimate the allelic frequency (q) of an autosomal recessive disorder if one knows the proportion between homozygous and compound heterozygous patients (the homozygosity index or HI) and the inbreeding coefficient (F) in a sample of affected individuals. We applied the method to a set of 178 Sardinian individuals (3 of whom born to consanguineous parents), each with a clinical and molecular diagnosis of WD. Taking into account the geographical provenance of the parents of every patient within Sardinia (to make F computation more precise), we obtained a q=0.0191 (F=7.8 × 10−4, HI=0.476) and a corresponding prevalence P=1:2732. This result confirms that the prevalence of WD is largely underestimated in Sardinia. On the other hand, the general reliability and applicability of the HI approach to other autosomal recessive disorders is confirmed, especially if one is interested in the genetic epidemiology of populations with high frequency of consanguineous marriages.
PMCID: PMC3798848  PMID: 23486543
Wilson disease; genetic epidemiology; consanguinity; homozygosity index
8.  Mitogenomes of Polar Bodies and Corresponding Oocytes 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(7):e102182.
The objective of the present study was to develop an approach that could assess the chromosomal status and the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) content of oocytes and their corresponding polar bodies (PBs) with the goal of obtaining a comparative picture of the segregation process both for nuclear and mtDNA. After Whole Genome Amplification (WGA), sequencing of the whole mitochondrial genome was attempted to analyze the segregation of mutant and wild-type mtDNA during human meiosis. Three triads, composed of oocyte and corresponding PBs, were analyzed and their chromosome status was successfully assessed. The complete mitochondrial genome (mitogenome) was almost entirely sequenced in the oocytes (95.99% compared to 98.43% in blood), while the percentage of sequences obtained in the corresponding PB1 and PB2 was lower (69.70% and 69.04% respectively). The comparison with the mtDNA sequence in blood revealed no changes in the D-loop region for any of the cells of each triad. In the coding region of blood mtDNA and oocyte mtDNA sequences showed full correspondence, whereas all PBs had at least one change with respect to the blood-oocyte pairs. In all, 9 changes were found, either in PB1 or PB2: 4 in MT-ND5, 2 in MT-RNR2, and 1 each in MT-ATP8, MT-ND4, MT-CYTB. The full concordance between oocyte and blood in the 3 triads, and the relegation of changes to PBs, revealed the unexpected coexistence of different variants, giving a refined estimation of mitochondrial heteroplasmy. Should these findings be confirmed by additional data, an active mechanism could be postulated in the oocyte to preserve a condition of ‘normality’.
PMCID: PMC4102503  PMID: 25032828
9.  Maternally inherited genetic variants of CADPS2 are present in Autism Spectrum Disorders and Intellectual Disability patients 
EMBO Molecular Medicine  2014;6(6):795-809.
Intellectual disability (ID) and autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are complex neuropsychiatric conditions, with overlapping clinical boundaries in many patients. We identified a novel intragenic deletion of maternal origin in two siblings with mild ID and epilepsy in the CADPS2 gene, encoding for a synaptic protein involved in neurotrophin release and interaction with dopamine receptor type 2 (D2DR). Mutation screening of 223 additional patients (187 with ASD and 36 with ID) identified a missense change of maternal origin disrupting CADPS2/D2DR interaction. CADPS2 allelic expression was tested in blood and different adult human brain regions, revealing that the gene was monoallelically expressed in blood and amygdala, and the expressed allele was the one of maternal origin. Cadps2 gene expression performed in mice at different developmental stages was biallelic in the postnatal and adult stages; however, a monoallelic (maternal) expression was detected in the embryonal stage, suggesting that CADPS2 is subjected to tissue- and temporal-specific regulation in human and mice. We suggest that CADPS2 variants may contribute to ID/ASD development, possibly through a parent-of-origin effect.
PMCID: PMC4203356  PMID: 24737869
autism spectrum disorders; CADPS2; intellectual disability; monoallelic expression; mutation screening
10.  The KIT Gene Is Associated with the English Spotting Coat Color Locus and Congenital Megacolon in Checkered Giant Rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(4):e93750.
The English spotting coat color locus in rabbits, also known as Dominant white spotting locus, is determined by an incompletely dominant allele (En). Rabbits homozygous for the recessive wild-type allele (en/en) are self-colored, heterozygous En/en rabbits are normally spotted, and homozygous En/En animals are almost completely white. Compared to vital en/en and En/en rabbits, En/En animals are subvital because of a dilated (“mega”) cecum and ascending colon. In this study, we investigated the role of the KIT gene as a candidate for the English spotting locus in Checkered Giant rabbits and characterized the abnormalities affecting enteric neurons and c-kit positive interstitial cells of Cajal (ICC) in the megacolon of En/En rabbits. Twenty-one litters were obtained by crossing three Checkered Giant bucks (En/en) with nine Checkered Giant (En/en) and two en/en does, producing a total of 138 F1 and backcrossed rabbits. Resequencing all coding exons and portions of non-coding regions of the KIT gene in 28 rabbits of different breeds identified 98 polymorphisms. A single nucleotide polymorphism genotyped in all F1 families showed complete cosegregation with the English spotting coat color phenotype (θ = 0.00 LOD  = 75.56). KIT gene expression in cecum and colon specimens of En/En (pathological) rabbits was 5–10% of that of en/en (control) rabbits. En/En rabbits showed reduced and altered c-kit immunolabelled ICC compared to en/en controls. Morphometric data on whole mounts of the ascending colon showed a significant decrease of HuC/D (P<0.05) and substance P (P<0.01) immunoreactive neurons in En/En vs. en/en. Electron microscopy analysis showed neuronal and ICC abnormalities in En/En tissues. The En/En rabbit model shows neuro-ICC changes reminiscent of the human non-aganglionic megacolon. This rabbit model may provide a better understanding of the molecular abnormalities underlying conditions associated with non-aganglionic megacolon.
PMCID: PMC3988019  PMID: 24736498
11.  EXCAVATOR: detecting copy number variants from whole-exome sequencing data 
Genome Biology  2013;14(10):R120.
We developed a novel software tool, EXCAVATOR, for the detection of copy number variants (CNVs) from whole-exome sequencing data. EXCAVATOR combines a three-step normalization procedure with a novel heterogeneous hidden Markov model algorithm and a calling method that classifies genomic regions into five copy number states. We validate EXCAVATOR on three datasets and compare the results with three other methods. These analyses show that EXCAVATOR outperforms the other methods and is therefore a valuable tool for the investigation of CNVs in largescale projects, as well as in clinical research and diagnostics. EXCAVATOR is freely available at
PMCID: PMC4053953  PMID: 24172663
12.  Respiratory complex I is essential to induce a Warburg profile in mitochondria-defective tumor cells 
Cancer & Metabolism  2013;1:11.
Aerobic glycolysis, namely the Warburg effect, is the main hallmark of cancer cells. Mitochondrial respiratory dysfunction has been proposed to be one of the major causes for such glycolytic shift. This hypothesis has been revisited as tumors appear to undergo waves of gene regulation during progression, some of which rely on functional mitochondria. In this framework, the role of mitochondrial complex I is still debated, in particular with respect to the effect of mitochondrial DNA mutations in cancer metabolism. The aim of this work is to provide the proof of concept that functional complex I is necessary to sustain tumor progression.
Complex I-null osteosarcoma cells were complemented with allotopically expressed complex I subunit 1 (MT-ND1). Complex I re-assembly and function recovery, also in terms of NADH consumption, were assessed. Clones were tested for their ability to grow in soft agar and to generate tumor masses in nude mice. Hypoxia levels were evaluated via pimonidazole staining and hypoxia-inducible factor-1α (HIF-1α) immunoblotting and histochemical staining. 454-pyrosequencing was implemented to obtain global transcriptomic profiling of allotopic and non-allotopic xenografts.
Complementation of a truncative mutation in the gene encoding MT-ND1, showed that a functional enzyme was required to perform the glycolytic shift during the hypoxia response and to induce a Warburg profile in vitro and in vivo, fostering cancer progression. Such trigger was mediated by HIF-1α, whose stabilization was regulated after recovery of the balance between α-ketoglutarate and succinate due to a recuperation of NADH consumption that followed complex I rescue.
Respiratory complex I is essential for the induction of Warburg effect and adaptation to hypoxia of cancer cells, allowing them to sustain tumor growth. Differently from other mitochondrial tumor suppressor genes, therefore, a complex I severe mutation such as the one here reported may confer anti-tumorigenic properties, highlighting the prognostic values of such genetic markers in cancer.
PMCID: PMC4178211  PMID: 24280190
Complex I; mtDNA mutation; HIF-1α; Mitochondria; Cancer; Warburg effect; Allotopic expression
13.  Biological Strategies to Enhance Healing of the Avascular Area of the Meniscus 
Stem Cells International  2011;2012:528359.
Meniscal injuries in the vascularized peripheral part of the meniscus have a better healing potential than tears in the central avascular zone because meniscal healing principally depends on its vascular supply. Several biological strategies have been proposed to enhance healing of the avascular area of the meniscus: abrasion therapy, fibrin clot, organ culture, cell therapy, and applications of growth factors. However, data are too heterogeneous to achieve definitive conclusions on the use of these techniques for routine management of meniscal lesions. Although most preclinical and clinical studies are very promising, they are still at an experimental stage. More prospective randomised controlled trials are needed to compare the different techniques for clinical results, applicability, and cost-effectiveness.
PMCID: PMC3246301  PMID: 22220179
14.  Double Heterozygous Mutations Involving Both HNF1A/MODY3 and HNF4A/MODY1 Genes 
Diabetes Care  2010;33(11):2336-2338.
We describe a maturity-onset diabetes of the young (MODY) case with mutations involving both HNF4A and HNF1A genes.
A male patient was diagnosed with diabetes at age 17; the metabolic control rapidly worsened to insulin requirement. At that time no relatives were known to be affected by diabetes, which was diagnosed years later in both the parents (father at age 50 years, mother at age 54 years) and the sister (at age 32 years, during pregnancy).
The genetic screening showed a double heterozygosity for the mutation p.E508K in the HNF1A/MODY3 gene and the novel variant p.R80Q in the HNF4A/MODY1 gene. The genetic testing of the family showed that the father carried the MODY3 mutation while the mother, the sister, and her two children carried the MODY1 mutation.
MODY1 and MODY3 mutations may interact by chance to give a more severe form of diabetes (younger age at presentation and early need of insulin therapy to control hyperglycemia).
PMCID: PMC2963490  PMID: 20705777
15.  Advances in Meniscal Tissue Engineering 
Stem Cells International  2011;2012:420346.
Meniscal tears are the most common knee injuries and have a poor ability of healing. In the last few decades, several techniques have been increasingly used to optimize meniscal healing. Current research efforts of tissue engineering try to combine cell-based therapy, growth factors, gene therapy, and reabsorbable scaffolds to promote healing of meniscal defects. Preliminary studies did not allow to draw definitive conclusions on the use of these techniques for routine management of meniscal lesions. We performed a review of the available literature on current techniques of tissue engineering for the management of meniscal tears.
PMCID: PMC3205710  PMID: 25098366
16.  Genetic Predisposition to Familial Nonmedullary Thyroid Cancer: An Update of Molecular Findings and State-of-the-Art Studies 
Journal of Oncology  2010;2010:385206.
Familial thyroid cancer has become a well-recognized entity in patients with thyroid cancer originating from follicular cells, that is, nonmedullary thyroid carcinoma. The diagnosis of familial thyroid cancer provides an opportunity for early detection and possible prevention in family members. Understanding the syndromes associated with familial thyroid cancer allows clinicians to evaluate and treat patients for coexisting pathologic conditions. About five percents of patients with well-differentiated thyroid carcinoma have a familial disease. Patients with familial non-medullalry thyroid cancer have more aggressive tumors with increased rates of extrathyroid extension, lymph node metastases, and frequently show the phenomenon of “anticipation” (earlier age at disease onset and increased severity in successive generations). So far, four predisposition loci have been identified in relatively rare extended pedigrees, and association studies have identified multiple predisposing variants for differentiated thyroid cancer. This suggests that there is a high degree of genetic heterogeneity and that the development of this type of tumor is a multifactorial and complex process in which predisposing genetic variants interact with a number of incompletely understood environmental risk factors. Thus, the search for the causative variants is still open and will surely benefit from the new technological approaches that have been developed in recent years.
PMCID: PMC2902056  PMID: 20628519
17.  ETHNOS: A versatile electronic tool for the development and curation of national genetic databases 
Human Genomics  2010;4(5):361-368.
National and ethnic mutation databases (NEMDBs) are emerging online repositories, recording extensive information about the described genetic heterogeneity of an ethnic group or population. These resources facilitate the provision of genetic services and provide a comprehensive list of genomic variations among different populations. As such, they enhance awareness of the various genetic disorders. Here, we describe the features of the ETHNOS software, a simple but versatile tool based on a flat-file database that is specifically designed for the development and curation of NEMDBs. ETHNOS is a freely available software which runs more than half of the NEMDBs currently available. Given the emerging need for NEMDB in genetic testing services and the fact that ETHNOS is the only off-the-shelf software available for NEMDB development and curation, its adoption in subsequent NEMDB development would contribute towards data content uniformity, unlike the diverse contents and quality of the available gene (locus)-specific databases. Finally, we allude to the potential applications of NEMDBs, not only as worldwide central allele frequency repositories, but also, and most importantly, as data warehouses of individual-level genomic data, hence allowing for a comprehensive ethnicity-specific documentation of genomic variation.
PMCID: PMC3500166  PMID: 20650823
genetic disorders; database; software; mutations; laboratories
18.  Effect of Phosphonated Carbocyclic 2′-Oxa-3′-Aza-Nucleoside on Human T-Cell Leukemia Virus Type 1 Infection In Vitro▿  
There is currently little research and development of new compounds with specific anti-human T-cell leukemia virus type 1 (HTLV-1) activity. The few antiretrovirals that have been tested against HTLV-1 in vitro have already been developed into anti-human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) drugs. Here, we show the effects of a newly synthesized family of phosphonated nucleoside compounds, phosphonated carbocyclic 2′-oxa-3′-aza-nucleosides (PCOANs), on HTLV-1 infection in vitro. To ascertain the anti-HTLV-1 activity of PCOANs, peripheral blood mononuclear cells from healthy donors were infected in vitro by coculture with an HTLV-1 donor cell line in the presence of three prototype PCOAN compounds. PCOANs were able to completely inhibit HTLV-1 infection in vitro at a concentration of 1 μM, similar to what has been observed for tenofovir and azidothymidine. Treatment with PCOANs was associated with inhibited growth of HTLV-1-infected cells, and their effects were 100 to 200 times more potent than that of tenofovir. The mechanisms involved in the anti-HTLV-1 effects of PCOANs can mainly be ascribed to their capacity to inhibit HTLV-1 reverse transcriptase activity, as ascertained by means of a cell-free assay. PCOANs caused little reduction in proliferation or induction of apoptotic cell death of uninfected cells, showing toxicity levels similar to tenofovir and lower than azidothymidine. Overall, these results indicate that the family of PCOANs includes potential candidate compounds for long-lasting control of HTLV-1 infection.
PMCID: PMC2223892  PMID: 17967914
19.  The RHNumtS compilation: Features and bioinformatics approaches to locate and quantify Human NumtS 
BMC Genomics  2008;9:267.
To a greater or lesser extent, eukaryotic nuclear genomes contain fragments of their mitochondrial genome counterpart, deriving from the random insertion of damaged mtDNA fragments. NumtS (Nuclear mt Sequences) are not equally abundant in all species, and are redundant and polymorphic in terms of copy number. In population and clinical genetics, it is important to have a complete overview of NumtS quantity and location. Searching PubMed for NumtS or Mitochondrial pseudo-genes yields hundreds of papers reporting Human NumtS compilations produced by in silico or wet-lab approaches. A comparison of published compilations clearly shows significant discrepancies among data, due both to unwise application of Bioinformatics methods and to a not yet correctly assembled nuclear genome. To optimize quantification and location of NumtS, we produced a consensus compilation of Human NumtS by applying various bioinformatics approaches.
Location and quantification of NumtS may be achieved by applying database similarity searching methods: we have applied various methods such as Blastn, MegaBlast and BLAT, changing both parameters and database; the results were compared, further analysed and checked against the already published compilations, thus producing the Reference Human Numt Sequences (RHNumtS) compilation. The resulting NumtS total 190.
The RHNumtS compilation represents a highly reliable reference basis, which may allow designing a lab protocol to test the actual existence of each NumtS. Here we report preliminary results based on PCR amplification and sequencing on 41 NumtS selected from RHNumtS among those with lower score. In parallel, we are currently designing the RHNumtS database structure for implementation in the HmtDB resource. In the future, the same database will host NumtS compilations from other organisms, but these will be generated only when the nuclear genome of a specific organism has reached a high-quality level of assembly.
PMCID: PMC2447851  PMID: 18522722
20.  TOM: a web-based integrated approach for identification of candidate disease genes 
Nucleic Acids Research  2006;34(Web Server issue):W285-W292.
The massive production of biological data by means of highly parallel devices like microarrays for gene expression has paved the way to new possible approaches in molecular genetics. Among them the possibility of inferring biological answers by querying large amounts of expression data. Based on this principle, we present here TOM, a web-based resource for the efficient extraction of candidate genes for hereditary diseases. The service requires the previous knowledge of at least another gene responsible for the disease and the linkage area, or else of two disease associated genetic intervals. The algorithm uses the information stored in public resources, including mapping, expression and functional databases. Given the queries, TOM will select and list one or more candidate genes. This approach allows the geneticist to bypass the costly and time consuming tracing of genetic markers through entire families and might improve the chance of identifying disease genes, particularly for rare diseases. We present here the tool and the results obtained on known benchmark and on hereditary predisposition to familial thyroid cancer. Our algorithm is available at .
PMCID: PMC1538851  PMID: 16845011
21.  The Sensitivity of Activated Cys Ret Mutants to Glial Cell Line-Derived Neurotrophic Factor Is Mandatory To Rescue Neuroectodermic Cells from Apoptosis 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2001;21(20):6719-6730.
Hirschsprung's disease (HSCR), a frequent developmental defect of the enteric nervous system is due to loss-of-function mutations of RET, a receptor tyrosine kinase essential for the mediation of glial cell-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF)-induced cell survival. Instead, gain-of-function Cys mutations (e.g., Cys609, Cys620, and Cys634) of the same gene are responsible for thyroid carcinoma (MEN2A/familial medullary thyroid carcinoma) by causing a covalent Ret dimerization, leading to ligand-independent activation of its tyrosine kinase. In this context, the association of Cys609- or Cys620-activating mutations with HSCR is still an unresolved paradox. To address this issue, we have compared these two mutants with the Cys634 Ret variant, which has never been associated with HSCR, for their ability to rescue neuroectodermic cells (SK-N-MC cells) from apoptosis. We show here that despite their constitutively activated kinase, the mere expression of these three mutants does not allow cell rescue. Instead, we demonstrate that like the wild-type Ret, the Cys634 Ret variant can trigger antiapoptotic pathways only in response to GDNF. In contrast, Cys609 or Cys620 mutations, which impair the terminal Ret glycosylation required for its insertion at the plasma membrane, abrogate GDNF-induced cell rescue. Taken together, these data support the idea that sensitivity to GDNF is the mandatory condition, even for constitutively activated Ret mutants, to rescue neuroectodermic cells from apoptosis. These findings may help clarify how a gain-of-function mutation can be associated with a developmental defect.
PMCID: PMC99850  PMID: 11564857

Results 1-21 (21)