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1.  Deletion of REXO1L1 locus in a patient with malabsorption syndrome, growth retardation, and dysmorphic features: a novel recognizable microdeletion syndrome? 
BMC Medical Genetics  2015;16:20.
Copy number variations (CNVs) can contribute to genetic variation among individuals and/or have a significant influence in causing diseases. Many studies consider new CNVs’ effects on protein family evolution giving rise to gene duplicates or losses. “Unsuccessful” duplicates that remain in the genome as pseudogenes often exhibit functional roles. So, changes in gene and pseudogene number may contribute to development or act as susceptibility alleles of diseases.
Case presentation
We report a de novo heterozygous 271 Kb microdeletion at 8q21.2 region which includes the family of REXO1L genes and pseudogenes in a young man affected by global development delay, progeroid signs, and gastrointestinal anomalies. Molecular and cellular analysis showed that the REXO1L1 gene hemizygosity in a patient’s fibroblasts induces genetic instability and increased apoptosis after treatment with different DNA damage-induced agents.
The present results support the hypothesis that low copy gene number within REXO1L1 cluster could play a significant role in this complex clinical and cellular phenotype.
PMCID: PMC4422118  PMID: 25927938
8q21.2 microdeletion; REXO1L1 gene; aCGH; CNV; Facial dysmorphisms; Inflammation and apoptosis of gastrointestinal mucosa
2.  Identification of the Interactors of Human Nibrin (NBN) and of Its 26 kDa and 70 kDa Fragments Arising from the NBN 657del5 Founder Mutation 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(12):e114651.
Nibrin (also named NBN or NBS1) is a component of the MRE11/RAD50/NBN complex, which is involved in early steps of DNA double strand breaks sensing and repair. Mutations within the NBN gene are responsible for the Nijmegen breakage syndrome (NBS). The 90% of NBS patients are homozygous for the 657del5 mutation, which determines the synthesis of two truncated proteins of 26 kDa (p26) and 70 kDa (p70). Here, HEK293 cells have been exploited to transiently express either the full-length NBN protein or the p26 or p70 fragments, followed by affinity chromatography enrichment of the eluates. The application of an unsupervised proteomics approach, based upon SDS-PAGE separation and shotgun digestion of protein bands followed by MS/MS protein identification, indicates the occurrence of previously unreported protein interacting partners of the full-length NBN protein and the p26 fragment containing the FHA/BRCT1 domains, especially after cell irradiation. In particular, results obtained shed light on new possible roles of NBN and of the p26 fragment in ROS scavenging, in the DNA damage response, and in protein folding and degradation. In particular, here we show that p26 interacts with PARP1 after irradiation, and this interaction exerts an inhibitory effect on PARP1 activity as measured by NAD+ levels. Furthermore, the p26-PARP1 interaction seems to be responsible for the persistence of ROS, and in turn of DSBs, at 24 h from IR. Since some of the newly identified interactors of the p26 and p70 fragments have not been found to interact with the full-length NBN, these interactions may somehow contribute to the key biological phenomena underpinning NBS.
PMCID: PMC4259352  PMID: 25485873
3.  NBN Gene Polymorphisms and Cancer Susceptibility: A Systemic Review 
Current Genomics  2013;14(7):425-440.
The relationship between DNA repair failure and cancer is well established as in the case of rare, high penetrant genes in high cancer risk families. Beside this, in the last two decades, several studies have investigated a possible association between low penetrant polymorphic variants in genes devoted to DNA repair pathways and risk for developing cancer. This relationship would be also supported by the observation that DNA repair processes may be modulated by sequence variants in DNA repair genes, leading to susceptibility to environmental carcinogens. In this framework, the aim of this review is to provide the reader with the state of the art on the association between common genetic variants and cancer risk, limiting the attention to single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) of the NBN gene and providing the various odd ratios (ORs). In this respect, the NBN protein, together with MRE11 and RAD50, is part of the MRN complex which is a central player in the very early steps of sensing and processing of DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs), in telomere maintenance, in cell cycle control, and in genomic integrity in general. So far, many papers were devoted to ascertain possible association between common synonymous and non-synonymous NBN gene polymorphisms and increased cancer risk. However, the results still remain inconsistent and inconclusive also in meta-analysis studies for the most investigated E185Q NBN miscoding variant.
PMCID: PMC3867719  PMID: 24396275
NBN; Polymorphisms; Cancer; DNA repair; DSBs; E185Q; SNPs.
4.  Selective killing of p53-deficient cancer cells by SP600125 
EMBO Molecular Medicine  2012;4(6):500-514.
The genetic or functional inactivation of p53 is highly prevalent in human cancers. Using high-content videomicroscopy based on fluorescent TP53+/+ and TP53−/− human colon carcinoma cells, we discovered that SP600125, a broad-spectrum serine/threonine kinase inhibitor, kills p53-deficient cells more efficiently than their p53-proficient counterparts, in vitro. Similar observations were obtained in vivo, in mice carrying p53-deficient and -proficient human xenografts. Such a preferential cytotoxicity could be attributed to the failure of p53-deficient cells to undergo cell cycle arrest in response to SP600125. TP53−/− (but not TP53+/+) cells treated with SP600125 became polyploid upon mitotic abortion and progressively succumbed to mitochondrial apoptosis. The expression of an SP600125-resistant variant of the mitotic kinase MPS1 in TP53−/− cells reduced SP600125-induced polyploidization. Thus, by targeting MPS1, SP600125 triggers a polyploidization program that cannot be sustained by TP53−/− cells, resulting in the activation of mitotic catastrophe, an oncosuppressive mechanism for the eradication of mitosis-incompetent cells.
PMCID: PMC3443949  PMID: 22438244
caspases; HCT 116; high-throughput screening; mitochondrial outer membrane permeabilization; MPS1
5.  Cutaneous granulomatosis and combined immunodeficiency revealing Ataxia-Telangiectasia: a case report 
Ataxia-telangiectasia (A-T) is a complex multisystem disorder characterized by progressive neurological impairment, variable immunodeficiency and oculo-cutaneous telangiectasia. A-T is a member of chromosomal breakage syndromes and it is caused by a mutation in the ataxia-telangiectasia mutated (ATM) gene. Because of a wide clinical heterogeneity, A-T is often difficult to diagnose in children.
We report an unusual case of a 3-year-old boy affected by A-T who presented exclusively with extensive cutaneous granulomatosis and severe combined immunodeficiency, without neurological abnormalities, at the time of diagnosis. This case clearly emphasizes the variable presentation of A-T syndrome and highlights the difficulties in the early diagnosis of A-T.
A-T should be considered in children with evidence of combined humoral and cellular immunodeficiency associated with unexplained skin granulomatous lesions, even in the absence of the classic features of this syndrome.
PMCID: PMC2857855  PMID: 20380744
6.  Altered microRNA Expression Patterns in Hepatoblastoma Patients1 
Translational Oncology  2009;2(3):157-163.
Liver cancers in children are rare representing only 1.1% of malignancies, with an annual incidence rate of 1.5 cases per million. Hepatoblastoma and hepatocellular carcinomas are the most common malignancies of the liver occurring in young people aged 15 years or younger. Molecular basis of both tumors are still unclear, and common markers (i.e., CTNNB1, APC, IGF-2) are not always useful in the characterization of sporadic forms; in this respect, microRNA recently associated with carcinogenesis could play a pivotal role in their onset. CTNNB1 and APC were analyzed by sequencing, and IGF-2 promoter methylation status was assessed by methylation-specific polymerase chain reaction. MicroRNA expression was assayed by microarray and quantitative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction in hepatoblastoma samples. Although few genomic alterations were detected in ours samples, an altered expression of somemicroRNA in hepatoblastoma was observed. Unsupervised clustering shows that microRNA profile can distinguish tumor from nontumor tissues. Further analyses of microRNA contents in hepatoblastoma compared with hepatocellular carcinoma highlighted four upregulated microRNA (miR-214, miR-199a, miR-150 [P < .01], and miR-125a [P < .05]) and one downregulated microRNA (miR-148a [P < .01]). In conclusion, although our samples were poorly informative from a genetic point of view, they showed a peculiar microRNA expression pattern compared with nontumor tissues and hepatocellular carcinoma. MicroRNA could represent valid markers for the classification of pediatric liver tumors.
PMCID: PMC2730135  PMID: 19701500
7.  NBS1 Heterozygosity and Cancer Risk 
Current Genomics  2008;9(4):275-281.
Biallelic mutations in the NBS1 gene are responsible for the Nijmegen breakage syndrome (NBS), a rare autosomal recessive disorder characterized by chromosome instability and hypersensitivity to ionising radiation (IR). Epidemiological data evidence that the NBS1 gene can be considered a susceptibility factor for cancer development, as demonstrated by the fact that almost 40% of NBS patients have developed a malignancy before the age of 21. Interestingly, also NBS1 heterozygotes, which are clinically asymptomatic, display an elevated risk to develop some types of malignant tumours, especially breast, prostate and colorectal cancers, lymphoblastic leukaemia, and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL). So far, nine mutations in the NBS1 gene have been found, at the heterozygous state, in cancer patients. Among them, the 657del5, the I171V and the R215W mutations are the most frequently described. The pathogenicity of these mutations is presumably connected with their occurrence in the highly conserved BRCT tandem domains of the NBS1 protein, which are present in a large superfamily of proteins, and are recognized as major mediators of processes related to cell-cycle checkpoint and DNA repair.
This review will focus on the current state-of-knowledge regarding the correlation between carriers of NBS1 gene mutations and the proneness to the development of malignant tumours.
PMCID: PMC2682932  PMID: 19452044
NBS1; 657del5 mutation; R215W mutation; I171V mutation; IVS11+2insT mutation; heterozygous; cancer predisposition; lymphoma; breast cancer; prostate cancer; colorectal cancer.

Results 1-7 (7)