Idiopathic infantile nystagmus (IIN) is a genetically heterogeneous disorder, often associated with FRMD7 mutations. As the appearance of the retina is reported to be normal based on conventional fundus photography, IIN is postulated to arise from abnormal cortical development. To determine whether the afferent visual system is involved in FRMD7 mutations, we performed in situ hybridization studies in human embryonic and fetal stages (35 days post-ovulation to 9 weeks post-conception). We show a dynamic retinal expression pattern of FRMD7 during development. We observe expression within the outer neuroblastic layer, then in the inner neuroblastic layer and at 9 weeks post-conception a bilaminar expression pattern. Expression was also noted within the developing optic stalk and optic disk. We identified a large cohort of IIN patients (n = 100), and performed sequence analysis which revealed 45 patients with FRMD7 mutations. Patients with FRMD7 mutations underwent detailed retinal imaging studies using ultrahigh-resolution optical coherence tomography. The tomograms were compared with a control cohort (n = 60). The foveal pit was significantly shallower in FRMD7 patients (P < 0.0001). The optic nerve head morphology was abnormal with significantly decreased optic disk area, retinal nerve fiber layer thickness, cup area and cup depth in FRMD7 patients (P < 0.0001). This study shows for the first time that abnormal afferent system development is associated with FRMD7 mutations and could be an important etiological factor in the development of nystagmus.
The RNA binding protein T-STAR was created following a gene triplication 520–610 million years ago, which also produced its two parologs Sam68 and SLM-1. Here we have created a T-STAR null mouse to identify the endogenous functions of this RNA binding protein. Mice null for T-STAR developed normally and were fertile, surprisingly, given the high expression of T-STAR in the testis and the brain, and the known infertility and pleiotropic defects of Sam68 null mice. Using a transcriptome-wide search for splicing targets in the adult brain, we identified T-STAR protein as a potent splicing repressor of the alternatively spliced segment 4 (AS4) exons from each of the Neurexin1-3 genes, and exon 23 of the Stxbp5l gene. T-STAR protein was most highly concentrated in forebrain-derived structures like the hippocampus, which also showed maximal Neurexin1-3 AS4 splicing repression. In the absence of endogenous T-STAR protein, Nrxn1-3 AS4 splicing repression dramatically decreased, despite physiological co-expression of Sam68. In transfected cells Neurexin3 AS4 alternative splicing was regulated by either T-STAR or Sam68 proteins. In contrast, Neurexin2 AS4 splicing was only regulated by T-STAR, through a UWAA-rich response element immediately downstream of the regulated exon conserved since the radiation of bony vertebrates. The AS4 exons in the Nrxn1 and Nrxn3 genes were also associated with distinct patterns of conserved UWAA repeats. Consistent with an ancient mechanism of splicing control, human T-STAR protein was able to repress splicing inclusion of the zebrafish Nrxn3 AS4 exon. Although Neurexin1-3 and Stxbp5l encode critical synaptic proteins, T-STAR null mice had no detectable spatial memory deficits, despite an almost complete absence of AS4 splicing repression in the hippocampus. Our work identifies T-STAR as an ancient and potent tissue-specific splicing regulator that uses a concentration-dependent mechanism to co-ordinately regulate regional splicing patterns of the Neurexin1-3 AS4 exons in the mouse brain.
Alternative splicing plays a key role in animal development and is largely controlled by the expression of RNA binding proteins. Most RNA binding proteins exist as families of sister proteins called paralogs, which result from gene amplification, including T-STAR, which is closely related to Sam68 and SLM-1. T-STAR, Sam68, and SLM-1 usually behave identically in splicing control in transfected cells. Here we report the physiological functions of T-STAR protein by knocking its parent gene out in the mouse. Surprisingly we observed no defects in germ cell maturation without T-STAR protein, an unexpected result given T-STAR protein is mainly expressed in the testis and its paralog Sam68 is essential for male fertility. Instead, we find T-STAR controls a panel of splicing targets that encode important synaptic proteins. T-STAR acts as a potent splicing repressor to establish regional splicing patterns of these target exons in the brain. Forebrain-derived structures like the hippocampus strongly express T-STAR protein to repress these target exons. Some T-STAR regulated splicing targets overlap with Sam68, but T-STAR also regulates its own distinct targets. Comparative genomic analyses are consistent with an ancient mechanism of splicing control by T-STAR that has been conserved since the radiation of bony vertebrates.
Joubert syndrome and related diseases (JSRD) are developmental cerebello-oculo-renal syndromes with phenotypes including cerebellar hypoplasia, retinal dystrophy and nephronophthisis (a cystic kidney disease). We have utilised the MRC-Wellcome Trust Human Developmental Biology Resource (HDBR), to perform in-situ hybridisation studies on embryonic tissues, revealing an early onset neuronal, retinal and renal expression pattern for AHI1. An almost identical pattern of expression is seen with CEP290 in human embryonic and fetal tissue. A novel finding is that both AHI1 and CEP290 demonstrate strong expression within the developing choroid plexus, a ciliated structure important for central nervous system development. To test if AHI1 and CEP290 may have co-evolved, we carried out a genomic survey of a large group of organisms across eukaryotic evolution. We found that, in animals, ahi1 and cep290 are almost always found together; however in other organisms either one may be found independent of the other. Finally, we tested in murine epithelial cells if Ahi1 was required for recruitment of Cep290 to the centrosome. We found no obvious differences in Cep290 localisation in the presence or absence of Ahi1, suggesting that, while Ahi1 and Cep290 may function together in the whole organism, they are not interdependent for localisation within a single cell. Taken together these data support a role for AHI1 and CEP290 in multiple organs throughout development and we suggest that this accounts for the wide phenotypic spectrum of AHI1 and CEP290 mutations in man.
Periodic alternating nystagmus consists of involuntary oscillations of the eyes with cyclical changes of nystagmus direction. It can occur during infancy (e.g. idiopathic infantile periodic alternating nystagmus) or later in life. Acquired forms are often associated with cerebellar dysfunction arising due to instability of the optokinetic-vestibular systems. Idiopathic infantile periodic alternating nystagmus can be familial or occur in isolation; however, very little is known about the clinical characteristics, genetic aetiology and neural substrates involved. Five loci (NYS1-5) have been identified for idiopathic infantile nystagmus; three are autosomal (NYS2, NYS3 and NYS4) and two are X-chromosomal (NYS1 and NYS5). We previously identified the FRMD7 gene on chromosome Xq26 (NYS1 locus); mutations of FRMD7 are causative of idiopathic infantile nystagmus influencing neuronal outgrowth and development. It is unclear whether the periodic alternating nystagmus phenotype is linked to NYS1, NYS5 (Xp11.4-p11.3) or a separate locus. From a cohort of 31 X-linked families and 14 singletons (70 patients) with idiopathic infantile nystagmus we identified 10 families and one singleton (21 patients) with periodic alternating nystagmus of which we describe clinical phenotype, genetic aetiology and neural substrates involved. Periodic alternating nystagmus was not detected clinically but only on eye movement recordings. The cycle duration varied from 90 to 280 s. Optokinetic reflex was not detectable horizontally. Mutations of the FRMD7 gene were found in all 10 families and the singleton (including three novel mutations). Periodic alternating nystagmus was predominantly associated with missense mutations within the FERM domain. There was significant sibship clustering of the phenotype although in some families not all affected members had periodic alternating nystagmus. In situ hybridization studies during mid-late human embryonic stages in normal tissue showed restricted FRMD7 expression in neuronal tissue with strong hybridization signals within the afferent arms of the vestibulo-ocular reflex consisting of the otic vesicle, cranial nerve VIII and vestibular ganglia. Similarly within the afferent arm of the optokinetic reflex we showed expression in the developing neural retina and ventricular zone of the optic stalk. Strong FRMD7 expression was seen in rhombomeres 1 to 4, which give rise to the cerebellum and the common integrator site for both these reflexes (vestibular nuclei). Based on the expression and phenotypic data, we hypothesize that periodic alternating nystagmus arises from instability of the optokinetic-vestibular systems. This study shows for the first time that mutations in FRMD7 can cause idiopathic infantile periodic alternating nystagmus and may affect neuronal circuits that have been implicated in acquired forms.
periodic alternating nystagmus; FRMD7; optokinetic reflex; vestibulo-ocular reflex; in situ hybridization
Mutations in PLA2G6, which encodes calcium-independent phospholipase A2 group VIA (iPLA2-VIA), underlie the autosomal recessive disorder infantile neuroaxonal dystrophy (INAD). INAD typically presents in the first year of life, and leads to optic atrophy and psychomotor regression. We have examined PLA2G6 expression in early human embryonic development by in situ hybridization. At Carnegie Stage (CS) 19 (approximately 7 post conception weeks [PCW]), strong expression is evident in the ventricular zone (VZ) of midbrain and forebrain suggestive of expression in neural stem and progenitor cells. At CS23 (8 PCW) expression is also detectable in the VZ of the hindbrain and the subventricular zone (SVZ) of the developing neocortex, ganglionic eminences and diencephalon. By 9 PCW strong expression in the post-mitotic cells of the cortical plate can be seen in the developing neocortex. In the eye, expression is seen in the lens and retina at all stages examined. PLA2G6 expression is also evident in the alar plate of the spinal cord, dorsal root ganglia, the retina and lens in the eye and and several non-neuronal tissues, including developing bones, lung, kidney and gut. These findings suggest a role for PLA2G6 in neuronal proliferation throughout the developing brain and in maturing neurons in the cortical plate and hindbrain. Although widespread PLA2G6 expression is detected in neuronal tissues, the pattern shows dynamic changes with time and indicates that INAD pathogenesis may begin prior to birth.
PLA2G6; INAD; neurodegeneration; development; in-situ hybridization
We are developing a three-dimensional (3D) atlas of the human embryonic brain using anatomical landmarks and gene expression data to define major subdivisions through 12 stages of development (Carnegie Stages [CS] 12-23; approx 26-56 days post conception [dpc]). Virtual 3D anatomical models are generated from intact specimens using optical projection tomography (OPT). Using MAPaint software, selected gene expression data, gathered using standard methods of in situ hybridisation and immunohistochemistry, are mapped to a representative 3D model for each chosen Carnegie stage. In these models, anatomical domains, defined on the basis of morphological landmarks and comparative knowledge of expression patterns in vertebrates, are linked to a developmental neuroanatomic ontology. Human gene expression patterns for genes with characteristic expression in different vertebrates (e.g. PAX6, GAD65 and OLIG2) are being used to confirm and/or refine the human anatomical domain boundaries. We have also developed interpolation software that digitally generates a full domain from partial data. Currently, the 3D models and a preliminary set of anatomical domains and ontology are available on the atlas pages along with gene expression data from approximately 100 genes in the HUDSEN Human Spatial Gene Expression Database (www.hudsen.org). The aim is that full 3D data will be generated from expression data used to define a more detailed set of anatomical domains linked to a more advanced anatomy ontology and all of these will be available online, contributing to the long-term goal of the atlas which is to help maximise the effective use and dissemination of data wherever it is generated.
Human embryo; 3D atlas; Gene Expression; OPT; database
We report that eight heterozygous missense mutations in TUBB3, encoding the neuron-specific β-tubulin isotype III, result in a spectrum of human nervous system disorders we now call the TUBB3 syndromes. Each mutation causes the ocular motility disorder CFEOM3, whereas some also result in intellectual and behavioral impairments, facial paralysis, and/or later-onset axonal sensorimotor polyneuropathy. Neuroimaging reveals a spectrum of abnormalities including hypoplasia of oculomotor nerves, and dysgenesis of the corpus callosum, anterior commissure, and corticospinal tracts. A knock-in disease mouse model reveals axon guidance defects without evidence of cortical cell migration abnormalities. We show the disease-associated mutations can impair tubulin heterodimer formation in vitro, although folded mutant heterodimers can still polymerize into microtubules. Modeling each mutation in yeast tubulin demonstrates that all alter dynamic instability whereas a subset disrupts the interaction of microtubules with kinesin motors. These findings demonstrate normal TUBB3 is required for axon guidance and maintenance in mammals.
Developing neocortical progenitors express transcription factors in gradients that induce programs of region-specific gene expression. Our previous work identified anteriorly upregulated expression gradients of a number of corticofugal neuron-associated gene probe sets along the anterior–posterior axis of the human neocortex (8-12 postconceptional weeks [PCW]). Here, we demonstrate by real-time polymerase chain reaction, in situ hybridization and immunohistochemistry that 3 such genes, ROBO1, SRGAP1, and CTIP2 are highly expressed anteriorly between 8-12 PCW, in comparison with other genes (FEZF2, SOX5) expressed by Layer V, VI, and subplate neurons. All 3 were prominently expressed by early postmitotic neurons in the subventricular zone, intermediate zone, and cortical plate (CP) from 8 to 10 PCW. Between 12 and 15 PCW expression patterns for ER81 and SATB2 (Layer V), TBR1 (Layer V/VI) and NURR1 (Layer VI) revealed Layer V forming. By 15 PCW, ROBO1 and SRGAP1 expression was confined to Layer V, whereas CTIP2 was expressed throughout the CP anteriorly. We observed ROBO1 and SRGAP1 immunoreactivity in medullary corticospinal axons from 11 PCW onward. Thus, we propose that the coexpression of these 3 markers in the anterior neocortex may mark the early location of the human motor cortex, including its corticospinal projection neurons, allowing further study of their early differentiation.
cerebral cortex; corticospinal tract; regionalization
The transcription factors Emx2 and Pax6 are expressed in the proliferating zones of the developing rodent neocortex, and gradients of expression interact in specifying caudal and rostral identities. Pax6 is also involved in corticoneurogenesis, being expressed by radial glial progenitors that give rise to cells that also sequentially express Tbr2, NeuroD and Tbr1, genes temporally downstream of Pax6. In this study, using in situ hybridization, we analysed the expression of EMX2, PAX6, TBR2, NEUROD and TBR1 mRNA in the developing human cortex between 8 and 12 postconceptional weeks (PCW). EMX2 mRNA was expressed in the ventricular (VZ) and subventricular zones (SVZ), but also in the cortical plate, unlike in the rodent. However, gradients of expression were similar to that of the rodent at all ages studied. PAX6 mRNA expression was limited to the VZ and SVZ. At 8 PCW, PAX6 was highly expressed rostrally but less so caudally, as has been seen in the rodent, however this gradient disappeared early in corticogenesis, by 9 PCW. There was less restricted compartment-specific expression of TBR2, NEUROD and TBR1 mRNA than in the rodent, where the gradients of expression were similar to that of PAX6 prior to 9 PCW. The gradient disappeared for TBR2 by 10 PCW, and for NEUROD and TBR1 by 12 PCW. These data support recent reports that EMX2 but not PAX6 is more directly involved in arealization, highlighting that analysis of human development allows better spatio-temporal resolution than studies in rodents.
arealization; development; neurogenesis; subventricular zone
The RacGAP molecule α2-chimaerin is implicated in neuronal signaling pathways required for precise guidance of developing corticospinal axons. We now demonstrate that a variant of Duane’s retraction syndrome, a congenital eye movement disorder in which affected individuals show aberrant development of axon projections to the extraocular muscles, can result from gain-of-function heterozygous missense mutations in CHN1 that increase α2-chimaerin RacGAP activity in vitro. A subset of mutations enhances α2-chimaerin membrane translocation and/or α2-chimaerin’s previously unrecognized ability to form a complex with itself. In ovo expression of mutant CHN1 alters the development of ocular motor axons. These data demonstrate that human CHN1 mutations can hyperactivate α2-chimaerin and result in aberrant cranial motor neuron development.
We have employed immunohistochemistry for multiple markers to investigate the structure and possible function of the different compartments of human cerebral wall from the formation of cortical plate at 8 postconceptional weeks (PCW) to the arrival of thalamocortical afferents at 17 PCW. New observations include the subplate emerging as a discrete differentiated layer by 10 PCW, characterized by synaptophysin and vesicular gamma-aminobutyric acid transporter expression also seen in the marginal zone, suggesting that these compartments may maintain a spontaneously active synaptic network even before the arrival of thalamocortical afferents. The subplate expanded from 13 to 17 PCW, becoming the largest compartment and differentiated further, with NPY neurons located in the outer subplate and KCC2 neurons in the inner subplate. Glutamate decarboxylase and calretinin-positive inhibitory neurons migrated tangentially and radially from 11.5 PCW, appearing in larger numbers toward the rostral pole. The proliferative zones, marked by Ki67 expression, developed a complicated structure by 12.5 PCW reflected in transcription factor expression patterns, including TBR2 confined to the inner subventricular and outer ventricular zones and TBR1 weakly expressed in the subventricular zone (SVZ). PAX6 was extensively expressed in the proliferative zones such that the human outer SVZ contained a large reservoir of PAX6-positive potential progenitor cells.
cell migration; cortical development; immunohistochemistry; synaptogenesis
Microbial interactions with host cell signaling pathways are key determinants of the host cell response to infection. Many toxins secreted by bacterial type III secretion systems either stimulate or inhibit the host inflammatory response. We investigated the role of type III secreted toxins of the lung pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa in the inflammatory response of human respiratory epithelial cells to infection. Using bacteria with specific gene deletions, we found that interleukin-8 production by these cells was almost entirely dependent on bacterial type III secretion of exotoxin U (ExoU), a phospholipase, although other bacterial factors are involved. ExoU activated the c-Jun NH2-terminal kinase pathway, stimulating the phosphorylation and activation of mitogen-activated kinase kinase 4, c-Jun NH2-terminal kinase, and c-Jun. This in turn increased levels of transcriptionally competent activator protein-1. Although this pathway was dependent on the lipase activity of ExoU, it was independent of cell death. Activation of mitogen-activated kinase signaling by ExoU in this fashion is a novel mechanism by which a bacterial product can initiate a host inflammatory response, and it may result in increased epithelial permeability and bacterial spread.
Many three-dimensional (3D) images are routinely collected in biomedical research and a number of digital atlases with associated anatomical and other information have been published. A number of tools are available for viewing this data ranging from commercial visualization packages to freely available, typically system architecture dependent, solutions. Here we discuss an atlas viewer implemented to run on any workstation using the architecture neutral Java programming language.
We report the development of a freely available Java based viewer for 3D image data, descibe the structure and functionality of the viewer and how automated tools can be developed to manage the Java Native Interface code. The viewer allows arbitrary re-sectioning of the data and interactive browsing through the volume. With appropriately formatted data, for example as provided for the Electronic Atlas of the Developing Human Brain, a 3D surface view and anatomical browsing is available. The interface is developed in Java with Java3D providing the 3D rendering. For efficiency the image data is manipulated using the Woolz image-processing library provided as a dynamically linked module for each machine architecture.
We conclude that Java provides an appropriate environment for efficient development of these tools and techniques exist to allow computationally efficient image-processing libraries to be integrated relatively easily.
As development proceeds the human embryo attains an ever more complex three dimensional (3D) structure. Analyzing the gene expression patterns that underlie these changes and interpreting their significance depends on identifying the anatomical structures to which they map and following these patterns in developing 3D structures over time. The difficulty of this task greatly increases as more gene expression patterns are added, particularly in organs with complex 3D structures such as the brain. Optical Projection Tomography (OPT) is a new technology which has been developed for rapidly generating digital 3D models of intact specimens. We have assessed the resolution of unstained neuronal structures within a Carnegie Stage (CS)17 OPT model and tested its use as a framework onto which anatomical structures can be defined and gene expression data mapped.
Resolution of the OPT models was assessed by comparison of digital sections with physical sections stained, either with haematoxylin and eosin (H&E) or by immunocytochemistry for GAP43 or PAX6, to identify specific anatomical features. Despite the 3D models being of unstained tissue, peripheral nervous system structures from the trigeminal ganglion (~300 μm by ~150 μm) to the rootlets of cranial nerve XII (~20 μm in diameter) were clearly identifiable, as were structures in the developing neural tube such as the zona limitans intrathalamica (core is ~30 μm thick). Fourteen anatomical domains have been identified and visualised within the CS17 model. Two 3D gene expression domains, known to be defined by Pax6 expression in the mouse, were clearly visible when PAX6 data from 2D sections were mapped to the CS17 model. The feasibility of applying the OPT technology to all stages from CS12 to CS23, which encompasses the major period of organogenesis for the human developing central nervous system, was successfully demonstrated.
In the CS17 model considerable detail is visible within the developing nervous system at a minimum resolution of ~20 μm and 3D anatomical and gene expression domains can be defined and visualised successfully. The OPT models and accompanying technologies for manipulating them provide a powerful approach to visualising and analysing gene expression and morphology during early human brain development.