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2.  Neuronal accumulation of glucosylceramide in a mouse model of neuronopathic Gaucher disease leads to neurodegeneration 
Human Molecular Genetics  2013;23(4):843-854.
Gaucher disease has recently received wide attention due to the unexpected discovery that it is a genetic risk factor for Parkinson's disease. Gaucher disease is caused by the defective activity of the lysosomal enzyme, glucocerebrosidase (GCase; GBA1), resulting in intracellular accumulation of the glycosphingolipids, glucosylceramide and psychosine. The rare neuronopathic forms of GD (nGD) are characterized by profound neurological impairment and neuronal cell death. We have previously described the progression of neuropathological changes in a mouse model of nGD. We now examine the relationship between glycosphingolipid accumulation and initiation of pathology at two pre-symptomatic stages of the disease in four different brain areas which display differential degrees of susceptibility to GCase deficiency. Liquid chromatography electrospray ionization tandem mass spectrometry demonstrated glucosylceramide and psychosine accumulation in nGD brains prior to the appearance of neuroinflammation, although only glucosylceramide accumulation correlated with neuroinflammation and neuron loss. Levels of other sphingolipids, including the pro-apoptotic lipid, ceramide, were mostly unaltered. Transmission electron microscopy revealed that glucosylceramide accumulation occurs in neurons, mostly in the form of membrane-delimited pseudo-tubules located near the nucleus. Highly disrupted glucosylceramide-storing cells, which are likely degenerating neurons containing massive inclusions, numerous autophagosomes and unique ultrastructural features, were also observed. Together, our results indicate that a certain level of neuronal glucosylceramide storage is required to trigger neuropathological changes in affected brain areas, while other brain areas containing similar glucosylceramide levels are unaltered, presumably because of intrinsic differences in neuronal properties, or in the neuronal environment, between various brain regions.
PMCID: PMC3900102  PMID: 24064337
3.  Functional screening in Drosophila identifies Alzheimer's disease susceptibility genes and implicates Tau-mediated mechanisms 
Human Molecular Genetics  2013;23(4):870-877.
Using a Drosophila model of Alzheimer's disease (AD), we systematically evaluated 67 candidate genes based on AD-associated genomic loci (P < 10−4) from published human genome-wide association studies (GWAS). Genetic manipulation of 87 homologous fly genes was tested for modulation of neurotoxicity caused by human Tau, which forms neurofibrillary tangle pathology in AD. RNA interference (RNAi) targeting 9 genes enhanced Tau neurotoxicity, and in most cases reciprocal activation of gene expression suppressed Tau toxicity. Our screen implicates cindr, the fly ortholog of the human CD2AP AD susceptibility gene, as a modulator of Tau-mediated disease mechanisms. Importantly, we also identify the fly orthologs of FERMT2 and CELF1 as Tau modifiers, and these loci have been independently validated as AD susceptibility loci in the latest GWAS meta-analysis. Both CD2AP and FERMT2 have been previously implicated with roles in cell adhesion, and our screen additionally identifies a fly homolog of the human integrin adhesion receptors, ITGAM and ITGA9, as a modifier of Tau neurotoxicity. Our results highlight cell adhesion pathways as important in Tau toxicity and AD susceptibility and demonstrate the power of model organism genetic screens for the functional follow-up of human GWAS.
PMCID: PMC3900103  PMID: 24067533
4.  A meta-analysis of genome-wide association studies for adiponectin levels in East Asians identifies a novel locus near WDR11-FGFR2 
Human Molecular Genetics  2013;23(4):1108-1119.
Blood levels of adiponectin, an adipocyte-secreted protein correlated with metabolic and cardiovascular risks, are highly heritable. Genome-wide association (GWA) studies for adiponectin levels have identified 14 loci harboring variants associated with blood levels of adiponectin. To identify novel adiponectin-associated loci, particularly those of importance in East Asians, we conducted a meta-analysis of GWA studies for adiponectin in 7827 individuals, followed by two stages of replications in 4298 and 5954 additional individuals. We identified a novel adiponectin-associated locus on chromosome 10 near WDR11-FGFR2 (P = 3.0 × 10−14) and provided suggestive evidence for a locus on chromosome 12 near OR8S1-LALBA (P = 1.2 × 10−7). Of the adiponectin-associated loci previously described, we confirmed the association at CDH13 (P = 6.8 × 10−165), ADIPOQ (P = 1.8 × 10−22), PEPD (P = 3.6 × 10−12), CMIP (P = 2.1 × 10−10), ZNF664 (P = 2.3 × 10−7) and GPR109A (P = 7.4 × 10−6). Conditional analysis at ADIPOQ revealed a second signal with suggestive evidence of association only after conditioning on the lead SNP (Pinitial = 0.020; Pconditional = 7.0 × 10−7). We further confirmed the independence of two pairs of closely located loci (<2 Mb) on chromosome 16 at CMIP and CDH13, and on chromosome 12 at GPR109A and ZNF664. In addition, the newly identified signal near WDR11-FGFR2 exhibited evidence of association with triglycerides (P = 3.3 × 10−4), high density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C, P = 4.9 × 10−4) and body mass index (BMI)-adjusted waist–hip ratio (P = 9.8 × 10−3). These findings improve our knowledge of the genetic basis of adiponectin variation, demonstrate the shared allelic architecture for adiponectin with lipids and central obesity and motivate further studies of underlying mechanisms.
PMCID: PMC3900106  PMID: 24105470
5.  AIPL1, A protein linked to blindness, is essential for the stability of enzymes mediating cGMP metabolism in cone photoreceptor cells 
Human Molecular Genetics  2013;23(4):1002-1012.
Defects in the photoreceptor-specific gene encoding aryl hydrocarbon receptor interacting protein like-1 (AIPL1) are linked to blinding diseases, including Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA) and cone dystrophy. While it is apparent that AIPL1 is needed for rod and cone function, the role of AIPL1 in cones is not clear. In this study, using an all-cone animal model lacking Aipl1, we show a light-independent degeneration of M- and S-opsin containing cones that proceeds in a ventral-to-dorsal gradient. Aipl1 is needed for stability, assembly and membrane association of cone PDE6, an enzyme crucial for photoreceptor function and survival. Furthermore, RetGC1, a protein linked to LCA that is needed for cGMP synthesis, was dramatically reduced in cones lacking Aipl1. A defect in RetGC1 is supported by our finding that cones lacking Aipl1 exhibited reduced levels of cGMP. These findings are in contrast to the role of Aipl1 in rods, where destabilization of rod PDE6 results in an increase in cGMP levels, which drives rapid rod degeneration. Our results illustrate mechanistic differences behind the death of rods and cones in retinal degenerative disease caused by deficiencies in AIPL1.
PMCID: PMC3900108  PMID: 24108108
6.  Ataxia and hypogonadism caused by the loss of ubiquitin ligase activity of the U box protein CHIP 
Human Molecular Genetics  2013;23(4):1013-1024.
Gordon Holmes syndrome (GHS) is a rare Mendelian neurodegenerative disorder characterized by ataxia and hypogonadism. Recently, it was suggested that disordered ubiquitination underlies GHS though the discovery of exome mutations in the E3 ligase RNF216 and deubiquitinase OTUD4. We performed exome sequencing in a family with two of three siblings afflicted with ataxia and hypogonadism and identified a homozygous mutation in STUB1 (NM_005861) c.737C→T, p.Thr246Met, a gene that encodes the protein CHIP (C-terminus of HSC70-interacting protein). CHIP plays a central role in regulating protein quality control, in part through its ability to function as an E3 ligase. Loss of CHIP function has long been associated with protein misfolding and aggregation in several genetic mouse models of neurodegenerative disorders; however, a role for CHIP in human neurological disease has yet to be identified. Introduction of the Thr246Met mutation into CHIP results in a loss of ubiquitin ligase activity measured directly using recombinant proteins as well as in cell culture models. Loss of CHIP function in mice resulted in behavioral and reproductive impairments that mimic human ataxia and hypogonadism. We conclude that GHS can be caused by a loss-of-function mutation in CHIP. Our findings further highlight the role of disordered ubiquitination and protein quality control in the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative disease and demonstrate the utility of combining whole-exome sequencing with molecular analyses and animal models to define causal disease polymorphisms.
PMCID: PMC3900109  PMID: 24113144
7.  MeCP2: a novel Huntingtin interactor 
Human Molecular Genetics  2013;23(4):1036-1044.
Transcriptional dysregulation has been proposed to play a major role in the pathology of Huntington's disease (HD). However, the mechanisms that cause selective downregulation of target genes remain unknown. Previous studies have shown that mutant huntingtin (Htt) protein interacts with a number of transcription factors thereby altering transcription. Here we report that Htt directly interacts with methyl-CpG binding protein 2 (MeCP2) in mouse and cellular models of HD using complimentary biochemical and Fluorescent Lifetime Imaging to measure Förster Resonance Energy Transfer approaches. Htt–MeCP2 interactions are enhanced in the presence of the expanded polyglutamine (polyQ) tract and are stronger in the nucleus compared with the cytoplasm. Furthermore, we find increased binding of MeCP2 to the promoter of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a gene that is downregulated in HD, in the presence of mutant Htt. Finally, decreasing MeCP2 levels in mutant Htt-expressing cells using siRNA increases BDNF levels, suggesting that MeCP2 downregulates BDNF expression in HD. Taken together, these findings suggest that aberrant interactions between Htt and MeCP2 contribute to transcriptional dysregulation in HD.
PMCID: PMC3900110  PMID: 24105466
8.  Transcriptional regulation in pluripotent stem cells by methyl CpG-binding protein 2 (MeCP2) 
Human Molecular Genetics  2013;23(4):1045-1055.
Rett syndrome (RTT) is one of the most prevalent female mental disorders. De novo mutations in methyl CpG-binding protein 2 (MeCP2) are a major cause of RTT. MeCP2 regulates gene expression as a transcription regulator as well as through long-range chromatin interaction. Because MeCP2 is present on the X chromosome, RTT is manifested in an X-linked dominant manner. Investigation using murine MeCP2 null models and post-mortem human brain tissues has contributed to understanding the molecular and physiological function of MeCP2. In addition, RTT models using human induced pluripotent stem cells derived from RTT patients (RTT-iPSCs) provide novel resources to elucidate the regulatory mechanism of MeCP2. Previously, we obtained clones of female RTT-iPSCs that express either wild-type or mutant MECP2 due to the inactivation of one X chromosome. Reactivation of the X chromosome also allowed us to have RTT-iPSCs that express both wild-type and mutant MECP2. Using these unique pluripotent stem cells, we investigated the regulation of gene expression by MeCP2 in pluripotent stem cells by transcriptome analysis. We found that MeCP2 regulates genes encoding mitochondrial membrane proteins. In addition, loss of function in MeCP2 results in de-repression of genes on the inactive X chromosome. Furthermore, we showed that each mutation in MECP2 affects a partly different set of genes. These studies suggest that fundamental cellular physiology is affected by mutations in MECP2 from early development, and that a therapeutic approach targeting to unique forms of mutant MeCP2 is needed.
PMCID: PMC3900111  PMID: 24129406
9.  Genome-wide alteration of 5-hydroxymethylcytosine in a mouse model of fragile X-associated tremor/ataxia syndrome 
Human Molecular Genetics  2013;23(4):1095-1107.
Fragile X-associated tremor/ataxia syndrome (FXTAS) is a late-onset neurodegenerative disorder in which patients carry premutation alleles of 55–200 CGG repeats in the FMR1 gene. To date, whether alterations in epigenetic regulation modulate FXTAS has gone unexplored. 5-Hydroxymethylcytosine (5hmC) converted from 5-methylcytosine (5mC) by the ten-eleven translocation (TET) family of proteins has been found recently to play key roles in neuronal functions. Here, we undertook genome-wide profiling of cerebellar 5hmC in a FXTAS mouse model (rCGG mice) and found that rCGG mice at 16 weeks showed overall reduced 5hmC levels genome-wide compared with age-matched wild-type littermates. However, we also observed gain-of-5hmC regions in repetitive elements, as well as in cerebellum-specific enhancers, but not in general enhancers. Genomic annotation and motif prediction of wild-type- and rCGG-specific differential 5-hydroxymethylated regions (DhMRs) revealed their high correlation with genes and transcription factors that are important in neuronal developmental and functional pathways. DhMR-associated genes partially overlapped with genes that were differentially associated with ribosomes in CGG mice identified by bacTRAP ribosomal profiling. Taken together, our data strongly indicate a functional role for 5hmC-mediated epigenetic modulation in the etiology of FXTAS, possibly through the regulation of transcription.
PMCID: PMC3900112  PMID: 24108107
10.  Recessive TTN truncating mutations define novel forms of core myopathy with heart disease 
Human Molecular Genetics  2013;23(4):980-991.
Core myopathies (CM), the main non-dystrophic myopathies in childhood, remain genetically unexplained in many cases. Heart disease is not considered part of the typical CM spectrum. No congenital heart defect has been reported, and childhood-onset cardiomyopathy has been documented in only two CM families with homozygous mutations of the TTN gene. TTN encodes titin, a giant protein of striated muscles. Recently, heterozygous TTN truncating mutations have also been reported as a major cause of dominant dilated cardiomyopathy. However, relatively few TTN mutations and phenotypes are known, and titin pathophysiological role in cardiac and skeletal muscle conditions is incompletely understood. We analyzed a series of 23 families with congenital CM and primary heart disease using TTN M-line-targeted sequencing followed in selected patients by whole-exome sequencing and functional studies. We identified seven novel homozygous or compound heterozygous TTN mutations (five in the M-line, five truncating) in 17% patients. Heterozygous parents were healthy. Phenotype analysis identified four novel titinopathies, including cardiac septal defects, left ventricular non-compaction, Emery–Dreifuss muscular dystrophy or arthrogryposis. Additionally, in vitro studies documented the first-reported absence of a functional titin kinase domain in humans, leading to a severe antenatal phenotype. We establish that CM are associated with a large range of heart conditions of which TTN mutations are a major cause, thereby expanding the TTN mutational and phenotypic spectrum. Additionally, our results suggest titin kinase implication in cardiac morphogenesis and demonstrate that heterozygous TTN truncating mutations may not manifest unless associated with a second mutation, reassessing the paradigm of their dominant expression.
PMCID: PMC3954110  PMID: 24105469
12.  HNRNPA1 regulates HMGCR alternative splicing and modulates cellular cholesterol metabolism 
Human Molecular Genetics  2013;23(2):319-332.
3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-Coenzyme A reductase (HMGCR) encodes the rate-limiting enzyme in the cholesterol biosynthesis pathway and is inhibited by statins, a class of cholesterol-lowering drugs. Expression of an alternatively spliced HMGCR transcript lacking exon 13, HMGCR13(−), has been implicated in the variation of plasma LDL-cholesterol (LDL-C) and is the single most informative molecular marker of LDL-C response to statins. Given the physiological importance of this transcript, our goal was to identify molecules that regulate HMGCR alternative splicing. We recently reported gene expression changes in 480 lymphoblastoid cell lines (LCLs) after in vitro simvastatin treatment, and identified a number of statin-responsive genes involved in mRNA splicing. Heterogeneous nuclear ribonucleoprotein A1 (HNRNPA1) was chosen for follow-up since rs3846662, an HMGCR SNP that regulates exon 13 skipping, was predicted to alter an HNRNPA1 binding motif. Here, we not only demonstrate that rs3846662 modulates HNRNPA1 binding, but also that sterol depletion of human hepatoma cell lines reduced HNRNPA1 mRNA levels, an effect that was reversed with sterol add-back. Overexpression of HNRNPA1 increased the ratio of HMGCR13(−) to total HMGCR transcripts by both directly increasing exon 13 skipping in an allele-related manner and specifically stabilizing the HMGCR13(−) transcript. Importantly, HNRNPA1 overexpression also diminished HMGCR enzyme activity, enhanced LDL-C uptake and increased cellular apolipoprotein B (APOB). rs1920045, an SNP associated with HNRNPA1 exon 8 alternative splicing, was also associated with smaller statin-induced reduction in total cholesterol from two independent clinical trials. These results suggest that HNRNPA1 plays a role in the variation of cardiovascular disease risk and statin response.
PMCID: PMC3869353  PMID: 24001602
13.  Small RNAs derived from lncRNA RNase MRP have gene-silencing activity relevant to human cartilage–hair hypoplasia 
Human Molecular Genetics  2013;23(2):368-382.
Post-transcriptional processing of some long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) reveals that they are a source of miRNAs. We show that the 268-nt non-coding RNA component of mitochondrial RNA processing endoribonuclease, (RNase MRP), is the source of at least two short (∼20 nt) RNAs designated RMRP-S1 and RMRP-S2, which function as miRNAs. Point mutations in RNase MRP cause human cartilage–hair hypoplasia (CHH), and several disease-causing mutations map to RMRP-S1 and -S2. SHAPE chemical probing identified two alternative secondary structures altered by disease mutations. RMRP-S1 and -S2 are significantly reduced in two fibroblast cell lines and a B-cell line derived from CHH patients. Tests of gene regulatory activity of RMRP-S1 and -S2 identified over 900 genes that were significantly regulated, of which over 75% were down-regulated, and 90% contained target sites with seed complements of RMRP-S1 and -S2 predominantly in their 3′ UTRs. Pathway analysis identified regulated genes that function in skeletal development, hair development and hematopoietic cell differentiation including PTCH2 and SOX4 among others, linked to major CHH phenotypes. Also, genes associated with alternative RNA splicing, cell proliferation and differentiation were highly targeted. Therefore, alterations RMRP-S1 and -S2, caused by point mutations in RMRP, are strongly implicated in the molecular mechanism of CHH.
PMCID: PMC3869355  PMID: 24009312
14.  Laminin-111 improves muscle repair in a mouse model of merosin-deficient congenital muscular dystrophy 
Human Molecular Genetics  2013;23(2):383-396.
Merosin-deficient congenital muscular dystrophy type 1A (MDC1A) is a severe and fatal muscle-wasting disease with no cure. MDC1A patients and the dyW−/− mouse model exhibit severe muscle weakness, demyelinating neuropathy, failed muscle regeneration and premature death. We have recently shown that laminin-111, a form of laminin found in embryonic skeletal muscle, can substitute for the loss of laminin-211/221 and prevent muscle disease progression in the dyW−/− mouse model. What is unclear from these studies is whether laminin-111 can restore failed regeneration to laminin-α2-deficient muscle. To investigate the potential of laminin-111 protein therapy to improve muscle regeneration, laminin-111 or phosphate-buffered saline-treated laminin-α2-deficient muscle was damaged with cardiotoxin and muscle regeneration quantified. Our results show laminin-111 treatment promoted an increase in myofiber size and number, and an increased expression of α7β1 integrin, Pax7, myogenin and embryonic myosin heavy chain, indicating a restoration of the muscle regenerative program. Together, our results show laminin-111 restores muscle regeneration to laminin-α2-deficient muscle and further supports laminin-111 protein as a therapy for the treatment of MDC1A.
PMCID: PMC3869356  PMID: 24009313
15.  Multilineage somatic activating mutations in HRAS and NRAS cause mosaic cutaneous and skeletal lesions, elevated FGF23 and hypophosphatemia 
Human Molecular Genetics  2013;23(2):397-407.
Pathologically elevated serum levels of fibroblast growth factor-23 (FGF23), a bone-derived hormone that regulates phosphorus homeostasis, result in renal phosphate wasting and lead to rickets or osteomalacia. Rarely, elevated serum FGF23 levels are found in association with mosaic cutaneous disorders that affect large proportions of the skin and appear in patterns corresponding to the migration of ectodermal progenitors. The cause and source of elevated serum FGF23 is unknown. In those conditions, such as epidermal and large congenital melanocytic nevi, skin lesions are variably associated with other abnormalities in the eye, brain and vasculature. The wide distribution of involved tissues and the appearance of multiple segmental skin and bone lesions suggest that these conditions result from early embryonic somatic mutations. We report five such cases with elevated serum FGF23 and bone lesions, four with large epidermal nevi and one with a giant congenital melanocytic nevus. Exome sequencing of blood and affected skin tissue identified somatic activating mutations of HRAS or NRAS in each case without recurrent secondary mutation, and we further found that the same mutation is present in dysplastic bone. Our finding of somatic activating RAS mutation in bone, the endogenous source of FGF23, provides the first evidence that elevated serum FGF23 levels, hypophosphatemia and osteomalacia are associated with pathologic Ras activation and may provide insight in the heretofore limited understanding of the regulation of FGF23.
PMCID: PMC3869357  PMID: 24006476
16.  Education influences the association between genetic variants and refractive error: a meta-analysis of five Singapore studies 
Human Molecular Genetics  2013;23(2):546-554.
Refractive error is a complex ocular trait governed by both genetic and environmental factors and possibly their interplay. Thus far, data on the interaction between genetic variants and environmental risk factors for refractive errors are largely lacking. By using findings from recent genome-wide association studies, we investigated whether the main environmental factor, education, modifies the effect of 40 single nucleotide polymorphisms on refractive error among 8461 adults from five studies including ethnic Chinese, Malay and Indian residents of Singapore. Three genetic loci SHISA6-DNAH9, GJD2 and ZMAT4-SFRP1 exhibited a strong association with myopic refractive error in individuals with higher secondary or university education (SHISA6-DNAH9: rs2969180 A allele, β = −0.33 D, P = 3.6 × 10–6; GJD2: rs524952 A allele, β = −0.31 D, P = 1.68 × 10−5; ZMAT4-SFRP1: rs2137277 A allele, β = −0.47 D, P = 1.68 × 10−4), whereas the association at these loci was non-significant or of borderline significance in those with lower secondary education or below (P for interaction: 3.82 × 10−3–4.78 × 10−4). The evidence for interaction was strengthened when combining the genetic effects of these three loci (P for interaction = 4.40 × 10−8), and significant interactions with education were also observed for axial length and myopia. Our study shows that low level of education may attenuate the effect of risk alleles on myopia. These findings further underline the role of gene–environment interactions in the pathophysiology of myopia.
PMCID: PMC3869359  PMID: 24014484
17.  Variants in two adjacent genes, EGLN2 and CYP2A6, influence smoking behavior related to disease risk via different mechanisms 
Human Molecular Genetics  2013;23(2):555-561.
Genome-wide significant associations with cigarettes per day (CPD) and risk for lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) were previously reported in a region of 19q13, including CYP2A6 (nicotine metabolism enzyme) and EGLN2 (hypoxia response). The associated single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) were assumed to be proxies for functional variation in CYP2A6. Here, we demonstrate that when CYP2A6 and EGLN2 genotypes are analyzed together, the key EGLN2 variant, rs3733829, is not associated with nicotine metabolism independent of CYP2A6, but is nevertheless independently associated with CPD, and with breath carbon monoxide (CO), a phenotype associated with cigarette consumption and relevant to hypoxia. SNPs in EGLN2 are also associated with nicotine dependence and with smoking efficiency (CO/CPD). These results indicate a previously unappreciated novel mechanism behind genome-wide significant associations with cigarette consumption and disease risk unrelated to nicotine metabolism.
PMCID: PMC3869360  PMID: 24045616
18.  Evidence for dysregulation of genome-wide recombination in oocytes with nondisjoined chromosomes 21 
Human Molecular Genetics  2013;23(2):408-417.
In oocytes with nondisjoined chromosomes 21 due to a meiosis I (MI) error, recombination is significantly reduced along chromosome 21; several lines of evidence indicate that this contributes to the nondisjunction event. A pilot study found evidence that these oocytes also have reduced recombination genome-wide when compared with controls. This suggests that factors that act globally may be contributing to the reduced recombination on chromosome 21, and hence, the nondisjunction event. To identify the source of these factors, we examined two levels of recombination count regulation in oocytes: (i) regulation at the maternal level that leads to correlation in genome-wide recombination across her oocytes and (ii) regulation at the oocyte level that leads to correlation in recombination count among the chromosomes of an oocyte. We sought to determine whether either of these properties was altered in oocytes with an MI error. As it relates to maternal regulation, we found that both oocytes with an MI error (N = 94) and their siblings (N = 64) had reduced recombination when compared with controls (N = 2723). At the oocyte level, we found that the correlation in recombination count among the chromosomes of an oocyte is reduced in oocytes with MI errors compared with that of their siblings or controls. These results suggest that regulation at the maternal level predisposes MI error oocytes to reduced levels of recombination, but additional oocyte-specific dysregulation contributes to the nondisjunction event.
PMCID: PMC3869361  PMID: 24014426
19.  A mutation in a ganglioside biosynthetic enzyme, ST3GAL5, results in salt & pepper syndrome, a neurocutaneous disorder with altered glycolipid and glycoprotein glycosylation 
Human Molecular Genetics  2013;23(2):418-433.
‘Salt & Pepper’ syndrome is an autosomal recessive condition characterized by severe intellectual disability, epilepsy, scoliosis, choreoathetosis, dysmorphic facial features and altered dermal pigmentation. High-density SNP array analysis performed on siblings first described with this syndrome detected four shared regions of loss of heterozygosity (LOH). Whole-exome sequencing narrowed the candidate region to chromosome 2p11.2. Sanger sequencing confirmed a homozygous c.994G>A transition (p.E332K) in the ST3GAL5 gene, which encodes for a sialyltransferase also known as GM3 synthase. A different homozygous mutation of this gene has been previously associated with infantile-onset epilepsy syndromes in two other cohorts. The ST3GAL5 enzyme synthesizes ganglioside GM3, a glycosophingolipid enriched in neural tissue, by adding sialic acid to lactosylceramide. Unlike disorders of glycosphingolipid (GSL) degradation, very little is known regarding the molecular and pathophysiologic consequences of altered GSL biosynthesis. Glycolipid analysis confirmed a complete lack of GM3 ganglioside in patient fibroblasts, while microarray analysis of glycosyltransferase mRNAs detected modestly increased expression of ST3GAL5 and greater changes in transcripts encoding enzymes that lie downstream of ST3GAL5 and in other GSL biosynthetic pathways. Comprehensive glycomic analysis of N-linked, O-linked and GSL glycans revealed collateral alterations in response to loss of complex gangliosides in patient fibroblasts and in zebrafish embryos injected with antisense morpholinos that targeted zebrafish st3gal5 expression. Morphant zebrafish embryos also exhibited increased apoptotic cell death in multiple brain regions, emphasizing the importance of GSL expression in normal neural development and function.
PMCID: PMC3869362  PMID: 24026681
20.  CHD7 and retinoic acid signaling cooperate to regulate neural stem cell and inner ear development in mouse models of CHARGE syndrome 
Human Molecular Genetics  2013;23(2):434-448.
CHARGE syndrome is a multiple congenital anomaly disorder that leads to life-threatening birth defects, such as choanal atresia and cardiac malformations as well as multiple sensory impairments, that affect hearing, vision, olfaction and balance. CHARGE is caused by heterozygous mutations in CHD7, which encodes an ATP-dependent chromatin remodeling enzyme. Identification of the mechanisms underlying neurological and sensory defects in CHARGE is a first step toward developing treatments for CHARGE individuals. Here, we used mouse models of Chd7 deficiency to explore the function of CHD7 in the development of the subventricular zone (SVZ) neural stem cell niche and inner ear, structures that are important for olfactory bulb neurogenesis and hearing and balance, respectively. We found that loss of Chd7 results in cell-autonomous proliferative, neurogenic and self-renewal defects in the perinatal and mature mouse SVZ stem cell niche. Modulation of retinoic acid (RA) signaling prevented in vivo inner ear and in vitro neural stem cell defects caused by Chd7 deficiency. Our findings demonstrate critical, cooperative roles for RA and CHD7 in SVZ neural stem cell function and inner ear development, suggesting that altered RA signaling may be an effective method for treating Chd7 deficiency.
PMCID: PMC3869363  PMID: 24026680
21.  LIS1 controls mitosis and mitotic spindle organization via the LIS1–NDEL1–dynein complex 
Human Molecular Genetics  2013;23(2):449-466.
Heterozygous LIS1 mutations are responsible for the human neuronal migration disorder lissencephaly. Mitotic functions of LIS1 have been suggested from many organisms throughout evolution. However, the cellular functions of LIS1 at distinct intracellular compartments such as the centrosome and the cell cortex have not been well defined especially during mitotic cell division. Here, we used detailed cellular approaches and time-lapse live cell imaging of mitosis from Lis1 mutant mouse embryonic fibroblasts to reveal critical roles of LIS1 in mitotic spindle regulation. We found that LIS1 is required for the tight control of chromosome congression and segregation to dictate kinetochore–microtubule (MT) interactions and anaphase progression. In addition, LIS1 is essential for the establishment of mitotic spindle pole integrity by maintaining normal centrosome number. Moreover, LIS1 plays crucial roles in mitotic spindle orientation by increasing the density of astral MT plus-end movements toward the cell cortex, which enhances cortical targeting of LIS1–dynein complex. Overexpression of NDEL1–dynein and MT stabilization rescues spindle orientation defects in Lis1 mutants, demonstrating that mouse LIS1 acts via the LIS1–NDEL1–dynein complex to regulate astral MT plus-ends dynamics and establish proper contacts of MTs with the cell cortex to ensure precise cell division.
PMCID: PMC3869364  PMID: 24030547
22.  Mid-stage intervention achieves similar efficacy as conventional early-stage treatment using gene therapy in a pre-clinical model of retinitis pigmentosa 
Human Molecular Genetics  2013;23(2):514-523.
Deficiencies in rod-specific cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP) phosphodiesterase-6 (PDE6) are the third most common cause of autosomal recessive retinitis pigmentosa (RP). Previously, viral gene therapy approaches on pre-clinical models with mutations in PDE6 have demonstrated that the photoreceptor cell survival and visual function can be rescued when the gene therapy virus is delivered into the subretinal space before the onset of disease. However, no studies have currently been published that analyze rescue effects after disease onset, a time when human RP patients are diagnosed by a clinician and would receive the treatment. We utilized the AAV2/8(Y733F)-Rho-Pde6α gene therapy virus and injected it into a pre-clinical model of RP with a mutation within the alpha subunit of PDE6: Pde6αD670G. These mice were previously shown to have long-term photoreceptor cell rescue when this gene therapy virus was delivered before the onset of disease. Now, we have determined that subretinal transduction of this rod-specific transgene at post-natal day (P) 21, when approximately half of the photoreceptor cells have undergone degeneration, is more efficient in rescuing cone than rod photoreceptor function long term. Therefore, AAV2/8(Y733F)-Rho-Pde6α is an effective gene therapy treatment that can be utilized in the clinical setting, in human patients who have lost portions of their peripheral visual field and are in the mid-stage of disease when they first present to an eye-care professional.
PMCID: PMC3869365  PMID: 24101599
23.  Evaluating the effects of CELF1 deficiency in a mouse model of RNA toxicity 
Human Molecular Genetics  2013;23(2):293-302.
Myotonic dystrophy type 1 (DM1), the most common form of adult-onset muscular dystrophy, is caused by an expanded (CTG)n repeat in the 3′ untranslated region of the DM protein kinase (DMPK) gene. The toxic RNA transcripts produced from the mutant allele alter the function of RNA-binding proteins leading to the functional depletion of muscleblind-like (MBNL) proteins and an increase in steady state levels of CUG-BP1 (CUGBP-ETR-3 like factor 1, CELF1). The role of increased CELF1 in DM1 pathogenesis is well studied using genetically engineered mouse models. Also, as a potential therapeutic strategy, the benefits of increasing MBNL1 expression have recently been reported. However, the effect of reduction of CELF1 is not yet clear. In this study, we generated CELF1 knockout mice, which also carry an inducible toxic RNA transgene to test the effects of CELF1 reduction in RNA toxicity. We found that the absence of CELF1 did not correct splicing defects. It did however mitigate the increase in translational targets of CELF1 (MEF2A and C/EBPβ). Notably, we found that loss of CELF1 prevented deterioration of muscle function by the toxic RNA, and resulted in better muscle histopathology. These data suggest that while reduction of CELF1 may be of limited benefit with respect to DM1-associated spliceopathy, it may be beneficial to the muscular dystrophy associated with RNA toxicity.
PMCID: PMC3924053  PMID: 24001600
24.  Depletion of extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1 in mice with cardiomyopathy caused by lamin A/C gene mutation partially prevents pathology before isoenzyme activation 
Human Molecular Genetics  2013;23(1):1-11.
Mutations in the lamin A/C gene (LMNA) encoding A-type nuclear lamins cause dilated cardiomyopathy with variable muscular dystrophy. These mutations enhance mitogen-activated protein kinase signaling in the heart and pharmacological inhibition of extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) 1 and 2 improves cardiac function in LmnaH222P/H222P mice. In the current study, we crossed mice lacking ERK1 to LmnaH222P/H222P mice and examined cardiac performance and survival. Male LmnaH222P/H222P/Erk1−/− mice lacking ERK1 had smaller left ventricular end systolic diameters and increased fractional shortening (FS) at 16 weeks of age than LmnaH222P/H222P/Erk1+/+ mice. Their mean survival was also significantly longer. However, the improved cardiac function was abrogated at 20 weeks of age concurrent with an increased activity of ERK2. LmnaH222P/H222P/Erk1−/− mice treated with an inhibitor of ERK1/2 activation had smaller left ventricular diameters and increased FS at 20 weeks of age. These results provide genetic evidence that ERK1 and ERK2 contribute to the development of cardiomyopathy caused by LMNA mutations and reveal interplay between these isoenzymes in maintaining a combined pathological activity in heart.
PMCID: PMC3857940  PMID: 23933734
25.  Epigenetic regulation of the RHOX homeobox gene cluster and its association with human male infertility 
Human Molecular Genetics  2013;23(1):12-23.
The X-linked RHOX cluster encodes a set of homeobox genes that are selectively expressed in the reproductive tract. Members of the RHOX cluster regulate target genes important for spermatogenesis promote male fertility in mice. Studies show that demethylating agents strongly upregulate the expression of mouse Rhox genes, suggesting that they are regulated by DNA methylation. However, whether this extends to human RHOX genes, whether DNA methylation directly regulates RHOX gene transcription and how this relates to human male infertility are unknown. To address these issues, we first defined the promoter regions of human RHOX genes and performed gain- and loss-of-function experiments to determine whether human RHOX gene transcription is regulated by DNA methylation. Our results indicated that DNA methylation is necessary and sufficient to silence human RHOX gene expression. To determine whether RHOX cluster methylation associates with male infertility, we evaluated the methylation status of RHOX genes in sperm from a large cohort of infertility patients. Linear regression analysis revealed a strong association between RHOX gene cluster hypermethylation and three independent types of semen abnormalities. Hypermethylation was restricted specifically to the RHOX cluster; we did not observe it in genes immediately adjacent to it on the X chromosome. Our results strongly suggest that human RHOX homeobox genes are under an epigenetic control mechanism that is aberrantly regulated in infertility patients. We propose that hypermethylation of the RHOX gene cluster serves as a marker for idiopathic infertility and that it is a candidate to exert a causal role in male infertility.
PMCID: PMC3857941  PMID: 23943794

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