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1.  Epigenetic control of alternative mRNA processing at the imprinted Herc3/Nap1l5 locus 
Nucleic Acids Research  2012;40(18):8917-8926.
Alternative polyadenylation increases transcriptome diversity by generating multiple transcript isoforms from a single gene. It is thought that this process can be subject to epigenetic regulation, but few specific examples of this have been reported. We previously showed that the Mcts2/H13 locus is subject to genomic imprinting and that alternative polyadenylation of H13 transcripts occurs in an allele-specific manner, regulated by epigenetic mechanisms. Here, we demonstrate that allele-specific polyadenylation occurs at another imprinted locus with similar features. Nap1l5 is a retrogene expressed from the paternally inherited allele, is situated within an intron of a ‘host’ gene Herc3, and overlaps a CpG island that is differentially methylated between the parental alleles. In mouse brain, internal Herc3 polyadenylation sites upstream of Nap1l5 are used on the paternally derived chromosome, from which Nap1l5 is expressed, whereas a downstream site is used more frequently on the maternally derived chromosome. Ablating DNA methylation on the maternal allele at the Nap1l5 promoter increases the use of an internal Herc3 polyadenylation site and alters exon splicing. These changes demonstrate the influence of epigenetic mechanisms in regulating Herc3 alternative mRNA processing. Internal Herc3 polyadenylation correlates with expression levels of Nap1l5, suggesting a possible role for transcriptional interference. Similar mechanisms may regulate alternative polyadenylation elsewhere in the genome.
PMCID: PMC3467052  PMID: 22790983
2.  Dystrobrevin and dystrophin family gene expression in zebrafish 
Dystrophin/dystrobrevin superfamily proteins play structural and signalling roles at the plasma membrane of many cell types. Defects in them or the associated multiprotein complex cause a range of neuromuscular disorders. Members of the dystrophin branch of the family form heterodimers with members of the dystrobrevin branch, mediated by their coiled-coil domains. To determine which combinations of these proteins might interact during embryonic development, we set out to characterise the gene expression pattern of dystrophin and dystrobrevin family members in zebrafish. γ-dystrobrevin (dtng), a novel dystrobrevin recently identified in fish, is the predominant form of dystrobrevin in embryonic development. Dtng and dmd (dystrophin) have similar spatial and temporal expression patterns in muscle, where transcripts are localized to the ends of differentiated fibres at the somite borders. Dtng is expressed in the notochord while dmd is expressed in the chordo-neural hinge and then in floor plate and hypochord. In addition, dtng is dynamically expressed in rhombomeres 2 and 4-6 of the hindbrain and in the ventral midbrain. α-dystrobrevin (dtna) is expressed widely in the brain with particularly strong expression in the hypothalamus and the telencephalon; drp2 is also expressed widely in the brain. Utrophin expression is found in early pronephros and lateral line development and utrophin and dystrophin are both expressed later in the gut. β-dystrobrevin (dtnb) is expressed in the pronephric duct and widely at low levels. In summary, we find clear instances of co-expression of dystrophin and dystrobrevin family members in muscle, brain and pronephric duct development and many examples of strong and specific expression of members of one family but not the other, an intriguing finding given the presumed heterodimeric state of these molecules.
PMCID: PMC3360968  PMID: 18042440
muscle; zebrafish; notochord; midbrain; rhombomere; gene expression; utrophin; dystrophin; dystrobrevin; drp2; dystrotelin
3.  Heterozygous deletion of a 2-Mb region including the dystroglycan gene in a patient with mild myopathy, facial hypotonia, oral-motor dyspraxia and white matter abnormalities 
Dystroglycan is a protein which binds directly to two proteins defective in muscular dystrophies (dystrophin and laminin α2) and whose own aberrant post-translational modification is the common aetiological route of neuromuscular diseases associated with mutations in genes encoding at least six other proteins (POMT1, POMT2, POMGnT1, LARGE, FKTN and FKRP). It is surprising, therefore, that to our knowledge no mutations of the human dystroglycan gene itself have yet been reported. In this study, we describe a patient with a heterozygous de novo deletion of a ∼2-Mb region of chromosome 3, which includes the dystroglycan gene (DAG1). The patient is a 16-year-old female with learning difficulties, white matter abnormalities, elevated serum creatine kinase, oral-motor dyspraxia and facial hypotonia but minimal clinically significant involvement of other muscles. As these symptoms are a subset of those observed in disorders of dystroglycan glycosylation (muscle–eye–brain disease and Warker–Warburg syndrome), we assess the likely contribution to her phenotype of her heterogosity for a null mutation of DAG1. We also show that the transcriptional compensation observed in the Dag1+/− mouse is not observed in the patient. Although we cannot show that haploinsufficiency of DAG1 is the sole cause of this patient's myopathy and white matter changes, this case serves to constrain our ideas of the severity of the phenotypic consequences of heterozygosity for null DAG1 mutations.
PMCID: PMC2987357  PMID: 20234391
dystroglycan; muscular dystrophy; learning difficulties; white matter; oral-motor dyspraxia
4.  Profound human/mouse differences in alpha-dystrobrevin isoforms: a novel syntrophin-binding site and promoter missing in mouse and rat 
BMC Biology  2009;7:85.
The dystrophin glycoprotein complex is disrupted in Duchenne muscular dystrophy and many other neuromuscular diseases. The principal heterodimeric partner of dystrophin at the heart of the dystrophin glycoprotein complex in the main clinically affected tissues (skeletal muscle, heart and brain) is its distant relative, α-dystrobrevin. The α-dystrobrevin gene is subject to complex transcriptional and post-transcriptional regulation, generating a substantial range of isoforms by alternative promoter use, alternative polyadenylation and alternative splicing. The choice of isoform is understood, amongst other things, to determine the stoichiometry of syntrophins (and their ligands) in the dystrophin glycoprotein complex.
We show here that, contrary to the literature, most α-dystrobrevin genes, including that of humans, encode three distinct syntrophin-binding sites, rather than two, resulting in a greatly enhanced isoform repertoire. We compare in detail the quantitative tissue-specific expression pattern of human and mouse α-dystrobrevin isoforms, and show that two major gene features (the novel syntrophin-binding site-encoding exon and the internal promoter and first exon of brain-specific isoforms α-dystrobrevin-4 and -5) are present in most mammals but specifically ablated in mouse and rat.
Lineage-specific mutations in the murids mean that the mouse brain has fewer than half of the α-dystrobrevin isoforms found in the human brain. Our finding that there are likely to be fundamental functional differences between the α-dystrobrevins (and therefore the dystrophin glycoprotein complexes) of mice and humans raises questions about the current use of the mouse as the principal model animal for studying Duchenne muscular dystrophy and other related disorders, especially the neurological aspects thereof.
PMCID: PMC2796648  PMID: 19961569
5.  The dystrotelin, dystrophin and dystrobrevin superfamily: new paralogues and old isoforms 
BMC Genomics  2007;8:19.
Dystrophins and dystrobrevins are distantly related proteins with important but poorly understood roles in the function of metazoan muscular and neuronal tissues. Defects in them and their associated proteins cause a range of neuromuscular disorders. Members of this superfamily have been discovered in a relatively serendipitous way; we set out to compile a comprehensive description of dystrophin- and dystrobrevin-related sequences from available metazoan genome sequences, validated in representative organisms by RT-PCR, or acquired de novo from key species.
Features of the superfamily revealed by our survey include: a) Dystrotelin, an entirely novel branch of the superfamily, present in most vertebrates examined. Dystrotelin is expressed in the central nervous system, and is a possible orthologue of Drosophila DAH. We describe the preliminary characterisation of its function, evolution and expression. b) A novel vertebrate member of the dystrobrevin family, γ-dystrobrevin, an ancient branch now extant only in fish, but probably present in our own ancestors. Like dystrophin, zebrafish γ-dystrobrevin mRNA is localised to myosepta. c) The extent of conservation of alternative splicing and alternative promoter use in the dystrophin and dystrobrevin genes; alternative splicing of dystrophin exons 73 and 78 and α-dystrobrevin exon 13 are conserved across vertebrates, as are the use of the Dp116, Dp71 and G-utrophin promoters; the Dp260 and Dp140 promoters are tetrapod innovations. d) The evolution of the unique N-terminus of DRP2 and its relationship to Dp116 and G-utrophin. e) A C-terminally truncated common ancestor of dystrophin and utrophin in cyclostomes. f) A severely restricted repertoire of dystrophin complex components in ascidians.
We have refined our understanding of the evolutionary history and isoform diversity of the five previously reported vertebrate superfamily members and describe two novel members, dystrotelin and γ-dystrobrevin. Dystrotelins, dystrophins and dystrobrevins are roughly equally related to each other. Vertebrates therefore have a repertoire of seven superfamily members (three dystrophins, three dystrobevins, and one dystrotelin), with one lost in tetrapods. Most invertebrates studied have one member from each branch. Although the basic shared function which is implied by the common architecture of these distantly related proteins remains unclear, it clearly permeates metazoan biology.
PMCID: PMC1790709  PMID: 17233888

Results 1-5 (5)