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1.  S1PR2 variants associated with auditory function in humans and endocochlear potential decline in mouse 
Scientific Reports  2016;6:28964.
Progressive hearing loss is very common in the population but we still know little about the underlying pathology. A new spontaneous mouse mutation (stonedeaf, stdf ) leading to recessive, early-onset progressive hearing loss was detected and exome sequencing revealed a Thr289Arg substitution in Sphingosine-1-Phosphate Receptor-2 (S1pr2). Mutants aged 2 weeks had normal hearing sensitivity, but at 4 weeks most showed variable degrees of hearing impairment, which became severe or profound in all mutants by 14 weeks. Endocochlear potential (EP) was normal at 2 weeks old but was reduced by 4 and 8 weeks old in mutants, and the stria vascularis, which generates the EP, showed degenerative changes. Three independent mouse knockout alleles of S1pr2 have been described previously, but this is the first time that a reduced EP has been reported. Genomic markers close to the human S1PR2 gene were significantly associated with auditory thresholds in the 1958 British Birth Cohort (n = 6099), suggesting involvement of S1P signalling in human hearing loss. The finding of early onset loss of EP gives new mechanistic insight into the disease process and suggests that therapies for humans with hearing loss due to S1P signalling defects need to target strial function.
PMCID: PMC4935955  PMID: 27383011
2.  Alternative Splice Forms Influence Functions of Whirlin in Mechanosensory Hair Cell Stereocilia 
Cell Reports  2016;15(5):935-943.
WHRN (DFNB31) mutations cause diverse hearing disorders: profound deafness (DFNB31) or variable hearing loss in Usher syndrome type II. The known role of WHRN in stereocilia elongation does not explain these different pathophysiologies. Using spontaneous and targeted Whrn mutants, we show that the major long (WHRN-L) and short (WHRN-S) isoforms of WHRN have distinct localizations within stereocilia and also across hair cell types. Lack of both isoforms causes abnormally short stereocilia and profound deafness and vestibular dysfunction. WHRN-S expression, however, is sufficient to maintain stereocilia bundle morphology and function in a subset of hair cells, resulting in some auditory response and no overt vestibular dysfunction. WHRN-S interacts with EPS8, and both are required at stereocilia tips for normal length regulation. WHRN-L localizes midway along the shorter stereocilia, at the level of inter-stereociliary links. We propose that differential isoform expression underlies the variable auditory and vestibular phenotypes associated with WHRN mutations.
Graphical Abstract
•Major WHRN isoforms WHRN-S and WHRN-L have distinct localizations within stereocilia•Lack of WHRN-S and WHRN-L causes short stereocilia bundles and profound deafness•In absence of WHRN-L, WHRN-S can preserve stereocilia length in certain hair cells•Differential isoform expression underlies distinct phenotypes of known Whrn mutations
Ebrahim et al. show that two major isoforms of the WHRN gene have distinct localizations and functions within and across mechanosensory hair cells in the inner ear, and isoform-specific mutations are the likely cause of different auditory pathophysiologies associated with WHRN in mouse and humans.
PMCID: PMC4859837  PMID: 27117407
3.  Mutations and altered expression of SERPINF1 in patients with familial otosclerosis 
Human Molecular Genetics  2016;25(12):2393-2403.
Otosclerosis is a relatively common heterogenous condition, characterized by abnormal bone remodelling in the otic capsule leading to fixation of the stapedial footplate and an associated conductive hearing loss. Although familial linkage and candidate gene association studies have been performed in recent years, little progress has been made in identifying disease-causing genes. Here, we used whole-exome sequencing in four families exhibiting dominantly inherited otosclerosis to identify 23 candidate variants (reduced to 9 after segregation analysis) for further investigation in a secondary cohort of 84 familial cases. Multiple mutations were found in the SERPINF1 (Serpin Peptidase Inhibitor, Clade F) gene which encodes PEDF (pigment epithelium-derived factor), a potent inhibitor of angiogenesis and known regulator of bone density. Six rare heterozygous SERPINF1 variants were found in seven patients in our familial otosclerosis cohort; three are missense mutations predicted to be deleterious to protein function. The other three variants are all located in the 5′-untranslated region (UTR) of an alternative spliced transcript SERPINF1-012. RNA-seq analysis demonstrated that this is the major SERPINF1 transcript in human stapes bone. Analysis of stapes from two patients with the 5′-UTR mutations showed that they had reduced expression of SERPINF1-012. All three 5′-UTR mutations are predicted to occur within transcription factor binding sites and reporter gene assays confirmed that they affect gene expression levels. Furthermore, RT-qPCR analysis of stapes bone cDNA showed that SERPINF1-012 expression is reduced in otosclerosis patients with and without SERPINF1 mutations, suggesting that it may be a common pathogenic pathway in the disease.
PMCID: PMC5181625  PMID: 27056980
4.  Exploring regulatory networks of miR-96 in the developing inner ear 
Scientific Reports  2016;6:23363.
Mutations in the microRNA Mir96 cause deafness in mice and humans. In the diminuendo mouse, which carries a single base pair change in the seed region of miR-96, the sensory hair cells crucial for hearing fail to develop fully and retain immature characteristics, suggesting that miR-96 is important for coordinating hair cell maturation. Our previous transcriptional analyses show that many genes are misregulated in the diminuendo inner ear and we report here further misregulated genes. We have chosen three complementary approaches to explore potential networks controlled by miR-96 using these transcriptional data. Firstly, we used regulatory interactions manually curated from the literature to construct a regulatory network incorporating our transcriptional data. Secondly, we built a protein-protein interaction network using the InnateDB database. Thirdly, gene set enrichment analysis was used to identify gene sets in which the misregulated genes are enriched. We have identified several candidates for mediating some of the expression changes caused by the diminuendo mutation, including Fos, Myc, Trp53 and Nr3c1, and confirmed our prediction that Fos is downregulated in diminuendo homozygotes. Understanding the pathways regulated by miR-96 could lead to potential therapeutic targets for treating hearing loss due to perturbation of any component of the network.
PMCID: PMC4796898  PMID: 26988146
5.  Analysis of mammalian gene function through broad based phenotypic screens across a consortium of mouse clinics 
de Angelis, Martin Hrabě | Nicholson, George | Selloum, Mohammed | White, Jacqui | Morgan, Hugh | Ramirez-Solis, Ramiro | Sorg, Tania | Wells, Sara | Fuchs, Helmut | Fray, Martin | Adams, David J | Adams, Niels C | Adler, Thure | Aguilar-Pimentel, Antonio | Ali-Hadji, Dalila | Amann, Gregory | André, Philippe | Atkins, Sarah | Auburtin, Aurelie | Ayadi, Abdel | Becker, Julien | Becker, Lore | Bedu, Elodie | Bekeredjian, Raffi | Birling, Marie-Christine | Blake, Andrew | Bottomley, Joanna | Bowl, Mike | Brault, Véronique | Busch, Dirk H | Bussell, James N | Calzada-Wack, Julia | Cater, Heather | Champy, Marie-France | Charles, Philippe | Chevalier, Claire | Chiani, Francesco | Codner, Gemma F | Combe, Roy | Cox, Roger | Dalloneau, Emilie | Dierich, André | Di Fenza, Armida | Doe, Brendan | Duchon, Arnaud | Eickelberg, Oliver | Esapa, Chris T | El Fertak, Lahcen | Feigel, Tanja | Emelyanova, Irina | Estabel, Jeanne | Favor, Jack | Flenniken, Ann | Gambadoro, Alessia | Garrett, Lilian | Gates, Hilary | Gerdin, Anna-Karin | Gkoutos, George | Greenaway, Simon | Glasl, Lisa | Goetz, Patrice | Da Cruz, Isabelle Goncalves | Götz, Alexander | Graw, Jochen | Guimond, Alain | Hans, Wolfgang | Hicks, Geoff | Hölter, Sabine M | Höfler, Heinz | Hancock, John M | Hoehndorf, Robert | Hough, Tertius | Houghton, Richard | Hurt, Anja | Ivandic, Boris | Jacobs, Hughes | Jacquot, Sylvie | Jones, Nora | Karp, Natasha A | Katus, Hugo A | Kitchen, Sharon | Klein-Rodewald, Tanja | Klingenspor, Martin | Klopstock, Thomas | Lalanne, Valerie | Leblanc, Sophie | Lengger, Christoph | le Marchand, Elise | Ludwig, Tonia | Lux, Aline | McKerlie, Colin | Maier, Holger | Mandel, Jean-Louis | Marschall, Susan | Mark, Manuel | Melvin, David G | Meziane, Hamid | Micklich, Kateryna | Mittelhauser, Christophe | Monassier, Laurent | Moulaert, David | Muller, Stéphanie | Naton, Beatrix | Neff, Frauke | Nolan, Patrick M | Nutter, Lauryl MJ | Ollert, Markus | Pavlovic, Guillaume | Pellegata, Natalia S | Peter, Emilie | Petit-Demoulière, Benoit | Pickard, Amanda | Podrini, Christine | Potter, Paul | Pouilly, Laurent | Puk, Oliver | Richardson, David | Rousseau, Stephane | Quintanilla-Fend, Leticia | Quwailid, Mohamed M | Racz, Ildiko | Rathkolb, Birgit | Riet, Fabrice | Rossant, Janet | Roux, Michel | Rozman, Jan | Ryder, Ed | Salisbury, Jennifer | Santos, Luis | Schäble, Karl-Heinz | Schiller, Evelyn | Schrewe, Anja | Schulz, Holger | Steinkamp, Ralf | Simon, Michelle | Stewart, Michelle | Stöger, Claudia | Stöger, Tobias | Sun, Minxuan | Sunter, David | Teboul, Lydia | Tilly, Isabelle | Tocchini-Valentini, Glauco P | Tost, Monica | Treise, Irina | Vasseur, Laurent | Velot, Emilie | Vogt-Weisenhorn, Daniela | Wagner, Christelle | Walling, Alison | Weber, Bruno | Wendling, Olivia | Westerberg, Henrik | Willershäuser, Monja | Wolf, Eckhard | Wolter, Anne | Wood, Joe | Wurst, Wolfgang | Yildirim, Ali Önder | Zeh, Ramona | Zimmer, Andreas | Zimprich, Annemarie | Holmes, Chris | Steel, Karen P | Herault, Yann | Gailus-Durner, Valérie | Mallon, Ann-Marie | Brown, Steve DM
Nature genetics  2015;47(9):969-978.
The function of the majority of genes in the mouse and human genomes remains unknown. The mouse ES cell knockout resource provides a basis for characterisation of relationships between gene and phenotype. The EUMODIC consortium developed and validated robust methodologies for broad-based phenotyping of knockouts through a pipeline comprising 20 disease-orientated platforms. We developed novel statistical methods for pipeline design and data analysis aimed at detecting reproducible phenotypes with high power. We acquired phenotype data from 449 mutant alleles, representing 320 unique genes, of which half had no prior functional annotation. We captured data from over 27,000 mice finding that 83% of the mutant lines are phenodeviant, with 65% demonstrating pleiotropy. Surprisingly, we found significant differences in phenotype annotation according to zygosity. Novel phenotypes were uncovered for many genes with unknown function providing a powerful basis for hypothesis generation and further investigation in diverse systems.
PMCID: PMC4564951  PMID: 26214591
6.  Wbp2 is required for normal glutamatergic synapses in the cochlea and is crucial for hearing 
EMBO Molecular Medicine  2016;8(3):191-207.
WBP2 encodes the WW domain‐binding protein 2 that acts as a transcriptional coactivator for estrogen receptor α (ESR1) and progesterone receptor (PGR). We reported that the loss of Wbp2 expression leads to progressive high‐frequency hearing loss in mouse, as well as in two deaf children, each carrying two different variants in the WBP2 gene. The earliest abnormality we detect in Wbp2‐deficient mice is a primary defect at inner hair cell afferent synapses. This study defines a new gene involved in the molecular pathway linking hearing impairment to hormonal signalling and provides new therapeutic targets.
PMCID: PMC4772953  PMID: 26881968
glutamate excitotoxicity; hearing impairment; hormonal signalling; ribbon synapses; transcriptional coactivator; Genetics, Gene Therapy & Genetic Disease; Neuroscience
7.  A gene expression resource generated by genome-wide lacZ profiling in the mouse 
Disease Models & Mechanisms  2015;8(11):1467-1478.
Knowledge of the expression profile of a gene is a critical piece of information required to build an understanding of the normal and essential functions of that gene and any role it may play in the development or progression of disease. High-throughput, large-scale efforts are on-going internationally to characterise reporter-tagged knockout mouse lines. As part of that effort, we report an open access adult mouse expression resource, in which the expression profile of 424 genes has been assessed in up to 47 different organs, tissues and sub-structures using a lacZ reporter gene. Many specific and informative expression patterns were noted. Expression was most commonly observed in the testis and brain and was most restricted in white adipose tissue and mammary gland. Over half of the assessed genes presented with an absent or localised expression pattern (categorised as 0-10 positive structures). A link between complexity of expression profile and viability of homozygous null animals was observed; inactivation of genes expressed in ≥21 structures was more likely to result in reduced viability by postnatal day 14 compared with more restricted expression profiles. For validation purposes, this mouse expression resource was compared with Bgee, a federated composite of RNA-based expression data sets. Strong agreement was observed, indicating a high degree of specificity in our data. Furthermore, there were 1207 observations of expression of a particular gene in an anatomical structure where Bgee had no data, indicating a large amount of novelty in our data set. Examples of expression data corroborating and extending genotype-phenotype associations and supporting disease gene candidacy are presented to demonstrate the potential of this powerful resource.
Editor's Choice: The report presents an open-access adult mouse expression resource, in which the expression profile of 424 genes has been assessed in up to 47 different organs, tissues and sub-structures using a lacZ reporter gene.
PMCID: PMC4631787  PMID: 26398943
Gene expression; lacZ reporter; Mouse; Resource
8.  A detailed clinical and molecular survey of subjects with nonsyndromic USH2A retinopathy reveals an allelic hierarchy of disease-causing variants 
European Journal of Human Genetics  2015;23(10):1318-1327.
Defects in USH2A cause both isolated retinal disease and Usher syndrome (ie, retinal disease and deafness). To gain insights into isolated/nonsyndromic USH2A retinopathy, we screened USH2A in 186 probands with recessive retinal disease and no hearing complaint in childhood (discovery cohort) and in 84 probands with recessive retinal disease (replication cohort). Detailed phenotyping, including retinal imaging and audiological assessment, was performed in individuals with two likely disease-causing USH2A variants. Further genetic testing, including screening for a deep-intronic disease-causing variant and large deletions/duplications, was performed in those with one likely disease-causing change. Overall, 23 of 186 probands (discovery cohort) were found to harbour two likely disease-causing variants in USH2A. Some of these variants were predominantly associated with nonsyndromic retinal degeneration (‘retinal disease-specific'); these included the common c.2276 G>T, p.(Cys759Phe) mutation and five additional variants: c.2802 T>G, p.(Cys934Trp); c.10073 G>A, p.(Cys3358Tyr); c.11156 G>A, p.(Arg3719His); c.12295-3 T>A; and c.12575 G>A, p.(Arg4192His). An allelic hierarchy was observed in the discovery cohort and confirmed in the replication cohort. In nonsyndromic USH2A disease, retinopathy was consistent with retinitis pigmentosa and the audiological phenotype was variable. USH2A retinopathy is a common cause of nonsyndromic recessive retinal degeneration and has a different mutational spectrum to that observed in Usher syndrome. The following model is proposed: the presence of at least one ‘retinal disease-specific' USH2A allele in a patient with USH2A-related disease results in the preservation of normal hearing. Careful genotype–phenotype studies such as this will become increasingly important, especially now that high-throughput sequencing is widely used in the clinical setting.
PMCID: PMC4592079  PMID: 25649381
9.  A Novel Locus Harbouring a Functional CD164 Nonsense Mutation Identified in a Large Danish Family with Nonsyndromic Hearing Impairment 
PLoS Genetics  2015;11(7):e1005386.
Nonsyndromic hearing impairment (NSHI) is a highly heterogeneous condition with more than eighty known causative genes. However, in the clinical setting, a large number of NSHI families have unexplained etiology, suggesting that there are many more genes to be identified. In this study we used SNP-based linkage analysis and follow up microsatellite markers to identify a novel locus (DFNA66) on chromosome 6q15-21 (LOD 5.1) in a large Danish family with dominantly inherited NSHI. By locus specific capture and next-generation sequencing, we identified a c.574C>T heterozygous nonsense mutation (p.R192*) in CD164. This gene encodes a 197 amino acid transmembrane sialomucin (known as endolyn, MUC-24 or CD164), which is widely expressed and involved in cell adhesion and migration. The mutation segregated with the phenotype and was absent in 1200 Danish control individuals and in databases with whole-genome and exome sequence data. The predicted effect of the mutation was a truncation of the last six C-terminal residues of the cytoplasmic tail of CD164, including a highly conserved canonical sorting motif (YXXФ). In whole blood from an affected individual, we found by RT-PCR both the wild-type and the mutated transcript suggesting that the mutant transcript escapes nonsense mediated decay. Functional studies in HEK cells demonstrated that the truncated protein was almost completely retained on the plasma cell membrane in contrast to the wild-type protein, which targeted primarily to the endo-lysosomal compartments, implicating failed endocytosis as a possible disease mechanism. In the mouse ear, we found CD164 expressed in the inner and outer hair cells of the organ of Corti, as well as in other locations in the cochlear duct. In conclusion, we have identified a new DFNA locus located on chromosome 6q15-21 and implicated CD164 as a novel gene for hearing impairment.
Author Summary
It is known that hearing impairment running in families can be caused by mutations in more than eighty different genes. However, there are still families where the responsible gene is unknown. By studying a large Danish family with dominant inherited hearing impairment, we found that the disorder cosegregates with genetic markers on chromosome 6, suggesting that the responsible mutation lies within this chromosomal region. By sequencing this genetic locus, we discovered a mutation in the CD164 gene that is passed on to all the affected individuals. In the mouse ear, we demonstrated that the CD164 protein is expressed in hair cells and other sites known to be important for correct hearing. The identified mutation is predicted to result in shortening of the protein, leading to loss of an evolutionary conserved sequence important for cellular trafficking of CD164. Using cell lines, we show that the truncated protein is trapped on the cell surface while the normal protein is internalized. This finding is important because it implicates for the first time a role for CD164 in the complex physiological processes of hearing and suggests that failed endocytosis may be a possible disease mechanism for some types of hearing impairment.
PMCID: PMC4510537  PMID: 26197441
10.  The PDZ-Domain Protein Whirlin Facilitates Mechanosensory Signaling in Mammalian Proprioceptors 
The Journal of Neuroscience  2015;35(7):3073-3084.
Mechanoreception is an essential feature of many sensory modalities. Nevertheless, the mechanisms that govern the conversion of a mechanical force to distinct patterns of action potentials remain poorly understood. Proprioceptive mechanoreceptors reside in skeletal muscle and inform the nervous system of the position of body and limbs in space. We show here that Whirlin/Deafness autosomal recessive 31 (DFNB31), a PDZ-scaffold protein involved in vestibular and auditory hair cell transduction, is also expressed by proprioceptive sensory neurons (pSNs) in dorsal root ganglia in mice. Whirlin localizes to the peripheral sensory endings of pSNs and facilitates pSN afferent firing in response to muscle stretch. The requirement of Whirlin in both proprioceptors and hair cells suggests that accessory mechanosensory signaling molecules define common features of mechanoreceptive processing across sensory systems.
PMCID: PMC4331628  PMID: 25698744
mechanoreception; muscle spindle; PDZ proteins; proprioceptors; sensory-motor control
11.  OSBPL2 encodes a protein of inner and outer hair cell stereocilia and is mutated in autosomal dominant hearing loss (DFNA67) 
Early-onset hearing loss is mostly of genetic origin. The complexity of the hearing process is reflected by its extensive genetic heterogeneity, with probably many causative genes remaining to be identified. Here, we aimed at identifying the genetic basis for autosomal dominant non-syndromic hearing loss (ADNSHL) in a large German family.
A panel of 66 known deafness genes was analyzed for mutations by next-generation sequencing (NGS) in the index patient. We then conducted genome-wide linkage analysis, and whole-exome sequencing was carried out with samples of two patients. Expression of Osbpl2 in the mouse cochlea was determined by immunohistochemistry. Because Osbpl2 has been proposed as a target of miR-96, we investigated homozygous Mir96 mutant mice for its upregulation.
Onset of hearing loss in the investigated ADNSHL family is in childhood, initially affecting the high frequencies and progressing to profound deafness in adulthood. However, there is considerable intrafamilial variability. We mapped a novel ADNSHL locus, DFNA67, to chromosome 20q13.2-q13.33, and subsequently identified a co-segregating heterozygous frameshift mutation, c.141_142delTG (p.Arg50Alafs*103), in OSBPL2, encoding a protein known to interact with the DFNA1 protein, DIAPH1. In mice, Osbpl2 was prominently expressed in stereocilia of cochlear outer and inner hair cells. We found no significant Osbpl2 upregulation at the mRNA level in homozygous Mir96 mutant mice.
The function of OSBPL2 in the hearing process remains to be determined. Our study and the recent description of another frameshift mutation in a Chinese ADNSHL family identify OSBPL2 as a novel gene for progressive deafness.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13023-015-0238-5) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4334766  PMID: 25759012
OSBPL2; DFNA67; Autosomal dominant hearing loss
12.  Spinster Homolog 2 (Spns2) Deficiency Causes Early Onset Progressive Hearing Loss 
PLoS Genetics  2014;10(10):e1004688.
Spinster homolog 2 (Spns2) acts as a Sphingosine-1-phosphate (S1P) transporter in zebrafish and mice, regulating heart development and lymphocyte trafficking respectively. S1P is a biologically active lysophospholipid with multiple roles in signalling. The mechanism of action of Spns2 is still elusive in mammals. Here, we report that Spns2-deficient mice rapidly lost auditory sensitivity and endocochlear potential (EP) from 2 to 3 weeks old. We found progressive degeneration of sensory hair cells in the organ of Corti, but the earliest defect was a decline in the EP, suggesting that dysfunction of the lateral wall was the primary lesion. In the lateral wall of adult mutants, we observed structural changes of marginal cell boundaries and of strial capillaries, and reduced expression of several key proteins involved in the generation of the EP (Kcnj10, Kcnq1, Gjb2 and Gjb6), but these changes were likely to be secondary. Permeability of the boundaries of the stria vascularis and of the strial capillaries appeared normal. We also found focal retinal degeneration and anomalies of retinal capillaries together with anterior eye defects in Spns2 mutant mice. Targeted inactivation of Spns2 in red blood cells, platelets, or lymphatic or vascular endothelial cells did not affect hearing, but targeted ablation of Spns2 in the cochlea using a Sox10-Cre allele produced a similar auditory phenotype to the original mutation, suggesting that local Spns2 expression is critical for hearing in mammals. These findings indicate that Spns2 is required for normal maintenance of the EP and hence for normal auditory function, and support a role for S1P signalling in hearing.
Author Summary
Progressive hearing loss is common in the human population but we know very little about the molecular mechanisms involved. Mutant mice are useful for investigating these mechanisms and have revealed a wide range of different abnormalities that can all lead to the same outcome: deafness. We report here our findings of a new mouse line with a mutation in the Spns2 gene, affecting the release of a lipid called sphingosine-1-phosphate, which has an important role in several processes in the body. For the first time, we report that this molecular pathway is required for normal hearing through a role in generating a voltage difference that acts like a battery, allowing the sensory hair cells of the cochlea to detect sounds at extremely low levels. Without the normal function of the Spns2 gene and release of sphingosine-1-phosphate locally in the inner ear, the voltage in the cochlea declines, leading to rapid loss of sensitivity to sound and ultimately to complete deafness. The human version of this gene, SPNS2, may be involved in human deafness, and understanding the underlying mechanism presents an opportunity to develop potential treatments for this form of hearing loss.
PMCID: PMC4214598  PMID: 25356849
13.  Identification of Genes Important for Cutaneous Function Revealed by a Large Scale Reverse Genetic Screen in the Mouse 
PLoS Genetics  2014;10(10):e1004705.
The skin is a highly regenerative organ which plays critical roles in protecting the body and sensing its environment. Consequently, morbidity and mortality associated with skin defects represent a significant health issue. To identify genes important in skin development and homeostasis, we have applied a high throughput, multi-parameter phenotype screen to the conditional targeted mutant mice generated by the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute's Mouse Genetics Project (Sanger-MGP). A total of 562 different mouse lines were subjected to a variety of tests assessing cutaneous expression, macroscopic clinical disease, histological change, hair follicle cycling, and aberrant marker expression. Cutaneous lesions were associated with mutations in 23 different genes. Many of these were not previously associated with skin disease in the organ (Mysm1, Vangl1, Trpc4ap, Nom1, Sparc, Farp2, and Prkab1), while others were ascribed new cutaneous functions on the basis of the screening approach (Krt76, Lrig1, Myo5a, Nsun2, and Nf1). The integration of these skin specific screening protocols into the Sanger-MGP primary phenotyping pipelines marks the largest reported reverse genetic screen undertaken in any organ and defines approaches to maximise the productivity of future projects of this nature, while flagging genes for further characterisation.
Author Summary
Recent developments in high throughput applications to manipulate and inactivate specific genes in mouse embryonic stem cells (ES cells) have allowed for the initiation of large scale reverse genetic screens in the mouse. The immediate connection of a phenotype to a mutated (null) gene represents a paradigm shift in our ability to explore gene function. This study utilized such a screening approach to investigate the genetic contribution to skin development and homeostasis. Not only does this approach provide insight into the genetics of skin biology, it is also instrumental in generating novel models with which to study the genetic underpinnings of skin disease. Initial screening of 562 mutated genes in mice uncovered previously unrecognized genes involved in the biology of this organ and identified novel functions for previously studied genes associated with epidermal phenotypes. Taken together, these results highlight high throughput screening approaches that are valuable in reverse genetic screening and provide a pool of mouse mutants, available to the scientific community, that will serve as the basis for further detailed investigations into skin function and skin disease.
PMCID: PMC4207618  PMID: 25340873
14.  Salt-inducible kinase 3, SIK3, is a new gene associated with hearing 
Human Molecular Genetics  2014;23(23):6407-6418.
Hearing function is known to be heritable, but few significant and reproducible associations of genetic variants have been identified to date in the adult population. In this study, genome-wide association results of hearing function from the G-EAR consortium and TwinsUK were used for meta-analysis. Hearing ability in eight population samples of Northern and Southern European ancestry (n = 4591) and the Silk Road (n = 348) was measured using pure-tone audiometry and summarized using principal component (PC) analysis. Genome-wide association analyses for PC1–3 were conducted separately in each sample assuming an additive model adjusted for age, sex and relatedness of subjects. Meta-analysis was performed using 2.3 million single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) tested against each of the three PCs of hearing ability in 4939 individuals. A single SNP lying in intron 6 of the salt-inducible kinase 3 (SIK3) gene was found to be associated with hearing PC2 (P = 3.7×10−8) and further supported by whole-genome sequence in a subset. To determine the relevance of this gene in the ear, expression of the Sik3 protein was studied in mouse cochlea of different ages. Sik3 was expressed in murine hair cells during early development and in cells of the spiral ganglion during early development and adulthood. Our results suggest a developmental role of Sik3 in hearing and may be required for the maintenance of adult auditory function.
PMCID: PMC4222365  PMID: 25060954
15.  Ectopic Expression of Activated Notch or SOX2 Reveals Similar and Unique Roles in the Development of the Sensory Cell Progenitors in the Mammalian Inner Ear 
The Journal of Neuroscience  2013;33(41):16146-16157.
Hearing impairment or vestibular dysfunction in humans often results from a permanent loss of critical cell types in the sensory regions of the inner ear, including hair cells, supporting cells, or cochleovestibular neurons. These important cell types arise from a common sensory or neurosensory progenitor, although little is known about how these progenitors are specified. Studies have shown that Notch signaling and the transcription factor Sox2 are required for the development of these lineages. Previously we and others demonstrated that ectopic activation of Notch can direct nonsensory cells to adopt a sensory fate, indicating a role for Notch in early specification events. Here, we explore the relationship between Notch and SOX2 by ectopically activating these factors in nonsensory regions of the mouse cochlea, and demonstrate that, similar to Notch, SOX2 can specify sensory progenitors, consistent with a role downstream of Notch signaling. However, we also show that Notch has a unique role in promoting the proliferation of the sensory progenitors. We further demonstrate that Notch can only induce ectopic sensory regions within a certain time window of development, and that the ectopic hair cells display specialized stereocilia bundles similar to endogenous hair cells. These results demonstrate that Notch and SOX2 can both drive the sensory program in nonsensory cells, indicating these factors may be useful in cell replacement strategies in the inner ear.
PMCID: PMC3792456  PMID: 24107947
16.  Targeting of Slc25a21 Is Associated with Orofacial Defects and Otitis Media Due to Disrupted Expression of a Neighbouring Gene 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e91807.
Homozygosity for Slc25a21tm1a(KOMP)Wtsi results in mice exhibiting orofacial abnormalities, alterations in carpal and rugae structures, hearing impairment and inflammation in the middle ear. In humans it has been hypothesised that the 2-oxoadipate mitochondrial carrier coded by SLC25A21 may be involved in the disease 2-oxoadipate acidaemia. Unexpectedly, no 2-oxoadipate acidaemia-like symptoms were observed in animals homozygous for Slc25a21tm1a(KOMP)Wtsi despite confirmation that this allele reduces Slc25a21 expression by 71.3%. To study the complete knockout, an allelic series was generated using the loxP and FRT sites typical of a Knockout Mouse Project allele. After removal of the critical exon and neomycin selection cassette, Slc25a21 knockout mice homozygous for the Slc25a21tm1b(KOMP)Wtsi and Slc25a21tm1d(KOMP)Wtsi alleles were phenotypically indistinguishable from wild-type. This led us to explore the genomic environment of Slc25a21 and to discover that expression of Pax9, located 3′ of the target gene, was reduced in homozygous Slc25a21tm1a(KOMP)Wtsi mice. We hypothesize that the presence of the selection cassette is the cause of the down regulation of Pax9 observed. The phenotypes we observed in homozygous Slc25a21tm1a(KOMP)Wtsi mice were broadly consistent with a hypomorphic Pax9 allele with the exception of otitis media and hearing impairment which may be a novel consequence of Pax9 down regulation. We explore the ramifications associated with this particular targeted mutation and emphasise the need to interpret phenotypes taking into consideration all potential underlying genetic mechanisms.
PMCID: PMC3958370  PMID: 24642684
17.  Expression and Replication Studies to Identify New Candidate Genes Involved in Normal Hearing Function 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e85352.
Considerable progress has been made in identifying deafness genes, but still little is known about the genetic basis of normal variation in hearing function. We recently carried out a Genome Wide Association Study (GWAS) of quantitative hearing traits in southern European populations and found several SNPs with suggestive but none with significant association. In the current study, we followed up these SNPs to investigate which of them might show a genuine association with auditory function using alternative approaches. Firstly, we generated a shortlist of 19 genes from the published GWAS results. Secondly, we carried out immunocytochemistry to examine expression of these 19 genes in the mouse inner ear. Twelve of them showed distinctive cochlear expression patterns. Four showed expression restricted to sensory hair cells (Csmd1, Arsg, Slc16a6 and Gabrg3), one only in marginal cells of the stria vascularis (Dclk1) while the others (Ptprd, Grm8, GlyBP, Evi5, Rimbp2, Ank2, Cdh13) in multiple cochlear cell types. In the third step, we tested these 12 genes for replication of association in an independent set of samples from the Caucasus and Central Asia. Nine out of them showed nominally significant association (p<0.05). In particular, 4 were replicated at the same SNP and with the same effect direction while the remaining 5 showed a significant association in a gene-based test. Finally, to look for genotype-phenotype relationship, the audiometric profiles of the three genotypes of the most strongly associated gene variants were analyzed. Seven out of the 9 replicated genes (CDH13, GRM8, ANK2, SLC16A6, ARSG, RIMBP2 and DCLK1) showed an audiometric pattern with differences between different genotypes further supporting their role in hearing function. These data demonstrate the usefulness of this multistep approach in providing new insights into the molecular basis of hearing and may suggest new targets for treatment and prevention of hearing impairment.
PMCID: PMC3891868  PMID: 24454846
18.  Linkage Study and Exome Sequencing Identify a BDP1 Mutation Associated with Hereditary Hearing Loss 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e80323.
Nonsyndromic Hereditary Hearing Loss is a common disorder accounting for at least 60% of prelingual deafness. GJB2 gene mutations, GJB6 deletion, and the A1555G mitochondrial mutation play a major role worldwide in causing deafness, but there is a high degree of genetic heterogeneity and many genes involved in deafness have not yet been identified. Therefore, there remains a need to search for new causative mutations. In this study, a combined strategy using both linkage analysis and sequencing identified a new mutation causing hearing loss. Linkage analysis identified a region of 40 Mb on chromosome 5q13 (LOD score 3.8) for which exome sequencing data revealed a mutation (c.7873 T>G leading to p.*2625Gluext*11) in the BDP1 gene (B double prime 1, subunit of RNA polymerase III transcription initiation factor IIIB) in patients from a consanguineous Qatari family of second degree, showing bilateral, post-lingual, sensorineural moderate to severe hearing impairment. The mutation disrupts the termination codon of the transcript resulting in an elongation of 11 residues of the BDP1 protein. This elongation does not contain any known motif and is not conserved across species. Immunohistochemistry studies carried out in the mouse inner ear showed Bdp1 expression within the endothelial cells in the stria vascularis, as well as in mesenchyme-derived cells surrounding the cochlear duct. The identification of the BDP1 mutation increases our knowledge of the molecular bases of Nonsyndromic Hereditary Hearing Loss and provides new opportunities for the diagnosis and treatment of this disease in the Qatari population.
PMCID: PMC3846559  PMID: 24312468
19.  A comparative phenotypic and genomic analysis of C57BL/6J and C57BL/6N mouse strains 
Genome Biology  2013;14(7):R82.
The mouse inbred line C57BL/6J is widely used in mouse genetics and its genome has been incorporated into many genetic reference populations. More recently large initiatives such as the International Knockout Mouse Consortium (IKMC) are using the C57BL/6N mouse strain to generate null alleles for all mouse genes. Hence both strains are now widely used in mouse genetics studies. Here we perform a comprehensive genomic and phenotypic analysis of the two strains to identify differences that may influence their underlying genetic mechanisms.
We undertake genome sequence comparisons of C57BL/6J and C57BL/6N to identify SNPs, indels and structural variants, with a focus on identifying all coding variants. We annotate 34 SNPs and 2 indels that distinguish C57BL/6J and C57BL/6N coding sequences, as well as 15 structural variants that overlap a gene. In parallel we assess the comparative phenotypes of the two inbred lines utilizing the EMPReSSslim phenotyping pipeline, a broad based assessment encompassing diverse biological systems. We perform additional secondary phenotyping assessments to explore other phenotype domains and to elaborate phenotype differences identified in the primary assessment. We uncover significant phenotypic differences between the two lines, replicated across multiple centers, in a number of physiological, biochemical and behavioral systems.
Comparison of C57BL/6J and C57BL/6N demonstrates a range of phenotypic differences that have the potential to impact upon penetrance and expressivity of mutational effects in these strains. Moreover, the sequence variants we identify provide a set of candidate genes for the phenotypic differences observed between the two strains.
PMCID: PMC4053787  PMID: 23902802
Mouse inbred lines; sequence variation; mouse phenotyping; gene knockout; C57BL/6
20.  Genome-wide Generation and Systematic Phenotyping of Knockout Mice Reveals New Roles for Many Genes 
Cell  2013;154(2):452-464.
Mutations in whole organisms are powerful ways of interrogating gene function in a realistic context. We describe a program, the Sanger Institute Mouse Genetics Project, that provides a step toward the aim of knocking out all genes and screening each line for a broad range of traits. We found that hitherto unpublished genes were as likely to reveal phenotypes as known genes, suggesting that novel genes represent a rich resource for investigating the molecular basis of disease. We found many unexpected phenotypes detected only because we screened for them, emphasizing the value of screening all mutants for a wide range of traits. Haploinsufficiency and pleiotropy were both surprisingly common. Forty-two percent of genes were essential for viability, and these were less likely to have a paralog and more likely to contribute to a protein complex than other genes. Phenotypic data and more than 900 mutants are openly available for further analysis.
Graphical Abstract
•Large openly available resource of targeted mouse mutants and phenotypic data•Screen for broad range of disease features and traits•Many novel phenotypes suggest functions for both studied and unstudied genes•Haploinsufficiency and pleiotropy are common
More than 900 new mutant mice lines and a multifaceted phenotypic screening platform reveal unanticipated pleiotropies, widespread effects of haploinsufficiency, potential disease models, and functions for unstudied genes.
PMCID: PMC3717207  PMID: 23870131
21.  Correction: Mcph1-Deficient Mice Reveal a Role for MCPH1 in Otitis Media 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):10.1371/annotation/fadb7426-df05-4ec5-a0ba-21981295b0eb.
PMCID: PMC3692952
22.  A reduction in Ptprq associated with specific features of the deafness phenotype of the miR-96 mutant mouse diminuendo 
miR-96 is a microRNA, a non-coding RNA gene which regulates a wide array of downstream genes. The miR-96 mouse mutant diminuendo exhibits deafness and arrested hair cell functional and morphological differentiation. We have previously shown that several genes are markedly downregulated in the diminuendo organ of Corti; one of these is Ptprq, a gene known to be important for maturation and maintenance of hair cells. In order to study the contribution that downregulation of Ptprq makes to the diminuendo phenotype, we carried out microarrays, scanning electron microscopy and single hair cell electrophysiology to compare diminuendo mutants (heterozygous and homozygous) with mice homozygous for a functional null allele of Ptprq. In terms of both morphology and electrophysiology, the auditory phenotype of mice lacking Ptprq resembles that of diminuendo heterozygotes, while diminuendo homozygotes are more severely affected. A comparison of transcriptomes indicates there is a broad similarity between diminuendo homozygotes and Ptprq-null mice. The reduction in Ptprq observed in diminuendo mice appears to be a major contributor to the morphological, transcriptional and electrophysiological phenotype, but does not account for the complete diminuendo phenotype.
PMCID: PMC4065360  PMID: 24446963
ear development; hereditary hearing loss; knockout and transgenic m; molecular genetics; sensory hair cells
23.  Mcph1-Deficient Mice Reveal a Role for MCPH1 in Otitis Media 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(3):e58156.
Otitis media is a common reason for hearing loss, especially in children. Otitis media is a multifactorial disease and environmental factors, anatomic dysmorphology and genetic predisposition can all contribute to its pathogenesis. However, the reasons for the variable susceptibility to otitis media are elusive. MCPH1 mutations cause primary microcephaly in humans. So far, no hearing impairment has been reported either in the MCPH1 patients or mouse models with Mcph1 deficiency. In this study, Mcph1-deficient (Mcph1tm1a/tm1a) mice were produced using embryonic stem cells with a targeted mutation by the Sanger Institute's Mouse Genetics Project. Auditory brainstem response measurements revealed that Mcph1tm1a/tm1a mice had mild to moderate hearing impairment with around 70% penetrance. We found otitis media with effusion in the hearing-impaired Mcph1tm1a/tm1a mice by anatomic and histological examinations. Expression of Mcph1 in the epithelial cells of middle ear cavities supported its involvement in the development of otitis media. Other defects of Mcph1tm1a/tm1a mice included small skull sizes, increased micronuclei in red blood cells, increased B cells and ocular abnormalities. These findings not only recapitulated the defects found in other Mcph1-deficient mice or MCPH1 patients, but also revealed an unexpected phenotype, otitis media with hearing impairment, which suggests Mcph1 is a new gene underlying genetic predisposition to otitis media.
PMCID: PMC3596415  PMID: 23516444
24.  Mice deficient in H+-ATPase a4 subunit have severe hearing impairment associated with enlarged endolymphatic compartments within the inner ear 
Disease Models & Mechanisms  2012;6(2):434-442.
Mutations in the ATP6V0A4 gene lead to autosomal recessive distal renal tubular acidosis in patients, who often show sensorineural hearing impairment. A first Atp6v0a4 knockout mouse model that recapitulates the loss of H+-ATPase function seen in humans has been generated and recently reported (Norgett et al., 2012). Here, we present the first detailed analysis of the structure and function of the auditory system in Atp6v0a4−/− knockout mice. Measurements of the auditory brainstem response (ABR) showed significantly elevated thresholds in homozygous mutant mice, which indicate severe hearing impairment. Heterozygote thresholds were normal. Analysis of paint-filled inner ears and sections from E16.5 embryos revealed a marked expansion of cochlear and endolymphatic ducts in Atp6v0a4−/− mice. A regulatory link between Atp6v0a4, Foxi1 and Pds has been reported and we found that the endolymphatic sac of Atp6v0a4−/− mice expresses both Foxi1 and Pds, which suggests a downstream position of Atp6v0a4. These mutants also showed a lack of endocochlear potential, suggesting a functional defect of the stria vascularis on the lateral wall of the cochlear duct. However, the main K+ channels involved in the generation of endocochlear potential, Kcnj10 and Kcnq1, are strongly expressed in Atp6v0a4−/− mice. Our results lead to a better understanding of the role of this proton pump in hearing function.
PMCID: PMC3597025  PMID: 23065636
25.  Headbobber: A Combined Morphogenetic and Cochleosaccular Mouse Model to Study 10qter Deletions in Human Deafness 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(2):e56274.
The recessive mouse mutant headbobber (hb) displays the characteristic behavioural traits associated with vestibular defects including headbobbing, circling and deafness. This mutation was caused by the insertion of a transgene into distal chromosome 7 affecting expression of native genes. We show that the inner ear of hb/hb mutants lacks semicircular canals and cristae, and the saccule and utricle are fused together in a single utriculosaccular sac. Moreover, we detect severe abnormalities of the cochlear sensory hair cells, the stria vascularis looks severely disorganised, Reissner's membrane is collapsed and no endocochlear potential is detected. Myo7a and Kcnj10 expression analysis show a lack of the melanocyte-like intermediate cells in hb/hb stria vascularis, which can explain the absence of endocochlear potential. We use Trp2 as a marker of melanoblasts migrating from the neural crest at E12.5 and show that they do not interdigitate into the developing strial epithelium, associated with abnormal persistence of the basal lamina in the hb/hb cochlea. We perform array CGH, deep sequencing as well as an extensive expression analysis of candidate genes in the headbobber region of hb/hb and littermate controls, and conclude that the headbobber phenotype is caused by: 1) effect of a 648 kb deletion on distal Chr7, resulting in the loss of three protein coding genes (Gpr26, Cpmx2 and Chst15) with expression in the inner ear but unknown function; and 2) indirect, long range effect of the deletion on the expression of neighboring genes on Chr7, associated with downregulation of Hmx3, Hmx2 and Nkx1.2 homeobox transcription factors. Interestingly, deletions of the orthologous region in humans, affecting the same genes, have been reported in nineteen patients with common features including sensorineural hearing loss and vestibular problems. Therefore, we propose that headbobber is a useful model to gain insight into the mechanisms underlying deafness in human 10qter deletion syndrome.
PMCID: PMC3572983  PMID: 23457544

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