Folate-sensitive fragile sites (FSFS) are a rare cytogenetically visible subset of dynamic mutations. Of the eight molecularly characterized FSFS, four are associated with intellectual disability (ID). Cytogenetic expression results from CGG tri-nucleotide-repeat expansion mutation associated with local CpG hypermethylation and transcriptional silencing. The best studied is the FRAXA site in the FMR1 gene, where large expansions cause fragile X syndrome, the most common inherited ID syndrome. Here we studied three families with FRA2A expression at 2q11 associated with a wide spectrum of neurodevelopmental phenotypes. We identified a polymorphic CGG repeat in a conserved, brain-active alternative promoter of the AFF3 gene, an autosomal homolog of the X-linked AFF2/FMR2 gene: Expansion of the AFF2 CGG repeat causes FRAXE ID. We found that FRA2A-expressing individuals have mosaic expansions of the AFF3 CGG repeat in the range of several hundred repeat units. Moreover, bisulfite sequencing and pyrosequencing both suggest AFF3 promoter hypermethylation. cSNP-analysis demonstrates monoallelic expression of the AFF3 gene in FRA2A carriers thus predicting that FRA2A expression results in functional haploinsufficiency for AFF3 at least in a subset of tissues. By whole-mount in situ hybridization the mouse AFF3 ortholog shows strong regional expression in the developing brain, somites and limb buds in 9.5–12.5dpc mouse embryos. Our data suggest that there may be an association between FRA2A and a delay in the acquisition of motor and language skills in the families studied here. However, additional cases are required to firmly establish a causal relationship.
Some human genetic diseases are caused by dynamic mutations, or expansions of a short repeated sequence in the genome that can be unstably passed on from generation to generation. A subset of these dynamic mutations known as fragile sites can be seen as a break or gap on the chromosome when cells are cultured under specific conditions. To date eight folate-sensitive fragile sites (FSFS) have been characterized, and all are due to CGG-repeat expansions within the 5′ UTR or promoter region of the respective gene. When the repeat expands in size, it becomes hypermethylated and the adjacent gene or genes are transcriptionally silenced. For at least four of the eight known fragile sites this silencing of the associated gene(s) lead to intellectual disability syndromes such as fragile X. In this work we describe molecular characterization of an autosomal FSFS called FRA2A on chromosome 2. As the molecular cause of FRA2A, we identify an expansion of a CGG repeat which subsequently results in silencing of the neighbouring gene AFF3. This gene is one of the four autosomal paralogss of the AFF2/FMR2 gene which, when mutated, is the cause of the FRAXE syndrome. We find that FRA2A expression is associated with highly variable developmental anomalies in the three FRA2A families studied.
Intellectual disability is common. Aristaless-related homeobox (ARX) gene is one of the most frequently mutated and pleiotropic genes, implicated in 10 different phenotypes. More than half of ∼100 reported cases with ARX mutations are due to a recurrent duplication of 24 bp, c.429_452dup, which leads to polyalanine tract expansion. The excess of affected males among the offspring of the obligate carrier females raised the possibility of transmission ratio distortion for the c.429_452dup mutation. We found a significant deviation from the expected Mendelian 1:1 ratio of transmission in favour of the c.429_452dup ARX mutation. We hypothesise that the preferential transmission of the c.429_452dup mutation may be due to asymmetry of meiosis in the oocyte. Our findings may have implications for genetic counselling of families segregating the c.429_452dup mutation and allude to putative role of ARX in oocyte biology.
intellectual disability; polyalanine tract expansions; Mendelian transmission; ARX; meiotic drive
The deubiquitylating enzyme Usp9x is highly expressed in the developing mouse brain, and increased Usp9x expression enhances the self-renewal of neural progenitors in vitro. USP9X is a candidate gene for human neurodevelopmental disorders, including lissencephaly, epilepsy and X-linked intellectual disability. To determine if Usp9x is critical to mammalian brain development we conditionally deleted the gene from neural progenitors, and their subsequent progeny. Mating Usp9xloxP/loxP mice with mice expressing Cre recombinase from the Nestin promoter deleted Usp9x throughout the entire brain, and resulted in early postnatal lethality. Although the overall brain architecture was intact, loss of Usp9x disrupted the cellular organization of the ventricular and sub-ventricular zones, and cortical plate. Usp9x absence also led to dramatic reductions in axonal length, in vivo and in vitro, which could in part be explained by a failure in Tgf-β signaling. Deletion of Usp9x from the dorsal telencephalon only, by mating with Emx1-cre mice, was compatible with survival to adulthood but resulted in reduction or loss of the corpus callosum, a dramatic decrease in hippocampal size, and disorganization of the hippocampal CA3 region. This latter phenotypic aspect resembled that observed in Doublecortin knock-out mice, which is an Usp9x interacting protein. This study establishes that Usp9x is critical for several aspects of CNS development, and suggests that its regulation of Tgf-β signaling extends to neurons.
Using a combination of linkage mapping and massively parallel sequencing of the X-chromosome exome, we identified an 18-bp deletion in exon 8 of the oral-facial-digital syndrome type 1 (OFD1) gene in a family with X-linked Joubert syndrome (JBTS10). The deletion results in an in-frame deletion of six amino acids. New features not noted in the two previously reported cases of X-linked Joubert syndrome include the presence of polycystic kidney disease, polymicrogyria and hydrocephalus. Our study further underlines the power of genetic mapping combined with massively parallel sequencing as a powerful tool for novel disease gene and mutation discovery.
OFD1; X-linked Joubert; X-linked intellectual disability; massively parallel sequencing
NF-κB is a master regulator of inflammation and has been implicated in the pathogenesis of immune disorders and cancer. Its regulation involves a variety of steps, including the controlled degradation of inhibitory IκB proteins. In addition, the inactivation of DNA-bound NF-κB is essential for its regulation. This step requires a factor known as copper metabolism Murr1 domain–containing 1 (COMMD1), the prototype member of a conserved gene family. While COMMD proteins have been linked to the ubiquitination pathway, little else is known about other family members. Here we demonstrate that all COMMD proteins bind to CCDC22, a factor recently implicated in X-linked intellectual disability (XLID). We showed that an XLID-associated CCDC22 mutation decreased CCDC22 protein expression and impaired its binding to COMMD proteins. Moreover, some affected individuals displayed ectodermal dysplasia, a congenital condition that can result from developmental NF-κB blockade. Indeed, patient-derived cells demonstrated impaired NF-κB activation due to decreased IκB ubiquitination and degradation. In addition, we found that COMMD8 acted in conjunction with CCDC22 to direct the degradation of IκB proteins. Taken together, our results indicate that CCDC22 participates in NF-κB activation and that its deficiency leads to decreased IκB turnover in humans, highlighting an important regulatory component of this pathway.
X-linked intellectual disability (XLID), also known as X-linked mental retardation, is a highly genetically heterogeneous condition for which mutations in >90 different genes have been identified. In this study, we used a custom-made sequencing array based on the Affymetrix 50k platform for mutation screening in 17 known XLID genes in patients from 135 families and found eight single-nucleotide changes that were absent in controls. For four mutations affecting ATRX (p.1761M>T), PQBP1 (p.155R>X) and SLC6A8 (p.390P>L and p.477S>L), we provide evidence for a functional involvement of these changes in the aetiology of intellectual disability.
X-linked intellectual disability; X-linked mental retardation; array-based resequencing; mutation analysis; automated PCR
Nonsense-mediated decay (NMD) degrades both normal and aberrant transcripts harboring stop codons in particular contexts. Mutations that perturb NMD cause neurological disorders in humans, suggesting that NMD has roles in the brain. Here, we identify a brain-specific microRNA—miR-128—that represses NMD and thereby controls batteries of transcripts in neural cells. miR-128 represses NMD by targeting the RNA helicase UPF1 and the exon-junction complex core component MLN51. The ability of miR-128 to regulate NMD is a conserved response occuring in frogs, chickens, and mammals. miR-128 levels are dramatically increased in differentiating neuronal cells and during brain development, leading to repressed NMD and upregulation of mRNAs normally targeted for decay by NMD; overrepresented are those encoding proteins controlling neuron development and function. Together, these results suggest the existence of a conserved RNA circuit linking the microRNA and NMD pathways that induces cell type-specific transcripts during development.
Mutations of the calcium/calmodulin-dependent serine protein kinase (CASK) gene have recently been associated with X-linked mental retardation (XLMR) with microcephaly, optic atrophy and brainstem and cerebellar hypoplasia, as well as with an X-linked syndrome having some FG-like features. Our group has recently identified four male probands from 358 probable XLMR families with missense mutations (p.Y268H, p.P396S, p.D710G and p.W919R) in the CASK gene. Congenital nystagmus, a rare and striking feature, was present in two of these families. We screened a further 45 probands with either nystagmus or microcephaly and mental retardation (MR), and identified two further mutations, a missense mutation (p.Y728C) and a splice mutation (c.2521-2A>T) in two small families with nystagmus and MR. Detailed clinical examinations of all six families, including an ophthalmological review in four families, were undertaken to further characterise the phenotype. We report on the clinical features of 24 individuals, mostly male, from six families with CASK mutations. The phenotype was variable, ranging from non-syndromic mild MR to severe MR associated with microcephaly and dysmorphic facial features. Carrier females were variably affected. Congenital nystagmus was found in members of four of the families. Our findings reinforce the CASK gene as a relatively frequent cause of XLMR in females and males. We further define the phenotypic spectrum and demonstrate that affected males with missense mutations or in-frame deletions in CASK are frequently associated with congenital nystagmus and XLMR, a striking feature not previously reported.
CASK gene; XLMR; intellectual disability; congenital nystagmus
Mental retardation (MR) is characterized by cognitive impairment with an IQ <70. Many of the major causes are genetically determined and the ∼30% male excess suggests that mutations in genes carried on the X chromosome are disproportionably represented. One such gene, jumonji AT-rich interactive domain 1C (JARID1C) on Xp11.2, has been identified in families with X-linked MR (XLMR), with 18 different mutations reported to date. As part of a systematic resequencing of 720 genes in 208 XLMR families of the International Genetic of Learning Disability (IGOLD) consortium, two novel nucleotide changes in the JARID1C coding region were identified, with the nucleotide changes segregating with the disease phenotype in the two families. The first mutation is a single-nucleotide insertion in exon 21 (c.3258_3259insC p.K1087fs*43) causing a frameshift and resulting in a premature termination codon (PTC). Such PTC-containing mRNAs are generally degraded by nonsense-mediated mRNA decay (NMD) surveillance, but our results show that this is not the case with this mutation. The other change is a single-nucleotide substitution in exon 12 (c.1160C>A) in a published family with nonsyndromic MR, MRX13. This change occurs in a highly conserved amino acid, with proline (P) being substituted by threonine (T) (p.P544T). Functional analysis shows that this amino-acid substitution compromises both tri- and didemethylase activity of the JARID1C protein. We conclude that the two novel changes impair JARID1C protein function and are disease-causing mutations in these families.
JARID1C; X-linked mental retardation; JmjC domain; mutation analysis
Aristaless-related homeobox (ARX) gene mutations cause a diverse spectrum of disorders of the human brain, including lissencephaly, various forms of epilepsy and non-syndromic mental retardation. We have identified a novel mutation, c.81C>G (p.Y27X), within the ARX gene in a family with two affected male cousins. One of the boys was diagnosed with an early infantile epileptic encephalopathy also known as Ohtahara syndrome, whereas his cousin had been diagnosed with West syndrome (WS). Both patients have normal genitalia and neither have lissencephaly. The ARX mutation identified is predicted to yield a severely truncated protein of only 26 amino acids and can be considered as a null mutation. Somewhat surprisingly, however, it does not yield the X-linked lissencephaly with ambiguous genitalia (XLAG) syndrome. We proposed that the ARX mRNA translation re-initiated at the next AUG codon at position c.121–123 (aa 41) and, thus, partly rescued these patients from XLAG. Our in vitro studies show that this N-terminally truncated ARX protein (p.M41_C562) is detected by western immunoblot in lysates from cells transiently transfected with an ARX over-expression construct containing the c.81C>G mutation. Although these findings widen the spectrum of clinical phenotypes because of mutations in the ARX gene, they also emphasize the molecular pathogenetic effect of individual mutations as well as the effect of genetic background resulting in intrafamilial clinical heterogeneity for these mutations.
Ohtahara syndrome; burst suppression; ARX gene; West syndrome
A novel phenotype consisting of cataract, mental retardation, erythematous skin rash and facial dysmorphism was recently described in an extended pedigree of Australian Aboriginal descent. Large scale chromosomal re-arrangements had previously been ruled out. We have conducted a genome-wide scan to map the linkage region in this family.
Genome-wide linkage analysis using Single Nucleotide Polymorphism (SNP) markers on the Affymetrix 10K SNP array was conducted and analysed using MERLIN. Three positional candidate genes (ZBTB17, EPHA2 and EPHB2) were sequenced to screen for segregating mutations.
Under a fully penetrant, dominant model, the locus for this unique phenotype was mapped to chromosome 1p35.3-p36.32 with a maximum LOD score of 2.41. The critical region spans 48.7 cM between markers rs966321 and rs1441834 and encompasses 527 transcripts from 364 annotated genes. No coding mutations were identified in three positional candidate genes EPHA2, EPHB2 or ZBTB17. The region overlaps with a previously reported region for Volkmann cataract and the phenotype has similarity to that reported for 1p36 monosomy.
The gene for this syndrome is located in a 25.6 Mb region on 1p35.3-p36.32. The known cataract gene in this region (EPHA2) does not harbour mutations in this family, suggesting that at least one additional gene for cataract is present in this region.
Autism is a common neurodevelopmental disorder with a complex mode of inheritance. It is one of the most highly heritable of the complex disorders, however, the underlying genetic factors remain largely unknown. Here, we report mutations in the X-chromosome PTCHD1 (patched-related) gene, in seven families with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and in three families with intellectual disability (ID). A 167 Kb microdeletion spanning exon 1 was found in two brothers, one with ASD the other with learning disability and ASD features, and a 90 Kb microdeletion spanning the entire gene was found in three males with ID in a second family. In 900 ASD and 208 ID male probands we identified seven different missense changes in eight probands, all male and inherited from unaffected mothers, and not found in controls. Two of the ASD individuals with missense changes also carried a de novo deletion at another ASD-susceptibility locus (DPYD and DPP6), suggesting complex genetic contributions. In additional males with ASD, we identified deletions in the 5’ flanking region of PTCHD1 disrupting a complex non-coding RNA and potential regulatory elements; equivalent changes were not found in male control individuals (p=1.2 ×10-5). Systematic screening at PTCHD1 and 5’-flanking regions, suggests involvement of this locus in ~1% of ASD and ID individuals.
Tumor suppressor genes on the X chromosome may skew the gender distribution of specific types of cancer1,2. T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL) is an aggressive hematological malignancy with an increased incidence in males3. In this study, we report the identification of inactivating mutations and deletions in the X-linked plant homeodomain finger 6 (PHF6) gene in 16% of pediatric and 38% of adult primary T-ALL samples. Notably, PHF6 mutations are almost exclusively found in T-ALL samples from male subjects. Mutational loss of PHF6 is significantly associated with leukemias driven by aberrant expression of the homeobox transcription factor oncogenes TLX1 and TLX3. Overall, these results identify PHF6 as a new X-linked tumor suppressor in T-ALL and point to a strong genetic interaction between PHF6 loss and aberrant expression of TLX transcription factors in the pathogenesis of this disease.
Large-scale systematic resequencing has been proposed as the key future strategy for the discovery of rare, disease-causing sequence variants across the spectrum of human complex disease. We have sequenced the coding exons of the X chromosome in 208 families with X-linked mental retardation (XLMR), the largest direct screen for constitutional disease-causing mutations thus far reported. The screen has discovered nine genes implicated in XLMR, including SYP, ZNF711 and CASK reported here, confirming the power of this strategy. The study has, however, also highlighted issues confronting whole-genome sequencing screens, including the observation that loss of function of 1% or more of X-chromosome genes is compatible with apparently normal existence.
Mental retardation is a genetically heterogeneous disorder, as more than 90 genes for this disorder has been found on the X chromosome alone. In addition the majority of patients are non-syndromic in that they do not present with clinically recognisable features. This makes it difficult to determine the molecular cause of this disorder on the basis of the phenotype alone. Mutations in KDM5C (previously named SMCX or JARID1C), a gene that encodes a transcriptional regulator with histone demethylase activity specific for dimethylated and trimethylated H3K4, are a comparatively frequent cause of non-syndromic X-linked mental retardation (NS-XLMR). Specific transcriptional targets of KDM5C, however, are still unknown and the effects of KDM5C deficiency on gene expression have not yet been investigated.
By whole-mount in situ hybridisation we showed that the mouse homologue of KDM5C is expressed in multiple tissues during mouse development.
We present the results of gene expression profiling performed on lymphoblastoid cell lines as well as blood from patients with mutations in KDM5C. Using whole genome expression arrays and quantitative reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (QRT-PCR) experiments, we identified several genes, including CMKOR1, KDM5B and KIAA0469 that were consistently deregulated in both tissues.
Our findings shed light on the pathological mechanisms underlying mental retardation and have implications for future diagnostics of this heterogeneous disorder.
X-linked reticulate pigmentary disorder with systemic manifestations in males (PDR) is very rare. Affected males are characterized by cutaneous and visceral symptoms suggestive of abnormally regulated inXammation. A genetic linkage study of a large Canadian kindred previously mapped the PDR gene to a greater than 40 Mb interval of Xp22–p21. The aim of this study was to identify the causative gene for PDR. The Canadian pedigree was expanded and additional PDR families recruited. Genetic linkage was performed using newer microsatellite markers. Positional and functional candidate genes were screened by PCR and sequencing of coding exons in affected males. The location of the PDR gene was narrowed to a ~4.9 Mb interval of Xp22.11–p21.3 between markers DXS1052 and DXS1061. All annotated coding exons within this interval were sequenced in one affected male from each of the three multiplex families as well as one singleton, but no causative mutation was identiWed. Sequencing of other X-linked genes outside of the linked interval also failed to identify the cause of PDR but revealed a novel nonsynonymous cSNP in the GRPR gene in the Maltese population. PDR is most likely due to a mutation within the linked interval not affecting currently annotated coding exons.
A candidate gene approach to identifying novel causes of disease is concept-limiting and in the new era of high throughput sequencing there is now no need to restrict the experiment to a few interesting genes. We have recently completed a large-scale exon re-sequencing project using Sanger sequencing technology to analyse approximately 1 Mb of coding sequence of the X chromosome in probands from >200 families with various forms of intellectual disability. We review the lessons learnt from this experience. Comparing large data sets will certainly reveal pathogenic mutations in genes that were not possible to identify previously. However, the task of distinguishing pathogenic mutations from rare sequence variants is not easy and is the most substantial challenge to the next decade. High-throughput technology has the attraction of being cheap, fast and comprehensive but for projects that require detailed coverage of a genomic region at an exhaustive level they may require a combination of large-scale with a small-scale follow-up of difficult regions to sequence. The number of rare truncating variants present in coding regions of the X chromosome that are not pathogenic was 1%. The importance of the quality of the starting material both clinically and molecularly and the number of sequence variants both rare and common that any one individual has across their coding sequence is discussed.
Duplications in Xq28 involving MECP2 have been described in patients with severe mental retardation, infantile hypotonia, progressive spasticity, and recurrent infections. However, it is not yet clear to what extent these and accompanying symptoms may vary. In addition, the frequency of Xq28 duplications including MECP2 has yet to be determined in patients with unexplained X-linked mental retardation and (fe)males with severe encephalopathy. In this study, we used multiplex ligation-dependent probe amplification to screen Xq28 including MECP2 for deletions and duplications in these patient cohorts. In the group of 283 patients with X-linked mental retardation, we identified three Xq28 duplications including MECP2, which suggests that approximately 1% of unexplained X-linked mental retardation may be caused by MECP2 duplications. In addition, we found three additional MECP2 duplications in 134 male patients with mental retardation and severe, mostly progressive, neurological symptoms, indicating that the mutation frequency could be as high as 2% in this group of patients. In 329 female patients, no Xq28 duplications were detected. In total, we assessed 13 male patients with a MECP2 duplication from six unrelated families. Moderate to severe mental retardation and childhood hypotonia was noted in all patients. The majority of the patients also presented with absent speech, seizures, and progressive spasticity as well as ataxia or an ataxic gait and cerebral atrophy, two previously unreported symptoms. We propose to implement DNA copy number testing for MECP2 in the current diagnostic testing in all males with moderate to severe mental retardation accompanied by (progressive) neurological symptoms.
MECP2; Xq28; XLMR; encephalopathy; duplications
FRAXE is a form of mild to moderate mental retardation due to the silencing of the FMR2 gene. The cellular function of FMR2 protein is presently unknown. By analogy with its homologue AF4, FMR2 was supposed to have a role in transcriptional regulation, but robust evidences supporting this hypothesis are lacking. We observed that FMR2 co-localizes with the splicing factor SC35 in nuclear speckles, the nuclear regions where splicing factors are concentrated, assembled and modified. Similarly to what was reported for splicing factors, blocking splicing or transcription leads to the accumulation of FMR2 in enlarged, rounded speckles. FMR2 is also localized in the nucleolus when splicing is blocked. We show here that FMR2 is able to specifically bind the G-quartet-forming RNA structure with high affinity. Remarkably, in vivo, in the presence of FMR2, the ESE action of the G-quartet situated in mRNA of an alternatively spliced exon of a minigene or of the putative target FMR1 appears reduced. Interestingly, FMR1 is silenced in the fragile X syndrome, another form of mental retardation. All together, our findings strongly suggest that FMR2 is an RNA-binding protein, which might be involved in alternative splicing regulation through an interaction with G-quartet RNA structure.
This study aimed to map the genetic locus responsible for a novel X-linked congenital cataract phenotype.
A large three-generation family with lamellar and nuclear cataract in five affected males was identified. Linkage analysis was conducted by genotyping X-chromosome specific microsatellite markers at an average spacing of 5 cM. Analysis was conducted using the LINKAGE package under an X-linked recessive model.
A linkage was detected on Xq24 with the maximum LOD score of 2.53 at θ=0 for DXS1001. The minimal region was defined as 11.5 Mb between markers DXS8055 and DXS8009 through critical recombination events in multiple individuals.
A gene causing this novel congenital cataract phenotype is located on the long arm of the X chromosome.
X-linked mental retardation (XLMR) is the leading cause of mental retardation in males. Mutations in the ARX gene in Xp22.1 have been found in numerous families with both nonsyndromic and syndromic XLMR. The most frequent mutation in this gene is a 24 bp duplication in exon 2. Based on this fact, a panel of XLMR families linked to Xp22 was tested for this particular ARX mutation.
Genomic DNA from XLMR families linked to Xp22.1 was amplified for exon 2 in ARX using a Cy5 labeled primer pair. The resulting amplicons were sized using the ALFexpress automated sequencer.
A panel of 11 families with X-linked mental retardation was screened for the ARX 24dup mutation. Four nonsyndromic XLMR families – MRX29, MRX32, MRX33 and MRX38 – were found to have this particular gene mutation.
We have identified 4 additional XLMR families with the ARX dup24 mutation from a panel of 11 XLMR families linked to Xp22.1. This finding makes the ARX dup24 mutation the most common mutation in nonsyndromic XLMR families linked to Xp22.1. As this mutation can be readily tested for using an automated sequencer, screening should be considered for any male with nonsyndromic MR of unknown etiology.
The TM4SF10 gene encodes a putative four-transmembrane domains protein of unknown function termed Brain Cell Membrane Protein 1 (BCMP1), and is abundantly expressed in the brain. This gene is located on the short arm of human chromosome X at p21.1. The hypothesis that mutations in the TM4SF10 gene are associated with impaired brain function was investigated by sequencing the gene in individuals with hereditary X-linked mental retardation (XLMR).
The coding region (543 bp) of TM4SF10, including intronic junctions, and the long 3' untranslated region (3 233 bp), that has been conserved during evolution, were sequenced in 16 male XLMR patients from 14 unrelated families with definite, or suggestive, linkage to the TM4SF10 gene locus, and in 5 normal males.
Five sequence changes were identified but none was found to be associated with the disease. Two of these changes correspond to previously known SNPs, while three other were novel SNPs in the TM4SF10 gene.
We have investigated the majority of the known MRX families linked to the TM4SF10 gene region. In the absence of mutations detected, our study indicates that alterations of TM4SF10 are not a frequent cause of XLMR.