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1.  Identification and Functional Testing of ERCC2 Mutations in a Multi-national Cohort of Patients with Familial Breast- and Ovarian Cancer 
PLoS Genetics  2016;12(8):e1006248.
The increasing application of gene panels for familial cancer susceptibility disorders will probably lead to an increased proposal of susceptibility gene candidates. Using ERCC2 DNA repair gene as an example, we show that proof of a possible role in cancer susceptibility requires a detailed dissection and characterization of the underlying mutations for genes with diverse cellular functions (in this case mainly DNA repair and basic cellular transcription). In case of ERCC2, panel sequencing of 1345 index cases from 587 German, 405 Lithuanian and 353 Czech families with breast and ovarian cancer (BC/OC) predisposition revealed 25 mutations (3 frameshift, 2 splice-affecting, 20 missense), all absent or very rare in the ExAC database. While 16 mutations were unique, 9 mutations showed up repeatedly with population-specific appearance. Ten out of eleven mutations that were tested exemplarily in cell-based functional assays exert diminished excision repair efficiency and/or decreased transcriptional activation capability. In order to provide evidence for BC/OC predisposition, we performed familial segregation analyses and screened ethnically matching controls. However, unlike the recently published RECQL example, none of our recurrent ERCC2 mutations showed convincing co-segregation with BC/OC or significant overrepresentation in the BC/OC cohort. Interestingly, we detected that some deleterious founder mutations had an unexpectedly high frequency of > 1% in the corresponding populations, suggesting that either homozygous carriers are not clinically recognized or homozygosity for these mutations is embryonically lethal. In conclusion, we provide a useful resource on the mutational landscape of ERCC2 mutations in hereditary BC/OC patients and, as our key finding, we demonstrate the complexity of correct interpretation for the discovery of “bonafide” breast cancer susceptibility genes.
Author Summary
Approximately 5–10% of breast/ovarian cancer (BC/OC) cases have inherited an increased risk of developing this malignancy. However, mutations in the two major breast cancer susceptibility genes BRCA1 and BRCA2 explain only 15–20% of all familial BC/OC cases. With the emergence of the high throughput NGS-technology, the number of proposed novel candidate genes for breast cancer predisposition continuously increases. However, a “bonafide” proof of cancer susceptibility requires a detailed characterization of candidate mutations, which we addressed in the current study. Using the DNA repair gene ERCC2 as an example, we performed a comprehensive multi-center approach, analyzing ERCC2 mutations in 1000+ patients with hereditary BC/OC. We identified 25 potential candidate mutations for cancer breast cancer susceptibility, some of them affecting ERCC2 functional activity in appropriate cell-culture based assays. However, a more dissected analysis showed no convincing co-segregation with BC/OC and there was no longer a significant overrepresentation in BC/OC when compared to regionally matched controls instead of the global ExAc variant data base, pointing to the relevance of founder-mutations. In conclusion, we provide a useful resource on the mutational landscape of ERCC2 mutations in hereditary BC/OC patients and, as our key finding, we highlight the complexity of correct interpretation for the discovery of “bonafide” breast cancer susceptibility genes.
PMCID: PMC4978395  PMID: 27504877
2.  Mitochondrial dysfunction in liver failure requiring transplantation 
Liver failure is a heterogeneous condition which may be fatal and the primary cause is frequently unknown. We investigated mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation in patients undergoing liver transplantation. We studied 45 patients who had liver transplantation due to a variety of clinical presentations. Blue native polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis with immunodetection of respiratory chain complexes I-V, biochemical activity of respiratory chain complexes II and IV and quantification of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) copy number were investigated in liver tissue collected from the explanted liver during transplantation. Abnormal mitochondrial function was frequently present in this cohort: ten of 40 patients (25 %) had a defect of one or more respiratory chain enzyme complexes on blue native gels, 20 patients (44 %) had low activity of complex II and/or IV and ten (22 %) had a reduced mtDNA copy number. Combined respiratory chain deficiency and reduced numbers of mitochondria were detected in all three patients with acute liver failure. Low complex IV activity in biliary atresia and complex II defects in cirrhosis were common findings. All six patients diagnosed with liver tumours showed variable alterations in mitochondrial function, probably due to the heterogeneity of the presenting tumour. In conclusion, mitochondrial dysfunction is common in severe liver failure in non-mitochondrial conditions. Therefore, in contrast to the common practice detection of respiratory chain abnormalities in liver should not restrict the inclusion of patients for liver transplantation. Furthermore, improving mitochondrial function may be targeted as part of a complex therapy approach in different forms of liver diseases.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s10545-016-9927-z) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4851707  PMID: 27053192
3.  Biallelic MUTYH mutations can mimic Lynch syndrome 
European Journal of Human Genetics  2014;22(11):1334-1337.
The hallmarks of Lynch syndrome (LS) include a positive family history of colorectal cancer (CRC), germline mutations in the DNA mismatch repair (MMR) genes, tumours with high microsatellite instability (MSI-H) and loss of MMR protein expression. However, in ∼10–15% of clinically suspected LS cases, MMR mutation analyses cannot explain MSI-H and abnormal immunohistochemistry (IHC) results. The highly variable phenotype of MUTYH-associated polyposis (MAP) can overlap with the LS phenotype, but is inherited recessively. We analysed the MUTYH gene in 85 ‘unresolved' patients with tumours showing IHC MMR-deficiency without detectable germline mutation. Biallelic p.(Tyr179Cys) MUTYH germline mutations were found in one patient (frequency 1.18%) with CRC, urothelial carcinoma and a sebaceous gland carcinoma. LS was suspected due to a positive family history of CRC and because of MSI-H and MSH2–MSH6 deficiency on IHC in the sebaceous gland carcinoma. Sequencing of this tumour revealed two somatic MSH2 mutations, thus explaining MSI-H and IHC results, and mimicking LS-like histopathology. This is the first report of two somatic MSH2 mutations leading to an MSI-H tumour lacking MSH2–MSH6 protein expression in a patient with MAP. In addition to typical transversion mutations in KRAS and APC, MAP can also induce tumourigenesis via the MSI-pathway.
PMCID: PMC4200426  PMID: 24518836
MUTYH; base excision repair; somatic mutations; Lynch syndrome; immunohistochemistry; DNA mismatch repair
4.  Chorea-Acanthocytosis Genotype in the Original Critchley Kentucky Neuroacanthocytosis Kindred 
Archives of neurology  2011;68(10):1330-1333.
To determine the molecular nature of the neurological disease in the seminal family reported by Critchley et al in the 1960s, characterized by a hyperkinetic movement disorder and the appearance of acanthocytosis on peripheral blood smear. The eponym Levine-Critchley syndrome, subsequently termed neuroacanthocytosis, has been applied to symptomatically similar, but genetically distinct, disorders, resulting in clinical and diagnostic confusion.
DNA analysis.
Molecular biology research laboratories.
First- and second-degree relatives of the original Critchley et al proband from Kentucky.
Main Outcome Measures
Mutations in the VPS13A gene.
A mutation was identified in the VPS13A gene, responsible for autosomal recessive chorea-acanthocytosis. Haplotype reconstruction suggested that this mutation was homozygous in the proband.
These findings strongly support the diagnosis of chorea-acanthocytosis as the disorder described in the original report.
PMCID: PMC4615612  PMID: 21987550
5.  Respiratory chain deficiency in nonmitochondrial disease 
Neurology: Genetics  2015;1(1):e6.
In this study, we report 5 patients with heterogeneous phenotypes and biochemical evidence of respiratory chain (RC) deficiency; however, the molecular diagnosis is not mitochondrial disease.
The reported patients were identified from a cohort of 60 patients in whom RC enzyme deficiency suggested mitochondrial disease and underwent whole-exome sequencing.
Five patients had disease-causing variants in nonmitochondrial disease genes ORAI1, CAPN3, COLQ, EXOSC8, and ANO10, which would have been missed on targeted next-generation panels or on MitoExome analysis.
Our data demonstrate that RC abnormalities may be secondary to various cellular processes, including calcium metabolism, neuromuscular transmission, and abnormal messenger RNA degradation.
PMCID: PMC4821083  PMID: 27066545
6.  Molecular and clinical analyses of 16q24.1 duplications involving FOXF1 identify an evolutionarily unstable large minisatellite 
BMC Medical Genetics  2014;15:128.
Point mutations or genomic deletions of FOXF1 result in a lethal developmental lung disease Alveolar Capillary Dysplasia with Misalignment of Pulmonary Veins. However, the clinical consequences of the constitutively increased dosage of FOXF1 are unknown.
Copy-number variations and their parental origin were identified using a combination of array CGH, long-range PCR, DNA sequencing, and microsatellite analyses. Minisatellite sequences across different species were compared using a gready clustering algorithm and genome-wide analysis of the distribution of minisatellite sequences was performed using R statistical software.
We report four unrelated families with 16q24.1 duplications encompassing entire FOXF1. In a 4-year-old boy with speech delay and a café-au-lait macule, we identified an ~15 kb 16q24.1 duplication inherited from the reportedly healthy father, in addition to a de novo ~1.09 Mb mosaic 17q11.2 NF1 deletion. In a 13-year-old patient with autism and mood disorder, we found an ~0.3 Mb duplication harboring FOXF1 and an ~0.5 Mb 16q23.3 duplication, both inherited from the father with bipolar disorder. In a 47-year old patient with pyloric stenosis, mesenterium commune, and aplasia of the appendix, we identified an ~0.4 Mb duplication in 16q24.1 encompassing 16 genes including FOXF1. The patient transmitted the duplication to her daughter, who presented with similar symptoms. In a fourth patient with speech and motor delay, and borderline intellectual disability, we identified an ~1.7 Mb FOXF1 duplication adjacent to a large minisatellite. This duplication has a complex structure and arose de novo on the maternal chromosome, likely as a result of a DNA replication error initiated by the adjacent large tandem repeat. Using bioinformatic and array CGH analyses of the minisatellite, we found a large variation of its size in several different species and individuals, demonstrating both its evolutionarily instability and population polymorphism.
Our data indicate that constitutional duplication of FOXF1 in humans is not associated with any pediatric lung abnormalities. We propose that patients with gut malrotation, pyloric or duodenal stenosis, and gall bladder agenesis should be tested for FOXF1 alterations. We suggest that instability of minisatellites greater than 1 kb can lead to structural variation due to DNA replication errors.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12881-014-0128-z) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4411736  PMID: 25472632
cis-regulation; Satellite repeats; Microhomology-mediated break-induced replication; Microduplication
7.  Serum antibodies against frameshift peptides in microsatellite unstable colorectal cancer patients with Lynch syndrome 
Familial cancer  2010;9(2):173-179.
High level microsatellite instability (MSI-H) occurs in about 15% of colorectal cancer (CRCs), either as sporadic cancers or in the context of hereditary non-polyposis cancer (HNPCC) or Lynch syndrome. In MSI-H CRC, mismatch repair deficiency leads to insertion/deletion mutations at coding microsatellites (cMS) and thus to the translation of frameshift peptides (FSPs). FSPs are potent inductors of T cell responses in vitro and in vivo. The present study aims at the identification of FSP-specific humoral immune responses in MSI-H CRC and Lynch syndrome.
Sera from patients with history of MSI-H CRC (n=69), healthy Lynch syndrome mutation carriers (n=31) and healthy controls (n=52) were analyzed for antibodies against FSPs using peptide ELISA. Reactivities were measured against FSPs derived from genes frequently mutated in MSI-H CRCs, AIM2, TGFBR2, CASP5, TAF1B, ZNF294, and MARCKS.
Antibody reactivity against FSPs was significantly higher in MSI-H CRC patients than in healthy controls (p=0.036, Mann-Whitney) and highest in patients with shortest interval between tumor resection and serum sampling. Humoral immune responses in patients were most frequently directed against FSPs derived from mutated TAF1B (11.6%, 8/69) and TGFBR2 (10.1%, 7/69). Low level FSP-specific antibodies were also detected in healthy mutation carriers.
Our results show that antibody responses against FSPs are detectable in MSI-H CRC patients and healthy Lynch syndrome mutation carriers. Based on the high number of defined FSP antigens, measuring FSP-specific humoral immune responses is a highly promising tool for future diagnostic application in MSI-H cancer patients.
PMCID: PMC4198384  PMID: 19957108
antibodies; frameshift peptides; immune responses; Lynch syndrome; microsatellite instability
8.  In vitro supplementation with deoxynucleoside monophosphates rescues mitochondrial DNA depletion 
Molecular genetics and metabolism  2012;107(0):95-103.
Mitochondrial DNA depletion syndromes are a genetically heterogeneous group of often severe diseases, characterized by reduced cellular mitochondrial DNA content. Investigation of potential therapeutic strategies for mitochondrial DNA depletion syndromes will be dependent on good model systems. We have previously suggested that myotubes may be the optimal model system for such studies. Here we firstly validate this technique in a diverse range of cells of patients with mitochondrial DNA depletion syndromes, showing contrasting effects in cell lines from genetically and phenotypically differing patients.
Secondly, we developed a putative therapeutic approach using variable combinations of deoxynucleoside monophosphates in different types of mitochondrial DNA depletion syndromes, showing near normalization of mitochondrial DNA content in many cases. Furthermore, we used nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors to precisely titrate mtDNA depletion in vitro. In this manner we can unmask a physiological defect in mitochondrial depletion syndrome cell lines which is also ameliorated by deoxynucleoside monophosphate supplementation. Finally, we have extended this model to study fibroblasts after myogenic transdifferentiation by MyoD transfection, which similar to primary myotubes also showed deoxynucleoside monophosphate responsive mitochondrial DNA depletion in vitro, thus providing a more convenient method for deriving future models of mitochondrial DNA depletion.
Our results suggest that using different combinations of deoxynucleoside monophosphates depending on the primary gene defect and molecular mechanism may be a possible therapeutic approach for many patients with mitochondrial DNA depletion syndromes and is worthy of further clinical investigation.
PMCID: PMC4038513  PMID: 22608879
Mitochondrial disease; Mitochondrial DNA depletion; In vitro supplementation
The lancet oncology  2010;12(1):49-55.
Lynch syndrome is caused by germline mutations in mismatch repair genes (MSH2, MLH1, MSH6 or PMS2), which lead to a high risk of predominantly colorectal and endometrial cancer. Recently, we found that also constitutional 3′ end deletions of EPCAM can cause Lynch syndrome through epigenetic silencing of MSH2 in EPCAM expressing tissues. This results in a tissue specific MSH2-deficiency, which may evoke a different cancer risk and spectrum. To optimize the care for EPCAM deletion carriers we studied their cancer risk and spectrum.
Clinical data of 194 carriers from 41 EPCAM families were systematically collected and compared to those of 431 carriers from 91 families with mutations in MLH1, MSH2, or MSH6.
EPCAM deletion carriers exhibited a 75% [95%CI 65–85%] cumulative risk of colorectal cancer before the age of 70 years, with a mean age at diagnosis of 43 years, which is comparable to that of carriers of a combined EPCAM-MSH2 deletion (69% [95%CI 47-91%], p=0·8609) or of a mutation in MSH2 (77% [95%CI 64-90%], p=0·5892) or MLH1 (79% [95%CI 68-90%], p=0·5492) and higher than that of MSH6 mutation carriers (50% [95%CI 38-62%], p<0·0001). In contrast, women with EPCAM deletions (n=87) exhibited a 12% [95%CI 0-27%] cumulative risk of endometrial cancer, which is significantly lower than in carriers of a combined EPCAM-MSH2 deletion (55% [95%CI 20-90%], p<0·0001) or of a mutation in MSH2 (51% [95%CI 33-69%], p=0·0006) or MSH6 (34% [95%CI 20-48%], p=0·0309) and lower than in MLH1 (33% [95%CI 15-51%] p=0·1193) mutation carriers. This risk seems to be restricted to large deletions that extend close to the MSH2 gene promoter. Overall, a relatively high incidence of duodenal (n=3) and pancreatic (n=4) cancers was observed.
EPCAM deletion carriers do have a high risk of colorectal cancer. Only those with deletions extending close to the MSH2 promoter have an increased risk of endometrial cancer. These results underscore the impact of mosaic MSH2-deficiency on cancer risk and are indicative for a protocol revision for surveillance and preventive surgery in EPCAM deletion carriers.
PMCID: PMC3670774  PMID: 21145788
Lynch syndrome; cancer risk; TACSTD1; EPCAM; MSH2; genotype-phenotype correlation
10.  An American Founder Mutation in MLH1 
Mutations in the mismatch repair genes cause Lynch syndrome (LS), conferring high risk of colorectal, endometrial and some other cancers. After the same splice site mutation in the MLH1 gene (c.589-2A>G) had been observed in 4 ostensibly unrelated American families with typical LS cancers, its occurrence in comprehensive series of LS cases (Mayo Clinic, Germany and Italy) was determined. It occurred in 10 out of 995 LS mutation carriers (1.0%) diagnosed in the Mayo Clinic diagnostic laboratory. It did not occur among 1803 cases tested for MLH1 mutations by the German HNPCC consortium, while it occurred in 3 probands and an additional 5 family members diagnosed in Italy. In the U.S., the splice site mutation occurs on a large (~4.8 Mb) shared haplotype that also harbors the variant c.2146G>A which predicts a missense change in codon 716 referred to here as V716M. In Italy, it occurs on a different, shorter shared haplotype (~2.2 Mb) that does not carry V716M. The V716M variant was found to be present by itself in the U.S., German and Italian populations with individuals sharing a common haplotype of 280 kb, allowing us to calculate that the variant arose around 5600 years ago (225 generations; 95% confidence interval 183–272). The splice site mutation in America arose or was introduced some 450 years ago (18 generations; 95% confidence interval 14–23); it accounts for 1.0% all LS in the Unites States and can be readily screened for.
PMCID: PMC3266960  PMID: 21671475
11.  What is influencing the phenotype of the common homozygous polymerase-γ mutation p.Ala467Thr? 
Brain  2012;135(12):3614-3626.
Polymerase-γ (POLG) is a major human disease gene and may account for up to 25% of all mitochondrial diseases in the UK and in Italy. To date, >150 different pathogenic mutations have been described in POLG. Some mutations behave as both dominant and recessive alleles, but an autosomal recessive inheritance pattern is much more common. The most frequently detected pathogenic POLG mutation in the Caucasian population is c.1399G>A leading to a p.Ala467Thr missense mutation in the linker domain of the protein. Although many patients are homozygous for this mutation, clinical presentation is highly variable, ranging from childhood-onset Alpers-Huttenlocher syndrome to adult-onset sensory ataxic neuropathy dysarthria and ophthalmoparesis. The reasons for this are not clear, but familial clustering of phenotypes suggests that modifying factors may influence the clinical manifestation. In this study, we collected clinical, histological and biochemical data from 68 patients carrying the homozygous p.Ala467Thr mutation from eight diagnostic centres in Europe and the USA. We performed DNA analysis in 44 of these patients to search for a genetic modifier within POLG and flanking regions potentially involved in the regulation of gene expression, and extended our analysis to other genes affecting mitochondrial DNA maintenance (POLG2, PEO1 and ANT1). The clinical presentation included almost the entire phenotypic spectrum of all known POLG mutations. Interestingly, the clinical presentation was similar in siblings, implying a genetic basis for the phenotypic variability amongst homozygotes. However, the p.Ala467Thr allele was present on a shared haplotype in each affected individual, and there was no correlation between the clinical presentation and genetic variants in any of the analysed nuclear genes. Patients with mitochondrial DNA haplogroup U developed epilepsy significantly less frequently than patients with any other mitochondrial DNA haplotype. Epilepsy was reported significantly more frequently in females than in males, and also showed an association with one of the chromosomal markers defining the POLG haplotype. In conclusion, our clinical results show that the homozygous p.Ala467Thr POLG mutation does not cause discrete phenotypes, as previously suggested, but rather there is a continuum of clinical symptoms. Our results suggest that the mitochondrial DNA background plays an important role in modifying the disease phenotype but nuclear modifiers, epigenetic and environmental factors may also influence the severity of disease.
PMCID: PMC3525059  PMID: 23250882
mitochondrial diseases; neuromuscular disorders; genetics; phenotype; molecular biology
12.  NDUFS8-related Complex I Deficiency Extends Phenotype from “PEO Plus” to Leigh Syndrome 
JIMD Reports  2012;10:17-22.
With over 1,000 nuclear genes that could potentially cause a mitochondrial disorder, the current diagnostic approach requires targeted molecular analysis, guided by a combination of clinical and biochemical features. However, the expanding molecular and clinical spectrum means that this approach does not always yield a result. Here we report the unusual clinical presentation of “Progressive External Ophthalmoplegia (PEO) plus” Leigh syndrome in three children from a consanguineous family where exome sequencing identified mutations in NDUFS8. NDUFS8 is a nuclear-encoded structural core protein of complex I, and mutations are expected to cause infantile onset and severe disease. Our patients had a later onset, milder and a clinically distinct phenotype, and this gene would not normally be considered in this context. Being untargeted to specific genes, whole exome analysis has the potential to re-write the phenotype and reveal an unexpected molecular aetiology, as illustrated by this family.
PMCID: PMC3755572  PMID: 23430795
13.  Association Between TAS2R38 Gene Polymorphisms and Colorectal Cancer Risk: A Case-Control Study in Two Independent Populations of Caucasian Origin 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(6):e20464.
Molecular sensing in the lingual mucosa and in the gastro-intestinal tract play a role in the detection of ingested harmful drugs and toxins. Therefore, genetic polymorphisms affecting the capability of initiating these responses may be critical for the subsequent efficiency of avoiding and/or eliminating possible threats to the organism. By using a tagging approach in the region of Taste Receptor 2R38 (TAS2R38) gene, we investigated all the common genetic variation of this gene region in relation to colorectal cancer risk with a case-control study in a German population (709 controls and 602 cases) and in a Czech population (623 controls and 601 cases). We found that there were no significant associations between individual SNPs of the TAS2R38 gene and colorectal cancer in the Czech or in the German population, nor in the joint analysis. However, when we analyzed the diplotypes and the phenotypes we found that the non-taster group had an increased risk of colorectal cancer in comparison to the taster group. This association was borderline significant in the Czech population, (OR = 1.28, 95% CI 0.99–1.67; Pvalue = 0.058) and statistically significant in the German population (OR = 1.36, 95% CI 1.06–1.75; Pvalue = 0.016) and in the joint analysis (OR = 1.34, 95% CI 1.12–1.61; Pvalue = 0.001). In conclusion, we found a suggestive association between the human bitter tasting phenotype and the risk of CRC in two different populations of Caucasian origin.
PMCID: PMC3107225  PMID: 21674048
15.  Primary Mucinous Adenocarcinoma of the Vermiform Appendix with High Grade Microsatellite Instability 
Journal of Cancer  2011;2:302-306.
Primary adenocarcinoma of the vermiform appendix is a rare entity and is frequently discovered by the pathologist following appendectomy for suspected appendicitis.
We present a 42-year-old male with primary mucinous adenocarcinoma of the appendix initially presenting symptoms of acute appendicitis. Histological investigation of the appendectomy specimen showed a mucinous adenocarcinoma and the patient was treated by secondary right hemicolectomy giving the final histopathological classification of an UICC IIIC tumor. Since the patient fulfills the revised Bethesda criteria analysis of immunoreactivity of DNA mismatch repair proteins was performed showing loss of MLH1 and MSH2 expression associated with high microsatellite instability (MSI-H), not yet reported for primary mucinous appendiceal carcinoma. Further genetic analysis for DNA mismatch repair gene mutations were negative. The patient received intensified adjuvant chemotherapy according to the FOLFOX-4-scheme, since MSI-H colorectal carcinomas might show lower response rates following standard 5-FU-based adjuvant chemotherapy.
PMCID: PMC3119391  PMID: 21716905
Appendixcarcinoma; microsatellite instability; mucinous appendixcarcinoma; DNA mismatch repair genes
16.  Nuclear factors involved in mitochondrial translation cause a subgroup of combined respiratory chain deficiency 
Brain  2010;134(1):183-195.
Mutations in several mitochondrial DNA and nuclear genes involved in mitochondrial protein synthesis have recently been reported in combined respiratory chain deficiency, indicating a generalized defect in mitochondrial translation. However, the number of patients with pathogenic mutations is small, implying that nuclear defects of mitochondrial translation are either underdiagnosed or intrauterine lethal. No comprehensive studies have been reported on large cohorts of patients with combined respiratory chain deficiency addressing the role of nuclear genes affecting mitochondrial protein synthesis to date. We investigated a cohort of 52 patients with combined respiratory chain deficiency without causative mitochondrial DNA mutations, rearrangements or depletion, to determine whether a defect in mitochondrial translation defines the pathomechanism of their clinical disease. We followed a combined approach of sequencing known nuclear genes involved in mitochondrial protein synthesis (EFG1, EFTu, EFTs, MRPS16, TRMU), as well as performing in vitro functional studies in 22 patient cell lines. The majority of our patients were children (<15 years), with an early onset of symptoms <1 year of age (65%). The most frequent clinical presentation was mitochondrial encephalomyopathy (63%); however, a number of patients showed cardiomyopathy (33%), isolated myopathy (15%) or hepatopathy (13%). Genomic sequencing revealed compound heterozygous mutations in the mitochondrial transfer ribonucleic acid modifying factor (TRMU) in a single patient only, presenting with early onset, reversible liver disease. No pathogenic mutation was detected in any of the remaining 51 patients in the other genes analysed. In vivo labelling of mitochondrial polypeptides in 22 patient cell lines showed overall (three patients) or selective (four patients) defects of mitochondrial translation. Immunoblotting for mitochondrial proteins revealed decreased steady state levels of proteins in some patients, but normal or increased levels in others, indicating a possible compensatory mechanism. In summary, candidate gene sequencing in this group of patients has a very low detection rate (1/52), although in vivo labelling of mitochondrial translation in 22 patient cell lines indicate that a nuclear defect affecting mitochondrial protein synthesis is responsible for about one-third of combined respiratory chain deficiencies (7/22). In the remaining patients, the impaired respiratory chain activity is most likely the consequence of several different events downstream of mitochondrial translation. Clinical classification of patients with biochemical analysis, genetic testing and, more importantly, in vivo labelling and immunoblotting of mitochondrial proteins show incoherent results, but a systematic review of these data in more patients may reveal underlying mechanisms, and facilitate the identification of novel factors involved in combined respiratory chain deficiency.
PMCID: PMC3707321  PMID: 21169334
mitochondrial translation; combined respiratory chain deficiency; early-onset encephalomyopathy
17.  Polymorphisms in CTNNBL1 in relation to colorectal cancer with evolutionary implications 
Colorectal cancer (CRC) is a complex disease related to environmental and genetic risk factors. Several studies have shown that susceptibility to complex diseases can be mediated by ancestral alleles. Using RNAi screening, CTNNBL1 was identified as a putative regulator of the Wnt signaling pathway, which plays a key role in colorectal carcinogenesis. Recently, single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in CTNNBL1 have been associated with obesity, a known risk factor for CRC. We investigated whether genetic variation in CTNNBL1 affects susceptibility to CRC and tested for signals of recent selection. We applied a tagging SNP approach that cover all known common variation in CTNNBL1 (allele frequency >5%; r2>0.8). A case-control study was carried out using two well-characterized study populations: a hospital-based Czech population composed of 751 sporadic cases and 755 controls and a family/early onset-based German population (697 cases and 644 controls). Genotyping was performed using allele specific PCR based TaqMan® assays (Applied Biosystems, Weiterstadt, Germany). In the Czech cohort, containing sporadic cases, the ancestral alleles of three SNPs showed evidence of association with CRC: rs2344481 (OR 1.44, 95%CI 1.06-1.95, dominant model), rs2281148 (OR 0.59, 95%CI 0.36-0.96, dominant model) and rs2235460 (OR 1.38, 95%CI 1.01-1.89, AA vs. GG). The associations were less prominent in the family/early onset-based German cohort. Data derived from several databases and statistical tests consistently pointed to a likely shaping of CTNNBL1 by positive selection. Further studies are needed to identify the actual function of CTNNBL1 and to validate the association results in other populations.
PMCID: PMC3077237  PMID: 21537400
Colorectal cancer; case-control study; ancestral-susceptibility model; selective pressure; CTNNBL1
18.  Polymorphisms of genes coding for ghrelin and its receptor in relation to colorectal cancer risk: a two-step gene-wide case-control study 
BMC Gastroenterology  2010;10:112.
Ghrelin, an endogenous ligand for the growth hormone secretagogue receptor (GHSR), has two major functions: the stimulation of the growth hormone production and the stimulation of food intake. Accumulating evidence also indicates a role of ghrelin in cancer development.
We conducted a case-control study to examine the association of common genetic variants in the genes coding for ghrelin (GHRL) and its receptor (GHSR) with colorectal cancer risk. Pairwise tagging was used to select the 11 polymorphisms included in the study. The selected polymorphisms were genotyped in 680 cases and 593 controls from the Czech Republic.
We found two SNPs associated with lower risk of colorectal cancer, namely SNPs rs27647 and rs35683. We replicated the two hits, in additional 569 cases and 726 controls from Germany.
A joint analysis of the two populations indicated that the T allele of rs27647 SNP exerted a protective borderline effect (Ptrend = 0.004).
PMCID: PMC2954942  PMID: 20920174
19.  Molecular basis of infantile reversible cytochrome c oxidase deficiency myopathy 
Brain  2009;132(11):3165-3174.
Childhood-onset mitochondrial encephalomyopathies are usually severe, relentlessly progressive conditions that have a fatal outcome. However, a puzzling infantile disorder, long known as ‘benign cytochrome c oxidase deficiency myopathy’ is an exception because it shows spontaneous recovery if infants survive the first months of life. Current investigations cannot distinguish those with a good prognosis from those with terminal disease, making it very difficult to decide when to continue intensive supportive care. Here we define the principal molecular basis of the disorder by identifying a maternally inherited, homoplasmic m.14674T>C mt-tRNAGlu mutation in 17 patients from 12 families. Our results provide functional evidence for the pathogenicity of the mutation and show that tissue-specific mechanisms downstream of tRNAGlu may explain the spontaneous recovery. This study provides the rationale for a simple genetic test to identify infants with mitochondrial myopathy and good prognosis.
PMCID: PMC2768660  PMID: 19720722
mitochondrial myopathy; reversible COX deficiency; homoplasmic tRNA mutation
20.  XLMR in MRX families 29, 32, 33 and 38 results from the dup24 mutation in the ARX (Aristaless related homeobox) gene 
BMC Medical Genetics  2005;6:16.
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.
PMCID: PMC1142315  PMID: 15850492
21.  TM4SF10 gene sequencing in XLMR patients identifies common polymorphisms but no disease-associated mutation 
BMC Medical Genetics  2004;5:22.
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.
PMCID: PMC517934  PMID: 15345028

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