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1.  METTL23, a transcriptional partner of GABPA, is essential for human cognition 
Human Molecular Genetics  2014;23(13):3456-3466.
Whereas many genes associated with intellectual disability (ID) encode synaptic proteins, transcriptional defects leading to ID are less well understood. We studied a large, consanguineous pedigree of Arab origin with seven members affected with ID and mild dysmorphic features. Homozygosity mapping and linkage analysis identified a candidate region on chromosome 17 with a maximum multipoint logarithm of odds score of 6.01. Targeted high-throughput sequencing of the exons in the candidate region identified a homozygous 4-bp deletion (c.169_172delCACT) in the METTL23 (methyltransferase like 23) gene, which is predicted to result in a frameshift and premature truncation (p.His57Valfs*11). Overexpressed METTL23 protein localized to both nucleus and cytoplasm, and physically interacted with GABPA (GA-binding protein transcription factor, alpha subunit). GABP, of which GABPA is a component, is known to regulate the expression of genes such as THPO (thrombopoietin) and ATP5B (ATP synthase, H+ transporting, mitochondrial F1 complex, beta polypeptide) and is implicated in a wide variety of important cellular functions. Overexpression of METTL23 resulted in increased transcriptional activity at the THPO promoter, whereas knockdown of METTL23 with siRNA resulted in decreased expression of ATP5B, thus revealing the importance of METTL23 as a regulator of GABPA function. The METTL23 mutation highlights a new transcriptional pathway underlying human intellectual function.
PMCID: PMC4049305  PMID: 24501276
2.  IFT27, encoding a small GTPase component of IFT particles, is mutated in a consanguineous family with Bardet–Biedl syndrome 
Human Molecular Genetics  2014;23(12):3307-3315.
Bardet–Biedl syndrome (BBS) is an autosomal recessive ciliopathy with multisystem involvement. So far, 18 BBS genes have been identified and the majority of them are essential for the function of BBSome, a protein complex involved in transporting membrane proteins into and from cilia. Yet defects in the identified genes cannot account for all the BBS cases. The genetic heterogeneity of this disease poses significant challenge to the identification of additional BBS genes. In this study, we coupled human genetics with functional validation in zebrafish and identified IFT27 as a novel BBS gene (BBS19). This is the first time an intraflagellar transport (IFT) gene is implicated in the pathogenesis of BBS, highlighting the genetic complexity of this disease.
PMCID: PMC4047285  PMID: 24488770
3.  Identification of embryonic lethal genes in humans by autozygosity mapping and exome sequencing in consanguineous families 
Genome Biology  2015;16(1):116.
Identifying genetic variants that lead to discernible phenotypes is the core of Mendelian genetics. An approach that considers embryonic lethality as a bona fide Mendelian phenotype has the potential to reveal novel genetic causes, which will further our understanding of early human development at a molecular level. Consanguineous families in which embryonic lethality segregates as a recessive Mendelian phenotype offer a unique opportunity for high throughput novel gene discovery as has been established for other recessive postnatal phenotypes.
We have studied 24 eligible families using autozygosity mapping and whole-exome sequencing. In addition to revealing mutations in genes previously linked to embryonic lethality in severe cases, our approach revealed seven novel candidate genes (THSD1, PIGC, UBN1, MYOM1, DNAH14, GALNT14, and FZD6). A founder mutation in one of these genes, THSD1, which has been linked to vascular permeability, accounted for embryonic lethality in three of the study families. Unlike the other six candidate genes, we were able to identify a second mutation in THSD1 in a family with a less severe phenotype consisting of hydrops fetalis and persistent postnatal edema, which provides further support for the proposed link between this gene and embryonic lethality.
Our study represents an important step towards the systematic analysis of “embryonic lethal genes” in humans.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13059-015-0681-6) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4491988  PMID: 26036949
4.  Natural human knockouts and the era of genotype to phenotype 
Genome Medicine  2015;7(1):48.
Complete loss of gene function in humans by naturally occurring biallelic loss-of-function mutations (human knockout) is not a new concept. However, the recent identification of human knockouts along the entire spectrum of health and disease by next-generation sequencing promises to unlock their full potential to accelerate the medical and functional annotation of the human genome.
PMCID: PMC4448306  PMID: 26029266
5.  C19orf12 mutation leads to Karak pallido-pyramidal syndrome 
Gene  2013;537(2):352-356.
Pallido-pyramidal syndromes combine dystonia with or without parkinsonism and spasticity as part of a mixed neurodegenerative disorder. Several causative genes have been shown to lead to pallido-pyramidal syndromes, including FBXO7, ATP13A2, PLA2G6, PRKN and SPG11. In particular, mutations in PLA2G6 have been identified in patients with Karak syndrome, a neurodegenerative disorder that features ataxia, dystonia-parkinsonism, dementia and spasticity with neuroradiologic evidence of cerebellar atrophy and/or brain iron deposition. Some patients with phenotypic Karak syndrome do not have demonstrable mutations in PLA2G6. Using homozygosity mapping and direct sequencing in a multiplex consanguineous Saudi Arabian family with Karak syndrome, we identified a homozygous p.G53R mutation in C19orf12. Our findings expand the phenotypic spectrum associated with C19orf12 mutations.
PMCID: PMC4422067  PMID: 24361204
6.  Global transcriptional disturbances underlie Cornelia de Lange syndrome and related phenotypes 
Cornelia de Lange syndrome (CdLS) is a genetically heterogeneous disorder that presents with extensive phenotypic variability, including facial dysmorphism, developmental delay/intellectual disability (DD/ID), abnormal extremities, and hirsutism. About 65% of patients harbor mutations in genes that encode subunits or regulators of the cohesin complex, including NIPBL, SMC1A, SMC3, RAD21, and HDAC8. Wiedemann-Steiner syndrome (WDSTS), which shares CdLS phenotypic features, is caused by mutations in lysine-specific methyltransferase 2A (KMT2A). Here, we performed whole-exome sequencing (WES) of 2 male siblings clinically diagnosed with WDSTS; this revealed a hemizygous, missense mutation in SMC1A that was predicted to be deleterious. Extensive clinical evaluation and WES of 32 Turkish patients clinically diagnosed with CdLS revealed the presence of a de novo heterozygous nonsense KMT2A mutation in 1 patient without characteristic WDSTS features. We also identified de novo heterozygous mutations in SMC3 or SMC1A that affected RNA splicing in 2 independent patients with combined CdLS and WDSTS features. Furthermore, in families from 2 separate world populations segregating an autosomal-recessive disorder with CdLS-like features, we identified homozygous mutations in TAF6, which encodes a core transcriptional regulatory pathway component. Together, our data, along with recent transcriptome studies, suggest that CdLS and related phenotypes may be “transcriptomopathies” rather than cohesinopathies.
PMCID: PMC4319410  PMID: 25574841
7.  CC2D1A Regulates Human Intellectual and Social Function as well as NF-κB Signaling Homeostasis 
Cell reports  2014;8(3):647-655.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and intellectual disability (ID) are often comorbid, but the extent to which they share common genetic causes remains controversial. Here, we present two autosomal-recessive “founder” mutations in the CC2D1A gene causing fully penetrant cognitive phenotypes, including mild-to-severe ID, ASD, as well as seizures, suggesting shared developmental mechanisms. CC2D1A regulates multiple intracellular signaling pathways, and we found its strongest effect to be on the transcription factor nuclear factor κB (NF-κB). Cc2d1a gain and loss of function both increase activation of NF-κB, revealing a critical role of Cc2d1a in homeostatic control of intra-cellular signaling. Cc2d1a knockdown in neurons reduces dendritic complexity and increases NF-κB activity, and the effects of Cc2d1a depletion can be rescued by inhibiting NF-κB activity. Homeostatic regulation of neuronal signaling pathways provides a mechanism whereby common founder mutations could manifest diverse symptoms in different patients.
PMCID: PMC4334362  PMID: 25066123
8.  A founder CEP120 mutation in Jeune asphyxiating thoracic dystrophy expands the role of centriolar proteins in skeletal ciliopathies 
Human Molecular Genetics  2014;24(5):1410-1419.
Jeune asphyxiating thoracic dystrophy (JATD) is a skeletal dysplasia characterized by a small thoracic cage and a range of skeletal and extra-skeletal anomalies. JATD is genetically heterogeneous with at least nine genes identified, all encoding ciliary proteins, hence the classification of JATD as a skeletal ciliopathy. Consistent with the observation that the heterogeneous molecular basis of JATD has not been fully determined yet, we have identified two consanguineous Saudi families segregating JATD who share a single identical ancestral homozygous haplotype among the affected members. Whole-exome sequencing revealed a single novel variant within the disease haplotype in CEP120, which encodes a core centriolar protein. Subsequent targeted sequencing of CEP120 in Saudi and European JATD cohorts identified two additional families with the same missense mutation. Combining the four families in linkage analysis confirmed a significant genome-wide linkage signal at the CEP120 locus. This missense change alters a highly conserved amino acid within CEP120 (p.Ala199Pro). In addition, we show marked reduction of cilia and abnormal number of centrioles in fibroblasts from one affected individual. Inhibition of the CEP120 ortholog in zebrafish produced pleiotropic phenotypes characteristic of cilia defects including abnormal body curvature, hydrocephalus, otolith defects and abnormal renal, head and craniofacial development. We also demonstrate that in CEP120 morphants, cilia are shortened in the neural tube and disorganized in the pronephros. These results are consistent with aberrant CEP120 being implicated in the pathogenesis of JATD and expand the role of centriolar proteins in skeletal ciliopathies.
PMCID: PMC4321448  PMID: 25361962
9.  ARNT2 mutation causes hypopituitarism, post-natal microcephaly, visual and renal anomalies 
Brain  2013;136(10):3096-3105.
We describe a previously unreported syndrome characterized by secondary (post-natal) microcephaly with fronto-temporal lobe hypoplasia, multiple pituitary hormone deficiency, seizures, severe visual impairment and abnormalities of the kidneys and urinary tract in a highly consanguineous family with six affected children. Homozygosity mapping and exome sequencing revealed a novel homozygous frameshift mutation in the basic helix-loop-helix transcription factor gene ARNT2 (c.1373_1374dupTC) in affected individuals. This mutation results in absence of detectable levels of ARNT2 transcript and protein from patient fibroblasts compared with controls, consistent with nonsense-mediated decay of the mutant transcript and loss of ARNT2 function. We also show expression of ARNT2 within the central nervous system, including the hypothalamus, as well as the renal tract during human embryonic development. The progressive neurological abnormalities, congenital hypopituitarism and post-retinal visual pathway dysfunction in affected individuals demonstrates for the first time the essential role of ARNT2 in the development of the hypothalamo-pituitary axis, post-natal brain growth, and visual and renal function in humans.
PMCID: PMC3784281  PMID: 24022475
hypothalamus; congenital blindness; brain development; molecular genetics; malformations of cortical development
10.  Genetics and genomic medicine in Saudi Arabia 
PMCID: PMC4190871  PMID: 25333061
11.  Genomic analysis of Meckel–Gruber syndrome in Arabs reveals marked genetic heterogeneity and novel candidate genes 
Meckel–Gruber syndrome (MKS, OMIM #249000) is a multiple congenital malformation syndrome that represents the severe end of the ciliopathy phenotypic spectrum. Despite the relatively common occurrence of this syndrome among Arabs, little is known about its genetic architecture in this population. This is a series of 18 Arab families with MKS, who were evaluated clinically and studied using autozygome-guided mutation analysis and exome sequencing. We show that autozygome-guided candidate gene analysis identified the underlying mutation in the majority (n=12, 71%). Exome sequencing revealed a likely pathogenic mutation in three novel candidate MKS disease genes. These include C5orf42, Ellis–van-Creveld disease gene EVC2 and SEC8 (also known as EXOC4), which encodes an exocyst protein with an established role in ciliogenesis. This is the largest and most comprehensive genomic study on MKS in Arabs and the results, in addition to revealing genetic and allelic heterogeneity, suggest that previously reported disease genes and the novel candidates uncovered by this study account for the overwhelming majority of MKS patients in our population.
PMCID: PMC3722952  PMID: 23169490
autozygome; ciliopathy; encephalocele; EVC2; EXOC4
12.  Preclinical Potency and Safety Studies of an AAV2-Mediated Gene Therapy Vector for the Treatment of MERTK Associated Retinitis Pigmentosa 
Proof of concept for MERTK gene replacement therapy has been demonstrated using different viral vectors in the Royal College of Surgeon (RCS) rat, a well characterized model of recessive retinitis pigmentosa that contains a mutation in the Mertk gene. MERTK plays a key role in renewal of photoreceptor outer segments (OS) by phagocytosis of shed OS tips. Mutations in MERTK cause impaired phagocytic activity and accumulation of OS debris in the interphotoreceptor space that ultimately leads to photoreceptor cell death. In the present study, we conducted a series of preclinical potency and GLP-compliant safety evaluations of an adeno-associated virus type 2 (AAV2) vector expressing human MERTK cDNA driven by the retinal pigment epithelium–specific, VMD2 promoter. We demonstrate the potency of the vector in RCS rats by improved electroretinogram (ERG) responses in treated eyes compared with contralateral untreated controls. Toxicology and biodistribution studies were performed in Sprague–Dawley (SD) rats injected with two different doses of AAV vectors and buffer control. Delivery of vector in SD rats did not result in a change in ERG amplitudes of rod and cone responses relative to balanced salt solution control–injected eyes, indicating that administration of AAV vector did not adversely affect normal retinal function. In vivo fundoscopic analysis and postmortem retinal morphology of the vector-injected eyes were normal compared with controls. Evaluation of blood smears showed the lack of transformed cells in the treated eyes. All injected eyes and day 1 blood samples were positive for vector genomes, and all peripheral tissues were negative. Our results demonstrate the potency and safety of the AAV2-VMD2-hMERTK vector in animal models tested. A GMP vector has been manufactured and is presently in clinical trial.
Conlon and colleagues report results from a series of preclinical potency and safety evaluations of an AAV2 vector expressing human mer proto-oncogene tyrosine kinase (MERTK) cDNA driven by a retinal pigment epithelium-specific VMD2 promoter (AAV2-VMD2-hMERTK). They demonstrate that a single injection of this vector is effective in a rat model of recessive retinitis pigmentosa, whereas biodistribution studies indicate that vector is not spread outside the eye.
PMCID: PMC3856558  PMID: 23692380
13.  Novel IFT122 mutation associated with impaired ciliogenesis and cranioectodermal dysplasia 
Cranioectodermal dysplasia (CED) is a very rare autosomal recessive disorder characterized by a recognizable craniofacial profile in addition to ectodermal manifestations involving the skin, hair, and teeth. Four genes are known to be mutated in this disorder, all involved in the ciliary intraflagellar transport confirming that CED is a ciliopathy. In a multiplex consanguineous family with typical CED features in addition to intellectual disability and severe cutis laxa, we used autozygosity-guided candidate gene analysis to identify a novel homozygous mutation in IFT122, and demonstrated impaired ciliogenesis in patient fibroblasts. This report on IFT122 broadens the phenotype of CED and expands its allelic heterogeneity.
PMCID: PMC3960051  PMID: 24689072
Ciliopathy; craniosynostosis; intraflagellar transport
14.  Autozygome Sequencing Expands the Horizon of Human Knockout Research and Provides Novel Insights into Human Phenotypic Variation 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(12):e1004030.
The use of autozygosity as a mapping tool in the search for autosomal recessive disease genes is well established. We hypothesized that autozygosity not only unmasks the recessiveness of disease causing variants, but can also reveal natural knockouts of genes with less obvious phenotypic consequences. To test this hypothesis, we exome sequenced 77 well phenotyped individuals born to first cousin parents in search of genes that are biallelically inactivated. Using a very conservative estimate, we show that each of these individuals carries biallelic inactivation of 22.8 genes on average. For many of the 169 genes that appear to be biallelically inactivated, available data support involvement in modulating metabolism, immunity, perception, external appearance and other phenotypic aspects, and appear therefore to contribute to human phenotypic variation. Other genes with biallelic inactivation may contribute in yet unknown mechanisms or may be on their way to conversion into pseudogenes due to true recent dispensability. We conclude that sequencing the autozygome is an efficient way to map the contribution of genes to human phenotypic variation that goes beyond the classical definition of disease.
Author Summary
Identification of disease-causing gene variants by taking advantage of autozygosity mapping in consanguineous pedigrees is well established. However, autozygous intervals can also result in making homozygous those loss of function variants in genes that may not result in a discernible phenotype even under a complete knockout. The advent of next-generation sequencing makes it possible to systematically sequence all autozygous intervals per individual (the autozygome) and uncover all apparent homozygous loss of function variants therein. By applying this approach on well phenotyped offspring of first cousin marriages, we were able to uncover >160 genes that appear to be completely inactivated, and we show that the apparent lack of phenotype may be context-dependent. This work expands the spectrum of phenotypic consequence of human knockout to include apparent lack of discernible phenotypes.
PMCID: PMC3868571  PMID: 24367280
15.  Preclinical Potency and Safety Studies of an AAV2-mediated Gene Therapy Vector for the Treatment of MERTK Associated Retinitis Pigmentosa 
Human gene therapy. Clinical development  2013;24(1):10.1089/humc.2013.037.
Proof of concept for MERTK gene replacement therapy has been demonstrated utilizing different viral vectors in the Royal College of Surgeon (RCS) rat, a well characterized model of recessive retinitis pigmentosa (RP) that contains a mutation in the Mertk gene. MERTK plays a key role in renewal of photoreceptor outer segments (OS) by phagocytosis of shed OS tips. Mutations in MERTK cause impaired phagocytic activity and accumulation of OS debris in the interphotoreceptor space that ultimately leads to photoreceptor cell death. In the present study, we conducted a series of preclinical potency and GLP compliant safety evaluations of an AAV2 vector expressing human MERTK cDNA driven by the RPE-specific, VMD2 promoter. We demonstrate the potency of the vector in RCS rats by improved electroretinogram responses in treated eyes compared to contralateral untreated controls. Toxicology and biodistribution studies were performed in Sprague Dawley (SD) rats injected with two different doses of AAV vectors and buffer control. Delivery of vector in SD rats did not result in a change in ERG amplitudes of rod and cone responses relative to Balanced Salt Solution (BSS) control injected eyes indicating that administration of AAV vector did not adversely affect normal retinal function. In vivo fundoscopic analysis and postmortem retinal morphology of the vector injected eyes were normal compared to controls. Evaluation of blood smears showed the lack of transformed cells in the. All injected eyes and day 1 blood samples were positive for vector genomes and all peripheral tissues were negative. Our results demonstrate the potency and safety of the AAV2-VMD2-hMERTK vector in animal models tested. A GMP vector has been manufactured and is presently in clinical trial.
PMCID: PMC3856558  PMID: 23692380
16.  LPS-responsive beige-like anchor (LRBA) gene mutation in a family with inflammatory bowel disease and combined immunodeficiency 
Clinical immunology has traditionally relied on accurate phenotyping of the patient’s immune dysfunction for the identification of a candidate gene or genes for sequencing and molecular confirmation. Although this is also true for other branches of medicine, the marked variability in immune-related phenotypes and the highly complex network of molecules that confer normal host immunity are challenges that clinical immunologists often face in their quest to establish a specific genetic diagnosis.
We sought to identify the underlying genetic cause in a consanguineous family with chronic inflammatory bowel disease–like disorder and combined immunodeficiency.
We performed exome sequencing followed by autozygome filtration.
A truncating mutation in LPS-responsive beige-like anchor (LRBA), which abolished protein expression, was identified as the most likely candidate variant in this family.
The combined exome sequencing and autozygosity mapping approach is a powerful tool in the study of atypical immune dysfunctions. We identify LRBA as a novel immunodeficiency candidate gene the precise role of which in the immune system requires future studies.
PMCID: PMC3582381  PMID: 22721650
LPS-responsive beige-like anchor (LRBA); chronic diarrhea; common variable immunodeficiency; autoimmunity
17.  New loci associated with birth weight identify genetic links between intrauterine growth and adult height and metabolism 
Horikoshi, Momoko | Yaghootkar, Hanieh | Mook-Kanamori, Dennis O. | Sovio, Ulla | Taal, H. Rob | Hennig, Branwen J. | Bradfield, Jonathan P. | St. Pourcain, Beate | Evans, David M. | Charoen, Pimphen | Kaakinen, Marika | Cousminer, Diana L. | Lehtimäki, Terho | Kreiner-Møller, Eskil | Warrington, Nicole M. | Bustamante, Mariona | Feenstra, Bjarke | Berry, Diane J. | Thiering, Elisabeth | Pfab, Thiemo | Barton, Sheila J. | Shields, Beverley M. | Kerkhof, Marjan | van Leeuwen, Elisabeth M. | Fulford, Anthony J. | Kutalik, Zoltán | Zhao, Jing Hua | den Hoed, Marcel | Mahajan, Anubha | Lindi, Virpi | Goh, Liang-Kee | Hottenga, Jouke-Jan | Wu, Ying | Raitakari, Olli T. | Harder, Marie N. | Meirhaeghe, Aline | Ntalla, Ioanna | Salem, Rany M. | Jameson, Karen A. | Zhou, Kaixin | Monies, Dorota M. | Lagou, Vasiliki | Kirin, Mirna | Heikkinen, Jani | Adair, Linda S. | Alkuraya, Fowzan S. | Al-Odaib, Ali | Amouyel, Philippe | Andersson, Ehm Astrid | Bennett, Amanda J. | Blakemore, Alexandra I.F. | Buxton, Jessica L. | Dallongeville, Jean | Das, Shikta | de Geus, Eco J. C. | Estivill, Xavier | Flexeder, Claudia | Froguel, Philippe | Geller, Frank | Godfrey, Keith M. | Gottrand, Frédéric | Groves, Christopher J. | Hansen, Torben | Hirschhorn, Joel N. | Hofman, Albert | Hollegaard, Mads V. | Hougaard, David M. | Hyppönen, Elina | Inskip, Hazel M. | Isaacs, Aaron | Jørgensen, Torben | Kanaka-Gantenbein, Christina | Kemp, John P. | Kiess, Wieland | Kilpeläinen, Tuomas O. | Klopp, Norman | Knight, Bridget A. | Kuzawa, Christopher W. | McMahon, George | Newnham, John P. | Niinikoski, Harri | Oostra, Ben A. | Pedersen, Louise | Postma, Dirkje S. | Ring, Susan M. | Rivadeneira, Fernando | Robertson, Neil R. | Sebert, Sylvain | Simell, Olli | Slowinski, Torsten | Tiesler, Carla M.T. | Tönjes, Anke | Vaag, Allan | Viikari, Jorma S. | Vink, Jacqueline M. | Vissing, Nadja Hawwa | Wareham, Nicholas J. | Willemsen, Gonneke | Witte, Daniel R. | Zhang, Haitao | Zhao, Jianhua | Wilson, James F. | Stumvoll, Michael | Prentice, Andrew M. | Meyer, Brian F. | Pearson, Ewan R. | Boreham, Colin A.G. | Cooper, Cyrus | Gillman, Matthew W. | Dedoussis, George V. | Moreno, Luis A | Pedersen, Oluf | Saarinen, Maiju | Mohlke, Karen L. | Boomsma, Dorret I. | Saw, Seang-Mei | Lakka, Timo A. | Körner, Antje | Loos, Ruth J.F. | Ong, Ken K. | Vollenweider, Peter | van Duijn, Cornelia M. | Koppelman, Gerard H. | Hattersley, Andrew T. | Holloway, John W. | Hocher, Berthold | Heinrich, Joachim | Power, Chris | Melbye, Mads | Guxens, Mònica | Pennell, Craig E. | Bønnelykke, Klaus | Bisgaard, Hans | Eriksson, Johan G. | Widén, Elisabeth | Hakonarson, Hakon | Uitterlinden, André G. | Pouta, Anneli | Lawlor, Debbie A. | Smith, George Davey | Frayling, Timothy M. | McCarthy, Mark I. | Grant, Struan F.A. | Jaddoe, Vincent W.V. | Jarvelin, Marjo-Riitta | Timpson, Nicholas J. | Prokopenko, Inga | Freathy, Rachel M.
Nature genetics  2012;45(1):76-82.
Birth weight within the normal range is associated with a variety of adult-onset diseases, but the mechanisms behind these associations are poorly understood1. Previous genome-wide association studies identified a variant in the ADCY5 gene associated both with birth weight and type 2 diabetes, and a second variant, near CCNL1, with no obvious link to adult traits2. In an expanded genome-wide association meta-analysis and follow-up study (up to 69,308 individuals of European descent from 43 studies), we have now extended the number of genome-wide significant loci to seven, accounting for a similar proportion of variance to maternal smoking. Five of the loci are known to be associated with other phenotypes: ADCY5 and CDKAL1 with type 2 diabetes; ADRB1 with adult blood pressure; and HMGA2 and LCORL with adult height. Our findings highlight genetic links between fetal growth and postnatal growth and metabolism.
PMCID: PMC3605762  PMID: 23202124
18.  In search of triallelism in Bardet–Biedl syndrome 
Bardet–Biedl syndrome (BBS) is a model disease for ciliopathy in humans. The remarkable genetic heterogeneity that characterizes this disease is consistent with accumulating data on the interaction between the proteins encoded by the 14 BBS genes identified to date. Previous reports suggested that such interaction may also extend to instances of oligogenic inheritance in the form of triallelism which defies the long held view of BBS as an autosomal recessive disease. In order to investigate the magnitude of triallelism in BBS, we conducted a comprehensive analysis of all 14 BBS genes as well as the CCDC28B-modifier gene in a cohort of 29 BBS families, most of which are multiplex. Two in trans mutations in a BBS gene were identified in each of these families for a total of 20 mutations including 12 that are novel. In no instance did we observe two mutations in unaffected members of a given family, or observe the presence of a third allele that convincingly acted as a modifier of penetrance and supported the triallelic model of BBS. In addition to presenting a comprehensive genotype/phenotype overview of a large set of BBS mutations, including the occurrence of nonsyndromic retinitis pigmentosa in a family with a novel BBS9 mutation, our study argues in favor of straightforward autosomal recessive BBS in most cases.
PMCID: PMC3306854  PMID: 22353939
epistasis; oligogenic; penetrance; modifiers
19.  Tysnd1 Deficiency in Mice Interferes with the Peroxisomal Localization of PTS2 Enzymes, Causing Lipid Metabolic Abnormalities and Male Infertility 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(2):e1003286.
Peroxisomes are subcellular organelles involved in lipid metabolic processes, including those of very-long-chain fatty acids and branched-chain fatty acids, among others. Peroxisome matrix proteins are synthesized in the cytoplasm. Targeting signals (PTS or peroxisomal targeting signal) at the C-terminus (PTS1) or N-terminus (PTS2) of peroxisomal matrix proteins mediate their import into the organelle. In the case of PTS2-containing proteins, the PTS2 signal is cleaved from the protein when transported into peroxisomes. The functional mechanism of PTS2 processing, however, is poorly understood. Previously we identified Tysnd1 (Trypsin domain containing 1) and biochemically characterized it as a peroxisomal cysteine endopeptidase that directly processes PTS2-containing prethiolase Acaa1 and PTS1-containing Acox1, Hsd17b4, and ScpX. The latter three enzymes are crucial components of the very-long-chain fatty acids β-oxidation pathway. To clarify the in vivo functions and physiological role of Tysnd1, we analyzed the phenotype of Tysnd1−/− mice. Male Tysnd1−/− mice are infertile, and the epididymal sperms lack the acrosomal cap. These phenotypic features are most likely the result of changes in the molecular species composition of choline and ethanolamine plasmalogens. Tysnd1−/− mice also developed liver dysfunctions when the phytanic acid precursor phytol was orally administered. Phyh and Agps are known PTS2-containing proteins, but were identified as novel Tysnd1 substrates. Loss of Tysnd1 interferes with the peroxisomal localization of Acaa1, Phyh, and Agps, which might cause the mild Zellweger syndrome spectrum-resembling phenotypes. Our data established that peroxisomal processing protease Tysnd1 is necessary to mediate the physiological functions of PTS2-containing substrates.
Author Summary
Peroxisomes are subcellular organelles that are present in almost all eukaryotic cells. The syllables “per-oxi” reflect the oxidative functions of these single-membrane-bound organelles in various metabolic processes, including those of very-long-chain fatty acids and branched-chain fatty acids. In an earlier study we identified a protease named Tysnd1 that is specifically located in the peroxisomes and processes the enzymes catalyzing the peroxisomal β-oxidation of very-long-chain fatty acids. In this study, we identified two novel Tysnd1 substrates, Agps and Phyh, which are involved in plasmalogen synthesis and phytanic acid metabolism, respectively. To further investigate the in vivo function of Tysnd1, we analyzed Tysnd1 knock-out mice. Mice that lack Tysnd1 showed reduced peroxisomal β-oxidation activity and an altered plasmalogen composition, as well as an abnormal phytanic acid metabolism. Male infertility is one of the major phenotypic manifestations of Tysnd1 deficiency. Our data support the idea that Tysnd1 affects the localization and activity of some of its substrates inside peroxisomes. Altogether, our Tysnd1-deficient mouse model expands the current peroxisome biology knowledge with regard to the molecular pathogenic mechanisms that may be relevant to some patients with Zellweger syndrome spectrum disorders.
PMCID: PMC3573110  PMID: 23459139
20.  A novel syndrome of lethal familial hyperekplexia associated with brain malformation 
BMC Neurology  2012;12:125.
Hyperekplexia (HPX) is a rare non-epileptic disorder manifesting immediately after birth with exaggerated persistent startle reaction to unexpected auditory, somatosensory and visual stimuli, and non-habituating generalized flexor spasm in response to tapping of the nasal bridge (glabellar tap) which forms its clinical hallmark. The course of the disease is usually benign with spontaneous amelioration with age. The disorder results from aberrant glycinergic neurotransmission, and several mutations were reported in the genes encoding glycine receptor (GlyR) α1 and β subunits, glycine transporter GlyT2 as well as two other proteins involved in glycinergic neurotransmission gephyrin and collybistin.
The phenotype of six newborns, belonging to Saudi Arabian kindred with close consanguineous marriages, who presented with hyperekplexia associated with severe brain malformation, is described. DNA samples were available from two patients, and homozygosity scan to determine overlap with known hyperkplexia genes was performed.
The kindred consisted of two brothers married to their cousin sisters, each with three affected children who presented antenatally with excessive fetal movements. Postnatally, they were found to have microcephaly, severe hyperekplexia and gross brain malformation characterized by severe simplified gyral pattern and cerebellar underdevelopment. The EEG was normal and they responded to clonazepam. All of the six patients died within six weeks. Laboratory investigations, including metabolic screen, were unremarkable. None of the known hyperkplexia genes were present within the overlapping regions of homozygosity between the two patients for whom DNA samples were available.
We present these cases as a novel syndrome of lethal familial autosomal recessive hyperekplexia associated with microcephaly and severe brain malformation.
PMCID: PMC3488335  PMID: 23101555
Hyperekplexia; Microcephaly; Simplified gyral pattern; Cerebellar underdevelopment; Autosomal recessive
21.  Tyrosine-Mutant AAV8 Delivery of Human MERTK Provides Long-Term Retinal Preservation in RCS Rats 
The absence of Mertk in RCS rats results in defective RPE phagocytosis, accumulation of outer segment (OS) debris in the subretinal space, and subsequent death of photoreceptors. Previous research utilizing Mertk gene replacement therapy in RCS rats provided proof of concept for treatment of this form of recessive retinitis pigmentosa (RP); however, the beneficial effects on retinal function were transient. In the present study, we evaluated whether delivery of a MERTK transgene using a tyrosine-mutant AAV8 capsid could lead to more robust and longer-term therapeutic outcomes than previously reported.
An AAV8 Y733F vector expressing a human MERTK cDNA driven by a RPE-selective promoter was administrated subretinally at postnatal day 2. Functional and morphological analyses were performed at 4 months and 8 months post-treatment. Retinal vasculature and Müller cell activation were analyzed by quantifying acellular capillaries and glial fibrillary acidic protein immunostaining, respectively.
Electroretinographic responses from treated eyes were more than one-third of wild-type levels and OS were well preserved in the injection area even at 8 months. Rescue of RPE phagocytosis, prevention of retinal vasculature degeneration, and inhibition of Müller cell activation were demonstrated in the treated eyes for at least 8 months.
This research describes a longer and much more robust functional and morphological rescue than previous studies. We also demonstrate for the first time that an AAV8 mutant capsid serotype vector has a substantial therapeutic potential for RPE-specific gene delivery. These results suggest that tyrosine-mutant AAV8 vectors hold promise for the treatment of individuals with MERTK-associated RP.
The study demonstrates that an AAV8 Y733F-mediated delivery of the human MERTK cDNA targeted to the retinal pigment epithelium of RCS rats leads to long-term and robust preservation of retinal structure and function, rescue of RPE phagocytosis, and prevention of retinal vasculature remodeling.
PMCID: PMC3995567  PMID: 22408006
22.  Mutations in the RNA Granule Component TDRD7 Cause Cataract and Glaucoma 
Science (New York, N.y.)  2011;331(6024):1571-1576.
The precise transcriptional regulation of gene expression is essential for vertebrate development, but the role of posttranscriptional regulatory mechanisms is less clear. Cytoplasmic RNA granules (RGs) function in the posttranscriptional control of gene expression, but the extent of RG involvement in organogenesis is unknown. We describe two human cases of pediatric cataract with loss-of-function mutations in TDRD7 and demonstrate that Tdrd7 nullizygosity in mouse causes cataracts, as well as glaucoma and an arrest in spermatogenesis. TDRD7 is a Tudor domain RNA binding protein that is expressed in lens fiber cells in distinct TDRD7-RGs that interact with STAU1-ribonucleoproteins (RNPs). TDRD7 coimmunoprecipitates with specific lens messenger RNAs (mRNAs) and is required for the posttranscriptional control of mRNAs that are critical to normal lens development and to RG function. These findings demonstrate a role for RGs in vertebrate organogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3279122  PMID: 21436445
23.  Mutations in the lectin complement pathway genes COLEC11 and MASP1 cause 3MC syndrome 
Nature genetics  2011;43(3):197-203.
3MC syndrome has been proposed as a unifying term to integrate the overlapping Carnevale, Mingarelli, Malpuech and Michels syndromes. These rare autosomal recessive disorders of unknown cause comprise a spectrum of developmental features including characteristic facial dysmorphism, cleft lip and/or palate, craniosynostosis, learning disability, and genital, limb and vesicorenal anomalies. In a cohort of eleven 3MC families, we identified two mutated genes COLEC11 and MASP1 both of which encode proteins within the lectin complement pathway (CL-K1 and MASP-1 & −3 respectively). CL-K1 is highly expressed in embryonic murine craniofacial cartilage, heart, bronchi, kidney, and vertebral bodies. Zebrafish morphants develop pigment defects and severe craniofacial abnormalities.
Here, we show that CL-K1 serves as a key guidance cue for neural crest cell migration thus demonstrating for the first time, a role for complement pathway factors in fundamental developmental processes and the origin of 3MC syndrome.
PMCID: PMC3045628  PMID: 21258343
24.  A nullimorphic ERLIN2 mutation defines a complicated hereditary spastic paraplegia locus (SPG18) 
Neurogenetics  2011;12(4):333-336.
Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia (HSP) is a clinically and genetically heterogeneous group of neurological disorders that are characterized by progressive spasticity of the lower extremities. We describe an extended consanguineous Saudi family in which HSP is linked to SPG18, a previously reported autosomal recessive locus, and show that it is associated with a nullimorphic deletion of ERLIN2, a component of endoplasmic reticulum associated degradation. This finding adds to the growing diversity of cellular functions that are now known to be involved in the maintenance of the corticospinal tract neurons.
PMCID: PMC3215864  PMID: 21796390
ERAD; Aphasia; Intellectual disability; ERLIN2
25.  Functional analysis of BBS3 A89V that results in non-syndromic retinal degeneration 
Human Molecular Genetics  2011;20(8):1625-1632.
Bardet–Biedl syndrome (BBS) is a syndromic form of retinal degeneration. Recently, homozygosity mapping with a consanguineous family with isolated retinitis pigmentosa identified a missense mutation in BBS3, a known BBS gene. The mutation in BBS3 encodes a single amino acid change at position 89 from alanine to valine. Since this amino acid is conserved in a wide range of vertebrates, we utilized the zebrafish model system to functionally characterize the BBS3 A89V mutation. Knockdown of bbs3 in zebrafish alters intracellular transport, a phenotype observed with knockdown of all BBS genes in the zebrafish, as well as visual impairment. Here, we find that BBS3 A89V is sufficient to rescue the transport delays induced by the loss of bbs3, indicating that this mutation does not affect the function of BBS3 as it relates to syndromic disease. BBS3L A89V, however, was unable to rescue vision impairment, highlighting a role for a specific amino acid within BBS3 that is necessary for visual function, but dispensable in other cell types. These data aid in our understanding of why patients with the BBS3 A89V missense mutation only present with isolated retinitis pigmentosa.
PMCID: PMC3063988  PMID: 21282186

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