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1.  Exome Sequencing Identifies SMAD3 Mutations as a Cause of Familial Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm and Dissection with Intracranial and Other Arterial Aneurysms 
Circulation research  2011;109(6):680-686.
Thoracic aortic aneurysms leading to acute aortic dissections (TAAD) can be inherited in families in an autosomal dominant manner. As part of the spectrum of clinical heterogeneity of familial TAAD, we recently described families with multiple members that had TAAD and intracranial aneurysms or TAAD and intracranial and abdominal aortic aneurysms inherited in an autosomal dominant manner.
To identify the causative mutation in a large family with autosomal dominant inheritance of TAAD with intracranial and abdominal aortic aneurysms by performing exome sequencing of two distantly related individuals with TAAD and identifying shared rare variants.
Methods and Results
A novel frame shift mutation, p. N218fs (c.652delA), was identified in the SMAD3 gene and segregated with the vascular diseases in this family with a LOD score of 2.52. Sequencing of 181 probands with familial TAAD identified three additional SMAD3 mutations in 4 families, p.R279K (c.836G>A), p.E239K (c.715G>A), and p.A112V (c.235C>T) resulting in a combined LOD score of 5.21. These four mutations were notably absent in 2300 control exomes. SMAD3 mutations were recently described in patients with Aneurysms Osteoarthritis Syndrome and some of the features of this syndrome were identified in individuals in our cohort, but these features were notably absent in many SMAD3 mutation carriers.
SMAD3 mutations are responsible for 2% of familial TAAD. Mutations are found in families with TAAD alone, along with families with TAAD, intracranial aneurysms, aortic and bilateral iliac aneurysms segregating in an autosomal dominant manner.
PMCID: PMC4115811  PMID: 21778426
thoracic aortic aneurysm and dissection; intracranial aneurysm; arterial aneurysms; SMAD3
2.  Copy number variants (CNVs) analysis in a deeply phenotyped cohort of individuals with intellectual disability (ID) 
BMC Medical Genetics  2014;15:82.
DNA copy number variants (CNVs) are found in 15% of subjects with ID but their association with phenotypic abnormalities has been predominantly studied in smaller cohorts of subjects with detailed yet non-systematically categorized phenotypes, or larger cohorts (thousands of cases) with smaller number of generalized phenotypes.
We evaluated the association of de novo, familial and common CNVs detected in 78 ID subjects with phenotypic abnormalities classified using the Winter-Baraitser Dysmorphology Database (WBDD) (formerly the London Dysmorphology Database). Terminology for 34 primary (coarse) and 169 secondary (fine) phenotype features were used to categorize the abnormal phenotypes and determine the prevalence of each phenotype in patients grouped by the type of CNV they had.
In our cohort more than 50% of cases had abnormalities in primary categories related to head (cranium, forehead, ears, eye globes, eye associated structures, nose) as well as hands and feet. The median number of primary and secondary abnormalities was 12 and 18 per subject, respectively, indicating that the cohort consisted of subjects with a high number of phenotypic abnormalities (median De Vries score for the cohort was 5). The prevalence of each phenotypic abnormality was comparable in patients with de novo or familial CNVs in comparison to those with only common CNVs, although a trend for increased frequency of cranial and forehead abnormalities was noted in subjects with rare de novo and familial CNVs. Two clusters of subjects were identified based on the prevalence of each fine phenotypic feature, with an average of 28.3 and 13.5 abnormal phenotypes/subject in the two clusters respectively (P < 0.05).
Our study is a rare example of using standardized, deep morphologic phenotype clustering with phenotype/CNV correlation in a cohort of subjects with ID. The composition of the cohort inevitably influences the phenotype/genotype association, and our studies show that the influence of the de novo CNVs on the phenotype is less obvious in cohorts consisting of subjects with a high number of phenotypic abnormalities. The outcome of phenotype/genotype analysis also depends on the choice of phenotypes assessed and standardized phenotyping is required to minimize variability.
PMCID: PMC4107469  PMID: 25030379
Intellectual disability (ID); Copy number variants (CNVs); Phenotype/genotype analysis; Clustering of phenotypes
3.  Circulating miRNA Biomarkers for Alzheimer's Disease 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(7):e69807.
A minimally invasive diagnostic assay for early detection of Alzheimer's disease (AD) is required to select optimal patient groups in clinical trials, monitor disease progression and response to treatment, and to better plan patient clinical care. Blood is an attractive source for biomarkers due to minimal discomfort to the patient, encouraging greater compliance in clinical trials and frequent testing. MiRNAs belong to the class of non-coding regulatory RNA molecules of ∼22 nt length and are now recognized to regulate ∼60% of all known genes through post-transcriptional gene silencing (RNAi). They have potential as useful biomarkers for clinical use because of their stability and ease of detection in many tissues, especially blood. Circulating profiles of miRNAs have been shown to discriminate different tumor types, indicate staging and progression of the disease and to be useful as prognostic markers. Recently their role in neurodegenerative diseases, both as diagnostic biomarkers as well as explaining basic disease etiology has come into focus. Here we report the discovery and validation of a unique circulating 7-miRNA signature (hsa-let-7d-5p, hsa-let-7g-5p, hsa-miR-15b-5p, hsa-miR-142-3p, hsa-miR-191-5p, hsa-miR-301a-3p and hsa-miR-545-3p) in plasma, which could distinguish AD patients from normal controls (NC) with >95% accuracy (AUC of 0.953). There was a >2 fold difference for all signature miRNAs between the AD and NC samples, with p-values<0.05. Pathway analysis, taking into account enriched target mRNAs for these signature miRNAs was also carried out, suggesting that the disturbance of multiple enzymatic pathways including lipid metabolism could play a role in AD etiology.
PMCID: PMC3726785  PMID: 23922807
5.  Application of Microarray-Based Comparative Genomic Hybridization in Prenatal and Postnatal Settings: Three Case Reports 
Microarray-based comparative genomic hybridization (array CGH) is a newly emerged molecular cytogenetic technique for rapid evaluation of the entire genome with sub-megabase resolution. It allows for the comprehensive investigation of thousands and millions of genomic loci at once and therefore enables the efficient detection of DNA copy number variations (a.k.a, cryptic genomic imbalances). The development and the clinical application of array CGH have revolutionized the diagnostic process in patients and has provided a clue to many unidentified or unexplained diseases which are suspected to have a genetic cause. In this paper, we present three clinical cases in both prenatal and postnatal settings. Among all, array CGH played a major discovery role to reveal the cryptic and/or complex nature of chromosome arrangements. By identifying the genetic causes responsible for the clinical observation in patients, array CGH has provided accurate diagnosis and appropriate clinical management in a timely and efficient manner.
PMCID: PMC3335511  PMID: 22567372
7.  Submicroscopic deletions of 11q24-25 in individuals without Jacobsen syndrome: re-examination of the critical region by high-resolution array-CGH 
Jacobsen syndrome is a rare contiguous gene disorder that results from a terminal deletion of the long arm of chromosome 11. It is typically characterized by intellectual disability, a variety of physical anomalies and a distinctive facial appearance. The 11q deletion has traditionally been identified by routine chromosome analysis. Array-based comparative genomic hybridization (array-CGH) has offered new opportunities to identify and refine chromosomal abnormalities in regions known to be associated with clinical syndromes.
Using the 1 Mb BAC array (Spectral Genomics), we screened 70 chromosomally normal children with idiopathic intellectual disability (ID) and congenital abnormalities, and identified five cases with submicroscopic abnormalities believed to contribute to their phenotypes. Here, we provide detailed molecular cytogenetic descriptions and clinical presentation of two unrelated subjects with de novo submicroscopic deletions within chromosome bands 11q24-25. In subject 1 the chromosome rearrangement consisted of a 6.18 Mb deletion (from 128.25–134.43 Mb) and an adjacent 5.04 Mb duplication (from 123.15–128.19 Mb), while in subject 2, a 4.74 Mb interstitial deletion was found (from 124.29–129.03 Mb). Higher resolution array analysis (385 K Nimblegen) was used to refine all breakpoints. Deletions of the 11q24-25 region are known to be associated with Jacobsen syndrome (JBS: OMIM 147791). However, neither of the subjects had the typical features of JBS (trigonocephaly, platelet disorder, heart abnormalities). Both subjects had ID, dysmorphic features and additional phenotypic abnormalities: subject 1 had a kidney abnormality, bilateral preauricular pits, pectus excavatum, mild to moderate conductive hearing loss and behavioral concerns; subject 2 had macrocephaly, an abnormal MRI with delayed myelination, fifth finger shortening and squaring of all fingertips, and sensorineural hearing loss.
Two individuals with ID who did not have the typical clinical features of Jacobsen syndrome were found to have deletions within the JBS region at 11q24-25. Their rearrangements facilitate the refinement of the JBS critical region and suggest that a) deletion of at least 3 of the 4 platelet function critical genes (ETS-1, FLI-1 and NFRKB and JAM3) is necessary for thrombocytopenia; b) one of the critical regions for heart abnormalities (conotruncal heart defects) may lie within 129.03 – 130.6 Mb; c) deletions of KCNJ1 and ADAMTS15 may contribute to the renal anomalies in Jacobsen Syndrome; d) the critical region for MRI abnormalities involves a region from 124.6 – 129.03 Mb. Our results reiterate the benefits of array-CGH for description of new phenotype/genotype associations and refinement of previously established ones.
PMCID: PMC2648978  PMID: 19000322
8.  Disrupted auto-regulation of the spliceosomal gene SNRPB causes cerebro–costo–mandibular syndrome 
Nature Communications  2014;5:4483.
Elucidating the function of highly conserved regulatory sequences is a significant challenge in genomics today. Certain intragenic highly conserved elements have been associated with regulating levels of core components of the spliceosome and alternative splicing of downstream genes. Here we identify mutations in one such element, a regulatory alternative exon of SNRPB as the cause of cerebro–costo–mandibular syndrome. This exon contains a premature termination codon that triggers nonsense-mediated mRNA decay when included in the transcript. These mutations cause increased inclusion of the alternative exon and decreased overall expression of SNRPB. We provide evidence for the functional importance of this conserved intragenic element in the regulation of alternative splicing and development, and suggest that the evolution of such a regulatory mechanism has contributed to the complexity of mammalian development.
Cerebro–costo–mandibular syndrome, CCMS, is a severe human multiple malformation disorder. Here, the authors report that mutations in SNRPB disrupt the normal regulation of alternative splicing at this gene, and in so doing, may be responsible for the development of CCMS.
PMCID: PMC4109005  PMID: 25047197

Results 1-8 (8)