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1.  Kohlschütter–Tönz Syndrome: Mutations in ROGDI and Evidence of Genetic Heterogeneity 
Human mutation  2012;34(2):296-300.
Kohlschütter–Tönz syndrome (KTS) is a rare autosomal recessive disorder characterized by amelogenesis imperfecta, psychomotor delay or regression and seizures starting early in childhood. KTS was established as a distinct clinical entity after the first report by Kohlschütter in 1974, and to date, only a total of 20 pedigrees have been reported. The genetic etiology of KTS remained elusive until recently when mutations in ROGDI were independently identified in three unrelated families and in five likely related Druze families. Herein, we report a clinical and genetic study of 10 KTS families. By using a combination of whole exome sequencing, linkage analysis, and Sanger sequencing, we identify novel homozygous or compound heterozygous ROGDI mutations in five families, all presenting with a typical KTS phenotype. The other families, mostly presenting with additional atypical features, were negative for ROGDI mutations, suggesting genetic heterogeneity of atypical forms of the disease.
PMCID: PMC3902979  PMID: 23086778
Kohlschütter–Tönz; ROGDI; amelogenesis imperfecta; epilepsy
2.  The genetic basis of DOORS syndrome: an exome-sequencing study 
Lancet Neurology  2014;13(1):44-58.
Deafness, onychodystrophy, osteodystrophy, mental retardation, and seizures (DOORS) syndrome is a rare autosomal recessive disorder of unknown cause. We aimed to identify the genetic basis of this syndrome by sequencing most coding exons in affected individuals.
Through a search of available case studies and communication with collaborators, we identified families that included at least one individual with at least three of the five main features of the DOORS syndrome: deafness, onychodystrophy, osteodystrophy, intellectual disability, and seizures. Participants were recruited from 26 centres in 17 countries. Families described in this study were enrolled between Dec 1, 2010, and March 1, 2013. Collaborating physicians enrolling participants obtained clinical information and DNA samples from the affected child and both parents if possible. We did whole-exome sequencing in affected individuals as they were enrolled, until we identified a candidate gene, and Sanger sequencing to confirm mutations. We did expression studies in human fibroblasts from one individual by real-time PCR and western blot analysis, and in mouse tissues by immunohistochemistry and real-time PCR.
26 families were included in the study. We did exome sequencing in the first 17 enrolled families; we screened for TBC1D24 by Sanger sequencing in subsequent families. We identified TBC1D24 mutations in 11 individuals from nine families (by exome sequencing in seven families, and Sanger sequencing in two families). 18 families had individuals with all five main features of DOORS syndrome, and TBC1D24 mutations were identified in half of these families. The seizure types in individuals with TBC1D24 mutations included generalised tonic-clonic, complex partial, focal clonic, and infantile spasms. Of the 18 individuals with DOORS syndrome from 17 families without TBC1D24 mutations, eight did not have seizures and three did not have deafness. In expression studies, some mutations abrogated TBC1D24 mRNA stability. We also detected Tbc1d24 expression in mouse phalangeal chondrocytes and calvaria, which suggests a role of TBC1D24 in skeletogenesis.
Our findings suggest that mutations in TBC1D24 seem to be an important cause of DOORS syndrome and can cause diverse phenotypes. Thus, individuals with DOORS syndrome without deafness and seizures but with the other features should still be screened for TBC1D24 mutations. More information is needed to understand the cellular roles of TBC1D24 and identify the genes responsible for DOORS phenotypes in individuals who do not have a mutation in TBC1D24.
US National Institutes of Health, the CIHR (Canada), the NIHR (UK), the Wellcome Trust, the Henry Smith Charity, and Action Medical Research.
PMCID: PMC3895324  PMID: 24291220
3.  KIF7 mutations cause fetal hydrolethalus and acrocallosal syndromes 
Nature genetics  2011;43(6):601-606.
KIF7, the human ortholog of Drosophila Costal2, is a key component of the Hedgehog signaling pathway. Here we report mutations in KIF7 in individuals with hydrolethalus and acrocallosal syndromes, two multiple malformation disorders with overlapping features that include polydactyly, brain abnormalities and cleft palate. Consistent with a role of KIF7 in Hedgehog signaling, we show deregulation of most GLI transcription factor targets and impaired GLI3 processing in tissues from individuals with KIF7 mutations. KIF7 is also a likely contributor of alleles across the ciliopathy spectrum, as sequencing of a diverse cohort identified several missense mutations detrimental to protein function. In addition, in vivo genetic interaction studies indicated that knockdown of KIF7 could exacerbate the phenotype induced by knockdown of other ciliopathy transcripts. Our data show the role of KIF7 in human primary cilia, especially in the Hedgehog pathway through the regulation of GLI targets, and expand the clinical spectrum of ciliopathies.
PMCID: PMC3674836  PMID: 21552264
4.  Meier–Gorlin syndrome genotype–phenotype studies: 35 individuals with pre-replication complex gene mutations and 10 without molecular diagnosis 
Meier–Gorlin syndrome (MGS) is an autosomal recessive disorder characterized by microtia, patellar aplasia/hypoplasia, and short stature. Recently, mutations in five genes from the pre-replication complex (ORC1, ORC4, ORC6, CDT1, and CDC6), crucial in cell-cycle progression and growth, were identified in individuals with MGS. Here, we report on genotype–phenotype studies in 45 individuals with MGS (27 females, 18 males; age 3 months–47 years). Thirty-five individuals had biallelic mutations in one of the five causative pre-replication genes. No homozygous or compound heterozygous null mutations were detected. In 10 individuals, no definitive molecular diagnosis was made. The triad of microtia, absent/hypoplastic patellae, and short stature was observed in 82% of individuals with MGS. Additional frequent clinical features were mammary hypoplasia (100%) and abnormal genitalia (42% predominantly cryptorchidism and hypoplastic labia minora/majora). One individual with ORC1 mutations only had short stature, emphasizing the highly variable clinical spectrum of MGS. Individuals with ORC1 mutations had significantly shorter stature and smaller head circumferences than individuals from other gene categories. Furthermore, compared with homozygous missense mutations, compound heterozygous mutations appeared to have a more severe effect on phenotype, causing more severe growth retardation in ORC4 and more frequently pulmonary emphysema in CDT1. A lethal phenotype was seen in four individuals with compound heterozygous ORC1 and CDT1 mutations. No other clear genotype–phenotype association was observed. Growth hormone and estrogen treatment may be of some benefit, respectively, to growth retardation and breast hypoplasia, though further studies in this patient group are needed.
PMCID: PMC3355263  PMID: 22333897
Meier–Gorlin syndrome; ear-patella-short stature syndrome; origin recognition complex; pre-replication complex; genotype–phenotype
5.  The Face Signature of Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva 
Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva (FOP) causes extensive heterotopic bone formation due to heterozygous mutations in the glycine-serine activation domain of ACVR1 (ALK2), a bone morphogenetic protein type I receptor. Anecdotal observations of facial similarity have been made by clinicians and parents, but no objective quantitative analysis of the faces of FOP patients has ever been undertaken. We delineated the common facial characteristics of 55 individuals with molecularly confirmed FOP by analysing their face signature (face shape difference normalized against age and sex matched controls) and associated face signature graphs (with face signatures as vertices and adjacency corresponding to greatest similarity). Our analysis identified 10 affected individuals whose face signature is more homogeneous than others with FOP. This distinct subgroup showed the previously identified reduced mandible as well as newly identified features: underdevelopment of the upper orbit/supra-orbital ridge; infra-orbital prominence; and, low-set ears. These findings strongly suggest that the canonical FOP mutation variably affects the postnatal morphogenesis of the normotopic cranial skeleton in the upper midface and mandible and may have important diagnostic and functional implications.
PMCID: PMC3356438  PMID: 22581580
Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva (FOP); dense surface modelling; face signature graphs; ACVR1; ALK2
6.  Next Generation Sequencing Demands Next Generation Phenotyping 
Human Mutation  2012;33(5):884-886.
Next-Generation Sequencing (NGS) is the most powerful diagnostic tool since the roentgenogram. NGS will facilitate diagnosis on a massive scale –allowing interrogation of all genes in a single assay. It has been suggested that NGS will decrease the need for phenotyping in general, and medical geneticists in particular. We argue that NGS will shift focus and approach of phenotyping. We predict that NGS performed for diagnostic purposes will yield variants in several genes, and consequences of these variants will need to be analyzed and integrated with clinical findings to make a diagnosis. Diagnostic skills of medical specialists will shift from a pre-NGS-test differential diagnostic mode to a post-NGS-test diagnostic assessment mode. In research phenotyping and medical genetic assessments will remain essential as well. NGS can identify primary causative variants in phenotypes inherited in a Mendelian pattern, but biology is much more complex. Phenotypes are caused by the actions of several genes, and epigenetic and environmental influences. Dissecting all influences necessitates ongoing and detailed phenotyping, refinement of clinical diagnostic assignments, and iterative analyses of NGS data. We conclude that there will be a critical need for phenotyping and clinical analysis and that medical geneticists are uniquely positioned to address this need.
PMCID: PMC3327792  PMID: 22457028
NGS; whole exome sequencing; whole genome sequencing; phenotype; dysmorphology; Mendelian; monogenic
7.  Mutations in the TGF-β Repressor SKI Cause Shprintzen-Goldberg Syndrome with Aortic Aneurysm 
Nature genetics  2012;44(11):1249-1254.
Increased transforming growth factor beta (TGF-β) signaling has been implicated in the pathogenesis of syndromic presentations of aortic aneurysm, including Marfan syndrome (MFS) and Loeys-Dietz syndrome (LDS)1-4. However, the location and character of many of the causal mutations in LDS would intuitively infer diminished TGF-β signaling5. Taken together, these data have engendered controversy regarding the specific role of TGF-β in disease pathogenesis. Shprintzen-Goldberg syndrome (SGS) has considerable phenotypic overlap with MFS and LDS, including aortic aneurysm6-8. We identified causative variation in 10 patients with SGS in the proto-oncogene SKI, a known repressor of TGF-β activity9,10. Cultured patient dermal fibroblasts showed enhanced activation of TGF-β signaling cascades and increased expression of TGF-β responsive genes. Morpholino-induced silencing of SKI paralogs in zebrafish recapitulated abnormalities seen in SGS patients. These data support the conclusion that increased TGF-β signaling is the mechanism underlying SGS and contributes to multiple syndromic presentations of aortic aneurysm.
PMCID: PMC3545695  PMID: 23023332
Aortic aneurysm; Shprintzen-Goldberg syndrome; Marfan syndrome; Loeys-Dietz syndrome; TGF-β signaling; SKI
9.  Isolated NIBPL missense mutations that cause Cornelia de Lange syndrome alter MAU2 interaction 
Cornelia de Lange syndrome (CdLS; or Brachmann-de Lange syndrome) is a dominantly inherited congenital malformation disorder with features that include characteristic facies, cognitive delays, growth retardation and limb anomalies. Mutations in nearly 60% of CdLS patients have been identified in NIPBL, which encodes a regulator of the sister chromatid cohesion complex. NIPBL, also known as delangin, is a homolog of yeast and amphibian Scc2 and C. elegans PQN-85. Although the exact mechanism of NIPBL function in sister chromatid cohesion is unclear, in vivo yeast and C. elegans experiments and in vitro vertebrate cell experiments have demonstrated that NIPBL/Scc2 functionally interacts with the MAU2/Scc4 protein to initiate loading of cohesin onto chromatin. To test the significance of this model in the clinical setting of CdLS, we fine-mapped the NIBPL–MAU2 interaction domain and tested the functional significance of missense mutations and variants in NIPBL and MAU2 identified in these minimal domains in a cohort of patients with CdLS. We demonstrate that specific novel mutations at the N-terminus of the MAU2-interacting domain of NIBPL result in markedly reduced MAU2 binding, although we appreciate no consistent clinical difference in the small group of patients with these mutations. These data suggest that factors in addition to MAU2 are essential in determining the clinical features and severity of CdLS.
PMCID: PMC3283175  PMID: 21934712
Cornelia de Lange syndrome; cohesin; NIPBL; MAU2; SCC4; sister chromatid cohesion
10.  Atypical face shape and genomic structural variants in epilepsy 
Brain  2012;135(10):3101-3114.
Many pathogenic structural variants of the human genome are known to cause facial dysmorphism. During the past decade, pathogenic structural variants have also been found to be an important class of genetic risk factor for epilepsy. In other fields, face shape has been assessed objectively using 3D stereophotogrammetry and dense surface models. We hypothesized that computer-based analysis of 3D face images would detect subtle facial abnormality in people with epilepsy who carry pathogenic structural variants as determined by chromosome microarray. In 118 children and adults attending three European epilepsy clinics, we used an objective measure called Face Shape Difference to show that those with pathogenic structural variants have a significantly more atypical face shape than those without such variants. This is true when analysing the whole face, or the periorbital region or the perinasal region alone. We then tested the predictive accuracy of our measure in a second group of 63 patients. Using a minimum threshold to detect face shape abnormalities with pathogenic structural variants, we found high sensitivity (4/5, 80% for whole face; 3/5, 60% for periorbital and perinasal regions) and specificity (45/58, 78% for whole face and perinasal regions; 40/58, 69% for periorbital region). We show that the results do not seem to be affected by facial injury, facial expression, intellectual disability, drug history or demographic differences. Finally, we use bioinformatics tools to explore relationships between facial shape and gene expression within the developing forebrain. Stereophotogrammetry and dense surface models are powerful, objective, non-contact methods of detecting relevant face shape abnormalities. We demonstrate that they are useful in identifying atypical face shape in adults or children with structural variants, and they may give insights into the molecular genetics of facial development.
PMCID: PMC3470710  PMID: 22975390
epilepsy; dysmorphism; structural variants; genomics; dense surface models
11.  Body Integrity Identity Disorder 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(4):e34702.
Body Integrity Identity Disorder (BIID) is a rare, infrequently studied and highly secretive condition in which there is a mismatch between the mental body image and the physical body. Subjects suffering from BIID have an intense desire to amputate a major limb or severe the spinal cord in order to become paralyzed. Aim of the study is to broaden the knowledge of BIID amongst medical professionals, by describing all who deal with BIID.
Somatic, psychiatric and BIID characteristic data were collected from 54 BIID individuals using a detailed questionnaire. Subsequently, data of different subtypes of BIID (i.e. wish for amputation or paralyzation) were evaluated. Finally, disruption in work, social and family life due to BIID in subjects with and without amputation were compared.
Based on the subjects' reports we found that BIID has an onset in early childhood. The main rationale given for their desire for body modification is to feel complete or to feel satisfied inside. Somatic and severe psychiatric co-morbidity is unusual, but depressive symptoms and mood disorders can be present, possibly secondary to the enormous distress BIID puts upon a person. Amputation and paralyzation variant do not differ in any clinical variable. Surgery is found helpful in all subjects who underwent amputation and those subjects score significantly lower on a disability scale than BIID subjects without body modification.
The amputation variant and paralyzation variant of BIID are to be considered as one of the same condition. Amputation of the healthy body part appears to result in remission of BIID and an impressive improvement of quality of life. Knowledge of and respect for the desires of BIID individuals are the first steps in providing care and may decrease the huge burden they experience.
PMCID: PMC3326051  PMID: 22514657
12.  Delineation and Diagnostic Criteria of Oral-Facial-Digital Syndrome Type VI 
Oral-Facial-Digital Syndrome type VI (OFD VI) represents a rare phenotypic subtype of Joubert syndrome and related disorders (JSRD). In the original report polydactyly, oral findings, intellectual disability, and absence of the cerebellar vermis at post-mortem characterized the syndrome. Subsequently, the molar tooth sign (MTS) has been found in patients with OFD VI, prompting the inclusion of OFD VI in JSRD. We studied the clinical, neurodevelopmental, neuroimaging, and genetic findings in a cohort of 16 patients with OFD VI. We derived the following inclusion criteria from the literature: 1) MTS and one oral finding and polydactyly, or 2) MTS and more than one typical oral finding. The OFD VI neuroimaging pattern was found to be more severe than in other JSRD subgroups and includes severe hypoplasia of the cerebellar vermis, hypoplastic and dysplastic cerebellar hemispheres, marked enlargement of the posterior fossa, increased retrocerebellar collection of cerebrospinal fluid, abnormal brainstem, and frequently supratentorial abnormalities that occasionally include characteristic hypothalamic hamartomas. Additionally, two new JSRD neuroimaging findings (ascending superior cerebellar peduncles and fused thalami) have been identified. Tongue hamartomas, additional frenula, upper lip notch, and mesoaxial polydactyly are specific findings in OFD VI, while cleft lip/palate and other types of polydactyly of hands and feet are not specific. Involvement of other organs may include ocular findings, particularly colobomas. The majority of the patients have absent motor development and profound cognitive impairment. In OFD VI, normal cognitive functions are possible, but exceptional. Sequencing of known JSRD genes in most patients failed to detect pathogenetic mutations, therefore the genetic basis of OFD VI remains unknown. Compared with other JSRD subgroups, the neurological findings and impairment of motor development and cognitive functions in OFD VI are significantly worse, suggesting a correlation with the more severe neuroimaging findings. Based on the literature and this study we suggest as diagnostic criteria for OFD VI: MTS and one or more of the following: 1) tongue hamartoma(s) and/or additional frenula and/or upper lip notch; 2) mesoaxial polydactyly of one or more hands or feet; 3) hypothalamic hamartoma.
PMCID: PMC3313869  PMID: 22236771
Joubert syndrome and related disorders; Oral-facial-digital syndrome type VI; neuroimaging; molar tooth sign; cerebellar malformation
14.  Further clinical and molecular delineation of the 15q24 microdeletion syndrome 
Journal of Medical Genetics  2011;49(2):110-118.
Chromosome 15q24 microdeletion syndrome is a rare genomic disorder characterised by intellectual disability, growth retardation, unusual facial morphology and other anomalies. To date, 20 patients have been reported; 18 have had detailed breakpoint analysis.
To further delineate the features of the 15q24 microdeletion syndrome, the clinical and molecular characterisation of fifteen patients with deletions in the 15q24 region was performed, nearly doubling the number of reported patients.
Breakpoints were characterised using a custom, high-density array comparative hybridisation platform, and detailed phenotype information was collected for each patient.
Nine distinct deletions with different breakpoints ranging in size from 266 kb to 3.75 Mb were identified. The majority of breakpoints lie within segmental duplication (SD) blocks. Low sequence identity and large intervals of unique sequence between SD blocks likely contribute to the rarity of 15q24 deletions, which occur 8–10 times less frequently than 1q21 or 15q13 microdeletions in our series. Two small, atypical deletions were identified within the region that help delineate the critical region for the core phenotype in the 15q24 microdeletion syndrome.
The molecular characterisation of these patients suggests that the core cognitive features of the 15q24 microdeletion syndrome, including developmental delays and severe speech problems, are largely due to deletion of genes in a 1.1–Mb critical region. However, genes just distal to the critical region also play an important role in cognition and in the development of characteristic facial features associated with 15q24 deletions. Clearly, deletions in the 15q24 region are variable in size and extent. Knowledge of the breakpoints and size of deletion combined with the natural history and medical problems of our patients provide insights that will inform management guidelines. Based on common phenotypic features, all patients with 15q24 microdeletions should receive a thorough neurodevelopmental evaluation, physical, occupational and speech therapies, and regular audiologic and ophthalmologic screening.
PMCID: PMC3261729  PMID: 22180641
Academic medicine; clinical genetics; epilepsy and seizures; cytogenetics; molecular genetics; genetics; copy-number; developmental; epilepsy and seizures; neurology; neuroophthalmology; cancer: breast; cancer: colon; genetic screening/counselling; obstetrics and gynaecology
15.  Mutations in ZIC2 in human holoprosencephaly: description of a novel ZIC2 specific phenotype and comprehensive analysis of 157 individuals 
Journal of Medical Genetics  2009;47(8):513-524.
Holoprosencephaly (HPE) is the most common malformation of the human forebrain, and may be due to cytogenetic anomalies, teratogens, occur in the context of a syndrome, or be due to mutations in single genes associated with non-syndromic HPE. Mutations in ZIC2, a transcription factor located on chromosome 13q32, are the second-most common cause of non-syndromic, non-chromosomal HPE. Blood samples from over 1000 individuals with HPE-spectrum disorders and their relatives were analyzed for sequence variations in ZIC2. We examined clinical details and included all other known previously published and unpublished cases of mutations in ZIC2 through a literature search and collaboration with other centers. We find mutations in ZIC2 in 8% of probands with HPE, and describe 153 individuals from 116 unrelated kindreds, including 137 patients with molecularly-determined mutations in ZIC2 and 16 patients with deletions of the ZIC2 locus. Unlike HPE due to mutations in other genes, the vast majority of cases are sporadic and the proportional distribution of HPE types differs significantly from previously published analyses of non-chromosomal non-syndromic HPE. Furthermore, we describe a novel facial phenotype in patients with mutations in ZIC2 which includes bitemporal narrowing, upsplanting palpebral fissures, a short nose with anteverted nares, and a broad and well-demarcated philtrum, and large ears. This phenotype is distinct from the standard facial dysmorphisms associated with non-chromosomal, non-syndromic HPE. Our findings show that HPE due to mutations in ZIC2 is distinct from that due to mutations in other genes. This may shed light on the mechanisms that contribute to the formation of the face and the forebrain and may help direct genetic counseling and diagnostic strategies.
PMCID: PMC3208626  PMID: 19955556
Female; Genotype; Holoprosencephaly; classification; epidemiology; genetics; pathology; Humans; Inheritance Patterns; genetics; Magnetic Resonance Imaging; Male; Mutation; genetics; Nuclear Proteins; genetics; Phenotype; Prevalence; Transcription Factors; genetics
16.  Molecular analysis expands the spectrum of phenotypes associated with GLI3 mutations 
Human mutation  2010;31(10):1142-1154.
A range of phenotypes including Greig cephalopolysyndactyly and Pallister-Hall syndromes (GCPS, PHS) are caused by pathogenic mutation of the GLI3 gene. To characterize the clinical variability of GLI3 mutations, we present a subset of a cohort of 174 probands referred for GLI3 analysis. Eighty-one probands with typical GCPS or PHS were previously reported, and we report the remaining ninety-three probands here. This includes nineteen probands (twelve mutations) who fulfilled clinical criteria for GCPS or PHS, forty-eight probands (sixteen mutations) with features of GCPS or PHS but who did not meet the clinical criteria (sub-GCPS and sub-PHS), twenty-one probands (six mutations) with features of PHS or GCPS and oral-facial-digital syndrome and five probands (one mutation) with non-syndromic polydactyly. These data support previously identified genotype-phenotype correlations and demonstrate a more variable degree of severity than previously recognized. The finding of GLI3 mutations in patients with features of oral-facial-digital syndrome supports the observation that GLI3 interacts with cilia. We conclude that the phenotypic spectrum of GLI3 mutations is broader than that encompassed by the clinical diagnostic criteria, but the phenotype-genotype correlation persists. Individuals with features of either GCPS or PHS should be screened for mutations in GLI3 even if they do not fulfill clinical criteria.
PMCID: PMC2947617  PMID: 20672375
GLI3; Greig syndrome; Pallister-Hall syndrome; Oral-facial-digital syndrome
17.  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
18.  Uncovering Genomic Causes of Co-Morbidity in Epilepsy: Gene-Driven Phenotypic Characterization of Rare Microdeletions 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(8):e23182.
Patients with epilepsy often suffer from other important conditions. The existence of such co-morbidities is frequently not recognized and their relationship with epilepsy usually remains unexplained.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We describe three patients with common, sporadic, non-syndromic epilepsies in whom large genomic microdeletions were found during a study of genetic susceptibility to epilepsy. We performed detailed gene-driven clinical investigations in each patient. Disruption of the function of genes in the deleted regions can explain co-morbidities in these patients.
Co-morbidities in patients with epilepsy can be part of a genomic abnormality even in the absence of (known) congenital malformations or intellectual disabilities. Gene-driven phenotype examination can also reveal clinically significant unsuspected condition.
PMCID: PMC3157359  PMID: 21858020
20.  Stickler syndrome caused by COL2A1 mutations: genotype–phenotype correlation in a series of 100 patients 
Stickler syndrome is an autosomal dominant connective tissue disorder caused by mutations in different collagen genes. The aim of our study was to define more precisely the phenotype and genotype of Stickler syndrome type 1 by investigating a large series of patients with a heterozygous mutation in COL2A1. In 188 probands with the clinical diagnosis of Stickler syndrome, the COL2A1 gene was analyzed by either a mutation scanning technique or bidirectional fluorescent DNA sequencing. The effect of splice site alterations was investigated by analyzing mRNA. Multiplex ligation-dependent amplification analysis was used for the detection of intragenic deletions. We identified 77 different COL2A1 mutations in 100 affected individuals. Analysis of the splice site mutations showed unusual RNA isoforms, most of which contained a premature stop codon. Vitreous anomalies and retinal detachments were found more frequently in patients with a COL2A1 mutation compared with the mutation-negative group (P<0.01). Overall, 20 of 23 sporadic patients with a COL2A1 mutation had either a cleft palate or retinal detachment with vitreous anomalies. The presence of vitreous anomalies, retinal tears or detachments, cleft palate and a positive family history were shown to be good indicators for a COL2A1 defect. In conclusion, we confirm that Stickler syndrome type 1 is predominantly caused by loss-of-function mutations in the COL2A1 gene as >90% of the mutations were predicted to result in nonsense-mediated decay. On the basis of binary regression analysis, we developed a scoring system that may be useful when evaluating patients with Stickler syndrome.
PMCID: PMC2987380  PMID: 20179744
COL2A1; Stickler syndrome; genotype–phenotype correlation; type II collagenopathies; splice site mutation
21.  Loss of the BMP Antagonist, SMOC-1, Causes Ophthalmo-Acromelic (Waardenburg Anophthalmia) Syndrome in Humans and Mice 
PLoS Genetics  2011;7(7):e1002114.
Ophthalmo-acromelic syndrome (OAS), also known as Waardenburg Anophthalmia syndrome, is defined by the combination of eye malformations, most commonly bilateral anophthalmia, with post-axial oligosyndactyly. Homozygosity mapping and subsequent targeted mutation analysis of a locus on 14q24.2 identified homozygous mutations in SMOC1 (SPARC-related modular calcium binding 1) in eight unrelated families. Four of these mutations are nonsense, two frame-shift, and two missense. The missense mutations are both in the second Thyroglobulin Type-1 (Tg1) domain of the protein. The orthologous gene in the mouse, Smoc1, shows site- and stage-specific expression during eye, limb, craniofacial, and somite development. We also report a targeted pre-conditional gene-trap mutation of Smoc1 (Smoc1tm1a) that reduces mRNA to ∼10% of wild-type levels. This gene-trap results in highly penetrant hindlimb post-axial oligosyndactyly in homozygous mutant animals (Smoc1tm1a/tm1a). Eye malformations, most commonly coloboma, and cleft palate occur in a significant proportion of Smoc1tm1a/tm1a embryos and pups. Thus partial loss of Smoc-1 results in a convincing phenocopy of the human disease. SMOC-1 is one of the two mammalian paralogs of Drosophila Pentagone, an inhibitor of decapentaplegic. The orthologous gene in Xenopus laevis, Smoc-1, also functions as a Bone Morphogenic Protein (BMP) antagonist in early embryogenesis. Loss of BMP antagonism during mammalian development provides a plausible explanation for both the limb and eye phenotype in humans and mice.
Author Summary
Ophthalmo-acromelic syndrome (OAS) is a rare congenital genetic disorder involving complete absence of the eyes and limb malformations, with missing or fused bones in the feet and hands. In this paper we report the identification of genetic changes to both copies of the SMOC1 gene as the cause of most cases of OAS. We have identified eight different mutations in this gene in unrelated individuals, and six of these mutations are predicted to completely abolish SMOC-1 function. We have also genetically disrupted the mouse Smoc1 gene to produce only 10% of normal levels. These animals, called Smoc1tm1a/tm1a mice, have similar hindlimb malformations to those seen in the limbs of human OAS patients, resulting in missing toes in some mice and fusion of toes in others. Smoc1tm1a/tm1a embryos and pups also have eye malformations but these are milder than those seen in human cases, perhaps because, unlike the human cases, the mice still have some residual function of the gene. We suggest that the normal function of SMOC-1 may be to regulate an important class of growth factors, called Bone Morphogenetic Proteins (BMPs), which are essential for normal embryonic development.
PMCID: PMC3131273  PMID: 21750680
22.  Is There Evidence for Aetiologically Distinct Subgroups of Idiopathic Congenital Talipes Equinovarus? A Case-Only Study and Pedigree Analysis 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(4):e17895.
Idiopathic congenital talipes equinovarus (CTEV) is a common developmental foot disorder, the aetiology of which remains largely unknown. Some aspects of the epidemiology suggest the possibility of aetiologically distinct subgroups. Previous studies consider CTEV as a homogenous entity which may conceal risk factors in particular subgroups. We investigate evidence for aetiologically distinct subgroups of CTEV.
Parents of 785 probands completed a postal questionnaire. Family pedigrees were compiled by telephone. Case-only analysis was used to investigate interactions between risk factors and sex of the proband, CTEV laterality and CTEV family history.
The male∶female ratio was 2.3∶1, 58% of probands were affected bilaterally and 11% had a first-second degree family history. There were modest interactions between family history and twin births (multivariate case - only odds ratio [ORca] = 3.87, 95%CI 1.19–12.62) and family history and maternal use of folic acid supplements in early pregnancy (ORca = 0.62, 95%CI 0.38–1.01); and between sex of the proband and maternal alcohol consumption during pregnancy (female, positive history and alcohol consumed: ORca = 0.33, 95%CI 0.12–0.89). Previous reports of an interaction between maternal smoking and family history were not confirmed. Relatives of female probands were affected more often than relatives of male probands.
These results provide tentative evidence for aetiologically distinct CTEV subgroups. They support the ‘Carter effect’, suggesting CTEV develops though a multifactorial threshold model with females requiring a higher risk factor ‘load’, and suggest areas where future aetiological investigation might focus. Large multi-centre studies are needed to further advance understanding of this common condition.
PMCID: PMC3080359  PMID: 21533128
23.  Mutations in the Human Laminin β2 (LAMB2) Gene and the Associated Phenotypic Spectrum 
Human mutation  2010;31(9):992-1002.
Mutations of LAMB2 typically cause autosomal recessive Pierson syndrome, a disorder characterized by congenital nephrotic syndrome, ocular and neurologic abnormalities, but may occasionally be associated with milder or oligosymptomatic disease variants. LAMB2 encodes the basement membrane protein laminin β2 which is incorporated in specific heterotrimeric laminin isoforms and has an expression pattern corresponding to the pattern of organ manifestations in Pierson syndrome. Herein we review all previously reported and several novel LAMB2 mutations in relation to the associated phenotype in patients from 39 unrelated families. The majority of disease-causing LAMB2 mutations are truncating, consistent with the hypothesis that loss of laminin β2 function is the molecular basis of Pierson syndrome. While truncating mutations are distributed across the entire gene, missense mutations are clearly clustered in the N-terminal LN domain, which is important for intermolecular interactions. There is an association of missense mutations and small in frame deletions with a higher mean age at onset of renal disease and with absence of neurologic abnormalities, thus suggesting that at least some of these may represent hypomorphic alleles. Nevertheless, genotype alone does not appear to explain the full range of clinical variability, and therefore hitherto unidentified modifiers are likely to exist.
PMCID: PMC2978072  PMID: 20556798
LAMB2; Pierson syndrome; nephrotic syndrome; autosomal recessive; podocyte; laminin; ocular malformation
24.  Very rare disorders - organisation of care 
Orphanet Journal of Rare Diseases  2010;5(Suppl 1):O11.
PMCID: PMC2958368
25.  Growth charts for children with Ellis–van Creveld syndrome 
European Journal of Pediatrics  2010;170(2):207-211.
Ellis–van Creveld (EvC) syndrome is a congenital malformation syndrome with marked growth retardation. In this study, specific growth charts for EvC patients were derived to allow better follow-up of growth and earlier detection of growth patterns unusual for EvC. With the use of 235 observations of 101 EvC patients (49 males, 52 females), growth charts for males and females from 0 to 20 years of age were derived. Longitudinal and cross-sectional data were collected from an earlier review of growth data in EvC, a database of EvC patients, and from recent literature. To model the growth charts, the GAMLSS package for the R statistical program was used. Height of EvC patients was compared to healthy children using Dutch growth charts. Data are presented both on a scale for age and on a scale for the square root of age. Compared to healthy Dutch children, mean height standard deviation score values for male and female EvC patients were −3.1 and −3.0, respectively. The present growth charts should be useful in the follow-up of EvC patients. Most importantly, early detection of growth hormone deficiency, known to occur in EvC, will be facilitated.
PMCID: PMC3022156  PMID: 20830486
Growth; Body height; Ellis–van Creveld syndrome; Growth charts

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