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1.  Cryptogenic stroke and small fiber neuropathy of unknown etiology in patients with alpha-galactosidase A -10T genotype 
Fabry disease (FD) is a multisystemic disorder with typical neurological manifestations such as stroke and small fiber neuropathy (SFN), caused by mutations of the alpha-galactosidase A (GLA) gene. We analyzed 15 patients carrying the GLA haplotype -10C>T [rs2071225], IVS2-81_-77delCAGCC [rs5903184], IVS4-16A>G [rs2071397], and IVS6-22C>T [rs2071228] for potential neurological manifestations.
Methods and results
Patients were retrospectively analyzed for stroke, transient ischemic attack (TIA), white matter lesions (WML) and SFN with neuropathic pain. Functional impact of the haplotype was determined by molecular genetic methods including real-time PCR, exon trapping, promoter deletion constructs and electrophoretic mobility shift assays. Symptomatic -10T allele carriers suffered from stroke, TIA, WML, and SFN with neuropathic pain. Patients’ mean GLA mRNA expression level was reduced to ~70% (p < 0.0001) and a dose-dependent effect of the -10T allele on GLA mRNA expression was observed in hemi/homozygous compared to heterozygous patients (p < 0.0001). Molecular analyzes revealed that the -10T allele resulted in a reduced promoter activity and an altered transcription factor binding, while a functional relevance of the co-segregated intronic variants was excluded by exon trapping.
Based on this complementary approach of clinical observation and functional testing, we conclude that the GLA -10T allele could be causal for the observed neurological manifestations. Future studies are needed to clarify whether affected patients benefit from GLA enzyme replacement therapy for end-organ damage prevention.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13023-014-0178-5) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4255940  PMID: 25423912
Neuropathic pain; Stroke; Cerebrovascular disease; Fabry disease; Gene expression regulation
2.  Glycogenosome accumulation in the arrector pili muscle in Pompe disease 
Glycogenosis type II or Pompe disease is an autosomal-recessive lysosomal storage disease due to mutations in the gene encoding acid alpha-glucosidase (GAA), an enzyme required for lysosomal glycogen degradation. The disease predominantly affects the skeletal and respiratory muscles but there is growing evidence of the involvement of smooth muscle cells in blood vessel walls, suggesting a multi-system disorder. Moreover, the failure of autophagy in Pompe disease could contribute to muscular atrophy and disease progression and is thought to compromise the efficacy of enzyme replacement therapy (ERT).
We investigated the light microscopical and ultrastructural pathology of the arrector pili muscle from punch skin biopsies from the calf of 6 adult Pompe disease patients and 6 age and gender matched healthy controls. Two patients had a follow-up biopsy after 19 and 20 month of ERT.
The electron microscopic investigation of patient biopsies revealed the widespread occurrence of glycogenosomes, membrane bound accumulations of granular glycogen, associated with autophagic vacuoles. In the controls we detected only muscle cells with non-membrane bound forms of glycogen. These morphological changes in smooth muscle cells are similar to those seen in skeletal muscle and smooth muscle cells of arterioles of Pompe patients. Furthermore, two patients with pre- and post-ERT skin biopsies showed a decrease in the number of cells with extensive autophagy after treatment.
Electron microscopic examination of the arrector pili muscles appears to be a surrogate marker for the involvement of smooth muscles reflecting disease severity. These findings suggest that the standardized and widely used skin biopsy could offer a minimally invasive way to screen for smooth muscle involvement and warrant further studies in larger cohorts of patients.
PMCID: PMC3922310  PMID: 24495340
Skin biopsy; Pompe disease; Glycogenosis type II; Arrector pili muscle; Glycogenosome; Autophagy
4.  New Findings in a Global Approach to Dissect the Whole Phenotype of PLA2G6 Gene Mutations 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(10):e76831.
Mutations in PLA2G6 gene have variable phenotypic outcome including infantile neuroaxonal dystrophy, atypical neuroaxonal dystrophy, idiopathic neurodegeneration with brain iron accumulation and Karak syndrome. The cause of this phenotypic variation is so far unknown which impairs both genetic diagnosis and appropriate family counseling. We report detailed clinical, electrophysiological, neuroimaging, histologic, biochemical and genetic characterization of 11 patients, from 6 consanguineous families, who were followed for a period of up to 17 years. Cerebellar atrophy was constant and the earliest feature of the disease preceding brain iron accumulation, leading to the provisional diagnosis of a recessive progressive ataxia in these patients. Ultrastructural characterization of patients’ muscle biopsies revealed focal accumulation of granular and membranous material possibly resulting from defective membrane homeostasis caused by disrupted PLA2G6 function. Enzyme studies in one of these muscle biopsies provided evidence for a relatively low mitochondrial content, which is compatible with the structural mitochondrial alterations seen by electron microscopy. Genetic characterization of 11 patients led to the identification of six underlying PLA2G6 gene mutations, five of which are novel. Importantly, by combining clinical and genetic data we have observed that while the phenotype of neurodegeneration associated with PLA2G6 mutations is variable in this cohort of patients belonging to the same ethnic background, it is partially influenced by the genotype, considering the age at onset and the functional disability criteria. Molecular testing for PLA2G6 mutations is, therefore, indicated in childhood-onset ataxia syndromes, if neuroimaging shows cerebellar atrophy with or without evidence of iron accumulation.
PMCID: PMC3792983  PMID: 24130795
5.  Neuropathy in Human and Mice with PMP22 null 
Archives of neurology  2011;68(6):814-821.
Haploinsufficiency of PMP22 causes hereditary neuropathy with liability to pressure palsies (HNPP). However, the biological functions of PMP22 in humans are largely unexplored due to the absence of patients with PMP22 null mutations.
Design, Setting and Participants
We have evaluated a 7-year-old boy with PMP22 null. Findings were compared with those from nerves of Pmp22 null mice.
Motor and sensory deficits in the proband were non-length dependent. Weakness was found in cranial muscles, but not in the limbs. Large fiber sensory modalities were profoundly abnormal, which started prior to the maturation of myelin. This is in line with the temporal pattern of PMP22 expression predominantly in cranial motor neurons and DRG during embryonic development, becoming undetectable in adulthood. Moreover, there were conspicuous maturation defects of myelinating Schwann cells that were more significant in motor nerve fibers than in sensory nerve fibers.
Taken together, these data suggest that PMP22 is important for the normal function of neurons that express PMP22 during early development, such as cranial motor neurons and spinal sensory neurons. Moreover, PMP22 deficiency differentially affects myelination between motor and sensory nerves, which may have contributed to the unique clinical phenotype in the patient with absence of PMP22.
PMCID: PMC3711535  PMID: 21670407
6.  Conduction Block in PMP22 Deficiency 
Patients with PMP22 deficiency present with focal sensory and motor deficits when peripheral nerves are stressed by mechanical force. It has been hypothesized that these focal deficits are due to mechanically induced conduction block (CB). To test this hypothesis, we induced 60-70% CB (defined by electrophysiological criteria) by nerve compression in an authentic mouse model of HNPP with an inactivation of one of the two pmp22 alleles (pmp22+/−). Induction time for the CB was significantly shorter in pmp22+/− mice than that in pmp22+/+ mice. This shortened induction was not found in the mice with deficiency of myelin protein zero (MPZ), a major structural protein of compact myelin. Pmp22+/− nerves showed intact tomacula with no segmental demyelination in both non-compressed and compressed conditions, normal molecular architecture, and normal concentration of voltage-gated sodium channels by H3-saxitoxin binding assay. However, focal constrictions were observed in the axonal segments enclosed by tomacula, a pathological hallmark of HNPP. The constricted axons increase axial-resistance to action potential propagation, which should hasten the induction of CB in pmp22 deficiency. Taken together, these results demonstrate that a function of Pmp22 is to protect the nerve from mechanical injury.
PMCID: PMC3676309  PMID: 20071523
PMP22; conduction block; paranode; tomacula; hereditary neuropathy with liability to pressure palsies (HNPP); Schwann cell; myelin; Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease; axonal constriction
7.  Shortened internodal length of dermal myelinated nerve fibres in Charcot–Marie-Tooth disease type 1A 
Brain  2009;132(12):3263-3273.
Charcot–Marie-Tooth disease type 1A is the most common inherited neuropathy and is caused by duplication of chromosome 17p11.2 containing the peripheral myelin protein-22 gene. This disease is characterized by uniform slowing of conduction velocities and secondary axonal loss, which are in contrast with non-uniform slowing of conduction velocities in acquired demyelinating disorders, such as chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyradiculoneuropathy. Mechanisms responsible for the slowed conduction velocities and axonal loss in Charcot–Marie-Tooth disease type 1A are poorly understood, in part because of the difficulty in obtaining nerve samples from patients, due to the invasive nature of nerve biopsies. We have utilized glabrous skin biopsies, a minimally invasive procedure, to evaluate these issues systematically in patients with Charcot–Marie-Tooth disease type 1A (n = 32), chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyradiculoneuropathy (n = 4) and healthy controls (n = 12). Morphology and molecular architecture of dermal myelinated nerve fibres were examined using immunohistochemistry and electron microscopy. Internodal length was uniformly shortened in patients with Charcot–Marie-Tooth disease type 1A, compared with those in normal controls (P < 0.0001). Segmental demyelination was absent in the Charcot–Marie-Tooth disease type 1A group, but identifiable in all patients with chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyradiculoneuropathy. Axonal loss was measurable using the density of Meissner corpuscles and associated with an accumulation of intra-axonal mitochondria. Our study demonstrates that skin biopsy can reveal pathological and molecular architectural changes that distinguish inherited from acquired demyelinating neuropathies. Uniformly shortened internodal length in Charcot–Marie-Tooth disease type 1A suggests a potential developmental defect of internodal lengthening. Intra-axonal accumulation of mitochondria provides new insights into the pathogenesis of axonal degeneration in Charcot–Marie-Tooth disease type 1A.
PMCID: PMC2800385  PMID: 19923170
CMT1A; internodal length; Schwann cell; skin biopsy; Charcot–Marie-Tooth disease
8.  PMP22 expression in dermal nerve myelin from patients with CMT1A 
Brain  2009;132(7):1734-1740.
Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease type 1A (CMT1A) is caused by a 1.4 Mb duplication on chromosome 17p11.2, which contains the peripheral myelin protein-22 (PMP22) gene. Increased levels of PMP22 in compact myelin of peripheral nerves have been demonstrated and presumed to cause the phenotype of CMT1A. The objective of the present study was to determine whether an extra copy of the PMP22 gene in CMT1A disrupts the normally coordinated expression of PMP22 protein in peripheral nerve myelin and to evaluate PMP22 over-expression in patients with CMT1A and determine whether levels of PMP22 are molecular markers of disease severity. PMP22 expression was measured by taking skin biopsies from patients with CMT1A (n = 20) and both healthy controls (n = 7) and patients with Hereditary Neuropathy with liability to Pressure Palsies (HNPP) (n = 6), in which patients have only a single copy of PMP22. Immunological electron microscopy was performed on the skin biopsies to quantify PMP22 expression in compact myelin. Similar biopsies were analysed by real time PCR to measure PMP22 mRNA levels. Results were also correlated with impairment in CMT1A, as measured by the validated CMT Neuropathy Score. Most, but not all patients with CMT1A, had elevated PMP22 levels in myelin compared with the controls. The levels of PMP22 in CMT1A were highly variable, but not in HNPP or the controls. However, there was no correlation between neurological disabilities and the level of over-expression of PMP22 protein or mRNA in patients with CMT1A. The extra copy of PMP22 in CMT1A results in disruption of the tightly regulated expression of PMP22. Thus, variability of PMP22 levels, rather than absolute level of PMP22, may play an important role in the pathogenesis of CMT1A.
PMCID: PMC2724915  PMID: 19447823
PMP22; CMT1A; CMTNS; HNPP; Schwann cell; myelin; Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease
9.  Uncoupling of the endocannabinoid signalling complex in a mouse model of fragile X syndrome 
Nature Communications  2012;3:1080-.
Fragile X syndrome, the most commonly known genetic cause of autism, is due to loss of the fragile X mental retardation protein, which regulates signal transduction at metabotropic glutamate receptor-5 in the brain. Fragile X mental retardation protein deletion in mice enhances metabotropic glutamate receptor-5-dependent long-term depression in the hippocampus and cerebellum. Here we show that a distinct type of metabotropic glutamate receptor-5-dependent long-term depression at excitatory synapses of the ventral striatum and prefrontal cortex, which is mediated by the endocannabinoid 2-arachidonoyl-sn-glycerol, is absent in fragile X mental retardation protein-null mice. In these mutants, the macromolecular complex that links metabotropic glutamate receptor-5 to the 2-arachidonoyl-sn-glycerol-producing enzyme, diacylglycerol lipase-α (endocannabinoid signalosome), is disrupted and metabotropic glutamate receptor-5-dependent 2-arachidonoyl-sn-glycerol formation is compromised. These changes are accompanied by impaired endocannabinoid-dependent long-term depression. Pharmacological enhancement of 2-arachidonoyl-sn-glycerol signalling normalizes this synaptic defect and corrects behavioural abnormalities in fragile X mental retardation protein-deficient mice. The results identify the endocannabinoid signalosome as a molecular substrate for fragile X syndrome, which might be targeted by therapy.
Fragile X syndrome is a major genetic cause of autism and is caused by loss of the fragile X mental retardation protein. In a mouse model of fragile X syndrome, Jung et al. show that an absence of neuronal endocannabinoid signalling is responsible for the neurophysiological and behavioural defects.
PMCID: PMC3657999  PMID: 23011134

Results 1-9 (9)