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1.  Identification of cis-suppression of human disease mutations by comparative genomics 
Nature  2015;524(7564):225-229.
Patterns of amino acid conservation have served as a tool for understanding protein evolution1. The same principles have also found broad application in human genomics, driven by the need to interpret the pathogenic potential of variants in patients2. Here we performed a systematic comparative genomics analysis of human disease-causing missense variants. We found that an appreciable fraction of disease-causing alleles are fixed in the genomes of other species, suggesting a role for genomic context. We developed a model of genetic interactions that predicts most of these to be simple pairwise compensations. Functional testing of this model on two known human disease genes3,4 revealed discrete cis amino acid residues that, although benign on their own, could rescue the human mutations in vivo. This approach was also applied to ab initio gene discovery to support the identification of a de novo disease driver in BTG2 that is subject to protective cis-modification in more than 50 species. Finally, on the basis of our data and models, we developed a computational tool to predict candidate residues subject to compensation. Taken together, our data highlight the importance of cis-genomic context as a contributor to protein evolution; they provide an insight into the complexity of allele effect on phenotype; and they are likely to assist methods for predicting allele pathogenicity5,6.
PMCID: PMC4537371  PMID: 26123021
2.  TMEM231, mutated in orofaciodigital and Meckel syndromes, organizes the ciliary transition zone 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2015;209(1):129-142.
TMEM231, a functional component of the MKS complex at the ciliary transition zone, is mutated in orofaciodigital syndrome type 3 and Meckel syndrome.
The Meckel syndrome (MKS) complex functions at the transition zone, located between the basal body and axoneme, to regulate the localization of ciliary membrane proteins. We investigated the role of Tmem231, a two-pass transmembrane protein, in MKS complex formation and function. Consistent with a role in transition zone function, mutation of mouse Tmem231 disrupts the localization of proteins including Arl13b and Inpp5e to cilia, resulting in phenotypes characteristic of MKS such as polydactyly and kidney cysts. Tmem231 and B9d1 are essential for each other and other complex components such as Mks1 to localize to the transition zone. As in mouse, the Caenorhabditis elegans orthologue of Tmem231 localizes to and controls transition zone formation and function, suggesting an evolutionarily conserved role for Tmem231. We identified TMEM231 mutations in orofaciodigital syndrome type 3 (OFD3) and MKS patients that compromise transition zone function. Thus, Tmem231 is critical for organizing the MKS complex and controlling ciliary composition, defects in which cause OFD3 and MKS.
PMCID: PMC4395494  PMID: 25869670
3.  Interpreting human genetic variation with in vivo zebrafish assays 
Biochimica et biophysica acta  2014;1842(10):1960-1970.
Rapid advances and cost erosion in exome and genome analysis of patients with both rare and common genetic disorders has accelerated gene discovery and illuminated fundamental biological mechanisms. The thrill of discovery has been accompanied, however, with the sobering appreciation that human genomes are burdened with a large number of rare and ultra rare variants, thereby posing a significant challenge in dissecting both the effect of such alleles on protein function and the biological relevance of these events to patient pathology. In an effort to develop model systems that are able to generate surrogates of human pathologies, a powerful suite of tools have been developed in zebrafish, taking advantage of the relatively small (compared to invertebrate models) evolutionary distance of that genome to humans, the orthology of several organs and signaling processes, and the suitability of this organism for medium and high throughput phenotypic screening. Here we will review the use of this model organism in dissecting human genetic disorders; we will highlight how diverse strategies have informed disease causality and genetic architecture; and we will discuss relative strengths and limitations of these approaches in the context of medical genome sequencing.
PMCID: PMC4382103  PMID: 24887202
4.  In vivo Modeling Implicates APOL1 in Nephropathy: Evidence for Dominant Negative Effects and Epistasis under Anemic Stress 
PLoS Genetics  2015;11(7):e1005349.
African Americans have a disproportionate risk for developing nephropathy. This disparity has been attributed to coding variants (G1 and G2) in apolipoprotein L1 (APOL1); however, there is little functional evidence supporting the role of this protein in renal function. Here, we combined genetics and in vivo modeling to examine the role of apol1 in glomerular development and pronephric filtration and to test the pathogenic potential of APOL1 G1 and G2. Translational suppression or CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing of apol1 in zebrafish embryos results in podocyte loss and glomerular filtration defects. Complementation of apol1 morphants with wild-type human APOL1 mRNA rescues these defects. However, the APOL1 G1 risk allele does not ameliorate defects caused by apol1 suppression and the pathogenicity is conferred by the cis effect of both individual variants of the G1 risk haplotype (I384M/S342G). In vivo complementation studies of the G2 risk allele also indicate that the variant is deleterious to protein function. Moreover, APOL1 G2, but not G1, expression alone promotes developmental kidney defects, suggesting a possible dominant-negative effect of the altered protein. In sickle cell disease (SCD) patients, we reported previously a genetic interaction between APOL1 and MYH9. Testing this interaction in vivo by co-suppressing both transcripts yielded no additive effects. However, upon genetic or chemical induction of anemia, we observed a significantly exacerbated nephropathy phenotype. Furthermore, concordant with the genetic interaction observed in SCD patients, APOL1 G2 reduces myh9 expression in vivo, suggesting a possible interaction between the altered APOL1 and myh9. Our data indicate a critical role for APOL1 in renal function that is compromised by nephropathy-risk encoding variants. Moreover, our interaction studies indicate that the MYH9 locus is also relevant to the phenotype in a stressed microenvironment and suggest that consideration of the context-dependent functions of both proteins will be required to develop therapeutic paradigms.
Author Summary
African Americans have a disproportionate risk for developing chronic kidney disease compared to European Americans. Previous studies have identified a region on chromosome 22 containing two genes, MYH9 and APOL1, which likely accounts for nearly all of this difference. Previous reports provided strong statistical evidence implicating APOL1 as the major contributor to nephropathy risk in African Americans, driven by two coding variants, termed G1 and G2. However, other groups still report statistical evidence for MYH9 association in kidney disease, and animal models have demonstrated biological relevance for MYH9 function in the kidney. Here, we show that suppressing apol1 in zebrafish embryos results in perturbed kidney function. Importantly, using this in vivo assay, we show that the G1 variant appears to cause a loss of APOL1 function, while the G2 variant results in an altered protein that may be acting antagonistically in the presence of normal APOL1. We also report a genetic interaction between apol1 and myh9 under anemic stress, which is consistent with our previous findings in sickle cell disease (SCD) nephropathy patients. Finally, we provide functional evidence in vivo that the G2-altered APOL1 may be interacting with MYH9 to confer nephropathy risk.
PMCID: PMC4492502  PMID: 26147622
5.  Rapid and Efficient Generation of Transgene-Free iPSC from a Small Volume of Cryopreserved Blood 
Stem Cell Reviews  2015;11(4):652-665.
Human peripheral blood and umbilical cord blood represent attractive sources of cells for reprogramming to induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). However, to date, most of the blood-derived iPSCs were generated using either integrating methods or starting from T-lymphocytes that have genomic rearrangements thus bearing uncertain consequences when using iPSC-derived lineages for disease modeling and cell therapies. Recently, both peripheral blood and cord blood cells have been reprogrammed into transgene-free iPSC using the Sendai viral vector. Here we demonstrate that peripheral blood can be utilized for medium-throughput iPSC production without the need to maintain cell culture prior to reprogramming induction. Cell reprogramming can also be accomplished with as little as 3000 previously cryopreserved cord blood cells under feeder-free and chemically defined Xeno-free conditions that are compliant with standard Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) regulations. The first iPSC colonies appear 2–3 weeks faster in comparison to previous reports. Notably, these peripheral blood- and cord blood-derived iPSCs are free of detectable immunoglobulin heavy chain (IGH) and T cell receptor (TCR) gene rearrangements, suggesting they did not originate from B- or T- lymphoid cells. The iPSCs are pluripotent as evaluated by the scorecard assay and in vitro multi lineage functional cell differentiation. Our data show that small volumes of cryopreserved peripheral blood or cord blood cells can be reprogrammed efficiently at a convenient, cost effective and scalable way. In summary, our method expands the reprogramming potential of limited or archived samples either stored at blood banks or obtained from pediatric populations that cannot easily provide large quantities of peripheral blood or a skin biopsy.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s12015-015-9586-8) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4493720  PMID: 25951995
Reprogramming; Peripheral blood; Cord blood; Sendai viral vector; Genomic rearrangement; GMP; Cell therapy; iPSC
6.  Unique among ciliopathies: primary ciliary dyskinesia, a motile cilia disorder 
F1000Prime Reports  2015;7:36.
Primary ciliary dyskinesia (PCD) is a ciliopathy, but represents the sole entity from this class of disorders that results from the dysfunction of motile cilia. Characterized by respiratory problems appearing in childhood, infertility, and situs defects in ~50% of individuals, PCD has an estimated prevalence of approximately 1 in 10,000 live births. The diagnosis of PCD can be prolonged due to a lack of disease awareness, coupled with the fact that symptoms can be confused with other more common genetic disorders, such as cystic fibrosis, or environmental insults that result in frequent respiratory infections. A primarily autosomal recessive disorder, PCD is genetically heterogeneous with >30 causal genes identified, posing significant challenges to genetic diagnosis. Here, we provide an overview of PCD as a disorder underscored by impaired ciliary motility; we discuss the recent advances towards uncovering the genetic basis of PCD; we discuss the molecular knowledge gained from PCD gene discovery, which has improved our understanding of motile ciliary assembly; and we speculate on how accelerated diagnosis, together with detailed phenotypic data, will shape the genetic and functional architecture of this disorder.
PMCID: PMC4371376  PMID: 25926987
7.  The kinetochore protein, CENPF, is mutated in human ciliopathy and microcephaly phenotypes 
Journal of Medical Genetics  2015;52(3):147-156.
Mutations in microtubule-regulating genes are associated with disorders of neuronal migration and microcephaly. Regulation of centriole length has been shown to underlie the pathogenesis of certain ciliopathy phenotypes. Using a next-generation sequencing approach, we identified mutations in a novel centriolar disease gene in a kindred with an embryonic lethal ciliopathy phenotype and in a patient with primary microcephaly.
Methods and results
Whole exome sequencing data from a non-consanguineous Caucasian kindred exhibiting mid-gestation lethality and ciliopathic malformations revealed two novel non-synonymous variants in CENPF, a microtubule-regulating gene. All four affected fetuses showed segregation for two mutated alleles [IVS5-2A>C, predicted to abolish the consensus splice-acceptor site from exon 6; c.1744G>T, p.E582X]. In a second unrelated patient exhibiting microcephaly, we identified two CENPF mutations [c.1744G>T, p.E582X; c.8692 C>T, p.R2898X] by whole exome sequencing. We found that CENP-F colocalised with Ninein at the subdistal appendages of the mother centriole in mouse inner medullary collecting duct cells. Intraflagellar transport protein-88 (IFT-88) colocalised with CENP-F along the ciliary axonemes of renal epithelial cells in age-matched control human fetuses but did not in truncated cilia of mutant CENPF kidneys. Pairwise co-immunoprecipitation assays of mitotic and serum-starved HEKT293 cells confirmed that IFT88 precipitates with endogenous CENP-F.
Our data identify CENPF as a new centriolar disease gene implicated in severe human ciliopathy and microcephaly related phenotypes. CENP-F has a novel putative function in ciliogenesis and cortical neurogenesis.
PMCID: PMC4345935  PMID: 25564561
Clinical genetics; Molecular genetics; CENPF; Ciliopathy; Microcephaly
8.  Whole Exome Sequencing of a Dominant Retinitis Pigmentosa Family Identifies a Novel Deletion in PRPF31 
Mutations at some retinitis pigmentosa (RP) loci are associated with variable penetrance and expressivity, exacerbating diagnostic challenges. The purpose of this study was to dissect the genetic underpinnings of nonsyndromic RP with variable age of onset in a large Mexican family.
We ascertained members of a large, multigenerational pedigree using a complete ophthalmic examination. We performed whole exome sequencing on two affected first cousins, an obligate carrier, and a married-in spouse. Confirmatory sequencing of candidate variants was performed in the entire pedigree, as well as genotyping and mRNA studies to investigate expression changes in the causal locus.
We identified a 14–base pair (bp) deletion in PRPF31, a gene implicated previously in autosomal dominant (ad) RP. The mutation segregated with the phenotype of all 10 affected females, but also was present in six asymptomatics (two females and four males). Studies in patient cells showed that the penetrance/expressivity of the PRPF31 deletion allele was concordant with the expression levels of wild-type message. However, neither the known PRPF31 modulators nor cis-eQTLs within 1 Mb of the locus could account for the variable expression of message or the clinical phenotype.
We have identified a novel 14-bp deletion in PRPF31 as the genetic driver of adRP in a large Mexican family that exhibits nonpenetrance and variable expressivity, known properties of this locus. However, our studies intimate the presence of additional loci that can modify PRPF31 expression.
Mutations in PRPF31 are known to cause autosomal dominant retinitis pigmentosa frequently hallmarked by incomplete penetrance. Genetic and functional studies intimate that hitherto unknown modulators may be contributing to this phenomenon.
PMCID: PMC3979517  PMID: 24595387
retinitis pigmentosa; genetic diseases; autosomal dominant; PRPF31; exome sequencing
9.  Whole exome resequencing distinguishes cystic kidney diseases from phenocopies in renal ciliopathies 
Kidney international  2013;85(4):880-887.
Rare single-gene disorders cause chronic disease. However, half of the 6,000 recessive single gene causes of disease are still unknown. Because recessive disease genes can illuminate, at least in part, disease pathomechanism, their identification offers direct opportunities for improved clinical management and potentially treatment. Rare diseases comprise the majority of chronic kidney disease (CKD) in children but are notoriously difficult to diagnose. Whole exome resequencing facilitates identification of recessive disease genes. However, its utility is impeded by the large number of genetic variants detected. We here overcome this limitation by combining homozygosity mapping with whole exome resequencing in 10 sib pairs with a nephronophthisis-related ciliopathy, which represents the most frequent genetic cause of CKD in the first three decades of life. In 7 of 10 sib-ships with a histologic or ultrasonographic diagnosis of nephronophthisis-related ciliopathy we detect the causative gene. In six sib-ships we identify mutations of known nephronophthisis-related ciliopathy genes, while in two additional sib-ships we found mutations in the known CKD-causing genes SLC4A1 and AGXT as phenocopies of nephronophthisis-related ciliopathy. Thus whole exome resequencing establishes an efficient, non-invasive approach towards early detection and causation-based diagnosis of rare kidney diseases. This approach can be extended to other rare recessive disorders, thereby providing accurate diagnosis and facilitating the study of disease mechanisms.
PMCID: PMC3972265  PMID: 24257694
10.  In Vivo Modeling of the Morbid Human Genome using Danio rerio 
Here, we present methods for the development of assays to query potentially clinically significant nonsynonymous changes using in vivo complementation in zebrafish. Zebrafish (Danio rerio) are a useful animal system due to their experimental tractability; embryos are transparent to enable facile viewing, undergo rapid development ex vivo, and can be genetically manipulated.1 These aspects have allowed for significant advances in the analysis of embryogenesis, molecular processes, and morphogenetic signaling. Taken together, the advantages of this vertebrate model make zebrafish highly amenable to modeling the developmental defects in pediatric disease, and in some cases, adult-onset disorders. Because the zebrafish genome is highly conserved with that of humans (~70% orthologous), it is possible to recapitulate human disease states in zebrafish. This is accomplished either through the injection of mutant human mRNA to induce dominant negative or gain of function alleles, or utilization of morpholino (MO) antisense oligonucleotides to suppress genes to mimic loss of function variants. Through complementation of MO-induced phenotypes with capped human mRNA, our approach enables the interpretation of the deleterious effect of mutations on human protein sequence based on the ability of mutant mRNA to rescue a measurable, physiologically relevant phenotype. Modeling of the human disease alleles occurs through microinjection of zebrafish embryos with MO and/or human mRNA at the 1-4 cell stage, and phenotyping up to seven days post fertilization (dpf). This general strategy can be extended to a wide range of disease phenotypes, as demonstrated in the following protocol. We present our established models for morphogenetic signaling, craniofacial, cardiac, vascular integrity, renal function, and skeletal muscle disorder phenotypes, as well as others.
PMCID: PMC3856313  PMID: 23995499
Molecular Biology; Issue 78; Genetics; Biomedical Engineering; Medicine; Developmental Biology; Biochemistry; Anatomy; Physiology; Bioengineering; Genomics; Medical; zebrafish; in vivo; morpholino; human disease modeling; transcription; PCR; mRNA; DNA; Danio rerio; animal model
11.  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
12.  Evolutionarily Assembled cis-Regulatory Module at a Human Ciliopathy Locus 
Science (New York, N.Y.)  2012;335(6071):966-969.
Neighboring genes are often coordinately expressed within cis-regulatory modules, but evidence that nonparalogous genes share functions in mammals is lacking. Here, we report that mutation of either TMEM138 or TMEM216 causes a phenotypically indistinguishable human ciliopathy, Joubert syndrome. Despite a lack of sequence homology, the genes are aligned in a head-to-tail configuration and joined by chromosomal rearrangement at the amphibian-to-reptile evolutionary transition. Expression of the two genes is mediated by a conserved regulatory element in the noncoding intergenic region. Coordinated expression is important for their interdependent cellular role in vesicular transport to primary cilia. Hence, during vertebrate evolution of genes involved in ciliogenesis, nonparalogous genes were arranged to a functional gene cluster with shared regulatory elements.
PMCID: PMC3671610  PMID: 22282472
13.  Pitchfork Regulates Primary Cilia Dizsassembly and Left-Right Asymmetry 
Developmental cell  2010;19(1):66-77.
A variety of developmental disorders have been associated with ciliary defects, yet the controls that govern cilia disassembly are largely unknown. Here we report a mouse embryonic node gene, which we named Pitchfork (Pifo). Pifo associates with ciliary targeting complexes and accumulates at the basal body during cilia disassembly. Haploinsufficiency causes a unique node cilia duplication phenotype, left-right asymmetry defects, and heart failure. This phenotype is likely relevant in humans, because we identified a heterozygous R80K PIFO mutation in a fetus with situs inversus and cystic liver and kidneys, and in patient with double-outflow right ventricle. We show that PIFO, but not R80K PIFO, is sufficient to activate Aurora A, a protooncogenic kinase that induces cilia retraction, and that Pifo/PIFO mutation causes cilia retraction, basal body liberation, and overreplication defects. Thus, the observation of a disassembly phenotype in vivo provides an entry point to understand and categorize ciliary disease.
PMCID: PMC3671612  PMID: 20643351
14.  The ciliopathies: A transitional model into systems biology of human genetic disease 
The last decade has witnessed an explosion in the identification of genes, mutations in which appear sufficient to cause clinical phenotypes in humans. This is especially true for disorders of ciliary dysfunction in which an excess of 50 causal loci are now known; this discovery was driven in part by an improved understanding of the protein composition of the cilium and the co-occurrence of clinical phenotypes associated with ciliary dysfunction. Despite this progress, the fundamental challenge of predicting phenotype and or clinical progression based on single locus information remains unsolved. Here, we explore how the combinatorial knowledge of allele quality and quantity, an improved understanding of the biological composition of the primary cilium, and the expanded appreciation of the subcellular roles of this organelle can be synthesized to generate improved models that can explain both causality but also variable penetrance and expressivity.
PMCID: PMC3509787  PMID: 22632799
15.  Mutations in LRRC50 Predispose Zebrafish and Humans to Seminomas 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(4):e1003384.
Seminoma is a subclass of human testicular germ cell tumors (TGCT), the most frequently observed cancer in young men with a rising incidence. Here we describe the identification of a novel gene predisposing specifically to seminoma formation in a vertebrate model organism. Zebrafish carrying a heterozygous nonsense mutation in Leucine-Rich Repeat Containing protein 50 (lrrc50 also called dnaaf1), associated previously with ciliary function, are found to be highly susceptible to the formation of seminomas. Genotyping of these zebrafish tumors shows loss of heterozygosity (LOH) of the wild-type lrrc50 allele in 44.4% of tumor samples, correlating with tumor progression. In humans we identified heterozygous germline LRRC50 mutations in two different pedigrees with a family history of seminomas, resulting in a nonsense Arg488* change and a missense Thr590Met change, which show reduced expression of the wild-type allele in seminomas. Zebrafish in vivo complementation studies indicate the Thr590Met to be a loss-of-function mutation. Moreover, we show that a pathogenic Gln307Glu change is significantly enriched in individuals with seminoma tumors (13% of our cohort). Together, our study introduces an animal model for seminoma and suggests LRRC50 to be a novel tumor suppressor implicated in human seminoma pathogenesis.
Author Summary
Testicular Germ Cell Tumors are frequently occurring tumors, affecting 1 in 500 individuals. Of this diverse group, the subtype seminoma is most prevalent and is the most common tumor type found in men aged 20–40 years of age. In contrast to other frequently occurring tumor types, there is very little information on the genetic components that form risk factors for seminoma. In this study we describe the unexpected finding that zebrafish carrying a heterozygous mutation in the lrrc50/dnaaf1 gene have a high incidence for testicular germ cell tumor formation. Detailed analysis suggests that these tumors resemble human seminoma. We therefore analyzed this gene in a subset of human seminoma samples and recovered mutations that were subsequently demonstrated to prohibit protein function. Seminomas were also previously found in family members of these patients, suggesting that a genetic component is the underlying cause. We thus identified a novel gene that can be considered a risk factor for human seminoma, and we describe an animal model system that is valuable for further seminoma research.
PMCID: PMC3627517  PMID: 23599692
16.  CCDC39 is required for assembly of inner dynein arms and the dynein regulatory complex and for normal ciliary motility in humans and dogs 
Nature genetics  2010;43(1):72-78.
Primary ciliary dyskinesia (PCD) is an inherited disorder characterized by recurrent infections of the upper and lower respiratory tract, reduced fertility in males and situs inversus in about 50% of affected individuals (Kartagener syndrome). It is caused by motility defects in the respiratory cilia that are responsible for airway clearance, the flagella that propel sperm cells and the nodal monocilia that determine left-right asymmetry1. Recessive mutations that cause PCD have been identified in genes encoding components of the outer dynein arms, radial spokes and cytoplasmic pre-assembly factors of axonemal dyneins, but these mutations account for only about 50% of cases of PCD. We exploited the unique properties of dog populations to positionally clone a new PCD gene, CCDC39. We found that loss-of-function mutations in the human ortholog underlie a substantial fraction of PCD cases with axonemal disorganization and abnormal ciliary beating. Functional analyses indicated that CCDC39 localizes to ciliary axonemes and is essential for assembly of inner dynein arms and the dynein regulatory complex.
PMCID: PMC3509786  PMID: 21131972
17.  TTC21B contributes both causal and modifying alleles across the ciliopathy spectrum 
Nature genetics  2011;43(3):189-196.
Ciliary dysfunction leads to a broad range of overlapping phenotypes, termed collectively as ciliopathies. This grouping is underscored by genetic overlap, where causal genes can also contribute modifying alleles to clinically distinct disorders. Here we show that mutations in TTC21B/IFT139, encoding a retrograde intraflagellar transport (IFT) protein, cause both isolated nephronophthisis (NPHP) and syndromic Jeune Asphyxiating Thoracic Dystrophy (JATD). Moreover, although systematic medical resequencing of a large, clinically diverse ciliopathy cohort and matched controls showed a similar frequency of rare changes, in vivo and in vitro evaluations unmasked a significant enrichment of pathogenic alleles in cases, suggesting that TTC21B contributes pathogenic alleles to ∼5% of ciliopathy patients. Our data illustrate how genetic lesions can be both causally associated with diverse ciliopathies, as well as interact in trans with other disease-causing genes, and highlight how saturated resequencing followed by functional analysis of all variants informs the genetic architecture of disorders.
PMCID: PMC3071301  PMID: 21258341
18.  Identification of 11 Novel Mutations in 8 BBS Genes by High-Resolution Homozygosity Mapping 
Journal of medical genetics  2009;47(4):262-267.
Bardet-Biedl syndrome (BBS) is primarily an autosomal recessive disorder characterized by the five cardinal features retinitis pigmentosa, postaxial polydactyly, mental retardation, obesity and hypogenitalism. In addition, renal cysts and other anomalies of the kidney and urinary tract can be present. To date, mutations in 12 BBS genes as well as in MKS1 and CEP290 have been identified as causing BBS. The vast genetic heterogeneity of BBS renders molecular genetic diagnosis difficult in terms of both the time and cost required to screen all 204 coding exons. Here, we report the use of genome-wide homozygosity mapping as a tool to identify homozygous segments at known BBS loci in BBS individuals from inbred and outbred background. In a worldwide cohort of 45 families, we identified, via direct exon sequencing, causative homozygous mutations in 20 families. Eleven of these mutations were novel, thereby increasing the number of known BBS mutations by 5% (11/218). Thus, in the presence of extreme genetic locus heterogeneity, homozygosity mapping provides a valuable approach to the molecular genetic diagnosis of BBS and will facilitate the discovery of novel pathogenic mutations.
PMCID: PMC3017466  PMID: 19797195
Molecular Genetics
19.  The Vertebrate Primary Cilium in Development, Homeostasis, and Disease 
Cell  2009;137(1):32-45.
Cilia are complex structures that have garnered interest because of their roles in vertebrate development and their involvement in human genetic disorders. In contrast to multicellular invertebrates in which cilia are restricted to specific cell types, these organelles are found almost ubiquitously in vertebrate cells, where they serve a diverse set of signaling functions. Here, we highlight properties of vertebrate cilia, with particular emphasis on their relationship with other subcellular structures, and explore the physiological consequences of ciliary dysfunction.
PMCID: PMC3016012  PMID: 19345185
20.  Mutations in TMEM216 perturb ciliogenesis and cause Joubert, Meckel and related syndromes 
Nature genetics  2010;42(7):619-625.
Joubert syndrome (JBTS), related disorders (JSRD) and Meckel syndrome (MKS) are ciliopathies. We now report that MKS2 and JBTS2 loci are allelic and due to mutations in TMEM216, encoding an uncharacterized tetraspan transmembrane protein. JBTS2 patients displayed frequent nephronophthisis and polydactytly, and two cases conformed to the Oro-Facio-Digital type VI phenotype, whereas skeletal dysplasia was common in MKS fetuses. A single p.R73L mutation was identified in all patients of Ashkenazi Jewish descent (n=10). TMEM216 localized to the base of primary cilia, and loss of TMEM216 in patient fibroblasts or following siRNA knockdown caused defective ciliogenesis and centrosomal docking, with concomitant hyperactivation of RhoA and Dishevelled. TMEM216 complexed with Meckelin, encoded by a gene also mutated in JSRD and MKS. Abrogation of tmem216 expression in zebrafish led to gastrulation defects that overlap with other ciliary morphants. The data implicate a new family of proteins in the ciliopathies, and further support allelism between ciliopathy disorders.
PMCID: PMC2894012  PMID: 20512146
22.  Individuals with mutations in XPNPEP3, which encodes a mitochondrial protein, develop a nephronophthisis-like nephropathy  
The autosomal recessive kidney disease nephronophthisis (NPHP) constitutes the most frequent genetic cause of terminal renal failure in the first 3 decades of life. Ten causative genes (NPHP1–NPHP9 and NPHP11), whose products localize to the primary cilia-centrosome complex, support the unifying concept that cystic kidney diseases are “ciliopathies”. Using genome-wide homozygosity mapping, we report here what we believe to be a new locus (NPHP-like 1 [NPHPL1]) for an NPHP-like nephropathy. In 2 families with an NPHP-like phenotype, we detected homozygous frameshift and splice-site mutations, respectively, in the X-prolyl aminopeptidase 3 (XPNPEP3) gene. In contrast to all known NPHP proteins, XPNPEP3 localizes to mitochondria of renal cells. However, in vivo analyses also revealed a likely cilia-related function; suppression of zebrafish xpnpep3 phenocopied the developmental phenotypes of ciliopathy morphants, and this effect was rescued by human XPNPEP3 that was devoid of a mitochondrial localization signal. Consistent with a role for XPNPEP3 in ciliary function, several ciliary cystogenic proteins were found to be XPNPEP3 substrates, for which resistance to N-terminal proline cleavage resulted in attenuated protein function in vivo in zebrafish. Our data highlight an emerging link between mitochondria and ciliary dysfunction, and suggest that further understanding the enzymatic activity and substrates of XPNPEP3 will illuminate novel cystogenic pathways.
PMCID: PMC2827951  PMID: 20179356
23.  A common allele in RPGRIP1L is a modifier of retinal degeneration in ciliopathies 
Nature genetics  2009;41(6):739-745.
Despite rapid advances in disease gene identification, the predictive power of the genotype remains limited, in part due to poorly understood effects of second-site modifiers. Here we demonstrate that a polymorphic coding variant of RPGRIP1L (retinitis pigmentosa GTPase regulator-interacting protein-1 like), a ciliary gene mutated in Meckel-Gruber (MKS) and Joubert (JBTS) syndromes, is associated with the development of retinal degeneration in patients with ciliopathies caused by mutations in other genes. As part of our resequencing efforts of the ciliary proteome, we identified several putative loss of function RPGRIP1L mutations, including one common variant, A229T. Multiple genetic lines of evidence showed this allele to be associated with photoreceptor loss in ciliopathies. Moreover, we show that RPGRIP1L interacts biochemically with RPGR, loss of which causes retinal degeneration, and that the 229T-encoded protein significantly compromises this interaction. Our data represent an example of modification of a discrete phenotype of syndromic disease and highlight the importance of a multifaceted approach for the discovery of modifier alleles of intermediate frequency and effect.
PMCID: PMC2783476  PMID: 19430481
24.  An Essential Role for DYF-11/MIP-T3 in Assembling Functional Intraflagellar Transport Complexes 
PLoS Genetics  2008;4(3):e1000044.
MIP-T3 is a human protein found previously to associate with microtubules and the kinesin-interacting neuronal protein DISC1 (Disrupted-in-Schizophrenia 1), but whose cellular function(s) remains unknown. Here we demonstrate that the C. elegans MIP-T3 ortholog DYF-11 is an intraflagellar transport (IFT) protein that plays a critical role in assembling functional kinesin motor-IFT particle complexes. We have cloned a loss of function dyf-11 mutant in which several key components of the IFT machinery, including Kinesin-II, as well as IFT subcomplex A and B proteins, fail to enter ciliary axonemes and/or mislocalize, resulting in compromised ciliary structures and sensory functions, and abnormal lipid accumulation. Analyses in different mutant backgrounds further suggest that DYF-11 functions as a novel component of IFT subcomplex B. Consistent with an evolutionarily conserved cilia-associated role, mammalian MIP-T3 localizes to basal bodies and cilia, and zebrafish mipt3 functions synergistically with the Bardet-Biedl syndrome protein Bbs4 to ensure proper gastrulation, a key cilium- and basal body-dependent developmental process. Our findings therefore implicate MIP-T3 in a previously unknown but critical role in cilium biogenesis and further highlight the emerging role of this organelle in vertebrate development.
Author Summary
The transport of protein complexes and associated cargo along microtubule tracks represents an essential eukaryotic process responsible for a multitude of cellular functions, including cell division, vesicle movement to membranes, and trafficking along dendrites, axons, and cilia. The latter organelles are hair-like cellular appendages implicated in cell and fluid motility, sensing and transducing information from their environment, and development. Their biogenesis and maintenance depends on a kinesin- and dynein-mediated motility process termed intraflagellar transport (IFT). In addition to comprising these specialized molecular motors, the IFT machinery consists of large multisubunit complexes whose exact composition and organization has not been fully defined. Here we identify a protein, DYF-11/MIP-T3, that is conserved in all ciliated organisms and is associated with IFT in C. elegans. Disruption of C. elegans DYF-11 results in structurally compromised cilia, likely as a result of IFT motor and subunit misassembly. Animals lacking DYF-11 display chemosensory anomalies, consistent with a role for the protein in cilia-associated sensory processes. In zebrafish, MIP-T3 is essential for gastrulation movements during development, similar to that observed for other ciliary components, including Bardet-Biedl syndrome proteins. In conclusion, we have identified a novel IFT machinery component that is also essential for development in vertebrates.
PMCID: PMC2268012  PMID: 18369462

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