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1.  SGCE mutations cause psychiatric disorders: clinical and genetic characterization 
Brain : a journal of neurology  2013;136(0 1):294-303.
Myoclonus dystonia syndrome is a childhood onset hyperkinetic movement disorder characterized by predominant alcohol responsive upper body myoclonus and dystonia. A proportion of cases are due to mutations in the maternally imprinted SGCE gene. Previous studies have suggested that patients with SGCE mutations may have an increased rate of psychiatric disorders. We established a cohort of patients with myoclonus dystonia syndrome and SGCE mutations to determine the extent to which psychiatric disorders form part of the disease phenotype. In all, 89 patients with clinically suspected myoclonus dystonia syndrome were recruited from the UK and Ireland. SGCE was analysed using direct sequencing and for copy number variants. In those patients where no mutation was found TOR1A (GAG deletion), GCH1, THAP1 and NKX2-1 were also sequenced. SGCE mutation positive cases were systematically assessed using standardized psychiatric interviews and questionnaires and compared with a disability-matched control group of patients with alcohol responsive tremor. Nineteen (21%) probands had a SGCE mutation, five of which were novel. Recruitment of family members increased the affected SGCE mutation positive group to 27 of whom 21 (77%) had psychiatric symptoms. Obsessive–compulsive disorder was eight times more likely (P < 0.001) in mutation positive cases, compulsivity being the predominant feature (P < 0.001). Generalized anxiety disorder (P = 0.003) and alcohol dependence (P = 0.02) were five times more likely in mutation positive cases than tremor controls. SGCE mutations are associated with a specific psychiatric phenotype consisting of compulsivity, anxiety and alcoholism in addition to the characteristic motor phenotype. SGCE mutations are likely to have a pleiotropic effect in causing both motor and specific psychiatric symptoms.
doi:10.1093/brain/aws308
PMCID: PMC4052887  PMID: 23365103
myoclonus dystonia; SGCE; psychiatric disorders
2.  Prevalence of genetic muscle disease in Northern England: in-depth analysis of a muscle clinic population 
Brain : a journal of neurology  2009;132(0 11):3175-3186.
We have performed a detailed population study of patients with genetic muscle disease in the northern region of England. Our current clinic population comprises over 1100 patients in whom we have molecularly characterized 31 separate muscle disease entities. Diagnostic clarity achieved through careful delineation of clinical features supported by histological, immunological and genetic analysis has allowed us to reach a definitive diagnosis in 75.7% of our patients. We have compared our case profile with that from Walton and Nattrass’ seminal study from 1954, also of the northern region, together with data from other more recent studies from around the world. Point prevalence figures for each of the five major disease categories are comparable with those from other recent studies. Myotonic dystrophies are the most common, comprising 28.6% of our clinic population with a point prevalence of 10.6/100 000. Next most frequent are the dystrophinopathies and facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy making up 22.9% (8.46/100 000) and 10.7% (3.95/100 000) of the clinic population, respectively. Spinal muscular atrophy patients account for 5.1% or 1.87/100 000 patients. Limb girdle muscular dystrophy, which was described for the first time in the paper by Walton and Nattrass (1954) and comprised 17% of their clinic population, comprises 6.2% of our clinic population at a combined prevalence of 2.27/100 000. The clinic population included patients with 12 other muscle disorders. These disorders ranged from a point prevalence of 0.89/100 000 for the group of congenital muscular dystrophies to conditions with only two affected individuals in a population of three million. For the first time our study provides epidemiological information for X-linked Emery–Dreifuss muscular dystrophy and the collagen VI disorders. Each of the X-linked form of Emery–Dreifuss muscular dystrophy and Ullrich muscular dystrophy has a prevalence of 0.13/100 000, making both very rare. Bethlem myopathy was relatively more common with a prevalence of 0.77/100 000. Overall our study provides comprehensive epidemiological information on individually rare inherited neuromuscular conditions in Northern England. Despite the deliberate exclusion of relatively common groups such as hereditary motor and sensory neuropathy (40/100 000) and mitochondrial disorders (9.2/100 000), the combined prevalence is 37.0/100 000, demonstrating that these disorders, taken as a group, encompass a significant proportion of patients with chronic disease. The study also illustrates the immense diagnostic progress since the first regional survey over 50 years ago by Walton and Nattrass.
doi:10.1093/brain/awp236
PMCID: PMC4038491  PMID: 19767415
population study; prevalence; Northern England; inherited neuromuscular diseases; muscular dystrophy
3.  A founder mutation in Anoctamin 5 is a major cause of limb girdle muscular dystrophy 
Brain : a journal of neurology  2011;134(0 1):171-182.
The limb girdle muscular dystrophies (LGMDs) are a group of disorders with wide genetic and clinical heterogeneity. Recently, mutations in the ANO5 gene, which encodes a putative calcium-activated chloride channel belonging to the Anoctamin family of proteins, were identified in five families with one of two previously identified disorders, LGMD2L and non-dysferlin Miyoshi muscular dystrophy (MMD3). We screened a candidate group of 64 patients from 59 British and German kindreds and found the truncating mutation, c.191dupA in exon 5 of ANO5 in 20 patients, homozygously in 15 and in compound heterozygosity with other ANO5 variants in the rest. An intragenic SNP and an extragenic microsatellite marker are in linkage disequilibrium with the mutation, suggesting a founder effect in the Northern European population. We have further defined the clinical phenotype of ANO5-associated muscular dystrophy. Patients show adult onset proximal lower limb weakness with highly raised creatinine kinase (CK) values (average 4500 IU/l) and frequent muscle atrophy and asymmetry of muscle involvement. Onset varies from the early 20s to 50s and the weakness is generally slowly progressive, with most patients remaining ambulant for several decades. Distal presentation is much less common but a milder degree of distal lower limb weakness is often observed. Upper limb strength is only mildly affected and cardiac and respiratory function is normal. Females appear less frequently affected. In the North of England population we have identified eight patients with ANO5 mutations, suggesting a minimum prevalence of 0.27/100 000, twice as common as dysferlinopathy. We suggest that mutations in ANO5 represent a relatively common cause of adult onset muscular dystrophy with high CK and that mutation screening, particularly of the common mutation c.191dupA, should be an early step in the diagnostic algorithm of adult LGMD patients.
doi:10.1093/brain/awq294
PMCID: PMC4038512  PMID: 21186264
Autosomal recessive; genetic or acquired neuromuscular disorders; muscle; muscular dystrophy
5.  Efficient mitochondrial biogenesis drives incomplete penetrance in Leber’s hereditary optic neuropathy 
Brain  2013;137(2):335-353.
The mechanisms of incomplete penetrance in Leber’s hereditary optic neuropathy are elusive. Giordano et al. show that mitochondrial DNA content and mitochondrial mass are both increased in tissues and cells from unaffected mutation carriers relative to affected relatives and control individuals. Upregulation of mitochondrial biogenesis may represent a therapeutic target.
Leber’s hereditary optic neuropathy is a maternally inherited blinding disease caused as a result of homoplasmic point mutations in complex I subunit genes of mitochondrial DNA. It is characterized by incomplete penetrance, as only some mutation carriers become affected. Thus, the mitochondrial DNA mutation is necessary but not sufficient to cause optic neuropathy. Environmental triggers and genetic modifying factors have been considered to explain its variable penetrance. We measured the mitochondrial DNA copy number and mitochondrial mass indicators in blood cells from affected and carrier individuals, screening three large pedigrees and 39 independently collected smaller families with Leber’s hereditary optic neuropathy, as well as muscle biopsies and cells isolated by laser capturing from post-mortem specimens of retina and optic nerves, the latter being the disease targets. We show that unaffected mutation carriers have a significantly higher mitochondrial DNA copy number and mitochondrial mass compared with their affected relatives and control individuals. Comparative studies of fibroblasts from affected, carriers and controls, under different paradigms of metabolic demand, show that carriers display the highest capacity for activating mitochondrial biogenesis. Therefore we postulate that the increased mitochondrial biogenesis in carriers may overcome some of the pathogenic effect of mitochondrial DNA mutations. Screening of a few selected genetic variants in candidate genes involved in mitochondrial biogenesis failed to reveal any significant association. Our study provides a valuable mechanism to explain variability of penetrance in Leber’s hereditary optic neuropathy and clues for high throughput genetic screening to identify the nuclear modifying gene(s), opening an avenue to develop predictive genetic tests on disease risk and therapeutic strategies.
doi:10.1093/brain/awt343
PMCID: PMC3914475  PMID: 24369379
LHON penetrance; mitochondrial biogenesis; mtDNA copy number
7.  Spastic paraplegia gene 7 in patients with spasticity and/or optic neuropathy 
Brain  2012;135(10):2980-2993.
Mutations in the spastic paraplegia 7 (SPG7) gene encoding paraplegin are responsible for autosomal recessive hereditary spasticity. We screened 135 unrelated index cases, selected in five different settings: SPG7-positive patients detected during SPG31 analysis using SPG31/SPG7 multiplex ligation-dependent probe amplification (n = 7); previously reported ambiguous SPG7 cases (n = 5); patients carefully selected on the basis of their phenotype (spasticity of the lower limbs with cerebellar signs and/or cerebellar atrophy on magnetic resonance imaging/computer tomography scan and/or optic neuropathy and without other signs) (n = 24); patients with hereditary spastic paraparesis referred consecutively from attending neurologists and the national reference centre in a diagnostic setting (n = 98); and the index case of a four-generation family with autosomal dominant optic neuropathy but no spasticity linked to the SPG7 locus. We identified two SPG7 mutations in 23/134 spastic patients, 21% of the patients selected according to phenotype but only 8% of those referred directly. Our results confirm the pathogenicity of Ala510Val, which was the most frequent mutation in our series (65%) and segregated at the homozygous state with spastic paraparesis in a large family with autosomal recessive inheritance. All SPG7-positive patients tested had optic neuropathy or abnormalities revealed by optical coherence tomography, indicating that abnormalities in optical coherence tomography could be a clinical biomarker for SPG7 testing. In addition, the presence of late-onset very slowly progressive spastic gait (median age 39 years, range 18–52 years) associated with cerebellar ataxia (39%) or cerebellar atrophy (47%) constitute, with abnormal optical coherence tomography, key features pointing towards SPG7-testing. Interestingly, three relatives of patients with heterozygote SPG7 mutations had cerebellar signs and atrophy, or peripheral neuropathy, but no spasticity of the lower limbs, suggesting that SPG7 mutations at the heterozygous state might predispose to late-onset neurodegenerative disorders, mimicking autosomal dominant inheritance. Finally, a novel missense SPG7 mutation at the heterozygous state (Asp411Ala) was identified as the cause of autosomal dominant optic neuropathy in a large family, indicating that some SPG7 mutations can occasionally be dominantly inherited and be an uncommon cause of isolated optic neuropathy. Altogether, these results emphasize the clinical variability associated with SPG7 mutations, ranging from optic neuropathy to spastic paraplegia, and support the view that SPG7 screening should be carried out in both conditions.
doi:10.1093/brain/aws240
PMCID: PMC3470714  PMID: 23065789
SPG7; hereditary spastic paraparesis; optic neuropathy; cerebellar atrophy, optical coherence tomography
8.  Titin mutation segregates with hereditary myopathy with early respiratory failure 
Brain  2012;135(6):1695-1713.
In 2001, we described an autosomal dominant myopathy characterized by neuromuscular ventilatory failure in ambulant patients. Here we describe the underlying genetic basis for the disorder, and we define the neuromuscular, respiratory and radiological phenotype in a study of 31 mutation carriers followed for up to 31 years. A combination of genome-wide linkage and whole exome sequencing revealed the likely causal genetic variant in the titin (TTN) gene (g.274375T>C; p.Cys30071Arg) within a shared haplotype of 2.93 Mbp on chromosome 2. This segregated with the phenotype in 21 individuals from the original family, nine subjects in a second family with the same highly selective pattern of muscle involvement on magnetic resonance imaging and a third familial case with a similar phenotype. Comparing the mutation carriers revealed novel features not apparent in our original report. The clinical presentation included predominant distal, proximal or respiratory muscle weakness. The age of onset was highly variable, from early adulthood, and including a mild phenotype in advanced age. Muscle weakness was earlier onset and more severe in the lower extremities in nearly all patients. Seven patients also had axial muscle weakness. Respiratory function studies demonstrated a gradual deterioration over time, reflecting the progressive nature of this condition. Cardiomyopathy was not present in any of our patients despite up to 31 years of follow-up. Magnetic resonance muscle imaging was performed in 21 affected patients and revealed characteristic abnormalities with semitendinosus involvement in 20 of 21 patients studied, including 3 patients who were presymptomatic. Diagnostic muscle histopathology most frequently revealed eosinophilic inclusions (inclusion bodies) and rimmed vacuoles, but was non-specific in a minority of patients. These findings have important clinical implications. This disease should be considered in patients with adult-onset proximal or distal myopathy and early respiratory failure, even in the presence of non-specific muscle pathology. Muscle magnetic resonance imaging findings are characteristic and should be considered as an initial investigation, and if positive should prompt screening for mutations in TTN. With 363 exons, screening TTN presented a major challenge until recently. However, whole exome sequencing provides a reliable cost-effective approach, providing the gene of interest is adequately captured.
doi:10.1093/brain/aws102
PMCID: PMC3359754  PMID: 22577215
hereditary myopathy with early respiratory failure; cytoplasmic body; titin; exome sequencing; distal myopathy
9.  Reply: Sensorineural hearing loss in OPA1-linked disorders 
Brain  2013;136(7):e237.
doi:10.1093/brain/aws341
PMCID: PMC3692041  PMID: 23650221
10.  What is influencing the phenotype of the common homozygous polymerase-γ mutation p.Ala467Thr? 
Brain  2012;135(12):3614-3626.
Polymerase-γ (POLG) is a major human disease gene and may account for up to 25% of all mitochondrial diseases in the UK and in Italy. To date, >150 different pathogenic mutations have been described in POLG. Some mutations behave as both dominant and recessive alleles, but an autosomal recessive inheritance pattern is much more common. The most frequently detected pathogenic POLG mutation in the Caucasian population is c.1399G>A leading to a p.Ala467Thr missense mutation in the linker domain of the protein. Although many patients are homozygous for this mutation, clinical presentation is highly variable, ranging from childhood-onset Alpers-Huttenlocher syndrome to adult-onset sensory ataxic neuropathy dysarthria and ophthalmoparesis. The reasons for this are not clear, but familial clustering of phenotypes suggests that modifying factors may influence the clinical manifestation. In this study, we collected clinical, histological and biochemical data from 68 patients carrying the homozygous p.Ala467Thr mutation from eight diagnostic centres in Europe and the USA. We performed DNA analysis in 44 of these patients to search for a genetic modifier within POLG and flanking regions potentially involved in the regulation of gene expression, and extended our analysis to other genes affecting mitochondrial DNA maintenance (POLG2, PEO1 and ANT1). The clinical presentation included almost the entire phenotypic spectrum of all known POLG mutations. Interestingly, the clinical presentation was similar in siblings, implying a genetic basis for the phenotypic variability amongst homozygotes. However, the p.Ala467Thr allele was present on a shared haplotype in each affected individual, and there was no correlation between the clinical presentation and genetic variants in any of the analysed nuclear genes. Patients with mitochondrial DNA haplogroup U developed epilepsy significantly less frequently than patients with any other mitochondrial DNA haplotype. Epilepsy was reported significantly more frequently in females than in males, and also showed an association with one of the chromosomal markers defining the POLG haplotype. In conclusion, our clinical results show that the homozygous p.Ala467Thr POLG mutation does not cause discrete phenotypes, as previously suggested, but rather there is a continuum of clinical symptoms. Our results suggest that the mitochondrial DNA background plays an important role in modifying the disease phenotype but nuclear modifiers, epigenetic and environmental factors may also influence the severity of disease.
doi:10.1093/brain/aws298
PMCID: PMC3525059  PMID: 23250882
mitochondrial diseases; neuromuscular disorders; genetics; phenotype; molecular biology
11.  Adults with RRM2B-related mitochondrial disease have distinct clinical and molecular characteristics 
Brain  2012;135(11):3392-3403.
Mutations in the nuclear-encoded mitochondrial maintenance gene RRM2B are an important cause of familial mitochondrial disease in both adults and children and represent the third most common cause of multiple mitochondrial DNA deletions in adults, following POLG [polymerase (DNA directed), gamma] and PEO1 (now called C10ORF2, encoding the Twinkle helicase) mutations. However, the clinico-pathological and molecular features of adults with RRM2B-related disease have not been clearly defined. In this multicentre study of 26 adult patients from 22 independent families, including five additional cases published in the literature, we show that extra-ocular neurological complications are common in adults with genetically confirmed RRM2B mutations. We also demonstrate a clear correlation between the clinical phenotype and the underlying genetic defect. Myopathy was a prominent manifestation, followed by bulbar dysfunction and fatigue. Sensorineural hearing loss and gastrointestinal disturbance were also important findings. Severe multisystem neurological disease was associated with recessively inherited compound heterozygous mutations with a mean age of disease onset at 7 years. Dominantly inherited heterozygous mutations were associated with a milder predominantly myopathic phenotype with a later mean age of disease onset at 46 years. Skeletal muscle biopsies revealed subsarcolemmal accumulation of mitochondria and/or cytochrome c oxidase-deficient fibres. Multiple mitochondrial DNA deletions were universally present in patients who underwent a muscle biopsy. We identified 18 different heterozygous RRM2B mutations within our cohort of patients, including five novel mutations that have not previously been reported. Despite marked clinical overlap between the mitochondrial maintenance genes, key clinical features such as bulbar dysfunction, hearing loss and gastrointestinal disturbance should help prioritize genetic testing towards RRM2B analysis, and sequencing of the gene may preclude performance of a muscle biopsy.
doi:10.1093/brain/aws231
PMCID: PMC3501970  PMID: 23107649
mitochondrial DNA; mtDNA maintenance; mtDNA depletion; multiple mitochondrial DNA deletions; RRM2B
13.  A randomized placebo-controlled trial of idebenone in Leber’s hereditary optic neuropathy 
Brain  2011;134(9):2677-2686.
Major advances in understanding the pathogenesis of inherited metabolic disease caused by mitochondrial DNA mutations have yet to translate into treatments of proven efficacy. Leber’s hereditary optic neuropathy is the most common mitochondrial DNA disorder causing irreversible blindness in young adult life. Anecdotal reports support the use of idebenone in Leber’s hereditary optic neuropathy, but this has not been evaluated in a randomized controlled trial. We conducted a 24-week multi-centre double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial in 85 patients with Leber’s hereditary optic neuropathy due to m.3460G>A, m.11778G>A, and m.14484T>C or mitochondrial DNA mutations. The active drug was idebenone 900 mg/day. The primary end-point was the best recovery in visual acuity. The main secondary end-point was the change in best visual acuity. Other secondary end-points were changes in visual acuity of the best eye at baseline and changes in visual acuity for both eyes in each patient. Colour-contrast sensitivity and retinal nerve fibre layer thickness were measured in subgroups. Idebenone was safe and well tolerated. The primary end-point did not reach statistical significance in the intention to treat population. However, post hoc interaction analysis showed a different response to idebenone in patients with discordant visual acuities at baseline; in these patients, all secondary end-points were significantly different between the idebenone and placebo groups. This first randomized controlled trial in the mitochondrial disorder, Leber’s hereditary optic neuropathy, provides evidence that patients with discordant visual acuities are the most likely to benefit from idebenone treatment, which is safe and well tolerated.
doi:10.1093/brain/awr170
PMCID: PMC3170530  PMID: 21788663
LHON; idebenone; mitochondrial disease; mitochondrial encephalomyopathy; mitochondrial DNA; optic atrophy; optic neuropathy
15.  Nuclear factors involved in mitochondrial translation cause a subgroup of combined respiratory chain deficiency 
Brain  2010;134(1):183-195.
Mutations in several mitochondrial DNA and nuclear genes involved in mitochondrial protein synthesis have recently been reported in combined respiratory chain deficiency, indicating a generalized defect in mitochondrial translation. However, the number of patients with pathogenic mutations is small, implying that nuclear defects of mitochondrial translation are either underdiagnosed or intrauterine lethal. No comprehensive studies have been reported on large cohorts of patients with combined respiratory chain deficiency addressing the role of nuclear genes affecting mitochondrial protein synthesis to date. We investigated a cohort of 52 patients with combined respiratory chain deficiency without causative mitochondrial DNA mutations, rearrangements or depletion, to determine whether a defect in mitochondrial translation defines the pathomechanism of their clinical disease. We followed a combined approach of sequencing known nuclear genes involved in mitochondrial protein synthesis (EFG1, EFTu, EFTs, MRPS16, TRMU), as well as performing in vitro functional studies in 22 patient cell lines. The majority of our patients were children (<15 years), with an early onset of symptoms <1 year of age (65%). The most frequent clinical presentation was mitochondrial encephalomyopathy (63%); however, a number of patients showed cardiomyopathy (33%), isolated myopathy (15%) or hepatopathy (13%). Genomic sequencing revealed compound heterozygous mutations in the mitochondrial transfer ribonucleic acid modifying factor (TRMU) in a single patient only, presenting with early onset, reversible liver disease. No pathogenic mutation was detected in any of the remaining 51 patients in the other genes analysed. In vivo labelling of mitochondrial polypeptides in 22 patient cell lines showed overall (three patients) or selective (four patients) defects of mitochondrial translation. Immunoblotting for mitochondrial proteins revealed decreased steady state levels of proteins in some patients, but normal or increased levels in others, indicating a possible compensatory mechanism. In summary, candidate gene sequencing in this group of patients has a very low detection rate (1/52), although in vivo labelling of mitochondrial translation in 22 patient cell lines indicate that a nuclear defect affecting mitochondrial protein synthesis is responsible for about one-third of combined respiratory chain deficiencies (7/22). In the remaining patients, the impaired respiratory chain activity is most likely the consequence of several different events downstream of mitochondrial translation. Clinical classification of patients with biochemical analysis, genetic testing and, more importantly, in vivo labelling and immunoblotting of mitochondrial proteins show incoherent results, but a systematic review of these data in more patients may reveal underlying mechanisms, and facilitate the identification of novel factors involved in combined respiratory chain deficiency.
doi:10.1093/brain/awq320
PMCID: PMC3707321  PMID: 21169334
mitochondrial translation; combined respiratory chain deficiency; early-onset encephalomyopathy
17.  Molecular basis of infantile reversible cytochrome c oxidase deficiency myopathy 
Brain  2009;132(11):3165-3174.
Childhood-onset mitochondrial encephalomyopathies are usually severe, relentlessly progressive conditions that have a fatal outcome. However, a puzzling infantile disorder, long known as ‘benign cytochrome c oxidase deficiency myopathy’ is an exception because it shows spontaneous recovery if infants survive the first months of life. Current investigations cannot distinguish those with a good prognosis from those with terminal disease, making it very difficult to decide when to continue intensive supportive care. Here we define the principal molecular basis of the disorder by identifying a maternally inherited, homoplasmic m.14674T>C mt-tRNAGlu mutation in 17 patients from 12 families. Our results provide functional evidence for the pathogenicity of the mutation and show that tissue-specific mechanisms downstream of tRNAGlu may explain the spontaneous recovery. This study provides the rationale for a simple genetic test to identify infants with mitochondrial myopathy and good prognosis.
doi:10.1093/brain/awp221
PMCID: PMC2768660  PMID: 19720722
mitochondrial myopathy; reversible COX deficiency; homoplasmic tRNA mutation

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