Publications by authors named "Christian Babbs"

30 Publications

  • Page 1 of 1

Reactivation of a developmentally silenced embryonic globin gene.

Nat Commun 2021 07 21;12(1):4439. Epub 2021 Jul 21.

MRC Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK.

The α- and β-globin loci harbor developmentally expressed genes, which are silenced throughout post-natal life. Reactivation of these genes may offer therapeutic approaches for the hemoglobinopathies, the most common single gene disorders. Here, we address mechanisms regulating the embryonically expressed α-like globin, termed ζ-globin. We show that in embryonic erythroid cells, the ζ-gene lies within a ~65 kb sub-TAD (topologically associating domain) of open, acetylated chromatin and interacts with the α-globin super-enhancer. By contrast, in adult erythroid cells, the ζ-gene is packaged within a small (~10 kb) sub-domain of hypoacetylated, facultative heterochromatin within the acetylated sub-TAD and that it no longer interacts with its enhancers. The ζ-gene can be partially re-activated by acetylation and inhibition of histone de-acetylases. In addition to suggesting therapies for severe α-thalassemia, these findings illustrate the general principles by which reactivation of developmental genes may rescue abnormalities arising from mutations in their adult paralogues.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41467-021-24402-3DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8295333PMC
July 2021

Recapitulation of erythropoiesis in congenital dyserythropoietic anaemia type I (CDA-I) identifies defects in differentiation and nucleolar abnormalities.

Haematologica 2020 10 29;Online ahead of print. Epub 2020 Oct 29.

Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine, Oxford University, Oxford.

The investigation of inherited disorders of erythropoiesis has elucidated many of the principles underlying the production of normal red blood cells and how this is perturbed in human disease. Congenital Dyserythropoietic Anaemia type 1 (CDA-I) is a rare form of anaemia caused by mutations in two genes of unknown function: CDAN1 and CDIN1 (previously called C15orf41), whilst in some cases, the underlying genetic abnormality is completely unknown. Consequently, the pathways affected in CDA-I remain to be discovered. To enable detailed analysis of this rare disorder we have validated a culture system which recapitulates all of the cardinal haematological features of CDA-I, including the formation of the pathognomonic 'spongy' heterochromatin seen by electron microscopy. Using a variety of cell and molecular biological approaches we discovered that erythroid cells in this condition show a delay during terminal erythroid differentiation, associated with increased proliferation and widespread changes in chromatin accessibility. We also show that the proteins encoded by CDAN1 and CDIN1 are enriched in nucleoli which are structurally and functionally abnormal in CDA-I. Together these findings provide important pointers to the pathways affected in CDA-I which for the first time can now be pursued in the tractable culture system utilised here.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3324/haematol.2020.260158DOI Listing
October 2020

Genetic and functional insights into CDA-I prevalence and pathogenesis.

J Med Genet 2021 03 9;58(3):185-195. Epub 2020 Jun 9.

MRC Molecular Haematology Unit, MRC Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK

Background: Congenital dyserythropoietic anaemia type I (CDA-I) is a hereditary anaemia caused by biallelic mutations in the widely expressed genes and . Little is understood about either protein and it is unclear in which cellular pathways they participate.

Methods: Genetic analysis of a cohort of patients with CDA-I identifies novel pathogenic variants in both known causative genes. We analyse the mutation distribution and the predicted structural positioning of amino acids affected in Codanin-1, the protein encoded by . Using western blotting, immunoprecipitation and immunofluorescence, we determine the effect of particular mutations on both proteins and interrogate protein interaction, stability and subcellular localisation.

Results: We identify six novel mutations and one novel mutation in and uncover evidence of further genetic heterogeneity in CDA-I. Additionally, population genetics suggests that CDA-I is more common than currently predicted. Mutations are enriched in six clusters in Codanin-1 and tend to affect buried residues. Many missense and in-frame mutations do not destabilise the entire protein. Rather C15orf41 relies on Codanin-1 for stability and both proteins, which are enriched in the nucleolus, interact to form an obligate complex in cells.

Conclusion: Stability and interaction data suggest that C15orf41 may be the key determinant of CDA-I and offer insight into the mechanism underlying this disease. Both proteins share a common pathway likely to be present in a wide variety of cell types; however, nucleolar enrichment may provide a clue as to the erythroid specific nature of CDA-I. The surprisingly high predicted incidence of CDA-I suggests that better ascertainment would lead to improved patient care.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/jmedgenet-2020-106880DOI Listing
March 2021

ATR-16 syndrome: mechanisms linking monosomy to phenotype.

J Med Genet 2020 06 31;57(6):414-421. Epub 2020 Jan 31.

MRC Molecular Haematology Unit, MRC Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK

Background: Deletions removing 100s-1000s kb of DNA, and variable numbers of poorly characterised genes, are often found in patients with a wide range of developmental abnormalities. In such cases, understanding the contribution of the deletion to an individual's clinical phenotype is challenging.

Methods: Here, as an example of this common phenomenon, we analysed 41 patients with simple deletions of ~177 to ~2000 kb affecting one allele of the well-characterised, gene dense, distal region of chromosome 16 (16p13.3), referred to as ATR-16 syndrome. We characterised deletion extents and screened for genetic background effects, telomere position effect and compensatory upregulation of hemizygous genes.

Results: We find the risk of developmental and neurological abnormalities arises from much smaller distal chromosome 16 deletions (~400 kb) than previously reported. Beyond this, the severity of ATR-16 syndrome increases with deletion size, but there is no evidence that critical regions determine the developmental abnormalities associated with this disorder. Surprisingly, we find no evidence of telomere position effect or compensatory upregulation of hemizygous genes; however, genetic background effects substantially modify phenotypic abnormalities.

Conclusions: Using ATR-16 as a general model of disorders caused by CNVs, we show the degree to which individuals with contiguous gene syndromes are affected is not simply related to the number of genes deleted but depends on their genetic background. We also show there is no critical region defining the degree of phenotypic abnormalities in ATR-16 syndrome and this has important implications for genetic counselling.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/jmedgenet-2019-106528DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7279195PMC
June 2020

Robust CRISPR/Cas9 Genome Editing of the HUDEP-2 Erythroid Precursor Line Using Plasmids and Single-Stranded Oligonucleotide Donors.

Methods Protoc 2018 Jul 30;1(3). Epub 2018 Jul 30.

MRC Molecular Haematology Unit, MRC Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine, University of Oxford, Oxford OX3 9DS, UK.

The study of cellular processes and gene regulation in terminal erythroid development has been greatly facilitated by the generation of an immortalised erythroid cell line derived from Human Umbilical Derived Erythroid Precursors, termed HUDEP-2 cells. The ability to efficiently genome edit HUDEP-2 cells and make clonal lines hugely expands their utility as the insertion of clinically relevant mutations allows study of potentially every genetic disease affecting red blood cell development. Additionally, insertion of sequences encoding short protein tags such as Strep, FLAG and Myc permits study of protein behaviour in the normal and disease state. This approach is useful to augment the analysis of patient cells as large cell numbers are obtainable with the additional benefit that the need for specific antibodies may be circumvented. This approach is likely to lead to insights into disease mechanisms and provide reagents to allow drug discovery. HUDEP-2 cells provide a favourable alternative to the existing immortalised erythroleukemia lines as their karyotype is much less abnormal. These cells also provide sufficient material for a broad range of analyses as it is possible to generate in vitro-differentiated erythroblasts in numbers 4-7 fold higher than starting cell numbers within 9-12 days of culture. Here we describe an efficient, robust and reproducible plasmid-based methodology to introduce short (<20 bp) DNA sequences into the genome of HUDEP-2 cells using the clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR)/CRISPR associated protein 9 Cas9 system combined with single-stranded oligodeoxynucleotide (ssODN) donors. This protocol produces genetically modified lines in ~30 days and could also be used to generate knock-out and knock-in mutations.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/mps1030028DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6481050PMC
July 2018

The pathogenesis, diagnosis and management of congenital dyserythropoietic anaemia type I.

Br J Haematol 2019 05 5;185(3):436-449. Epub 2019 Mar 5.

MRC Molecular Haematology Unit, MRC Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK.

Congenital dyserythropoietic anaemia type I (CDA-I) is one of a heterogeneous group of inherited anaemias characterised by ineffective erythropoiesis. CDA-I is caused by bi-allelic mutations in either CDAN1 or C15orf41 and, to date, 56 causative mutations have been documented. The diagnostic pathway is reviewed and the utility of genetic testing in reducing the time taken to reach an accurate molecular diagnosis and avoiding bone marrow aspiration, where possible, is described. The management of CDA-I patients is discussed, highlighting both general and specific measures which impact on disease progression. The use of interferon alpha and careful management of iron overload are reviewed and suggest the most favourable outcomes are achieved when CDA-I patients are managed with a holistic and multidisciplinary approach. Finally, the current understanding of the molecular and cellular pathogenesis of CDA-I is presented, highlighting critical questions likely to lead to improved therapy for this disease.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/bjh.15817DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6519365PMC
May 2019

Characterizing and Modeling Bone Formation during Mouse Calvarial Development.

Phys Rev Lett 2019 Feb;122(4):048103

Department of Mechanical Engineering, University College London, Torrington Place, London, WC1E 7JE, United Kingdom.

The newborn mammalian cranial vault consists of five flat bones that are joined together along their edges by soft fibrous tissues called sutures. Early fusion of these sutures leads to a medical condition known as craniosynostosis. The mechanobiology of normal and craniosynostotic skull growth is not well understood. In a series of previous studies, we characterized and modeled radial expansion of normal and craniosynostotic (Crouzon) mice. Here, we describe a new modeling algorithm to simulate bone formation at the sutures in normal and craniosynostotic mice. Our results demonstrate that our modeling approach is capable of predicting the observed ex vivo pattern of bone formation at the sutures in the aforementioned mice. The same approach can be used to model different calvarial reconstruction in children with craniosynostosis to assist in the management of this complex condition.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1103/PhysRevLett.122.048103DOI Listing
February 2019

A tissue-specific self-interacting chromatin domain forms independently of enhancer-promoter interactions.

Nat Commun 2018 09 21;9(1):3849. Epub 2018 Sep 21.

MRC Molecular Haematology Unit, MRC Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine, Oxford University, Oxford, OX3 9DS, UK.

Self-interacting chromatin domains encompass genes and their cis-regulatory elements; however, the three-dimensional form a domain takes, whether this relies on enhancer-promoter interactions, and the processes necessary to mediate the formation and maintenance of such domains, remain unclear. To examine these questions, here we use a combination of high-resolution chromosome conformation capture, a non-denaturing form of fluorescence in situ hybridisation and super-resolution imaging to study a 70 kb domain encompassing the mouse α-globin regulatory locus. We show that this region forms an erythroid-specific, decompacted, self-interacting domain, delimited by frequently apposed CTCF/cohesin binding sites early in terminal erythroid differentiation, and does not require transcriptional elongation for maintenance of the domain structure. Formation of this domain does not rely on interactions between the α-globin genes and their major enhancers, suggesting a transcription-independent mechanism for establishment of the domain. However, absence of the major enhancers does alter internal domain interactions. Formation of a loop domain therefore appears to be a mechanistic process that occurs irrespective of the specific interactions within.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41467-018-06248-4DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6155075PMC
September 2018

Predicting calvarial growth in normal and craniosynostotic mice using a computational approach.

J Anat 2018 03 15;232(3):440-448. Epub 2017 Dec 15.

Department of Mechanical Engineering, University College London, London, UK.

During postnatal calvarial growth the brain grows gradually and the overlying bones and sutures accommodate that growth until the later juvenile stages. The whole process is coordinated through a complex series of biological, chemical and perhaps mechanical signals between various elements of the craniofacial system. The aim of this study was to investigate to what extent a computational model can accurately predict the calvarial growth in wild-type (WT) and mutant type (MT) Fgfr2 mice displaying bicoronal suture fusion. A series of morphological studies were carried out to quantify the calvarial growth at P3, P10 and P20 in both mouse types. MicroCT images of a P3 specimen were used to develop a finite element model of skull growth to predict the calvarial shape of WT and MT mice at P10. Sensitivity tests were performed and the results compared with ex vivo P10 data. Although the models were sensitive to the choice of input parameters, they predicted the overall skull growth in the WT and MT mice. The models also captured the difference between the ex vivoWT and MT mice. This modelling approach has the potential to be translated to human skull growth and to enhance our understanding of the different reconstruction methods used to manage clinically the different forms of craniosynostosis, and in the long term possibly reduce the number of re-operations in children displaying this condition and thereby enhance their quality of life.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/joa.12764DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5807955PMC
March 2018

The chromatin remodelling factor ATRX suppresses R-loops in transcribed telomeric repeats.

EMBO Rep 2017 06 9;18(6):914-928. Epub 2017 May 9.

MRC Molecular Haematology Unit, Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine, John Radcliffe Hospital, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK

ATRX is a chromatin remodelling factor found at a wide range of tandemly repeated sequences including telomeres (TTAGGG) ATRX mutations are found in nearly all tumours that maintain their telomeres via the alternative lengthening of telomere (ALT) pathway, and ATRX is known to suppress this pathway. Here, we show that recruitment of ATRX to telomeric repeats depends on repeat number, orientation and, critically, on repeat transcription. Importantly, the transcribed telomeric repeats form RNA-DNA hybrids (R-loops) whose abundance correlates with the recruitment of ATRX Here, we show loss of ATRX is also associated with increased R-loop formation. Our data suggest that the presence of ATRX at telomeres may have a central role in suppressing deleterious DNA secondary structures that form at transcribed telomeric repeats, and this may account for the increased DNA damage, stalling of replication and homology-directed repair previously observed upon loss of ATRX function.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.15252/embr.201643078DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5452009PMC
June 2017

An international registry of survivors with Hb Bart's hydrops fetalis syndrome.

Blood 2017 03 5;129(10):1251-1259. Epub 2017 Jan 5.

Medical Research Council Molecular Haematology Unit, Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom; and.

Hemoglobin (Hb) Bart's hydrops fetalis syndrome (BHFS) resulting from α-thalassemia is considered a universally fatal disorder. However, over the last 3 decades, improvements in intrauterine interventions and perinatal intensive care have resulted in increasing numbers of BHFS survivors. We have initiated an international registry containing information on 69 patients, of which 31 are previously unpublished. In this perspective, we analyze the available clinical information to document the natural history of BHFS. In the future, once we have accrued sufficient cases, we aim to build on this study and provide information to allow counseling of at-risk couples. To date, 39 patients have survived beyond the age of 5 years, 18 of whom are now older than 10 years. Based on the available cases, we find evidence to suggest that intrauterine therapy provides benefits during the perinatal and neonatal period; however, it may not provide additional benefits to long-term growth and neurodevelopmental outcomes. Growth retardation is a major adverse long-term outcome among BHFS patients with ∼40% being severely affected in terms of weight and ∼50% in terms of height. There is also an increased risk of neurodevelopmental delay as we find 20% (11/55) of BHFS survivors suffer from a serious delay of ≥6 months. Most patients in the registry require lifelong transfusion and often have associated congenital abnormalities and comorbidities. This perspective is a first step in gathering information to allow provision of informed counseling on the predicted outcomes of affected babies.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1182/blood-2016-08-697110DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5345731PMC
March 2017

A novel 33-Gene targeted resequencing panel provides accurate, clinical-grade diagnosis and improves patient management for rare inherited anaemias.

Br J Haematol 2016 Oct 19;175(2):318-330. Epub 2016 Jul 19.

BRC Blood Theme and BRC/NHS Translational Molecular Diagnostics Centre, John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, UK.

Accurate diagnosis of rare inherited anaemias is challenging, requiring a series of complex and expensive laboratory tests. Targeted next-generation-sequencing (NGS) has been used to investigate these disorders, but the selection of genes on individual panels has been narrow and the validation strategies used have fallen short of the standards required for clinical use. Clinical-grade validation of negative results requires the test to distinguish between lack of adequate sequencing reads at the locations of known mutations and a real absence of mutations. To achieve a clinically-reliable diagnostic test and minimize false-negative results we developed an open-source tool (CoverMi) to accurately determine base-coverage and the 'discoverability' of known mutations for every sample. We validated our 33-gene panel using Sanger sequencing and microarray. Our panel demonstrated 100% specificity and 99·7% sensitivity. We then analysed 57 clinical samples: molecular diagnoses were made in 22/57 (38·6%), corresponding to 32 mutations of which 16 were new. In all cases, accurate molecular diagnosis had a positive impact on clinical management. Using a validated NGS-based platform for routine molecular diagnosis of previously undiagnosed congenital anaemias is feasible in a clinical diagnostic setting, improves precise diagnosis and enhances management and counselling of the patient and their family.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/bjh.14221DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5132128PMC
October 2016

Genetic dissection of the α-globin super-enhancer in vivo.

Nat Genet 2016 08 4;48(8):895-903. Epub 2016 Jul 4.

MRC Molecular Haematology Unit, Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine, Oxford, UK.

Many genes determining cell identity are regulated by clusters of Mediator-bound enhancer elements collectively referred to as super-enhancers. These super-enhancers have been proposed to manifest higher-order properties important in development and disease. Here we report a comprehensive functional dissection of one of the strongest putative super-enhancers in erythroid cells. By generating a series of mouse models, deleting each of the five regulatory elements of the α-globin super-enhancer individually and in informative combinations, we demonstrate that each constituent enhancer seems to act independently and in an additive fashion with respect to hematological phenotype, gene expression, chromatin structure and chromosome conformation, without clear evidence of synergistic or higher-order effects. Our study highlights the importance of functional genetic analyses for the identification of new concepts in transcriptional regulation.
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http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5058437PMC
http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/ng.3605DOI Listing
August 2016

Predicting the three-dimensional folding of cis-regulatory regions in mammalian genomes using bioinformatic data and polymer models.

Genome Biol 2016 Mar 31;17:59. Epub 2016 Mar 31.

SUPA, School of Physics and Astronomy, University of Edinburgh, Mayfield Road, Edinburgh, EH9 3JZ, UK.

The three-dimensional (3D) organization of chromosomes can be probed using methods like Capture-C. However, it is unclear how such population-level data relate to the organization within a single cell, and the mechanisms leading to the observed interactions are still largely obscure. We present a polymer modeling scheme based on the assumption that chromosome architecture is maintained by protein bridges, which form chromatin loops. To test the model, we perform FISH experiments and compare with Capture-C data. Starting merely from the locations of protein binding sites, our model accurately predicts the experimentally observed chromatin interactions, revealing a population of 3D conformations.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s13059-016-0909-0DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4815170PMC
March 2016

Factors influencing success of clinical genome sequencing across a broad spectrum of disorders.

Nat Genet 2015 Jul 18;47(7):717-726. Epub 2015 May 18.

Institute of Physiology, Zurich Center for Integrative Human Physiology, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland.

To assess factors influencing the success of whole-genome sequencing for mainstream clinical diagnosis, we sequenced 217 individuals from 156 independent cases or families across a broad spectrum of disorders in whom previous screening had identified no pathogenic variants. We quantified the number of candidate variants identified using different strategies for variant calling, filtering, annotation and prioritization. We found that jointly calling variants across samples, filtering against both local and external databases, deploying multiple annotation tools and using familial transmission above biological plausibility contributed to accuracy. Overall, we identified disease-causing variants in 21% of cases, with the proportion increasing to 34% (23/68) for mendelian disorders and 57% (8/14) in family trios. We also discovered 32 potentially clinically actionable variants in 18 genes unrelated to the referral disorder, although only 4 were ultimately considered reportable. Our results demonstrate the value of genome sequencing for routine clinical diagnosis but also highlight many outstanding challenges.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/ng.3304DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4601524PMC
July 2015

Mechanical properties of calvarial bones in a mouse model for craniosynostosis.

PLoS One 2015 12;10(5):e0125757. Epub 2015 May 12.

Medical and Biological Engineering, School of Engineering, University of Hull, Hull, United Kingdom.

The mammalian cranial vault largely consists of five flat bones that are joined together along their edges by soft fibrous tissues called sutures. Premature closure of the cranial sutures, craniosynostosis, can lead to serious clinical pathology unless there is surgical intervention. Research into the genetic basis of the disease has led to the development of various animal models that display this condition, e.g. mutant type Fgfr2C342Y/+ mice which display early fusion of the coronal suture (joining the parietal and frontal bones). However, whether the biomechanical properties of the mutant and wild type bones are affected has not been investigated before. Therefore, nanoindentation was used to compare the elastic modulus of cranial bone and sutures in wild type (WT) and Fgfr2C342Y/+mutant type (MT) mice during their postnatal development. Further, the variations in properties with indentation position and plane were assessed. No difference was observed in the elastic modulus of parietal bone between the WT and MT mice at postnatal (P) day 10 and 20. However, the modulus of frontal bone in the MT group was lower than the WT group at both P10 (1.39±0.30 vs. 5.32±0.68 GPa; p<0.05) and P20 (5.57±0.33 vs. 7.14±0.79 GPa; p<0.05). A wide range of values was measured along the coronal sutures for both the WT and MT samples, with no significant difference between the two groups. Findings of this study suggest that the inherent mechanical properties of the frontal bone in the mutant mice were different to the wild type mice from the same genetic background. These differences may reflect variations in the degree of biomechanical adaptation during skull growth, which could have implications for the surgical management of craniosynostosis patients.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0125757PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4429024PMC
February 2016

De novo and rare inherited mutations implicate the transcriptional coregulator TCF20/SPBP in autism spectrum disorder.

J Med Genet 2014 Nov 16;51(11):737-47. Epub 2014 Sep 16.

Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine, John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, UK NIHR Biomedical Research Centre, Oxford, UK Craniofacial Unit, Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust, John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, UK.

Background: Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are common and have a strong genetic basis, yet the cause of ∼70-80% ASDs remains unknown. By clinical cytogenetic testing, we identified a family in which two brothers had ASD, mild intellectual disability and a chromosome 22 pericentric inversion, not detected in either parent, indicating de novo mutation with parental germinal mosaicism. We hypothesised that the rearrangement was causative of their ASD and localised the chromosome 22 breakpoints.

Methods: The rearrangement was characterised using fluorescence in situ hybridisation, Southern blotting, inverse PCR and dideoxy-sequencing. Open reading frames and intron/exon boundaries of the two physically disrupted genes identified, TCF20 and TNRC6B, were sequenced in 342 families (260 multiplex and 82 simplex) ascertained by the International Molecular Genetic Study of Autism Consortium (IMGSAC).

Results: IMGSAC family screening identified a de novo missense mutation of TCF20 in a single case and significant association of a different missense mutation of TCF20 with ASD in three further families. Through exome sequencing in another project, we independently identified a de novo frameshifting mutation of TCF20 in a woman with ASD and moderate intellectual disability. We did not identify a significant association of TNRC6B mutations with ASD.

Conclusions: TCF20 encodes a transcriptional coregulator (also termed SPBP) that is structurally and functionally related to RAI1, the critical dosage-sensitive protein implicated in the behavioural phenotypes of the Smith-Magenis and Potocki-Lupski 17p11.2 deletion/duplication syndromes, in which ASD is frequently diagnosed. This study provides the first evidence that mutations in TCF20 are also associated with ASD.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/jmedgenet-2014-102582DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4215269PMC
November 2014

Mutations in Kruppel-like factor 1 cause transfusion-dependent hemolytic anemia and persistence of embryonic globin gene expression.

Blood 2014 Mar 17;123(10):1586-95. Epub 2014 Jan 17.

Department of Pediatrics & Thalassemia Centre.

In this study, we report on 8 compound heterozygotes for mutations in the key erythroid transcription factor Krüppel-like factor 1 in patients who presented with severe, transfusion-dependent hemolytic anemia. In most cases, the red cells were hypochromic and microcytic, consistent with abnormalities in hemoglobin synthesis. In addition, in many cases, the red cells resembled those seen in patients with membrane defects or enzymopathies, known as chronic nonspherocytic hemolytic anemia (CNSHA). Analysis of RNA and protein in primary erythroid cells from these individuals provided evidence of abnormal globin synthesis, with persistent expression of fetal hemoglobin and, most remarkably, expression of large quantities of embryonic globins in postnatal life. The red cell membranes were abnormal, most notably expressing reduced amounts of CD44 and, consequently, manifesting the rare In(Lu) blood group. Finally, all tested patients showed abnormally low levels of the red cell enzyme pyruvate kinase, a known cause of CNSHA. These patients define a new type of severe, transfusion-dependent CNSHA caused by mutations in a trans-acting factor (Krüppel-like factor 1) and reveal an important pathway regulating embryonic globin gene expression in adult humans.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1182/blood-2013-09-526087DOI Listing
March 2014

Homozygous mutations in a predicted endonuclease are a novel cause of congenital dyserythropoietic anemia type I.

Haematologica 2013 Sep 28;98(9):1383-7. Epub 2013 May 28.

Molecular Haematology Unit, MRC Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK.

The congenital dyserythropoietic anemias are a heterogeneous group of rare disorders primarily affecting erythropoiesis with characteristic morphological abnormalities and a block in erythroid maturation. Mutations in the CDAN1 gene, which encodes Codanin-1, underlie the majority of congenital dyserythropoietic anemia type I cases. However, no likely pathogenic CDAN1 mutation has been detected in approximately 20% of cases, suggesting the presence of at least one other locus. We used whole genome sequencing and segregation analysis to identify a homozygous T to A transversion (c.533T>A), predicted to lead to a p.L178Q missense substitution in C15ORF41, a gene of unknown function, in a consanguineous pedigree of Middle-Eastern origin. Sequencing C15ORF41 in other CDAN1 mutation-negative congenital dyserythropoietic anemia type I pedigrees identified a homozygous transition (c.281A>G), predicted to lead to a p.Y94C substitution, in two further pedigrees of SouthEast Asian origin. The haplotype surrounding the c.281A>G change suggests a founder effect for this mutation in Pakistan. Detailed sequence similarity searches indicate that C15ORF41 encodes a novel restriction endonuclease that is a member of the Holliday junction resolvase family of proteins.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3324/haematol.2013.089490DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3762094PMC
September 2013

Cellular interference in craniofrontonasal syndrome: males mosaic for mutations in the X-linked EFNB1 gene are more severely affected than true hemizygotes.

Hum Mol Genet 2013 Apr 17;22(8):1654-62. Epub 2013 Jan 17.

Clinical Genetics, Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK.

Craniofrontonasal syndrome (CFNS), an X-linked disorder caused by loss-of-function mutations of EFNB1, exhibits a paradoxical sex reversal in phenotypic severity: females characteristically have frontonasal dysplasia, craniosynostosis and additional minor malformations, but males are usually more mildly affected with hypertelorism as the only feature. X-inactivation is proposed to explain the more severe outcome in heterozygous females, as this leads to functional mosaicism for cells with differing expression of EPHRIN-B1, generating abnormal tissue boundaries-a process that cannot occur in hemizygous males. Apparently challenging this model, males occasionally present with a more severe female-like CFNS phenotype. We hypothesized that such individuals might be mosaic for EFNB1 mutations and investigated this possibility in multiple tissue samples from six sporadically presenting males. Using denaturing high performance liquid chromatography, massively parallel sequencing and multiplex-ligation-dependent probe amplification (MLPA) to increase sensitivity above standard dideoxy sequencing, we identified mosaic mutations of EFNB1 in all cases, comprising three missense changes, two gene deletions and a novel point mutation within the 5' untranslated region (UTR). Quantification by Pyrosequencing and MLPA demonstrated levels of mutant cells between 15 and 69%. The 5' UTR variant mutates the stop codon of a small upstream open reading frame that, using a dual-luciferase reporter construct, was demonstrated to exacerbate interference with translation of the wild-type protein. These results demonstrate a more severe outcome in mosaic than in constitutionally deficient males in an X-linked dominant disorder and provide further support for the cellular interference mechanism, normally related to X-inactivation in females.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/hmg/ddt015DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3605834PMC
April 2013

Nprl3 is required for normal development of the cardiovascular system.

Mamm Genome 2012 Aug 27;23(7-8):404-15. Epub 2012 Apr 27.

MRC Molecular Haematology Unit, Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine, University of Oxford, UK.

C16orf35 is a conserved and widely expressed gene lying adjacent to the human α-globin cluster in all vertebrate species. In-depth sequence analysis shows that C16orf35 (now called NPRL3) is an orthologue of the yeast gene Npr3 (nitrogen permease regulator 3) and, furthermore, is a paralogue of its protein partner Npr2. The yeast Npr2/3 dimeric protein complex senses amino acid starvation and appropriately adjusts cell metabolism via the TOR pathway. Here we have analysed a mouse model in which expression of Nprl3 has been abolished using homologous recombination. The predominant effect on RNA expression appears to involve genes that regulate protein synthesis and cell cycle, consistent with perturbation of the mTOR pathway. Embryos homozygous for this mutation die towards the end of gestation with a range of cardiovascular defects, including outflow tract abnormalities and ventriculoseptal defects consistent with previous observations, showing that perturbation of the mTOR pathway may affect development of the myocardium. NPRL3 is a candidate gene for harbouring mutations in individuals with developmental abnormalities of the cardiovascular system.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00335-012-9398-yDOI Listing
August 2012

Duplication of the EFNB1 gene in familial hypertelorism: imbalance in ephrin-B1 expression and abnormal phenotypes in humans and mice.

Hum Mutat 2011 Aug 12;32(8):930-8. Epub 2011 Jul 12.

Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine, University of Oxford, John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, United Kingdom.

Familial hypertelorism, characterized by widely spaced eyes, classically shows autosomal dominant inheritance (Teebi type), but some pedigrees are compatible with X-linkage. No mechanism has been described previously, but clinical similarity has been noted to craniofrontonasal syndrome (CFNS), which is caused by mutations in the X-linked EFNB1 gene. Here we report a family in which females in three generations presented with hypertelorism, but lacked either craniosynostosis or a grooved nasal tip, excluding CFNS. DNA sequencing of EFNB1 was normal, but further analysis revealed a duplication of 937 kb including EFNB1 and two flanking genes: PJA1 and STARD8. We found that the X chromosome bearing the duplication produces ∼1.6-fold more EFNB1 transcript than the normal X chromosome and propose that, in the context of X-inactivation, this difference in expression level of EFNB1 results in abnormal cell sorting leading to hypertelorism. To support this hypothesis, we provide evidence from a mouse model carrying a targeted human EFNB1 cDNA, that abnormal cell sorting occurs in the cranial region. Hence, we propose that X-linked cases resembling Teebi hypertelorism may have a similar mechanism to CFNS, and that cellular mosaicism for different levels of ephrin-B1 (as well as simple presence/absence) leads to craniofacial abnormalities.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/humu.21521DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3170877PMC
August 2011

Skeletal analysis of the Fgfr3(P244R) mouse, a genetic model for the Muenke craniosynostosis syndrome.

Dev Dyn 2009 Feb;238(2):331-42

Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine, John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, United Kingdom.

Muenke syndrome, defined by heterozygosity for a Pro250Arg substitution in fibroblast growth factor receptor 3 (FGFR3), is the most common genetic cause of craniosynostosis in humans. We have used gene targeting to introduce the Muenke syndrome mutation (equivalent to P244R) into the murine Fgfr3 gene. A rounded skull and shortened snout (often skewed) with dental malocclusion was observed in a minority of heterozygotes and many homozygotes. Development of this incompletely penetrant skull phenotype was dependent on genetic background and sex, with males more often affected. However, these cranial abnormalities were rarely attributable to craniosynostosis, which was only present in 2/364 mutants; more commonly, we found fusion of the premaxillary and/or zygomatic sutures. We also found decreased cortical thickness and bone mineral densities in long bones. We conclude that although both cranial and long bone development is variably affected by the murine Fgfr3(P244R) mutation, coronal craniosynostosis is not reliably reproduced.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/dvdy.21790DOI Listing
February 2009

Polydactyly in the mouse mutant Doublefoot involves altered Gli3 processing and is caused by a large deletion in cis to Indian hedgehog.

Mech Dev 2008 May-Jun;125(5-6):517-26. Epub 2008 Jan 11.

Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine, University of Oxford, John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, OX3 9DS, UK.

The mouse mutant Doublefoot (Dbf) shows preaxial polydactyly with 6-9 triphalangeal digits in all four limbs and additional abnormalities including a broadened skull, hydrocephalus, and a thickened, kinked tail. The autopod undergoes a characteristic expansion between late embryonic day (E) 10.5 and E11.5, following the onset of ectopic Indian hedgehog (Ihh) expression in the entire distal mesenchyme, except for the zone of polarising activity (ZPA), at E10.5. We show here that limb prepattern, as indicated by expression of Gli3 and Hand2 at E9.5 is unaffected by the mutation. As both Sonic hedgehog (Shh) and Ihh expression are present in Dbf limb buds at E10.5, we generated Dbf/(+);Shh(-/-) mutants to analyse the effects of different patterns of Hedgehog activity on the limb phenotype and molecular differentiation. Dbf/(+) embryos lacking Shh showed postaxial as well as preaxial polydactyly, and the Ihh expression domain extended posteriorly into the domain in which Shh is normally expressed, indicating loss of ZPA identity. Differences in gene expression patterns in wild type, single and compound mutants were associated with differences in Gli3 processing: an increased ratio of Gli3 activator to Gli3 repressor was observed in the anterior half of Dbf/(+) limb buds and in both anterior and posterior halves of compound mutant limb buds at E10.5. To identify the cause of Ihh misregulation in Dbf/(+) mutants, we sequenced approximately 20 kb of genomic DNA around Ihh but found no pathogenic changes. However, Southern blot analysis revealed a approximately 600 kb deletion disrupting or deleting 25 transcripts, starting 50 kb 5' of Ihh and extending away from the gene. The large deletion interval may explain the wide range of abnormalities in Dbf/(+) mutants. However, we did not detect anologous deletions in cases of Laurin-Sandrow syndrome, a human disorder that shows phenotypic similarities to Dbf.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.mod.2008.01.001DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2428104PMC
August 2008

A new locus for split hand/foot malformation with long bone deficiency (SHFLD) at 2q14.2 identified from a chromosome translocation.

Hum Genet 2007 Sep 14;122(2):191-9. Epub 2007 Jun 14.

Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine, University of Oxford, John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, UK.

Split hand/foot malformation (SHFM) with long bone deficiency (SHFLD) is a distinct entity in the spectrum of ectrodactylous limb malformations characterised by associated tibial a/hypoplasia. Pedigrees with multiple individuals affected by SHFLD often include non-penetrant intermediate relatives, making genetic mapping difficult. Here we report a sporadic patient with SHFLD who carries a de novo chromosomal translocation t(2;18)(q14.2;p11.2). Characterisation of the breakpoints revealed that neither disrupts any known gene; however, the chromosome 2 breakpoint lies between GLI2 and INHBB, two genes known to be involved in limb development. To investigate whether mutation of a gene in proximity to the chromosome 2 breakpoint underlies the SHFLD, we sought independent evidence of mutations in GLI2, INHBB and two other genes (RALB and FLJ14816) in 44 unrelated patients with SHFM, SHFLD or isolated long bone deficiency. No convincing pathogenic mutations were found, raising the possibility that a long-range cis acting regulatory element may be disrupted by this translocation. The previous description of a translocation with a 2q14.2 breakpoint associated with ectrodactyly, and the mapping of the ectrodactylous Dominant hemimelia mouse mutation to a region of homologous synteny, suggests that 2q14.2 represents a novel locus for SHFLD.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00439-007-0390-7DOI Listing
September 2007

The craniofacial phenotype of the Crouzon mouse: analysis of a model for syndromic craniosynostosis using three-dimensional MicroCT.

Cleft Palate Craniofac J 2006 Nov;43(6):740-8

Division of Plastic Surgery, Washington University School of Medicine, 660 South Euclid Avenue, St. Louis, MO 63110, USA.

Objective: To characterize the craniofacial phenotype of a mouse model for Crouzon syndrome by a quantitative analysis of skull morphology in mutant and wild-type mice and to compare the findings with skull features observed in humans with Crouzon syndrome.

Methods: MicroCT scans and skeletal preparations were obtained on previously described Fgfr2(C342Y/+) Crouzon mutant mice and wild-type mice at 6 weeks of age. Three-dimensional coordinate data from biologically relevant landmarks on the skulls were collected. Euclidean Distance Matrix Analysis was used to quantify and compare skull shapes using these landmark data.

Results: Obliteration of bilateral coronal sutures was observed in 80% of skulls, and complete synostosis of the sagittal suture was observed in 70%. In contrast, fewer than 40% of lambdoid sutures were found to be fully fused. In each of the 10 Fgfr2(C342Y/+) mutant mice analyzed, the presphenoid-basisphenoid synchondrosis was fused. Skull height and width were increased in mutant mice, whereas skull length was decreased. Interorbital distance was also increased in Fgfr2(C342Y/+) mice as compared with wild-type littermates. Upper-jaw length was shorter in the Fgfr2(C342Y/+) mutant skulls, as was mandibular length.

Conclusion: Skulls of Fgfr2(C342Y/+) mice differ from normal littermates in a comparable manner with differences between the skulls of humans with Crouzon syndrome and those of unaffected individuals. These findings were consistent across several regions of anatomic interest. Further investigation into the molecular mechanisms underlying the anomalies seen in the Crouzon mouse model is currently under way.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1597/05-212DOI Listing
November 2006

Mutations of ephrin-B1 (EFNB1), a marker of tissue boundary formation, cause craniofrontonasal syndrome.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2004 Jun 27;101(23):8652-7. Epub 2004 May 27.

Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine, University of Oxford, John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford OX3 9DS, United Kingdom.

Craniofrontonasal syndrome (CFNS) is an X-linked developmental disorder that shows paradoxically greater severity in heterozygous females than in hemizygous males. Females have frontonasal dysplasia and coronal craniosynostosis (fusion of the coronal sutures); in males, hypertelorism is the only typical manifestation. Here, we show that the classical female CFNS phenotype is caused by heterozygous loss-of-function mutations in EFNB1, which encodes a member of the ephrin family of transmembrane ligands for Eph receptor tyrosine kinases. In mice, the orthologous Efnb1 gene is expressed in the frontonasal neural crest and demarcates the position of the future coronal suture. Although EFNB1 is X-inactivated, we did not observe markedly skewed X-inactivation in either blood or cranial periosteum from females with CFNS, indicating that lack of ephrin-B1 does not compromise cell viability in these tissues. We propose that in heterozygous females, patchwork loss of ephrin-B1 disturbs tissue boundary formation at the developing coronal suture, whereas in males deficient in ephrin-B1, an alternative mechanism maintains the normal boundary. This is the only known mutation in the ephrin/Eph receptor signaling system in humans and provides clues to the biogenesis of craniosynostosis.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.0402819101DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC423250PMC
June 2004

Identification and analysis of genes from the mouse otic vesicle and their association with developmental subprocesses through in situ hybridization.

Dev Biol 2004 Apr;268(1):24-38

Mammalian Genetics Unit, Medical Research Council, Harwell, Oxon OX11 0RD, UK.

The otic vesicle (otocyst) occupies a pivotal position in inner ear development, bridging the gap between otic placode determination, and morphogenesis of vestibular and auditory compartments. The molecular mechanisms underlying the progressive subdivision of the developing inner ear into different compartments, and the molecular control and execution of the different developmental processes involved, are largely unknown. Since relatively few genes have been implicated in these processes, we have undertaken this study to identify genes involved in these early embryonic stages. We have used cDNA subtractions of mouse otic vesicle against adult liver cDNA, and describe a set of 280 candidate genes. We have also performed otic vesicle RNA hybridizations against DNA chips to not only confirm the efficacy of the library approach, but also to investigate the utility of DNA array alternatives. To begin to dissect potential developmental roles, we investigated the spatial pattern of gene expression for a selected set of 80 genes in developing mouse embryos at mid-gestation by whole-mount in situ hybridization. These data illustrate the compartmentalisation of gene expression in the otic vesicle for the majority of genes tested, and furthermore, implicate many of the genes tested with distinct developmental subprocesses.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ydbio.2003.11.024DOI Listing
April 2004

Developmental mechanisms underlying polydactyly in the mouse mutant Doublefoot.

J Anat 2003 Jan;202(1):21-6

Department of Human Anatomy and Genetics, South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3QX, UK.

The pre-axial polydactylous mouse mutant Doublefoot has 6-9 digits per limb but lacks anteroposterior polarity (there is no biphalangeal digit 1). It differs from other polydactylous mutants in showing normal Shh expression, but polarizing activity (shown by mouse-chick grafting experiments) and hedgehog signalling activity (shown by expression of Ptc1) are present throughout the distal mesenchyme. The Dbf mutation has not yet been identified. Here we review current understanding of this mutant, and briefly report new results indicating (1) that limb bud expansion is concomitant with ectopic lhh expression and with extension of the posterior high cell proliferation rate into the anterior region, and (2) that the Dbf mutation is epistatic to Shh in the limb.
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http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1571056PMC
http://dx.doi.org/10.1046/j.1469-7580.2003.00132.xDOI Listing
January 2003
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