Publications by authors named "Ilaria Meloni"

46 Publications

Shorter androgen receptor polyQ alleles protect against life-threatening COVID-19 disease in European males.

EBioMedicine 2021 Feb 26;65:103246. Epub 2021 Feb 26.

Medical Genetics, University of Siena, Italy; Med Biotech Hub and Competence Center, Department of Medical Biotechnologies, University of Siena, Italy; Genetica Medica, Azienda Ospedaliero-Universitaria Senese, Italy.

Background: While SARS-CoV-2 similarly infects men and women, COVID-19 outcome is less favorable in men. Variability in COVID-19 severity may be explained by differences in the host genome.

Methods: We compared poly-amino acids variability from WES data in severely affected COVID-19 patients versus SARS-CoV-2 PCR-positive oligo-asymptomatic subjects.

Findings: Shorter polyQ alleles (≤22) in the androgen receptor (AR) conferred protection against severe outcome in COVID-19 in the first tested cohort (both males and females) of 638 Italian subjects. The association between long polyQ alleles (≥23) and severe clinical outcome (p = 0.024) was also validated in an independent cohort of Spanish men <60 years of age (p = 0.014). Testosterone was higher in subjects with AR long-polyQ, possibly indicating receptor resistance (p = 0.042 Mann-Whitney U test). Inappropriately low serum testosterone level among carriers of the long-polyQ alleles (p = 0.0004 Mann-Whitney U test) predicted the need for intensive care in COVID-19 infected men. In agreement with the known anti-inflammatory action of testosterone, patients with long-polyQ and age ≥60 years had increased levels of CRP (p = 0.018, not accounting for multiple testing).

Interpretation: We identify the first genetic polymorphism that appears to predispose some men to develop more severe disease. Failure of the endocrine feedback to overcome AR signaling defects by increasing testosterone levels during the infection leads to the polyQ tract becoming dominant to serum testosterone levels for the clinical outcome. These results may contribute to designing reliable clinical and public health measures and provide a rationale to test testosterone as adjuvant therapy in men with COVID-19 expressing long AR polyQ repeats.

Funding: MIUR project "Dipartimenti di Eccellenza 2018-2020" to Department of Medical Biotechnologies University of Siena, Italy (Italian D.L. n.18 March 17, 2020) and "Bando Ricerca COVID-19 Toscana" project to Azienda Ospedaliero-Universitaria Senese. Private donors for COVID-19 research and charity funds from Intesa San Paolo.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ebiom.2021.103246DOI Listing
February 2021

Employing a systematic approach to biobanking and analyzing clinical and genetic data for advancing COVID-19 research.

Eur J Hum Genet 2021 Jan 17. Epub 2021 Jan 17.

Medical Genetics, University of Siena, Siena, Italy.

Within the GEN-COVID Multicenter Study, biospecimens from more than 1000 SARS-CoV-2 positive individuals have thus far been collected in the GEN-COVID Biobank (GCB). Sample types include whole blood, plasma, serum, leukocytes, and DNA. The GCB links samples to detailed clinical data available in the GEN-COVID Patient Registry (GCPR). It includes hospitalized patients (74.25%), broken down into intubated, treated by CPAP-biPAP, treated with O supplementation, and without respiratory support (9.5%, 18.4%, 31.55% and 14.8, respectively); and non-hospitalized subjects (25.75%), either pauci- or asymptomatic. More than 150 clinical patient-level data fields have been collected and binarized for further statistics according to the organs/systems primarily affected by COVID-19: heart, liver, pancreas, kidney, chemosensors, innate or adaptive immunity, and clotting system. Hierarchical clustering analysis identified five main clinical categories: (1) severe multisystemic failure with either thromboembolic or pancreatic variant; (2) cytokine storm type, either severe with liver involvement or moderate; (3) moderate heart type, either with or without liver damage; (4) moderate multisystemic involvement, either with or without liver damage; (5) mild, either with or without hyposmia. GCB and GCPR are further linked to the GCGDR, which includes data from whole-exome sequencing and high-density SNP genotyping. The data are available for sharing through the Network for Italian Genomes, found within the COVID-19 dedicated section. The study objective is to systematize this comprehensive data collection and begin identifying multi-organ involvement in COVID-19, defining genetic parameters for infection susceptibility within the population, and mapping genetically COVID-19 severity and clinical complexity among patients.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41431-020-00793-7DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7811682PMC
January 2021

AAV-mediated FOXG1 gene editing in human Rett primary cells.

Eur J Hum Genet 2020 10 15;28(10):1446-1458. Epub 2020 Jun 15.

Medical Genetics, University of Siena, Siena, Italy.

Variations in the Forkhead Box G1 (FOXG1) gene cause FOXG1 syndrome spectrum, including the congenital variant of Rett syndrome, characterized by early onset of regression, Rett-like and jerky movements, and cortical visual impairment. Due to the largely unknown pathophysiological mechanisms downstream the impairment of this transcriptional regulator, a specific treatment is not yet available. Since both haploinsufficiency and hyper-expression of FOXG1 cause diseases in humans, we reasoned that adding a gene under nonnative regulatory sequences would be a risky strategy as opposed to a genome editing approach where the mutated gene is reversed into wild-type. Here, we demonstrate that an adeno-associated viruses (AAVs)-coupled CRISPR/Cas9 system is able to target and correct FOXG1 variants in patient-derived fibroblasts, induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (iPSCs) and iPSC-derived neurons. Variant-specific single-guide RNAs (sgRNAs) and donor DNAs have been selected and cloned together with a mCherry/EGFP reporter system. Specific sgRNA recognition sequences were inserted upstream and downstream Cas9 CDS to allow self-cleavage and inactivation. We demonstrated that AAV serotypes vary in transduction efficiency depending on the target cell type, the best being AAV9 in fibroblasts and iPSC-derived neurons, and AAV2 in iPSCs. Next-generation sequencing (NGS) of mCherry/EGFP transfected cells demonstrated that the mutated alleles were repaired with high efficiency (20-35% reversion) and precision both in terms of allelic discrimination and off-target activity. The genome editing strategy tested in this study has proven to precisely repair FOXG1 and delivery through an AAV9-based system represents a step forward toward the development of a therapy for Rett syndrome.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41431-020-0652-6DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7608362PMC
October 2020

High rate of HDR in gene editing of p.(Thr158Met) MECP2 mutational hotspot.

Eur J Hum Genet 2020 09 24;28(9):1231-1242. Epub 2020 Apr 24.

Medical Genetics, University of Siena, Siena, Italy.

Rett syndrome is a progressive neurodevelopmental disorder which affects almost exclusively girls, caused by variants in MECP2 gene. Effective therapies for this devastating disorder are not yet available and the need for tight regulation of MECP2 expression for brain to properly function makes gene replacement therapy risky. For this reason, gene editing with CRISPR/Cas9 technology appears as a preferable option for the development of new therapies. To study the disease, we developed and characterized a human neuronal model obtained by genetic reprogramming of patient-derived primary fibroblasts into induced Pluripotent Stem Cells. This cellular model represents an important source for our studies, aiming to correct MECP2 variants in neurons which represent the primarily affected cell type. We engineered a gene editing toolkit composed by a two-plasmid system to correct a hotspot missense variant in MECP2, c.473 C > T (p.(Thr158Met)). The first construct expresses the variant-specific sgRNA and the Donor DNA along with a fluorescent reporter system. The second construct brings Cas9 and targets for auto-cleaving, to avoid long-term Cas9 expression. NGS analysis on sorted cells from four independent patients demonstrated an exceptionally high editing efficiency, with up to 80% of HDR and less than 1% of indels in all patients, outlining the relevant potentiality of the approach for Rett syndrome therapy.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41431-020-0624-xDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7609331PMC
September 2020

Gene replacement ameliorates deficits in mouse and human models of cyclin-dependent kinase-like 5 disorder.

Brain 2020 03;143(3):811-832

Gene Therapy, Section of Neuroscience, Department of Brain Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, Imperial College London, Hammersmith Campus, London W12 0NN, UK.

Cyclin-dependent kinase-like 5 disorder is a severe neurodevelopmental disorder caused by mutations in the X-linked cyclin-dependent kinase-like 5 (CDKL5) gene. It predominantly affects females who typically present with severe early epileptic encephalopathy, global developmental delay, motor dysfunction, autistic features and sleep disturbances. To develop a gene replacement therapy, we initially characterized the human CDKL5 transcript isoforms expressed in the brain, neuroblastoma cell lines, primary astrocytes and embryonic stem cell-derived cortical interneurons. We found that the isoform 1 and to a lesser extent the isoform 2 were expressed in human brain, and both neuronal and glial cell types. These isoforms were subsequently cloned into recombinant adeno-associated viral (AAV) vector genome and high-titre viral vectors were produced. Intrajugular delivery of green fluorescence protein via AAV vector serotype PHP.B in adult wild-type male mice transduced neurons and astrocytes throughout the brain more efficiently than serotype 9. Cdkl5 knockout male mice treated with isoform 1 via intrajugular injection at age 28-30 days exhibited significant behavioural improvements compared to green fluorescence protein-treated controls (1012 vg per animal, n = 10 per group) with PHP.B vectors. Brain expression of the isoform 1 transgene was more abundant in hindbrain than forebrain and midbrain. Transgene brain expression was sporadic at the cellular level and most prominent in hippocampal neurons and cerebellar Purkinje cells. Correction of postsynaptic density protein 95 cerebellar misexpression, a major fine cerebellar structural abnormality in Cdkl5 knockout mice, was found in regions of high transgene expression within the cerebellum. AAV vector serotype DJ efficiently transduced CDKL5-mutant human induced pluripotent stem cell-derived neural progenitors, which were subsequently differentiated into mature neurons. When treating CDKL5-mutant neurons, isoform 1 expression led to an increased density of synaptic puncta, while isoform 2 ameliorated the calcium signalling defect compared to green fluorescence protein control, implying distinct functions of these isoforms in neurons. This study provides the first evidence that gene therapy mediated by AAV vectors can be used for treating CDKL5 disorder.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/brain/awaa028DOI Listing
March 2020

iPSC-derived neurons profiling reveals GABAergic circuit disruption and acetylated α-tubulin defect which improves after iHDAC6 treatment in Rett syndrome.

Exp Cell Res 2018 07 4;368(2):225-235. Epub 2018 May 4.

Medical Genetics, University of Siena, Strada delle Scotte 4, 53100, Siena, Italy.

Mutations in MECP2 gene have been identified in more than 95% of patients with classic Rett syndrome, one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders in females. Taking advantage of the breakthrough technology of genetic reprogramming, we investigated transcriptome changes in neurons differentiated from induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (iPSCs) derived from patients with different mutations. Profiling by RNA-seq in terminally differentiated neurons revealed a prominent GABAergic circuit disruption along with a perturbation of cytoskeleton dynamics. In particular, in mutated neurons we identified a significant decrease of acetylated α-tubulin which can be reverted by treatment with selective inhibitors of HDAC6, the main α-tubulin deacetylase. These findings contribute to shed light on Rett pathogenic mechanisms and provide hints for the treatment of Rett-associated epileptic behavior as well as for the definition of new therapeutic strategies for Rett syndrome.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.yexcr.2018.05.001DOI Listing
July 2018

Low-level TP53 mutational load antecedes clonal expansion in chronic lymphocytic leukaemia.

Br J Haematol 2019 02 20;184(4):657-659. Epub 2018 Feb 20.

Genetica Medica, Azienda Ospedaliera Universitaria Senese, Siena, Italy.

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/bjh.15147DOI Listing
February 2019

Inherited human IRAK-1 deficiency selectively impairs TLR signaling in fibroblasts.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2017 01 9;114(4):E514-E523. Epub 2017 Jan 9.

Laboratory of Human Genetics of Infectious Diseases, Necker Branch, INSERM U1163, 75015 Paris, France;

Most members of the Toll-like receptor (TLR) and interleukin-1 receptor (IL-1R) families transduce signals via a canonical pathway involving the MyD88 adapter and the interleukin-1 receptor-associated kinase (IRAK) complex. This complex contains four molecules, including at least two (IRAK-1 and IRAK-4) active kinases. In mice and humans, deficiencies of IRAK-4 or MyD88 abolish most TLR (except for TLR3 and some TLR4) and IL-1R signaling in both leukocytes and fibroblasts. TLR and IL-1R responses are weak but not abolished in mice lacking IRAK-1, whereas the role of IRAK-1 in humans remains unclear. We describe here a boy with X-linked MECP2 deficiency-related syndrome due to a large de novo Xq28 chromosomal deletion encompassing both MECP2 and IRAK1 Like many boys with MECP2 null mutations, this child died very early, at the age of 7 mo. Unlike most IRAK-4- or MyD88-deficient patients, he did not suffer from invasive bacterial diseases during his short life. The IRAK-1 protein was completely absent from the patient's fibroblasts, which responded very poorly to all TLR2/6 (PAMCSK, LTA, FSL-1), TLR1/2 (PAMCSK), and TLR4 (LPS, MPLA) agonists tested but had almost unimpaired responses to IL-1β. By contrast, the patient's peripheral blood mononuclear cells responded normally to all TLR1/2, TLR2/6, TLR4, TLR7, and TLR8 (R848) agonists tested, and to IL-1β. The death of this child precluded long-term evaluations of the clinical consequences of inherited IRAK-1 deficiency. However, these findings suggest that human IRAK-1 is essential downstream from TLRs but not IL-1Rs in fibroblasts, whereas it plays a redundant role downstream from both TLRs and IL-1Rs in leukocytes.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1620139114DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5278481PMC
January 2017

The alliance between genetic biobanks and patient organisations: the experience of the telethon network of genetic biobanks.

Orphanet J Rare Dis 2016 10 24;11(1):142. Epub 2016 Oct 24.

U.O.S.D. Centro di Diagnostica Genetica e Biochimica delle Malattie Metaboliche, Istituto G. Gaslini, Via G. Gaslini 5, 16147, Genoa, Italy.

Background: Rare diseases (RDs) are often neglected because they affect a small percentage of the population (6-8 %), which makes research and development of new therapies challenging processes. Easy access to high-quality samples and associated clinical data is therefore a key prerequisite for biomedical research. In this context, Genetic Biobanks are critical to developing basic, translational and clinical research on RDs. The Telethon Network of Genetic Biobanks (TNGB) is aware of the importance of biobanking as a service for patients and has started a dialogue with RD-Patient Organisations via promotion of dedicated meetings and round-tables, as well as by including their representatives on the TNGB Advisory Board. This has enabled the active involvement of POs in drafting biobank policies and procedures, including those concerning ethical issues. Here, we report on our experience with RD-Patient Organisations who have requested the services of existing biobanks belonging to TNGB and describe how these relationships were established, formalised and maintained.

Results: The process of patient engagement has proven to be successful both for lay members, who increased their understanding of the complex processes of biobanking, and for professionals, who gained awareness of the needs and expectations of the people involved. This collaboration has resulted in a real interest on the part of Patient Organisations in the biobanking service, which has led to 13 written agreements designed to formalise this process. These agreements enabled the centralisation of rare genetic disease biospecimens and their related data, thus making them available to the scientific community.

Conclusions: The TNGB experience has proven to be an example of good practice with regard to patient engagement in biobanking and may serve as a model of collaboration between disease-oriented Biobanks and Patient Organisations. Such collaboration serves to enhance awareness and trust and to encourage the scientific community to address research on RDs.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s13023-016-0527-7DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5078978PMC
October 2016

MECP2 missense mutations outside the canonical MBD and TRD domains in males with intellectual disability.

J Hum Genet 2016 Feb 22;61(2):95-101. Epub 2015 Oct 22.

Medical Genetics, University of Siena, Siena, Italy.

Methyl-CpG-binding protein 2 (MeCP2) is a nuclear protein highly expressed in neurons that is involved in transcriptional modulation and chromatin remodeling. Mutations in MECP2 in females are associated with Rett syndrome, a neurological disorder characterized by a normal neonatal period, followed by the arrest of development and regression of acquired skills. Although it was initially thought that MECP2 pathogenic mutations in males were not compatible with life, starting from 1999 about 60 male patients have been identified and their phenotype varies from severe neonatal encephalopathy to mild intellectual disability. Targeted next-generation sequencing of a panel of intellectual disability related genes was performed on two unrelated male patients, and two missense variants in MECP2 were identified (p.Gly185Val and p.Arg167Trp). These variants lie outside the canonical methyl-CpG-binding domain and transcription repression domain domains, where the pathogenicity of missense variants is more difficult to establish. In both families, variants were found in all affected siblings and were inherited from the asymptomatic mother, showing skewed X-chromosome inactivation. We report here the first missense variant located in AT-hook domain 1 and we underline the importance of MECP2 substitutions outside the canonical MeCP2 domains in X-linked intellectual disability.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/jhg.2015.118DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4770571PMC
February 2016

Imbalance of excitatory/inhibitory synaptic protein expression in iPSC-derived neurons from FOXG1(+/-) patients and in foxg1(+/-) mice.

Eur J Hum Genet 2016 06 7;24(6):871-80. Epub 2015 Oct 7.

Medical Genetics, University of Siena, Siena, Italy.

Rett syndrome (RTT) is a severe neurodevelopmental disorder associated with mutations in either MECP2, CDKL5 or FOXG1. The precise molecular mechanisms that lead to the pathogenesis of RTT have yet to be elucidated. We recently reported that expression of GluD1 (orphan glutamate receptor δ-1 subunit) is increased in iPSC-derived neurons obtained from patients with mutations in either MECP2 or CDKL5. GluD1 controls synaptic differentiation and shifts the balance between excitatory and inhibitory synapses toward the latter. Thus, an increase in GluD1 might be a critical factor in the etiology of RTT by affecting the excitatory/inhibitory balance in the developing brain. To test this hypothesis, we generated iPSC-derived neurons from FOXG1(+/-) patients. We analyzed mRNA and protein levels of GluD1 together with key markers of excitatory and inhibitory synapses in these iPSC-derived neurons and in Foxg1(+/-) mouse fetal (E11.5) and adult (P70) brains. We found strong correlation between iPSC-derived neurons and fetal mouse brains, where GluD1 and inhibitory synaptic markers (GAD67 and GABA AR-α1) were increased, whereas the levels of a number of excitatory synaptic markers (VGLUT1, GluA1, GluN1 and PSD-95) were decreased. In adult mice, GluD1 was decreased along with all GABAergic and glutamatergic markers. Our findings further the understanding of the etiology of RTT by introducing a new pathological event occurring in the brain of FOXG1(+/-) patients during embryonic development and its time-dependent shift toward a general decrease in brain synapses.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/ejhg.2015.216DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4820038PMC
June 2016

Alteration of serum lipid profile, SRB1 loss, and impaired Nrf2 activation in CDKL5 disorder.

Free Radic Biol Med 2015 Sep 22;86:156-65. Epub 2015 May 22.

Department of Life Sciences and Biotechnology, University of Ferrara, Ferrara, Italy; Department of Food and Nutrition, Kyung Hee University, Seoul, South Korea. Electronic address:

CDKL5 mutation is associated with an atypical Rett syndrome (RTT) variant. Recently, cholesterol homeostasis perturbation and oxidative-mediated loss of the high-density lipoprotein receptor SRB1 in typical RTT have been suggested. Here, we demonstrate an altered lipid serum profile also in CDKL5 patients with decreased levels of SRB1 and impaired activation of the defensive system Nrf2. In addition, CDKL5 fibroblasts showed an increase in 4-hydroxy-2-nonenal- and nitrotyrosine-SRB1 adducts that lead to its ubiquitination and probable degradation. This study highlights a possible common denominator between two different RTT variants (MECP2 and CDKL5) and a possible common future therapeutic target.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.freeradbiomed.2015.05.010DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5572621PMC
September 2015

Altered expression of neuropeptides in FoxG1-null heterozygous mutant mice.

Eur J Hum Genet 2016 Feb 13;24(2):252-7. Epub 2015 May 13.

Medical Genetics, University of Siena, Siena, Italy.

Foxg1 gene encodes for a transcription factor essential for telencephalon development in the embryonic mammalian forebrain. Its complete absence is embryonic lethal while Foxg1 heterozygous mice are viable but display microcephaly, altered hippocampal neurogenesis and behavioral and cognitive deficiencies. In order to evaluate the effects of Foxg1 alteration in adult brain, we performed expression profiling in total brains from Foxg1+/- heterozygous mutants and wild-type littermates. We identified statistically significant differences in expression levels for 466 transcripts (P<0.001), 29 of which showed a fold change ≥ 1.5. Among the differentially expressed genes was found a group of genes expressed in the basal ganglia and involved in the control of movements. A relevant (three to sevenfold changes) and statistically significant increase of expression, confirmed by qRT-PCR, was found in two highly correlated genes with expression restricted to the hypothalamus: Oxytocin (Oxt) and Arginine vasopressin (Avp). These neuropeptides have an important role in maternal and social behavior, and their alteration is associated with impaired social interaction and autistic behavior. In addition, Neuronatin (Nnat) levels appear significantly higher both in Foxg1+/- whole brain and in hippocampal neurons after silencing Foxg1, strongly suggesting that it is directly or indirectly repressed by Foxg1. During fetal and neonatal brain development, Nnat may regulate neuronal excitability, receptor trafficking and calcium-dependent signaling and, in the adult brain, it is predominantly expressed in parvalbumin-positive GABAergic interneurons. Overall, these results implicate the overexpression of a group of neuropeptides in the basal ganglia, hypothalamus, cortex and hippocampus in the pathogenesis FOXG1 behavioral impairments.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/ejhg.2015.79DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4717204PMC
February 2016

Epilepsy in Rett syndrome--lessons from the Rett networked database.

Epilepsia 2015 Apr 19;56(4):569-76. Epub 2015 Mar 19.

Pediatric Neurology Unit and Rett National Center, Edmond and Lily Safra Children's Hospital, Sheba Medical Center, Tel HaShomer, Israel; Sackler School of Medicine, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel.

Objective: Rett syndrome is an X-linked dominant neurodevelopmental disorder caused by mutations in the MECP2 gene, and characterized by cognitive and communicative regression, loss of hand use, and midline hand stereotypies. Epilepsy is a core symptom, but literature is controversial regarding genotype-phenotype correlation. Analysis of data from a large cohort should overcome this shortcoming.

Methods: Data from the Rett Syndrome Networked Database on 1,248 female patients were included. Data on phenotypic and genotypic parameters, age of onset, severity of epilepsy, and type of seizures were collected. Statistical analysis was done using the IBM SPSS Version 21 software, logistic regression, and Kaplan-Meier survival curves.

Results: Epilepsy was present in 68.1% of the patients, with uncontrolled seizures in 32.6% of the patients with epilepsy. Mean age of onset of epilepsy was 4.68 ± (standard deviation) 3.5 years. Younger age of onset was correlated to severity of epilepsy (Spearman correlation r = 0.668, p < 0.01). Patients with late truncating deletions had lower prevalence of epilepsy. Compared to them, the p.R133C mutation, associated with a milder Rett phenotype, increased the risk for epilepsy (odds ratio [OR] 2.46, confidence interval [CI] 95% 1.3-4.66), but not for severe epilepsy. The p.R255X mutation conferred an increased risk for epilepsy (OR 2.07, CI 95% 1.2-3.59) as well as for severe epilepsy (OR 3.4, CI 95% 1.6-7.3). The p.T158M and p.C306C mutations relatively increased the risk for severe epilepsy (OR 3.09 and 2.69, CI 95% 1.48-6.4 and 1.19-6.05, respectively), but not for epilepsy occurrence.

Significance: Various mutations in the MECP2 gene have a different influence on epilepsy, unrelated to the severity of the general Rett phenotype. This might suggest a site-specific effect of MeCp2 on epileptic pathways. Further investigation of these mechanisms should promote better understanding of epileptogenesis in Rett syndrome.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/epi.12941DOI Listing
April 2015

Next generation sequencing in sporadic retinoblastoma patients reveals somatic mosaicism.

Eur J Hum Genet 2015 Nov 25;23(11):1523-30. Epub 2015 Feb 25.

Medical Genetics, Department of Medical Biotechnologies, University of Siena, Policlinico 'Santa Maria alle Scotte', Siena, Italy.

In about 50% of sporadic cases of retinoblastoma, no constitutive RB1 mutations are detected by conventional methods. However, recent research suggests that, at least in some of these cases, there is somatic mosaicism with respect to RB1 normal and mutant alleles. The increased availability of next generation sequencing improves our ability to detect the exact percentage of patients with mosaicism. Using this technology, we re-tested a series of 40 patients with sporadic retinoblastoma: 10 of them had been previously classified as constitutional heterozygotes, whereas in 30 no RB1 mutations had been found in lymphocytes. In 3 of these 30 patients, we have now identified low-level mosaic variants, varying in frequency between 8 and 24%. In 7 out of the 10 cases previously classified as heterozygous from testing blood cells, we were able to test additional tissues (ocular tissues, urine and/or oral mucosa): in three of them, next generation sequencing has revealed mosaicism. Present results thus confirm that a significant fraction (6/40; 15%) of sporadic retinoblastoma cases are due to postzygotic events and that deep sequencing is an efficient method to unambiguously distinguish mosaics. Re-testing of retinoblastoma patients through next generation sequencing can thus provide new information that may have important implications with respect to genetic counseling and family care.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/ejhg.2015.6DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4613478PMC
November 2015

Redox imbalance and morphological changes in skin fibroblasts in typical Rett syndrome.

Oxid Med Cell Longev 2014 29;2014:195935. Epub 2014 May 29.

Child Neuropsychiatry Unit, University Hospital Azienda Ospedaliera Universitaria Senese (AOUS), 53100 Siena, Italy.

Evidence of oxidative stress has been reported in the blood of patients with Rett syndrome (RTT), a neurodevelopmental disorder mainly caused by mutations in the gene encoding the Methyl-CpG-binding protein 2. Little is known regarding the redox status in RTT cellular systems and its relationship with the morphological phenotype. In RTT patients (n = 16) we investigated four different oxidative stress markers, F2-Isoprostanes (F2-IsoPs), F4-Neuroprostanes (F4-NeuroPs), nonprotein bound iron (NPBI), and (4-HNE PAs), and glutathione in one of the most accessible cells, that is, skin fibroblasts, and searched for possible changes in cellular/intracellular structure and qualitative modifications of synthesized collagen. Significantly increased F4-NeuroPs (12-folds), F2-IsoPs (7.5-folds) NPBI (2.3-folds), 4-HNE PAs (1.48-folds), and GSSG (1.44-folds) were detected, with significantly decreased GSH (-43.6%) and GSH/GSSG ratio (-3.05 folds). A marked dilation of the rough endoplasmic reticulum cisternae, associated with several cytoplasmic multilamellar bodies, was detectable in RTT fibroblasts. Colocalization of collagen I and collagen III, as well as the percentage of type I collagen as derived by semiquantitative immunofluorescence staining analyses, appears to be significantly reduced in RTT cells. Our findings indicate the presence of a redox imbalance and previously unrecognized morphological skin fibroblast abnormalities in RTT patients.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2014/195935DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4060159PMC
February 2015

GluD1 is a common altered player in neuronal differentiation from both MECP2-mutated and CDKL5-mutated iPS cells.

Eur J Hum Genet 2015 Feb 11;23(2):195-201. Epub 2014 Jun 11.

Medical Genetics, University of Siena, Siena, Italy.

Rett syndrome is a monogenic disease due to de novo mutations in either MECP2 or CDKL5 genes. In spite of their involvement in the same disease, a functional interaction between the two genes has not been proven. MeCP2 is a transcriptional regulator; CDKL5 encodes for a kinase protein that might be involved in the regulation of gene expression. Therefore, we hypothesized that mutations affecting the two genes may lead to similar phenotypes by dysregulating the expression of common genes. To test this hypothesis we used induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells derived from fibroblasts of one Rett patient with a MECP2 mutation (p.Arg306Cys) and two patients with mutations in CDKL5 (p.Gln347Ter and p.Thr288Ile). Expression profiling was performed in CDKL5-mutated cells and genes of interest were confirmed by real-time RT-PCR in both CDKL5- and MECP2-mutated cells. The only major change in gene expression common to MECP2- and CDKL5-mutated cells was for GRID1, encoding for glutamate D1 receptor (GluD1), a member of the δ-family of ionotropic glutamate receptors. GluD1 does not form AMPA or NMDA glutamate receptors. It acts like an adhesion molecule by linking the postsynaptic and presynaptic compartments, preferentially inducing the inhibitory presynaptic differentiation of cortical neurons. Our results demonstrate that GRID1 expression is downregulated in both MECP2- and CDKL5-mutated iPS cells and upregulated in neuronal precursors and mature neurons. These data provide novel insights into disease pathophysiology and identify possible new targets for therapeutic treatment of Rett syndrome.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/ejhg.2014.81DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4172451PMC
February 2015

Huntington's disease gene expansion associates with early onset nonprogressive chorea.

Mov Disord 2013 May 27;28(5):684. Epub 2013 Mar 27.

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/mds.25443DOI Listing
May 2013

Revealing the complexity of a monogenic disease: rett syndrome exome sequencing.

PLoS One 2013 28;8(2):e56599. Epub 2013 Feb 28.

Medical Genetics, University of Siena, Siena, Italy.

Rett syndrome (OMIM#312750) is a monogenic disorder that may manifest as a large variety of phenotypes ranging from very severe to mild disease. Since there is a weak correlation between the mutation type in the Xq28 disease-gene MECP2/X-inactivation status and phenotypic variability, we used this disease as a model to unveil the complex nature of a monogenic disorder. Whole exome sequencing was used to analyze the functional portion of the genome of two pairs of sisters with Rett syndrome. Although each pair of sisters had the same MECP2 (OMIM*300005) mutation and balanced X-inactivation, one individual from each pair could not speak or walk, and had a profound intellectual deficit (classical Rett syndrome), while the other individual could speak and walk, and had a moderate intellectual disability (Zappella variant). In addition to the MECP2 mutation, each patient has a group of variants predicted to impair protein function. The classical Rett girls, but not their milder affected sisters, have an enrichment of variants in genes related to oxidative stress, muscle impairment and intellectual disability and/or autism. On the other hand, a subgroup of variants related to modulation of immune system, exclusive to the Zappella Rett patients are driving toward a milder phenotype. We demonstrate that genome analysis has the potential to identify genetic modifiers of Rett syndrome, providing insight into disease pathophysiology. Combinations of mutations that affect speaking, walking and intellectual capabilities may represent targets for new therapeutic approaches. Most importantly, we demonstrated that monogenic diseases may be more complex than previously thought.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0056599PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3585308PMC
August 2013

iPS cells to model CDKL5-related disorders.

Eur J Hum Genet 2011 Dec 13;19(12):1246-55. Epub 2011 Jul 13.

Medical Genetics, Department of Biotechnology, University of Siena, Policlinico S. Maria alle Scotte, viale Bracci 2, Siena, Italy.

Rett syndrome (RTT) is a progressive neurologic disorder representing one of the most common causes of mental retardation in females. To date mutations in three genes have been associated with this condition. Classic RTT is caused by mutations in the MECP2 gene, whereas variants can be due to mutations in either MECP2 or FOXG1 or CDKL5. Mutations in CDKL5 have been identified both in females with the early onset seizure variant of RTT and in males with X-linked epileptic encephalopathy. CDKL5 is a kinase protein highly expressed in neurons, but its exact function inside the cell is unknown. To address this issue we established a human cellular model for CDKL5-related disease using the recently developed technology of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). iPSCs can be expanded indefinitely and differentiated in vitro into many different cell types, including neurons. These features make them the ideal tool to study disease mechanisms directly on the primarily affected neuronal cells. We derived iPSCs from fibroblasts of one female with p.Q347X and one male with p.T288I mutation, affected by early onset seizure variant and X-linked epileptic encephalopathy, respectively. We demonstrated that female CDKL5-mutated iPSCs maintain X-chromosome inactivation and clones express either the mutant CDKL5 allele or the wild-type allele that serve as an ideal experimental control. Array CGH indicates normal isogenic molecular karyotypes without detection of de novo CNVs in the CDKL5-mutated iPSCs. Furthermore, the iPS cells can be differentiated into neurons and are thus suitable to model disease pathogenesis in vitro.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/ejhg.2011.131DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3218106PMC
December 2011

Alport syndrome and leiomyomatosis: the first deletion extending beyond COL4A6 intron 2.

Pediatr Nephrol 2011 May 14;26(5):717-24. Epub 2010 Dec 14.

Department Molecular Biology, Medical Genetics, University of Siena, V. Le Bracci 2, 53100, Siena, Italy.

Alport syndrome (ATS) is a nephropathy characterized by the association of progressive hematuric nephritis with ultrastructural changes of the glomerular basement membrane (thinning, thickening, and splitting), sensorineural deafness, and variable ocular abnormalities (anterior lenticonus, macular flecks, and cataracts). The most common mode of transmission is X-linked inheritance, due to COL4A5 mutations. X-linked ATS is rarely associated with diffuse leiomyomatosis (DL), a benign hypertrophy of the visceral smooth muscle in gastrointestinal, respiratory, and female reproductive tracts. The ATS-DL complex is due to deletions that encompass the 5' ends of the COL4A5 and COL4A6 genes and include the bidirectional promoter. In this paper, we described 3 ATS-DL cases, 2 familial and 1 sporadic bearing a deletion encompassing the 5'-end of both the COL4A5 and COL4A6 genes, as identified by multiplex ligation-dependent probe amplification (MLPA) analysis. The array-CGH technique allowed a better definition of deletion size, confirming that the proximal breakpoint was within COL4A6 intron 2 in 2 cases. Surprisingly, 1 case had a deletion extending proximally beyond exon 3 of COL4A6, as confirmed by qPCR analysis. This is the largest deletion reported to date that has been associated with ATS-DL and this case should lead us to reconsider the mechanisms that might be involved in the development of diffuse leiomyomatosis.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00467-010-1693-9DOI Listing
May 2011

Hybridisation-based resequencing of 17 X-linked intellectual disability genes in 135 patients reveals novel mutations in ATRX, SLC6A8 and PQBP1.

Eur J Hum Genet 2011 Jun 26;19(6):717-20. Epub 2011 Jan 26.

Department of Human Molecular Genetics, Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics, Berlin, Germany.

X-linked intellectual disability (XLID), also known as X-linked mental retardation, is a highly genetically heterogeneous condition for which mutations in >90 different genes have been identified. In this study, we used a custom-made sequencing array based on the Affymetrix 50k platform for mutation screening in 17 known XLID genes in patients from 135 families and found eight single-nucleotide changes that were absent in controls. For four mutations affecting ATRX (p.1761M>T), PQBP1 (p.155R>X) and SLC6A8 (p.390P>L and p.477S>L), we provide evidence for a functional involvement of these changes in the aetiology of intellectual disability.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/ejhg.2010.244DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3110040PMC
June 2011

Intellectual disability, midface hypoplasia, facial hypotonia, and Alport syndrome are associated with a deletion in Xq22.3.

Am J Med Genet A 2010 Mar;152A(3):713-7

JC Self Research Institute of Human Genetics, Greenwood Genetic Center, Greenwood, South Carolina, USA.

Alport syndrome with intellectual disability (ID) is a contiguous gene deletion syndrome involving several genes on Xq22.3 including COL4A5 and ACSL4. We report on a family with two males with this disorder and a Xq22.3 deletion. Fluorescent in situ hybridization and genomic analyses mapped the deletion region to between exon 1 of COL4A5 and exon 12 of ACSL4. The patients' mother has microscopic hematuria and was found to be heterozygous for the Xq22.3 deletion. Analysis using reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction of lymphoblastoid cell line RNA from an affected male in the family revealed a stable chimeric transcript with the ACSL4 exons 13-17 replaced by a cryptic exon from intron 1 of the COL4A5 gene. A truncated 54 kDa protein was predicted from this transcript but Western blot analysis and ACSL4 enzyme assay both showed functional nullisomy of ACSL4. We also compared the clinical features of the family with three previously reported families with the ACSL4 gene deletion and found that ID with absent or severely delayed speech, midface hypoplasia, and facial hypotonia are consistent features observed in the absence of ACSL4 gene.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ajmg.a.33208DOI Listing
March 2010

14q12 Microdeletion syndrome and congenital variant of Rett syndrome.

Eur J Med Genet 2009 Mar-Jun;52(2-3):148-52. Epub 2009 Mar 19.

Medical Genetics, University of Siena, Siena, Italy.

Only two patients with 14q12 deletion have been reported to date. Here, we describe an additional patient with a similar deletion in order to improve the clinical delineation of this new microdeletion syndrome. The emerging phenotype is characterized by a Rett-like clinical course with an almost normal development during the first months of life followed by a period of regression. A peculiar facial phenotype is also present and it is characterized by mild dysmorphisms such as downslanting palpebral fissures, bilateral epicanthic folds, depressed nasal bridge, bulbous nasal tip, tented upper lip, everted lower lip and large ears. The relationship between this microdeletion syndrome and the congenital variant of Rett syndrome due to point mutations in one of the genes included in the deleted region, FOXG1, is discussed.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ejmg.2009.03.004DOI Listing
September 2009

Array comparative genomic hybridization in retinoma and retinoblastoma tissues.

Cancer Sci 2009 Mar 29;100(3):465-71. Epub 2009 Jan 29.

Medical Genetics, Department of Molecular Biology, University of Siena, Policlinico Le Scotte, Siena, Italy.

In retinoblastoma, two RB1 mutations are necessary for tumor development. Recurrent genomic rearrangements may represent subsequent events required for retinoblastoma progression. Array-comparative genomic hybridization was carried out in 18 eye samples, 10 from bilateral and eight from unilateral retinoblastoma patients. Two unilateral cases also showed areas of retinoma. The most frequent imbalance in retinoblastomas was 6p gain (40%), followed by gains at 1q12-q25.3, 2p24.3-p24.2, 9q22.2, and 9q33.1 and losses at 11q24.3, 13q13.2-q22.3, and 16q12.1-q21. Bilateral cases showed a lower number of imbalances than unilateral cases (P = 0.002). Unilateral cases were divided into low-level (< or = 4) and high-level (> or = 7) chromosomal instability groups. The first group presented with younger age at diagnosis (mean 511 days) compared with the second group (mean 1606 days). In one retinoma case ophthalmoscopically diagnosed as a benign lesion no rearrangements were detected, whereas the adjacent retinoblastoma displayed seven aberrations. The other retinoma case identified by retrospective histopathological examination shared three rearrangements with the adjacent retinoblastoma. Two other gene-free rearrangements were retinoma specific. One rearrangement, dup5p, was retinoblastoma specific and included the SKP2 gene. Genomic profiling indicated that the first retinoma was a pretumoral lesion, whereas the other represents a subclone of cells bearing 'benign' rearrangements overwhelmed by another subclone presenting aberrations with higher 'oncogenic' potential. In summary, the present study shows that bilateral and unilateral retinoblastoma have different chromosomal instability that correlates with the age of tumor onset in unilateral cases. This is the first report of genomic profiling in retinoma tissue, shedding light on the different nature of lesions named 'retinoma'.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1349-7006.2008.01070.xDOI Listing
March 2009

Genomic differences between retinoma and retinoblastoma.

Acta Oncol 2008 ;47(8):1483-92

Medical Genetics, Department of Molecular Biology, University of Siena, Siena, Italy.

Introduction: Genomic copy number changes are involved in the multi-step process transforming normal retina in retinoblastoma after RB1 mutational events. Previous studies on retinoblastoma samples led to a multi-step model in which after two successive RB1 mutations, further genomic changes accompany malignancy: 1q32.1 gain is followed by 6p22 gain, that in turn is followed by 16q22 loss and 2p24.1 gain. Retinoma is a benign variant of retinoblastoma that was initially considered a tumor regression, but recent evidences suggest that it rather represents a pre-malignant lesion. Genetic studies on retinoma tissue have rarely been performed.

Materials And Methods: We investigated by Real-Time qPCR, copy number changes of candidate genes located within the 4 hot-spot regions (MDM4 at 1q32.1, MYCN at 2p24.1, E2F3 at 6p22 and CDH11 at 16q22) in retina, retinoma and retinoblastoma tissues from two different patients.

Results: Our results demonstrated that some copy number changes thought to belong to early (MDM4 gain) or late stage (MYCN and E2F3 gain) of retinoblastoma are already present in retinoma at the same (for MDM4) or at lower (for MYCN and E2F3) copy number variation respect to retinoblastoma. CDH11 copy number is not altered in the two retinoma samples, but gain is present in one of the two retinoblastomas.

Discussion: Our results suggest that MDM4 gain may be involved in the early transition from normal retina to retinoma, while MYCN and E2F3 progressive gain may represent driving factors of tumor progression. These results also confirm the pre-malignant nature of retinoma.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02841860802342382DOI Listing
December 2008

Private inherited microdeletion/microduplications: implications in clinical practice.

Eur J Med Genet 2008 Sep-Oct;51(5):409-16. Epub 2008 Jul 9.

Medical Genetics, Molecular Biology Department, University of Siena, Viale Bracci 2, 53100 Siena, Italy.

The introduction of array-CGH analysis is allowing the identification of novel genomic disorders. However, this new high-resolution technique is also opening novel diagnostic challenges when inherited private CNVs of unclear clinical significance are found. Oligo array-CGH analysis of 84 patients with mild to severe mental retardation associated with multiple congenital anomalies revealed 10 private CNVs inherited from a healthy parent. Three were deletions (7q31, 14q21.1, Xq25) and seven duplications (12p11.22, 12q21.31, 13q31.1, 17q12, Xp22.31, Xq28) ranging between 0.1 and 3.8Mb. Six rearrangements were not polymorphic. Four overlapped polymorphic regions to the extent of 10-61%. In one case the size was different between the proband and the healthy relative. Three small rearrangements were gene deserts. The remaining seven had a mean gene content of five (ranging from 1 to 18). None of the rearranged genes is known to be imprinted. Three disease-genes were found in three different cases: KAL1 in dupXp22.31, STS in another dupXp22.31 and TCF2 in dup17q12. The patient carrying the last duplication presents sex reversal, Peters' anomaly and renal cysts and the duplication is located 4Mb away from the HSD17B1 gene, coding a key enzyme of testosterone biosynthesis. Considering the overlap with polymorphic regions, size-identity within the family, gene content, kind of rearrangement and size of rearrangement we suggest that at least in five cases the relationship to the phenotype has not to be excluded. We recommend to maintain caution when asserting that chromosomal abnormalities inherited from a healthy parent are benign. A more complex mechanism may in fact be involved, such as a concurrent variation in the other allele or in another chromosome that influences the phenotype.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ejmg.2008.06.003DOI Listing
November 2008

A 3 Mb deletion in 14q12 causes severe mental retardation, mild facial dysmorphisms and Rett-like features.

Am J Med Genet A 2008 Aug;146A(15):1994-8

Medical Genetics Molecular Biology Department, University of Siena, Siena, Italy.

The present report describes a 7-year-old girl with a de novo 3 Mb interstitial deletion of chromosome 14q12, identified by oligo array-CGH. The region is gene poor and contains only five genes two of them, FOXG1B and PRKD1 being deleted also in a previously reported case with a very similar phenotype. Both patients present prominent metopic suture, epicanthic folds, bulbous nasal tip, tented upper lip, everted lower lip and large ears and a clinical course like Rett syndrome, including normal perinatal period, postnatal microcephaly, seizures, and severe mental retardation. FOXG1B (forkhead box G1B) is a very intriguing candidate gene since it is known to promote neuronal progenitor proliferation and to suppress premature neurogenesis and its disruption is reported in a patient with postnatal microcephaly, corpus callosum agenesis, seizures, and severe mental retardation.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ajmg.a.32413DOI Listing
August 2008

FOXG1 is responsible for the congenital variant of Rett syndrome.

Am J Hum Genet 2008 Jul 19;83(1):89-93. Epub 2008 Jun 19.

Medical Genetics, Molecular Biology Department, University of Siena, 53100 Siena, Italy.

Rett syndrome is a severe neurodevelopmental disease caused by mutations in the X-linked gene encoding for the methyl-CpG-binding protein MeCP2. Here, we report the identification of FOXG1-truncating mutations in two patients affected by the congenital variant of Rett syndrome. FOXG1 encodes a brain-specific transcriptional repressor that is essential for early development of the telencephalon. Molecular analysis revealed that Foxg1 might also share common molecular mechanisms with MeCP2 during neuronal development, exhibiting partially overlapping expression domain in postnatal cortex and neuronal subnuclear localization.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ajhg.2008.05.015DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2443837PMC
July 2008

Delineation of the phenotype associated with 7q36.1q36.2 deletion: long QT syndrome, renal hypoplasia and mental retardation.

Am J Med Genet A 2008 May;146A(9):1195-9

Medical Genetics, University of Siena, Siena, Italy.

Terminal deletions of the long arm of chromosome 7 are well known and are frequently associated with hypotelorism or holoprosencephaly due to the involvement of the SHH gene located in 7q36.3. These deletions are easily detectable with routine subtelomeric MLPA analysis. Deletions affecting a more proximal part of 7q36, namely bands 7q36.1q36.2 are less common, and may be missed by subtelomeric MLPA analysis. We report a 9-year-old girl with a 5.27 Mb deletion in 7q36.1q36.2, and compare her to literature patients proposing a phenotype characterized by mental retardation, unusual facial features, renal hypoplasia and long QT syndrome due to loss of the KCNH2 gene. These characteristics are sufficiently distinct that the syndrome may be diagnosed on clinical grounds.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ajmg.a.32197DOI Listing
May 2008