Publications by authors named "Lauren M Watson"

12 Publications

  • Page 1 of 1

Molecular and electrophysiological features of spinocerebellar ataxia type seven in induced pluripotent stem cells.

PLoS One 2021 24;16(2):e0247434. Epub 2021 Feb 24.

Department of Pathology, University of Cape Town, South Africa.

Spinocerebellar ataxia type 7 (SCA7) is an inherited neurodegenerative disease caused by a polyglutamine repeat expansion in the ATXN7 gene. Patients with this disease suffer from a degeneration of their cerebellar Purkinje neurons and retinal photoreceptors that result in a progressive ataxia and loss of vision. As with many neurodegenerative diseases, studies of pathogenesis have been hindered by a lack of disease-relevant models. To this end, we have generated induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) from a cohort of SCA7 patients in South Africa. First, we differentiated the SCA7 affected iPSCs into neurons which showed evidence of a transcriptional phenotype affecting components of STAGA (ATXN7 and KAT2A) and the heat shock protein pathway (DNAJA1 and HSP70). We then performed electrophysiology on the SCA7 iPSC-derived neurons and found that these cells show features of functional aberrations. Lastly, we were able to differentiate the SCA7 iPSCs into retinal photoreceptors that also showed similar transcriptional aberrations to the SCA7 neurons. Our findings give technical insights on how iPSC-derived neurons and photoreceptors can be derived from SCA7 patients and demonstrate that these cells express molecular and electrophysiological differences that may be indicative of impaired neuronal health. We hope that these findings will contribute towards the ongoing efforts to establish the cell-derived models of neurodegenerative diseases that are needed to develop patient-specific treatments.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0247434PLOS
February 2021

Neurodegeneration in SCA14 is associated with increased PKCγ kinase activity, mislocalization and aggregation.

Acta Neuropathol Commun 2018 09 24;6(1):99. Epub 2018 Sep 24.

Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics, University of Oxford, Sherrington Road, Oxford, OX1 3PT, UK.

Spinocerebellar ataxia type 14 (SCA14) is a subtype of the autosomal dominant cerebellar ataxias that is characterized by slowly progressive cerebellar dysfunction and neurodegeneration. SCA14 is caused by mutations in the PRKCG gene, encoding protein kinase C gamma (PKCγ). Despite the identification of 40 distinct disease-causing mutations in PRKCG, the pathological mechanisms underlying SCA14 remain poorly understood. Here we report the molecular neuropathology of SCA14 in post-mortem cerebellum and in human patient-derived induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) carrying two distinct SCA14 mutations in the C1 domain of PKCγ, H36R and H101Q. We show that endogenous expression of these mutations results in the cytoplasmic mislocalization and aggregation of PKCγ in both patient iPSCs and cerebellum. PKCγ aggregates were not efficiently targeted for degradation. Moreover, mutant PKCγ was found to be hyper-activated, resulting in increased substrate phosphorylation. Together, our findings demonstrate that a combination of both, loss-of-function and gain-of-function mechanisms are likely to underlie the pathogenesis of SCA14, caused by mutations in the C1 domain of PKCγ. Importantly, SCA14 patient iPSCs were found to accurately recapitulate pathological features observed in post-mortem SCA14 cerebellum, underscoring their potential as relevant disease models and their promise as future drug discovery tools.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s40478-018-0600-7DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6151931PMC
September 2018

A Simplified Method for Generating Purkinje Cells from Human-Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells.

Cerebellum 2018 Aug;17(4):419-427

Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK.

The establishment of a reliable model for the study of Purkinje cells in vitro is of particular importance, given their central role in cerebellar function and pathology. Recent advances in induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) technology offer the opportunity to generate multiple neuronal subtypes for study in vitro. However, to date, only a handful of studies have generated Purkinje cells from human pluripotent stem cells, with most of these protocols proving challenging to reproduce. Here, we describe a simplified method for the reproducible generation of Purkinje cells from human iPSCs. After 21 days of treatment with factors selected to mimic the self-inductive properties of the isthmic organiser-insulin, fibroblast growth factor 2 (FGF2), and the transforming growth factor β (TGFβ)-receptor blocker SB431542-hiPSCs could be induced to form En1-positive cerebellar progenitors at efficiencies of up to 90%. By day 35 of differentiation, subpopulations of cells representative of the two cerebellar germinal zones, the rhombic lip (Atoh1-positive) and ventricular zone (Ptf1a-positive), could be identified, with the latter giving rise to cells positive for Purkinje cell progenitor-specific markers, including Lhx5, Kirrel2, Olig2 and Skor2. Further maturation was observed following dissociation and co-culture of these cerebellar progenitors with mouse cerebellar cells, with 10% of human cells staining positive for the Purkinje cell marker calbindin by day 70 of differentiation. This protocol, which incorporates modifications designed to enhance cell survival and maturation and improve the ease of handling, should serve to make existing models more accessible, in order to enable future advances in the field.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s12311-017-0913-2DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6028833PMC
August 2018

Dominant Mutations in GRM1 Cause Spinocerebellar Ataxia Type 44.

Am J Hum Genet 2017 Sep;101(3):451-458

Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences, University of Oxford, 6th Floor West Wing, John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford OX3 9DU, UK; Oxford Centre for Genomic Medicine, Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust, Oxford OX3 7HE, UK. Electronic address:

The metabotropic glutamate receptor 1 (mGluR1) is abundantly expressed in the mammalian central nervous system, where it regulates intracellular calcium homeostasis in response to excitatory signaling. Here, we describe heterozygous dominant mutations in GRM1, which encodes mGluR1, that are associated with distinct disease phenotypes: gain-of-function missense mutations, linked in two different families to adult-onset cerebellar ataxia, and a de novo truncation mutation resulting in a dominant-negative effect that is associated with juvenile-onset ataxia and intellectual disability. Crucially, the gain-of-function mutations could be pharmacologically modulated in vitro using an existing FDA-approved drug, Nitazoxanide, suggesting a possible avenue for treatment, which is currently unavailable for ataxias.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ajhg.2017.08.005DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5591020PMC
September 2017

Recent advances in modelling of cerebellar ataxia using induced pluripotent stem cells.

J Neurol Neuromedicine 2017 Jul;2(7):11-15

Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics, University of Oxford, United Kingdom.

The cerebellar ataxias are a group of incurable brain disorders that are caused primarily by the progressive dysfunction and degeneration of cerebellar Purkinje cells. The lack of reliable disease models for the heterogeneous ataxias has hindered the understanding of the underlying pathogenic mechanisms as well as the development of effective therapies for these devastating diseases. Recent advances in the field of induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) technology offer new possibilities to better understand and potentially reverse disease pathology. Given the neurodevelopmental phenotypes observed in several types of ataxias, iPSC-based models have the potential to provide significant insights into disease progression, as well as opportunities for the development of early intervention therapies. To date, however, very few studies have successfully used iPSC-derived cells to model cerebellar ataxias. In this review, we focus on recent breakthroughs in generating human iPSC-derived Purkinje cells. We also highlight the future challenges that will need to be addressed in order to fully exploit these models for the modelling of the molecular mechanisms underlying cerebellar ataxias and the development of effective therapeutics.
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http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5558869PMC
http://dx.doi.org/10.29245/2572.942x/2017/7.1134DOI Listing
July 2017

Induced pluripotent stem cell technology for modelling and therapy of cerebellar ataxia.

Open Biol 2015 Jul;5(7):150056

Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK

Induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) technology has emerged as an important tool in understanding, and potentially reversing, disease pathology. This is particularly true in the case of neurodegenerative diseases, in which the affected cell types are not readily accessible for study. Since the first descriptions of iPSC-based disease modelling, considerable advances have been made in understanding the aetiology and progression of a diverse array of neurodegenerative conditions, including Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease. To date, however, relatively few studies have succeeded in using iPSCs to model the neurodegeneration observed in cerebellar ataxia. Given the distinct neurodevelopmental phenotypes associated with certain types of ataxia, iPSC-based models are likely to provide significant insights, not only into disease progression, but also to the development of early-intervention therapies. In this review, we describe the existing iPSC-based disease models of this heterogeneous group of conditions and explore the challenges associated with generating cerebellar neurons from iPSCs, which have thus far hindered the expansion of this research.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rsob.150056DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4632502PMC
July 2015

Cross-talking noncoding RNAs contribute to cell-specific neurodegeneration in SCA7.

Nat Struct Mol Biol 2014 Nov 12;21(11):955-961. Epub 2014 Oct 12.

MRC Functional Genomics Unit, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK.

What causes the tissue-specific pathology of diseases resulting from mutations in housekeeping genes? Specifically, in spinocerebellar ataxia type 7 (SCA7), a neurodegenerative disorder caused by a CAG-repeat expansion in ATXN7 (which encodes an essential component of the mammalian transcription coactivation complex, STAGA), the factors underlying the characteristic progressive cerebellar and retinal degeneration in patients were unknown. We found that STAGA is required for the transcription initiation of miR-124, which in turn mediates the post-transcriptional cross-talk between lnc-SCA7, a conserved long noncoding RNA, and ATXN7 mRNA. In SCA7, mutations in ATXN7 disrupt these regulatory interactions and result in a neuron-specific increase in ATXN7 expression. Strikingly, in mice this increase is most prominent in the SCA7 disease-relevant tissues, namely the retina and cerebellum. Our results illustrate how noncoding RNA-mediated feedback regulation of a ubiquitously expressed housekeeping gene may contribute to specific neurodegeneration.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nsmb.2902DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4255225PMC
November 2014

Polyglutamine disease: from pathogenesis to therapy.

S Afr Med J 2012 Mar 2;102(6):481-4. Epub 2012 Mar 2.

Division of Human Genetics, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town.

Polyglutamine diseases are inherited neurodegenerative conditions arising from expanded trinucleotide CAG repeats in the disease-causing gene, which are translated into polyglutamine tracts in the resultant protein. Although these diseases share a common type of mutation, emerging evidence suggests that pathogenesis is complex, involving disruption of key cellular pathways, and varying with the disease context. An understanding of polyglutamine disease mechanisms is critical for development of novel therapeutics. Here we summarise theories of molecular pathogenesis, and examine ways in which this knowledge is being harnessed for therapy, with reference to work under way at the University of Cape Town. Despite a plethora of preclinical data, clinical trials of therapies for polyglutamine diseases have had only limited success. However, recently initiated trials, including those using gene silencing approaches, should provide valuable insights into the safety and efficacy of therapies directly targeting polyglutamine pathogenesis. This is particularly relevant in the South African context, where the frequencies of two polyglutamine diseases, spinocerebellar ataxia types 1 and 7, are among the highest globally.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.7196/samj.5690DOI Listing
March 2012

RNA therapy for polyglutamine neurodegenerative diseases.

Expert Rev Mol Med 2012 Jan 31;14:e3. Epub 2012 Jan 31.

Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK.

Polyglutamine neurodegenerative diseases result from the expansion of a trinucleotide CAG repeat, encoding a polyglutamine tract in the disease-causing protein. The process by which each polyglutamine protein exerts its toxicity is complex, involving a variety of mechanisms including transcriptional dysregulation, proteasome impairment and mitochondrial dysfunction. Thus, the most effective and widely applicable therapies are likely to be those designed to eliminate production of the mutant protein upstream of these deleterious effects. RNA-based approaches represent promising therapeutic strategies for polyglutamine diseases, offering the potential to suppress gene expression in a sequence-specific manner at the transcriptional and post-transcriptional levels. In particular, gene silencing therapies capable of discrimination between mutant and wildtype alleles, based on disease-linked polymorphisms or CAG repeat length, might prove crucial in cases where a loss of wild type function is deleterious. Novel methods, such as gene knockdown and replacement, seek to eliminate the technical difficulties associated with allele-specific silencing by avoiding the need to target specific mutations. With a variety of RNA technologies currently being developed to target multiple facets of polyglutamine pathogenesis, the emergence of an effective therapy seems imminent. However, numerous technical obstacles associated with design, discrimination and delivery must be overcome before RNA therapy can be effectively applied in the clinical setting.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/erm.2011.1DOI Listing
January 2012