Publications by authors named "Susanne Thomson"

17 Publications

  • Page 1 of 1

Analysis of CHRNA7 rare variants in autism spectrum disorder susceptibility.

Am J Med Genet A 2015 Apr 5;167A(4):715-23. Epub 2015 Feb 5.

Department of Pharmacy and Biotechnology, University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy.

Chromosome 15q13.3 recurrent microdeletions are causally associated with a wide range of phenotypes, including autism spectrum disorder (ASD), seizures, intellectual disability, and other psychiatric conditions. Whether the reciprocal microduplication is pathogenic is less certain. CHRNA7, encoding for the alpha7 subunit of the neuronal nicotinic acetylcholine receptor, is considered the likely culprit gene in mediating neurological phenotypes in 15q13.3 deletion cases. To assess if CHRNA7 rare variants confer risk to ASD, we performed copy number variant analysis and Sanger sequencing of the CHRNA7 coding sequence in a sample of 135 ASD cases. Sequence variation in this gene remains largely unexplored, given the existence of a fusion gene, CHRFAM7A, which includes a nearly identical partial duplication of CHRNA7. Hence, attempts to sequence coding exons must distinguish between CHRNA7 and CHRFAM7A, making next-generation sequencing approaches unreliable for this purpose. A CHRNA7 microduplication was detected in a patient with autism and moderate cognitive impairment; while no rare damaging variants were identified in the coding region, we detected rare variants in the promoter region, previously described to functionally reduce transcription. This study represents the first sequence variant analysis of CHRNA7 in a sample of idiopathic autism.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ajmg.a.36847DOI Listing
April 2015

Convergence of genes and cellular pathways dysregulated in autism spectrum disorders.

Am J Hum Genet 2014 May 24;94(5):677-94. Epub 2014 Apr 24.

Academic Centre on Rare Diseases, School of Medicine and Medical Science, University College Dublin, Dublin 4, Ireland; Children's University Hospital Temple Street, Dublin 1, Ireland.

Rare copy-number variation (CNV) is an important source of risk for autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). We analyzed 2,446 ASD-affected families and confirmed an excess of genic deletions and duplications in affected versus control groups (1.41-fold, p = 1.0 × 10(-5)) and an increase in affected subjects carrying exonic pathogenic CNVs overlapping known loci associated with dominant or X-linked ASD and intellectual disability (odds ratio = 12.62, p = 2.7 × 10(-15), ∼3% of ASD subjects). Pathogenic CNVs, often showing variable expressivity, included rare de novo and inherited events at 36 loci, implicating ASD-associated genes (CHD2, HDAC4, and GDI1) previously linked to other neurodevelopmental disorders, as well as other genes such as SETD5, MIR137, and HDAC9. Consistent with hypothesized gender-specific modulators, females with ASD were more likely to have highly penetrant CNVs (p = 0.017) and were also overrepresented among subjects with fragile X syndrome protein targets (p = 0.02). Genes affected by de novo CNVs and/or loss-of-function single-nucleotide variants converged on networks related to neuronal signaling and development, synapse function, and chromatin regulation.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ajhg.2014.03.018DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4067558PMC
May 2014

Individual common variants exert weak effects on the risk for autism spectrum disorders.

Hum Mol Genet 2012 Nov 26;21(21):4781-92. Epub 2012 Jul 26.

Autism Genetics Group, Department of Psychiatry, School of Medicine, Trinity College, Dublin 8, Ireland.

While it is apparent that rare variation can play an important role in the genetic architecture of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), the contribution of common variation to the risk of developing ASD is less clear. To produce a more comprehensive picture, we report Stage 2 of the Autism Genome Project genome-wide association study, adding 1301 ASD families and bringing the total to 2705 families analysed (Stages 1 and 2). In addition to evaluating the association of individual single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), we also sought evidence that common variants, en masse, might affect the risk. Despite genotyping over a million SNPs covering the genome, no single SNP shows significant association with ASD or selected phenotypes at a genome-wide level. The SNP that achieves the smallest P-value from secondary analyses is rs1718101. It falls in CNTNAP2, a gene previously implicated in susceptibility for ASD. This SNP also shows modest association with age of word/phrase acquisition in ASD subjects, of interest because features of language development are also associated with other variation in CNTNAP2. In contrast, allele scores derived from the transmission of common alleles to Stage 1 cases significantly predict case status in the independent Stage 2 sample. Despite being significant, the variance explained by these allele scores was small (Vm< 1%). Based on results from individual SNPs and their en masse effect on risk, as inferred from the allele score results, it is reasonable to conclude that common variants affect the risk for ASD but their individual effects are modest.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/hmg/dds301DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3471395PMC
November 2012

A novel approach of homozygous haplotype sharing identifies candidate genes in autism spectrum disorder.

Hum Genet 2012 Apr 14;131(4):565-79. Epub 2011 Oct 14.

School of Medicine and Medical Science University College, Dublin, Ireland.

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a highly heritable disorder of complex and heterogeneous aetiology. It is primarily characterized by altered cognitive ability including impaired language and communication skills and fundamental deficits in social reciprocity. Despite some notable successes in neuropsychiatric genetics, overall, the high heritability of ASD (~90%) remains poorly explained by common genetic risk variants. However, recent studies suggest that rare genomic variation, in particular copy number variation, may account for a significant proportion of the genetic basis of ASD. We present a large scale analysis to identify candidate genes which may contain low-frequency recessive variation contributing to ASD while taking into account the potential contribution of population differences to the genetic heterogeneity of ASD. Our strategy, homozygous haplotype (HH) mapping, aims to detect homozygous segments of identical haplotype structure that are shared at a higher frequency amongst ASD patients compared to parental controls. The analysis was performed on 1,402 Autism Genome Project trios genotyped for 1 million single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). We identified 25 known and 1,218 novel ASD candidate genes in the discovery analysis including CADM2, ABHD14A, CHRFAM7A, GRIK2, GRM3, EPHA3, FGF10, KCND2, PDZK1, IMMP2L and FOXP2. Furthermore, 10 of the previously reported ASD genes and 300 of the novel candidates identified in the discovery analysis were replicated in an independent sample of 1,182 trios. Our results demonstrate that regions of HH are significantly enriched for previously reported ASD candidate genes and the observed association is independent of gene size (odds ratio 2.10). Our findings highlight the applicability of HH mapping in complex disorders such as ASD and offer an alternative approach to the analysis of genome-wide association data.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00439-011-1094-6DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3303079PMC
April 2012

Use of array CGH to detect exonic copy number variants throughout the genome in autism families detects a novel deletion in TMLHE.

Hum Mol Genet 2011 Nov 24;20(22):4360-70. Epub 2011 Aug 24.

Department of Molecular and Human Genetics, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX 77030, USA.

Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder with increasing evidence of heterogeneous genetic etiology including de novo and inherited copy number variants (CNVs). We performed array comparative genomic hybridization using a custom Agilent 1 M oligonucleotide array intended to cover 197 332 unique exons in RefSeq genes; 98% were covered by at least one probe and 95% were covered by three or more probes with the focus on detecting relatively small CNVs that would implicate a single protein-coding gene. The study group included 99 trios from the Simons Simplex Collection. The analysis identified and validated 55 potentially pathogenic CNVs, categorized as de novo autosomal heterozygous, inherited homozygous autosomal, complex autosomal and hemizygous deletions on the X chromosome of probands. Twenty percent (11 of 55) of these CNV calls were rare when compared with the Database of Genomic Variants. Thirty-six percent (20 of 55) of the CNVs were also detected in the same samples in an independent analysis using the 1 M Illumina single-nucleotide polymorphism array. Findings of note included a common and sometimes homozygous 61 bp exonic deletion in SLC38A10, three CNVs found in lymphoblast-derived DNA but not present in whole-blood derived DNA and, most importantly, in a male proband, an exonic deletion of the TMLHE (trimethyllysine hydroxylase epsilon) that encodes the first enzyme in the biosynthesis of carnitine. Data for CNVs present in lymphoblasts but absent in fresh blood DNA suggest that these represent clonal outgrowth of individual B cells with pre-existing somatic mutations rather than artifacts arising in cell culture. GEO accession number GSE23765 (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/geo/, date last accessed on 30 August 2011). Genboree accession: http://genboree.org/java-bin/gbrowser.jsp?refSeqId=1868&entryPointId=chr17&from=53496072&to=53694382&isPublic=yes, date last accessed on 30 August 2011.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/hmg/ddr363DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3196886PMC
November 2011

Multiple recurrent de novo CNVs, including duplications of the 7q11.23 Williams syndrome region, are strongly associated with autism.

Neuron 2011 Jun;70(5):863-85

Program on Neurogenetics, Yale University School of Medicine, 230 South Frontage Road, New Haven, CT 06520, USA.

We have undertaken a genome-wide analysis of rare copy-number variation (CNV) in 1124 autism spectrum disorder (ASD) families, each comprised of a single proband, unaffected parents, and, in most kindreds, an unaffected sibling. We find significant association of ASD with de novo duplications of 7q11.23, where the reciprocal deletion causes Williams-Beuren syndrome, characterized by a highly social personality. We identify rare recurrent de novo CNVs at five additional regions, including 16p13.2 (encompassing genes USP7 and C16orf72) and Cadherin 13, and implement a rigorous approach to evaluating the statistical significance of these observations. Overall, large de novo CNVs, particularly those encompassing multiple genes, confer substantial risks (OR = 5.6; CI = 2.6-12.0, p = 2.4 × 10(-7)). We estimate there are 130-234 ASD-related CNV regions in the human genome and present compelling evidence, based on cumulative data, for association of rare de novo events at 7q11.23, 15q11.2-13.1, 16p11.2, and Neurexin 1.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.neuron.2011.05.002DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3939065PMC
June 2011

Regulation and dysregulation of vitellogenin mRNA accumulation in daphnids (Daphnia magna).

Aquat Toxicol 2011 Jan 19;101(2):351-7. Epub 2010 Nov 19.

Department of Environmental & Molecular Toxicology, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695-7633, USA.

The induction of vitellogenin in oviparous vertebrates has become the gold standard biomarker of exposure to estrogenic chemicals in the environment. This biomarker of estrogen exposure also has been used in arthropods, however, little is known of the factors that regulate the expression of vitellogenin in these organisms. We investigated changes in accumulation of mRNA products of the vitellogenin gene Vtg2 in daphnids (Daphnia magna) exposed to a diverse array of chemicals. We further evaluated the involvement of hormonal factors in the regulation of vitellogenin expression that may be targets of xenobiotic chemicals. Expression of the Vtg2 gene was highly responsive to exposure to various chemicals with an expression range spanning approximately four orders of magnitude. Chemicals causing the greatest induction were piperonyl butoxide, chlordane, 4-nonylphenol, cadmium, and chloroform. Among these, only 4-nonylphenol is recognized to be estrogenic. Exposure to several chemicals also suppressed Vtg2 mRNA levels, as much as 100-fold. Suppressive chemicals included cyproterone acetate, acetone, triclosan, and atrazine. Exposure to the estrogens diethylstilbestrol and bisphenol A had little effect on vitellogenin mRNA levels further substantiating that these genes are not induced by estrogen exposure. Exposure to the potent ecdysteroids 20-hydroxyecdysone and ponasterone A revealed that Vtg2 was subject to strong suppressive control by these hormones. Vtg2 mRNA levels were not significantly affected from exposure to several juvenoid hormones. Results indicate that ecdysteroids are suppressors of vitellogenin gene expression and that vitellogenin mRNA levels can be elevated or suppressed in daphnids by xenobiotics that elicit antiecdysteroidal or ecdysteroidal activity, respectively. Importantly, daphnid Vtg2 is not elevated in response to estrogenic activity.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.aquatox.2010.11.006DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3691678PMC
January 2011

A genome-wide scan for common alleles affecting risk for autism.

Hum Mol Genet 2010 Oct 27;19(20):4072-82. Epub 2010 Jul 27.

Department of Psychiatry, School of Medicine, Trinity College, Dublin 8, Ireland.

Although autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) have a substantial genetic basis, most of the known genetic risk has been traced to rare variants, principally copy number variants (CNVs). To identify common risk variation, the Autism Genome Project (AGP) Consortium genotyped 1558 rigorously defined ASD families for 1 million single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and analyzed these SNP genotypes for association with ASD. In one of four primary association analyses, the association signal for marker rs4141463, located within MACROD2, crossed the genome-wide association significance threshold of P < 5 × 10(-8). When a smaller replication sample was analyzed, the risk allele at rs4141463 was again over-transmitted; yet, consistent with the winner's curse, its effect size in the replication sample was much smaller; and, for the combined samples, the association signal barely fell below the P < 5 × 10(-8) threshold. Exploratory analyses of phenotypic subtypes yielded no significant associations after correction for multiple testing. They did, however, yield strong signals within several genes, KIAA0564, PLD5, POU6F2, ST8SIA2 and TAF1C.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/hmg/ddq307DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2947401PMC
October 2010

Functional impact of global rare copy number variation in autism spectrum disorders.

Nature 2010 Jul 9;466(7304):368-72. Epub 2010 Jun 9.

The Centre for Applied Genomics and Program in Genetics and Genomic Biology, The Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Ontario M5G 1L7, Canada.

The autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are a group of conditions characterized by impairments in reciprocal social interaction and communication, and the presence of restricted and repetitive behaviours. Individuals with an ASD vary greatly in cognitive development, which can range from above average to intellectual disability. Although ASDs are known to be highly heritable ( approximately 90%), the underlying genetic determinants are still largely unknown. Here we analysed the genome-wide characteristics of rare (<1% frequency) copy number variation in ASD using dense genotyping arrays. When comparing 996 ASD individuals of European ancestry to 1,287 matched controls, cases were found to carry a higher global burden of rare, genic copy number variants (CNVs) (1.19 fold, P = 0.012), especially so for loci previously implicated in either ASD and/or intellectual disability (1.69 fold, P = 3.4 x 10(-4)). Among the CNVs there were numerous de novo and inherited events, sometimes in combination in a given family, implicating many novel ASD genes such as SHANK2, SYNGAP1, DLGAP2 and the X-linked DDX53-PTCHD1 locus. We also discovered an enrichment of CNVs disrupting functional gene sets involved in cellular proliferation, projection and motility, and GTPase/Ras signalling. Our results reveal many new genetic and functional targets in ASD that may lead to final connected pathways.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature09146DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3021798PMC
July 2010

Annotation, phylogenetics, and expression of the nuclear receptors in Daphnia pulex.

BMC Genomics 2009 Oct 28;10:500. Epub 2009 Oct 28.

Department of Environmental and Molecular Toxicology, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina, USA.

Background: The nuclear receptor superfamily currently consists of seven gene subfamilies that encompass over 80 distinct receptor proteins. These transcription factors typically share a common five-domain structure with a highly conserved DNA-binding domain. Some nuclear receptors are ubiquitous among the metazoans, while others are unique to specific phylogenetic groups. Crustaceans represent the second largest group of arthropods with insects being the largest. However, relative to insects, little is known about the nuclear receptors of crustaceans. The aim of this study was to identify putative nuclear receptors from the first assembled genome of a crustacean Daphnia pulex http://wFleaBase.org. Nuclear receptor expression was evaluated and receptors were subjected to phylogenetic analyses to gain insight into evolution and function.

Results: Twenty-five putative nuclear receptors were identified in D. pulex based on the presence of a conserved DNA-binding domain. All of the nuclear receptor protein sequences contain a highly homologous DNA-binding domain and a less conserved ligand-binding domain with the exception of the NR0A group. These receptors lack a ligand-binding domain. Phylogenetic analysis revealed the presence of all seven receptor subfamilies. The D. pulex genome contains several nuclear receptors that have vertebrate orthologs. However, several nuclear receptor members that are represented in vertebrates are absent from D. pulex. Notable absences include receptors of the 1C group (peroxisome proliferators-activated receptors), the 3A group (estrogen receptor), and the 3C group (androgen, progestogen, mineralcorticoid, and glucocorticoid receptors). The D. pulex genome also contains nuclear receptor orthologs that are present in insects and nematodes but not vertebrates, including putative nuclear receptors within the NR0A group. A novel group of receptors, designated HR97, was identified in D. pulex that groups with the HR96/CeNHR8/48/DAF12 clade, but forms its own sub-clade. Gene products were detected in adult female D. pulex for 21 of the 25 receptors.

Conclusion: Nuclear receptors are ancient proteins with highly conserved DNA-binding domains. The DNA-binding domains of the nuclear receptors of D. pulex contain the same degree of conservation that is typically found within nuclear receptors of other species. Most of the receptors identified in D. pulex have orthologs within the vertebrate and invertebrate lineages examined with the exception of the novel HR97 group and the Dappu-HR10 and potentially the Dappu-HR11 receptors found in D. pulex. These groups of receptors may harbour functions that are intrinsic to crustacean physiology.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/1471-2164-10-500DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2774871PMC
October 2009

An orthotopic xenograft model of intraneural NF1 MPNST suggests a potential association between steroid hormones and tumor cell proliferation.

Lab Invest 2007 Nov 17;87(11):1092-102. Epub 2007 Sep 17.

Department of Neuroscience, College of Medicine, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32610-0244, USA.

Malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumors (MPNST) are the most aggressive cancers associated with neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1). Here we report a practical and reproducible model of intraneural NF1 MPNST, by orthotopic xenograft of an immortal human NF1 tumor-derived Schwann cell line into the sciatic nerves of female scid mice. Intraneural injection of the cell line sNF96.2 consistently produced MPNST-like tumors that were highly cellular and showed extensive intraneural growth. These xenografts had a high proliferative index, were angiogenic, had significant mast cell infiltration and rapidly dominated the host nerve. The histopathology of engrafted intraneural tumors was consistent with that of human NF1 MPNST. Xenograft tumors were readily examined by magnetic resonance imaging, which also was used to assess tumor vascularity. In addition, the intraneural proliferation of sNF96.2 cell tumors was decreased in ovariectomized mice, while replacement of estrogen or progesterone restored tumor cell proliferation. This suggests a potential role for steroid hormones in supporting tumor cell growth of this MPNST cell line in vivo. The controlled orthotopic implantation of sNF96.2 cells provides for the precise initiation of intraneural MPNST-like tumors in a model system suitable for therapeutic interventions, including inhibitors of angiogenesis and further study of steroid hormone effects on tumor cell growth.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/labinvest.3700675DOI Listing
November 2007

Plexiform-like neurofibromas develop in the mouse by intraneural xenograft of an NF1 tumor-derived Schwann cell line.

J Neurosci Res 2007 May;85(6):1347-57

Department of Neuroscience, College of Medicine, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32610-0244, USA.

Plexiform neurofibromas are peripheral nerve sheath tumors that arise frequently in neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) and have a risk of malignant progression. Past efforts to establish xenograft models for neurofibroma involved the implantation of tumor fragments or heterogeneous primary cultures, which rarely achieved significant tumor growth. We report a practical and reproducible animal model of plexiform-like neurofibroma by xenograft of an immortal human NF1 tumor-derived Schwann cell line into the peripheral nerve of scid mice. The S100 and p75 positive sNF94.3 cell line was shown to possess a normal karyotype and have apparent full-length neurofibromin by Western blot. These cells were shown to have a constitutional NF1 microdeletion and elevated Ras-GTP activity, however, suggesting loss of normal neurofibromin function. Localized intraneural injection of the cell line sNF94.3 produced consistent and slow growing tumors that infiltrated and disrupted the host nerve. The xenograft tumors resembled plexiform neurofibromas with a low rate of proliferation, abundant extracellular matrix (hypocellularity), basal laminae, high vascularity, and mast cell infiltration. The histologic features of the developed tumors were particularly consistent with those of human plexiform neurofibroma as well. Intraneural xenograft of sNF94.3 cells enables the precise initiation of intraneural, plexiform-like tumors and provides a highly reproducible model for the study of plexiform neurofibroma tumorigenesis. This model facilitates testing of potential therapeutic interventions, including angiogenesis inhibitors, in a relevant cellular environment.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/jnr.21226DOI Listing
May 2007

Comparison of regional gene expression differences in the brains of the domestic dog and human.

Hum Genomics 2004 Nov;1(6):435-43

Department of Genetics, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695, USA.

Comparison of the expression profiles of 2,721 genes in the cerebellum, cortex and pituitary gland of three American Staffordshire terriers, one beagle and one fox hound revealed regional expression differences in the brain but failed to reveal marked differences among breeds, or even individual dogs. Approximately 85 per cent (42 of 49 orthologue comparisons) of the regional differences in the dog are similar to those that differentiate the analogous human brain regions. A smaller percentage of human differences were replicated in the dog, particularly in the cortex, which may generally be evolving more rapidly than other brain regions in mammals. This study lays the foundation for detailed analysis of the population structure of transcriptional variation as it relates to cognitive and neurological phenotypes in the domestic dog.
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http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3500197PMC
http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/1479-7364-1-6-435DOI Listing
November 2004

Formation of Hirano bodies induced by expression of an actin cross-linking protein with a gain-of-function mutation.

Eukaryot Cell 2003 Aug;2(4):778-87

Department of Cellular Biology, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia 30602, USA.

Hirano bodies are paracrystalline actin filament-containing structures reported to be associated with a variety of neurodegenerative diseases. However, the biological function of Hirano bodies remains poorly understood, since nearly all prior studies of these structures were done with postmortem samples of tissue. In the present study, we generated a full-length form of a Dictyostelium 34-kDa actin cross-linking protein with point mutations in the first putative EF hand, termed 34-kDa DeltaEF1. The 34-kDa DeltaEF1 protein binds calcium normally but has activated actin binding that is unregulated by calcium. The expression of the 34-kDa DeltaEF1 protein in Dictyostelium induces the formation of Hirano bodies, as assessed by both fluorescence microscopy and transmission electron microscopy. Dictyostelium cells bearing Hirano bodies grow normally, indicating that Hirano bodies are not associated with cell death and are not deleterious to cell growth. Moreover, the expression of the 34-kDa DeltaEF1 protein rescues the phenotypes of cells lacking the 34-kDa protein and cells lacking both the 34-kDa protein and alpha-actinin. Finally, the expression of the 34-kDa DeltaEF1 protein also initiates the formation of Hirano bodies in cultured mouse fibroblasts. These results show that the failure to regulate the activity and/or affinity of an actin cross-linking protein can provide a signal for the formation of Hirano bodies. More generally, the formation of Hirano bodies is a cellular response to or a consequence of aberrant function of the actin cytoskeleton.
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http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC178389PMC
http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/ec.2.4.778-787.2003DOI Listing
August 2003

Calcium regulation of actin crosslinking is important for function of the actin cytoskeleton in Dictyostelium.

J Cell Sci 2003 Jan;116(Pt 1):187-96

Department of Cellular Biology, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia 30602, USA.

The actin cytoskeleton is sensitive to changes in calcium, which affect contractility, actin-severing proteins, actin-crosslinking proteins and calmodulin-regulated enzymes. To dissect the role of calcium control on the activity of individual proteins from effects of calcium on other processes, calcium-insensitive forms of these proteins were prepared and introduced into living cells to replace a calcium-sensitive form of the same protein. Crosslinking and bundling of actin filaments by the Dictyostelium 34 kDa protein is inhibited in the presence of micromolar free calcium. A modified form of the 34 kDa protein with mutations in the calcium binding EF hand (34 kDa deltaEF2) was prepared using site-directed mutagenesis and expressed in E. coli. Equilibrium dialysis using [(45)Ca]CaCl(2) revealed that the wild-type protein is able to bind one calcium ion with a Kd of 2.4 microM. This calcium binding is absent in the 34 kDa deltaEF2 protein. The actin-binding activity of the 34 kDa deltaEF2 protein was equivalent to wildtype but calcium insensitive in vitro. The wild-type and 34 kDa deltaEF2 proteins were expressed in 34-kDa-null and 34 kDa/alpha-actinin double null mutant Dictyostelium strains to test the hypothesis that calcium regulation of actin crosslinking is important in vivo. The 34 kDa deltaEF2 failed to supply function of the 34 kDa protein important for control of cell size and for normal growth to either of these 34-kDa-null strains. Furthermore, the distribution of the 34 kDa protein and actin were abnormal in cells expressing 34 kDa deltaEF2. Thus, calcium regulation of the formation and/or dissolution of crosslinked actin structures is required for dynamic behavior of the actin cytoskeleton important for cell structure and growth.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1242/jcs.00220DOI Listing
January 2003

NF1 mutations and molecular testing.

J Child Neurol 2002 Aug;17(8):555-61; discussion 571-2, 646-51

Department of Molecular Genetics, University of Florida College of Medicine, Gainesville 32610-0266, USA.

Neurofibromatosis 1 is a progressive autosomal dominant condition caused by mutations in the NF1 gene on chromosome 17. The condition shows clinical variable expressivity, with varying features even between family members who share the same mutation. Furthermore, it is impossible to precisely predict the severity and course of the condition, a source of frustration for families and physicians. Neurofibromatosis 1 is also heterogeneous at the mutation level, with more than 300 independent mutations having been reported in this gene. The mutation data have accumulated slowly owing to the variability of the mutation types and the size and complexity of the gene. This is also reflected in the lack of a simple, inexpensive, highly accurate DNA-based test for neurofibromatosis 1 at present. This article reviews current NF1 mutation spectrum and testing, discussing and illustrating mutation mechanisms and pathogenetic effects, as well as factors affecting DNA testing and interpretation/diagnosis.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/088307380201700803DOI Listing
August 2002

RT-PCR splicing analysis of the NF1 open reading frame.

Hum Genet 2002 May 4;110(5):495-502. Epub 2002 Apr 4.

Department of Pediatrics (Division of Genetics), University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32610-0266, USA.

Neurofibromatosis 1 (NF1) is an autosomal dominant condition whose molecular diagnosis is challenging because of the large size of the gene and the vast number of unique NF1 gene mutations. Some splicing and nonsense mutations have been shown to cause exon skipping. Recently, temperature-induced abnormal splicing has been found in NF1 in ex-vivo tissues. This prompted us to investigate the entire NF1 transcript for such aberrant splicing. We found several novel exon skips that appeared de novo or were present initially and increased in aged/cooled blood: exon 20, exons 20 and 21 combined, exon 33, exon 34, exon 37, exon 40, exon 45, exons 43 and 45 combined, part of exon 43, and the first codon of exon 12b. Some aberrant splice forms were undetectable when blood was drawn into Qiagen PAXgene tubes, rather than EDTA vacutainers, and we demonstrate how these aberrant splicing events are a potential pitfall for RNA-based NF1 mutation characterization. The same reverse transcription/polymerase chain reaction strategy was used to screen for novel NF1 alternative splicing in Schwann cells and seven other tissues. Even though no Schwann-specific alternative exons were identified, we found minor novel splicing isoforms differentially expressed such as skips of exon 37 and exon 40. Skipping of exon 43, part of exon 43, and the first codon of exon 12b were found in all tissues analyzed. These forms suggest greater tissue-based variability in the NF1 message than was previously thought and may indicate minor amounts of heterogeneity at the protein level.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00439-002-0714-6DOI Listing
May 2002