Latest Articles Include:
- This Month in The Journal
- Am J Hum Genet 88(2):123-124 (2011)
- This Month in Genetics
- Am J Hum Genet 88(2):125-126 (2011)
- Loss-of-Function Mutations of ILDR1 Cause Autosomal-Recessive Hearing Impairment DFNB42
- Am J Hum Genet 88(2):127-137 (2011)
By using homozygosity mapping in a consanguineous Pakistani family, we detected linkage of nonsyndromic hearing loss to a 7.6 Mb region on chromosome 3q13.31-q21.1 within the previously reported DFNB42 locus. Subsequent candidate gene sequencing identified a homozygous nonsense mutation (c.1135G>T [p.Glu379X]) in ILDR1 as the cause of hearing impairment. By analyzing additional consanguineous families with homozygosity at this locus, we detected ILDR1 mutations in the affected individuals of 10 more families from Pakistan and Iran. The identified ILDR1 variants include missense, nonsense, frameshift, and splice-site mutations as well as a start codon mutation in the family that originally defined the DFNB42 locus. ILDR1 encodes the evolutionarily conserved immunoglobulin-like domain containing receptor 1, a putative transmembrane receptor of unknown function. In situ hybridization detected expression of Ildr1, the murine ortholog, early in development in the vestibule ! and in hair cells and supporting cells of the cochlea. Expression in hair cell- and supporting cell-containing neurosensory organs is conserved in the zebrafish, in which the ildr1 ortholog is prominently expressed in the developing ear and neuromasts of the lateral line. These data identify loss-of-function mutations of ILDR1, a gene with a conserved expression pattern pointing to a conserved function in hearing in vertebrates, as underlying nonsyndromic prelingual sensorineural hearing impairment.
- Mutations in Prickle Orthologs Cause Seizures in Flies, Mice, and Humans
- Am J Hum Genet 88(2):138-149 (2011)
Epilepsy is heritable, yet few causative gene mutations have been identified, and thus far no human epilepsy gene mutations have been found to produce seizures in invertebrates. Here we show that mutations in prickle genes are associated with seizures in humans, mice, and flies. We identified human epilepsy patients with heterozygous mutations in either PRICKLE1 or PRICKLE2. In overexpression assays in zebrafish, prickle mutations resulted in aberrant prickle function. A seizure phenotype was present in the Prickle1-null mutant mouse, two Prickle1 point mutant (missense and nonsense) mice, and a Prickle2-null mutant mouse. Drosophila with prickle mutations displayed seizures that were responsive to anti-epileptic medication, and homozygous mutant embryos showed neuronal defects. These results suggest that prickle mutations have caused seizures throughout evolution.
- FAF1, a Gene that Is Disrupted in Cleft Palate and Has Conserved Function in Zebrafish
- Am J Hum Genet 88(2):150-161 (2011)
Cranial neural crest (CNC) is a multipotent migratory cell population that gives rise to most of the craniofacial bones. An intricate network mediates CNC formation, epithelial-mesenchymal transition, migration along distinct paths, and differentiation. Errors in these processes lead to craniofacial abnormalities, including cleft lip and palate. Clefts are the most common congenital craniofacial defects. Patients have complications with feeding, speech, hearing, and dental and psychological development. Affected by both genetic predisposition and environmental factors, the complex etiology of clefts remains largely unknown. Here we show that Fas-associated factor-1 (FAF1) is disrupted and that its expression is decreased in a Pierre Robin family with an inherited translocation. Furthermore, the locus is strongly associated with cleft palate and shows an increased relative risk. Expression studies show that faf1 is highly expressed in zebrafish cartilages during embryog! enesis. Knockdown of zebrafish faf1 leads to pharyngeal cartilage defects and jaw abnormality as a result of a failure of CNC to differentiate into and express cartilage-specific markers, such as sox9a and col2a1. Administration of faf1 mRNA rescues this phenotype. Our findings therefore identify FAF1 as a regulator of CNC differentiation and show that it predisposes humans to cleft palate and is necessary for lower jaw development in zebrafish.
- Hexosamine Biosynthetic Pathway Mutations Cause Neuromuscular Transmission Defect
- Am J Hum Genet 88(2):162-172 (2011)
Neuromuscular junctions (NMJs) are synapses that transmit impulses from motor neurons to skeletal muscle fibers leading to muscle contraction. Study of hereditary disorders of neuromuscular transmission, termed congenital myasthenic syndromes (CMS), has helped elucidate fundamental processes influencing development and function of the nerve-muscle synapse. Using genetic linkage, we find 18 different biallelic mutations in the gene encoding glutamine-fructose-6-phosphate transaminase 1 (GFPT1) in 13 unrelated families with an autosomal recessive CMS. Consistent with these data, downregulation of the GFPT1 ortholog gfpt1 in zebrafish embryos altered muscle fiber morphology and impaired neuromuscular junction development. GFPT1 is the key enzyme of the hexosamine pathway yielding the amino sugar UDP-N-acetylglucosamine, an essential substrate for protein glycosylation. Our findings provide further impetus to study the glycobiology of NMJ and synapses in general.
- A Fast, Powerful Method for Detecting Identity by Descent
- Am J Hum Genet 88(2):173-182 (2011)
We present a method, fastIBD, for finding tracts of identity by descent (IBD) between pairs of individuals. FastIBD can be applied to thousands of samples across genome-wide SNP data and is significantly more powerful for finding short tracts of IBD than existing methods for finding IBD tracts in such data. We show that fastIBD can detect facets of population structure that are not revealed by other methods. In the Wellcome Trust Case Control Consortium bipolar disorder case-control data, we find a genome-wide excess of IBD in case-case pairs of individuals compared to control-control pairs. We show that this excess can be explained by the geographical clustering of cases. We also show that it is possible to use fastIBD to generate highly accurate estimates of genome-wide IBD sharing between pairs of distant relatives. This is useful for estimation of relationship and for adjusting for relatedness in association studies. FastIBD is incorporated in the freely available ! Beagle software package.
- Development and Validation of a Computational Method for Assessment of Missense Variants in Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy
- Am J Hum Genet 88(2):183-192 (2011)
Assessing the significance of novel genetic variants revealed by DNA sequencing is a major challenge to the integration of genomic techniques with medical practice. Many variants remain difficult to classify by traditional genetic methods. Computational methods have been developed that could contribute to classifying these variants, but they have not been properly validated and are generally not considered mature enough to be used effectively in a clinical setting. We developed a computational method for predicting the effects of missense variants detected in patients with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM). We used a curated clinical data set of 74 missense variants in six genes associated with HCM to train and validate an automated predictor. The predictor is based on support vector regression and uses phylogenetic and structural features specific to genes involved in HCM. Ten-fold cross validation estimated our predictor's sensitivity at 94% (95% confidence interval:! 83%–98%) and specificity at 89% (95% confidence interval: 72%–100%). This corresponds to an odds ratio of 10 for a prediction of pathogenic (95% confidence interval: 4.0–infinity), or an odds ratio of 9.9 for a prediction of benign (95% confidence interval: 4.6–21). Coverage (proportion of variants for which a prediction was made) was 57% (95% confidence interval: 49%–64%). This performance exceeds that of existing methods that are not specifically designed for HCM. The accuracy of this predictor provides support for the clinical use of automated predictions alongside family segregation and population frequency data in the interpretation of new missense variants and suggests future development of similar tools for other diseases.
- Mutations in the Mitochondrial Seryl-tRNA Synthetase Cause Hyperuricemia, Pulmonary Hypertension, Renal Failure in Infancy and Alkalosis, HUPRA Syndrome
- Am J Hum Genet 88(2):193-200 (2011)
An uncharacterized multisystemic mitochondrial cytopathy was diagnosed in two infants from consanguineous Palestinian kindred living in a single village. The most significant clinical findings were tubulopathy (hyperuricemia, metabolic alkalosis), pulmonary hypertension, and progressive renal failure in infancy (HUPRA syndrome). Analysis of the consanguineous pedigree suggested that the causative mutation is in the nuclear DNA. By using genome-wide SNP homozygosity analysis, we identified a homozygous identity-by-descent region on chromosome 19 and detected the pathogenic mutation c.1169A>G (p.Asp390Gly) in SARS2, encoding the mitochondrial seryl-tRNA synthetase. The same homozygous mutation was later identified in a third infant with HUPRA syndrome. The carrier rate of this mutation among inhabitants of this Palestinian isolate was found to be 1:15. The mature enzyme catalyzes the ligation of serine to two mitochondrial tRNA isoacceptors: tRNASerAGY and tRNASerUCN. An! alysis of amino acylation of the two target tRNAs, extracted from immortalized peripheral lymphocytes derived from two patients, revealed that the p.Asp390Gly mutation significantly impacts on the acylation of tRNASerAGY but probably not that of tRNASerUCN. Marked decrease in the expression of the nonacylated transcript and the complete absence of the acylated tRNASerAGY suggest that this mutation leads to significant loss of function and that the uncharged transcripts undergo degradation.
- Whole-Exome Sequencing Links a Variant in DHDDS to Retinitis Pigmentosa
- Am J Hum Genet 88(2):201-206 (2011)
Increasingly, mutations in genes causing Mendelian disease will be supported by individual and small families only; however, exome sequencing studies have thus far focused on syndromic phenotypes characterized by low locus heterogeneity. In contrast, retinitis pigmentosa (RP) is caused by >50 known genes, which still explain only half of the clinical cases. In a single, one-generation, nonsyndromic RP family, we have identified a gene, dehydrodolichol diphosphate synthase (DHDDS), demonstrating the power of combining whole-exome sequencing with rapid in vivo studies. DHDDS is a highly conserved essential enzyme for dolichol synthesis, permitting global N-linked glycosylation. Zebrafish studies showed virtually identical photoreceptor defects as observed with N-linked glycosylation-interfering mutations in the light-sensing protein rhodopsin. The identified Lys42Glu variant likely arose from an ancestral founder, because eight of the nine identified alleles in 27,174 co! ntrol chromosomes were of confirmed Ashkenazi Jewish ethnicity. These findings demonstrate the power of exome sequencing linked to functional studies when faced with challenging study designs and, importantly, link RP to the pathways of N-linked glycosylation, which promise new avenues for therapeutic interventions.
- A Missense Mutation in DHDDS, Encoding Dehydrodolichyl Diphosphate Synthase, Is Associated with Autosomal-Recessive Retinitis Pigmentosa in Ashkenazi Jews
- Am J Hum Genet 88(2):207-215 (2011)
Retinitis pigmentosa (RP) is a heterogeneous group of inherited retinal degenerations caused by mutations in at least 50 genes. Using homozygosity mapping in Ashkenazi Jewish (AJ) patients with autosomal-recessive RP (arRP), we identified a shared 1.7 Mb homozygous region on chromosome 1p36.11. Sequence analysis revealed a founder homozygous missense mutation, c.124A>G (p.Lys42Glu), in the dehydrodolichyl diphosphate synthase gene (DHDDS) in 20 AJ patients with RP of 15 unrelated families. The mutation was not identified in an additional set of 109 AJ patients with RP, in 20 AJ patients with other inherited retinal diseases, or in 70 patients with retinal degeneration of other ethnic origins. The mutation was found heterozygously in 1 out of 322 ethnically matched normal control individuals. RT-PCR analysis in 21 human tissues revealed ubiquitous expression of DHDDS. Immunohistochemical analysis of the human retina with anti-DHDDS antibodies revealed intense labeling o! f the cone and rod photoreceptor inner segments. Clinical manifestations of patients who are homozygous for the c.124A>G mutation were within the spectrum associated with arRP. Most patients had symptoms of night and peripheral vision loss, nondetectable electroretinographic responses, constriction of visual fields, and funduscopic hallmarks of retinal degeneration. DHDDS is a key enzyme in the pathway of dolichol, which plays an important role in N-glycosylation of many glycoproteins, including rhodopsin. Our results support a pivotal role of DHDDS in retinal function and may allow for new therapeutic interventions for RP.
- Identification and Characterization of an Inborn Error of Metabolism Caused by Dihydrofolate Reductase Deficiency
- Am J Hum Genet 88(2):216-225 (2011)
Dihydrofolate reductase (DHFR) is a critical enzyme in folate metabolism and an important target of antineoplastic, antimicrobial, and antiinflammatory drugs. We describe three individuals from two families with a recessive inborn error of metabolism, characterized by megaloblastic anemia and/or pancytopenia, severe cerebral folate deficiency, and cerebral tetrahydrobiopterin deficiency due to a germline missense mutation in DHFR, resulting in profound enzyme deficiency. We show that cerebral folate levels, anemia, and pancytopenia of DHFR deficiency can be corrected by treatment with folinic acid. The characterization of this disorder provides evidence for the link between DHFR and metabolism of cerebral tetrahydrobiopterin, which is required for the formation of dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine and for the hydroxylation of aromatic amino acids. Moreover, this relationship provides insight into the role of folates in neurological conditions, including depressio! n, Alzheimer disease, and Parkinson disease.
- Dihydrofolate Reductase Deficiency Due to a Homozygous DHFR Mutation Causes Megaloblastic Anemia and Cerebral Folate Deficiency Leading to Severe Neurologic Disease
- Am J Hum Genet 88(2):226-231 (2011)
The importance of intracellular folate metabolism is illustrated by the severity of symptoms and complications caused by inborn disorders of folate metabolism or by folate deficiency. We examined three children of healthy, distantly related parents presenting with megaloblastic anemia and cerebral folate deficiency causing neurologic disease with atypical childhood absence epilepsy. Genome-wide homozygosity mapping revealed a candidate region on chromosome 5 including the dihydrofolate reductase (DHFR) locus. DHFR sequencing revealed a homozygous DHFR mutation, c.458A>T (p.Asp153Val), in all siblings. The patients' folate profile in red blood cells (RBC), plasma, and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), analyzed by liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry, was compatible with DHFR deficiency. DHFR activity and fluorescein-labeled methotrexate (FMTX) binding were severely reduced in EBV-immortalized lymphoblastoid cells of all patients. Heterozygous cells displayed intermed! iate DHFR activity and FMTX binding. RT-PCR of DHFR mRNA revealed no differences between wild-type and DHFR mutation-carrying cells, whereas protein expression was reduced in cells with the DHFR mutation. Treatment with folinic acid resulted in the resolution of hematological abnormalities, normalization of CSF folate levels, and improvement of neurological symptoms. In conclusion, the homozygous DHFR mutation p.Asp153Val causes DHFR deficiency and leads to a complex hematological and neurological disease that can be successfully treated with folinic acid. DHFR is necessary for maintaining sufficient CSF and RBC folate levels, even in the presence of adequate nutritional folate supply and normal plasma folate.
- Functional Screening of Alzheimer Pathology Genome-wide Association Signals in Drosophila
- Am J Hum Genet 88(2):232-238 (2011)
We have leveraged a Drosophila model relevant to Alzheimer disease (AD) for functional screening of findings from a genome-wide scan for loci associated with a quantitative measure of AD pathology in humans. In six of the 15 genomic regions evaluated, we successfully identified a causal gene for the association, on the basis of in vivo interactions with the neurotoxicity of Tau, which forms neurofibrillary tangles in AD. Among the top results, rs10845990 within SLC2A14, encoding a glucose transporter, showed evidence of replication for association with AD pathology, and gain and loss of function in glut1, the Drosophila ortholog, was associated with suppression and enhancement of Tau toxicity, respectively. Our strategy of coupling genome-wide association in humans with functional screening in a model organism is likely to be a powerful approach for gene discovery in AD and other complex genetic disorders.
- Ancient Voyaging and Polynesian Origins
- Am J Hum Genet 88(2):239-247 (2011)
The "Polynesian motif" defines a lineage of human mtDNA that is restricted to Austronesian-speaking populations and is almost fixed in Polynesians. It is widely thought to support a rapid dispersal of maternal lineages from Taiwan 4000 years ago (4 ka), but the chronological resolution of existing control-region data is poor, and an East Indonesian origin has also been proposed. By analyzing 157 complete mtDNA genomes, we show that the motif itself most likely originated >6 ka in the vicinity of the Bismarck Archipelago, and its immediate ancestor is >8 ka old and virtually restricted to Near Oceania. This indicates that Polynesian maternal lineages from Island Southeast Asia gained a foothold in Near Oceania much earlier than dispersal from either Taiwan or Indonesia 3–4 ka would predict. However, we find evidence in minor lineages for more recent two-way maternal gene flow between Island Southeast Asia and Near Oceania, likely reflecting movements along a "vo! yaging corridor" between them, as previously proposed on archaeological grounds. Small-scale mid-Holocene movements from Island Southeast Asia likely transmitted Austronesian languages to the long-established Southeast Asian colonies in the Bismarcks carrying the Polynesian motif, perhaps also providing the impetus for the expansion into Polynesia.