Mutations in the gene encoding profilin 1 (PFN1) have recently been shown to cause amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a fatal neurodegenerative disorder. We sequenced the PFN1 gene in a cohort of ALS patients (n = 485) and detected 2 novel variants (A20T and Q139L), as well as 4 cases with the previously identified E117G rare variant ( approximately 1.2%). A case-control meta-analysis of all published E117G ALS+/- frontotemporal dementia cases including those identified in this report was significant p = 0.001, odds ratio = 3.26 (95% confidence interval, 1.6-6.7), demonstrating this variant to be a susceptibility allele. Postmortem tissue from available patients displayed classic TAR DNA-binding protein 43 pathology. In both transient transfections and in fibroblasts from a patient with the A20T change, we showed that this novel PFN1 mutation causes protein aggregation and the formation of insoluble high molecular weight species which is a hallmark of ALS pathology. Our findings show that PFN1 is a rare cause of ALS and adds further weight to the underlying genetic heterogeneity of this disease.
The frequency of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) mutations has been extensively investigated in several populations; however, a systematic analysis in Turkish cases has not been reported so far. In this study, we screened 477 ALS patients for mutations, including 116 familial ALS patients from 82 families and 361 sporadic ALS (sALS) cases. Patients were genotyped for C9orf72 (18.3%), SOD1 (12.2%), FUS (5%), TARDBP (3.7%), and UBQLN2 (2.4%) gene mutations, which together account for approximately 40% of familial ALS in Turkey. No SOD1 mutations were detected in sALS patients; however, C9orf72 (3.1%) and UBQLN2 (0.6%) explained 3.7% of sALS in the population. Exome sequencing revealed mutations in OPTN, SPG11, DJ1, PLEKHG5, SYNE1, TRPM7, and SQSTM1 genes, many of them novel. The spectrum of mutations reflect both the distinct genetic background and the heterogeneous nature of the Turkish ALS population.
AAV-mediated gene delivery in a feline model of Sandhoff disease corrects lysosomal storage in the central nervous system
Sandhoff disease (SD) is an autosomal recessive neurodegenerative disease caused by a mutation in the gene for the beta-subunit of beta-N-acetylhexosaminidase (Hex), resulting in the inability to catabolize ganglioside GM2 within the lysosomes. SD presents with an accumulation of GM2 and its asialo derivative GA2, primarily in the central nervous system. Myelin-enriched glycolipids, cerebrosides and sulfatides, are also decreased in SD corresponding with dysmyelination. At present, no treatment exists for SD. Previous studies have shown the therapeutic benefit of adeno-associated virus (AAV) vector-mediated gene therapy in the treatment of SD in murine and feline models. In this study, we treated presymptomatic SD cats with AAVrh8 vectors expressing feline Hex in the thalamus combined with intracerebroventricular (Thal/ICV) injections. Treated animals showed clearly improved neurologic function and quality of life, manifested in part by prevention or attenuation of whole-body tremors characteristic of untreated animals. Hex activity was significantly elevated, whereas storage of GM2 and GA2 was significantly decreased in tissue samples taken from the cortex, cerebellum, thalamus, and cervical spinal cord. Treatment also increased levels of myelin-enriched cerebrosides and sulfatides in the cortex and thalamus. This study demonstrates the therapeutic potential of AAV for feline SD and suggests a similar potential for human SD patients.
Bis(monoacylglycero)phosphate (BMP) is a negatively charged glycerophospholipid with an unusual sn-1;sn-1' structural configuration. BMP is primarily enriched in endosomal/lysosomal membranes. BMP is thought to play a role in glycosphingolipid degradation and cholesterol transport. Elevated BMP levels have been found in many lysosomal storage diseases (LSDs), suggesting an association with lysosomal storage material. The gangliosidoses are a group of neurodegenerative LSDs involving the accumulation of either GM1 or GM2 gangliosides resulting from inherited deficiencies in beta-galactosidase or beta-hexosaminidase, respectively. Little information is available on BMP levels in gangliosidosis brain tissue. Our results showed that the content of BMP in brain was significantly greater in humans and in animals (mice, cats, American black bears) with either GM1 or GM2 ganglioside storage diseases, than in brains of normal subjects. The storage of BMP and ganglioside GM2 in brain were reduced similarly following adeno-associated viral-mediated gene therapy in Sandhoff disease mice. We also found that C22:6, C18:0, and C18:1 were the predominant BMP fatty acid species in gangliosidosis brains. The results show that BMP accumulates as a secondary storage material in the brain of a broad range of mammals with gangliosidoses.
Mucopolysaccharidosis-like phenotype in feline Sandhoff disease and partial correction after AAV gene therapy
Sandhoff disease (SD) is a fatal neurodegenerative disease caused by a mutation in the enzyme beta-N-acetylhexosaminidase. Children with infantile onset SD develop seizures, loss of motor tone and swallowing problems, eventually reaching a vegetative state with death typically by 4years of age. Other symptoms include vertebral gibbus and cardiac abnormalities strikingly similar to those of the mucopolysaccharidoses. Isolated fibroblasts from SD patients have impaired catabolism of glycosaminoglycans (GAGs). To evaluate mucopolysaccharidosis-like features of the feline SD model, we utilized radiography, MRI, echocardiography, histopathology and GAG quantification of both central nervous system and peripheral tissues/fluids. The feline SD model exhibits cardiac valvular and structural abnormalities, skeletal changes and spinal cord compression that are consistent with accumulation of GAGs, but are much less prominent than the severe neurologic disease that defines the humane endpoint (4.5+/-0.5months). Sixteen weeks after intracranial AAV gene therapy, GAG storage was cleared in the SD cat cerebral cortex and liver, but not in the heart, lung, skeletal muscle, kidney, spleen, pancreas, small intestine, skin, or urine. GAG storage worsens with time and therefore may become a significant source of pathology in humans whose lives are substantially lengthened by gene therapy or other novel treatments for the primary, neurologic disease.
Survival benefit and phenotypic improvement by hamartin gene therapy in a tuberous sclerosis mouse brain model
We examined the potential benefit of gene therapy in a mouse model of tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC) in which there is embryonic loss of Tsc1 (hamartin) in brain neurons. An adeno-associated virus (AAV) vector (serotype rh8) expressing a tagged form of hamartin was injected into the cerebral ventricles of newborn pups with the genotype Tsc1cc (homozygous for a conditional floxed Tsc1 allele) SynI-cre+, in which Tsc1 is lost selectively in neurons starting at embryonic day 12. Vector-treated Tsc1ccSynIcre+ mice showed a marked improvement in survival from a mean of 22days in non-injected mice to 52days in AAV hamartin vector-injected mice, with improved weight gain and motor behavior in the latter. Pathologic studies showed normalization of neuron size and a decrease in markers of mTOR activation in treated as compared to untreated mutant littermates. Hence, we show that gene replacement in the brain is an effective therapeutic approach in this mouse model of TSC1. Our strategy for gene therapy has the advantages that therapy can be achieved from a single application, as compared to repeated treatment with drugs, and that AAV vectors have been found to have minimal to no toxicity in clinical trials for other neurologic conditions. Although there are many additional issues to be addressed, our studies support gene therapy as a useful approach in TSC patients.
SIGNIFICANCE: Aberrant epigenetic regulation is an integral aspect of many diseases and complex disorders. Facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD), a progressive myopathy that afflicts individuals of all ages, is caused by disrupted genetic and epigenetic regulation of a macrosatellite repeat. FSHD provides a powerful model to investigate disease-relevant epigenetic modifiers and general mechanisms of epigenetic regulation that govern gene expression.
RECENT ADVANCES: In the context of a genetically permissive allele, the one aspect of FSHD that is consistent across all known cases is the aberrant epigenetic state of the disease locus. In addition, certain mutations in the chromatin regulator SMCHD1 (structural maintenance of chromosomes hinge-domain protein 1) are sufficient to cause FSHD2 and enhance disease severity in FSHD1. Thus, there are multiple pathways to generate the epigenetic dysregulation required for FSHD.
CRITICAL ISSUES: Why do some individuals with the genetic requirements for FSHD develop disease pathology, while others remain asymptomatic? Similarly, disease progression is highly variable among individuals. What are the relative contributions of genetic background and environmental factors in determining disease manifestation, progression, and severity in FSHD? What is the interplay between epigenetic factors regulating the disease locus and which, if any, are viable therapeutic targets?
FUTURE DIRECTIONS: Epigenetic regulation represents a potentially powerful therapeutic target for FSHD. Determining the epigenetic signatures that are predictive of disease severity and identifying the spectrum of disease modifiers in FSHD are vital to the development of effective therapies.
Identification of rare protein disulfide isomerase gene variants in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis patients
Disruption of endoplasmic reticulum (ER) proteostasis is a salient feature of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Upregulation of ER foldases of the protein disulfide isomerase (PDI) family has been reported in ALS mouse models and spinal cord tissue and body fluids derived from sporadic ALS cases. Although in vitro studies suggest a neuroprotective role of PDIs in ALS, the possible contribution of genetic mutations of these ER foldases in the disease process remains unknown. Interestingly, intronic variants of the PDIA1 gene were recently reported as a risk factor for ALS. Here, we initially screened for mutations in two major PDI genes (PDIA1/P4HB and PDIA3/ERp57) in a US cohort of 96 familial and 96 sporadic ALS patients using direct DNA sequencing. Then, 463 familial and 445 sporadic ALS patients from two independent cohorts were also screened for mutations in these two genes using whole exome sequencing. A total of nine PDIA1 missense variants and seven PDIA3 missense variants were identified in 16 ALS patients. We have identified several novel and rare single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in both genes that are enriched in ALS cases compared with a large group of control subjects showing a frequency of around 1% in ALS cases. The possible biological and structural impact of these ALS-linked PDI variants is also discussed.
The RNA-processing protein TDP-43 is central to the pathogenesis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), the most common adult-onset motor neuron (MN) disease [1-4]. TDP-43 is conserved in Drosophila, where it has been the topic of considerable study, but how TDP-43 mutations lead to age-dependent neurodegeneration is unclear and most approaches have not directly examined changes in MN morphology with age . We used a mosaic approach to study age-dependent MN loss in the adult fly leg where it is possible to resolve single motor axons, NMJs and active zones, and perform rapid forward genetic screens. We show that expression of TDP-43Q331K caused dying-back of NMJs and axons, which could not be suppressed by mutations that block Wallerian degeneration. We report the identification of three genes that suppress TDP-43 toxicity, including shaggy/GSK3, a known modifier of neurodegeneration . The two additional novel suppressors, hat-trick and xmas-2, function in chromatin modeling and RNA export, two processes recently implicated in human ALS [7, 8]. Loss of shaggy/GSK3, hat-trick, or xmas-2 does not suppress Wallerian degeneration, arguing TDP-43Q331K-induced and Wallerian degeneration are genetically distinct processes. In addition to delineating genetic factors that modify TDP-43 toxicity, these results establish the Drosophila adult leg as a valuable new tool for the in vivo study of adult MN phenotypes.
Systemic AAV9 gene transfer in adult GM1 gangliosidosis mice reduces lysosomal storage in CNS and extends lifespan
GM1 gangliosidosis (GM1) is an autosomal recessive lysosomal storage disease where GLB1 gene mutations result in a reduction or absence of lysosomal acid beta-galactosidase (betagal) activity. betagal deficiency leads to accumulation of GM1-ganglioside in the central nervous system (CNS). GM1 is characterized by progressive neurological decline resulting in generalized paralysis, extreme emaciation and death. In this study, we assessed the therapeutic efficacy of an adeno-associated virus (AAV) 9-mbetagal vector infused systemically in adult GM1 mice (betaGal(-/-)) at 1 x 10(11) or 3 x 10(11) vector genomes (vg). Biochemical analysis of AAV9-treated GM1 mice showed high betaGal activity in liver and serum. Moderate betaGal levels throughout CNS resulted in a 36-76% reduction in GM1-ganglioside content in the brain and 75-86% in the spinal cord. Histological analyses of the CNS of animals treated with 3 x 10(11) vg dose revealed increased presence of betagal and clearance of lysosomal storage throughout cortex, hippocampus, brainstem and spinal cord. Storage reduction in these regions was accompanied by a marked decrease in astrogliosis. AAV9 treatment resulted in improved performance in multiple tests of motor function and behavior. Also the majority of GM1 mice in the 3 x 10(11) vg cohort retained ambulation and rearing despite reaching the humane endpoint due to weight loss. Importantly, the median survival of AAV9 treatment groups (316-576 days) was significantly increased over controls (250-264 days). This study shows that moderate widespread expression of betagal in the CNS of GM1 gangliosidosis mice is sufficient to achieve significant biochemical impact with phenotypic amelioration and extension in lifespan.
Fields with more women found to be more welcoming.
Nature 524 275 doi: 10.1038/nature.2015.18187