Frame-disrupting mutations in the DMD gene, encoding dystrophin, compromise myofiber integrity and drive muscle deterioration in Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). Removing one or more exons from the mutated transcript can produce an in-frame mRNA and a truncated, but still functional, protein. In this study, we develop and test a direct gene-editing approach to induce exon deletion and recover dystrophin expression in the mdx mouse model of DMD. Delivery by adeno-associated virus (AAV) of clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR)-Cas9 endonucleases coupled with paired guide RNAs flanking the mutated Dmd exon23 resulted in excision of intervening DNA and restored Dystrophin reading frame in myofibers, cardiomyocytes, and muscle stem cells following local or systemic delivery. AAV-Dmd CRISPR-treatment partially recovered muscle functional deficiencies and generated a pool of endogenously corrected myogenic precursors in mdx mouse muscle.
Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are a range of complex neurodevelopmental conditions principally characterized by dysfunctions linked to mental development. Previous studies have shown that there are more than 1000 genes likely involved in ASD, expressed mainly in brain and highly interconnected among them. We applied whole exome sequencing in Colombian-South American trios. Two missense novel SNVs were found in the same child: ALDH1A3 (RefSeq NM_000693: c.1514T>C (p.I505T)) and FOXN1 (RefSeq NM_003593: c.146C>T (p.S49L)). Gene expression studies reveal that Aldh1a3 and Foxn1 are expressed in ~E13.5 mouse embryonic brain, as well as in adult piriform cortex (PC; ~P30). Conserved Retinoic Acid Response Elements (RAREs) upstream of human ALDH1A3 and FOXN1 and in mouse Aldh1a3 and Foxn1 genes were revealed using bioinformatic approximation. Chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) assay using Retinoid Acid Receptor B (Rarb) as the immunoprecipitation target suggests RA regulation of Aldh1a3 and Foxn1 in mice. Our results frame a possible link of RA regulation in brain to ASD etiology, and a feasible non-additive effect of two apparently unrelated variants in ALDH1A3 and FOXN1 recognizing that every result given by next generation sequencing should be cautiously analyzed, as it might be an incidental finding.
Exfoliation syndrome (XFS) is an important risk factor for glaucoma (XFG) worldwide. LOXL1 variants are highly associated with XFS in most populations; however, the high frequency of risk alleles in normal individuals and the reversal of risk alleles in different ethnic populations suggest that other factors contribute to XFS pathogenesis. Clusterin (CLU) is an extracellular matrix chaperone that prevents protein aggregation and is highly expressed in ocular tissues affected by XFS. Studies examining common CLU variants for association with XFS have been inconsistent. The purpose of this study was to evaluate CLU variants for association with XFS in two independent datasets from the United States (222 cases and 344 controls) and Israel (92 cases and 102 controls). Seven tag SNPs that captured >95% of alleles at r(2) greater than 0.8 across the CLU genomic region were genotyped using TaqMan assays. Genotypes for an additional SNP, rs2279590, were imputed using phased haplotypes of HapMap reference CEU samples. Of the 8 CLU SNPs selected for the study, none were significantly associated with XFS in either case-control group (age and sex adjusted P > 0.14 and 0.36, respectively, in the US and Israeli datasets), or when they were meta-analyzed together (age and sex adjusted P > 0.13). Haplotype analysis using all 8 SNPs or only the promoter region SNPs also did not show significant associations of CLU with XFS in the combined US and Israeli dataset (P > 0.28). Meta-analysis of the data from this study and previous studies in Caucasian populations (1184 cases and 978 controls) resulted in statistically significant association of rs2279590 with XFS (summary OR = 1.18, 95% CI: 1.03-1.33, P = 0.01). Significant association between rs2279590 and XFS was also found in Indian populations (summary OR = 0.76, 95% CI: 0.61-0.96; P = 0.02); however, significant heterogeneity between the Caucasian and Indian populations possibly due to reversal of the risk allele precluded an overall meta-analysis for rs2279590 (Q = 0.001, I(2) = 91%). No significant association was identified for rs3087554 in either Caucasian populations (summary OR = 0.90, 95% CI: 0.77-1.05, P = 0.17) or Indian populations (summary OR = 0.89, 95% CI: 0.72-1.10, P = 0.28), or in both populations combined (1705 cases and 3713 controls; summary OR = 0.90, 95% CI: 0.79-1.01, P = 0.08). Significant heterogeneity precluded the addition of the Japanese data to the meta-analysis for rs3087554 (Q = 0.006, I(2) = 87%). Our results suggest that common CLU variants may contribute to modest XFS risk but even larger datasets are required to confirm these findings.
Inherited and age-related macular degenerations (AMDs) are important causes of vision loss. An early hallmark of these disorders is the formation of sub-retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) basal deposits. A role for the complement system in MDs was suggested by genetic association studies, but direct functional connections between alterations in the complement system and the pathogenesis of MD remain to be defined. We used primary RPE cells from a mouse model of inherited MD due to a p.R345W mutation in EGF-containing fibulin-like extracellular matrix protein 1 (EFEMP1) to investigate the role of the RPE in early MD pathogenesis. Efemp1(R345W) RPE cells recapitulate the basal deposit formation observed in vivo by producing sub-RPE deposits in vitro. The deposits share features with basal deposits, and their formation was mediated by EFEMP1(R345W) or complement component 3a (C3a), but not by complement component 5a (C5a). Increased activation of complement appears to occur in response to an abnormal extracellular matrix (ECM), generated by the mutant EFEMP1(R345W) protein and reduced ECM turnover due to inhibition of matrix metalloproteinase 2 by EFEMP1(R345W) and C3a. Increased production of C3a also stimulated the release of cytokines such as interleukin (IL)-6 and IL-1B, which appear to have a role in deposit formation, albeit downstream of C3a. These studies provide the first direct indication that complement components produced locally by the RPE are involved in the formation of basal deposits. Furthermore, these results suggest that C3a generated by RPE is a potential therapeutic target for the treatment of EFEMP1-associated MD as well as AMD.
Proteomic analysis of the mouse photoreceptor sensory cilium identified a set of cilia proteins, including Poc1 centriolar protein b (Poc1b). Previous functional studies in human cells and zebrafish embryos implicated that Poc1b plays important roles in centriole duplication and length control, as well as ciliogenesis. To study the function of Poc1b in photoreceptor sensory cilia and other primary cilia, we expressed a tagged recombinant Poc1b protein in cultured renal epithelial cells and rat retina. Poc1b was localized to the centrioles and spindle bundles during cell cycle progression, and to the basal body of photoreceptor sensory cilia. A morpholino knockdown and complementation assay of poc1b in zebrafish showed that loss of poc1b led to a range of morphological anomalies of cilia commonly associated with human ciliopathies. In the retina, the development of retinal laminae was significantly delayed and the length of photoreceptor outer segments was shortened. Visual behavior studies revealed impaired visual function in the poc1b morphants. In addition, ciliopathy-associated developmental defects, such as small eyes, curved body axis, heart defects, and shortened cilia in Kupffer's vesicle, were observed as well. These data suggest that poc1b is required for normal development and ciliogenesis of retinal photoreceptor sensory cilia and other cilia. Furthermore, this conclusion is supported by recent findings that mutations in POC1B gene have been identified in patients with inherited retinal dystrophy and syndromic retinal ciliopathy.
We observed that the third leading cause of blindness in the world, age-related macular degeneration (AMD), occurs at a very low documented frequency in a population-based cohort from Timor-Leste. Thus, we determined a complete catalog of the ancestry of the Timorese by analysis of whole exome chip data and haplogroup analysis of SNP genotypes determined by sequencing the Hypervariable I and II regions of the mitochondrial genome and 17 genotyped YSTR markers obtained from 535 individuals. We genotyped 20 previously reported AMD-associated SNPs in the Timorese to examine their allele frequencies compared to and between previously documented AMD cohorts of varying ethnicities. For those without AMD (average age > 55 years), genotype and allele frequencies were similar for most SNPs with a few exceptions. The major risk allele of HTRA1 rs11200638 (10q26) was at a significantly higher frequency in the Timorese, as well as 3 of the 5 protective CFH (1q32) SNPs (rs800292, rs2284664, and rs12066959). Additionally, the most commonly associated AMD-risk SNP, CFH rs1061170 (Y402H), was also seen at a much lower frequency in the Korean and Timorese populations than in the assessed Caucasian populations (C ~7 vs. ~40%, respectively). The difference in allele frequencies between the Timorese population and the other genotyped populations, along with the haplogroup analysis, also highlight the genetic diversity of the Timorese. Specifically, the most common ancestry groupings were Oceanic (Melanesian and Papuan) and Eastern Asian (specifically Han Chinese). The low prevalence of AMD in the Timorese population (2 of 535 randomly selected participants) may be due to the enrichment of protective alleles in this population at the 1q32 locus.
The nervous system is complex not simply because of the enormous number of neurons it contains but by virtue of the specificity with which they are connected. Unraveling this specificity is the task of neuroanatomy. In this endeavor, neuroanatomists have traditionally exploited an impressive array of tools ranging from the Golgi method to electron microscopy. An ideal method for studying anatomy would label neurons that are interconnected, and, in addition, allow expression of foreign genes in these neurons. Fortuitously, nature has already partially developed such a method in the form of neurotropic viruses, which have evolved to deliver their genetic material between synaptically connected neurons while largely eluding glia and the immune system. While these characteristics make some of these viruses a threat to human health, simple modifications allow them to be used in controlled experimental settings, thus enabling neuroanatomists to trace multi-synaptic connections within and across brain regions. Wild-type neurotropic viruses, such as rabies and alpha-herpes virus, have already contributed greatly to our understanding of brain connectivity, and modern molecular techniques have enabled the construction of recombinant forms of these and other viruses. These newly engineered reagents are particularly useful, as they can target genetically defined populations of neurons, spread only one synapse to either inputs or outputs, and carry instructions by which the targeted neurons can be made to express exogenous proteins, such as calcium sensors or light-sensitive ion channels, that can be used to study neuronal function. In this review, we address these uniquely powerful features of the viruses already in the neuroanatomist's toolbox, as well as the aspects of their biology that currently limit their utility. Based on the latter, we consider strategies for improving viral tracing methods by reducing toxicity, improving control of transsynaptic spread, and extending the range of species that can be studied.
Homozygosity has long been associated with rare, often devastating, Mendelian disorders, and Darwin was one of the first to recognize that inbreeding reduces evolutionary fitness. However, the effect of the more distant parental relatedness that is common in modern human populations is less well understood. Genomic data now allow us to investigate the effects of homozygosity on traits of public health importance by observing contiguous homozygous segments (runs of homozygosity), which are inferred to be homozygous along their complete length. Given the low levels of genome-wide homozygosity prevalent in most human populations, information is required on very large numbers of people to provide sufficient power. Here we use runs of homozygosity to study 16 health-related quantitative traits in 354,224 individuals from 102 cohorts, and find statistically significant associations between summed runs of homozygosity and four complex traits: height, forced expiratory lung volume in one second, general cognitive ability and educational attainment (P < 1 × 10(-300), 2.1 × 10(-6), 2.5 × 10(-10) and 1.8 × 10(-10), respectively). In each case, increased homozygosity was associated with decreased trait value, equivalent to the offspring of first cousins being 1.2 cm shorter and having 10 months' less education. Similar effect sizes were found across four continental groups and populations with different degrees of genome-wide homozygosity, providing evidence that homozygosity, rather than confounding, directly contributes to phenotypic variance. Contrary to earlier reports in substantially smaller samples, no evidence was seen of an influence of genome-wide homozygosity on blood pressure and low density lipoprotein cholesterol, or ten other cardio-metabolic traits. Since directional dominance is predicted for traits under directional evolutionary selection, this study provides evidence that increased stature and cognitive function have been positively selected in human evolution, whereas many important risk factors for late-onset complex diseases may not have been.
Seminal studies showed that CRISPR-Cas systems provide adaptive immunity in prokaryotes and promising gene-editing tools from bacteria to humans. Yet, reports diverged on whether some CRISPR systems naturally target DNA or RNA. Here, Samai and colleagues unify the studies, showing that a single type III CRISPR-Cas system cleaves both DNA and RNA targets, independently.
The first epigenome-wide association study of BMI identified DNA methylation at an HIF3A locus associated with BMI. We tested the hypothesis that DNA methylation variants are associated with BMI according to intake of B vitamins. In two large cohorts, we found significant interactions between the DNA methylation-associated HIF3A single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) rs3826795 and intake of B vitamins on 10-year changes in BMI. The association between rs3826795 and BMI changes consistently increased across the tertiles of total vitamin B2 and B12 intake (all P for interaction <0.01). The differences in the BMI changes per increment of minor allele were -0.10 (SE 0.06), -0.01 (SE 0.06), and 0.12 (SE 0.07) within subgroups defined by increasing tertiles of total vitamin B2 intake and -0.10 (SE 0.06), -0.01 (SE 0.06), and 0.10 (SE 0.07) within subgroups defined by increasing tertiles of total vitamin B12 intake. In two independent cohorts, a DNA methylation variant in HIF3A was associated with BMI changes through interactions with total or supplemental vitamin B2, vitamin B12, and folate. These findings suggest a potential causal relation between DNA methylation and adiposity.
We report the whole-genome sequence (WGS) of an in vitro susceptible derivative revertant mutant from a bloodstream isolate involved in a nosocomial outbreak in Brazil. The WGS comprises 2.5 Mb with 2,500 protein-coding sequences, 16rRNA genes, and 60 tRNA genes.
The field of gene therapy for retinal blinding disorders is experiencing incredible momentum, justified by hopeful results in early stage clinical trials for inherited retinal degenerations. The premise of the use of the gene as a drug has come a long way, and may have found its niche in the treatment of retinal disease. Indeed, with only limited treatment options available for retinal indications, gene therapy has been proven feasible, safe, and effective and may lead to durable effects following a single injection. Here, we aim at putting into context the promise and potential, the technical, clinical, and economic boundaries limiting its application and development, and speculate on a future in which gene therapy is an integral component of ophthalmic clinical care.