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Human Molecular Genetics

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While spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is characterized by motor neuron degeneration, it is unclear whether and how much survival motor neuron (SMN) protein deficiency in muscle contributes to the pathophysiology of the disease. There is increasing evidence from patients and SMA model organisms that SMN deficiency causes intrinsic muscle defects. Here we investigated the role of SMN in muscle development using muscle cell lines and primary myoblasts. Formation of multinucleate myotubes by SMN-deficient muscle cells is inhibited at a stage preceding plasma membrane fusion. We found increased expression and reduced induction of key muscle development factors, such as MyoD and myogenin, with differentiation of SMN-deficient cells. In addition, SMN-deficient muscle cells had impaired cell migration and altered organization of focal adhesions and the actin cytoskeleton. Partially restoring SMN inhibited the premature expression of muscle differentiation markers, corrected the cytoskeletal abnormalities and improved myoblast fusion. These findings are consistent with a role for SMN in myotube formation through effects on muscle differentiation and cell motility.


Senataxin, encoded by the SETX gene, contributes to multiple aspects of gene expression, including transcription and RNA processing. Mutations in SETX cause the recessive disorder ataxia with oculomotor apraxia type 2 (AOA2) and a dominant juvenile form of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS4). To assess the functional role of senataxin in disease, we examined differential gene expression in AOA2 patient fibroblasts, identifying a core set of genes showing altered expression by microarray and RNA-sequencing. To determine whether AOA2 and ALS4 mutations differentially affect gene expression, we overexpressed disease-specific SETX mutations in senataxin-haploinsufficient fibroblasts and observed changes in distinct sets of genes. This implicates mutation-specific alterations of senataxin function in disease pathogenesis and provides a novel example of allelic neurogenetic disorders with differing gene expression profiles. Weighted gene co-expression network analysis (WGCNA) demonstrated these senataxin-associated genes to be involved in both mutation-specific and shared functional gene networks. To assess this in vivo, we performed gene expression analysis on peripheral blood from members of 12 different AOA2 families and identified an AOA2-specific transcriptional signature. WGCNA identified two gene modules highly enriched for this transcriptional signature in the peripheral blood of all AOA2 patients studied. These modules were disease-specific and preserved in patient fibroblasts and in the cerebellum of Setx knockout mice demonstrating conservation across species and cell types, including neurons. These results identify novel genes and cellular pathways related to senataxin function in normal and disease states, and implicate alterations in gene expression as underlying the phenotypic differences between AOA2 and ALS4.


CISD2 is a causative gene associated with Wolfram syndrome (WFS). However, it remains a mystery as to how the loss of CISD2 causes metabolic defects in patients with WFS. Investigation on the role played by Cisd2 in specific cell types may help us to resolve these underlying mechanisms. White adipose tissue (WAT) is central to the maintenance of energy metabolism and glucose homeostasis in humans. In this study, adipocyte-specific Cisd2 knockout (KO) mice showed impairment in the development of epididymal WAT (eWAT) in the cell autonomous manner. A lack of Cisd2 caused defects in the biogenesis and function of mitochondria during differentiation of adipocytes in vitro. Insulin-stimulated glucose uptake and secretion of adiponectin by the Cisd2 KO adipocytes were decreased. Moreover, Cisd2 deficiency increased the cytosolic level of Ca2+ and induced Ca2+-calcineurin-dependent signaling that inhibited adipogenesis. Importantly, Cisd2 was found to interact with Gimap5 on the mitochondrial and ER membranes and thereby modulate mitochondrial Ca2+ uptake associated with the maintenance of intracellular Ca2+ homeostasis in adipocytes. Thus, it would seem that Cisd2 plays an important role in intracellular Ca2+ homeostasis, which is required for the differentiation and functioning of adipocytes as well as the regulation of glucose homeostasis in mice.


Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) patients lack dystrophin from birth; however, muscle weakness becomes apparent only at 3–5 years of age, which happens to coincide with the depletion of the muscle progenitor cell (MPC) pools. Indeed, MPCs isolated from older DMD patients demonstrate impairments in myogenic potential. To determine whether the progression of muscular dystrophy is a consequence of the decline in functional MPCs, we investigated two animal models of DMD: (i) dystrophin-deficient mdx mice, the most commonly utilized model of DMD, which has a relatively mild dystrophic phenotype and (ii) dystrophin/utrophin double knock-out (dKO) mice, which display a similar histopathologic phenotype to DMD patients. In contrast to age-matched mdx mice, we observed that both the number and regeneration potential of dKO MPCs rapidly declines during disease progression. This occurred in MPCs at both early and late stages of myogenic commitment. In fact, early MPCs isolated from 6-week-old dKO mice have reductions in proliferation, resistance to oxidative stress and multilineage differentiation capacities compared with age-matched mdx MPCs. This effect may potentially be mediated by fibroblast growth factor overexpression and/or a reduction in telomerase activity. Our results demonstrate that the rapid disease progression in the dKO model is associated, at least in part, with MPC depletion. Therefore, alleviating MPC depletion could represent an approach to delay the onset of the histopathologies associated with DMD patients.


Editing of the pre-mRNA for the serotonin receptor 2C (5-HT2CR) by site-specific adenosine deamination (A-to-I pre-mRNA editing) substantially increases the functional plasticity of this key neurotransmitter receptor and is thought to contribute to homeostatic mechanisms in neurons. 5-HT2CR mRNA editing generates up to 24 different receptor isoforms. The extent of editing correlates with 5-HT2CR functional activity: more highly edited isoforms exhibit the least function. Altered 5-HT2CR editing has been reported in postmortem brains of suicide victims. We report a comparative analysis of the connections among 5-HT2CR editing, genome-wide gene expression and DNA methylation in suicide victims, individuals with major depressive disorder and non-psychiatric controls. The results confirm previous findings of an overrepresentation of highly edited mRNA variants (which encode hypoactive 5-HT2CR receptors) in the brains of suicide victims. A large set of genes for which the expression level is associated with editing was detected. This signature set of editing-associated genes is significantly enriched for genes that are involved in synaptic transmission, genes that are preferentially expressed in neurons, and genes whose expression is correlated with the level of DNA methylation. Notably, we report that the link between 5-HT2CR editing and gene expression is disrupted in suicide victims. The results suggest that the postulated homeostatic function of 5-HT2CR editing is dysregulated in individuals who committed suicide.


The molecular genetic basis that leads to Lewy Body (LB) pathology in 15–20% of Alzheimer disease cases (LBV/AD) was largely unknown. Alpha-synuclein (SNCA) and Leucine-rich repeat kinase2 (LRRK2) have been implicated in the pathogenesis of Parkinson's disease (PD), the prototype of LB spectrum disorders. We tested the association of SNCA variants with LB pathology in AD. We then stratified the SNCA association analyses by LRRK2 genotype. We also investigated the expression regulation of SNCA and LRRK2 in relation to LB pathology. We evaluated the differences in SNCA-mRNA and LRRK2-mRNA levels as a function of LB pathology in the temporal cortex (TC) from autopsy-confirmed LBV/AD cases and AD controls. We further investigated the cis-effect of the LB pathology-associated genetic variants within the SNCA and LRRK2 loci on the mRNA expression of these genes. SNCA SNPs rs3857059 and rs2583988 showed significant associations with increased risk for LB pathology. When the analyses were stratified by LRRK2-rs1491923 genotype, the associations became stronger for both SNPs and an association was also observed with rs2619363. Expression analysis demonstrated that SNCA- and LRRK2-mRNA levels were significantly higher in TC from LBV/AD brains compared with AD controls. Furthermore, SNCA-mRNA expression level in the TC was associated with rs3857059; homozygotes for the minor allele showed significant higher expression. LRRK2-transcript levels were increased in carriers of rs1491923 minor allele. Our findings demonstrated that SNCA contributes to LB pathology in AD patients, possibly via interaction with LRRK2, and suggested that expression regulation of these genes may be the molecular basis underlying the observed LB associations.


Osteogenesis imperfecta (OI) is an inherited brittle bone disorder characterized by bone fragility and low bone mass. Loss of function mutations in FK506-binding protein 10 (FKBP10), encoding the FKBP65 protein, result in recessive OI and Bruck syndrome, of which the latter is additionally characterized by joint contractures. FKBP65 is thought to act as a collagen chaperone, but it is unknown how loss of FKBP65 affects collagen synthesis and extracellular matrix formation. We evaluated the developmental and postnatal expression of Fkbp10 and analyzed the consequences of its generalized loss of function. Fkbp10 is expressed at low levels in E13.5 mouse embryos, particularly in skeletal tissues, and steadily increases through E17.5 with expression in not only skeletal tissues, but also in visceral tissues. Postnatally, expression is limited to developing bone and ligaments. In contrast to humans, with complete loss of function mutations, Fkbp10–/– mice do not survive birth, and embryos present with growth delay and tissue fragility. Type I calvarial collagen isolated from these mice showed reduced stable crosslink formation at telopeptide lysines. Furthermore, Fkbp10–/– mouse embryonic fibroblasts show retention of procollagen in the cell layer and associated dilated endoplasmic reticulum. These data suggest a requirement for FKBP65 function during embryonic connective tissue development in mice, but the restricted expression postnatally in bone, ligaments and tendons correlates with the bone fragility and contracture phenotype in humans.


Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is a neurodegenerative disease caused by the loss of Survival Motor Neuron-1 (SMN1). In all SMA patients, a nearly identical copy gene called SMN2 is present, which produces low levels of functional protein owing to an alternative splicing event. To prevent exon-skipping, we have targeted an intronic repressor, Element1 (E1), located upstream of SMN2 exon 7 using Morpholino-based antisense oligonucleotides (E1MO-ASOs). A single intracerebroventricular injection in the relatively severe mouse model of SMA (SMN7 mouse model) elicited a robust induction of SMN protein, and mean life span was extended from an average survival of 13 to 54 days following a single dose, consistent with large weight gains and a correction of the neuronal pathology. Additionally, E1MO-ASO treatment in an intermediate SMA mouse (SMNRT mouse model) significantly extended life span by ~700% and weight gain was comparable with the unaffected animals. While a number of experimental therapeutics have targeted the ISS-N1 element of SMN2 pre-mRNA, the development of E1 ASOs provides a new molecular target for SMA therapeutics that dramatically extends survival in two important pre-clinical models of disease.


Infantile spasms (IS) is an early-onset epileptic encephalopathy of unknown etiology in ~40% of patients. We hypothesized that unexplained IS cases represent a large collection of rare single-gene disorders.

We investigated 44 children with unexplained IS using comparative genomic hybridisation arrays (aCGH) (n = 44) followed by targeted sequencing of 35 known epilepsy genes (n = 8) or whole-exome sequencing (WES) of familial trios (n = 18) to search for rare inherited or de novo mutations. aCGH analysis revealed de novo variants in 7% of patients (n = 3/44), including a distal 16p11.2 duplication, a 15q11.1q13.1 tetrasomy and a 2q21.3-q22.2 deletion. Furthermore, it identified a pathogenic maternally inherited Xp11.2 duplication. Targeted sequencing was informative for ARX (n = 1/14) and STXBP1 (n = 1/8). In contrast, sequencing of a panel of 35 known epileptic encephalopathy genes (n = 8) did not identify further mutations. Finally, WES (n = 18) was very informative, with an excess of de novo mutations identified in genes predicted to be involved in neurodevelopmental processes and/or known to be intolerant to functional variations. Several pathogenic mutations were identified, including de novo mutations in STXBP1, CASK and ALG13, as well as recessive mutations in PNPO and ADSL, together explaining 28% of cases (5/18). In addition, WES identified 1–3 de novo variants in 64% of remaining probands, pointing to several interesting candidate genes. Our results indicate that IS are genetically heterogeneous with a major contribution of de novo mutations and that WES is significantly superior to targeted re-sequencing in identifying detrimental genetic variants involved in IS.


Hereditary spastic paraplegias are a group of inherited motor neuron diseases characterized by progressive paraparesis and spasticity. Mutations in the spastic paraplegia gene SPG11, encoding spatacsin, cause an autosomal-recessive disease trait; however, the precise knowledge about the role of spatacsin in neurons is very limited. We for the first time analyzed the expression and function of spatacsin in human forebrain neurons derived from human pluripotent stem cells including lines from two SPG11 patients and two controls. SPG11 patients'-derived neurons exhibited downregulation of specific axonal-related genes, decreased neurite complexity and accumulation of membranous bodies within axonal processes. Altogether, these data point towards axonal pathologies in human neurons with SPG11 mutations. To further corroborate spatacsin function, we investigated human pluripotent stem cell-derived neurons and mouse cortical neurons. In these cells, spatacsin was located in axons and dendrites. It colocalized with cytoskeletal and synaptic vesicle (SV) markers and was present in synaptosomes. Knockdown of spatacsin in mouse cortical neurons evidenced that the loss of function of spatacsin leads to axonal instability by downregulation of acetylated tubulin. Finally, time-lapse assays performed in SPG11 patients'-derived neurons and spatacsin-silenced mouse neurons highlighted a reduction in the anterograde vesicle trafficking indicative of impaired axonal transport. By employing SPG11 patient-derived forebrain neurons and mouse cortical neurons, this study provides the first evidence that SPG11 is implicated in axonal maintenance and cargo trafficking. Understanding the cellular functions of spatacsin will allow deciphering mechanisms of motor cortex dysfunction in autosomal-recessive hereditary spastic paraplegia.


Short QT3 syndrome (SQT3S) is a cardiac disorder characterized by a high risk of mortality and associated with mutations in Kir2.1 (KCNJ2) channels. The molecular mechanisms leading to channel dysfunction, cardiac rhythm disturbances and neurodevelopmental disorders, potentially associated with SQT3S, remain incompletely understood. Here, we report on monozygotic twins displaying a short QT interval on electrocardiogram recordings and autism–epilepsy phenotype. Genetic screening identified a novel KCNJ2 variant in Kir2.1 that (i) enhanced the channel's surface expression and stability at the plasma membrane, (ii) reduced protein ubiquitylation and degradation, (iii) altered protein compartmentalization in lipid rafts by targeting more channels to cholesterol-poor domains and (iv) reduced interactions with caveolin 2. Importantly, our study reveals novel physiological mechanisms concerning wild-type Kir2.1 channel processing by the cell, such as binding to both caveolin 1 and 2, protein degradation through the ubiquitin–proteasome pathway; in addition, it uncovers a potential multifunctional site that controls Kir2.1 surface expression, protein half-life and partitioning to lipid rafts. The reported mechanisms emerge as crucial also for proper astrocyte function, suggesting the need for a neuropsychiatric evaluation in patients with SQT3S and offering new opportunities for disease management.


Mutations in LRRK2 are one of the primary genetic causes of Parkinson's disease (PD). LRRK2 contains a kinase and a GTPase domain, and familial PD mutations affect both enzymatic activities. However, the signaling mechanisms regulating LRRK2 and the pathogenic effects of familial mutations remain unknown. Identifying the signaling proteins that regulate LRRK2 function and toxicity remains a critical goal for the development of effective therapeutic strategies. In this study, we apply systems biology tools to human PD brain and blood transcriptomes to reverse-engineer a LRRK2-centered gene regulatory network. This network identifies several putative master regulators of LRRK2 function. In particular, the signaling gene RGS2, which encodes for a GTPase-activating protein (GAP), is a key regulatory hub connecting the familial PD-associated genes DJ-1 and PINK1 with LRRK2 in the network. RGS2 expression levels are reduced in the striata of LRRK2 and sporadic PD patients. We identify RGS2 as a novel interacting partner of LRRK2 in vivo. RGS2 regulates both the GTPase and kinase activities of LRRK2. We show in mammalian neurons that RGS2 regulates LRRK2 function in the control of neuronal process length. RGS2 is also protective against neuronal toxicity of the most prevalent mutation in LRRK2, G2019S. We find that RGS2 regulates LRRK2 function and neuronal toxicity through its effects on kinase activity and independently of GTPase activity, which reveals a novel mode of action for GAP proteins. This work identifies RGS2 as a promising target for interfering with neurodegeneration due to LRRK2 mutations in PD patients.


Tumor necrosis factor receptor II (TNFRII) is one of the TNF receptor superfamily members and our recent pathological studies show that TNFRII is deficient in the brains of Alzheimer's disease (AD). However, the mechanisms of TNFRII in AD pathogenesis remain unclear. In the present study, by using the gene-targeting approach to delete TNFRII in AD transgenic mouse model, we found that, in the brain of APP23 mice with TNFRII deletion (APP23/TNFRII–/–), AD-like pathology, i.e. plaque formation and microglial activation, occurs as early as 6 months of age. To test whether the increased levels of Aβ plaques was due to elevated Aβ, we measured Aβ and found that Aβ levels indeed were significantly increased at this age. Because β-secretase, BACE1, is critical enzyme for Aβ production, we have examined BACE1 and found that BACE1 is increased in both protein levels and enzymatic activity as early as 6 months of age; Having shown that BACE1 promoter region contains NF-B binding sites, we found that cytoplasmic NF-B was elevated and SUMO1 binding to IBα was decreased. To further verify these findings, we have overexpressed TNFRII and identified that overexpressing TNFRII can reverse the findings from APP23/TNFRII–/– mice. Altogether, our results demonstrate novel roles of TNFRII in the regulation of Aβ production, suggesting a potential therapeutic strategy for AD by up-regulating TNFRII levels and elevating phosphorylated IBα by SUMOylation.


Autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease (ADPKD) is the most common life-threatening hereditary disease in the USA. In human ADPKD studies, sirolimus, a mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1) inhibitor, had little therapeutic effect. While sirolimus robustly inhibits mTORC1, it has a minimal effect on mTOR complex 2 (mTORC2). Polycystic kidneys of Pkd2WS25/– mice, an orthologous model of human ADPKD caused by a mutation in the Pkd2 gene, had an early increase in pS6 (marker of mTORC1) and pAktSer473 (marker of mTORC2). To investigate the effect of combined mTORC1 and 2 inhibition, Pkd2WS25/– mice were treated with an mTOR anti-sense oligonucleotide (ASO) that blocks mTOR expression thus inhibiting both mTORC1 and 2. The mTOR ASO resulted in a significant decrease in mTOR protein, pS6 and pAktSer473. Pkd2WS25/– mice treated with the ASO had a normalization of kidney weights and kidney function and a marked decrease in cyst volume. The mTOR ASO resulted in a significant decrease in proliferation and apoptosis of tubular epithelial cells. To demonstrate the role of mTORC2 on cyst growth, Rictor, the functional component of mTORC2, was silenced in Madin-Darby canine kidney cell cysts grown in 3D cultures. Silencing Rictor significantly decreased cyst volume and expression of pAktSer473. The decreased cyst size in the Rictor silenced cells was reversed by introduction of a constitutively active Akt1. In vitro, combined mTORC1 and 2 inhibition reduced cyst growth more than inhibition of mTORC1 or 2 alone. In conclusion, combined mTORC1 and 2 inhibition has therapeutic potential in ADPKD.


Machado–Joseph Disease (MJD) is the most prevalent autosomal dominantly inherited cerebellar ataxia. It is caused by an expanded CAG repeat in the ATXN3 gene, which translates into a polyglutamine tract within the ataxin-3 protein. Present treatments are symptomatic and do not prevent disease progression. As calpain overactivation has been shown to contribute to mutant ataxin-3 proteolysis, translocation to the nucleus, inclusions formation and neurodegeneration, we investigated the potential role of calpain inhibition as a therapeutic strategy to alleviate MJD pathology. For this purpose, we administered orally the calpain inhibitor BDA-410 to a lentiviral mouse model of MJD. Western-blot and immunohistochemical analysis revealed the presence of N- and C-terminal mutant ataxin-3 fragments and the colocalization of large inclusions with cleaved caspase-3 in the mice brain. Oral administration of the calpain inhibitor BDA-410 decreased both fragments formation and full-length ataxin-3 levels, reduced aggregation of mutant ataxin-3 and prevented cell injury and striatal and cerebellar degeneration. Importantly, in correlation with the preserved cerebellar morphology, BDA-410 prevented motor behavioural deficits. In conclusion, BDA-410 alleviates Machado–Joseph neuropathology and may therefore be an effective therapeutic option for MJD.


Fragile X-associated tremor/ataxia syndrome (FXTAS) is a severe neurodegenerative disorder that affects carriers of premutation CGG-repeat expansion alleles of the fragile X mental retardation 1 (FMR1) gene; current evidence supports a causal role of the expanded CGG repeat within the FMR1 mRNA in the pathogenesis of FXTAS. Though the mRNA has been observed to induce cellular toxicity in FXTAS, the mechanisms are unclear. One common neurophysiological characteristic of FXTAS patients is their inability to properly attenuate their response to an auditory stimulus upon receipt of a small pre-stimulus. Therefore, to gain genetic and cell biological insight into FXTAS, we examined the effect of expanded CGG repeats on the plasticity of the olfactory response of the genetically tractable nematode, Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans). While C. elegans is innately attracted to odors, this response can be downregulated if the odor is paired with starvation. We found that expressing expanded CGG repeats in olfactory neurons interfered with this plasticity without affecting either the innate odor-seeking response or the olfactory neuronal morphology. Interrogation of three RNA regulatory pathways indicated that the expanded CGG repeats act via the C. elegans microRNA (miRNA)-specific Argonaute ALG-2 to diminish olfactory plasticity. This observation suggests that the miRNA-Argonaute pathway may play a pathogenic role in subverting neuronal function in FXTAS.


The transactivation DNA-binding protein (TDP)-43 binds to thousands of mRNAs, but the functional outcomes of this binding remain largely unknown. TDP-43 binds to Park2 mRNA, which expresses the E3 ubiquitin ligase parkin. We previously demonstrated that parkin ubiquitinates TDP-43 and facilitates its translocation from the nucleus to the cytoplasm. Here we used brain penetrant tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs), including nilotinib and bosutinib and showed that they reduce the level of nuclear TDP-43, abrogate its effects on neuronal loss, and reverse cognitive and motor decline. Nilotinib decreased soluble and insoluble TDP-43, while bosutinib did not affect the insoluble level. Parkin knockout mice exhibited high levels of endogenous TDP-43, while nilotinib and bosutinib did not alter TDP-43, underscoring an indispensable role for parkin in TDP-43 sub-cellular localization. These data demonstrate a novel functional relationship between parkin and TDP-43 and provide evidence that TKIs are potential therapeutic candidates for TDP-43 pathologies.


A map of human embryo development that combines imaging, molecular, genetic and epigenetic data for comparisons to other species and across pathologies would be greatly beneficial for basic science and clinical applications. Here, we compared mRNA and protein expression of key mediators of DNA methylation and histone modifications between mouse and human embryos, embryos from fertile/infertile couples, and following growth factor supplementation. We observed that individual mouse and human embryos are characterized by similarities and distinct differences in DNA methylation and histone modification patterns especially at the single-cell level. In particular, while mouse embryos first exhibited sub-compartmentalization of different histone modifications between blastomeres at the morula stage and cell sub-populations in blastocysts, differential histone modification expression was detected between blastomeres earlier in human embryos at the four- to eight-cell stage. Likewise, differences in epigenetic mediator expression were also observed between embryos from fertile and infertile couples, which were largely equalized in response to growth factor supplementation, suggesting that select growth factors might prevent alterations in epigenetic profiles during prolonged embryo culture. Finally, we determined that reduced expression via morpholino technologies of a single histone-modifying enzyme, Rps6ka4/Msk2, resulted in cleavage-stage arrest as assessed by time-lapse imaging and was associated with aneuploidy generation. Taken together, data document differences in epigenetic patterns between species with implications for fertility and suggest functional roles for individual epigenetic factors during pre-implantation development.


The Fragile X-related disorders are X-linked disorders resulting from the inheritance of FMR1 alleles with >54 CGG/CCG repeats in their 5' UTR. The repeats expand both somatically and on intergenerational transmission and increased repeat numbers are associated with increased risk of disease and increased risk of further expansion. The mechanism responsible for expansion is unknown. Here, we show in a knockin mouse model of these disorders that somatic expansion is much less common in females than in males. We show that this is due in large part to the fact that expansions occur only when the repeat is on the active X chromosome. However, even when this is taken into account, expansions in females are still less common than expected. This additional gender effect is not due to a protective effect of estrogen, a deleterious effect of testosterone or to differences in the expression of the Fmr1 gene or a variety of X-linked and autosomal DNA repair genes. However, our data do suggest that a higher level of expression of genes that protect against oxidative damage in females may contribute to their lower levels of expansion. Whatever the basis, our data suggest that the risk for somatic expansion may be lower in women than it is in men. This could help explain the reduced penetrance of some aspects of disease pathology in women. The fact that expansion only occurs when the Fmr1 allele is on the active X chromosome has important implications for the mechanism of repeat expansion.


Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a fatal, neurodegenerative disease that causes death of motor neurons. ALS patients and mouse models of familial ALS display organismal level metabolic dysfunction, which includes increased energy expenditure despite decreased lean mass. The pathophysiological relevance of abnormal energy homeostasis to motor neuron disease remains unclear. Leptin is an adipocyte-derived hormone that regulates whole-animal energy expenditure. Here, we report that placing mutant superoxide dismutase 1 (SOD1) mice in a leptin-deficient background improves energy homeostasis and slows disease progression. Leptin-deficient mutant SOD1 mice possess increased bodyweight and fat mass, as well as decreased energy expenditure. These observations coincide with enhanced survival, improved strength and decreased motor neuron loss. These results suggest that altering whole-body energy metabolism in mutant SOD1 mice can mitigate disease progression. We propose that manipulations that increase fat mass and reduce energy expenditure will be beneficial in the setting of motor neuron disease.


Dienoyl-CoA reductase (DECR) deficiency with hyperlysinemia is a rare disorder affecting the metabolism of polyunsaturated fatty acids and lysine. The molecular basis of this condition is currently unknown. We describe a new case with failure to thrive, developmental delay, lactic acidosis and severe encephalopathy suggestive of a mitochondrial disorder. Exome sequencing revealed a causal mutation in NADK2. NADK2 encodes the mitochondrial NAD kinase, which is crucial for NADP biosynthesis evidenced by decreased mitochondrial NADP(H) levels in patient fibroblasts. DECR and also the first step in lysine degradation are performed by NADP-dependent oxidoreductases explaining their in vivo deficiency. DECR activity was also deficient in lysates of patient fibroblasts and could only be rescued by transfecting patient cells with functional NADK2. Thus NADPH is not only crucial as a cosubstrate, but can also act as a molecular chaperone that activates and stabilizes enzymes. In addition to polyunsaturated fatty acid oxidation and lysine degradation, NADPH also plays a role in various other mitochondrial processes. We found decreased oxygen consumption and increased extracellular acidification in patient fibroblasts, which may explain why the disease course is consistent with clinical criteria for a mitochondrial disorder. We conclude that DECR deficiency with hyperlysinemia is caused by mitochondrial NADP(H) deficiency due to a mutation in NADK2.


Nearly one-half of asthmatic patients do not respond to the most commonly prescribed controller therapy, inhaled corticosteroids (ICS). We conducted an expression quantitative trait loci (eQTL) analysis using >300 expression microarrays (from 117 lymphoblastoid cell lines) in corticosteroid (dexamethasone) treated and untreated cells derived from asthmatic subjects in the Childhood Asthma Management Program (CAMP) clinical trial. We then tested the associations of eQTL with longitudinal change in airway responsiveness to methacholine (LnPC20) on ICS. We identified 2484 cis-eQTL affecting 767 genes following dexamethasone treatment. A significant over-representation of lnPC20-associated cis-eQTL [190 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs)] among differentially expressed genes (odds ratio = 1.76, 95% confidence interval: 1.35–2.29) was noted in CAMP Caucasians. Forty-six of these 190 clinical associations were replicated in CAMP African Americans, including seven SNPs near six genes meeting criteria for genome-wide significance (P < 2 x 10–7). Notably, the majority of genome-wide findings would not have been uncovered via analysis of untreated samples. These results indicate that identifying eQTL after relevant environmental perturbation enables identification of true pharmacogenetic variants.