Due to an inability to cross the blood brain barrier, certain drugs need to be directly delivered into the central nervous system (CNS). Our lab focuses specifically on antisense oligonucleotides (ASOs), though the techniques shown in the video here can also be used to deliver a plethora of other drugs to the CNS. Antisense oligonucleotides (ASOs) have the capability to knockdown sequence-specific targets 1 as well as shift isoform ratios of specific genes 2. To achieve widespread gene knockdown or splicing in the CNS of mice, the ASOs can be delivered into the brain using two separate routes of administration, both of which we demonstrate in the video.
The first uses Alzet osmotic pumps, connected to a catheter that is surgically implanted into the lateral ventricle. This allows the ASOs to be continuously infused into the CNS for a designated period of time. The second involves a single bolus injection of a high concentration of ASO into the right lateral ventricle. Both methods use the mouse cerebral ventricular system to deliver the ASO to the entire brain and spinal cord, though depending on the needs of the study, one method may be preferred over the other.
16 Related JoVE Articles!
A Functional Motor Unit in the Culture Dish: Co-culture of Spinal Cord Explants and Muscle Cells
Institutions: University of Basel.
Human primary muscle cells cultured aneurally in monolayer rarely contract spontaneously because, in the absence of a nerve component, cell differentiation is limited and motor neuron stimulation is missing1
. These limitations hamper the in vitro
study of many neuromuscular diseases in cultured muscle cells. Importantly, the experimental constraints of monolayered, cultured muscle cells can be overcome by functional innervation of myofibers with spinal cord explants in co-cultures.
Here, we show the different steps required to achieve an efficient, proper innervation of human primary muscle cells, leading to complete differentiation and fiber contraction according to the method developed by Askanas2
. To do so, muscle cells are co-cultured with spinal cord explants of rat embryos at ED 13.5, with the dorsal root ganglia still attached to the spinal cord slices. After a few days, the muscle fibers start to contract and eventually become cross-striated through innervation by functional neurites projecting from the spinal cord explants that connecting to the muscle cells. This structure can be maintained for many months, simply by regular exchange of the culture medium.
The applications of this invaluable tool are numerous, as it represents a functional model for multidisciplinary analyses of human muscle development and innervation. In fact, a complete de novo
neuromuscular junction installation occurs in a culture dish, allowing an easy measurement of many parameters at each step, in a fundamental and physiological context.
Just to cite a few examples, genomic and/or proteomic studies can be performed directly on the co-cultures. Furthermore, pre- and post-synaptic effects can be specifically and separately assessed at the neuromuscular junction, because both components come from different species, rat and human, respectively. The nerve-muscle co-culture can also be performed with human muscle cells isolated from patients suffering from muscle or neuromuscular diseases3
, and thus can be used as a screening tool for candidate drugs. Finally, no special equipment but a regular BSL2 facility is needed to reproduce a functional motor unit in a culture dish. This method thus is valuable for both the muscle as well as the neuromuscular research communities for physiological and mechanistic studies of neuromuscular function, in a normal and disease context.
Neuroscience, Issue 62, Human primary muscle cells, embryonic spinal cord explants, neurites, innervation, contraction, cell culture
Delivery of Therapeutic Agents Through Intracerebroventricular (ICV) and Intravenous (IV) Injection in Mice
Institutions: University of Missouri, Columbia University , University of Missouri.
Despite the protective role that blood brain barrier plays in shielding the brain, it limits the access to the central nervous system (CNS) which most often results in failure of potential therapeutics designed for neurodegenerative disorders 1,2
. Neurodegenerative diseases such as Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA), in which the lower motor neurons are affected, can benefit greatly from introducing the therapeutic agents into the CNS. The purpose of this video is to demonstrate two different injection paradigms to deliver therapeutic materials into neonatal mice soon after birth. One of these methods is injecting directly into cerebral lateral ventricles (Intracerebroventricular) which results in delivery of materials into the CNS through the cerebrospinal fluid 3,4
. The second method is a temporal vein injection (intravenous) that can introduce different therapeutics into the circulatory system, leading to systemic delivery including the CNS 5
. Widespread transduction of the CNS is achievable if an appropriate viral vector and viral serotype is utilized. Visualization and utilization of the temporal vein for injection is feasible up to postnatal day 6. However, if the delivered material is intended to reach the CNS, these injections should take place while the blood brain barrier is more permeable due to its immature status, preferably prior to postnatal day 2. The fully developed blood brain barrier greatly limits the effectiveness of intravenous delivery. Both delivery systems are simple and effective once the surgical aptitude is achieved. They do not require any extensive surgical devices and can be performed by a single person. However, these techniques are not without challenges. The small size of postnatal day 2 pups and the subsequent small target areas can make the injections difficult to perform and initially challenging to replicate.
Medicine, Issue 56, Neuroscience, Motor neuron, brain, CNS, temporal vein, mouse, injection, ventricles
Intravenous Injections in Neonatal Mice
Institutions: Ohio State University, Ohio State University.
Intravenous injection is a clinically applicable manner to deliver therapeutics. For adult rodents and larger animals, intravenous injections are technically feasible and routine. However, some mouse models can have early onset of disease with a rapid progression that makes administration of potential therapies difficult. The temporal (or facial) vein is just anterior to the ear bud in mice and is clearly visible for the first two days after birth on either side of the head using a dissecting microscope. During this window, the temporal vein can be injected with volumes up to 50 μl. The injection is safe and well tolerated by both the pups and the dams. A typical injection procedure is completed within 1-2 min, after which the pup is returned to the home cage. By the third postnatal day the vein is difficult to visualize and the injection procedure becomes technically unreliable. This technique has been used for delivery of adeno-associated virus (AAV) vectors, which in turn can provide almost body-wide, stable transgene expression for the life of the animal depending on the viral serotype chosen.
Basic Protocol, Issue 93, intravenous injection, systemic delivery, neonate, AAV, gene therapy, brain, spinal cord, muscle, temporal vein
Dissection of the Transversus Abdominis Muscle for Whole-mount Neuromuscular Junction Analysis
Institutions: Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, University of Edinburgh.
Analysis of neuromuscular junction morphology can give important insight into the physiological status of a given motor neuron. Analysis of thin flat muscles can offer significant advantage over traditionally used thicker muscles, such as those from the hind limb (e.g
). Thin muscles allow for comprehensive overview of the entire innervation pattern for a given muscle, which in turn permits identification of selectively vulnerable pools of motor neurons. These muscles also allow analysis of parameters such as motor unit size, axonal branching, and terminal/nodal sprouting. A common obstacle in using such muscles is gaining the technical expertise to dissect them. In this video, we detail the protocol for dissecting the transversus abdominis
(TVA) muscle from young mice and performing immunofluorescence to visualize axons and neuromuscular junctions (NMJs). We demonstrate that this technique gives a complete overview of the innervation pattern of the TVA muscle and can be used to investigate NMJ pathology in a mouse model of the childhood motor neuron disease, spinal muscular atrophy.
Neuroscience, Issue 83, Transversus Abdominis, neuromuscular junction, NMJ, dissection, mouse, immunofluorescence
Quick Fluorescent In Situ Hybridization Protocol for Xist RNA Combined with Immunofluorescence of Histone Modification in X-chromosome Inactivation
Institutions: Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.
Combining RNA fluorescent in situ
hybridization (FISH) with immunofluorescence (immuno-FISH) creates a technique that can be employed at the single cell level to detect the spatial dynamics of RNA localization with simultaneous insight into the localization of proteins, epigenetic modifications and other details which can be highlighted by immunofluorescence. X-chromosome inactivation is a paradigm for long non-coding RNA (lncRNA)-mediated gene silencing. X-inactive specific transcript (Xist) lncRNA accumulation (called an Xist cloud) on one of the two X-chromosomes in mammalian females is a critical step to initiate X-chromosome inactivation. Xist RNA directly or indirectly interacts with various chromatin-modifying enzymes and introduces distinct epigenetic landscapes to the inactive X-chromosome (Xi). One known epigenetic hallmark of the Xi is the Histone H3 trimethyl-lysine 27 (H3K27me3) modification. Here, we describe a simple and quick immuno-FISH protocol for detecting Xist RNA using RNA FISH with multiple oligonucleotide probes coupled with immunofluorescence of H3K27me3 to examine the localization of Xist RNA and associated epigenetic modifications. Using oligonucleotide probes results in a shorter incubation time and more sensitive detection of Xist RNA compared to in vitro
transcribed RNA probes (riboprobes). This protocol provides a powerful tool for understanding the dynamics of lncRNAs and its associated epigenetic modification, chromatin structure, nuclear organization and transcriptional regulation.
Genetics, Issue 93, Xist, X-chromosome inactivation, FISH, histone methylation, epigenetics, long non-coding RNA
Enhanced Northern Blot Detection of Small RNA Species in Drosophila Melanogaster
Institutions: Institut de Génétique et de Biologie Moléculaire et Cellulaire, Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia.
The last decades have witnessed the explosion of scientific interest around gene expression control mechanisms at the RNA level. This branch of molecular biology has been greatly fueled by the discovery of noncoding RNAs as major players in post-transcriptional regulation. Such a revolutionary perspective has been accompanied and triggered by the development of powerful technologies for profiling short RNAs expression, both at the high-throughput level (genome-wide identification) or as single-candidate analysis (steady state accumulation of specific species). Although several state-of-art strategies are currently available for dosing or visualizing such fleeing molecules, Northern Blot assay remains the eligible approach in molecular biology for immediate and accurate evaluation of RNA expression. It represents a first step toward the application of more sophisticated, costly technologies and, in many cases, remains a preferential method to easily gain insights into RNA biology. Here we overview an efficient protocol (Enhanced Northern Blot) for detecting weakly expressed microRNAs (or other small regulatory RNA species) from Drosophila melanogaster
whole embryos, manually dissected larval/adult tissues or in vitro
cultured cells. A very limited amount of RNA is required and the use of material from flow cytometry-isolated cells can be also envisaged.
Molecular Biology, Issue 90, Northern blotting, Noncoding RNAs, microRNAs, rasiRNA, Gene expression, Gcm/Glide, Drosophila melanogaster
Non-radioactive in situ Hybridization Protocol Applicable for Norway Spruce and a Range of Plant Species
Institutions: Uppsala University, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences.
The high-throughput expression analysis technologies available today give scientists an overflow of expression profiles but their resolution in terms of tissue specific expression is limited because of problems in dissecting individual tissues. Expression data needs to be confirmed and complemented with expression patterns using e.g. in situ
hybridization, a technique used to localize cell specific mRNA expression. The in situ
hybridization method is laborious, time-consuming and often requires extensive optimization depending on species and tissue. In situ
experiments are relatively more difficult to perform in woody species such as the conifer Norway spruce (Picea abies
). Here we present a modified DIG in situ
hybridization protocol, which is fast and applicable on a wide range of plant species including P. abies
. With just a few adjustments, including altered RNase treatment and proteinase K concentration, we could use the protocol to study tissue specific expression of homologous genes in male reproductive organs of one gymnosperm and two angiosperm species; P. abies, Arabidopsis thaliana
and Brassica napus
. The protocol worked equally well for the species and genes studied. AtAP3
were observed in second and third whorl floral organs in A. thaliana
and B. napus
and DAL13 in microsporophylls of male cones from P. abies
. For P. abies
the proteinase K concentration, used to permeablize the tissues, had to be increased to 3 g/ml instead of 1 g/ml, possibly due to more compact tissues and higher levels of phenolics and polysaccharides. For all species the RNase treatment was removed due to reduced signal strength without a corresponding increase in specificity. By comparing tissue specific expression patterns of homologous genes from both flowering plants and a coniferous tree we demonstrate that the DIG in situ
protocol presented here, with only minute adjustments, can be applied to a wide range of plant species. Hence, the protocol avoids both extensive species specific optimization and the laborious use of radioactively labeled probes in favor of DIG labeled probes. We have chosen to illustrate the technically demanding steps of the protocol in our film.
Anna Karlgren and Jenny Carlsson contributed equally to this study.
Corresponding authors: Anna Karlgren at Anna.Karlgren@ebc.uu.se and Jens F. Sundström at Jens.Sundstrom@vbsg.slu.se
Plant Biology, Issue 26, RNA, expression analysis, Norway spruce, Arabidopsis, rapeseed, conifers
Analysis of DNA Double-strand Break (DSB) Repair in Mammalian Cells
Institutions: University of Rochester.
DNA double-strand breaks are the most dangerous DNA lesions that may lead to massive loss of genetic information and cell death. Cells repair DSBs using two major pathways: nonhomologous end joining (NHEJ) and homologous recombination (HR). Perturbations of NHEJ and HR are often associated with premature aging and tumorigenesis, hence it is important to have a quantitative way of measuring each DSB repair pathway. Our laboratory has developed fluorescent reporter constructs that allow sensitive and quantitative measurement of NHEJ and HR. The constructs are based on an engineered GFP gene containing recognition sites for a rare-cutting I-SceI endonuclease for induction of DSBs. The starting constructs are GFP negative as the GFP gene is inactivated by an additional exon, or by mutations. Successful repair of the I-SceI-induced breaks by NHEJ or HR restores the functional GFP gene. The number of GFP positive cells counted by flow cytometry provides quantitative measure of NHEJ or HR efficiency.
Cellular Biology, Issue 43, DNA repair, HR, NHEJ, mammalian cells
Modeling Neural Immune Signaling of Episodic and Chronic Migraine Using Spreading Depression In Vitro
Institutions: The University of Chicago Medical Center, The University of Chicago Medical Center.
Migraine and its transformation to chronic migraine are healthcare burdens in need of improved treatment options. We seek to define how neural immune signaling modulates the susceptibility to migraine, modeled in vitro
using spreading depression (SD), as a means to develop novel therapeutic targets for episodic and chronic migraine. SD is the likely cause of migraine aura and migraine pain. It is a paroxysmal loss of neuronal function triggered by initially increased neuronal activity, which slowly propagates within susceptible brain regions. Normal brain function is exquisitely sensitive to, and relies on, coincident low-level immune signaling. Thus, neural immune signaling likely affects electrical activity of SD, and therefore migraine. Pain perception studies of SD in whole animals are fraught with difficulties, but whole animals are well suited to examine systems biology aspects of migraine since SD activates trigeminal nociceptive pathways. However, whole animal studies alone cannot be used to decipher the cellular and neural circuit mechanisms of SD. Instead, in vitro
preparations where environmental conditions can be controlled are necessary. Here, it is important to recognize limitations of acute slices and distinct advantages of hippocampal slice cultures. Acute brain slices cannot reveal subtle changes in immune signaling since preparing the slices alone triggers: pro-inflammatory changes that last days, epileptiform behavior due to high levels of oxygen tension needed to vitalize the slices, and irreversible cell injury at anoxic slice centers.
In contrast, we examine immune signaling in mature hippocampal slice cultures since the cultures closely parallel their in vivo
counterpart with mature trisynaptic function; show quiescent astrocytes, microglia, and cytokine levels; and SD is easily induced in an unanesthetized preparation. Furthermore, the slices are long-lived and SD can be induced on consecutive days without injury, making this preparation the sole means to-date capable of modeling the neuroimmune consequences of chronic SD, and thus perhaps chronic migraine. We use electrophysiological techniques and non-invasive imaging to measure
neuronal cell and circuit functions coincident with SD. Neural immune gene expression variables are measured with qPCR screening, qPCR arrays, and, importantly, use of cDNA preamplification for detection of ultra-low level targets such as interferon-gamma using whole, regional, or specific cell enhanced (via laser dissection microscopy) sampling. Cytokine cascade signaling is further assessed with multiplexed phosphoprotein related targets with gene expression and phosphoprotein changes confirmed via cell-specific immunostaining. Pharmacological and siRNA strategies are used to mimic
SD immune signaling.
Neuroscience, Issue 52, innate immunity, hormesis, microglia, T-cells, hippocampus, slice culture, gene expression, laser dissection microscopy, real-time qPCR, interferon-gamma
Transient Gene Expression in Tobacco using Gibson Assembly and the Gene Gun
Institutions: Harvard University, Harvard Medical School, Delft University of Technology.
In order to target a single protein to multiple subcellular organelles, plants typically duplicate the relevant genes, and express each gene separately using complex regulatory strategies including differential promoters and/or signal sequences. Metabolic engineers and synthetic biologists interested in targeting enzymes to a particular organelle are faced with a challenge: For a protein that is to be localized to more than one organelle, the engineer must clone the same gene multiple times. This work presents a solution to this strategy: harnessing alternative splicing of mRNA. This technology takes advantage of established chloroplast and peroxisome targeting sequences and combines them into a single mRNA that is alternatively spliced. Some splice variants are sent to the chloroplast, some to the peroxisome, and some to the cytosol. Here the system is designed for multiple-organelle targeting with alternative splicing. In this work, GFP was expected to be expressed in the chloroplast, cytosol, and peroxisome by a series of rationally designed 5’ mRNA tags. These tags have the potential to reduce the amount of cloning required when heterologous genes need to be expressed in multiple subcellular organelles. The constructs were designed in previous work11
, and were cloned using Gibson assembly, a ligation independent cloning method that does not require restriction enzymes. The resultant plasmids were introduced into Nicotiana benthamiana
epidermal leaf cells with a modified Gene Gun protocol. Finally, transformed leaves were observed with confocal microscopy.
Environmental Sciences, Issue 86, Plant Leaves, Synthetic Biology, Plants, Genetically Modified, DNA, Plant, RNA, Gene Targeting, Plant Physiological Processes, Genes, Gene gun, Gibson assembly, Nicotiana benthamiana, Alternative splicing, confocal microscopy, chloroplast, peroxisome
In Vivo Modeling of the Morbid Human Genome using Danio rerio
Institutions: Duke University Medical Center, Duke University, Duke University Medical Center.
Here, we present methods for the development of assays to query potentially clinically significant nonsynonymous changes using in vivo
complementation in zebrafish. Zebrafish (Danio rerio
) are a useful animal system due to their experimental tractability; embryos are transparent to enable facile viewing, undergo rapid development ex vivo,
and can be genetically manipulated.1
These aspects have allowed for significant advances in the analysis of embryogenesis, molecular processes, and morphogenetic signaling. Taken together, the advantages of this vertebrate model make zebrafish highly amenable to modeling the developmental defects in pediatric disease, and in some cases, adult-onset disorders. Because the zebrafish genome is highly conserved with that of humans (~70% orthologous), it is possible to recapitulate human disease states in zebrafish. This is accomplished either through the injection of mutant human mRNA to induce dominant negative or gain of function alleles, or utilization of morpholino (MO) antisense oligonucleotides to suppress genes to mimic loss of function variants. Through complementation of MO-induced phenotypes with capped human mRNA, our approach enables the interpretation of the deleterious effect of mutations on human protein sequence based on the ability of mutant mRNA to rescue a measurable, physiologically relevant phenotype. Modeling of the human disease alleles occurs through microinjection of zebrafish embryos with MO and/or human mRNA at the 1-4 cell stage, and phenotyping up to seven days post fertilization (dpf). This general strategy can be extended to a wide range of disease phenotypes, as demonstrated in the following protocol. We present our established models for morphogenetic signaling, craniofacial, cardiac, vascular integrity, renal function, and skeletal muscle disorder phenotypes, as well as others.
Molecular Biology, Issue 78, Genetics, Biomedical Engineering, Medicine, Developmental Biology, Biochemistry, Anatomy, Physiology, Bioengineering, Genomics, Medical, zebrafish, in vivo, morpholino, human disease modeling, transcription, PCR, mRNA, DNA, Danio rerio, animal model
A Possible Zebrafish Model of Polycystic Kidney Disease: Knockdown of wnt5a Causes Cysts in Zebrafish Kidneys
Institutions: Eastern Virginia Medical School, Medical University of South Carolina, University of Michigan.
Polycystic kidney disease (PKD) is one of the most common causes of end-stage kidney disease, a devastating disease for which there is no cure. The molecular mechanisms leading to cyst formation in PKD remain somewhat unclear, but many genes are thought to be involved. Wnt5a is a non-canonical glycoprotein that regulates a wide range of developmental processes. Wnt5a works through the planar cell polarity (PCP) pathway that regulates oriented cell division during renal tubular cell elongation. Defects of the PCP pathway have been found to cause kidney cyst formation. Our paper describes a method for developing a zebrafish cystic kidney disease model by knockdown of the wnt5a
gene with wnt5a
antisense morpholino (MO) oligonucleotides. Tg(wt1b:GFP)
transgenic zebrafish were used to visualize kidney structure and kidney cysts following wnt5a
knockdown. Two distinct antisense MOs (AUG - and splice-site) were used and both resulted in curly tail down phenotype and cyst formation after wnt5a
knockdown. Injection of mouse Wnt5a
mRNA, resistant to the MOs due to a difference in primary base pair structure, rescued the abnormal phenotype, demonstrating that the phenotype was not due to “off-target” effects of the morpholino. This work supports the validity of using a zebrafish model to study wnt5a
function in the kidney.
Medicine, Issue 94, Wnt5a, polycystic kidney disease, morpholino, microinjection, zebrafish, pronephros
Detection of Alternative Splicing During Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition
Institutions: Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.
Alternative splicing plays a critical role in the epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT), an essential cellular program that occurs in various physiological and pathological processes. Here we describe a strategy to detect alternative splicing during EMT using an inducible EMT model by expressing the transcription repressor Twist. EMT is monitored by changes in cell morphology, loss of E-cadherin localization at cell-cell junctions, and the switched expression of EMT markers, such as loss of epithelial markers E-cadherin and γ-catenin and gain of mesenchymal markers N-cadherin and vimentin. Using isoform-specific primer sets, the alternative splicing of interested mRNAs are analyzed by quantitative RT-PCR. The production of corresponding protein isoforms is validated by immunoblotting assays. The method of detecting splice isoforms described here is also suitable for the study of alternative splicing in other biological processes.
Cellular Biology, Issue 92, alternative splicing, EMT, RNA, primer design, real time PCR, splice isoforms
Real-time Imaging of Single Engineered RNA Transcripts in Living Cells Using Ratiometric Bimolecular Beacons
Institutions: University of Pennsylvania, Integrated DNA Technologies, Inc..
The growing realization that both the temporal and spatial regulation of gene expression can have important consequences on cell function has led to the development of diverse techniques to visualize individual RNA transcripts in single living cells. One promising technique that has recently been described utilizes an oligonucleotide-based optical probe, ratiometric bimolecular beacon (RBMB), to detect RNA transcripts that were engineered to contain at least four tandem repeats of the RBMB target sequence in the 3’-untranslated region. RBMBs are specifically designed to emit a bright fluorescent signal upon hybridization to complementary RNA, but otherwise remain quenched. The use of a synthetic probe in this approach allows photostable, red-shifted, and highly emissive organic dyes to be used for imaging. Binding of multiple RBMBs to the engineered RNA transcripts results in discrete fluorescence spots when viewed under a wide-field fluorescent microscope. Consequently, the movement of individual RNA transcripts can be readily visualized in real-time by taking a time series of fluorescent images. Here we describe the preparation and purification of RBMBs, delivery into cells by microporation and live-cell imaging of single RNA transcripts.
Genetics, Issue 90, RNA, imaging, single molecule, fluorescence, living cell
Microinjection of Zebrafish Embryos to Analyze Gene Function
Institutions: Harvard Medical School, Children’s Hospital Boston.
One of the advantages of studying zebrafish is the ease and speed of manipulating protein levels in the embryo. Morpholinos, which are synthetic oligonucleotides with antisense complementarity to target RNAs, can be added to the embryo to reduce the expression of a particular gene product. Conversely, processed mRNA can be added to the embryo to increase levels of a gene product. The vehicle for adding either mRNA or morpholino to an embryo is microinjection. Microinjection is efficient and rapid, allowing for the injection of hundreds of embryos per hour. This video shows all the steps involved in microinjection. Briefly, eggs are collected immediately after being laid and lined up against a microscope slide in a Petri dish. Next, a fine-tipped needle loaded with injection material is connected to a microinjector and an air source, and the microinjector controls are adjusted to produce a desirable injection volume. Finally, the needle is plunged into the embryo's yolk and the morpholino or mRNA is expelled.
Developmental Biology, Issue 25, zebrafish, morpholino, development, microinjection, heart of glass, heg
A Strategy to Identify de Novo Mutations in Common Disorders such as Autism and Schizophrenia
Institutions: Universite de Montreal, Universite de Montreal, Universite de Montreal.
There are several lines of evidence supporting the role of de novo
mutations as a mechanism for common disorders, such as autism and schizophrenia. First, the de novo
mutation rate in humans is relatively high, so new mutations are generated at a high frequency in the population. However, de novo
mutations have not been reported in most common diseases. Mutations in genes leading to severe diseases where there is a strong negative selection against the phenotype, such as lethality in embryonic stages or reduced reproductive fitness, will not be transmitted to multiple family members, and therefore will not be detected by linkage gene mapping or association studies. The observation of very high concordance in monozygotic twins and very low concordance in dizygotic twins also strongly supports the hypothesis that a significant fraction of cases may result from new mutations. Such is the case for diseases such as autism and schizophrenia. Second, despite reduced reproductive fitness1
and extremely variable environmental factors, the incidence of some diseases is maintained worldwide at a relatively high and constant rate. This is the case for autism and schizophrenia, with an incidence of approximately 1% worldwide. Mutational load can be thought of as a balance between selection for or against a deleterious mutation and its production by de novo
mutation. Lower rates of reproduction constitute a negative selection factor that should reduce the number of mutant alleles in the population, ultimately leading to decreased disease prevalence. These selective pressures tend to be of different intensity in different environments. Nonetheless, these severe mental disorders have been maintained at a constant relatively high prevalence in the worldwide population across a wide range of cultures and countries despite a strong negative selection against them2
. This is not what one would predict in diseases with reduced reproductive fitness, unless there was a high new mutation rate. Finally, the effects of paternal age: there is a significantly increased risk of the disease with increasing paternal age, which could result from the age related increase in paternal de novo
mutations. This is the case for autism and schizophrenia3
. The male-to-female ratio of mutation rate is estimated at about 4–6:1, presumably due to a higher number of germ-cell divisions with age in males. Therefore, one would predict that de novo
mutations would more frequently come from males, particularly older males4
. A high rate of new mutations may in part explain why genetic studies have so far failed to identify many genes predisposing to complexes diseases genes, such as autism and schizophrenia, and why diseases have been identified for a mere 3% of genes in the human genome. Identification for de novo
mutations as a cause of a disease requires a targeted molecular approach, which includes studying parents and affected subjects. The process for determining if the genetic basis of a disease may result in part from de novo
mutations and the molecular approach to establish this link will be illustrated, using autism and schizophrenia as examples.
Medicine, Issue 52, de novo mutation, complex diseases, schizophrenia, autism, rare variations, DNA sequencing