Hexanucleotide repeat expansion in C9orf72 represents the most common genetic cause of familial and sporadic behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia. Previous studies show that some C9orf72 carriers with behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia exhibit distinctive atrophy patterns whereas others show mild or undetectable atrophy despite severe behavioural impairment. To explore this observation, we examined intrinsic connectivity network integrity in patients with or without the C9orf72 expansion. We studied 28 patients with behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia, including 14 C9orf72 mutation carriers (age 58.3 ± 7.7 years, four females) and 14 non-carriers (age 60.8 ± 6.9 years, four females), and 14 age- and sex-matched healthy controls. Both patient groups included five patients with comorbid motor neuron disease. Neuropsychological data, structural brain magnetic resonance imaging, and task-free functional magnetic resonance imaging were obtained. Voxel-based morphometry delineated atrophy patterns, and seed-based intrinsic connectivity analyses enabled group comparisons of the salience, sensorimotor, and default mode networks. Single-patient analyses were used to explore network imaging as a potential biomarker. Despite contrasting atrophy patterns in C9orf72 carriers versus non-carriers, patient groups showed topographically similar connectivity reductions in the salience and sensorimotor networks. Patients without C9orf72 expansions exhibited increases in default mode network connectivity compared to controls and mutation carriers. Across all patients, behavioural symptom severity correlated with diminished salience network connectivity and heightened default mode network connectivity. In C9orf72 carriers, salience network connectivity reduction correlated with atrophy in the left medial pulvinar thalamic nucleus, and this region further showed diminished connectivity with key salience network hubs. Single-patient analyses revealed salience network disruption and default mode network connectivity enhancement in C9orf72 carriers with early-stage or slowly progressive symptoms. The findings suggest that patients with behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia with or without the C9orf72 expansion show convergent large-scale network breakdowns despite distinctive atrophy patterns. Medial pulvinar degeneration may contribute to the behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia syndrome in C9orf72 carriers by disrupting salience network connectivity. Task-free functional magnetic resonance imaging shows promise in detecting early-stage disease in C9orf72 carriers and may provide a unifying biomarker across diverse anatomical variants.
Because APOE locus variants contribute to risk of late-onset Alzheimer disease (LOAD) and to differences in age at onset (AAO), it is important to know whether other established LOAD risk loci also affect AAO in affected participants.
Cerebellar ataxias are a diverse collection of neurologic disorders with causes ranging from common acquired etiologies to rare genetic conditions. Numerous genetic disorders have been associated with chronic progressive ataxia and this consequently presents a diagnostic challenge for the clinician regarding how to approach and prioritize genetic testing in patients with such clinically heterogeneous phenotypes. Additionally, while the value of genetic testing in early-onset and/or familial cases seems clear, many patients with ataxia present sporadically with adult onset of symptoms and the contribution of genetic variation to the phenotype of these patients has not yet been established.
Although classic Parkinson disease is the disorder most commonly associated with the clinical feature of parkinsonism, there is in fact a broader spectrum of disease represented by a collection of phenotypically similar neurodegenerative conditions that mimic many of its core features. These atypical parkinsonian disorders most commonly include progressive supranuclear palsy and corticobasal degeneration, disorders both associated with frontotemporal dementia, as well as multiple system atrophy and dementia with Lewy bodies. Although the clinical distinction of these disorders still remains a challenge to physicians, recent advances in genetics are poised to tease apart the differences. Insights into the molecular etiologies underlying these conditions will improve diagnosis, yield a better understanding of the underlying disease pathology, and ultimately lend stimulation to the development of potential treatments. At the same time, the wide range of phenotypes observed from mutations in a single gene warrants broad testing facilitated by advances in DNA sequencing. These expanding genomic approaches, ranging from the use of next-generation sequencing to identify causative or risk-associated gene variations to the study of epigenetic modification linking human genetics to environmental factors, are poised to lead the field into a new age of discovery.
Neural stem cells have been adopted to model a wide range of neuropsychiatric conditions in vitro. However, how well such models correspond to in vivo brain has not been evaluated in an unbiased, comprehensive manner. We used transcriptomic analyses to compare in vitro systems to developing human fetal brain and observed strong conservation of in vivo gene expression and network architecture in differentiating primary human neural progenitor cells (phNPCs). Conserved modules are enriched in genes associated with ASD, supporting the utility of phNPCs for studying neuropsychiatric disease. We also developed and validated a machine learning approach called CoNTExT that identifies the developmental maturity and regional identity of in vitro models. We observed strong differences between in vitro models, including hiPSC-derived neural progenitors from multiple laboratories. This work provides a systems biology framework for evaluating in vitro systems and supports their value in studying the molecular mechanisms of human neurodevelopmental disease.
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.
Rare copy-number variation (CNV) is an important source of risk for autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). We analyzed 2,446 ASD-affected families and confirmed an excess of genic deletions and duplications in affected versus control groups (1.41-fold, p = 1.0 × 10(-5)) and an increase in affected subjects carrying exonic pathogenic CNVs overlapping known loci associated with dominant or X-linked ASD and intellectual disability (odds ratio = 12.62, p = 2.7 × 10(-15), ?3% of ASD subjects). Pathogenic CNVs, often showing variable expressivity, included rare de novo and inherited events at 36 loci, implicating ASD-associated genes (CHD2, HDAC4, and GDI1) previously linked to other neurodevelopmental disorders, as well as other genes such as SETD5, MIR137, and HDAC9. Consistent with hypothesized gender-specific modulators, females with ASD were more likely to have highly penetrant CNVs (p = 0.017) and were also overrepresented among subjects with fragile X syndrome protein targets (p = 0.02). Genes affected by de novo CNVs and/or loss-of-function single-nucleotide variants converged on networks related to neuronal signaling and development, synapse function, and chromatin regulation.
The proximal region of chromosome 15 is one of the genomic hotspots for copy number variants (CNVs). Among the rearrangements observed in this region, CNVs from the interval between the common breakpoints 1 and 2 (BP1 and BP2) have been reported cosegregating with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Although evidence supporting an association between BP1-BP2 CNVs and autism accumulates, the magnitude of the effect of BP1-BP2 CNVs remains elusive, posing a great challenge to recurrence-risk counseling. To gain further insight into their pathogenicity for ASD, we estimated the penetrance of the BP1-BP2 CNVs for ASD as well as their effects on ASD-related phenotypes in a well-characterized ASD sample (n?=?2525 families). Transmission disequilibrium test revealed significant preferential transmission only for the duplicated chromosome in probands (20T:9NT). The penetrance of the BP1-BP2 CNVs for ASD was low, conferring additional risks of 0.3% (deletion) and 0.8% (duplication). Stepwise regression analyses suggest a greater effect of the CNVs on ASD-related phenotype in males and when maternally inherited. Taken together, the results are consistent with BP1-BP2 CNVs as risk factors for autism. However, their effect is modest, more akin to that seen for common variants. To be consistent with the current American College of Medical Genetics guidelines for interpretation of postnatal CNV, the BP1-BP2 deletion and duplication CNVs would probably best be classified as variants of uncertain significance (VOUS): they appear to have an impact on risk, but one so modest that these CNVs do not merit pathogenic status.
Validating the potential pathogenicity of copy number variants (CNVs) identified in genome-wide studies of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) requires detailed assessment of case/control frequencies, inheritance patterns, clinical correlations, and functional impact. Here, we characterize a small recurrent duplication in the annexin A1 (ANXA1) gene, identified by the Autism Genome Project (AGP) study.
Little is known about how changes in DNA methylation mediate risk for human diseases including dementia. Analysis of genome-wide methylation patterns in patients with two forms of tau-related dementia--progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP) and frontotemporal dementia (FTD)--revealed significant differentially methylated probes (DMPs) in patients versus unaffected controls. Remarkably, DMPs in PSP were clustered within the 17q21.31 region, previously known to harbor the major genetic risk factor for PSP. We identified and replicated a dose-dependent effect of the risk-associated H1 haplotype on methylation levels within the region in blood and brain. These data reveal that the H1 haplotype increases risk for tauopathy via differential methylation at that locus, indicating a mediating role for methylation in dementia pathophysiology.
The anatomical and functional architecture of the human brain is mainly determined by prenatal transcriptional processes. We describe an anatomically comprehensive atlas of the mid-gestational human brain, including de novo reference atlases, in situ hybridization, ultra-high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and microarray analysis on highly discrete laser-microdissected brain regions. In developing cerebral cortex, transcriptional differences are found between different proliferative and post-mitotic layers, wherein laminar signatures reflect cellular composition and developmental processes. Cytoarchitectural differences between human and mouse have molecular correlates, including species differences in gene expression in subplate, although surprisingly we find minimal differences between the inner and outer subventricular zones even though the outer zone is expanded in humans. Both germinal and post-mitotic cortical layers exhibit fronto-temporal gradients, with particular enrichment in the frontal lobe. Finally, many neurodevelopmental disorder and human-evolution-related genes show patterned expression, potentially underlying unique features of human cortical formation. These data provide a rich, freely-accessible resource for understanding human brain development.
Previous studies demonstrated that Schwann cells (SCs) express distinct motor and sensory phenotypes, which impact the ability of these pathways to selectively support regenerating neurons. In the present study, unbiased microarray analysis was used to examine differential gene expression in denervated motor and sensory pathways in rats. Several genes that were significantly upregulated in either denervated sensory or motor pathways were identified and two secreted factors were selected for further analysis: osteopontin (OPN) and clusterin (CLU) which were upregulated in denervated motor and sensory pathways, respectively. Sciatic nerve transection induced upregulation of OPN and CLU and expression of both returned to baseline levels with ensuing regeneration. In vitro analysis using exogenously applied OPN induced outgrowth of motor but not sensory neurons. CLU, however, induced outgrowth of sensory neurons, but not motor neurons. To assess the functional importance of OPN and CLU, peripheral nerve regeneration was examined in OPN and CLU(-/-) mice. When compared with OPN(+/+) mice, motor neuron regeneration was reduced in OPN(-/-) mice. Impaired regeneration through OPN(-/-) peripheral nerves grafted into OPN(+/+) mice indicated that loss of OPN in SCs was responsible for reduced motor regeneration. Sensory neuron regeneration was impaired in CLU(-/-) mice following sciatic nerve crush and impaired regeneration nerve fibers through CLU(-/-) nerve grafts transplanted into CLU(+/+) mice indicated that reduced sensory regeneration is likely due to SC-derived CLU. Together, these studies suggest unique roles for SC-derived OPN and CLU in regeneration of peripheral motor and sensory axons.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) represents a heterogeneous group of disorders, which presents a substantial challenge to diagnosis and treatment. Over the past decade, considerable progress has been made in the identification of genetic risk factors for ASD that define specific mechanisms and pathways underlying the associated behavioural deficits. In this Review, we discuss how some of the latest advances in the genetics of ASD have facilitated parsing of the phenotypic heterogeneity of this disorder. We argue that only through such advances will we begin to define endophenotypes that can benefit from targeted, hypothesis-driven treatments. We review the latest technologies used to identify and characterize the genetics underlying ASD and then consider three themes-single-gene disorders, the gender bias in ASD, and the genetics of neurological comorbidities-that highlight ways in which we can use genetics to define the many phenotypes within the autism spectrum. We also present current clinical guidelines for genetic testing in ASD and their implications for prognosis and treatment.
Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are male-biased and genetically heterogeneous. While sequencing of sporadic cases has identified de novo risk variants, the heritable genetic contribution and mechanisms driving the male bias are less understood. Here, we aimed to identify familial and sex-differential risk loci in the largest available, uniformly ascertained, densely genotyped sample of multiplex ASD families from the Autism Genetics Resource Exchange (AGRE), and to compare results with earlier findings from AGRE.
Common genetic variation and rare mutations in genes encoding calcium channel subunits have pleiotropic effects on risk for multiple neuropsychiatric disorders, including autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and schizophrenia. To gain further mechanistic insights by extending previous gene expression data, we constructed co-expression networks in Timothy syndrome (TS), a monogenic condition with high penetrance for ASD, caused by mutations in the L-type calcium channel, Cav1.2.
To understand the emergence of human higher cognition, we must understand its biological substrate--the cerebral cortex, which considers itself the crowning achievement of evolution. Here, we describe how advances in developmental neurobiology, coupled with those in genetics, including adaptive protein evolution via gene duplications and the emergence of novel regulatory elements, can provide insights into the evolutionary mechanisms culminating in the human cerebrum. Given that the massive expansion of the cortical surface and elaboration of its connections in humans originates from developmental events, understanding the genetic regulation of cell number, neuronal migration to proper layers, columns, and regions, and ultimately their differentiation into specific phenotypes, is critical. The pre- and postnatal environment also interacts with the cellular substrate to yield a basic network that is refined via selection and elimination of synaptic connections, a process that is prolonged in humans. This knowledge provides essential insight into the pathogenesis of human-specific neuropsychiatric disorders.
Intellectual disability (ID), often attributed to autosomal-recessive mutations, occurs in 40% of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). For this reason, we conducted a genome-wide analysis of runs of homozygosity (ROH) in simplex ASD-affected families consisting of a proband diagnosed with ASD and at least one unaffected sibling. In these families, probands with an IQ ? 70 show more ROH than their unaffected siblings, whereas probands with an IQ > 70 do not show this excess. Although ASD is far more common in males than in females, the proportion of females increases with decreasing IQ. Our data do support an association between ROH burden and autism diagnosis in girls; however, we are not able to show that this effect is independent of low IQ. We have also discovered several autism candidate genes on the basis of finding (1) a single gene that is within an ROH interval and that is recurrent in autism or (2) a gene that is within an autism ROH block and that harbors a homozygous, rare deleterious variant upon analysis of exome-sequencing data. In summary, our data suggest a distinct genetic architecture for participants with autism and co-occurring intellectual disability and that this architecture could involve a role for recessively inherited loci for this autism subgroup.
Genetic studies have identified dozens of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) susceptibility genes, raising two critical questions: (1) do these genetic loci converge on specific biological processes, and (2) where does the phenotypic specificity of ASD arise, given its genetic overlap with intellectual disability (ID)? To address this, we mapped ASD and ID risk genes onto coexpression networks representing developmental trajectories and transcriptional profiles representing fetal and adult cortical laminae. ASD genes tightly coalesce in modules that implicate distinct biological functions during human cortical development, including early transcriptional regulation and synaptic development. Bioinformatic analyses suggest that translational regulation by FMRP and transcriptional coregulation by common transcription factors connect these processes. At a circuit level, ASD genes are enriched in superficial cortical layers and glutamatergic projection neurons. Furthermore, we show that the patterns of ASD and ID risk genes are distinct, providing a biological framework for further investigating the pathophysiology of ASD.
Calcifications in the basal ganglia are a common incidental finding and are sometimes inherited as an autosomal dominant trait (idiopathic basal ganglia calcification (IBGC)). Recently, mutations in the PDGFRB gene coding for the platelet-derived growth factor receptor ? (PDGF-R?) were linked to IBGC. Here we identify six families of different ancestry with nonsense and missense mutations in the gene encoding PDGF-B, the main ligand for PDGF-R?. We also show that mice carrying hypomorphic Pdgfb alleles develop brain calcifications that show age-related expansion. The occurrence of these calcium depositions depends on the loss of endothelial PDGF-B and correlates with the degree of pericyte and blood-brain barrier deficiency. Thus, our data present a clear link between Pdgfb mutations and brain calcifications in mice, as well as between PDGFB mutations and IBGC in humans.
The aetiology and pathogenesis of non-genetic forms of frontotemporal dementia (FTD) is unknown and even with the genetic forms of FTD, pathogenesis remains elusive. Given the association between systemic inflammation and other neurodegenerative processes, links between autoimmunity and FTD need to be explored.
Recently, Coppola and colleagues demonstrated that a rare microtubule-associated protein tau (MAPT) sequence variant, c.454G>A (p.A152T) significantly increases the risk of frontotemporal dementia (FTD) spectrum disorders and Alzheimer disease (AD) in a screen of 15,369 subjects. We describe clinical features of 9 patients with neurodegenerative disease (4 women) harboring p.A152T, aged 51 to 79 years at symptom onset. Seven developed FTD spectrum clinical syndromes, including progressive supranuclear palsy syndrome (n=2), behavioral variant FTD (bvFTD, n=1), nonfluent variant primary progressive aphasia (nfvPPA, n=2), and corticobasal syndrome (n=2); 2 patients were diagnosed with clinical AD. Thus, MAPT p.A152T is associated with a variety of FTD spectrum clinical presentations, although patients with clinical AD are also identified. These data warrant larger studies with clinicopathologic correlation to elucidate the influence of this genetic variant on neurodegenerative disease.
Presynaptic differentiation of axons plays a fundamental role in the establishment of neuronal connectivity. However, the mechanisms that govern presynaptic differentiation in the brain remain largely to be elucidated. We report that knockdown of the transcription factor MEF2A in primary neurons and importantly in the rat cerebellar cortex in vivo robustly increases the density of orphan presynaptic sites. Remarkably, the sumoylated transcriptional repressor form of MEF2A drives the suppression of orphan presynaptic sites. We also identify the gene encoding synaptotagmin 1 (Syt1), which acts locally at presynaptic sites, as a direct repressed target gene of sumoylated MEF2A in neurons, and demonstrate that repression of Syt1 mediates MEF2A-dependent elimination of orphan presynaptic sites. Finally, we uncover a role for the MEF2A-induced elimination of orphan presynaptic sites in the accumulation of presynaptic material at large maturing presynaptic boutons. Collectively, these findings define sumoylated MEF2A and Syt1 as components of a novel cell-intrinsic mechanism that orchestrates presynaptic differentiation in the mammalian brain. Our study has important implications for understanding neuronal connectivity in brain development and disease.
The immense molecular diversity of neurons challenges our ability to understand the genetic and cellular etiology of neuropsychiatric disorders. Leveraging knowledge from neurobiology may help parse the genetic complexity: identifying genes important for a circuit that mediates a particular symptom of a disease may help identify polymorphisms that contribute to risk for the disease as a whole. The serotonergic system has long been suspected in disorders that have symptoms of repetitive behaviors and resistance to change, including autism. We generated a bacTRAP mouse line to permit translational profiling of serotonergic neurons. From this, we identified several thousand serotonergic-cell expressed transcripts, of which 174 were highly enriched, including all known markers of these cells. Analysis of common variants near the corresponding genes in the AGRE collection implicated the RNA binding protein CELF6 in autism risk. Screening for rare variants in CELF6 identified an inherited premature stop codon in one of the probands. Subsequent disruption of Celf6 in mice resulted in animals exhibiting resistance to change and decreased ultrasonic vocalization as well as abnormal levels of serotonin in the brain. This work provides a reproducible and accurate method to profile serotonergic neurons under a variety of conditions and suggests a novel paradigm for gaining information on the etiology of psychiatric disorders.
A strong male bias in autism spectrum disorder (ASD) prevalence has been observed with striking consistency, but no mechanism has yet to definitively account for this sex difference. This review explores the current status of epidemiological, genetic, and neuroendocrinological work addressing ASD prevalence and liability in males and females, so as to frame the major issues necessary to pursue a more complete understanding of the biological basis for sex-differential risk.
Most psychiatric disorders are moderately to highly heritable. The degree to which genetic variation is unique to individual disorders or shared across disorders is unclear. To examine shared genetic etiology, we use genome-wide genotype data from the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium (PGC) for cases and controls in schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). We apply univariate and bivariate methods for the estimation of genetic variation within and covariation between disorders. SNPs explained 17-29% of the variance in liability. The genetic correlation calculated using common SNPs was high between schizophrenia and bipolar disorder (0.68 ± 0.04 s.e.), moderate between schizophrenia and major depressive disorder (0.43 ± 0.06 s.e.), bipolar disorder and major depressive disorder (0.47 ± 0.06 s.e.), and ADHD and major depressive disorder (0.32 ± 0.07 s.e.), low between schizophrenia and ASD (0.16 ± 0.06 s.e.) and non-significant for other pairs of disorders as well as between psychiatric disorders and the negative control of Crohns disease. This empirical evidence of shared genetic etiology for psychiatric disorders can inform nosology and encourages the investigation of common pathophysiologies for related disorders.
In this issue of Neuron, two papers (Lim et al., 2013; Yu et al., 2013) use whole-exome sequencing (WES) to elucidate the contribution of inherited variation to the risk for autism by leveraging the increased penetrance of homozygous and compound heterozygous rare variants in autosomes and hemizygous rare variants in the X chromosome of males. Together, they expand our knowledge about the genetic architecture of ASD, verify previously identified genes, and identify novel mutations that will guide the discovery of the critical biological processes disrupted in autism.
Brain development follows a different trajectory in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) than in typically developing children. A proxy for neurodevelopment could be head circumference (HC), but studies assessing HC and its clinical correlates in ASD have been inconsistent. This study investigates HC and clinical correlates in the Simons Simplex Collection cohort.
Familial idiopathic basal ganglia calcification (IBGC) or Fahrs disease is a rare neurodegenerative disorder characterized by calcium deposits in the basal ganglia and other brain regions, which is associated with neuropsychiatric and motor symptoms. Familial IBGC is genetically heterogeneous and typically transmitted in an autosomal dominant fashion. We performed a mutational analysis of SLC20A2, the first gene found to cause IBGC, to assess its genetic contribution to familial IBGC. We recruited 218 subjects from 29 IBGC-affected families of varied ancestry and collected medical history, neurological exam, and head CT scans to characterize each patients disease status. We screened our patient cohort for mutations in SLC20A2. Twelve novel (nonsense, deletions, missense, and splice site) potentially pathogenic variants, one synonymous variant, and one previously reported mutation were identified in 13 families. Variants predicted to be deleterious cosegregated with disease in five families. Three families showed nonsegregation with clinical disease of such variants, but retrospective review of clinical and neuroimaging data strongly suggested previous misclassification. Overall, mutations in SLC20A2 account for as many as 41% of our familial IBGC cases. Our screen in a large series expands the catalog of SLC20A2 mutations identified to date and demonstrates that mutations in SLC20A2 are a major cause of familial IBGC. Non-perfect segregation patterns of predicted deleterious variants highlight the challenges of phenotypic assessment in this condition with highly variable clinical presentation.
Transcriptional studies suggest Alzheimers disease (AD) involves dysfunction of many cellular pathways, including synaptic transmission, cytoskeletal dynamics, energetics, and apoptosis. Despite known progression of AD pathologies, it is unclear how such striking regional vulnerability occurs, or which genes play causative roles in disease progression.
Cannabinoids are known to exert immunosuppressive activities. However, the mechanisms which contribute to these effects are unknown. Using lipopolysaccharide (LPS) to activate BV-2 microglial cells, we examined how ?(9)-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the major psychoactive component of marijuana, and cannabidiol (CBD) the non-psychoactive component, modulate the inflammatory response. Microarray analysis of genome-wide mRNA levels was performed using Illumina platform and the resulting expression patterns analyzed using the Ingenuity Pathway Analysis to identify functional subsets of genes, and the Ingenuity System Database to denote the gene networks regulated by CBD and THC. From the 5338 transcripts that were differentially expressed across treatments, 400 transcripts were found to be upregulated by LPS, 502 by CBD+LPS and 424 by THC+LPS, while 145 were downregulated by LPS, 297 by CBD+LPS and 149 by THC+LPS, by 2-fold or more (p?0.005). Results clearly link the effects of CBD and THC to inflammatory signaling pathways and identify new cannabinoid targets in the MAPK pathway (Dusp1, Dusp8, Dusp2), cell cycle related (Cdkn2b, Gadd45a) as well as JAK/STAT regulatory molecules (Socs3, Cish, Stat1). The impact of CBD on LPS-stimulated gene expression was greater than that of THC. We attribute this difference to the fact that CBD highly upregulated several genes encoding negative regulators of both NF?B and AP-1 transcriptional activities, such as Trib3 and Dusp1 known to be modulated through Nrf2 activation. The CBD-specific expression profile reflected changes associated with oxidative stress and glutathione depletion via Trib3 and expression of ATF4 target genes. Furthermore, the CBD affected genes were shown to be controlled by nuclear factors usually involved in regulation of stress response and inflammation, mainly via Nrf2/Hmox1 axis and the Nrf2/ATF4-Trib3 pathway. These observations indicate that CBD, and less so THC, induce a cellular stress response and that this response underlies their high immunosuppressant activities.
Gene expression studies in peripheral tissues from patients with neurodegenerative disorders can provide insights into disease pathogenesis, and identify potential biomarkers, an important goal of translational research in neurodegeneration. Friedreich Ataxia (FRDA) is a chronic neurodegenerative disease caused by reduced transcription of frataxin, a ubiquitously expressed protein. We studied in vitro lymphocytes from FRDA patients and carriers to identify a peripheral gene expression phenotype. Peripheral biomarkers related to disease status would be extremely valuable for assessing drug efficacy and could provide new pathophysiological insights.
Two papers address the contribution of DISC1 to neural development and schizophrenia risk in this issue of Neuron. These complementary studies elegantly bridge the gap between genetic and cellular studies of schizophrenia, providing a level of functional validation that is often lacking in the field.
Wnt proteins are critical to mammalian brain development and function. The canonical Wnt signaling pathway involves the stabilization and nuclear translocation of ?-catenin; however, Wnt also signals through alternative, noncanonical pathways. To gain a systems-level, genome-wide view of Wnt signaling, we analyzed Wnt1-stimulated changes in gene expression by transcriptional microarray analysis in cultured human neural progenitor (hNP) cells at multiple time points over a 72-hour time course. We observed a widespread oscillatory-like pattern of changes in gene expression, involving components of both the canonical and the noncanonical Wnt signaling pathways. A higher-order, systems-level analysis that combined independent component analysis, waveform analysis, and mutual information-based network construction revealed effects on pathways related to cell death and neurodegenerative disease. Wnt effectors were tightly clustered with presenilin1 (PSEN1) and granulin (GRN), which cause dominantly inherited forms of Alzheimers disease and frontotemporal dementia (FTD), respectively. We further explored a potential link between Wnt1 and GRN and found that Wnt1 decreased GRN expression by hNPs. Conversely, GRN knockdown increased WNT1 expression, demonstrating that Wnt and GRN reciprocally regulate each other. Finally, we provided in vivo validation of the in vitro findings by analyzing gene expression data from individuals with FTD. These unbiased and genome-wide analyses provide evidence for a connection between Wnt signaling and the transcriptional regulation of neurodegenerative disease genes.
Several families have been reported with autosomal-dominant frontotemporal dementia (FTD) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), genetically linked to chromosome 9p21. Here, we report an expansion of a noncoding GGGGCC hexanucleotide repeat in the gene C9ORF72 that is strongly associated with disease in a large FTD/ALS kindred, previously reported to be conclusively linked to chromosome 9p. This same repeat expansion was identified in the majority of our families with a combined FTD/ALS phenotype and TDP-43-based pathology. Analysis of extended clinical series found the C9ORF72 repeat expansion to be the most common genetic abnormality in both familial FTD (11.7%) and familial ALS (23.5%). The repeat expansion leads to the loss of one alternatively spliced C9ORF72 transcript and to formation of nuclear RNA foci, suggesting multiple disease mechanisms. Our findings indicate that repeat expansion in C9ORF72 is a major cause of both FTD and ALS.
A relationship between decreased propositional density (p-density) in young adulthood and future risk for Alzheimers disease (AD) has been postulated, but multiple interpretations of the nature of this relationship are possible. This study explored the relationship between familial AD (FAD) mutation status, apolipoprotein E (APOE) genotype, and p-density.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a highly heritable, behaviorally defined, heterogeneous disorder of unknown pathogenesis. Several genetic risk genes have been identified, including the gene encoding the receptor tyrosine kinase MET, which regulates neuronal differentiation and growth. An ASD-associated polymorphism disrupts MET gene transcription, and there are reduced levels of MET protein expression in the mature temporal cortex of subjects with ASD. To address the possible neurodevelopmental contribution of MET to ASD pathogenesis, we examined the expression and transcriptional regulation of MET by a transcription factor, FOXP2, which is implicated in regulation of cognition and language, two functions altered in ASD. MET mRNA expression in the midgestation human fetal cerebral cortex is strikingly restricted, localized to portions of the temporal and occipital lobes. Within the cortical plate of the temporal lobe, the pattern of MET expression is highly complementary to the expression pattern of FOXP2, suggesting the latter may play a role in repression of gene expression. Consistent with this, MET and FOXP2 also are reciprocally expressed by differentiating normal human neuronal progenitor cells (NHNPs) in vitro, leading us to assess whether FOXP2 transcriptionally regulates MET. Indeed, FOXP2 binds directly to the 5 regulatory region of MET, and overexpression of FOXP2 results in transcriptional repression of MET. The expression of MET in restricted human neocortical regions, and its regulation in part by FOXP2, is consistent with genetic evidence for MET contributing to ASD risk.
Progranulin (GRN) mutations cause frontotemporal dementia (FTD), but GRNs function in the CNS remains largely unknown. To identify the pathways downstream of GRN, we used weighted gene coexpression network analysis (WGCNA) to develop a systems-level view of transcriptional alterations in a human neural progenitor model of GRN-deficiency. This highlighted key pathways such as apoptosis and ubiquitination in GRN deficient human neurons, while revealing an unexpected major role for the Wnt signaling pathway, which was confirmed by analysis of gene expression data from postmortem FTD brain. Furthermore, we observed that the Wnt receptor Fzd2 was one of only a few genes upregulated at 6 weeks in a GRN knockout mouse, and that FZD2 reduction caused increased apoptosis, while its upregulation promoted neuronal survival in vitro. Together, these in vitro and in vivo data point to an adaptive role for altered Wnt signaling in GRN deficiency-mediated FTD, representing a potential therapeutic target.
Characterized by a combination of abnormalities in language, social cognition and mental flexibility, autism is not a single disorder but a neurodevelopmental syndrome commonly referred to as autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Several dozen ASD susceptibility genes have been identified in the past decade, collectively accounting for 10-20% of ASD cases. These findings, although demonstrating that ASD is etiologically heterogeneous, provide important clues about its pathophysiology. Diverse genetic and genomic approaches provide evidence converging on disruption of key biological pathways, many of which are also implicated in other allied neurodevelopmental disorders. Knowing the genes involved in ASD provides us with a crucial tool to probe both the specificity of ASD and the shared neurobiological and cognitive features across what are considered clinically distinct disorders, with the goal of linking gene to brain circuits to cognitive function.
Monogenic neurodevelopmental disorders provide key insights into the pathogenesis of disease and help us understand how specific genes control the development of the human brain. Timothy syndrome is caused by a missense mutation in the L-type calcium channel Ca(v)1.2 that is associated with developmental delay and autism. We generated cortical neuronal precursor cells and neurons from induced pluripotent stem cells derived from individuals with Timothy syndrome. Cells from these individuals have defects in calcium (Ca(2+)) signaling and activity-dependent gene expression. They also show abnormalities in differentiation, including decreased expression of genes that are expressed in lower cortical layers and in callosal projection neurons. In addition, neurons derived from individuals with Timothy syndrome show abnormal expression of tyrosine hydroxylase and increased production of norepinephrine and dopamine. This phenotype can be reversed by treatment with roscovitine, a cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor and atypical L-type-channel blocker. These findings provide strong evidence that Ca(v)1.2 regulates the differentiation of cortical neurons in humans and offer new insights into the causes of autism in individuals with Timothy syndrome.
Genomic and other high dimensional analyses often require one to summarize multiple related variables by a single representative. This task is also variously referred to as collapsing, combining, reducing, or aggregating variables. Examples include summarizing several probe measurements corresponding to a single gene, representing the expression profiles of a co-expression module by a single expression profile, and aggregating cell-type marker information to de-convolute expression data. Several standard statistical summary techniques can be used, but network methods also provide useful alternative methods to find representatives. Currently few collapsing functions are developed and widely applied.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a highly heritable disorder of complex and heterogeneous aetiology. It is primarily characterized by altered cognitive ability including impaired language and communication skills and fundamental deficits in social reciprocity. Despite some notable successes in neuropsychiatric genetics, overall, the high heritability of ASD (~90%) remains poorly explained by common genetic risk variants. However, recent studies suggest that rare genomic variation, in particular copy number variation, may account for a significant proportion of the genetic basis of ASD. We present a large scale analysis to identify candidate genes which may contain low-frequency recessive variation contributing to ASD while taking into account the potential contribution of population differences to the genetic heterogeneity of ASD. Our strategy, homozygous haplotype (HH) mapping, aims to detect homozygous segments of identical haplotype structure that are shared at a higher frequency amongst ASD patients compared to parental controls. The analysis was performed on 1,402 Autism Genome Project trios genotyped for 1 million single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). We identified 25 known and 1,218 novel ASD candidate genes in the discovery analysis including CADM2, ABHD14A, CHRFAM7A, GRIK2, GRM3, EPHA3, FGF10, KCND2, PDZK1, IMMP2L and FOXP2. Furthermore, 10 of the previously reported ASD genes and 300 of the novel candidates identified in the discovery analysis were replicated in an independent sample of 1,182 trios. Our results demonstrate that regions of HH are significantly enriched for previously reported ASD candidate genes and the observed association is independent of gene size (odds ratio 2.10). Our findings highlight the applicability of HH mapping in complex disorders such as ASD and offer an alternative approach to the analysis of genome-wide association data.
Forkhead-box protein P2 is a transcription factor that has been associated with intriguing aspects of cognitive function in humans, non-human mammals, and song-learning birds. Heterozygous mutations of the human FOXP2 gene cause a monogenic speech and language disorder. Reduced functional dosage of the mouse version (Foxp2) causes deficient cortico-striatal synaptic plasticity and impairs motor-skill learning. Moreover, the songbird orthologue appears critically important for vocal learning. Across diverse vertebrate species, this well-conserved transcription factor is highly expressed in the developing and adult central nervous system. Very little is known about the mechanisms regulated by Foxp2 during brain development. We used an integrated functional genomics strategy to robustly define Foxp2-dependent pathways, both direct and indirect targets, in the embryonic brain. Specifically, we performed genome-wide in vivo ChIP-chip screens for Foxp2-binding and thereby identified a set of 264 high-confidence neural targets under strict, empirically derived significance thresholds. The findings, coupled to expression profiling and in situ hybridization of brain tissue from wild-type and mutant mouse embryos, strongly highlighted gene networks linked to neurite development. We followed up our genomics data with functional experiments, showing that Foxp2 impacts on neurite outgrowth in primary neurons and in neuronal cell models. Our data indicate that Foxp2 modulates neuronal network formation, by directly and indirectly regulating mRNAs involved in the development and plasticity of neuronal connections.
Oncogenic transformation of postmitotic neurons triggers cell death, but the identity of genes critical for degeneration remain unclear. The antitumor antibiotic mithramycin prolongs survival of mouse models of Huntingtons disease in vivo and inhibits oxidative stress-induced death in cortical neurons in vitro. We had correlated protection by mithramycin with its ability to bind to GC-rich DNA and globally displace Sp1 family transcription factors. To understand how antitumor drugs prevent neurodegeneration, here we use structure-activity relationships of mithramycin analogs to discover that selective DNA-binding inhibition of the drug is necessary for its neuroprotective effect. We identify several genes (Myc, c-Src, Hif1?, and p21(waf1/cip1)) involved in neoplastic transformation, whose altered expression correlates with protective doses of mithramycin or its analogs. Most interestingly, inhibition of one these genes, Myc, is neuroprotective, whereas forced expression of Myc induces Rattus norvegicus neuronal cell death. These results support a model in which cancer cell transformation shares key genetic components with neurodegeneration.
Induced pluripotent stem cell-derived neurons from patients promise to fill an important niche between studies in humans and model organisms in deciphering mechanisms and identifying therapeutic avenues for neurologic and psychiatric diseases. Recent work begins to tap this potential and also highlights challenges that must be overcome to be fully realized.
Stroke is the leading cause of disability in much of the world, with few treatment options available. Following unilateral stroke in rats, inosine, a naturally occurring purine nucleoside, stimulates the growth of projections from the undamaged hemisphere into denervated areas of the spinal cord and improves skilled use of the impaired forelimb. Inosine augments neurons intrinsic growth potential by activating Mst3b, a component of the signal transduction pathway through which trophic factors regulate axon outgrowth. The present study investigated whether inosine would complement the effects of treatments that promote plasticity through other mechanisms. Following unilateral stroke in the rat forelimb motor area, inosine combined with NEP1-40, a Nogo receptor antagonist, doubled the number of axon branches extending from neurons in the intact hemisphere into the denervated side of the spinal cord compared with either treatment alone, and restored rats level of skilled reaching using the impaired forepaw to preoperative levels. Similar functional improvements were seen when inosine was combined with environmental enrichment (EE). The latter effect was associated with changes in gene expression in layer 5 pyramidal neurons of the undamaged cortex well beyond those seen with inosine or EE alone. Inosine is now in clinical trials for other indications, making it an attractive candidate for the treatment of stroke patients.
We have undertaken a genome-wide analysis of rare copy-number variation (CNV) in 1124 autism spectrum disorder (ASD) families, each comprised of a single proband, unaffected parents, and, in most kindreds, an unaffected sibling. We find significant association of ASD with de novo duplications of 7q11.23, where the reciprocal deletion causes Williams-Beuren syndrome, characterized by a highly social personality. We identify rare recurrent de novo CNVs at five additional regions, including 16p13.2 (encompassing genes USP7 and C16orf72) and Cadherin 13, and implement a rigorous approach to evaluating the statistical significance of these observations. Overall, large de novo CNVs, particularly those encompassing multiple genes, confer substantial risks (OR = 5.6; CI = 2.6-12.0, p = 2.4 × 10(-7)). We estimate there are 130-234 ASD-related CNV regions in the human genome and present compelling evidence, based on cumulative data, for association of rare de novo events at 7q11.23, 15q11.2-13.1, 16p11.2, and Neurexin 1.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a common, highly heritable neurodevelopmental condition characterized by marked genetic heterogeneity. Thus, a fundamental question is whether autism represents an aetiologically heterogeneous disorder in which the myriad genetic or environmental risk factors perturb common underlying molecular pathways in the brain. Here, we demonstrate consistent differences in transcriptome organization between autistic and normal brain by gene co-expression network analysis. Remarkably, regional patterns of gene expression that typically distinguish frontal and temporal cortex are significantly attenuated in the ASD brain, suggesting abnormalities in cortical patterning. We further identify discrete modules of co-expressed genes associated with autism: a neuronal module enriched for known autism susceptibility genes, including the neuronal specific splicing factor A2BP1 (also known as FOX1), and a module enriched for immune genes and glial markers. Using high-throughput RNA sequencing we demonstrate dysregulated splicing of A2BP1-dependent alternative exons in the ASD brain. Moreover, using a published autism genome-wide association study (GWAS) data set, we show that the neuronal module is enriched for genetically associated variants, providing independent support for the causal involvement of these genes in autism. In contrast, the immune-glial module showed no enrichment for autism GWAS signals, indicating a non-genetic aetiology for this process. Collectively, our results provide strong evidence for convergent molecular abnormalities in ASD, and implicate transcriptional and splicing dysregulation as underlying mechanisms of neuronal dysfunction in this disorder.
Although many genes predisposing to autism spectrum disorders (ASD) have been identified, the biological mechanism(s) remain unclear. Mouse models based on human disease-causing mutations provide the potential for understanding gene function and novel treatment development. Here, we characterize a mouse knockout of the Cntnap2 gene, which is strongly associated with ASD and allied neurodevelopmental disorders. Cntnap2(-/-) mice show deficits in the three core ASD behavioral domains, as well as hyperactivity and epileptic seizures, as have been reported in humans with CNTNAP2 mutations. Neuropathological and physiological analyses of these mice before the onset of seizures reveal neuronal migration abnormalities, reduced number of interneurons, and abnormal neuronal network activity. In addition, treatment with the FDA-approved drug risperidone ameliorates the targeted repetitive behaviors in the mutant mice. These data demonstrate a functional role for CNTNAP2 in brain development and provide a new tool for mechanistic and therapeutic research in ASD.
Epigenome information in mammalian brain cells reflects their developmental history, neuronal activity, and environmental exposures. Studying the epigenetic modifications present in neuronal cells is critical to a more complete understanding of the role of the genome in brain functions. We performed comprehensive DNA methylation analysis in neuronal and non-neuronal nuclei obtained from the human prefrontal cortex. Neuronal nuclei manifest qualitatively and quantitatively distinctive DNA methylation patterns, including relative global hypomethylation, differential enrichment of transcription-factor binding sites, and higher methylation of genes expressed in astrocytes. Non-neuronal nuclei showed indistinguishable DNA methylation patterns from bulk cortex and higher methylation of synaptic transmission-related genes compared with neuronal nuclei. We also found higher variation in DNA methylation in neuronal nuclei, suggesting that neuronal cells have more potential ability to change their epigenetic status in response to developmental and environmental conditions compared with non-neuronal cells in the central nervous system.
Progranulin (GRN) haploinsufficiency is a frequent cause of familial frontotemporal dementia, a currently untreatable progressive neurodegenerative disease. By chemical library screening, we identified suberoylanilide hydroxamic acid (SAHA), a Food and Drug Administration-approved histone deacetylase inhibitor, as an enhancer of GRN expression. SAHA dose-dependently increased GRN mRNA and protein levels in cultured cells and restored near-normal GRN expression in haploinsufficient cells from human subjects. Although elevation of secreted progranulin levels through a post-transcriptional mechanism has recently been reported, this is, to the best of our knowledge, the first report of a small molecule enhancer of progranulin transcription. SAHA has demonstrated therapeutic potential in other neurodegenerative diseases and thus holds promise as a first generation drug for the prevention and treatment of frontotemporal dementia.
The hereditary cerebellar ataxias are a diverse group of neurodegenerative disorders primarily characterised by loss of balance and coordination due to dysfunction of the cerebellum and its associated pathways. Although many genetic mutations causing inherited cerebellar ataxia have been identified, a significant percentage of patients remain whose cause is unknown. The transient receptor potential (TRP) family member TRPC3 is a non-selective cation channel linked to key signalling pathways that are affected in cerebellar ataxia. Furthermore, genetic mouse models of TRPC3 dysfunction display cerebellar ataxia, making the TRPC3 gene an excellent candidate for screening ataxic patients with unknown genetic aetiology. Here, we report a genetic screen for TRPC3 mutations in a cohort of 98 patients with genetically undefined late-onset cerebellar ataxia and further ten patients with undefined episodic ataxia. We identified a number of variants but no causative mutations in TRPC3. Our findings suggest that mutations in TRPC3 do not significantly contribute to the cause of late-onset and episodic human cerebellar ataxias.
Neither the molecular basis of the pathologic tendency of neuronal circuits to generate spontaneous seizures (epileptogenicity) nor anti-epileptogenic mechanisms that maintain a seizure-free state are well understood. Here, we performed transcriptomic analysis in the intrahippocampal kainate model of temporal lobe epilepsy in rats using both Agilent and Codelink microarray platforms to characterize the epileptic processes. The experimental design allowed subtraction of the confounding effects of the lesion, identification of expression changes associated with epileptogenicity, and genes upregulated by seizures with potential homeostatic anti-epileptogenic effects. Using differential expression analysis, we identified several hundred expression changes in chronic epilepsy, including candidate genes associated with epileptogenicity such as Bdnf and Kcnj13. To analyze these data from a systems perspective, we applied weighted gene co-expression network analysis (WGCNA) to identify groups of co-expressed genes (modules) and their central (hub) genes. One such module contained genes upregulated in the epileptogenic region, including multiple epileptogenicity candidate genes, and was found to be involved the protection of glial cells against oxidative stress, implicating glial oxidative stress in epileptogenicity. Another distinct module corresponded to the effects of chronic seizures and represented changes in neuronal synaptic vesicle trafficking. We found that the network structure and connectivity of one hub gene, Sv2a, showed significant changes between normal and epileptogenic tissue, becoming more highly connected in epileptic brain. Since Sv2a is a target of the antiepileptic levetiracetam, this module may be important in controlling seizure activity. Bioinformatic analysis of this module also revealed a potential mechanism for the observed transcriptional changes via generation of longer alternatively polyadenlyated transcripts through the upregulation of the RNA binding protein HuD. In summary, combining conventional statistical methods and network analysis allowed us to interpret the differentially regulated genes from a systems perspective, yielding new insight into several biological pathways underlying homeostatic anti-epileptogenic effects and epileptogenicity.
R6/2 transgenic mice with expanded CAG repeats (>300) have a surprisingly prolonged disease progression and longer lifespan than prototypical parent R6/2 mice (carrying 150 CAGs); however, the mechanism of this phenotype amelioration is unknown. We compared gene expression profiles in the striatum of R6/2 transgenic mice carrying ~300 CAG repeats (R6/2(Q300) transgenic mice) to those carrying ~150 CAG repeats (R6/2(Q150) transgenic mice) and littermate wildtype controls in order to identify genes that may play determinant roles in the time course of phenotypic expression in these mice. Of the top genes showing concordant expression changes in the striatum of both R6/2 lines, 85% were decreased in expression, while discordant expression changes were observed mostly for genes upregulated in R6/2(Q300) transgenic mice. Upregulated genes in the R6/2(Q300) mice were associated with the ubiquitin ligase complex, cell adhesion, protein folding, and establishment of protein localization. We qPCR-validated increases in expression of genes related to the latter category, including Lrsam1, Erp29, Nasp, Tap1, Rab9b, and Pfdn5 in R6/2(Q300) mice, changes that were not observed in R6/2 mice with shorter CAG repeats, even in late stages (i.e., 12 weeks of age). We further tested Lrsam1 and Erp29, the two genes showing the greatest upregulation in R6/2(Q300) transgenic mice, for potential neuroprotective effects in primary striatal cultures overexpressing a mutated human huntingtin (htt) fragment. Overexpression of Lrsam1 prevented the loss of NeuN-positive cell bodies in htt171-82Q cultures, concomitant with a reduction of nuclear htt aggregates. Erp29 showed no significant effects in this model. This is consistent with the distinct pattern of htt inclusion localization observed in R6/2(Q300) transgenic mice, in which smaller cytoplasmic inclusions represent the major form of insoluble htt in the cell, as opposed to large nuclear inclusions observed in R6/2(Q150) transgenic mice. We suggest that the prolonged onset and disease course observed in R6/2 mice with greatly expanded CAG repeats might result from differential upregulation of genes related to protein localization and clearance. Such genes may represent novel therapeutic avenues to decrease htt aggregate toxicity and cell death in HD patients, with Lrsam1 being a promising, novel candidate disease modifier.
Although the gene expression profile of several tissues in humans and in rodent animal models has been explored, analysis of the complete choroid plexus (CP) transcriptome is still lacking. A better characterization of the CP transcriptome can provide key insights into its functions as one of the barriers that separate the brain from the periphery and in the production of cerebrospinal fluid.
We have established functions of the stimulus-dependent MAPKs, ERK1/2 and ERK5, in DRG, motor neuron, and Schwann cell development. Surprisingly, many aspects of early DRG and motor neuron development were found to be ERK1/2 independent, and Erk5 deletion had no obvious effect on embryonic PNS. In contrast, Erk1/2 deletion in developing neural crest resulted in peripheral nerves that were devoid of Schwann cell progenitors, and deletion of Erk1/2 in Schwann cell precursors caused disrupted differentiation and marked hypomyelination of axons. The Schwann cell phenotypes are similar to those reported in neuregulin-1 and ErbB mutant mice, and neuregulin effects could not be elicited in glial precursors lacking Erk1/2. ERK/MAPK regulation of myelination was specific to Schwann cells, as deletion in oligodendrocyte precursors did not impair myelin formation, but reduced precursor proliferation. Our data suggest a tight linkage between developmental functions of ERK/MAPK signaling and biological actions of specific RTK-activating factors.
Huntingtons disease (HD), caused by a CAG repeat expansion in the huntingtin (HTT) gene, is characterized by abnormal protein aggregates and motor and cognitive dysfunction. Htt protein is ubiquitously expressed, but the striatal medium spiny neuron (MSN) is most susceptible to dysfunction and death. Abnormal gene expression represents a core pathogenic feature of HD, but the relative roles of cell-autonomous and non-cell-autonomous effects on transcription remain unclear. To determine the extent of cell-autonomous dysregulation in the striatum in vivo, we examined genome-wide RNA expression in symptomatic D9-N171-98Q (a.k.a. DE5) transgenic mice in which the forebrain expression of the first 171 amino acids of human Htt with a 98Q repeat expansion is limited to MSNs. Microarray data generated from these mice were compared with those generated on the identical array platform from a pan-neuronal HD mouse model, R6/2, carrying two different CAG repeat lengths, and a relatively high degree of overlap of changes in gene expression was revealed. We further focused on known canonical pathways associated with excitotoxicity, oxidative stress, mitochondrial dysfunction, dopamine signaling and trophic support. While genes related to excitotoxicity, dopamine signaling and trophic support were altered in both DE5 and R6/2 mice, which may be either cell autonomous or non-cell autonomous, genes related to mitochondrial dysfunction, oxidative stress and the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor are primarily affected in DE5 transgenic mice, indicating cell-autonomous mechanisms. Overall, HD-induced dysregulation of the striatal transcriptome can be largely attributed to intrinsic effects of mutant Htt, in the absence of expression in cortical neurons.
Genetic studies are rapidly identifying variants that shape risk for disorders of human cognition, but the question of how such variants predispose to neuropsychiatric disease remains. Noninvasive human brain imaging allows assessment of the brain in vivo, and the combination of genetics and imaging phenotypes remains one of the only ways to explore functional genotype-phenotype associations in human brain. Common variants in contactin-associated protein-like 2 (CNTNAP2), a neurexin superfamily member, have been associated with several allied neurodevelopmental disorders, including autism and specific language impairment, and CNTNAP2 is highly expressed in frontal lobe circuits in the developing human brain. Using functional neuroimaging, we have demonstrated a relationship between frontal lobar connectivity and common genetic variants in CNTNAP2. These data provide a mechanistic link between specific genetic risk for neurodevelopmental disorders and empirical data implicating dysfunction of long-range connections within the frontal lobe in autism. The convergence between genetic findings and cognitive-behavioral models of autism provides evidence that genetic variation at CNTNAP2 predisposes to diseases such as autism in part through modulation of frontal lobe connectivity.
Sox2 is expressed by neural stem and progenitor cells, and a sox2 enhancer identifies these cells in the forebrains of both fetal and adult transgenic mouse reporters. We found that an adenovirus encoding EGFP placed under the regulatory control of a 0.4 kb sox2 core enhancer selectively identified multipotential and self-renewing neural progenitor cells in dissociates of human fetal forebrain. Upon EGFP-based fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS), the E/sox2:EGFP(+) isolates were propagable for up to 1 year in vitro, and remained multilineage competent throughout. E/sox2:EGFP(+) cells expressed more telomerase enzymatic activity than matched E/sox2:EGFP-depleted populations, and maintained their telomeric lengths with successive passage. Gene expression analysis of E/sox2:EGFP-sorted neural progenitor cells, normalized to the unsorted forebrain dissociates from which they derived, revealed marked overexpression of genes within the notch and wnt pathways, and identified multiple elements of each pathway that appear selective to human neural progenitors. Sox2 enhancer-based FACS thus permits the prospective identification and direct isolation of a telomerase-active population of neural stem cells from the human fetal forebrain, and the elucidation of both the transcriptome and dominant signaling pathways of these critically important cells.
The evolution of the human brain has resulted in numerous specialized features including higher cognitive processes such as language. Knowledge of whole-genome sequence and structural variation via high-throughput sequencing technology provides an unprecedented opportunity to view human evolution at high resolution. However, phenotype discovery is a critical component of these endeavors and the use of nontraditional model organisms will also be critical for piecing together a complete picture. Ultimately, the union of developmental studies of the brain with studies of unique phenotypes in a myriad of species will result in a more thorough model of the groundwork the human brain was built upon. Furthermore, these integrative approaches should provide important insights into human diseases.
Prior functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies have found increased activity-related blood oxygen level-dependent (BOLD) signal in cognitively normal persons at genetic risk for Alzheimers disease (AD). This has been interpreted as a compensatory response to incipient AD pathology. We studied the effects of fully penetrant familial Alzheimers disease (FAD) mutations and apolipoprotein E (APOE) genotype on BOLD fMRI during a novelty encoding task in presymptomatic subjects. Twenty-three Mexican or Mexican-American persons at-risk for inheriting FAD mutations performed a block design novelty encoding task, and activation exhibited by FAD mutation carriers (MCs) was contrasted with that of noncarriers (NCs) and among APOE genotype groups. FAD MCs (n = 14) showed decreased BOLD activation in the anterior cingulate gyrus relative to 9 NCs. No increased activation was seen in MCs relative to NCs. Four APOE ?3/4 carriers demonstrated increased BOLD signal compared with 14 ?3/3 carriers in the occipital and perisylvian cortices bilaterally. There were no areas where ?3/3 carriers activated more than ?3/4 carriers. Our findings of increased fMRI activation associated with APOE genotype but not with FAD mutations suggest that APOE exerts an effect on the BOLD signal that is not readily explained as a compensatory phenomenon.
Not all patients with nerve injury develop neuropathic pain. The extent of nerve damage and age at the time of injury are two of the few risk factors identified to date. In addition, preclinical studies show that neuropathic pain variance is heritable. To define such factors further, we performed a large-scale gene profiling experiment which plotted global expression changes in the rat dorsal root ganglion in three peripheral neuropathic pain models. This resulted in the discovery that the potassium channel alpha subunit KCNS1, involved in neuronal excitability, is constitutively expressed in sensory neurons and markedly downregulated following nerve injury. KCNS1 was then characterized by an unbiased network analysis as a putative pain gene, a result confirmed by single nucleotide polymorphism association studies in humans. A common amino acid changing allele, the valine risk allele, was significantly associated with higher pain scores in five of six independent patient cohorts assayed (total of 1359 subjects). Risk allele prevalence is high, with 18-22% of the population homozygous, and an additional 50% heterozygous. At lower levels of nerve damage (lumbar back pain with disc herniation) association with greater pain outcome in homozygote patients is P = 0.003, increasing to P = 0.0001 for higher levels of nerve injury (limb amputation). The combined P-value for pain association in all six cohorts tested is 1.14 E-08. The risk profile of this marker is additive: two copies confer the most, one intermediate and none the least risk. Relative degrees of enhanced risk vary between cohorts, but for patients with lumbar back pain, they range between 2- and 3-fold. Although work still remains to define the potential role of this protein in the pathogenic process, here we present the KCNS1 allele rs734784 as one of the first prognostic indicators of chronic pain risk. Screening for this allele could help define those individuals prone to a transition to persistent pain, and thus requiring therapeutic strategies or lifestyle changes that minimize nerve injury.
Caused by a polyglutamine expansion in the huntingtin protein, Huntingtons disease leads to striatal degeneration via the transcriptional dysregulation of a number of genes, including those involved in mitochondrial biogenesis. Here we show that transglutaminase 2, which is upregulated in HD, exacerbates transcriptional dysregulation by acting as a selective corepressor of nuclear genes; transglutaminase 2 interacts directly with histone H3 in the nucleus. In a cellular model of HD, transglutaminase inhibition de-repressed two established regulators of mitochondrial function, PGC-1alpha and cytochrome c and reversed susceptibility of human HD cells to the mitochondrial toxin, 3-nitroproprionic acid; however, protection mediated by transglutaminase inhibition was not associated with improved mitochondrial bioenergetics. A gene microarray analysis indicated that transglutaminase inhibition normalized expression of not only mitochondrial genes but also 40% of genes that are dysregulated in HD striatal neurons, including chaperone and histone genes. Moreover, transglutaminase inhibition attenuated degeneration in a Drosophila model of HD and protected mouse HD striatal neurons from excitotoxicity. Altogether these findings demonstrate that selective TG inhibition broadly corrects transcriptional dysregulation in HD and defines a novel HDAC-independent epigenetic strategy for treating neurodegeneration.
Although autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) have a substantial genetic basis, most of the known genetic risk has been traced to rare variants, principally copy number variants (CNVs). To identify common risk variation, the Autism Genome Project (AGP) Consortium genotyped 1558 rigorously defined ASD families for 1 million single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and analyzed these SNP genotypes for association with ASD. In one of four primary association analyses, the association signal for marker rs4141463, located within MACROD2, crossed the genome-wide association significance threshold of P < 5 × 10(-8). When a smaller replication sample was analyzed, the risk allele at rs4141463 was again over-transmitted; yet, consistent with the winners curse, its effect size in the replication sample was much smaller; and, for the combined samples, the association signal barely fell below the P < 5 × 10(-8) threshold. Exploratory analyses of phenotypic subtypes yielded no significant associations after correction for multiple testing. They did, however, yield strong signals within several genes, KIAA0564, PLD5, POU6F2, ST8SIA2 and TAF1C.
Stroke is an age-related disease. Recovery after stroke is associated with axonal sprouting in cortex adjacent to the infarct. The molecular program that induces a mature cortical neuron to sprout a new connection after stroke is not known. We selectively isolated neurons that sprout a new connection in cortex after stroke and compared their whole-genome expression profile to that of adjacent, non-sprouting neurons. This sprouting transcriptome identified a neuronal growth program that consists of growth factor, cell adhesion, axonal guidance and cytoskeletal modifying molecules that differed by age and time point. Gain and loss of function in three distinct functional classes showed new roles for these proteins in epigenetic regulation of axonal sprouting, growth factor-dependent survival of neurons and, in the aged mouse, paradoxical upregulation of myelin and ephrin receptors in sprouting neurons. This neuronal growth program may provide new therapeutic targets and suggest mechanisms for age-related differences in functional recovery.
Retrograde signaling from axon to soma activates intrinsic regeneration mechanisms in lesioned peripheral sensory neurons; however, the links between axonal injury signaling and the cell body response are not well understood. Here, we used phosphoproteomics and microarrays to implicate approximately 900 phosphoproteins in retrograde injury signaling in rat sciatic nerve axons in vivo and approximately 4500 transcripts in the in vivo response to injury in the dorsal root ganglia. Computational analyses of these data sets identified approximately 400 redundant axonal signaling networks connected to 39 transcription factors implicated in the sensory neuron response to axonal injury. Experimental perturbation of individual overrepresented signaling hub proteins, including Abl, AKT, p38, and protein kinase C, affected neurite outgrowth in sensory neurons. Paradoxically, however, combined perturbation of Abl together with other hub proteins had a reduced effect relative to perturbation of individual proteins. Our data indicate that nerve injury responses are controlled by multiple regulatory components, and suggest that network redundancies provide robustness to the injury response.
Because mouse models play a crucial role in biomedical research related to the human nervous system, understanding the similarities and differences between mouse and human brain is of fundamental importance. Studies comparing transcription in human and mouse have come to varied conclusions, in part because of their relatively small sample sizes or underpowered methodologies. To better characterize gene expression differences between mouse and human, we took a systems-biology approach by using weighted gene coexpression network analysis on more than 1,000 microarrays from brain. We find that global network properties of the brain transcriptome are highly preserved between species. Furthermore, all modules of highly coexpressed genes identified in mouse were identified in human, with those related to conserved cellular functions showing the strongest between-species preservation. Modules corresponding to glial and neuronal cells were sufficiently preserved between mouse and human to permit identification of cross species cell-class marker genes. We also identify several robust human-specific modules, including one strongly correlated with measures of Alzheimer disease progression across multiple data sets, whose hubs are poorly-characterized genes likely involved in Alzheimer disease. We present multiple lines of evidence suggesting links between neurodegenerative disease and glial cell types in human, including human-specific correlation of presenilin-1 with oligodendrocyte markers, and significant enrichment for known neurodegenerative disease genes in microglial modules. Together, this work identifies convergent and divergent pathways in mouse and human, and provides a systematic framework that will be useful for understanding the applicability of mouse models for human brain disorders.
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