We present a 4-year-old girl with profound global developmental delay and refractory epilepsy characterized by multiple seizure types (partial complex with secondary generalization, tonic, myoclonic, and atypical absence). Her seizure semiology did not fit within a specific epileptic syndrome. Despite a broad metabolic and genetic workup, a diagnosis was not forthcoming. Whole-exome sequencing with a trio analysis (affected child compared to unaffected parents) was performed and identified a novel de novo missense mutation in GRIN2A, c.2449A>G, p.Met817Val, as the likely cause of the refractory epilepsy and global developmental delay. GRIN2A encodes a subunit of N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptor that mediates excitatory transmission in the central nervous system. A significant reduction in the frequency and the duration of her seizures was observed after the addition of topiramate over a 10-month period. Further prospective studies in additional patients with mutations in GRIN2A will be required to optimize seizure management for this rare disorder. This report expands the current phenotype associated with GRIN2A mutations.
The tauopathies are a heterogeneous group of neurodegenerative disorders characterized by the shared presence of tau aggregates and neurofibrillary tangles within the central nervous system. Here, we present a child with a severe neurodegenerative disorder characterized by intractable seizures and significant tau-immunoreactive neurofibrillary degeneration localized predominantly to the substantia nigra on neuropathology with absence of beta-amyloid plaques and Lewy or Pick bodies. Whole-exome sequencing identified a homozygous truncating mutation in Synaptojanin 1 (SYNJ1). Quantitative polymerase chain reaction and Western blot experiments demonstrated diminished SYNJ1 messenger RNA and protein. Knockout Synj1(-/-) mice have convulsions and die early in life. More recently, homozygous missense mutations have been reported in 2 families with early-onset parkinsonism and seizures. Our findings broaden the spectrum of disease associated with alteration of SYNJ1 and further implicate defects in synaptic vesicle recycling in the tauopathies.
Inherited monogenic disease has an enormous impact on the well-being of children and their families. Over half of the children living with one of these conditions are without a molecular diagnosis because of the rarity of the disease, the marked clinical heterogeneity, and the reality that there are thousands of rare diseases for which causative mutations have yet to be identified. It is in this context that in 2010 a Canadian consortium was formed to rapidly identify mutations causing a wide spectrum of pediatric-onset rare diseases by using whole-exome sequencing. The FORGE (Finding of Rare Disease Genes) Canada Consortium brought together clinicians and scientists from 21 genetics centers and three science and technology innovation centers from across Canada. From nation-wide requests for proposals, 264 disorders were selected for study from the 371 submitted; disease-causing variants (including in 67 genes not previously associated with human disease; 41 of these have been genetically or functionally validated, and 26 are currently under study) were identified for 146 disorders over a 2-year period. Here, we present our experience with four strategies employed for gene discovery and discuss FORGE's impact in a number of realms, from clinical diagnostics to the broadening of the phenotypic spectrum of many diseases to the biological insight gained into both disease states and normal human development. Lastly, on the basis of this experience, we discuss the way forward for rare-disease genetic discovery both in Canada and internationally.
Genes causing rare heritable childhood diseases are being discovered at an accelerating pace driven by the decreasing cost and increasing accessibility of next-generation DNA sequencing combined with the maturation of strategies for successful gene identification. The findings are shedding light on the biological mechanisms of childhood disease and broadening the phenotypic spectrum of many clinical syndromes. Still, thousands of childhood disease genes remain to be identified, and given their increasing rarity, this will require large-scale collaboration that includes mechanisms for sharing phenotypic and genotypic data sets. Nonetheless, genomic technologies are poised for widespread translation to clinical practice for the benefit of children and families living with these rare diseases.
Cornelia de Lange syndrome (CdLS) is a multisystem genetic disorder with distinct facies, growth failure, intellectual disability, distal limb anomalies, gastrointestinal and neurological disease. Mutations in NIPBL, encoding a cohesin regulatory protein, account for >80% of cases with typical facies. Mutations in the core cohesin complex proteins, encoded by the SMC1A, SMC3 and RAD21 genes, together account for ?5% of subjects, often with atypical CdLS features. Recently, we identified mutations in the X-linked gene HDAC8 as the cause of a small number of CdLS cases. Here, we report a cohort of 38 individuals with an emerging spectrum of features caused by HDAC8 mutations. For several individuals, the diagnosis of CdLS was not considered prior to genomic testing. Most mutations identified are missense and de novo. Many cases are heterozygous females, each with marked skewing of X-inactivation in peripheral blood DNA. We also identified eight hemizygous males who are more severely affected. The craniofacial appearance caused by HDAC8 mutations overlaps that of typical CdLS but often displays delayed anterior fontanelle closure, ocular hypertelorism, hooding of the eyelids, a broader nose and dental anomalies, which may be useful discriminating features. HDAC8 encodes the lysine deacetylase for the cohesin subunit SMC3 and analysis of the functional consequences of the missense mutations indicates that all cause a loss of enzymatic function. These data demonstrate that loss-of-function mutations in HDAC8 cause a range of overlapping human developmental phenotypes, including a phenotypically distinct subgroup of CdLS.
In the past few years, the increasing accessibility of next-generation sequencing technology has translated to a number of significant advances in our understanding of brain malformations. Genes causing brain malformations, previously intractable due to their complex presentation, rarity, sporadic occurrence, or molecular mechanism, are being identified at an unprecedented rate and are revealing important insights into central nervous system development. Recent discoveries highlight new associations of biological processes with human disease including the PI3K-AKT-mTOR pathway in brain overgrowth syndromes, the trafficking of cellular proteins in microcephaly-capillary malformation syndrome, and the role of the exosome in the etiology of pontocerebellar hypoplasia. Several other gene discoveries expand our understanding of the role of mitosis in the primary microcephaly syndromes and post-translational modification of dystroglycan in lissencephaly. Insights into polymicrogyria and heterotopias show us that these 2 malformations are complex in their etiology, while recent work in holoprosencephaly and Dandy-Walker malformation suggest that, at least in some instances, the development of these malformations requires "multiple-hits" in the sonic hedgehog pathway. The discovery of additional genes for primary microcephaly, pontocerebellar hypoplasia, and spinocerebellar ataxia continue to impress upon us the significant degree of genetic heterogeneity associated with many brain malformations. It is becoming increasingly evident that next-generation sequencing is emerging as a tool to facilitate rapid and cost-effective molecular diagnoses that will be translated into routine clinical care for these rare conditions in the near future.
SHORT syndrome is a rare, multisystem disease characterized by short stature, anterior-chamber eye anomalies, characteristic facial features, lipodystrophy, hernias, hyperextensibility, and delayed dentition. As part of the FORGE (Finding of Rare Disease Genes) Canada Consortium, we studied individuals with clinical features of SHORT syndrome to identify the genetic etiology of this rare disease. Whole-exome sequencing in a family trio of an affected child and unaffected parents identified a de novo frameshift insertion, c.1906_1907insC (p.Asn636Thrfs*18), in exon 14 of PIK3R1. Heterozygous mutations in exon 14 of PIK3R1 were subsequently identified by Sanger sequencing in three additional affected individuals and two affected family members. One of these mutations, c.1945C>T (p.Arg649Trp), was confirmed to be a de novo mutation in one affected individual and was also identified and shown to segregate with the phenotype in an unrelated family. The other mutation, a de novo truncating mutation (c.1971T>G [p.Tyr657*]), was identified in another affected individual. PIK3R1 is involved in the phosphatidylinositol 3 kinase (PI3K) signaling cascade and, as such, plays an important role in cell growth, proliferation, and survival. Functional studies on lymphoblastoid cells with the PIK3R1 c.1906_1907insC mutation showed decreased phosphorylation of the downstream S6 target of the PI3K-AKT-mTOR pathway. Our findings show that PIK3R1 mutations are the major cause of SHORT syndrome and suggest that the molecular mechanism of disease might involve downregulation of the PI3K-AKT-mTOR pathway.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a complex neurological disease. Genetic linkage analysis and genotyping of candidate genes in families with 4 or more affected individuals more heavily loaded for susceptibility genes has not fully explained familial disease clustering.
The precise aetiology of multiple sclerosis (MS) is yet to be conclusively determined, but both genes and environment and interactions thereof are important. It has been suggested that early life child exposure influences MS susceptibility. Here, in a population-based cohort, we investigated whether infant day care attendance influences the subsequent risk to develop MS. We identified 379 MS index cases and 101 spousal controls, all of whom were a single child (i.e. they had no biological sibs, half-sibs, step-sibs, adopted sibs) from the Canadian Collaborative Project on Genetic Susceptibility to MS (CCPGSMS). Frequency of infant day care attendance was compared for index cases and controls and the results were not statistically significant. Exposure to other infants during early childhood thus does not appear to be a risk factor for MS.
We review here our current understanding of the genetic aetiology of the common complex neurological disease multiple sclerosis (MS). The strongest genetic risk factor for MS is the major histocompatibility complex which was identified in the 1970s. In 2011, after a number of genome-wide association studies have been completed and have identified approximately 20 new genes for MS, we ask the question-what is next for the genetics of MS?
There is a strong maternal parent-of-origin effect in determining susceptibility to multiple sclerosis (MS). One hypothesis is that an abnormal intrauterine milieu leading to impaired fetal development could plausibly also result in increased susceptibility to MS. A possible marker for this intrauterine insult is the presence of a non-fatal congenital anomaly.
Autoimmune mechanisms are thought to have a major role in the pathogenesis of multiple sclerosis (MS) and vitamin D is hypothesised to contribute to disease susceptibility. Cows milk allergy (CMA) is a common childhood allergy arising from an immune system imbalance and can also lead to vitamin D deficiency due to dairy food avoidance. Here, we investigated whether or not CMA influences the subsequent risk to develop MS in a population-based cohort. We identified 6638 MS index cases and 2509 spousal controls with CMA information from the Canadian Collaborative Project on Genetic Susceptibility to MS (CCPGSMS). Frequency of CMA was compared between index cases and controls. No significant differences were found. Childhood CMA thus does not appear to be a risk factor for MS.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a complex neurological trait. Allelic variation in the MHC class II region exerts the single strongest effect on MS genetic risk. The clinical onset of the disease is extremely variable, and can range from the first to the ninth decade of life. Epidemiological studies have suggested a modest genetic component to the age of onset (AO) of MS. Previous studies have shown that HLA-DRB1*1501 may be associated with a younger AO. Here, we sought to uncover any effect of HLA-DRB1*1501 on the AO of MS in a large Canadian cohort. A total of 1816 MS patients were genotyped for HLA-DRB1. Patients carrying HLA-DRB1*1501 were shown to have a small, but significantly lower, AO than patients without the allele (P=0.03). HLA-DRB1*1501 was also shown to reduce the mean AO in both progressive and relapsing forms of the disease. An investigation of parent-of-origin effects indicated that the lower AO for HLA-DRB1*1501 patients arises from maternally transmitted HLA-DRB1*1501 haplotypes (maternal HLA-DRB1*1501 mean AO=28.4 years, paternal=30.3 years; P=0.009). HLA-DRB1*1501 exerts a modest, but significant effect on the AO of all forms of MS. Parent-of-origin effects at the MHC are further implicated in MS disease pathogenesis.
The ages of onset in multiple sclerosis cases span more than 7 decades. Data are presented for affected relative pairs from a Canadian population base of 30,000 multiple sclerosis index cases (1993-2008). The effects of genetic sharing, parent of origin, intergenerational versus collinear differences, and gender on the ages of onset were evaluated in the following concordant pairs: monozygotic twins (n = 29), dizygotic twins (n = 10), siblings (n = 614), first cousins (n = 405), half siblings (n = 29), parent/child (n = 285), and aunt/uncle/niece/nephew (avunculars) (n = 289). Fishers z test assessed intraclass correlation (r) for ages of onset. Correlations for monozygotic twins, dizygotic twins, full siblings, and first cousins were 0.60, 0.54, 0.20, and 0.10, respectively. Dizygotic twins resembled monozygotic twins more than siblings. The age-of-onset correlation for maternal half siblings (r = 0.37) was higher than that for paternal half siblings (r = 0.26), consistent with other observations suggesting an intrauterine environmental effect on multiple sclerosis risk. Intergenerational comparisons are complicated by substantial increases of multiple sclerosis incidence over time. Genetic loading (familial vs. sporadic cases) did not generally influence the age of onset, but correlation of age of onset in multiple sclerosis relative pairs was proportional to genetic sharing. A maternal parent-of-origin effect on the age of onset in collinear generations was suggested.
Genetic and environmental factors have important roles in multiple sclerosis (MS) susceptibility. A clear parent-of-origin effect has been shown in several populations. Advanced maternal age has been shown to be associated with adverse outcomes in offspring including chromosomal abnormalities. Advanced paternal age is associated with a number of adult onset disorders including schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. In a population-based Canadian cohort, we investigated whether there is any difference in parental age at birth for MS index cases compared to spouse controls.
Multiple sclerosis (MS), a common central nervous system inflammatory disease, has a major heritable component. Susceptibility is associated with the MHC class II region, especially HLA-DRB5*0101-HLA-DRB1*1501-HLA-DQA1*0102-HLA-DQB1*0602 haplotypes(hereafter DR2), which dominate genetic contribution to MS risk. Marked linkage disequilibrium (LD) among these loci makes identification of a specific locus difficult. The once-leading candidate, HLA-DRB1*15, localizes to risk, neutral, and protective haplotypes. HLA-DRB1*15 and HLA-DQB1*0602, nearly always located together on a small ancestral chromosome segment, are strongly MS-associated. One intervening allele on this haplotype, viz. HLA-DQA1*0102, shows no primary MS association. Two Canadian cohorts (n = 830 and n = 438 trios) genotyped for HLA-DRB1, HLA-DQA1 and HLA-DQB1 alleles were tested for association using TDT. To evaluate epistasis involving HLA-DRB1*15, transmissions from HLA-DRB1*15-negative parents were stratified by the presence/absence of HLA-DRB1*15 in affected offspring. All 3 alleles contribute to MS susceptibility through novel epistatic interactions. HLA-DQA1*0102 increased disease risk when combined with HLA-DRB1*1501 in trans, thereby unambiguously implicating HLA-DQ in MS susceptibility. Three-locus haplotypes demonstrated that HLA-DRB1*1501 and HLA-DQB1*0602 each influence risk. Transmissions of rare morcellated DR2 haplotypes showed no interaction with HLA-DQA1*0102. Incomplete haplotypes bearing only HLA-DRB1*1501 or HLA-DQB1*0602 did not predispose to MS. Balanced reciprocal transmission distortion can mask epistatic allelic association. These findings implicate epistasis among HLA class II alleles in human immune responses generally, provide partial explanation for intense linkage disequilibrium in the MHC, have relevance to animal models, and demonstrate key roles for DR2-specific interactions in MS susceptibility. MHC disease associations may be more generally haplotypic or diplotypic.
Genetic and environmental factors have important roles in multiple sclerosis (MS) susceptibility. Several studies have attempted to correlate exposure to viral illness with the subsequent development of MS. Here in a population-based Canadian cohort, we investigate the relationship between prior clinical infection or vaccination and the risk of MS.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a complex trait in which genes in the MHC class II region exert the single strongest effect on genetic susceptibility. The principal MHC class II haplotype that increases MS risk in individuals of Northern European descent are those that bear HLA-DRB1*15. However, several other HLA-DRB1 alleles have been positively and negatively associated with MS and each of the main allelotypes is composed of many sub-allelotypes with slightly different sequence composition. Given the role of this locus in antigen presentation it has been suggested that variations in the peptide binding site of the allele may underlie allelic variation in disease risk.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) susceptibility demonstrates a complex pattern of inheritance. Haplotypes containing HLA-DRB1*1501 carry most of the genetic risk. Epidemiological evidence implicating epigenetic factors includes complex distortion of disease transmission seen in aunt/uncle-niece/nephew (AUNN) pairs. Unexpectedly, in AUNN families we found that allele frequencies for HLA-DRB1*1501 were different between the first and second generations affected. Affected aunts had significantly lower HLA-DRB1*15 frequency compared with their affected nieces (chi(2) = 9.90, P = 0.0016), whereas HLA-DRB1*15 frequency in affected males remains unaltered across the two generations (chi(2) = 0.23, P = 0.63). We compared transmissions for the HLA-DRB1*15 allele using a family-based transmission disequilibrium test approach in 1690 individuals from 350 affected sibling pair (ASP) families and 960 individuals from 187 AUNN families. Transmissions differed between the ASP and the AUNN families (chi(2) = 6.92; P = 0.0085). The risk carried by HLA-DRB1*15 was increased in families with affected second-degree relatives (AUNN: OR = 4.07) when compared with those consisting only first-degree relatives (ASP: OR = 2.17), establishing heterogeneity of risk among HLA-DRB1*15 haplotypes based on whether collateral parental relatives are affected. These observations strongly implicate gene-environment interactions in susceptibility and more specifically, that epigenetic modifications differentiate among human leukocyte antigen class II risk haplotypes and are involved in the determination of the gender bias in MS. These data strongly suggest that the female-specific increasing risk of MS is mediated through these alleles or adjacent variation. The comparison of transmission of the same allele in vertically affected pedigrees (AUNN) to collinear sibling pairs (ASP) may provide a useful screen for putative epigenetic marks.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a complex trait in which allelic variation in the MHC class II region exerts the single strongest effect on genetic risk. Epidemiological data in MS provide strong evidence that environmental factors act at a population level to influence the unusual geographical distribution of this disease. Growing evidence implicates sunlight or vitamin D as a key environmental factor in aetiology. We hypothesised that this environmental candidate might interact with inherited factors and sought responsive regulatory elements in the MHC class II region. Sequence analysis localised a single MHC vitamin D response element (VDRE) to the promoter region of HLA-DRB1. Sequencing of this promoter in greater than 1,000 chromosomes from HLA-DRB1 homozygotes showed absolute conservation of this putative VDRE on HLA-DRB1*15 haplotypes. In contrast, there was striking variation among non-MS-associated haplotypes. Electrophoretic mobility shift assays showed specific recruitment of vitamin D receptor to the VDRE in the HLA-DRB1*15 promoter, confirmed by chromatin immunoprecipitation experiments using lymphoblastoid cells homozygous for HLA-DRB1*15. Transient transfection using a luciferase reporter assay showed a functional role for this VDRE. B cells transiently transfected with the HLA-DRB1*15 gene promoter showed increased expression on stimulation with 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 (P = 0.002) that was lost both on deletion of the VDRE or with the homologous "VDRE" sequence found in non-MS-associated HLA-DRB1 haplotypes. Flow cytometric analysis showed a specific increase in the cell surface expression of HLA-DRB1 upon addition of vitamin D only in HLA-DRB1*15 bearing lymphoblastoid cells. This study further implicates vitamin D as a strong environmental candidate in MS by demonstrating direct functional interaction with the major locus determining genetic susceptibility. These findings support a connection between the main epidemiological and genetic features of this disease with major practical implications for studies of disease mechanism and prevention.
Acrodysostosis is characterized by nasal hypoplasia, peripheral dysostosis, variable short stature, and intellectual impairment. Recently, mutations in PRKAR1A were reported in patients with acrodysostosis and hormone resistance. Subsequently, mutations in a phosphodiesterase gene (PDE4D) were identified in seven sporadic cases. We sequenced PDE4D in seven acrodysostosis patients from five families. Missense mutations were identified in all cases. Families showed de novo inheritance except one family with three affected children whose father was subsequently found to have subtle features of acrodysostosis. There were no recurrent mutations. Short stature and endocrine resistance are rare in this series; however, cognitive involvement and obesity were frequent. This last finding is relevant given PDE4D is insulin responsive and potentially involved in lipolysis. PDE4D encodes a cyclic AMP regulator and places PDE4D-related acrodysostosis within the same family of diseases as pseudohypoparathyroidism, pseudopseudohypoparathyroidism, PRKAR1A-related acrodysostosis and brachydactyly-mental retardation syndrome; all characterized by cognitive impairment and short distal extremities.
Ataxia demonstrates substantial phenotypic and genetic heterogeneity. We set out to determine the diagnostic yield of exome sequencing in pediatric patients with ataxia without a molecular diagnosis after standard-of-care assessment in Canada. FORGE (Finding Of Rare disease GEnes) Canada is a nation-wide project focused on identifying novel disease genes for rare pediatric diseases using whole-exome sequencing (WES). We retrospectively selected all FORGE Canada projects that included cerebellar ataxia as a feature. We identified 28 such families and a molecular diagnosis was made in 13; a success rate of 46%. In 11 families we identified mutations in genes associated with known neurological syndromes and in two we identified novel disease genes. Exome analysis of sib pairs and/or patients born to consanguineous parents was more likely to be successful (9/13) than simplex cases (4/15). Our data suggests that exome sequencing is an effective first line test for pediatric patients with ataxia where a specific single gene is not immediately suspected to be causative.
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