April 21, 2020  |  

A 12-kb structural variation in progressive myoclonic epilepsy was newly identified by long-read whole-genome sequencing.

We report a family with progressive myoclonic epilepsy who underwent whole-exome sequencing but was negative for pathogenic variants. Similar clinical courses of a devastating neurodegenerative phenotype of two affected siblings were highly suggestive of a genetic etiology, which indicates that the survey of genetic variation by whole-exome sequencing was not comprehensive. To investigate the presence of a variant that remained unrecognized by standard genetic testing, PacBio long-read sequencing was performed. Structural variant (SV) detection using low-coverage (6×) whole-genome sequencing called 17,165 SVs (7,216 deletions and 9,949 insertions). Our SV selection narrowed down potential candidates to only five SVs (two deletions and three insertions) on the genes tagged with autosomal recessive phenotypes. Among them, a 12.4-kb deletion involving the CLN6 gene was the top candidate because its homozygous abnormalities cause neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis. This deletion included the initiation codon and was found in a GC-rich region containing multiple repetitive elements. These results indicate the presence of a causal variant in a difficult-to-sequence region and suggest that such variants that remain enigmatic after the application of current whole-exome sequencing technology could be uncovered by unbiased application of long-read whole-genome sequencing.


April 21, 2020  |  

Long-read sequencing identifies GGC repeat expansions in NOTCH2NLC associated with neuronal intranuclear inclusion disease.

Neuronal intranuclear inclusion disease (NIID) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that is characterized by eosinophilic hyaline intranuclear inclusions in neuronal and somatic cells. The wide range of clinical manifestations in NIID makes ante-mortem diagnosis difficult1-8, but skin biopsy enables its ante-mortem diagnosis9-12. The average onset age is 59.7 years among approximately 140 NIID cases consisting of mostly sporadic and several familial cases. By linkage mapping of a large NIID family with several affected members (Family 1), we identified a 58.1 Mb linked region at 1p22.1-q21.3 with a maximum logarithm of the odds score of 4.21. By long-read sequencing, we identified a GGC repeat expansion in the 5′ region of NOTCH2NLC (Notch 2 N-terminal like C) in all affected family members. Furthermore, we found similar expansions in 8 unrelated families with NIID and 40 sporadic NIID cases. We observed abnormal anti-sense transcripts in fibroblasts specifically from patients but not unaffected individuals. This work shows that repeat expansion in human-specific NOTCH2NLC, a gene that evolved by segmental duplication, causes a human disease.


April 21, 2020  |  

5’UTR-mediated regulation of Ataxin-1 expression.

Expression of mutant Ataxin-1 with an abnormally expanded polyglutamine domain is necessary for the onset and progression of spinocerebellar ataxia type 1 (SCA1). Understanding how Ataxin-1 expression is regulated in the human brain could inspire novel molecular therapies for this fatal, dominantly inherited neurodegenerative disease. Previous studies have shown that the ATXN1 3’UTR plays a key role in regulating the Ataxin-1 cellular pool via diverse post-transcriptional mechanisms. Here we show that elements within the ATXN1 5’UTR also participate in the regulation of Ataxin-1 expression. PCR and PacBio sequencing analysis of cDNA obtained from control and SCA1 human brain samples revealed the presence of three major, alternatively spliced ATXN1 5’UTR variants. In cell-based assays, fusion of these variants upstream of an EGFP reporter construct revealed significant and differential impacts on total EGFP protein output, uncovering a type of genetic rheostat-like function of the ATXN1 5’UTR. We identified ribosomal scanning of upstream AUG codons and increased transcript instability as potential mechanisms of regulation. Importantly, transcript-based analyses revealed significant differences in the expression pattern of ATXN1 5’UTR variants between control and SCA1 cerebellum. Together, the data presented here shed light into a previously unknown role for the ATXN1 5’UTR in the regulation of Ataxin-1 and provide new opportunities for the development of SCA1 therapeutics. Copyright © 2019. Published by Elsevier Inc.


April 21, 2020  |  

Non-coding variability at the APOE locus contributes to the Alzheimer’s risk.

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a leading cause of mortality in the elderly. While the coding change of APOE-e4 is a key risk factor for late-onset AD and has been believed to be the only risk factor in the APOE locus, it does not fully explain the risk effect conferred by the locus. Here, we report the identification of AD causal variants in PVRL2 and APOC1 regions in proximity to APOE and define common risk haplotypes independent of APOE-e4 coding change. These risk haplotypes are associated with changes of AD-related endophenotypes including cognitive performance, and altered expression of APOE and its nearby genes in the human brain and blood. High-throughput genome-wide chromosome conformation capture analysis further supports the roles of these risk haplotypes in modulating chromatin states and gene expression in the brain. Our findings provide compelling evidence for additional risk factors in the APOE locus that contribute to AD pathogenesis.


September 22, 2019  |  

Differential increases of specific FMR1 mRNA isoforms in premutation carriers.

Over 40% of male and ~16% of female carriers of a premutation FMR1 allele (55-200 CGG repeats) will develop fragile X-associated tremor/ataxia syndrome, an adult onset neurodegenerative disorder, while about 20% of female carriers will develop fragile X-associated primary ovarian insufficiency. Marked elevation in FMR1 mRNA transcript levels has been observed with premutation alleles, and RNA toxicity due to increased mRNA levels is the leading molecular mechanism proposed for these disorders. However, although the FMR1 gene undergoes alternative splicing, it is unknown whether all or only some of the isoforms are overexpressed in premutation carriers and which isoforms may contribute to the premutation pathology.To address this question, we have applied a long-read sequencing approach using single-molecule real-time (SMRT) sequencing and qRT-PCR. Our SMRT sequencing analysis performed on peripheral blood mononuclear cells, fibroblasts and brain tissue samples derived from premutation carriers and controls revealed the existence of 16 isoforms of 24 predicted variants. Although the relative abundance of all mRNA isoforms was significantly increased in the premutation group, as expected based on the bulk increase in mRNA levels, there was a disproportionate (fourfold to sixfold) increase, relative to the overall increase in mRNA, in the abundance of isoforms spliced at both exons 12 and 14, specifically Iso10 and Iso10b, containing the complete exon 15 and differing only in splicing in exon 17.These findings suggest that RNA toxicity may arise from a relative increase of all FMR1 mRNA isoforms. Interestingly, the Iso10 and Iso10b mRNA isoforms, lacking the C-terminal functional sites for fragile X mental retardation protein function, are the most increased in premutation carriers relative to normal, suggesting a functional relevance in the pathology of FMR1-associated disorders. Published by the BMJ Publishing Group Limited. For permission to use (where not already granted under a licence) please go to http://group.bmj.com/group/rights-licensing/permissions.


September 22, 2019  |  

Gut microbiota, nitric oxide, and microglia as prerequisites for neurodegenerative disorders.

Regulating fluctuating endogenous nitric oxide (NO) levels is necessary for proper physiological functions. Aberrant NO pathways are implicated in a number of neurological disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and Parkinson’s disease. The mechanism of NO in oxidative and nitrosative stress with pathological consequences involves reactions with reactive oxygen species (e.g., superoxide) to form the highly reactive peroxynitrite, hydrogen peroxide, hypochloride ions and hydroxyl radical. NO levels are typically regulated by endogenous nitric oxide synthases (NOS), and inflammatory iNOS is implicated in the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative diseases, in which elevated NO mediates axonal degeneration and activates cyclooxygenases to provoke neuroinflammation. NO also instigates a down-regulated secretion of brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which is essential for neuronal survival, development and differentiation, synaptogenesis, and learning and memory. The gut-brain axis denotes communication between the enteric nervous system (ENS) of the GI tract and the central nervous system (CNS) of the brain, and the modes of communication include the vagus nerve, passive diffusion and carrier by oxyhemoglobin. Amyloid precursor protein that forms amyloid beta plaques in AD is normally expressed in the ENS by gut bacteria, but when amyloid beta accumulates, it compromises CNS functions. Escherichia coli and Salmonella enterica are among the many bacterial strains that express and secrete amyloid proteins and contribute to AD pathogenesis. Gut microbiota is essential for regulating microglia maturation and activation, and activated microglia secrete significant amounts of iNOS. Pharmacological interventions and lifestyle modifications to rectify aberrant NO signaling in AD include NOS inhibitors, NMDA receptor antagonists, potassium channel modulators, probiotics, diet, and exercise.


September 22, 2019  |  

Altered expression of the FMR1 splicing variants landscape in premutation carriers.

FMR1 premutation carriers (55-200 CGG repeats) are at risk for developing Fragile X-associated Tremor/Ataxia Syndrome (FXTAS), an adult onset neurodegenerative disorder. Approximately 20% of female carriers will develop Fragile X-associated Primary Ovarian Insufficiency (FXPOI), in addition to a number of clinical problems affecting premutation carriers throughout their life span. Marked elevation in FMR1 mRNA levels have been observed with premutation alleles resulting in RNA toxicity, the leading molecular mechanism proposed for the FMR1 associated disorders observed in premutation carriers. The FMR1 gene undergoes alternative splicing and we have recently reported that the relative abundance of all FMR1 mRNA isoforms is significantly increased in premutation carriers. In this study, we characterized the transcriptional FMR1 isoforms distribution pattern in different tissues and identified a total of 49 isoforms, some of which observed only in premutation carriers and which might play a role in the pathogenesis of FXTAS. Further, we investigated the distribution pattern and expression levels of the FMR1 isoforms in asymptomatic premutation carriers and in those with FXTAS and found no significant differences between the two groups. Our findings suggest that the characterization of the expression levels of the different FMR1 isoforms is fundamental for understanding the regulation of the FMR1 gene as imbalance in their expression could lead to an altered functional diversity with neurotoxic consequences. Their characterization will also help to elucidating the mechanism(s) by which “toxic gain of function” of the FMR1 mRNA may play a role in FXTAS and/or in the other FMR1-associated conditions. Copyright © 2017. Published by Elsevier B.V.


July 19, 2019  |  

Conformation dependent epitopes recognized by prion protein antibodies probed using mutational scanning and deep sequencing.

Prion diseases are caused by a structural rearrangement of the cellular prion protein, PrP(C), into a disease-associated conformation, PrP(Sc), which may be distinguished from one another using conformation specific antibodies. We used mutational scanning by cell-surface display to screen 1,341 PrP single point mutants for attenuated interaction with four anti-PrP antibodies, including several with conformational specificity. Single molecule real time gene sequencing was used to quantify enrichment of mutants, returning on average 26,000 high quality full-length reads for each screened population. Relative enrichment of mutants correlated to the magnitude of the change in binding affinity. Mutations that diminished binding of the antibody ICSM18 represented the core of contact residues in the published crystal structure of its complex. A similarly located binding site was identified for D18, comprising discontinuous residues in helix 1 of PrP, brought into close proximity to one another only when the alpha helix is intact. The specificity of these antibodies for the normal form of PrP likely arises from loss of this conformational feature after conversion to the disease-associated form. Intriguingly, 6H4 binding was found to depend on interaction with the same residues, among others, suggesting that its ability to recognize both forms of PrP depends on a structural rearrangement of the antigen. The application of mutational scanning and deep sequencing provides residue-level resolution of positions in the protein-protein interaction interface that are critical for binding, as well as a quantitative measure of the impact of mutations on binding affinity. Copyright © 2014. Published by Elsevier Ltd.


July 19, 2019  |  

SMRT Sequencing of long tandem nucleotide repeats in SCA10 reveals unique insight of repeat expansion structure.

A large, non-coding ATTCT repeat expansion causes the neurodegenerative disorder, spinocerebellar ataxia type 10 (SCA10). In a subset of SCA10 patients, interruption motifs are present at the 5′ end of the expansion and strongly correlate with epileptic seizures. Thus, interruption motifs are a predictor of the epileptic phenotype and are hypothesized to act as a phenotypic modifier in SCA10. Yet, the exact internal sequence structure of SCA10 expansions remains unknown due to limitations in current technologies for sequencing across long extended tracts of tandem nucleotide repeats. We used the third generation sequencing technology, Single Molecule Real Time (SMRT) sequencing, to obtain full-length contiguous expansion sequences, ranging from 2.5 to 4.4 kb in length, from three SCA10 patients with different clinical presentations. We obtained sequence spanning the entire length of the expansion and identified the structure of known and novel interruption motifs within the SCA10 expansion. The exact interruption patterns in expanded SCA10 alleles will allow us to further investigate the potential contributions of these interrupting sequences to the pathogenic modification leading to the epilepsy phenotype in SCA10. Our results also demonstrate that SMRT sequencing is useful for deciphering long tandem repeats that pose as “gaps” in the human genome sequence.


July 19, 2019  |  

Dissecting the causal mechanism of X-linked Dystonia-Parkinsonism by integrating genome and transcriptome assembly.

X-linked Dystonia-Parkinsonism (XDP) is a Mendelian neurodegenerative disease that is endemic to the Philippines and is associated with a founder haplotype. We integrated multiple genome and transcriptome assembly technologies to narrow the causal mutation to the TAF1 locus, which included a SINE-VNTR-Alu (SVA) retrotransposition into intron 32 of the gene. Transcriptome analyses identified decreased expression of the canonical cTAF1 transcript among XDP probands, and de novo assembly across multiple pluripotent stem-cell-derived neuronal lineages discovered aberrant TAF1 transcription that involved alternative splicing and intron retention (IR) in proximity to the SVA that was anti-correlated with overall TAF1 expression. CRISPR/Cas9 excision of the SVA rescued this XDP-specific transcriptional signature and normalized TAF1 expression in probands. These data suggest an SVA-mediated aberrant transcriptional mechanism associated with XDP and may provide a roadmap for layered technologies and integrated assembly-based analyses for other unsolved Mendelian disorders. Copyright © 2018 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


July 19, 2019  |  

Long-read sequencing across the C9orf72 ‘GGGGCC’ repeat expansion: implications for clinical use and genetic discovery efforts in human disease.

Many neurodegenerative diseases are caused by nucleotide repeat expansions, but most expansions, like the C9orf72 ‘GGGGCC’ (G4C2) repeat that causes approximately 5-7% of all amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal dementia (FTD) cases, are too long to sequence using short-read sequencing technologies. It is unclear whether long-read sequencing technologies can traverse these long, challenging repeat expansions. Here, we demonstrate that two long-read sequencing technologies, Pacific Biosciences’ (PacBio) and Oxford Nanopore Technologies’ (ONT), can sequence through disease-causing repeats cloned into plasmids, including the FTD/ALS-causing G4C2 repeat expansion. We also report the first long-read sequencing data characterizing the C9orf72 G4C2 repeat expansion at the nucleotide level in two symptomatic expansion carriers using PacBio whole-genome sequencing and a no-amplification (No-Amp) targeted approach based on CRISPR/Cas9.Both the PacBio and ONT platforms successfully sequenced through the repeat expansions in plasmids. Throughput on the MinION was a challenge for whole-genome sequencing; we were unable to attain reads covering the human C9orf72 repeat expansion using 15 flow cells. We obtained 8× coverage across the C9orf72 locus using the PacBio Sequel, accurately reporting the unexpanded allele at eight repeats, and reading through the entire expansion with 1324 repeats (7941 nucleotides). Using the No-Amp targeted approach, we attained >?800× coverage and were able to identify the unexpanded allele, closely estimate expansion size, and assess nucleotide content in a single experiment. We estimate the individual’s repeat region was >?99% G4C2 content, though we cannot rule out small interruptions.Our findings indicate that long-read sequencing is well suited to characterizing known repeat expansions, and for discovering new disease-causing, disease-modifying, or risk-modifying repeat expansions that have gone undetected with conventional short-read sequencing. The PacBio No-Amp targeted approach may have future potential in clinical and genetic counseling environments. Larger and deeper long-read sequencing studies in C9orf72 expansion carriers will be important to determine heterogeneity and whether the repeats are interrupted by non-G4C2 content, potentially mitigating or modifying disease course or age of onset, as interruptions are known to do in other repeat-expansion disorders. These results have broad implications across all diseases where the genetic etiology remains unclear.


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