Neurogenomics

Cracking
the Code

Identifying the cause of neurological disorders and early intervention are key to reducing the devastating brain damage that can occur. 

Neurological disorders can be caused both by inherited and random gene variations. Often, the first sign of a disorder in a newborn is unexplained seizures. 

RCIGM is involved in both foundational and translational research.

Neurodevelopmental Genetics

RCIGM investigations into inherited brain disorders focus on poorly understood conditions in neuronal development where the application of human genetics, wet-lab disease modeling and cell biology can be used to develop new treatments.
190227RadySeminar

Joseph Gleeson, MD

RCIGM Director of Neurodevelopmental Genetics Endowed Chair

Joseph Gleeson, MD, is the RCIGM Director of Neurodevelopmental Genetics Endowed Chair. Among his current research projects is a genetic investigation of the genetic mechanisms underlying spina bifida, the most common structural defect of the central nervous system.

In 2020 Dr. Gleeson along with other researchers at UC San Diego School of Medicine, in collaboration with Rady Children’s Institute for Genomic Medicine, were awarded an $8.3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development to further illuminate the causes of spina bifida.

Dr. Gleeson also heads the Neurogenetics Laboratory at UC San Diego and is the Director of the Center for Brain Development. He is the 2020 recipient of the Bernard Sachs Award from the Child Neurology Society. In 2017, he was the first recipient of the Constance Lieber Prize for Innovation in Developmental Neuroscience.

Publications

Clin Genet. 2024 Jan 14. doi: 10.1111/cge.14481. Online ahead of print.

ABSTRACT

Developmental and epileptic encephalopathies (DEEs) are a heterogeneous group of epilepsies characterized by early-onset, refractory seizures associated with developmental regression or impairment, with a heterogeneous genetic landscape including genes implicated in various pathways and mechanisms. We retrospectively studied the clinical and genetic data of patients with genetic DEE who presented at two tertiary centers in Egypt over a 10-year period. Exome sequencing was used for genetic testing. We report 74 patients from 63 unrelated Egyptian families, with a high rate of consanguinity (58%). The most common seizure type was generalized tonic-clonic (58%) and multiple seizure types were common (55%). The most common epilepsy syndrome was early infantile DEE (50%). All patients showed variable degrees of developmental impairment. Microcephaly, hypotonia, ophthalmological involvement and neuroimaging abnormalities were common. Eighteen novel variants were identified and the phenotypes of five DEE genes were expanded with novel phenotype-genotype associations. Obtaining a genetic diagnosis had implications on epilepsy management in 17 patients with variants in 12 genes. In this study, we expand the phenotype and genotype spectrum of DEE in a large single ethnic cohort of patients. Reaching a genetic diagnosis guided precision management of epilepsy in a significant proportion of patients.

PMID:38221827 | DOI:10.1111/cge.14481

Brain. 2023 Dec 1:awad403. doi: 10.1093/brain/awad403. Online ahead of print.

ABSTRACT

AMPA (α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazole propionic acid) receptors (AMPARs) mediate fast excitatory neurotransmission in the brain. AMPARs form by homo- or heteromeric assembly of subunits encoded by the GRIA1-GRIA4 genes, of which only GRIA3 is X-chromosomal. Increasing numbers of GRIA3 missense variants are reported in patients with neurodevelopmental disorders (NDD), but only a few have been examined functionally. Here, we evaluated the impact on AMPAR function of one frameshift and 43 rare missense GRIA3 variants identified in patients with NDD by electrophysiological assays. Thirty-one variants alter receptor function and show loss-of-function (LoF) or gain-of-function (GoF) properties, whereas 13 appeared neutral. We collected detailed clinical data from 25 patients (from 23 families) harbouring 17 of these variants. All patients had global developmental impairment, mostly moderate (9/25) or severe (12/25). Twelve patients had seizures, including focal motor (6/12), unknown onset motor (4/12), focal impaired awareness (1/12), (atypical) absence (2/12), myoclonic (5/12), and generalized tonic-clonic (1/12) or atonic (1/12) seizures. The epilepsy syndrome was classified as developmental and epileptic encephalopathy in eight patients, developmental encephalopathy without seizures in 13 patients, and intellectual disability with epilepsy in four patients. Limb muscular hypotonia was reported in 13/25, and hypertonia in 10/25. Movement disorders were reported in 14/25, with hyperekplexia or non-epileptic erratic myoclonus being the most prevalent feature (8/25). Correlating receptor functional phenotype with clinical features revealed clinical features for GRIA3-associated NDDs and distinct NDD phenotypes for LoF and GoF variants. GoF variants were associated with more severe outcomes: patients were younger at the time of seizure onset (median age one month), hypertonic, and more often had movement disorders, including hyperekplexia. Patients with LoF variants were older at the time of seizure onset (median age 16 months), hypotonic, and had sleeping disturbances. LoF and GoF variants were disease-causing in both sexes but affected males often carried de novo or hemizygous LoF variants inherited from healthy mothers, whereas all but one affected females had de novo heterozygous GoF variants.

PMID:38038360 | DOI:10.1093/brain/awad403

Sci Data. 2023 Nov 20;10(1):813. doi: 10.1038/s41597-023-02645-7.

ABSTRACT

Somatic mosaicism is defined as an occurrence of two or more populations of cells having genomic sequences differing at given loci in an individual who is derived from a single zygote. It is a characteristic of multicellular organisms that plays a crucial role in normal development and disease. To study the nature and extent of somatic mosaicism in autism spectrum disorder, bipolar disorder, focal cortical dysplasia, schizophrenia, and Tourette syndrome, a multi-institutional consortium called the Brain Somatic Mosaicism Network (BSMN) was formed through the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). In addition to genomic data of affected and neurotypical brains, the BSMN also developed and validated a best practices somatic single nucleotide variant calling workflow through the analysis of reference brain tissue. These resources, which include >400 terabytes of data from 1087 subjects, are now available to the research community via the NIMH Data Archive (NDA) and are described here.

PMID:37985666 | DOI:10.1038/s41597-023-02645-7

News

Genetic Neurologic Disease

Neurologic Movement Disorders

RCIGM focuses on translational research in pediatric neurologic movement disorders, particularly those resulting from genetic or metabolic conditions. 

Investigations into genetic underpinnings of neurologic movement disorders is led by Jennifer Friedman, MD. Her work involves sequencing children with unexplained neurologic disease to identify diagnosis and treatment options.

Dr. Friedman’s research is aimed at ending the diagnostic odyssey by bringing diagnoses to patients and families; shortening the therapeutic odyssey by delivering precision neurologic care and identifying novel genes for rare neurologic disorders.

headshot of Dr. Jenni Friedman

Jennifer Friedman, MD

Dr. Jennifer Friedman is the Translational Medicine Director for the Precision Medicine Clinic at Rady Children’s Hospital, where she is also a senior staff neurologist. In addition, she serves as clinical professor in the UC San Diego Departments of Neurosciences and Pediatrics. 

Dr. Friedman is a diplomate of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. She is a member of the American Academy of Neurology, the Movement Disorder Society, the Tourette Syndrome Association, and the Phi Beta Kappa National Honor Society. 

Publications

J Med Genet. 2023 Apr 25:jmg-2022-108803. doi: 10.1136/jmg-2022-108803. Online ahead of print.

ABSTRACT

PURPOSE: ARF1 was previously implicated in periventricular nodular heterotopia (PVNH) in only five individuals and systematic clinical characterisation was not available. The aim of this study is to provide a comprehensive description of the phenotypic and genotypic spectrum of ARF1-related neurodevelopmental disorder.

METHODS: We collected detailed phenotypes of an international cohort of individuals (n=17) with ARF1 variants assembled through the GeneMatcher platform. Missense variants were structurally modelled, and the impact of several were functionally validated.

RESULTS: De novo variants (10 missense, 1 frameshift, 1 splice altering resulting in 9 residues insertion) in ARF1 were identified among 17 unrelated individuals. Detailed phenotypes included intellectual disability (ID), microcephaly, seizures and PVNH. No specific facial characteristics were consistent across all cases, however microretrognathia was common. Various hearing and visual defects were recurrent, and interestingly, some inflammatory features were reported. MRI of the brain frequently showed abnormalities consistent with a neuronal migration disorder.

CONCLUSION: We confirm the role of ARF1 in an autosomal dominant syndrome with a phenotypic spectrum including severe ID, microcephaly, seizures and PVNH due to impaired neuronal migration.

PMID:37185208 DOI:10.1136/jmg-2022-108803

Mov Disord Clin Pract. 2023 Apr 4;10(5):748-755. doi: 10.1002/mdc3.13728. eCollection 2023 May.

ABSTRACT

BACKGROUND: The International Parkinson and Movement Disorders Society (MDS) set up a working group on pediatric movement disorders (MDS Task Force on Pediatrics) to generate recommendations to guide the transition process from pediatrics to adult health care systems in patients with childhood-onset movement disorders.

METHODS: To develop recommendations for transitional care for childhood onset movement disorders, we used a formal consensus development process, using a multi-round, web-based Delphi survey. The Delphi survey was based on the results of the scoping review of the literature and the results of a survey of MDS members on transition practices. Through iterative discussions, we generated the recommendations included in the survey. The MDS Task Force on Pediatrics were the voting members for the Delphi survey. The task force members comprise 23 child and adult neurologists with expertise in the field of movement disorders and from all regions of the world.

RESULTS: Fifteen recommendations divided across four different areas were made pertaining to: (1) team composition and structure, (2) planning and readiness, (3) goals of care, and (4) administration and research. All recommendations achieved consensus with a median score of 7 or greater.

CONCLUSION: Recommendations on providing transitional care for patients with childhood onset movement disorders are provided. Nevertheless several challenges remain in the implementation of these recommendations, related to health infrastructure and the distribution of health resources, and the availability of knowledgeable and interested practitioners. Research on the influence of transitional care programs on outcomes in childhood onset movement disorders is much needed.

PMID:37205244 PMC:PMC10186998

Mol Psychiatry. 2022 Nov 16. doi: 10.1038/s41380-022-01852-9. Online ahead of print.

ABSTRACT

Missense and truncating variants in the X-chromosome-linked CLCN4 gene, resulting in reduced or complete loss-of-function (LOF) of the encoded chloride/proton exchanger ClC-4, were recently demonstrated to cause a neurocognitive phenotype in both males and females. Through international clinical matchmaking and interrogation of public variant databases we assembled a database of 90 rare CLCN4 missense variants in 90 families: 41 unique and 18 recurrent variants in 49 families. For 43 families, including 22 males and 33 females, we collated detailed clinical and segregation data. To confirm causality of variants and to obtain insight into disease mechanisms, we investigated the effect on electrophysiological properties of 59 of the variants in Xenopus oocytes using extended voltage and pH ranges. Detailed analyses revealed new pathophysiological mechanisms: 25% (15/59) of variants demonstrated LOF, characterized by a “shift” of the voltage-dependent activation to more positive voltages, and nine variants resulted in a toxic gain-of-function, associated with a disrupted gate allowing inward transport at negative voltages. Functional results were not always in line with in silico pathogenicity scores, highlighting the complexity of pathogenicity assessment for accurate genetic counselling. The complex neurocognitive and psychiatric manifestations of this condition, and hitherto under-recognized impacts on growth, gastrointestinal function, and motor control are discussed. Including published cases, we summarize features in 122 individuals from 67 families with CLCN4-related neurodevelopmental condition and suggest future research directions with the aim of improving the integrated care for individuals with this diagnosis.

PMID:36385166 DOI:10.1038/s41380-022-01852-9

News

In a study published in the October 2022 issue of BRAIN, researchers from Rady Children’s Institute for Genomic Medicine (RCIGM®) and the University of California San Diego School of Medicine describe their discovery of a new clinical syndrome, Neuro-Ocular DAGLA-related Syndrome (NODRS), in children with termination variants in the diacylglycerol lipase alpha (DAGLA) gene which encodes an enzyme in the brain that is involved in the signaling pathway of the endocannabinoid (eCB) system.

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