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.
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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

Nature. 2022 Apr 20. doi: 10.1038/s41586-022-04602-7. Online ahead of print.

ABSTRACT

The structure of the human neocortex underlies species-specific traits and reflects intricate developmental programs. Here we sought to reconstruct processes that occur during early development by sampling adult human tissues. We analysed neocortical clones in a post-mortem human brain through a comprehensive assessment of brain somatic mosaicism, acting as neutral lineage recorders1,2. We combined the sampling of 25 distinct anatomic locations with deep whole-genome sequencing in a neurotypical deceased individual and confirmed results with 5 samples collected from each of three additional donors. We identified 259 bona fide mosaic variants from the index case, then deconvolved distinct geographical, cell-type and clade organizations across the brain and other organs. We found that clones derived after the accumulation of 90-200 progenitors in the cerebral cortex tended to respect the midline axis, well before the anterior-posterior or ventral-dorsal axes, representing a secondary hierarchy following the overall patterning of forebrain and hindbrain domains. Clones across neocortically derived cells were consistent with a dual origin from both dorsal and ventral cellular populations, similar to rodents, whereas the microglia lineage appeared distinct from other resident brain cells. Our data provide a comprehensive analysis of brain somatic mosaicism across the neocortex and demonstrate cellular origins and progenitor distribution patterns within the human brain.

PMID:35444276 | DOI:10.1038/s41586-022-04602-7

Clin Genet. 2022 Mar 23. doi: 10.1111/cge.14132. Online ahead of print.

ABSTRACT

Homozygous pathogenic variants in WDR45B were first identified in six subjects from three unrelated families with global development delay, refractory seizures, spastic quadriplegia, and brain malformations. Since the initial report in 2018, no further cases have been described. In this report, we present 12 additional individuals from seven unrelated families and their clinical, radiological, and molecular findings. Six different variants in WDR45B were identified, five of which are novel. Microcephaly and global developmental delay were observed in all subjects, and seizures and spastic quadriplegia in most. Common findings on brain imaging include cerebral atrophy, ex-vacuo ventricular dilatation, brainstem volume loss, and symmetric under-opercularization. El-Hattab-Alkuraya syndrome is associated with a consistent phenotype characterized by early onset cerebral atrophy resulting in microcephaly, developmental delay, spastic quadriplegia, and seizures. The phenotype appears to be more severe among individuals with loss-of-function variants whereas those with missense variants were less severely affected suggesting a potential genotype-phenotype correlation in this disorder. A brain imaging pattern emerges which is consistent among individuals with loss-of-function variants and could potentially alert the neuroradiologists or clinician to consider WDR45B-related El-Hattab-Alkuraya syndrome. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

PMID:35322404 | DOI:10.1111/cge.14132

NPJ Genom Med. 2022 Jan 28;7(1):9. doi: 10.1038/s41525-021-00277-7.

ABSTRACT

TIMMDC1 encodes the Translocase of Inner Mitochondrial Membrane Domain-Containing protein 1 (TIMMDC1) subunit of complex I of the electron transport chain responsible for ATP production. We studied a consanguineous family with two affected children, now deceased, who presented with failure to thrive in the early postnatal period, poor feeding, hypotonia, peripheral neuropathy and drug-resistant epilepsy. Genome sequencing data revealed a known, deep intronic pathogenic variant TIMMDC1 c.597-1340A>G, also present in gnomAD (~1/5000 frequency), that enhances aberrant splicing. Using RNA and protein analysis we show almost complete loss of TIMMDC1 protein and compromised mitochondrial complex I function. We have designed and applied two different splice-switching antisense oligonucleotides (SSO) to restore normal TIMMDC1 mRNA processing and protein levels in patients’ cells. Quantitative proteomics and real-time metabolic analysis of mitochondrial function on patient fibroblasts treated with SSOs showed restoration of complex I subunit abundance and function. SSO-mediated therapy of this inevitably fatal TIMMDC1 neurologic disorder is an attractive possibility.

PMID:35091571 | PMC:PMC8799713 | DOI:10.1038/s41525-021-00277-7

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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

Mov Disord. 2022 Apr 5. doi: 10.1002/mds.29006. Online ahead of print.

ABSTRACT

BACKGROUND: ADCY5-related dyskinesia is characterized by early-onset movement disorders. There is currently no validated treatment, but anecdotal clinical reports and biological hypotheses suggest efficacy of caffeine.

OBJECTIVE: The aim is to obtain further insight into the efficacy and safety of caffeine in patients with ADCY5-related dyskinesia.

METHODS: A retrospective study was conducted worldwide in 30 patients with a proven ADCY5 mutation who had tried or were taking caffeine for dyskinesia. Disease characteristics and treatment responses were assessed through a questionnaire.

RESULTS: Caffeine was overall well tolerated, even in children, and 87% of patients reported a clear improvement. Caffeine reduced the frequency and duration of paroxysmal movement disorders but also improved baseline movement disorders and some other motor and nonmotor features, with consistent quality-of-life improvement. Three patients reported worsening.

CONCLUSION: Our findings suggest that caffeine should be considered as a first-line therapeutic option in ADCY5-related dyskinesia. © 2022 International Parkinson and Movement Disorder Society.

PMID:35384065 | DOI:10.1002/mds.29006

Consolidation of the clinical and genetic definition of a SOX4-related neurodevelopmental syndrome

J Med Genet. 2022 Mar 1:jmedgenet-2021-108375. doi: 10.1136/jmedgenet-2021-108375. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 35232796.

Abstract

Background: A neurodevelopmental syndrome was recently reported in four patients with SOX4 heterozygous missense variants in the high-mobility-group (HMG) DNA-binding domain. The present study aimed to consolidate clinical and genetic knowledge of this syndrome.

Methods: We newly identified 17 patients with SOX4 variants, predicted variant pathogenicity using in silico tests and in vitro functional assays and analysed the patients’ phenotypes.

Results: All variants were novel, distinct and heterozygous. Seven HMG-domain missense and five stop-gain variants were classified as pathogenic or likely pathogenic variant (L/PV) as they precluded SOX4 transcriptional activity in vitro. Five HMG-domain and non-HMG-domain missense variants were classified as of uncertain significance (VUS) due to negative results from functional tests. When known, inheritance was de novo or from a mosaic unaffected or non-mosaic affected parent for patients with L/PV, and from a non-mosaic asymptomatic or affected parent for patients with VUS. All patients had neurodevelopmental, neurological and dysmorphic features, and at least one cardiovascular, ophthalmological, musculoskeletal or other somatic anomaly. Patients with L/PV were overall more affected than patients with VUS. They resembled patients with other neurodevelopmental diseases, including the SOX11-related and Coffin-Siris (CSS) syndromes, but lacked the most specific features of CSS.

Conclusion: These findings consolidate evidence of a fairly non-specific neurodevelopmental syndrome due to SOX4 haploinsufficiency in neurogenesis and multiple other developmental processes.

PMID: 35232796 | DOI: 10.1136/jmedgenet-2021-108375

Front Cell Dev Biol. 2022 Feb 28;10:783762. doi: 10.3389/fcell.2022.783762. eCollection 2022.

ABSTRACT

The hereditary ataxias are a heterogenous group of disorders with an increasing number of causative genes being described. Due to the clinical and genetic heterogeneity seen in these conditions, the majority of such individuals endure a diagnostic odyssey or remain undiagnosed. Defining the molecular etiology can bring insights into the responsible molecular pathways and eventually the identification of therapeutic targets. Here, we describe the identification of biallelic variants in the GEMIN5 gene among seven unrelated families with nine affected individuals presenting with spastic ataxia and cerebellar atrophy. GEMIN5, an RNA-binding protein, has been shown to regulate transcription and translation machinery. GEMIN5 is a component of small nuclear ribonucleoprotein (snRNP) complexes and helps in the assembly of the spliceosome complexes. We found that biallelic GEMIN5 variants cause structural abnormalities in the encoded protein and reduce expression of snRNP complex proteins in patient cells compared with unaffected controls. Finally, knocking out endogenous Gemin5 in mice caused early embryonic lethality, suggesting that Gemin5 expression is crucial for normal development. Our work further expands on the phenotypic spectrum associated with GEMIN5-related disease and implicates the role of GEMIN5 among patients with spastic ataxia, cerebellar atrophy, and motor predominant developmental delay.

PMID:35295849 | PMC:PMC8918504 | DOI:10.3389/fcell.2022.783762

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