Monday, August 15, 2022

Fly study sheds light on function of MEGF8, which is associated with Carpenter Syndrome

J Neurosci. 2022 Aug 9:JN-RM-0442-22. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0442-22.2022.

Drosophila Homolog of the Human Carpenter Syndrome Linked Gene, MEGF8, is Required for Synapse Development and Function

Chen S, Venkatesan A, Lin YQ, Xie J, Neely G, Banerjee S, Bhat MA

Abstract: Drosophila Multiple Epidermal Growth Factor-like Domains 8 (dMegf8) is a homolog of human MEGF8. MEGF8 encodes a multi-domain transmembrane protein which is highly conserved across species. In humans, MEGF8 mutations cause a rare genetic disorder called Carpenter syndrome, which is frequently associated with abnormal left-right patterning, cardiac defects and learning disabilities. MEGF8 is also associated with psychiatric disorders. Despite its clinical relevance MEGF8 remains poorly characterized, and though it is highly conserved, studies on animal models of Megf8 are also very limited. The presence of intellectual disabilities in Carpenter syndrome patients and association of MEGF8 with psychiatric disorders indicate that mutations in MEGF8 cause underlying defects in synaptic structure and functions. In this study, we investigated the role of Drosophila dMegf8 in glutamatergic synapses of the larval neuromuscular junctions (NMJ) in both males and females. We show that dMegf8 localizes to NMJ synapses and is required for proper synaptic growth. dMegf8 mutant larvae and adults show severe motor coordination deficits. At the NMJ, dMegf8 mutants show altered localization of pre- and post-synaptic proteins, defects in synaptic ultrastructure and neurotransmission. Interestingly, dMegf8 mutants have reduced levels of the type II BMP receptor Wishful thinking (Wit). dMegf8 displays genetic interactions with neurexin-1 (dnrx) and wit, and in association with Dnrx and Wit plays an essential role in synapse organization. Our studies provide insights into human MEGF8 functions and potentially into mechanisms that may underlie intellectual disabilities observed in Carpenter syndrome as well as MEGF8-related synaptic structural and/or functional deficits in psychiatric disorders.

Significance Statement: Carpenter Syndrome, known for over a century now, is a genetic disorder linked to mutations in Multiple Epidermal Growth Factor-like Domains 8 (MEGF8) gene and associated with intellectual disabilities among other symptoms. MEGF8 is also associated with psychiatric disorders. Despite the high genetic conservation and clinical relevance, the functions of MEGF8 remain largely uncharacterized. Patients with intellectual disabilities and psychiatric diseases often have an underlying defect in synaptic structure and function. This work defines the role of the fly homolog of human MEGF8, dMegf8, in glutamatergic synapse growth, organization and function and provide insights into potential functions of MEGF8 in human central synapses and synaptic mechanisms that may underlie psychiatric disorders and intellectual disabilities seen in Carpenter Syndrome.

Copyright © 2022 the authors.

DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0442-22.2022
PMID: 35944997

Thursday, April 14, 2022

Two new studies exemplify utility of Drosophila for human genetic disease-related studies


Am J Hum Genet. 2022 Apr 7;109(4):571-586. doi: 10.1016/j.ajhg.2022.01.020. Epub
2022 Mar 2.

Loss-of-function variants in TIAM1 are associated with developmental delay,
intellectual disability, and seizures.

Lu et al.

TIAM Rac1-associated GEF 1 (TIAM1) regulates RAC1 signaling pathways that affect the control of neuronal morphogenesis and neurite outgrowth by modulating the actin cytoskeletal network. To date, TIAM1 has not been associated with a Mendelian disorder. Here, we describe five individuals with bi-allelic TIAM1 missense variants who have developmental delay, intellectual disability, speech delay, and seizures. Bioinformatic analyses demonstrate that these variants are rare and likely pathogenic. We found that the Drosophila ortholog of TIAM1, still life (sif), is expressed in larval and adult central nervous system (CNS) and is mainly expressed in a subset of neurons, but not in glia. Loss of sif reduces the survival rate, and the surviving adults exhibit climbing defects,are prone to severe seizures, and have a short lifespan. The TIAM1 reference (Ref) cDNA partially rescues the sif loss-of-function (LoF) phenotypes. We also assessed the function associated with three TIAM1 variants carried by two of the probands and compared them to the TIAM1 Ref cDNA function in vivo. TIAM1 p.Arg23Cys has reduced rescue ability when compared to TIAM1 Ref, suggesting that it is a partial LoF variant. In ectopic expression studies, both wild-type sif and TIAM1 Ref are toxic, whereas the three variants (p.Leu862Phe, p.Arg23Cys, and p.Gly328Val) show reduced toxicity, suggesting that they are partial LoF variants. In summary, we provide evidence that sif is important for appropriate neural function and that TIAM1 variants observed in the probands are disruptive, thus implicating loss of TIAM1 in neurological phenotypes in humans.

Copyright © 2022 American Society of Human Genetics. Published by Elsevier Inc.
All rights reserved.

DOI: 10.1016/j.ajhg.2022.01.020
PMID: 35240055 

Conflict of interest statement: Declaration of interests M.J.G.S. is a salaried employee of GeneDx Inc.


Am J Hum Genet. 2022 Apr 7;109(4):601-617. doi: 10.1016/j.ajhg.2022.03.002.

Germline variants in tumor suppressor FBXW7 lead to impaired ubiquitination and
a neurodevelopmental syndrome.

Stephenson et al.

Neurodevelopmental disorders are highly heterogenous conditions resulting from abnormalities of brain architecture and/or function. FBXW7 (F-box and WD-repeat-domain-containing 7), a recognized developmental regulator and tumor suppressor, has been shown to regulate cell-cycle progression and cell growth and survival by targeting substrates including CYCLIN E1/2 and NOTCH for degradation via the ubiquitin proteasome system. We used a genotype-first approach and global data-sharing platforms to identify 35 individuals harboring de novo and inherited FBXW7 germline monoallelic chromosomal deletions and nonsense, frameshift, splice-site, and missense variants associated with a neurodevelopmental syndrome. The FBXW7 neurodevelopmental syndrome is distinguished by global developmental delay, borderline to severe intellectual disability, hypotonia, and gastrointestinal issues. Brain imaging detailed variable underlying structural abnormalities affecting the cerebellum, corpus collosum, and white matter. A crystal-structure model of FBXW7 predicted that missense variants were clustered at the substrate-binding surface of the WD40 domain and that these might reduce FBXW7 substrate binding affinity. Expression of recombinant FBXW7 missense variants in cultured cells demonstrated impaired CYCLIN E1 and CYCLIN E2 turnover. Pan-neuronal knockdown of the Drosophila ortholog, archipelago, impaired learning and neuronal function. Collectively, the data presented herein provide compelling evidence of an F-Box protein-related, phenotypically variable neurodevelopmental disorder associated with monoallelic variants in FBXW7.

Copyright © 2022 American Society of Human Genetics. Published by Elsevier Inc.
All rights reserved.

DOI: 10.1016/j.ajhg.2022.03.002
PMID: 35395208

Conflict of interest statement: Declaration of interests I.E.S. has served on scientific advisory boards for UCB, Eisai, GlaxoSmithKline, BioMarin, Nutricia, Rogcon, Chiesi, Encoded Therapeutics, Xenon Pharmaceuticals, and Knopp Biosciences; has received speaker honoraria from GlaxoSmithKline, UCB, BioMarin, Biocodex, and Eisai; has received funding for travel from UCB, Biocodex, GlaxoSmithKline, Biomarin and Eisai; has served as an investigator for Zogenix, Zynerba, Ultragenyx, GW Pharma, UCB, Eisai, Anavex Life Sciences, Ovid Therapeutics, Epygenyx, Encoded Therapeutics and Marinus; and has consulted for Zynerba Pharmaceuticals, Atheneum Partners, Ovid Therapeutics, Care Beyond Diagnosis, Epilepsy Consortium and UCB. She may accrue future revenue on pending patent WO2009/086591; her patent for SCN1A testing is held by Bionomics and is licensed to various diagnostic companies; and she has a patent for a molecular diagnostic/therapeutic target for benign familial infantile epilepsy (BFIE) (PRRT2), WO/2013/059884. She receives and/or has received research support from the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia, Medical Research Future Fund, Health Research Council of New Zealand, CURE, Australian Epilepsy Research Fund, and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke of the National Institutes of Health. J.P. is co-chief scientific officer for Global Gene Corp. All other authors declare no competing interests.

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Review: "Comprehensive survey" of model organism-based research on rare neurological diseases

Exp Neurobiol. 2022 Feb 28;31(1):1-16. doi: 10.5607/en22003.

Invertebrate Model Organisms as a Platform to Investigate Rare Human Neurological Diseases.

Lee JH


 Patients suffering from rare human diseases often go through a painful journey for finding a definite molecular diagnosis prerequisite of appropriate cures. With a novel variant isolated from a single patient, determination of its pathogenicity to end such "diagnostic odyssey" requires multi-step processes involving experts in diverse areas of interest, including clinicians, bioinformaticians and research scientists. Recent efforts in building large-scale genomic databases and in silico prediction platforms have facilitated identification of potentially pathogenic variants causative of rare human diseases of a Mendelian basis. However, the functional significance of individual variants remains elusive in many cases, thus requiring incorporation of versatile and rapid model organism (MO)-based platforms for functional analyses. In this review, the current scope of rare disease research is briefly discussed. In addition, an overview of invertebrate MOs for their key features relevant to rare neurological diseases is provided, with the characteristics of two representative invertebrate MOs, Drosophila melanogaster and Caenorhabditis elegans, as well as the challenges against them. Finally, recently developed research networks integrating these MOs in collaborative research are portraited with an array of bioinformatical analyses embedded. A comprehensive survey of MO-based research activities provided in this review will help us to design a well structured analysis of candidate genes or potentially pathogenic variants
for their roles in rare neurological diseases in future.

DOI: 10.5607/en22003
PMID: 35256540

Friday, October 29, 2021

Fly genetic study related to fatal infantile cardioencephalomyopathy, Leigh syndrome, and Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease,

Sci Rep. 2021 Oct 27;11(1):21207. doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-00663-2.

The function of Scox in glial cells is essential for locomotive ability in Drosophila.

Kowada R, Kodani A, Ida H, Yamaguchi M, Lee IS, Okada Y, Yoshida H


Synthesis of cytochrome c oxidase (Scox) is a Drosophila homolog of human SCO2 encoding a metallochaperone that transports copper to cytochrome c, and is an essential protein for the assembly of cytochrome c oxidase in the mitochondrial respiratory chain complex. SCO2 is highly conserved in a wide variety of species across prokaryotes and eukaryotes, and mutations in SCO2 are known to cause mitochondrial diseases such as fatal infantile cardioencephalomyopathy, Leigh syndrome, and Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, a neurodegenerative disorder. These diseases have a common symptom of locomotive dysfunction. However, the mechanisms of their pathogenesis remain unknown, and no fundamental medications or therapies have been established for these diseases. In this study, we demonstrated that the glial cell-specific knockdown of Scox perturbs the mitochondrial morphology and function, and locomotive behavior in Drosophila. In addition, the morphology and function of synapses were impaired in the glial cell-specific Scox knockdown. Furthermore, Scox knockdown in ensheathing glia, one type of glial cell in Drosophila, resulted in larval and adult locomotive dysfunction. This study suggests that the impairment of Scox in glial cells in the Drosophila CNS mimics the pathological phenotypes observed by mutations in the SCO2 gene in humans.

DOI: 10.1038/s41598-021-00663-2
PMID: 34707123

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Review: Info from hypoxia-tolerant species such as Drosophila could inform understanding of stroke

Int J Mol Sci. 2021 Oct 15;22(20):11131. doi: 10.3390/ijms222011131.

Hypoxia Tolerant Species: The Wisdom of Nature Translated into Targets for Stroke Therapy.

Del Río C, Montaner J

Abstract: Human neurons rapidly die after ischemia and current therapies for stroke management are limited to restoration of blood flow to prevent further brain damage. Thrombolytics and mechanical thrombectomy are the available reperfusion treatments, but most of the patients remain untreated. Neuroprotective therapies focused on treating the pathogenic cascade of the disease have widely failed. However, many animal species demonstrate that neurons can survive the lack of oxygen for extended periods of time. Here, we reviewed the physiological and molecular pathways inherent to tolerant species that have been described to contribute to hypoxia tolerance. Among them, Foxo3 and Eif5A were reported to mediate anoxic survival in Drosophila and Caenorhabditis elegans, respectively, and those results were confirmed in experimental models of stroke. In humans however, the multiple mechanisms involved in brain cell death after a stroke causes translation difficulties to arise making necessary a timely and coordinated control of the pathological changes. We propose here that, if we were able to plagiarize such natural hypoxia tolerance through drugs combined in a pharmacological cocktail it would open new therapeutic opportunities for stroke and likely, for other hypoxic conditions.

DOI: 10.3390/ijms222011131
PMCID: PMC8537001
PMID: 34681788

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Drosophila assays of movement and mitochondria included in study of an autosomal dominant spastic paraplegia and dystonia

Mov Disord. 2021 Oct 11. doi: 10.1002/mds.28821

A Novel Variant of ATP5MC3 Associated with Both Dystonia and Spastic Paraplegia

Neilson DE, Zech M, Hufnagel RB, Slone J, Wang X, Homan S, Gutzwiller LM, Leslie EJ, Leslie ND, Xiao J, Hedera P, LeDoux MS, Gebelein B, Wilbert F, Eckenweiler M, Winkelmann J, Gilbert DL, Huang T


BACKGROUND: In a large pedigree with an unusual phenotype of spastic paraplegia or dystonia and autosomal dominant inheritance, linkage analysis previously mapped the disease to chromosome 2q24-2q31.

OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study is to identify the genetic cause and molecular basis of an unusual autosomal dominant spastic paraplegia and dystonia.

METHODS: Whole exome sequencing following linkage analysis was used to identify the genetic cause in a large family. Cosegregation analysis was also performed. An additional 384 individuals with spastic paraplegia or dystonia were screened for pathogenic sequence variants in the adenosine triphosphate (ATP) synthase membrane subunit C locus 3 gene (ATP5MC3). The identified variant was submitted to the "GeneMatcher" program for recruitment of additional subjects. Mitochondrial functions were analyzed in patient-derived fibroblast cell lines. Transgenic Drosophila carrying mutants were studied for movement behavior and mitochondrial function.

RESULTS: Exome analysis revealed a variant (c.318C > G; p.Asn106Lys) (NM_001689.4) in ATP5MC3 in a large family with autosomal dominant spastic paraplegia and dystonia that cosegregated with affected individuals. No variants were identified in an additional 384 individuals with spastic paraplegia or dystonia. GeneMatcher identified an individual with the same genetic change, acquired de novo, who manifested upper-limb dystonia. Patient fibroblast studies showed impaired complex V activity, ATP generation, and oxygen consumption. Drosophila carrying orthologous mutations also exhibited impaired mitochondrial function and displayed reduced mobility.

CONCLUSION: A unique form of familial spastic paraplegia and dystonia is associated with a heterozygous ATP5MC3 variant that also reduces mitochondrial complex V activity.

DOI: 10.1002/mds.28821
PMID: 34636445

Tumors sap nutrients from surrounding cells -- Drosophila study related to cancer

Dev Biol. 2021 Aug;476:294-307. doi: 10.1016/j.ydbio.2021.04.008

Autophagy induction in tumor surrounding cells promotes tumor growth in adult Drosophila intestines

Zhao H, Shi L, Kong R, Li Z, Liu F, Zhao H, Li Z


During tumorigenesis, tumor cells interact intimately with their surrounding cells (microenvironment) for their growth and progression. However, the roles of tumor microenvironment in tumor development and progression are not fully understood. Here, using an established benign tumor model in adult Drosophila intestines, we find that non-cell autonomous autophagy (NAA) is induced in tumor surrounding neighbor cells. Tumor growth can be significantly suppressed by genetic ablation of autophagy induction in tumor neighboring cells, indicating that tumor neighboring cells act as tumor microenvironment to promote tumor growth. Autophagy in tumor neighboring cells is induced downstream of elevated ROS and activated JNK signaling in tumor cells. Interestingly, we find that active transport of nutrients, such as amino acids, from tumor neighboring cells sustains tumor growth, and increasing nutrient availability could significantly restore tumor growth. Together, these data demonstrate that tumor cells take advantage of their surrounding normal neighbor cells as nutrient sources through NAA to meet their high metabolic demand for growth and progression. Thus we provide insights into our understanding of the mechanisms underlying the interaction between tumor cells and their microenvironment in tumor development.

DOI: 10.1016/j.ydbio.2021.04.008
PMID: 33940033