Doctor of Philosophy, University of Cambridge (2012)
Diplom, Universitat Erlangen Nurnberg (2007)
Alexander Urban, Postdoctoral Faculty Sponsor
Using iPSCs and genomics to catch CNVs in the act.
2015; 47 (2): 100-101
Large copy number variants (CNVs) are strongly associated with morphogenetic processes and common neurodevelopmental disorders. A new study uses the example of Williams-Beuren syndrome (WBS) and Williams-Beuren region duplication syndrome to illustrate how induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) and next-generation genomics can lead to a better understanding of complex genetics.
View details for DOI 10.1038/ng.3204
View details for PubMedID 25627897
Large, rare chromosomal deletions associated with severe early-onset obesity
2010; 463 (7281): 666-670
Obesity is a highly heritable and genetically heterogeneous disorder. Here we investigated the contribution of copy number variation to obesity in 300 Caucasian patients with severe early-onset obesity, 143 of whom also had developmental delay. Large (>500 kilobases), rare (<1%) deletions were significantly enriched in patients compared to 7,366 controls (P < 0.001). We identified several rare copy number variants that were recurrent in patients but absent or at much lower prevalence in controls. We identified five patients with overlapping deletions on chromosome 16p11.2 that were found in 2 out of 7,366 controls (P < 5 x 10(-5)). In three patients the deletion co-segregated with severe obesity. Two patients harboured a larger de novo 16p11.2 deletion, extending through a 593-kilobase region previously associated with autism and mental retardation; both of these patients had mild developmental delay in addition to severe obesity. In an independent sample of 1,062 patients with severe obesity alone, the smaller 16p11.2 deletion was found in an additional two patients. All 16p11.2 deletions encompass several genes but include SH2B1, which is known to be involved in leptin and insulin signalling. Deletion carriers exhibited hyperphagia and severe insulin resistance disproportionate for the degree of obesity. We show that copy number variation contributes significantly to the genetic architecture of human obesity.
View details for DOI 10.1038/nature08689
View details for Web of Science ID 000274193900037
View details for PubMedID 19966786
A deletion of the HBII-85 class of small nucleolar RNAs (snoRNAs) is associated with hyperphagia, obesity and hypogonadism
HUMAN MOLECULAR GENETICS
2009; 18 (17): 3257-3265
Genetic studies in patients with severe early-onset obesity have provided insights into the molecular and physiological pathways that regulate body weight in humans. We report a 19-year-old male with hyperphagia and severe obesity, mild learning difficulties and hypogonadism, in whom diagnostic tests for Prader-Willi syndrome (PWS) had been negative. We carried out detailed clinical and metabolic phenotyping of this patient and investigated the genetic basis of this obesity syndrome using Agilent 185 k array comparative genomic hybridization (aCGH) and Affymetrix 6.0 genotyping arrays. The identified deletion was validated using multiplex ligation-dependent probe amplification and long-range PCR, followed by breakpoint sequencing which enabled precise localization of the deletion. We identified a approximately 187 kb microdeletion at chromosome 15q11-13 that encompasses non-coding small nucleolar RNAs (including HBII-85 snoRNAs) which were not expressed in peripheral lymphocytes from the patient. Characterization of the clinical phenotype revealed increased ad libitum food intake, normal basal metabolic rate when adjusted for fat-free mass, partial hypogonadotropic hypogonadism and growth failure. We have identified a novel deletion on chromosome 15q11-13 in an individual with hyperphagia, obesity, hypogonadism and other features associated with PWS, which is normally caused by deficiency of several paternally expressed imprinted transcripts within chromosome 15q11-13, a region that includes multiple protein-coding genes as well as several non-coding snoRNAs. These findings provide direct evidence for the role of a particular family of non-coding RNAs, the HBII-85 snoRNA cluster, in human energy homeostasis, growth and reproduction.
View details for DOI 10.1093/hmg/ddp263
View details for Web of Science ID 000268807300010
View details for PubMedID 19498035
Six new loci associated with body mass index highlight a neuronal influence on body weight regulation
2009; 41 (1): 25-34
Common variants at only two loci, FTO and MC4R, have been reproducibly associated with body mass index (BMI) in humans. To identify additional loci, we conducted meta-analysis of 15 genome-wide association studies for BMI (n > 32,000) and followed up top signals in 14 additional cohorts (n > 59,000). We strongly confirm FTO and MC4R and identify six additional loci (P < 5 x 10(-8)): TMEM18, KCTD15, GNPDA2, SH2B1, MTCH2 and NEGR1 (where a 45-kb deletion polymorphism is a candidate causal variant). Several of the likely causal genes are highly expressed or known to act in the central nervous system (CNS), emphasizing, as in rare monogenic forms of obesity, the role of the CNS in predisposition to obesity.
View details for DOI 10.1038/ng.287
View details for Web of Science ID 000262085300013
View details for PubMedID 19079261
DLX5 and DLX6 expression is biallelic and not modulated by MeCP2 deficiency
AMERICAN JOURNAL OF HUMAN GENETICS
2007; 81 (3): 492-506
Mutations in MECP2 and Mecp2 (encoding methyl-CpG binding protein 2 [MeCP2]) cause distinct neurological phenotypes in humans and mice, respectively, but the molecular pathology is unclear. Recent literature claimed that the developmental homeobox gene DLX5 is imprinted and that its imprinting status is modulated by MeCP2, leading to biallelic expression in Rett syndrome and twofold overexpression of Dlx5 and Dlx6 in Mecp2-null mice. The conclusion that DLX5 is a direct target of MeCP2 has implications for research on the molecular bases of Rett syndrome, autism, and genomic imprinting. Attempting to replicate the reported data, we evaluated allele-specific expression of DLX5 and DLX6 in mouse x human somatic cell hybrids, lymphoblastoid cell lines, and frontal cortex from controls and individuals with MECP2 mutations. We identified novel single-nucleotide polymorphisms in DLX5 and DLX6, enabling the first imprinting studies of DLX6. We found that DLX5 and DLX6 are biallelically expressed in somatic cell hybrids and in human cell lines and brain, with no differences between affected and control samples. We also determined expression levels of Dlx5 and Dlx6 in forebrain from seven male Mecp2-mutant mice and eight wild-type littermates by real-time quantitative reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction assays. Expression of Dlx5 and Dlx6, as well as of the imprinted gene Peg3, in mouse forebrain was highly variable, with no consistent differences between Mecp2-null mutants and controls. We conclude that DLX5 and DLX6 are not imprinted in humans and are not likely to be direct targets of MeCP2 modulation. In contrast, the imprinting status of PEG3 and PEG10 is maintained in MeCP2-deficient tissues. Our results confirm that MeCP2 plays no role in the maintenance of genomic imprinting and add PEG3 and PEG10 to the list of studied imprinted genes.
View details for DOI 10.1086/520063
View details for Web of Science ID 000249128200006
View details for PubMedID 17701895