Honors & Awards
Postdoctoral Fellowship, Fundación Ramón Areces (10/01/2022)
Marlene Rabinovitch, Postdoctoral Faculty Sponsor
Current Research and Scholarly Interests
I have always been fascinated by the process of genetic penetrance, how two people can carry the same mutation but only one of them may be affected.
My main project focuses on understanding the role of TBX4 in the development of Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension (PAH). Mutations in this gene are related to very different diseases. In my research, I mix cellular models, gene editing, and high throughput assays to find the determinants of penetrance in the development of PAH under these conditions.
First Genotype-Phenotype Study in TBX4 Syndrome Gain-of-Function Mutations Causative for Lung Disease
AMERICAN JOURNAL OF RESPIRATORY AND CRITICAL CARE MEDICINE
2022; 206 (12): 1522-1533
Rationale: Despite the increased recognition of TBX4 (T-BOX transcription factor 4)-associated pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH), genotype-phenotype associations are lacking and may provide important insights. Objectives: To compile and functionally characterize all TBX4 variants reported to date and undertake a comprehensive genotype-phenotype analysis. Methods: We assembled a multicenter cohort of 137 patients harboring monoallelic TBX4 variants and assessed the pathogenicity of missense variation (n = 42) using a novel luciferase reporter assay containing T-BOX binding motifs. We sought genotype-phenotype correlations and undertook a comparative analysis with patients with PAH with BMPR2 (Bone Morphogenetic Protein Receptor type 2) causal variants (n = 162) or no identified variants in PAH-associated genes (n = 741) genotyped via the National Institute for Health Research BioResource-Rare Diseases. Measurements and Main Results: Functional assessment of TBX4 missense variants led to the novel finding of gain-of-function effects associated with older age at diagnosis of lung disease compared with loss-of-function effects (P = 0.038). Variants located in the T-BOX and nuclear localization domains were associated with earlier presentation (P = 0.005) and increased incidence of interstitial lung disease (P = 0.003). Event-free survival (death or transplantation) was shorter in the T-BOX group (P = 0.022), although age had a significant effect in the hazard model (P = 0.0461). Carriers of TBX4 variants were diagnosed at a younger age (P < 0.001) and had worse baseline lung function (FEV1, FVC) (P = 0.009) than the BMPR2 and no identified causal variant groups. Conclusions: We demonstrated that TBX4 syndrome is not strictly the result of haploinsufficiency but can also be caused by gain of function. The pleiotropic effects of TBX4 in lung disease may be in part explained by the differential effect of pathogenic mutations located in critical protein domains.
View details for DOI 10.1164/rccm.202203-0485OC
View details for Web of Science ID 000901056900014
View details for PubMedID 35852389
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC9757087
Common Variation in EDN1 Regulatory Regions Highlights the Role of PPAR gamma as a Key Regulator of Endothelin in vitro
FRONTIERS IN CARDIOVASCULAR MEDICINE
2022; 9: 823133
Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension (PAH) is a rare disease caused by the obliteration of the pulmonary arterioles, increasing pulmonary vascular resistance and eventually causing right heart failure. Endothelin-1 (EDN1) is a vasoconstrictor peptide whose levels are indicators of disease progression and its pathway is one of the most common targeted by current treatments. We sequenced the EDN1 untranslated regions of a small subset of patients with PAH, predicted the effect in silico, and used a luciferase assay with the different genotypes to analyze its influence on gene expression. Finally, we used siRNAs against the major transcription factors (TFs) predicted for these regions [peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor γ (PPARγ), Krüppel-Like Factor 4 (KLF4), and vitamin D receptor (VDR)] to assess EDN1 expression in cell culture and validate the binding sites. First, we detected a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) in the 5' untranslated region (UTR; rs397751713) and another in the 3'regulatory region (rs2859338) that altered luciferase activity in vitro depending on their genotype. We determined in silico that KLF4/PPARγ could bind to the rs397751713 and VDR to rs2859338. By using siRNAs and luciferase assays, we determined that PPARγ binds differentially to rs397751713. PPARγ and VDR Knock-Down (KD) increased the EDN1 mRNA levels and EDN1 production in porcine aortic endothelial cells (PAECs), while PPARγ and KLF4 KD increased the EDN1 production in HeLa. In conclusion, common variants in EDN1 regulatory regions could alter EDN1 levels. We were able to validate that PPARγ binds in rs397751713 and is a key regulator of EDN1. In addition, KLF4 and VDR regulate EDN1 production in a cell-dependent manner, but VDR does not bind directly to the regions we studied.
View details for DOI 10.3389/fcvm.2022.823133
View details for Web of Science ID 000772605900001
View details for PubMedID 35282351
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC8913939
Novel Genetic and Molecular Pathways in Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension Associated with Connective Tissue Disease
2021; 10 (6)
Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension (PAH) is a severe complication of Connective Tissue Disease (CTD), with remarkable morbidity and mortality. However, the molecular and genetic basis of CTD-PAH remains incompletely understood. This study aimed to screen for genetic defects in a cohort of patients with CTD-PAH, using a PAH-specific panel of 35 genes. During recruitment, 79 patients were studied, including 59 Systemic Sclerosis patients (SSc) and 69 females. Disease-associated variants were observed in nine patients: 4 pathogenic/likely pathogenic variants in 4 different genes (TBX4, ABCC8, KCNA5 and GDF2/BMP9) and 5 Variants of Unknown Significance (VUS) in 4 genes (ABCC8, NOTCH3, TOPBP1 and CTCFL). One patient with mixed CTD had a frameshift pathogenic variant in TBX4. Two patients with SSc-PAH carried variants in ABCC8. A patient diagnosed with Systemic Lupus Erythematous (SLE) presented a pathogenic nonsense variant in GDF2/BMP9. Another patient with SSc-PAH presented a pathogenic variant in KCNA5. Four patients with SSc-PAH carried a VUS in NOTCH1, CTCFL, CTCFL and TOPBP1, respectively. These findings suggest that genetic factors may contribute to Pulmonary Vascular Disease (PVD) in CTD patients.
View details for DOI 10.3390/cells10061488
View details for Web of Science ID 000665431800001
View details for PubMedID 34199176
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC8231632
ALMS1 Regulates TGF-beta Signaling and Morphology of Primary Cilia
FRONTIERS IN CELL AND DEVELOPMENTAL BIOLOGY
2021; 9: 623829
In this study, we aimed to evaluate the role of ALMS1 in the morphology of primary cilia and regulation of cellular signaling using a knockdown model of the hTERT-RPE1 cell line. ALMS1 depletion resulted in the formation of longer cilia, which often displayed altered morphology as evidenced by extensive twisting and bending of the axoneme. Transforming growth factor beta/bone morphogenetic protein (TGF-β/BMP) signaling, which is regulated by primary cilia, was similarly affected by ALMS1 depletion as judged by reduced levels of TGFβ-1-mediated activation of SMAD2/3. These results provide novel information on the role of ALMS1 in the function of primary cilia and processing of cellular signaling, which when aberrantly regulated may underlie Alström syndrome.
View details for DOI 10.3389/fcell.2021.623829
View details for Web of Science ID 000617891600001
View details for PubMedID 33598462
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC7882606
Customized Massive Parallel Sequencing Panel for Diagnosis of Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension
2020; 11 (10)
Pulmonary arterial hypertension is a very infrequent disease, with a variable etiology and clinical expressivity, making sometimes the clinical diagnosis a challenge. Current classification based on clinical features does not reflect the underlying molecular profiling of these groups. The advance in massive parallel sequencing in PAH has allowed for the describing of several new causative and susceptibility genes related to PAH, improving overall patient diagnosis. In order to address the molecular diagnosis of patients with PAH we designed, validated, and routinely applied a custom panel including 21 genes. Three hundred patients from the National Spanish PAH Registry (REHAP) were included in the analysis. A custom script was developed to annotate and filter the variants. Variant classification was performed according to the ACMG guidelines. Pathogenic and likely pathogenic variants have been found in 15% of the patients with 12% of variants of unknown significance (VUS). We have found variants in patients with connective tissue disease (CTD) and congenital heart disease (CHD). In addition, in a small proportion of patients (1.75%), we observed a possible digenic mode of inheritance. These results stand out the importance of the genetic testing of patients with associated forms of PAH (i.e., CHD and CTD) additionally to the classical IPAH and HPAH forms. Molecular confirmation of the clinical presumptive diagnosis is required in cases with a high clinical overlapping to carry out proper management and follow up of the individuals with the disease.
View details for DOI 10.3390/genes11101158
View details for Web of Science ID 000585373500001
View details for PubMedID 33007923
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC7650688
Characterization of rare ABCC8 variants identified in Spanish pulmonary arterial hypertension patients
2020; 10 (1): 15135
Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension (PAH) is a rare and fatal disease where knowledge about its genetic basis continues to increase. In this study, we used targeted panel sequencing in a cohort of 624 adult and pediatric patients from the Spanish PAH registry. We identified 11 rare variants in the ATP-binding Cassette subfamily C member 8 (ABCC8) gene, most of them with splicing alteration predictions. One patient also carried another variant in SMAD1 gene (c.27delinsGTAAAG). We performed an ABCC8 in vitro biochemical analyses using hybrid minigenes to confirm the correct mRNA processing of 3 missense variants (c.211C > T p.His71Tyr, c.298G > A p.Glu100Lys and c.1429G > A p.Val477Met) and the skipping of exon 27 in the novel splicing variant c.3394G > A. Finally, we used structural protein information to further assess the pathogenicity of the variants. The results showed 11 novel changes in ABCC8 and 1 in SMAD1 present in PAH patients. After in silico and in vitro biochemical analyses, we classified 2 as pathogenic (c.3288_3289del and c.3394G > A), 6 as likely pathogenic (c.211C > T, c.1429G > A, c.1643C > T, c.2422C > A, c.2694 + 1G > A, c.3976G > A and SMAD1 c.27delinsGTAAAG) and 3 as Variants of Uncertain Significance (c.298G > A, c.2176G > A and c.3238G > A). In all, we show that coupling in silico tools with in vitro biochemical studies can improve the classification of genetic variants.
View details for DOI 10.1038/s41598-020-72089-1
View details for Web of Science ID 000573754900011
View details for PubMedID 32934261
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC7492224
Clinical heterogeneity of Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension associated with variants in TBX4
2020; 15 (4): e0232216
The knowledge of hereditary predisposition has changed our understanding of Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension. Genetic testing has been widely extended and the application of Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension specific gene panels has allowed its inclusion in the diagnostic workup and increase the diagnostic ratio compared to the traditional sequencing techniques. This is particularly important in the differential diagnosis between Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension and Pulmonary Venoocclusive Disease.Since November 2011, genetic testing is offered to all patients with idiopathic, hereditable and associated forms of Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension or Pulmonary Venoocclusive Disease included in the Spanish Registry of Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension. Herein, we present the clinical phenotype and prognosis of all Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension patients with disease-associated variants in TBX4.Out of 579 adults and 45 children, we found in eight patients from seven families, disease-causing associated variants in TBX4. All adult patients had a moderate-severe reduction in diffusion capacity. However, we observed a wide spectrum of clinical presentations, including Pulmonary Venoocclusive Disease suspicion, interstitial lung disease, pulmonary vascular abnormalities and congenital heart disease.Genetic testing is now essential for a correct diagnosis work-up in Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension. TBX4-associated Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension has marked clinical heterogeneity. In this regard, a genetic study is extremely useful to obtain an accurate diagnosis and provide appropriate management.
View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0232216
View details for Web of Science ID 000536668200046
View details for PubMedID 32348326
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC7190146
Functional assessment of the BMPR2 gene in lymphoblastoid cell lines from Graves' disease patients
JOURNAL OF CELLULAR AND MOLECULAR MEDICINE
2018; 22 (3): 1538-1547
In this study, we analysed the possible influence of the c.419-43delT BMPR2 variant in patients with Graves' disease (GD), in a molecular basis, focusing our efforts on possible alterations in the mRNA processing and synthesis. The molecular assessment of this variant in patients with GD would shed light on the association between the BMPR2 gene and the disease. The variant was detected in 18%, 55% and 10% of patients with pulmonary arterial hypertension, GD and in general population, respectively. Patients with GD fold change showed increased BMPR2 expression when matched against the controls, with a mean of 4.21 ± 1.73 (P = 0.001); BMPR2 was overexpressed in the analysed cell cycle stages. Fold change analysis of variant carriers and non-carriers showed slight overexpression and differences between phases, but none of them were statistically significant. BMPR2 expression was confirmed in the lymphoblastoid cell lines (LCLs) with a molecular weight of 115 kD, and no differences between variant carriers and non-carriers were detected. To conclude, the BMPR2 variant c.419-19delT appears in high frequency in patients with GD, and independently of its presence, BMPR2 is overexpressed in the LCLs from the GD patients tested. This increase could be paired with the described decreased expression of transforming growth factor-β1 in thyroid tissue from patients with GD.
View details for DOI 10.1111/jcmm.13425
View details for Web of Science ID 000426069300015
View details for PubMedID 29266775
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5824380