Bachelor of Science, University Of London (2009)
Master of Science, University Of London (2010)
Doctor of Philosophy, University College London (2018)
Casey Gifford, Postdoctoral Faculty Sponsor
Mutations in MINAR2 encoding membrane integral NOTCH2-associated receptor 2 cause deafness in humans and mice.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
2022; 119 (26): e2204084119
Discovery of deafness genes and elucidating their functions have substantially contributed to our understanding of hearing physiology and its pathologies. Here we report on DNA variants in MINAR2, encoding membrane integral NOTCH2-associated receptor 2, in four families underlying autosomal recessive nonsyndromic deafness. Neurologic evaluation of affected individuals at ages ranging from 4 to 80 y old does not show additional abnormalities. MINAR2 is a recently annotated gene with limited functional understanding. We detected three MINAR2 variants, c.144G > A (p.Trp48*), c.412_419delCGGTTTTG (p.Arg138Valfs*10), and c.393G > T, in 13 individuals with congenital- or prelingual-onset severe-to-profound sensorineural hearing loss (HL). The c.393G > T variant is shown to disrupt a splice donor site. We show that Minar2 is expressed in the mouse inner ear, with the protein localizing mainly in the hair cells, spiral ganglia, the spiral limbus, and the stria vascularis. Mice with loss of function of the Minar2 protein (Minar2tm1b/tm1b) present with rapidly progressive sensorineural HL associated with a reduction in outer hair cell stereocilia in the shortest row and degeneration of hair cells at a later age. We conclude that MINAR2 is essential for hearing in humans and mice and its disruption leads to sensorineural HL. Progressive HL observed in mice and in some affected individuals and as well as relative preservation of hair cells provides an opportunity to interfere with HL using genetic therapies.
View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.2204084119
View details for PubMedID 35727972
Serine biosynthesis as a novel therapeutic target for dilated cardiomyopathy.
European heart journal
AIMS: Genetic dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) is a leading cause of heart failure. Despite significant progress in understanding the genetic aetiologies of DCM, the molecular mechanisms underlying the pathogenesis of familial DCM remain unknown, translating to a lack of disease-specific therapies. The discovery of novel targets for the treatment of DCM was sought using phenotypic sceening assays in induced pluripotent stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes (iPSC-CMs) that recapitulate the disease phenotypes in vitro.METHODS AND RESULTS: Using patient-specific iPSCs carrying a pathogenic TNNT2 gene mutation (p.R183W) and CRISPR-based genome editing, a faithful DCM model in vitro was developed. An unbiased phenotypic screening in TNNT2 mutant iPSC-derived cardiomyocytes (iPSC-CMs) with small molecule kinase inhibitors (SMKIs) was performed to identify novel therapeutic targets. Two SMKIs, Go 6976 and SB 203580, were discovered whose combinatorial treatment rescued contractile dysfunction in DCM iPSC-CMs carrying gene mutations of various ontologies (TNNT2, TTN, LMNA, PLN, TPM1, LAMA2). The combinatorial SMKI treatment upregulated the expression of genes that encode serine, glycine, and one-carbon metabolism enzymes and significantly increased the intracellular levels of glucose-derived serine and glycine in DCM iPSC-CMs. Furthermore, the treatment rescued the mitochondrial respiration defects and increased the levels of the tricarboxylic acid cycle metabolites and ATP in DCM iPSC-CMs. Finally, the rescue of the DCM phenotypes was mediated by the activating transcription factor 4 (ATF4) and its downstream effector genes, phosphoglycerate dehydrogenase (PHGDH), which encodes a critical enzyme of the serine biosynthesis pathway, and Tribbles 3 (TRIB3), a pseudokinase with pleiotropic cellular functions.CONCLUSIONS: A phenotypic screening platform using DCM iPSC-CMs was established for therapeutic target discovery. A combination of SMKIs ameliorated contractile and metabolic dysfunction in DCM iPSC-CMs mediated via the ATF4-dependent serine biosynthesis pathway. Together, these findings suggest that modulation of serine biosynthesis signalling may represent a novel genotype-agnostic therapeutic strategy for genetic DCM.
View details for DOI 10.1093/eurheartj/ehac305
View details for PubMedID 35728000
SARS-CoV-2 Susceptibility and ACE2 Gene Variations Within Diverse Ethnic Backgrounds.
Frontiers in genetics
2022; 13: 888025
There is considerable variability in the susceptibility and progression for COVID-19 and it appears to be strongly correlated with age, gender, ethnicity and pre-existing health conditions. However, to our knowledge, cohort studies of COVID-19 in clinically vulnerable groups are lacking. Host genetics has also emerged as a major risk factor for COVID-19, and variation in the ACE2 receptor, which facilitates entry of the SARS-CoV-2 virus into the cell, has become a major focus of attention. Thus, we interrogated an ethnically diverse cohort of National Health Service (NHS) patients in the United Kingdom (United Kingdom) to assess the association between variants in the ACE2 locus and COVID-19 risk. We analysed whole-genome sequencing (WGS) data of 1,837 cases who were tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, and 37,207 controls who were not tested, from the UK's 100,000 Genomes Project (100KGP) for the presence of ACE2 coding variants and extract expression quantitative trait loci (eQTLs). We identified a splice site variant (rs2285666) associated with increased ACE2 expression with an overrepresentation in SARS-CoV-2 positive patients relative to 100KGP controls (p = 0.015), and in hospitalised European patients relative to outpatients in intra-ethnic comparisons (p = 0.029). We also compared the prevalence of 288 eQTLs, of which 23 were enriched in SARS-CoV-2 positive patients. The eQTL rs12006793 had the largest effect size (d = 0.91), which decreases ACE2 expression and is more prevalent in controls, thus potentially reducing the risk of COVID-19. We identified three novel nonsynonymous variants predicted to alter ACE2 function, and showed that three variants (p.K26R, p. H378R, p. Y515N) alter receptor affinity for the viral Spike (S) protein. Variant p. N720D, more prevalent in the European population (p < 0.001), potentially increases viral entry by affecting the ACE2-TMPRSS2 complex. The spectrum of genetic variants in ACE2 may inform risk stratification of COVID-19 patients and could partially explain the differences in disease susceptibility and severity among different ethnic groups.
View details for DOI 10.3389/fgene.2022.888025
View details for PubMedID 35571054
Mapping the human genetic architecture of COVID-19.
The genetic makeup of an individual contributes to susceptibility and response to viral infection. While environmental, clinical and social factors play a role in exposure to SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 disease severity1,2, host genetics may also be important. Identifying host-specific genetic factors may reveal biological mechanisms of therapeutic relevance and clarify causal relationships of modifiable environmental risk factors for SARS-CoV-2 infection and outcomes. We formed a global network of researchers to investigate the role of human genetics in SARS-CoV-2 infection and COVID-19 severity. We describe the results of three genome-wide association meta-analyses comprised of up to 49,562 COVID-19 patients from 46 studies across 19 countries. We reported 13 genome-wide significant loci that are associated with SARS-CoV-2 infection or severe manifestations of COVID-19. Several of these loci correspond to previously documented associations to lung or autoimmune and inflammatory diseases3-7. They also represent potentially actionable mechanisms in response to infection. Mendelian Randomization analyses support a causal role for smoking and body mass index for severe COVID-19 although not for type II diabetes. The identification of novel host genetic factors associated with COVID-19, with unprecedented speed, was made possible by the community of human genetic researchers coming together to prioritize sharing of data, results, resources and analytical frameworks. This working model of international collaboration underscores what is possible for future genetic discoveries in emerging pandemics, or indeed for any complex human disease.
View details for DOI 10.1038/s41586-021-03767-x
View details for PubMedID 34237774
The Unfolded Protein Response as a Compensatory Mechanism and Potential Therapeutic Target in PLN R14del Cardiomyopathy.
Background: Phospholamban (PLN) is a critical regulator of calcium cycling and contractility in the heart. The loss of arginine at position 14 in PLN (R14del) is associated with dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) with a high prevalence of ventricular arrhythmias. How the R14 deletion causes DCM is poorly understood and there are no disease-specific therapies. Methods: We used single-cell RNA sequencing to uncover PLN R14del disease-mechanisms in human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSC-CMs). We utilized both 2D and 3D functional contractility assays to evaluate the impact of modulating disease relevant pathways in PLN R14del hiPSC-CMs. Results: Modeling of the PLN R14del cardiomyopathy with isogenic pairs of hiPSC-CMs recapitulated the contractile deficit associated with the disease in vitro. Single-cell RNA sequencing revealed the induction of the unfolded protein response pathway (UPR) in PLN R14del compared to isogenic control hiPSC-CMs. The activation of UPR was also evident in the hearts from PLN R14del patients. Silencing of each of the three main UPR signaling branches (IRE1, ATF6, or PERK) by siRNA exacerbated the contractile dysfunction of PLN R14del hiPSC-CMs. We explored the therapeutic potential of activating the UPR with a small molecule activator, BiP protein Inducer X (BiX). PLN R14del hiPSC-CMs treated with BiX showed a dose-dependent amelioration of the contractility deficit of in both 2D cultures and 3D engineered heart tissues without affecting calcium homeostasis. Conclusions: Together, these findings suggest that the UPR exerts a protective effect in the setting of PLN R14del cardiomyopathy and that modulation of the UPR might be exploited therapeutically.
View details for DOI 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.120.049844
View details for PubMedID 33928785
Small-molecule probe reveals a kinase cascade that links stress signaling to TCF/LEF and Wnt responsiveness.
Cell chemical biology
Wnt signaling plays a central role in tissue maintenance and cancer. Wnt activates downstream genes through β-catenin, which interacts with TCF/LEF transcription factors. A major question is how this signaling is coordinated relative to tissue organization and renewal. We used a recently described class of small molecules that binds tubulin to reveal a molecular cascade linking stress signaling through ATM, HIPK2, and p53 to the regulation of TCF/LEF transcriptional activity. These data suggest a mechanism by which mitotic and genotoxic stress can indirectly modulate Wnt responsiveness to exert coherent control over cell shape and renewal. These findings have implications for understanding tissue morphogenesis and small-molecule anticancer therapeutics.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.chembiol.2021.01.001
View details for PubMedID 33503403
- Activation of CaMKII Signaling Pathway Contributes to the Pathogenesis of Genetic Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy LIPPINCOTT WILLIAMS & WILKINS. 2020
- The COVID-19 Host Genetics Initiative, a global initiative to elucidate the role of host genetic factors in susceptibility and severity of the SARS-CoV-2 virus pandemic EUROPEAN JOURNAL OF HUMAN GENETICS 2020; 28 (6): 715-718
De novo single-nucleotide and copy number variation in discordant monozygotic twins reveals disease-related genes
EUROPEAN JOURNAL OF HUMAN GENETICS
2019; 27 (7): 1121-1133
Recent studies have demonstrated genetic differences between monozygotic (MZ) twins. To test the hypothesis that early post-twinning mutational events associate with phenotypic discordance, we investigated a cohort of 13 twin pairs (n = 26) discordant for various clinical phenotypes using whole-exome sequencing and screened for copy number variation (CNV). We identified a de novo variant in PLCB1, a gene involved in the hydrolysis of lipid phosphorus in milk from dairy cows, associated with lactase non-persistence, and a variant in the mitochondrial complex I gene MT-ND5 associated with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). We also found somatic variants in multiple genes (TMEM225B, KBTBD3, TUBGCP4, TFIP11) in another MZ twin pair discordant for ALS. Based on the assumption that discordance between twins could be explained by a common variant with variable penetrance or expressivity, we screened the twin samples for known pathogenic variants that are shared and identified a rare deletion overlapping ARHGAP11B, in the twin pair manifesting with either schizotypal personality disorder or schizophrenia. Parent-offspring trio analysis was implemented for two twin pairs to assess potential association of variants of parental origin with susceptibility to disease. We identified a de novo variant in RASD2 shared by 8-year-old male twins with a suspected diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) manifesting as different traits. A de novo CNV duplication was also identified in these twins overlapping CD38, a gene previously implicated in ASD. In twins discordant for Tourette's syndrome, a paternally inherited stop loss variant was detected in AADAC, a known candidate gene for the disorder.
View details for DOI 10.1038/s41431-019-0376-7
View details for Web of Science ID 000471871000014
View details for PubMedID 30886340
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC6777616
Distinct proteomic profiles in monozygotic twins discordant for ischaemic stroke
MOLECULAR AND CELLULAR BIOCHEMISTRY
2019; 456 (1-2): 157-165
Stroke is a common disorder with significant morbidity and mortality, and complex aetiology involving both environmental and genetic risk factors. Although some of the major risk factors for stoke, such as smoking and hypertension, are well-documented, the underlying genetic and detailed molecular mechanisms remain elusive. Exploring the relevant biochemical pathways may contribute to the clinical diagnosis of stroke and shed light on its aetiology. A comparative proteomic analysis of blood serum of a pair of monozygotic (MZ) twins discordant for ischaemic stroke (IS) was performed using a label-free quantitative proteomics approach. To overcome the limit of reproducibility in the serum preparation, two separate runs were performed, each consisting of three technical replicates per sample. Biological processes associated with proteins differentially expressed between the twins were explored with gene ontology (GO) classification using the functional analysis tool g:Profiler. ANOVA test performed in Progenesis LC-MS identified 179 (run 1) and 209 (run 2) proteins as differentially expressed between the affected and unaffected twin (p < 0.05). Furthermore, the level of serum fibulin 1, an extracellular matrix protein associated with arterial stiffness, was on average 13.37-fold higher in the affected twin. Each dataset was then analysed independently, and the proteins were classified according to GO terms. The categories overrepresented in the affected twin predominantly corresponded to stroke-relevant processes, including wound healing, blood coagulation and haemostasis, with a high proportion of the proteins overexpressed in the affected twin associated with these terms. By contrast, in the unaffected twin diagnosed with atopic dermatitis, there were increased levels of keratin proteins and GO terms associated with skin development. The identification of cellular pathways enriched in IS as well as the upregulation of fibulin 1 sheds new light on the underlying disease-causing mechanisms at the molecular level. Our findings of distinct proteomic signatures associated with IS and atopic dermatitis suggest proteomic profiling could be used as a general approach for improved diagnostic, prognostic and therapeutic strategies.
View details for DOI 10.1007/s11010-019-03501-2
View details for Web of Science ID 000466497700015
View details for PubMedID 30694515
A mutation in the major autophagy gene, WIPI2, associated with global developmental abnormalities
2019; 142: 1242-1254
We describe a large consanguineous pedigree from a remote area of Northern Pakistan, with a complex developmental disorder associated with wide-ranging symptoms, including mental retardation, speech and language impairment and other neurological, psychiatric, skeletal and cardiac abnormalities. We initially carried out a genetic study using the HumanCytoSNP-12 v2.1 Illumina gene chip on nine family members and identified a single region of homozygosity shared amongst four affected individuals on chromosome 7p22 (positions 3059377-5478971). We performed whole-exome sequencing on two affected individuals from two separate branches of the extended pedigree and identified a novel nonsynonymous homozygous mutation in exon 9 of the WIPI2 (WD-repeat protein interacting with phosphoinositide 2) gene at position 5265458 (c.G745A;pV249M). WIPI2 plays a critical role in autophagy, an evolutionary conserved cellular pathway implicated in a growing number of medical conditions. The mutation is situated in a highly conserved and critically important region of WIPI2, responsible for binding PI(3)P and PI(3,5)P2, an essential requirement for autophagy to proceed. The mutation is absent in all public databases, is predicted to be damaging and segregates with the disease phenotype. We performed functional studies in vitro to determine the potential effects of the mutation on downstream pathways leading to autophagosome assembly. Binding of the V231M mutant of WIPI2b to ATG16L1 (as well as ATG5-12) is significantly reduced in GFP pull-down experiments, and fibroblasts derived from the patients show reduced WIPI2 puncta, reduced LC3 lipidation and reduced autophagic flux.
View details for DOI 10.1093/brain/awz075
View details for Web of Science ID 000481420000019
View details for PubMedID 30968111
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC6487338
A missense mutation in TRAPPC6A leads to build-up of the protein, in patients with a neurodevelopmental syndrome and dysmorphic features
2018; 8: 2053
Childhood onset clinical syndromes involving intellectual disability and dysmorphic features, such as polydactyly, suggest common developmental pathways link seemingly unrelated phenotypes. We identified a consanguineous family of Saudi origin with varying complex features including intellectual disability, speech delay, facial dysmorphism and polydactyly. Combining, microarray based comparative genomic hybridisation (CGH) to identify regions of homozygosity, with exome sequencing, led to the identification of homozygous mutations in five candidate genes (RSPH6A, ANKK1, AMOTL1, ALKBH8, TRAPPC6A), all of which appear to be pathogenic as predicted by Proven, SIFT and PolyPhen2 and segregate perfectly with the disease phenotype. We therefore looked for differences in expression levels of each protein in HEK293 cells, expressing either the wild-type or mutant full-length cDNA construct. Unexpectedly, wild-type TRAPPC6A appeared to be unstable, but addition of the proteasome inhibitor MG132 stabilised its expression. Mutations have previously been reported in several members of the TRAPP complex of proteins, including TRAPPC2, TRAPPC9 and TRAPPC11, resulting in disorders involving skeletal abnormalities, intellectual disability, speech impairment and developmental delay. TRAPPC6A joins a growing list of proteins belonging to the TRAPP complex, implicated in clinical syndromes with neurodevelopmental abnormalities.
View details for DOI 10.1038/s41598-018-20658-w
View details for Web of Science ID 000423787500028
View details for PubMedID 29391579
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5794855
Truncating mutation in intracellular phospholipase A₁ gene (DDHD2) in hereditary spastic paraplegia with intellectual disability (SPG54).
BMC research notes
2015; 8: 271
BACKGROUND: Hereditary spastic paraplegias (HSP), a group of genetically heterogeneous neurological disorders with more than 56 documented loci (SPG1-56), are described either as uncomplicated (or pure), or complicated where in addition to spasticity and weakness of lower extremeties, additional neurological symptoms are present, including dementia, loss of vision, epilepsy, mental retardation and ichthyosis. We identified a large consanguineous family of Indian descent with four affected members with childhood onset HSP (SPG54), presenting with upper and lower limb spasticity, mental retardation and agenesis of the corpus callosum.RESULTS: A common region of homozygosity on chromosome 8 spanning seven megabases (Mb) was identified in the affected individuals using the Illumina human cytoSNP-12 DNA Analysis BeadChip Kit. Exome sequencing identified a homozygous stop gain mutation (pR287X) in the phospholipase A1 gene DDHD2, in the affected individuals, resulting in a premature stop codon and a severely truncated protein lacking the SAM and DDHD domains crucial for phosphoinositide binding and phospholipase activity.CONCLUSION: This mutation adds to the knowledge of HSP, suggests a possible founder effect for the pR287X mutation, and adds to the list of genes involved in lipid metabolism with a role in HSP and other neurodegenerative disorders.
View details for DOI 10.1186/s13104-015-1227-4
View details for PubMedID 26113134
- Elevated gamma-glutamyltransferase and erythrocyte sedimentation rate in ischemic stroke in discordant monozygotic twin study INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF STROKE 2015; 10 (4): E32-E33