Prof Andrew OM Wilkie FRS FMedSci FRCP

Research Area: Genetics and Genomics
Scientific Themes: Genes, Genetics, Epigenetics & Genomics and Bioinformatics, Statistics & Computational Biology
Keywords: Genetics, Craniofacial and Sperm
Web Links:

About 1 in 40 babies is born with a serious congenital abnormality: in many cases, this is caused by alterations (mutations) in genes involved in the normal process of embryonic development. Many important malformations affect both the skull and limbs, suggesting that similar developmental processes are used to build these distinct structures. Our lab is investigating these processes by identifying the causative mutations, particularly in patients affected with skull malformations. Such individuals frequently require corrective surgery and the group collaborates with the Department of Plastic Surgery in Oxford in the investigation of their patients. The work is principally funded by the Wellcome Trust, with contributions from the NIHR Oxford Biomedical Research Centre and US National Institutes of Health.


In 1995 our group discovered the cause of Apert syndrome, a severe condition characterised by craniosynostosis (early closure of the cranial sutures) and syndactyly (fusion between the digits) of the hands and feet. We identified two specific mutations within the gene for fibroblast growth factor receptor type 2 (FGFR2), one or other of which is present in ~99% of affected individuals. Other FGFR2 mutations are associated with different congenital syndromes and complete mutation screens show that the mutations are non-random, with some being highly recurrent. It is now apparent that a similar spectrum of mutations occur somatically in specific cancers.

In cases where the mutation has arisen de novo, it always originates from the unaffected father, who tends to be older than average (paternal age effect). We have have extended this observation by developing a method to measure the level of the most common Apert mutation in sperm. This has led us to propose that these mutations confer a paradoxical growth advantage to the testis cells in which they arise (Goriely et al 2003, 2005). We next demonstrated a direct link between the occurrence in sperm of a specific mutation in a related gene, FGFR3, and a rare type of testicular tumour (spermatocytic seminoma). We propose that paternal age-effect mutations arise through a shared mechanism involving activation of Ras signalling within the spermatogonial cell (Goriely et al 2009; Giannoulatou et al 2013). We are now exploring further the broader consequences of this novel mechanism (which we term selfish spermatogonial selection) for disease (reviewed by Goriely & Wilkie 2012), and developing immunohistochemical and genetic methods to identify the abnormal clonal events directly in human testes (Lim et al 2012). Most recently we have developed a method to identify these clonal mutational events directly in the seminiferous tubules of normal human testes (Maher al 2016). See our video on: https://youtu.be/NRj4IjkEvws 

We have extended the work on Apert syndrome to study the molecular basis of many other conditions with craniofacial and/or limb malformations. Discoveries in the past few years include the identification of mutations of ROR2 in brachydactyly type B and recessive Robinow syndrome, of MSX2 and ALX4 in parietal foramina, of FLNA in the otopalatodigital spectrum disorders, of EFNB1 in craniofrontonasal syndrome (Twigg et al 2004, 2006), RAB23 in Carpenter syndrome (Jenkins et al 2007), the ZRS of SHH in triphalangeal thumb (Furniss et al 2008) and ALX3 in a newly recognised disorder, frontorhiny (Twigg et al 2009). Using whole exome and whole genome sequencing we have recently identified 4 important new genes that are mutated in craniosynostosis. These are MEGF8 (Twigg et al 2012), ERF (Twigg et al 2013), TCF12 (Sharma et al 2013) and ZIC1 (Twigg et al 2015). Recently we comprehensively reviewed the molecular genetic basis of craniosynostosis (Twigg and Wilkie 2015).

We contributed to the first large scale application of whole genome sequencing in a clinical setting (Taylor et al 2016), with one of our patients (see the CT scan on the previous web page) gaining publicity on the front page of the Times (3 August 2011) as possibly the first within the UK to have a clinically applied whole genome sequence. We are continuing to use next generation sequencing technologies to help give better, more accurate genetic diagnoses for our patients.

Name Department Institution Country
Prof Gil McVean Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics The University of Oxford United Kingdom
Prof George Mavrothalassitis IMBB/FORTH Greece
Dr Robert Maxson USC Keck School of Medicine United States
Prof Tudor A Fulga Nuffield Division of Clinical Laboratory Sciences Oxford University, Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine United Kingdom
Prof Wojciech Niedzwiedz Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine Oxford University, Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine United Kingdom
Prof Irene Mathijssen Department of Plastic Surgery Erasmus MC, Rotterdam Netherlands
Dr Simeon Boyadjiev Dept of Pediatrics University of California Davis United States
Wade EM, Daniel PB, Jenkins ZA, McInerney-Leo A, Leo P, Morgan T, Addor MC, Adès LC et al. 2016. Mutations in MAP3K7 that Alter the Activity of the TAK1 Signaling Complex Cause Frontometaphyseal Dysplasia. Am J Hum Genet, 99 (2), pp. 392-406. | Show Abstract | Read more

Frontometaphyseal dysplasia (FMD) is a progressive sclerosing skeletal dysplasia affecting the long bones and skull. The cause of FMD in some individuals is gain-of-function mutations in FLNA, although how these mutations result in a hyperostotic phenotype remains unknown. Approximately one half of individuals with FMD have no identified mutation in FLNA and are phenotypically very similar to individuals with FLNA mutations, except for an increased tendency to form keloid scars. Using whole-exome sequencing and targeted Sanger sequencing in 19 FMD-affected individuals with no identifiable FLNA mutation, we identified mutations in two genes-MAP3K7, encoding transforming growth factor β (TGF-β)-activated kinase (TAK1), and TAB2, encoding TAK1-associated binding protein 2 (TAB2). Four mutations were found in MAP3K7, including one highly recurrent (n = 15) de novo mutation (c.1454C>T [ p.Pro485Leu]) proximal to the coiled-coil domain of TAK1 and three missense mutations affecting the kinase domain (c.208G>C [p.Glu70Gln], c.299T>A [p.Val100Glu], and c.502G>C [p.Gly168Arg]). Notably, the subjects with the latter three mutations had a milder FMD phenotype. An additional de novo mutation was found in TAB2 (c.1705G>A, p.Glu569Lys). The recurrent mutation does not destabilize TAK1, or impair its ability to homodimerize or bind TAB2, but it does increase TAK1 autophosphorylation and alter the activity of more than one signaling pathway regulated by the TAK1 kinase complex. These findings show that dysregulation of the TAK1 complex produces a close phenocopy of FMD caused by FLNA mutations. Furthermore, they suggest that the pathogenesis of some of the filaminopathies caused by FLNA mutations might be mediated by misregulation of signaling coordinated through the TAK1 signaling complex.

Twigg SR, Hufnagel RB, Miller KA, Zhou Y, McGowan SJ, Taylor J, Craft J, Taylor JC et al. 2016. A Recurrent Mosaic Mutation in SMO, Encoding the Hedgehog Signal Transducer Smoothened, Is the Major Cause of Curry-Jones Syndrome. Am J Hum Genet, 98 (6), pp. 1256-1265. | Show Abstract | Read more

Curry-Jones syndrome (CJS) is a multisystem disorder characterized by patchy skin lesions, polysyndactyly, diverse cerebral malformations, unicoronal craniosynostosis, iris colobomas, microphthalmia, and intestinal malrotation with myofibromas or hamartomas. Cerebellar medulloblastoma has been described in a single affected individual; in another, biopsy of skin lesions showed features of trichoblastoma. The combination of asymmetric clinical features, patchy skin manifestations, and neoplastic association previously led to the suggestion that this could be a mosaic condition, possibly involving hedgehog (Hh) signaling. Here, we show that CJS is caused by recurrent somatic mosaicism for a nonsynonymous variant in SMO (c.1234C>T [p.Leu412Phe]), encoding smoothened (SMO), a G-protein-coupled receptor that transduces Hh signaling. We identified eight mutation-positive individuals (two of whom had not been reported previously) with highly similar phenotypes and demonstrated varying amounts of the mutant allele in different tissues. We present detailed findings from brain MRI in three mutation-positive individuals. Somatic SMO mutations that result in constitutive activation have been described in several tumors, including medulloblastoma, ameloblastoma, and basal cell carcinoma. Strikingly, the most common of these mutations is the identical nonsynonymous variant encoding p.Leu412Phe. Furthermore, this substitution has been shown to activate SMO in the absence of Hh signaling, providing an explanation for tumor development in CJS. This raises therapeutic possibilities for using recently generated Hh-pathway inhibitors. In summary, our work uncovers the major genetic cause of CJS and illustrates strategies for gene discovery in the context of low-level tissue-specific somatic mosaicism.

Fenwick AL, Kliszczak M, Cooper F, Murray J, Sanchez-Pulido L, Twigg SR, Goriely A, McGowan SJ et al. 2016. Mutations in CDC45, Encoding an Essential Component of the Pre-initiation Complex, Cause Meier-Gorlin Syndrome and Craniosynostosis. Am J Hum Genet, 99 (1), pp. 125-138. | Show Abstract | Read more

DNA replication precisely duplicates the genome to ensure stable inheritance of genetic information. Impaired licensing of origins of replication during the G1 phase of the cell cycle has been implicated in Meier-Gorlin syndrome (MGS), a disorder defined by the triad of short stature, microtia, and a/hypoplastic patellae. Biallelic partial loss-of-function mutations in multiple components of the pre-replication complex (preRC; ORC1, ORC4, ORC6, CDT1, or CDC6) as well as de novo stabilizing mutations in the licensing inhibitor, GMNN, cause MGS. Here we report the identification of mutations in CDC45 in 15 affected individuals from 12 families with MGS and/or craniosynostosis. CDC45 encodes a component of both the pre-initiation (preIC) and CMG helicase complexes, required for initiation of DNA replication origin firing and ongoing DNA synthesis during S-phase itself, respectively, and hence is functionally distinct from previously identified MGS-associated genes. The phenotypes of affected individuals range from syndromic coronal craniosynostosis to severe growth restriction, fulfilling diagnostic criteria for Meier-Gorlin syndrome. All mutations identified were biallelic and included synonymous mutations altering splicing of physiological CDC45 transcripts, as well as amino acid substitutions expected to result in partial loss of function. Functionally, mutations reduce levels of full-length transcripts and protein in subject cells, consistent with partial loss of CDC45 function and a predicted limited rate of DNA replication and cell proliferation. Our findings therefore implicate the preIC as an additional protein complex involved in the etiology of MGS and connect the core cellular machinery of genome replication with growth, chondrogenesis, and cranial suture homeostasis.

Goos JA, Fenwick AL, Swagemakers SM, McGowan SJ, Knight SJ, Twigg SR, Hoogeboom AJ, van Dooren MF et al. 2016. Identification of Intragenic Exon Deletions and Duplication of TCF12 by Whole Genome or Targeted Sequencing as a Cause of TCF12-Related Craniosynostosis. Hum Mutat, 37 (8), pp. 732-736. | Show Abstract | Read more

TCF12-related craniosynostosis can be caused by small heterozygous loss-of-function mutations in TCF12. Large intragenic rearrangements, however, have not been described yet. Here, we present the identification of four large rearrangements in TCF12 causing TCF12-related craniosynostosis. Whole-genome sequencing was applied on the DNA of 18 index cases with coronal synostosis and their family members (43 samples in total). The data were analyzed using an autosomal-dominant disease model. Structural variant analysis reported intragenic exon deletions (of sizes 84.9, 8.6, and 5.4 kb) in TCF12 in three different families. The results were confirmed by deletion-specific PCR and dideoxy-sequence analysis. Separately, targeted sequencing of the TCF12 genomic region in a patient with coronal synostosis identified a tandem duplication of 11.3 kb. The pathogenic effect of this duplication was confirmed by cDNA analysis. These findings indicate the importance of screening for larger rearrangements in patients suspected to have TCF12-related craniosynostosis.

Maher GJ, Rajpert-De Meyts E, Goriely A, Wilkie AO. 2016. Cellular correlates of selfish spermatogonial selection. Andrology, 4 (3), pp. 550-553. | Read more

Maher GJ, McGowan SJ, Giannoulatou E, Verrill C, Goriely A, Wilkie AO. 2016. Visualizing the origins of selfish de novo mutations in individual seminiferous tubules of human testes. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 113 (9), pp. 2454-2459. | Show Abstract | Read more

De novo point mutations arise predominantly in the male germline and increase in frequency with age, but it has not previously been possible to locate specific, identifiable mutations directly within the seminiferous tubules of human testes. Using microdissection of tubules exhibiting altered expression of the spermatogonial markers MAGEA4, FGFR3, and phospho-AKT, whole genome amplification, and DNA sequencing, we establish an in situ strategy for discovery and analysis of pathogenic de novo mutations. In 14 testes from men aged 39-90 y, we identified 11 distinct gain-of-function mutations in five genes (fibroblast growth factor receptors FGFR2 and FGFR3, tyrosine phosphatase PTPN11, and RAS oncogene homologs HRAS and KRAS) from 16 of 22 tubules analyzed; all mutations have known associations with severe diseases, ranging from congenital or perinatal lethal disorders to somatically acquired cancers. These results support proposed selfish selection of spermatogonial mutations affecting growth factor receptor-RAS signaling, highlight its prevalence in older men, and enable direct visualization of the microscopic anatomy of elongated mutant clones.

Twigg SR, Ousager LB, Miller KA, Zhou Y, Elalaoui SC, Sefiani A, Bak GS, Hove H et al. 2016. Acromelic frontonasal dysostosis and ZSWIM6 mutation: phenotypic spectrum and mosaicism. Clin Genet, 90 (3), pp. 270-275. | Show Abstract | Read more

Acromelic frontonasal dysostosis (AFND) is a distinctive and rare frontonasal malformation that presents in combination with brain and limb abnormalities. A single recurrent heterozygous missense substitution in ZSWIM6, encoding a protein of unknown function, was previously shown to underlie this disorder in four unrelated cases. Here we describe four additional individuals from three families, comprising two sporadic subjects (one of whom had no limb malformation) and a mildly affected female with a severely affected son. In the latter family we demonstrate parental mosaicism through deep sequencing of DNA isolated from a variety of tissues, which each contain different levels of mutation. This has important implications for genetic counselling.

Twigg SR, Wilkie AO. 2015. New insights into craniofacial malformations. Hum Mol Genet, 24 (R1), pp. R50-R59. | Show Abstract | Read more

Development of the human skull and face is a highly orchestrated and complex three-dimensional morphogenetic process, involving hundreds of genes controlling the coordinated patterning, proliferation and differentiation of tissues having multiple embryological origins. Craniofacial malformations that occur because of abnormal development (including cleft lip and/or palate, craniosynostosis and facial dysostoses), comprise over one-third of all congenital birth defects. High-throughput sequencing has recently led to the identification of many new causative disease genes and functional studies have clarified their mechanisms of action. We present recent findings in craniofacial genetics and discuss how this information together with developmental studies in animal models is helping to increase understanding of normal craniofacial development.

Taylor JC, Martin HC, Lise S, Broxholme J, Cazier JB, Rimmer A, Kanapin A, Lunter G et al. 2015. Factors influencing success of clinical genome sequencing across a broad spectrum of disorders. Nat Genet, 47 (7), pp. 717-726. | Show Abstract | Read more

To assess factors influencing the success of whole-genome sequencing for mainstream clinical diagnosis, we sequenced 217 individuals from 156 independent cases or families across a broad spectrum of disorders in whom previous screening had identified no pathogenic variants. We quantified the number of candidate variants identified using different strategies for variant calling, filtering, annotation and prioritization. We found that jointly calling variants across samples, filtering against both local and external databases, deploying multiple annotation tools and using familial transmission above biological plausibility contributed to accuracy. Overall, we identified disease-causing variants in 21% of cases, with the proportion increasing to 34% (23/68) for mendelian disorders and 57% (8/14) in family trios. We also discovered 32 potentially clinically actionable variants in 18 genes unrelated to the referral disorder, although only 4 were ultimately considered reportable. Our results demonstrate the value of genome sequencing for routine clinical diagnosis but also highlight many outstanding challenges.

Fennell N, Foulds N, Johnson DS, Wilson LC, Wyatt M, Robertson SP, Johnson D, Wall SA, Wilkie AO. 2015. Association of mutations in FLNA with craniosynostosis. Eur J Hum Genet, 23 (12), pp. 1684-1688. | Show Abstract | Read more

Mutations of FLNA, an X-linked gene that encodes the cytoskeletal protein filamin A, cause diverse and distinct phenotypes including periventricular nodular heterotopia and otopalatodigital spectrum disorders (OPDS). Craniofacial abnormalities associated with OPDS include supraorbital hyperostosis, down-slanting palpebral fissures and micrognathia; craniosynostosis was previously described in association with FLNA mutations in two individual case reports. Here we present four further OPDS subjects who have pathological FLNA variants and craniosynostosis, supporting a causal link. Together with the previously reported patients, frontometaphyseal dysplasia was the most common clinical diagnosis (four of six cases overall); five patients had multiple suture synostosis with the sagittal suture being the most frequently involved (also five patients). No genotype-phenotype correlation was evident in the distribution of FLNA mutations. This report highlights the need to consider a filaminopathy in the differential diagnosis of craniosynostosis, especially in the presence of atypical cranial or skeletal features.

Twigg SR, Wilkie AO. 2015. A Genetic-Pathophysiological Framework for Craniosynostosis. Am J Hum Genet, 97 (3), pp. 359-377. | Show Abstract | Read more

Craniosynostosis, the premature fusion of one or more cranial sutures of the skull, provides a paradigm for investigating the interplay of genetic and environmental factors leading to malformation. Over the past 20 years molecular genetic techniques have provided a new approach to dissect the underlying causes; success has mostly come from investigation of clinical samples, and recent advances in high-throughput DNA sequencing have dramatically enhanced the study of the human as the preferred "model organism." In parallel, however, we need a pathogenetic classification to describe the pathways and processes that lead to cranial suture fusion. Given the prenatal onset of most craniosynostosis, investigation of mechanisms requires more conventional model organisms; principally the mouse, because of similarities in cranial suture development. We present a framework for classifying genetic causes of craniosynostosis based on current understanding of cranial suture biology and molecular and developmental pathogenesis. Of note, few pathologies result from complete loss of gene function. Instead, biochemical mechanisms involving haploinsufficiency, dominant gain-of-function and recessive hypomorphic mutations, and an unusual X-linked cellular interference process have all been implicated. Although few of the genes involved could have been predicted based on expression patterns alone (because the genes play much wider roles in embryonic development or cellular homeostasis), we argue that they fit into a limited number of functional modules active at different stages of cranial suture development. This provides a useful approach both when defining the potential role of new candidate genes in craniosynostosis and, potentially, for devising pharmacological approaches to therapy.

Twigg SR, Forecki J, Goos JA, Richardson IC, Hoogeboom AJ, van den Ouweland AM, Swagemakers SM, Lequin MH et al. 2015. Gain-of-Function Mutations in ZIC1 Are Associated with Coronal Craniosynostosis and Learning Disability. Am J Hum Genet, 97 (3), pp. 378-388. | Show Abstract | Read more

Human ZIC1 (zinc finger protein of cerebellum 1), one of five homologs of the Drosophila pair-rule gene odd-paired, encodes a transcription factor previously implicated in vertebrate brain development. Heterozygous deletions of ZIC1 and its nearby paralog ZIC4 on chromosome 3q25.1 are associated with Dandy-Walker malformation of the cerebellum, and loss of the orthologous Zic1 gene in the mouse causes cerebellar hypoplasia and vertebral defects. We describe individuals from five families with heterozygous mutations located in the final (third) exon of ZIC1 (encoding four nonsense and one missense change) who have a distinct phenotype in which severe craniosynostosis, specifically involving the coronal sutures, and variable learning disability are the most characteristic features. The location of the nonsense mutations predicts escape of mutant ZIC1 transcripts from nonsense-mediated decay, which was confirmed in a cell line from an affected individual. Both nonsense and missense mutations are associated with altered and/or enhanced expression of a target gene, engrailed-2, in a Xenopus embryo assay. Analysis of mouse embryos revealed a localized domain of Zic1 expression at embryonic days 11.5-12.5 in a region overlapping the supraorbital regulatory center, which patterns the coronal suture. We conclude that the human mutations uncover a previously unsuspected role for Zic1 in early cranial suture development, potentially by regulating engrailed 1, which was previously shown to be critical for positioning of the murine coronal suture. The diagnosis of a ZIC1 mutation has significant implications for prognosis and we recommend genetic testing when common causes of coronal synostosis have been excluded.

Piard J, Rozé V, Czorny A, Lenoir M, Valduga M, Fenwick AL, Wilkie AOM, Maldergem LV. 2015. TCF12 microdeletion in a 72-year-old woman with intellectual disability American Journal of Medical Genetics, Part A, 167 (8), pp. 1897-1901. | Show Abstract | Read more

© 2015 The Authors. American Journal of Medical Genetics Part A Published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc.Heterozygous mutations in TCF12 were recently identified as an important cause of craniosynostosis. In the original series, 14% of patients with a mutation in TCF12 had significant developmental delay or learning disability. We report on the first case of TCF12 microdeletion, detected by array-comparative genomic hybridization, in a 72-year-old patient presenting with intellectual deficiency and dysmorphism. Multiplex ligation-dependent probe amplification analysis indicated that exon 19, encoding the functionally important basic helix-loop-helix domain, was included in the deleted segment in addition to exon 20. We postulate that the TCF12 microdeletion is responsible for this patient's intellectual deficiency and facial phenotype.

Babbs C, Lloyd D, Pagnamenta AT, Twigg SR, Green J, McGowan SJ, Mirza G, Naples R et al. 2014. De novo and rare inherited mutations implicate the transcriptional coregulator TCF20/SPBP in autism spectrum disorder. J Med Genet, 51 (11), pp. 737-747. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are common and have a strong genetic basis, yet the cause of ∼70-80% ASDs remains unknown. By clinical cytogenetic testing, we identified a family in which two brothers had ASD, mild intellectual disability and a chromosome 22 pericentric inversion, not detected in either parent, indicating de novo mutation with parental germinal mosaicism. We hypothesised that the rearrangement was causative of their ASD and localised the chromosome 22 breakpoints. METHODS: The rearrangement was characterised using fluorescence in situ hybridisation, Southern blotting, inverse PCR and dideoxy-sequencing. Open reading frames and intron/exon boundaries of the two physically disrupted genes identified, TCF20 and TNRC6B, were sequenced in 342 families (260 multiplex and 82 simplex) ascertained by the International Molecular Genetic Study of Autism Consortium (IMGSAC). RESULTS: IMGSAC family screening identified a de novo missense mutation of TCF20 in a single case and significant association of a different missense mutation of TCF20 with ASD in three further families. Through exome sequencing in another project, we independently identified a de novo frameshifting mutation of TCF20 in a woman with ASD and moderate intellectual disability. We did not identify a significant association of TNRC6B mutations with ASD. CONCLUSIONS: TCF20 encodes a transcriptional coregulator (also termed SPBP) that is structurally and functionally related to RAI1, the critical dosage-sensitive protein implicated in the behavioural phenotypes of the Smith-Magenis and Potocki-Lupski 17p11.2 deletion/duplication syndromes, in which ASD is frequently diagnosed. This study provides the first evidence that mutations in TCF20 are also associated with ASD.

Rimmer A, Phan H, Mathieson I, Iqbal Z, Twigg SR, WGS500 Consortium, Wilkie AO, McVean G, Lunter G. 2014. Integrating mapping-, assembly- and haplotype-based approaches for calling variants in clinical sequencing applications. Nat Genet, 46 (8), pp. 912-918. | Show Abstract | Read more

High-throughput DNA sequencing technology has transformed genetic research and is starting to make an impact on clinical practice. However, analyzing high-throughput sequencing data remains challenging, particularly in clinical settings where accuracy and turnaround times are critical. We present a new approach to this problem, implemented in a software package called Platypus. Platypus achieves high sensitivity and specificity for SNPs, indels and complex polymorphisms by using local de novo assembly to generate candidate variants, followed by local realignment and probabilistic haplotype estimation. It is an order of magnitude faster than existing tools and generates calls from raw aligned read data without preprocessing. We demonstrate the performance of Platypus in clinically relevant experimental designs by comparing with SAMtools and GATK on whole-genome and exome-capture data, by identifying de novo variation in 15 parent-offspring trios with high sensitivity and specificity, and by estimating human leukocyte antigen genotypes directly from variant calls.

Williamson KA, Rainger J, Floyd JA, Ansari M, Meynert A, Aldridge KV, Rainger JK, Anderson CA et al. 2014. Heterozygous loss-of-function mutations in YAP1 cause both isolated and syndromic optic fissure closure defects. Am J Hum Genet, 94 (2), pp. 295-302. | Show Abstract | Read more

Exome sequence analysis of affected individuals from two families with autosomal-dominant inheritance of coloboma identified two different cosegregating heterozygous nonsense mutations (c.370C>T [p.Arg124*] and c. 1066G>T [p.Glu356*]) in YAP1. The phenotypes of the affected families differed in that one included no extraocular features and the other manifested with highly variable multisystem involvement, including hearing loss, intellectual disability, hematuria, and orofacial clefting. A combined LOD score of 4.2 was obtained for the association between YAP1 loss-of-function mutations and the phenotype in these families. YAP1 encodes an effector of the HIPPO-pathway-induced growth response, and whole-mount in situ hybridization in mouse embryos has shown that Yap1 is strongly expressed in the eye, brain, and fusing facial processes. RT-PCR showed that an alternative transcription start site (TSS) in intron 1 of YAP1 and Yap1 is widely used in human and mouse development, respectively. Transcripts from the alternative TSS are predicted to initiate at codon Met179 relative to the canonical transcript (RefSeq NM_001130145). In these alternative transcripts, the c.370C>T mutation in family 1305 is within the 5' UTR and cannot result in nonsense-mediated decay (NMD). The c. 1066G>T mutation in family 132 should result in NMD in transcripts from either TSS. Amelioration of the phenotype by the alternative transcripts provides a plausible explanation for the phenotypic differences between the families.

Fenwick AL, Goos JA, Rankin J, Lord H, Lester T, Hoogeboom AJ, van den Ouweland AM, Wall SA, Mathijssen IM, Wilkie AO. 2014. Apparently synonymous substitutions in FGFR2 affect splicing and result in mild Crouzon syndrome. BMC Med Genet, 15 (1), pp. 95. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Mutations of fibroblast growth factor receptor 2 (FGFR2) account for a higher proportion of genetic cases of craniosynostosis than any other gene, and are associated with a wide spectrum of severity of clinical problems. Many of these mutations are highly recurrent and their associated features well documented. Crouzon syndrome is typically caused by heterozygous missense mutations in the third immunoglobulin domain of FGFR2. CASE PRESENTATION: Here we describe two families, each segregating a different, previously unreported FGFR2 mutation of the same nucleotide, c.1083A>G and c.1083A>T, both of which encode an apparently synonymous change at the Pro361 codon. We provide experimental evidence that these mutations affect normal FGFR2 splicing and document the clinical consequences, which include a mild Crouzon syndrome phenotype and reduced penetrance of craniosynostosis. CONCLUSIONS: These observations add to a growing list of FGFR2 mutations that affect splicing and provide important clinical information for genetic counselling of families affected by these specific mutations.

Maher GJ, Goriely A, Wilkie AO. 2014. Cellular evidence for selfish spermatogonial selection in aged human testes. Andrology, 2 (3), pp. 304-314. | Show Abstract | Read more

Owing to a recent trend for delayed paternity, the genomic integrity of spermatozoa of older men has become a focus of increased interest. Older fathers are at higher risk for their children to be born with several monogenic conditions collectively termed paternal age effect (PAE) disorders, which include achondroplasia, Apert syndrome and Costello syndrome. These disorders are caused by specific mutations originating almost exclusively from the male germline, in genes encoding components of the tyrosine kinase receptor/RAS/MAPK signalling pathway. These particular mutations, occurring randomly during mitotic divisions of spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs), are predicted to confer a selective/growth advantage on the mutant SSC. This selective advantage leads to a clonal expansion of the mutant cells over time, which generates mutant spermatozoa at levels significantly above the background mutation rate. This phenomenon, termed selfish spermatogonial selection, is likely to occur in all men. In rare cases, probably because of additional mutational events, selfish spermatogonial selection may lead to spermatocytic seminoma. The studies that initially predicted the clonal nature of selfish spermatogonial selection were based on DNA analysis, rather than the visualization of mutant clones in intact testes. In a recent study that aimed to identify these clones directly, we stained serial sections of fixed testes for expression of melanoma antigen family A4 (MAGEA4), a marker of spermatogonia. A subset of seminiferous tubules with an appearance and distribution compatible with the predicted mutant clones were identified. In these tubules, termed 'immunopositive tubules', there is an increased density of spermatogonia positive for markers related to selfish selection (FGFR3) and SSC self-renewal (phosphorylated AKT). Here we detail the properties of the immunopositive tubules and how they relate to the predicted mutant clones, as well as discussing the utility of identifying the potential cellular source of PAE mutations.

Favaro FP, Alvizi L, Zechi-Ceide RM, Bertola D, Felix TM, de Souza J, Raskin S, Twigg SR et al. 2014. A noncoding expansion in EIF4A3 causes Richieri-Costa-Pereira syndrome, a craniofacial disorder associated with limb defects. Am J Hum Genet, 94 (1), pp. 120-128. | Show Abstract | Read more

Richieri-Costa-Pereira syndrome is an autosomal-recessive acrofacial dysostosis characterized by mandibular median cleft associated with other craniofacial anomalies and severe limb defects. Learning and language disabilities are also prevalent. We mapped the mutated gene to a 122 kb region at 17q25.3 through identity-by-descent analysis in 17 genealogies. Sequencing strategies identified an expansion of a region with several repeats of 18- or 20-nucleotide motifs in the 5' untranslated region (5' UTR) of EIF4A3, which contained from 14 to 16 repeats in the affected individuals and from 3 to 12 repeats in 520 healthy individuals. A missense substitution of a highly conserved residue likely to affect the interaction of eIF4AIII with the UPF3B subunit of the exon junction complex in trans with an expanded allele was found in an unrelated individual with an atypical presentation, thus expanding mutational mechanisms and phenotypic diversity of RCPS. EIF4A3 transcript abundance was reduced in both white blood cells and mesenchymal cells of RCPS-affected individuals as compared to controls. Notably, targeting the orthologous eif4a3 in zebrafish led to underdevelopment of several craniofacial cartilage and bone structures, in agreement with the craniofacial alterations seen in RCPS. Our data thus suggest that RCPS is caused by mutations in EIF4A3 and show that EIF4A3, a gene involved in RNA metabolism, plays a role in mandible, laryngeal, and limb morphogenesis.

van den Elzen ME, Twigg SR, Goos JA, Hoogeboom AJ, van den Ouweland AM, Wilkie AO, Mathijssen IM. 2014. Phenotypes of craniofrontonasal syndrome in patients with a pathogenic mutation in EFNB1. Eur J Hum Genet, 22 (8), pp. 995-1001. | Show Abstract | Read more

Craniofrontonasal syndrome (CFNS) is an X-linked developmental malformation, caused by mutations in the EFNB1 gene, which have only been described since 2004. A genotype-phenotype correlation seems not to be present. As it is of major importance to adequately counsel patients with EFNB1 mutations and their parents, and to improve diagnosis of new patients, more information about the phenotypic features is needed. This study included 23 patients (2 male, 21 female) with confirmed EFNB1 mutations. All patients underwent a thorough physical examination and photographs were taken. If available, radiological images were also consulted. Hypertelorism, longitudinal ridging and/or splitting of nails, a (mild) webbed neck and a clinodactyly of one or more toes were the only consistent features observed in all patients. Frequently observed phenotypic features were bifid tip of the nose (91%), columellar indentation (91%) and low implantation of breasts (90%). In comparison with anthropometric data of facial proportions, patients with CFNS had a significantly different face in multiple respects. An overview of all phenotypic features is shown. Patients with EFNB1 mutations have a clear phenotype. This study will facilitate genetic counseling of parents and patients, and contribute to the diagnostic and screening process of patients with suspected CFNS.

Giannoulatou E, McVean G, Taylor IB, McGowan SJ, Maher GJ, Iqbal Z, Pfeifer SP, Turner I et al. 2013. Contributions of intrinsic mutation rate and selfish selection to levels of de novo HRAS mutations in the paternal germline. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 110 (50), pp. 20152-20157. | Show Abstract | Read more

The RAS proto-oncogene Harvey rat sarcoma viral oncogene homolog (HRAS) encodes a small GTPase that transduces signals from cell surface receptors to intracellular effectors to control cellular behavior. Although somatic HRAS mutations have been described in many cancers, germline mutations cause Costello syndrome (CS), a congenital disorder associated with predisposition to malignancy. Based on the epidemiology of CS and the occurrence of HRAS mutations in spermatocytic seminoma, we proposed that activating HRAS mutations become enriched in sperm through a process akin to tumorigenesis, termed selfish spermatogonial selection. To test this hypothesis, we quantified the levels, in blood and sperm samples, of HRAS mutations at the p.G12 codon and compared the results to changes at the p.A11 codon, at which activating mutations do not occur. The data strongly support the role of selection in determining HRAS mutation levels in sperm, and hence the occurrence of CS, but we also found differences from the mutation pattern in tumorigenesis. First, the relative prevalence of mutations in sperm correlates weakly with their in vitro activating properties and occurrence in cancers. Second, specific tandem base substitutions (predominantly GC>TT/AA) occur in sperm but not in cancers; genomewide analysis showed that this same mutation is also overrepresented in constitutional pathogenic and polymorphic variants, suggesting a heightened vulnerability to these mutations in the germline. We developed a statistical model to show how both intrinsic mutation rate and selfish selection contribute to the mutational burden borne by the paternal germline.

Köhler S, Doelken SC, Mungall CJ, Bauer S, Firth HV, Bailleul-Forestier I, Black GC, Brown DL et al. 2014. The Human Phenotype Ontology project: linking molecular biology and disease through phenotype data. Nucleic Acids Res, 42 (Database issue), pp. D966-D974. | Show Abstract | Read more

The Human Phenotype Ontology (HPO) project, available at http://www.human-phenotype-ontology.org, provides a structured, comprehensive and well-defined set of 10,088 classes (terms) describing human phenotypic abnormalities and 13,326 subclass relations between the HPO classes. In addition we have developed logical definitions for 46% of all HPO classes using terms from ontologies for anatomy, cell types, function, embryology, pathology and other domains. This allows interoperability with several resources, especially those containing phenotype information on model organisms such as mouse and zebrafish. Here we describe the updated HPO database, which provides annotations of 7,278 human hereditary syndromes listed in OMIM, Orphanet and DECIPHER to classes of the HPO. Various meta-attributes such as frequency, references and negations are associated with each annotation. Several large-scale projects worldwide utilize the HPO for describing phenotype information in their datasets. We have therefore generated equivalence mappings to other phenotype vocabularies such as LDDB, Orphanet, MedDRA, UMLS and phenoDB, allowing integration of existing datasets and interoperability with multiple biomedical resources. We have created various ways to access the HPO database content using flat files, a MySQL database, and Web-based tools. All data and documentation on the HPO project can be found online.

Goriely A, McGrath JJ, Hultman CM, Wilkie AO, Malaspina D. 2013. "Selfish spermatogonial selection": a novel mechanism for the association between advanced paternal age and neurodevelopmental disorders. Am J Psychiatry, 170 (6), pp. 599-608. | Show Abstract | Read more

There is robust evidence from epidemiological studies that the offspring of older fathers have an increased risk of neurodevelopmental disorders, such as schizophrenia and autism. The authors present a novel mechanism that may contribute to this association. Because the male germ cell undergoes many more cell divisions across the reproductive age range, copy errors taking place in the paternal germline are associated with de novo mutations in the offspring of older men. Recently it has been recognized that somatic mutations in male germ cells that modify proliferation through dysregulation of the RAS protein pathway can lead to within-testis expansion of mutant clonal lines. First identified in association with rare disorders related to paternal age (e.g., Apert syndrome, achondroplasia), this process is known as "selfish spermatogonial selection." This mechanism favors propagation of germ cells carrying pathogenic mutations, increasingly skews the mutational profile of sperm as men age, and enriches de novo mutations in the offspring of older fathers that preferentially affect specific cellular signaling pathways. This mechanism not only offers a parsimonious explanation for the association between advanced paternal age and various neurodevelopmental disorders but also provides insights into the genetic architecture (role of de novo mutations), neurobiological correlates (altered cell cycle), and some epidemiological features of these disorders. The authors outline hypotheses to test this model. Given the secular changes for delayed parenthood in most societies, this hypothesis has important public health implications.

Jay S, Wiberg A, Swan M, Lester T, Williams LJ, Taylor IB, Johnson D, Wilkie AO. 2013. The fibroblast growth factor receptor 2 p.Ala172Phe mutation in Pfeiffer syndrome--history repeating itself. Am J Med Genet A, 161A (5), pp. 1158-1163. | Show Abstract | Read more

Pfeiffer syndrome is an autosomal dominant condition classically combining craniosynostosis with digital anomalies of the hands and feet. The majority of cases are caused by heterozygous mutations in the third immunoglobulin-like domain (IgIII) of FGFR2, whilst a small number of cases can be attributed to mutations outside this region of the protein. A mild form of Pfeiffer syndrome can rarely be caused by a specific mutation in FGFR1. We report on the clinical and genetic findings in a three generation British family with Pfeiffer syndrome caused by a heterozygous missense mutation, p.Ala172Phe, located in the IgII domain of FGFR2. This is the first reported case of this particular mutation since Pfeiffer's index case, originally described in a German family in 1964, on which basis the syndrome was eponymously named. Genetic analysis demonstrated the two families to be unrelated. Similarities in phenotypes between the two families are discussed. Independent genetic origins, but phenotypic similarities in the two families add to the evidence supporting the theory of selfish spermatogonial selective advantage for this rare gain-of-function FGFR2 mutation.

Twigg SR, Babbs C, van den Elzen ME, Goriely A, Taylor S, McGowan SJ, Giannoulatou E, Lonie L et al. 2013. Cellular interference in craniofrontonasal syndrome: males mosaic for mutations in the X-linked EFNB1 gene are more severely affected than true hemizygotes. Hum Mol Genet, 22 (8), pp. 1654-1662. | Show Abstract | Read more

Craniofrontonasal syndrome (CFNS), an X-linked disorder caused by loss-of-function mutations of EFNB1, exhibits a paradoxical sex reversal in phenotypic severity: females characteristically have frontonasal dysplasia, craniosynostosis and additional minor malformations, but males are usually more mildly affected with hypertelorism as the only feature. X-inactivation is proposed to explain the more severe outcome in heterozygous females, as this leads to functional mosaicism for cells with differing expression of EPHRIN-B1, generating abnormal tissue boundaries-a process that cannot occur in hemizygous males. Apparently challenging this model, males occasionally present with a more severe female-like CFNS phenotype. We hypothesized that such individuals might be mosaic for EFNB1 mutations and investigated this possibility in multiple tissue samples from six sporadically presenting males. Using denaturing high performance liquid chromatography, massively parallel sequencing and multiplex-ligation-dependent probe amplification (MLPA) to increase sensitivity above standard dideoxy sequencing, we identified mosaic mutations of EFNB1 in all cases, comprising three missense changes, two gene deletions and a novel point mutation within the 5' untranslated region (UTR). Quantification by Pyrosequencing and MLPA demonstrated levels of mutant cells between 15 and 69%. The 5' UTR variant mutates the stop codon of a small upstream open reading frame that, using a dual-luciferase reporter construct, was demonstrated to exacerbate interference with translation of the wild-type protein. These results demonstrate a more severe outcome in mosaic than in constitutionally deficient males in an X-linked dominant disorder and provide further support for the cellular interference mechanism, normally related to X-inactivation in females.

Twigg SR, Vorgia E, McGowan SJ, Peraki I, Fenwick AL, Sharma VP, Allegra M, Zaragkoulias A et al. 2013. Reduced dosage of ERF causes complex craniosynostosis in humans and mice and links ERK1/2 signaling to regulation of osteogenesis. Nat Genet, 45 (3), pp. 308-313. | Show Abstract | Read more

The extracellular signal-related kinases 1 and 2 (ERK1/2) are key proteins mediating mitogen-activated protein kinase signaling downstream of RAS: phosphorylation of ERK1/2 leads to nuclear uptake and modulation of multiple targets. Here, we show that reduced dosage of ERF, which encodes an inhibitory ETS transcription factor directly bound by ERK1/2 (refs. 2,3,4,5,6,7), causes complex craniosynostosis (premature fusion of the cranial sutures) in humans and mice. Features of this newly recognized clinical disorder include multiple-suture synostosis, craniofacial dysmorphism, Chiari malformation and language delay. Mice with functional Erf levels reduced to ∼30% of normal exhibit postnatal multiple-suture synostosis; by contrast, embryonic calvarial development appears mildly delayed. Using chromatin immunoprecipitation in mouse embryonic fibroblasts and high-throughput sequencing, we find that ERF binds preferentially to elements away from promoters that contain RUNX or AP-1 motifs. This work identifies ERF as a novel regulator of osteogenic stimulation by RAS-ERK signaling, potentially by competing with activating ETS factors in multifactor transcriptional complexes.

Sharma VP, Fenwick AL, Brockop MS, McGowan SJ, Goos JA, Hoogeboom AJ, Brady AF, Jeelani NO et al. 2013. Mutations in TCF12, encoding a basic helix-loop-helix partner of TWIST1, are a frequent cause of coronal craniosynostosis. Nat Genet, 45 (3), pp. 304-307. | Show Abstract | Read more

Craniosynostosis, the premature fusion of the cranial sutures, is a heterogeneous disorder with a prevalence of ∼1 in 2,200 (refs. 1,2). A specific genetic etiology can be identified in ∼21% of cases, including mutations of TWIST1, which encodes a class II basic helix-loop-helix (bHLH) transcription factor, and causes Saethre-Chotzen syndrome, typically associated with coronal synostosis. Using exome sequencing, we identified 38 heterozygous TCF12 mutations in 347 samples from unrelated individuals with craniosynostosis. The mutations predominantly occurred in individuals with coronal synostosis and accounted for 32% and 10% of subjects with bilateral and unilateral pathology, respectively. TCF12 encodes one of three class I E proteins that heterodimerize with class II bHLH proteins such as TWIST1. We show that TCF12 and TWIST1 act synergistically in a transactivation assay and that mice doubly heterozygous for loss-of-function mutations in Tcf12 and Twist1 have severe coronal synostosis. Hence, the dosage of TCF12-TWIST1 heterodimers is critical for normal coronal suture development.

Varvagiannis K, Stefanidou A, Gyftodimou Y, Lord H, Williams L, Sarri C, Pandelia E, Bazopoulou-Kyrkanidou E et al. 2013. Pure de novo partial trisomy 6p in a girl with craniosynostosis. Am J Med Genet A, 161A (2), pp. 343-351. | Show Abstract | Read more

Duplications of chromosome 6p are rarely reported. We present the case of a girl with a de novo trisomy 6p12.3-p21.1 who showed clinical features characteristic of this syndrome, notably facial anomalies, psychomotor delay, and recurrent respiratory tract infections. The most striking feature, however, was craniosynostosis, manifested by the premature fusion of the right coronal and sagittal sutures. A review of the literature revealed that the presence of abnormal fontanelles and sutures is relatively common among patients with proximal trisomy 6p. Exclusion of the most frequently occurring craniosynostosis mutations, as well as of further chromosomal anomalies in our case, suggest the presence of a gene regulating suture formation within this region. Based on recent findings, we hypothesize that the runt-related transcription factor 2 (RUNX2) may be a reasonable candidate gene for craniosynostosis in such patients.

Vodopiutz J, Zoller H, Fenwick AL, Arnhold R, Schmid M, Prayer D, Müller T, Repa A et al. 2013. Homozygous SALL1 mutation causes a novel multiple congenital anomaly - Mental retardation syndrome Journal of Pediatrics, 162 (3), pp. 612-617. | Show Abstract | Read more

Objective: To delineate a novel autosomal recessive multiple congenital anomaly-mental retardation (MCA-MR) syndrome in 2 female siblings of a consanguineous pedigree and to identify the disease-causing mutation. Study design: Both siblings were clinically characterized and homozygosity mapping and sequencing of candidate genes were applied. The contribution of nonsense-mediated messenger RNA (mRNA) decay to the expression of mutant mRNA in fibroblasts of a healthy carrier and a control was studied by pyrosequencing. Results: We identified the first homozygous SALL1 mutation, c.3160C > T (p.R1054*), in 2 female siblings presenting with multiple congenital anomalies, central nervous system defects, cortical blindness, and absence of psychomotor development (ie, a novel recognizable, autosomal recessive MCA-MR). The mutant SALL1 transcript partially undergoes nonsense-mediated mRNA decay and is present at 43% of the normal transcript level in the fibroblasts of a healthy carrier. Conclusion: Previously heterozygous SALL1 mutations and deletions have been associated with dominantly inherited anal-renal-radial-ear developmental anomalies. We identified an allelic recessive SALL1-related MCA-MR. Our findings imply that quantity and quality of SALL1 transcript are important for SALL1 function and determine phenotype, and mode of inheritance, of allelic SALL1-related disorders. This novel MCA-MR emphasizes SALL1 function as critical for normal central nervous system development and warrants a detailed neurologic investigation in all individuals with SALL1 mutations. Copyright © 2013 Mosby Inc.

Shanks ME, Downes SM, Copley RR, Lise S, Broxholme J, Hudspith KA, Kwasniewska A, Davies WI et al. 2013. Next-generation sequencing (NGS) as a diagnostic tool for retinal degeneration reveals a much higher detection rate in early-onset disease. Eur J Hum Genet, 21 (9), pp. 1031. | Show Abstract | Read more

Inherited retinal degeneration (IRD) is a common cause of visual impairment (prevalence ∼1/3500). There is considerable phenotype and genotype heterogeneity, making a specific diagnosis very difficult without molecular testing. We investigated targeted capture combined with next-generation sequencing using Nimblegen 12plex arrays and the Roche 454 sequencing platform to explore its potential for clinical diagnostics in two common types of IRD, retinitis pigmentosa and cone-rod dystrophy. 50 patients (36 unknowns and 14 positive controls) were screened, and pathogenic mutations were identified in 25% of patients in the unknown, with 53% in the early-onset cases. All patients with new mutations detected had an age of onset <21 years and 44% had a family history. Thirty-one percent of mutations detected were novel. A de novo mutation in rhodopsin was identified in one early-onset case without a family history. Bioinformatic pipelines were developed to identify likely pathogenic mutations and stringent criteria were used for assignment of pathogenicity. Analysis of sequencing metrics revealed significant variability in capture efficiency and depth of coverage. We conclude that targeted capture and next-generation sequencing are likely to be very useful in a diagnostic setting, but patients with earlier onset of disease are more likely to benefit from using this strategy. The mutation-detection rate suggests that many patients are likely to have mutations in novel genes. © 2013 Macmillan Publishers Limited All rights reserved.

Bendon CL, Fenwick AL, Hurst JA, Nürnberg G, Nürnberg P, Wall SA, Wilkie AO, Johnson D. 2012. Frank-ter Haar syndrome associated with sagittal craniosynostosis and raised intracranial pressure. BMC Med Genet, 13 (1), pp. 104. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Frank-ter Haar syndrome is a rare disorder associated with skeletal, cardiac, ocular and craniofacial features including hypertelorism and brachycephaly. The most common underlying genetic defect in Frank-ter Haar syndrome appears to be a mutation in the SH3PXD2B gene on chromosome 5q35.1. Craniosynostosis, or premature fusion of the calvarial sutures, has not previously been described in Frank-ter Haar syndrome. CASE PRESENTATION: We present a family of three affected siblings born to consanguineous parents with clinical features in keeping with a diagnosis of Frank-ter Haar syndrome. All three siblings have a novel mutation caused by the deletion of exon 13 of the SH3PXD2B gene. Two of the three siblings also have non-scaphocephalic sagittal synostosis associated with raised intracranial pressure. CONCLUSION: The clinical features of craniosynostosis and raised intracranial pressure in this family with a confirmed diagnosis of Frank-ter Haar syndrome expand the clinical spectrum of the disease. The abnormal cranial proportions in a mouse model of the disease suggests that the association is not coincidental. The possibility of craniosynostosis should be considered in individuals with a suspected diagnosis of Frank-ter Haar syndrome.

Eley KA, Johnson D, Wilkie AO, Jayamohan J, Richards P, Wall SA. 2012. Raised intracranial pressure is frequent in untreated nonsyndromic unicoronal synostosis and does not correlate with severity of phenotypic features. Plast Reconstr Surg, 130 (5), pp. 690e-697e. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: In a small number of children with unicoronal synostosis, the phenotype is mild and the aesthetic benefit of surgical correction is potentially outweighed by surgical risk. Raised intracranial pressure, however, would necessitate intervention. The authors documented the incidence of raised intracranial pressure in children with mild features and/or parental reluctance to proceed directly to surgery. METHODS: A retrospective review of all children with (1) a clinical diagnosis of nonsyndromic unicoronal synostosis; (2) unicoronal synostosis confirmed on computed tomographic scanning; (3) negative family history for unicoronal synostosis; and (4) negative genetic screening (including P250R encoded by FGFR3, exons IIIa and IIIc in FGFR2 and TWIST1) was completed. RESULTS: Of the 80 children studied, seven (9 percent) underwent formal intracranial pressure monitoring because of a combination of mild clinical features (n = 4) and/or parental reluctance to proceed with surgery (n = 3). Intracranial pressure monitoring was reported as high in three (42 percent), borderline in two (29 percent), and normal in two patients (29 percent). The findings did not correlate with the degree of clinical deformation or age at presentation. There was little correlation with clinical and radiographic features of raised intracranial pressure in this genetically screened nonsyndromic group. CONCLUSIONS: High or borderline raised intracranial pressure was present in five of seven cases. The risk did not correlate with degree of deformity or age at presentation. Formal intracranial pressure monitoring should be considered in all children with unicoronal synostosis not proceeding directly to surgical intervention, in combination with routine long-term follow-up and repeated intracranial pressure monitoring where indicated. CLINICAL QUESTION/LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: Risk, V.

Goriely A, Wilkie AO. 2012. Paternal age effect mutations and selfish spermatogonial selection: causes and consequences for human disease. Am J Hum Genet, 90 (2), pp. 175-200. | Show Abstract | Read more

Advanced paternal age has been associated with an increased risk for spontaneous congenital disorders and common complex diseases (such as some cancers, schizophrenia, and autism), but the mechanisms that mediate this effect have been poorly understood. A small group of disorders, including Apert syndrome (caused by FGFR2 mutations), achondroplasia, and thanatophoric dysplasia (FGFR3), and Costello syndrome (HRAS), which we collectively term "paternal age effect" (PAE) disorders, provides a good model to study the biological and molecular basis of this phenomenon. Recent evidence from direct quantification of PAE mutations in sperm and testes suggests that the common factor in the paternal age effect lies in the dysregulation of spermatogonial cell behavior, an effect mediated molecularly through the growth factor receptor-RAS signal transduction pathway. The data show that PAE mutations, although arising rarely, are positively selected and expand clonally in normal testes through a process akin to oncogenesis. This clonal expansion, which is likely to take place in the testes of all men, leads to the relative enrichment of mutant sperm over time-explaining the observed paternal age effect associated with these disorders-and in rare cases to the formation of testicular tumors. As regulation of RAS and other mediators of cellular proliferation and survival is important in many different biological contexts, for example during tumorigenesis, organ homeostasis and neurogenesis, the consequences of selfish mutations that hijack this process within the testis are likely to extend far beyond congenital skeletal disorders to include complex diseases, such as neurocognitive disorders and cancer predisposition.

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Justice CM, Yagnik G, Kim Y, Peter I, Jabs EW, Erazo M, Ye X, Ainehsazan E et al. 2012. A genome-wide association study identifies susceptibility loci for nonsyndromic sagittal craniosynostosis near BMP2 and within BBS9 Nature Genetics, 44 (12), pp. 1360-1364. | Show Abstract | Read more

Sagittal craniosynostosis is the most common form of craniosynostosis, affecting approximately one in 5,000 newborns. We conducted, to our knowledge, the first genome-wide association study for nonsyndromic sagittal craniosynostosis (sNSC) using 130 non-Hispanic case-parent trios of European ancestry (NHW). We found robust associations in a 120-kb region downstream of BMP2 flanked by rs1884302 (P = 1.13 × 10-14, odds ratio (OR) = 4.58) and rs6140226 (P = 3.40 × 10-11, OR = 0.24) and within a 167-kb region of BBS9 between rs10262453 (P = 1.61 × 10-10, OR = 0.19) and rs17724206 (P = 1.50 × 10-8, OR = 0.22). We replicated the associations to both loci (rs1884302, P = 4.39 × 10-31 and rs10262453, P = 3.50 × 10-14) in an independent NHW population of 172 unrelated probands with sNSC and 548 controls. Both BMP2 and BBS9 are genes with roles in skeletal development that warrant functional studies to further understand the etiology of sNSC. © 2012 Nature America, Inc. All rights reserved.

Clarke AJ, Cooper DN, Krawczak M, Tyler-Smith C, Wallace HM, Wilkie AO, Raymond FL, Chadwick R et al. 2012. 'Sifting the significance from the data' - the impact of high-throughput genomic technologies on human genetics and health care. Hum Genomics, 6 (1), pp. 11. | Show Abstract | Read more

This report is of a round-table discussion held in Cardiff in September 2009 for Cesagen, a research centre within the Genomics Network of the UK's Economic and Social Research Council. The meeting was arranged to explore ideas as to the likely future course of human genomics. The achievements of genomics research were reviewed, and the likely constraints on the pace of future progress were explored. New knowledge is transforming biology and our understanding of evolution and human disease. The difficulties we face now concern the interpretation rather than the generation of new sequence data. Our understanding of gene-environment interaction is held back by our current primitive tools for measuring environmental factors, and in addition, there may be fundamental constraints on what can be known about these complex interactions.

Twigg SRF, Lloyd D, Jenkins D, Elçioglu NE, Cooper CDO, Al-Sannaa N, Annagür A, Gillessen-Kaesbach G et al. 2012. Mutations in multidomain protein MEGF8 identify a carpenter syndrome subtype associated with defective lateralization American Journal of Human Genetics, 91 (5), pp. 897-905. | Show Abstract | Read more

Carpenter syndrome is an autosomal-recessive multiple-congenital- malformation disorder characterized by multisuture craniosynostosis and polysyndactyly of the hands and feet; many other clinical features occur, and the most frequent include obesity, umbilical hernia, cryptorchidism, and congenital heart disease. Mutations of RAB23, encoding a small GTPase that regulates vesicular transport, are present in the majority of cases. Here, we describe a disorder caused by mutations in multiple epidermal-growth-factor- like-domains 8 (MEGF8), which exhibits substantial clinical overlap with Carpenter syndrome but is frequently associated with abnormal left-right patterning. We describe five affected individuals with similar dysmorphic facies, and three of them had either complete situs inversus, dextrocardia, or transposition of the great arteries; similar cardiac abnormalities were previously identified in a mouse mutant for the orthologous Megf8. The mutant alleles comprise one nonsense, three missense, and two splice-site mutations; we demonstrate in zebrafish that, in contrast to the wild-type protein, the proteins containing all three missense alterations provide only weak rescue of an early gastrulation phenotype induced by Megf8 knockdown. We conclude that mutations in MEGF8 cause a Carpenter syndrome subtype frequently associated with defective left-right patterning, probably through perturbation of signaling by hedgehog and nodal family members. We did not observe any subject with biallelic loss-of function mutations, suggesting that some residual MEGF8 function might be necessary for survival and might influence the phenotypes observed. © 2012 The American Society of Human Genetics.

Lim J, Maher GJ, Turner GD, Dudka-Ruszkowska W, Taylor S, Rajpert-De Meyts E, Goriely A, Wilkie AO. 2012. Selfish spermatogonial selection: evidence from an immunohistochemical screen in testes of elderly men. PLoS One, 7 (8), pp. e42382. | Show Abstract | Read more

The dominant congenital disorders Apert syndrome, achondroplasia and multiple endocrine neoplasia-caused by specific missense mutations in the FGFR2, FGFR3 and RET proteins respectively-represent classical examples of paternal age-effect mutation, a class that arises at particularly high frequencies in the sperm of older men. Previous analyses of DNA from randomly selected cadaveric testes showed that the levels of the corresponding FGFR2, FGFR3 and RET mutations exhibit very uneven spatial distributions, with localised hotspots surrounded by large mutation-negative areas. These studies imply that normal testes are mosaic for clusters of mutant cells: these clusters are predicted to have altered growth and signalling properties leading to their clonal expansion (selfish spermatogonial selection), but DNA extraction eliminates the possibility to study such processes at a tissue level. Using a panel of antibodies optimised for the detection of spermatocytic seminoma, a rare tumour of spermatogonial origin, we demonstrate that putative clonal events are frequent within normal testes of elderly men (mean age: 73.3 yrs) and can be classed into two broad categories. We found numerous small (less than 200 cells) cellular aggregations with distinct immunohistochemical characteristics, localised to a portion of the seminiferous tubule, which are of uncertain significance. However more infrequently we identified additional regions where entire seminiferous tubules had a circumferentially altered immunohistochemical appearance that extended through multiple serial sections that were physically contiguous (up to 1 mm in length), and exhibited enhanced staining for antibodies both to FGFR3 and a marker of downstream signal activation, pAKT. These findings support the concept that populations of spermatogonia in individual seminiferous tubules in the testes of older men are clonal mosaics with regard to their signalling properties and activation, thus fulfilling one of the specific predictions of selfish spermatogonial selection.

Sharma VP, Wall SA, Lord H, Lester T, Wilkie AO. 2012. Atypical Crouzon syndrome with a novel Cys62Arg mutation in FGFR2 presenting with sagittal synostosis. Cleft Palate Craniofac J, 49 (3), pp. 373-377. | Show Abstract | Read more

The management of a 1-year-old boy with Crouzonoid features is presented with a description of molecular genetic investigations that revealed a previously unreported mutation of the fibroblast growth factor receptor 2 (FGFR2) gene encoding the amino acid substitution p.Cys62Arg within the immunoglobin-like (IgI) domain. The patient presented in atypical fashion with severe sagittal synostosis but only mild exorbitism and hypertelorism. Owing to the progressively increasing size of the cranial occipital bullet, a total calvarial modeling procedure was performed at 8 months of age to correct the craniofacial deformity. Standard genetic testing of the major mutational "hotspots" associated with craniosynostosis was initially negative. However, further testing for atypical sites of mutation revealed a heterozygous nucleotide substitution (c.184T>C) in exon 3 of FGFR2. This mutation has not been previously reported and is only the second to be identified in the IgI domain; it was not present in either parent, indicating that it had arisen de novo. The child remains well 6 months postoperatively but will be monitored more closely compared with the usual protocol for nonsyndromic sagittal synostosis owing to the potential for increased risk of secondary complications. Key learning points from this case include the need for careful phenotypic evaluation of children presenting with apparently isolated sagittal synostosis and genetic testing for atypical mutations if the usual hotspots are negative.

Fenwick AL, Bowdin SC, Klatt RE, Wilkie AO. 2011. A deletion of FGFR2 creating a chimeric IIIb/IIIc exon in a child with Apert syndrome. BMC Med Genet, 12 (1), pp. 122. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Signalling by fibroblast growth factor receptor type 2 (FGFR2) normally involves a tissue-specific alternative splice choice between two exons (IIIb and IIIc), which generates two receptor isoforms (FGFR2b and FGFR2c respectively) with differing repertoires of FGF-binding specificity. Here we describe a unique chimeric IIIb/c exon in a patient with Apert syndrome, generated by a non-allelic homologous recombination event. CASE PRESENTATION: We present a child with Apert syndrome in whom routine genetic testing had excluded the FGFR2 missense mutations commonly associated with this disorder. The patient was found to harbour a heterozygous 1372 bp deletion between FGFR2 exons IIIb and IIIc, apparently originating from recombination between 13 bp of identical DNA sequence present in both exons. The rearrangement was not present in the unaffected parents. CONCLUSIONS: Based on the known pathogenesis of Apert syndrome, the chimeric FGFR2 protein is predicted to act in a dominant gain-of-function manner. This is likely to result from its expression in mesenchymal tissues, where retention of most of the residues essential for FGFR2b binding activity would result in autocrine activation. This report adds to the repertoire of rare cases of Apert syndrome for which a pathogenesis based on atypical FGFR2 rearrangements can be demonstrated.

Babbs C, Stewart HS, Williams LJ, Connell L, Goriely A, Twigg SR, Smith K, Lester T, Wilkie AO. 2011. Duplication of the EFNB1 gene in familial hypertelorism: imbalance in ephrin-B1 expression and abnormal phenotypes in humans and mice. Hum Mutat, 32 (8), pp. 930-938. | Show Abstract | Read more

Familial hypertelorism, characterized by widely spaced eyes, classically shows autosomal dominant inheritance (Teebi type), but some pedigrees are compatible with X-linkage. No mechanism has been described previously, but clinical similarity has been noted to craniofrontonasal syndrome (CFNS), which is caused by mutations in the X-linked EFNB1 gene. Here we report a family in which females in three generations presented with hypertelorism, but lacked either craniosynostosis or a grooved nasal tip, excluding CFNS. DNA sequencing of EFNB1 was normal, but further analysis revealed a duplication of 937 kb including EFNB1 and two flanking genes: PJA1 and STARD8. We found that the X chromosome bearing the duplication produces ∼1.6-fold more EFNB1 transcript than the normal X chromosome and propose that, in the context of X-inactivation, this difference in expression level of EFNB1 results in abnormal cell sorting leading to hypertelorism. To support this hypothesis, we provide evidence from a mouse model carrying a targeted human EFNB1 cDNA, that abnormal cell sorting occurs in the cranial region. Hence, we propose that X-linked cases resembling Teebi hypertelorism may have a similar mechanism to CFNS, and that cellular mosaicism for different levels of ephrin-B1 (as well as simple presence/absence) leads to craniofacial abnormalities.

Nieminen P, Morgan NV, Fenwick AL, Parmanen S, Veistinen L, Mikkola ML, van der Spek PJ, Giraud A et al. 2011. Inactivation of IL11 signaling causes craniosynostosis, delayed tooth eruption, and supernumerary teeth. Am J Hum Genet, 89 (1), pp. 67-81. | Show Abstract | Read more

Craniosynostosis and supernumerary teeth most often occur as isolated developmental anomalies, but they are also separately manifested in several malformation syndromes. Here, we describe a human syndrome featuring craniosynostosis, maxillary hypoplasia, delayed tooth eruption, and supernumerary teeth. We performed homozygosity mapping in three unrelated consanguineous Pakistani families and localized the syndrome to a region in chromosome 9. Mutational analysis of candidate genes in the region revealed that all affected children harbored homozygous missense mutations (c.662C>G [p.Pro221Arg], c.734C>G [p.Ser245Cys], or c.886C>T [p.Arg296Trp]) in IL11RA (encoding interleukin 11 receptor, alpha) on chromosome 9p13.3. In addition, a homozygous nonsense mutation, c.475C>T (p.Gln159X), and a homozygous duplication, c.916_924dup (p.Thr306_Ser308dup), were observed in two north European families. In cell-transfection experiments, the p.Arg296Trp mutation rendered the receptor unable to mediate the IL11 signal, indicating that the mutation causes loss of IL11RA function. We also observed disturbed cranial growth and suture activity in the Il11ra null mutant mice, in which reduced size and remodeling of limb bones has been previously described. We conclude that IL11 signaling is essential for the normal development of craniofacial bones and teeth and that its function is to restrict suture fusion and tooth number. The results open up the possibility of modulation of IL11 signaling for the treatment of craniosynostosis.

Jenkins D, Baynam G, De Catte L, Elcioglu N, Gabbett MT, Hudgins L, Hurst JA, Jehee FS, Oley C, Wilkie AO. 2011. Carpenter syndrome: extended RAB23 mutation spectrum and analysis of nonsense-mediated mRNA decay. Hum Mutat, 32 (4), pp. E2069-E2078. | Show Abstract | Read more

Carpenter syndrome, a rare autosomal recessive disorder characterized by a combination of craniosynostosis, polysyndactyly, obesity, and other congenital malformations, is caused by mutations in RAB23, encoding a member of the Rab-family of small GTPases. In 15 out of 16 families previously reported, the disease was caused by homozygosity for truncating mutations, and currently only a single missense mutation has been identified in a compound heterozygote. Here, we describe a further 8 independent families comprising 10 affected individuals with Carpenter syndrome, who were positive for mutations in RAB23. We report the first homozygous missense mutation and in-frame deletion, highlighting key residues for RAB23 function, as well as the first splice-site mutation. Multi-suture craniosynostosis and polysyndactyly have been present in all patients described to date, and abnormal external genitalia have been universal in boys. High birth weight was not evident in the current group of patients, but further evidence for laterality defects is reported. No genotype-phenotype correlations are apparent. We provide experimental evidence that transcripts encoding truncating mutations are subject to nonsense-mediated decay, and that this plays an important role in the pathogenesis of many RAB23 mutations. These observations refine the phenotypic spectrum of Carpenter syndrome and offer new insights into molecular pathogenesis.

Vodopiutz J, Schmid M, Fenwicks AL, Prayer D, Repa A, Pollak A, Aufricht C, Wilkie AOM, Janecke AR. 2011. Homozygous SALL1 mutation causes lethal Townes-Brocks syndrome, CNS defects and severe retardation EUROPEAN JOURNAL OF PEDIATRICS, 170 (2), pp. 271-271.

Barroso E, Pérez-Carrizosa V, García-Recuero I, Glucksman MJ, Wilkie AO, García-Minaur S, Heath KE. 2011. Mild isolated craniosynostosis due to a novel FGFR3 mutation, p.Ala334Thr American Journal of Medical Genetics, Part A, 155 (12), pp. 3050-3053. | Show Abstract | Read more

Craniosynostosis is the premature fusion of one or more sutures of the skull, which can be syndromic or isolated. Mutations in FGFR1, FGFR2, or FGFR3, among others, are often responsible for these syndromic cases. The associated of FGFR3 mutations with craniosynostosis has been restricted to three mutations, the common p.Pro250Arg in Muenke syndrome, p.Ala391Glu in Crouzon syndrome with acanthosis nigricans, and p.Pro250Leu identified in a family with isolated craniosynostosis. Other FGFR3 mutations result in various skeletal dysplasias: achondroplasia, hypochondroplasia, and thanatophoric dysplasia. Here, we report a novel mutation in exon 8 (IIIc) of FGFR3, p.Ala334Thr, in a young boy with mild craniosynostosis. The mutation segregated with mild craniosynostosis in the family and was absent in 188 normal controls. Alanine 334 is evolutionarily conserved in vertebrates and is located at the amino terminus of the βF loop in the FGFR3c isoform. The mutation is predicted to alter the protein tertiary structure which may impair its binding to its ligand, FGF1. The identification of a mutation in these clinically heterogeneous disorders can aid recurrence risk assessments. Although the implementation of a stepwise screening strategy is useful in diagnostics, mutations in unscreened regions of genes associated with craniosynostosis may explain a small proportion of craniosynostosis cases. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Lim J, Goriely A, Turner GD, Ewen KA, Jacobsen GK, Graem N, Wilkie AO, Rajpert-De Meyts E. 2011. OCT2, SSX and SAGE1 reveal the phenotypic heterogeneity of spermatocytic seminoma reflecting distinct subpopulations of spermatogonia. J Pathol, 224 (4), pp. 473-483. | Show Abstract | Read more

Spermatocytic seminoma (SS) is a rare testicular neoplasm that occurs predominantly in older men. In this study, we aimed to shed light on the histogenesis of SS by investigating the developmental expression of protein markers that identify distinct subpopulations of human spermatogonia in the normal adult testis. We analysed the expression pattern of OCT2, SSX2-4, and SAGE1 in 36 SS cases and four intratubular SS (ISS) as well as a series of normal testis samples throughout development. We describe for the first time two different types of SS characterized by OCT2 or SSX2-4 immunoexpression. These findings are consistent with the mutually exclusive antigenic profile of these markers during different stages of testicular development and in the normal adult testis. OCT2 was expressed predominantly in A(dark) spermatogonia, SSX2-4 was present in A(pale) and B spermatogonia and leptotene spermatocytes, whilst SAGE1 was exclusively present in a subset of post-pubertal germ cells, most likely B spermatogonia. The presence of OCT2 and SSX2-4 in distinct subsets of germ cells implies that these markers represent germ cells at different maturation stages. Analysis of SAGE1 and SSX2-4 in ISS showed spatial differences suggesting ongoing maturation of germ cells during progression of SS tumourigenesis. We conclude that the expression pattern of OCT2, SSX2-4, and SAGE1 supports the origin of SS from spermatogonia and provides new evidence for heterogeneity of this tumour, potentially linked either to the cellular origin of SS or to partial differentiation during tumour progression, including a hitherto unknown OCT2-positive variant of the tumour likely derived from A(dark) spermatogonia.

Hurst JA, Jenkins D, Vasudevan PC, Kirchhoff M, Skovby F, Rieubland C, Gallati S, Rittinger O et al. 2011. Metopic and sagittal synostosis in Greig cephalopolysyndactyly syndrome: five cases with intragenic mutations or complete deletions of GLI3. Eur J Hum Genet, 19 (7), pp. 757-762. | Show Abstract | Read more

Greig cephalopolysyndactyly syndrome (GCPS) is a multiple congenital malformation characterised by limb and craniofacial anomalies, caused by heterozygous mutation or deletion of GLI3. We report four boys and a girl who were presented with trigonocephaly due to metopic synostosis, in association with pre- and post-axial polydactyly and cutaneous syndactyly of hands and feet. Two cases had additional sagittal synostosis. None had a family history of similar features. In all five children, the diagnosis of GCPS was confirmed by molecular analysis of GLI3 (two had intragenic mutations and three had complete gene deletions detected on array comparative genomic hybridisation), thus highlighting the importance of trigonocephaly or overt metopic or sagittal synostosis as a distinct presenting feature of GCPS. These observations confirm and extend a recently proposed association of intragenic GLI3 mutations with metopic synostosis; moreover, the three individuals with complete deletion of GLI3 were previously considered to have Carpenter syndrome, highlighting an important source of diagnostic confusion.

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Johnson D, Wilkie AOM. 2011. Craniosynostosis European Journal of Human Genetics, 19 (4), pp. 369-376. | Show Abstract | Read more

Craniosynostosis, defined as the premature fusion of the cranial sutures, presents many challenges in classification and treatment. At least 20% of cases are caused by specific single gene mutations or chromosome abnormalities. This article maps out approaches to clinical assessment of a child presenting with an unusual head shape, and illustrates how genetic analysis can contribute to diagnosis and management. © 2011 Macmillan Publishers Limited All rights reserved.

Bochukova EG, Soneji S, Wall SA, Wilkie AO. 2010. Scalp fibroblasts have a shared expression profile in monogenic craniosynostosis. J Med Genet, 47 (12), pp. 803-808. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Craniosynostosis can be caused by both genetic and environmental factors, the relative contributions of which vary between patients. Genetic testing identifies a pathogenic mutation or chromosomal abnormality in ∼ 21% of cases, but it is likely that further causative mutations remain to be discovered. OBJECTIVE: To identify a shared signature of genetically determined craniosynostosis by comparing the expression patterns in three monogenic syndromes with a control group of patients with non-syndromic sagittal synostosis. METHODS: Fibroblasts from 10 individuals each with Apert syndrome (FGFR2 substitution S252W), Muenke syndrome (FGFR3 substitution P250R), Saethre-Chotzen syndrome (various mutations in TWIST1) and non-syndromic sagittal synostosis (no mutation detected) were cultured. The relative expression of ∼ 47,000 transcripts was quantified on Affymetrix arrays. RESULTS: 435, 45 and 46 transcripts were identified in the Apert, Muenke and Saethre-Chotzen groups, respectively, that differed significantly from the controls. Forty-six of these transcripts were shared between two or more syndromes and, in all but one instance, showed the same direction of altered expression level compared with controls. Pathway analysis showed over-representation of the shared transcripts in core modules involving cell-to-cell communication and signal transduction. Individual samples from the Apert syndrome cases could be reliably distinguished from non-syndromic samples based on the gene expression profile, but this was not possible for samples from patients with Muenke and Saethre-Chotzen syndromes. CONCLUSIONS: Common modules of altered gene expression shared by genetically distinct forms of craniosynostosis were identified. Although the expression profiles cannot currently be used to classify individual patients, this may be overcome by using more sensitive assays and sampling additional tissues.

Wilkie AO, Byren JC, Hurst JA, Jayamohan J, Johnson D, Knight SJ, Lester T, Richards PG, Twigg SR, Wall SA. 2010. Prevalence and complications of single-gene and chromosomal disorders in craniosynostosis. Pediatrics, 126 (2), pp. e391-e400. | Show Abstract | Read more

OBJECTIVES: We describe the first cohort-based analysis of the impact of genetic disorders in craniosynostosis. We aimed to refine the understanding of prognoses and pathogenesis and to provide rational criteria for clinical genetic testing. METHODS: We undertook targeted molecular genetic and cytogenetic testing for 326 children who required surgery because of craniosynostosis, were born in 1993-2002, presented to a single craniofacial unit, and were monitored until the end of 2007. RESULTS: Eighty-four children (and 64 relatives) had pathologic genetic alterations (86% single-gene mutations and 14% chromosomal abnormalities). The FGFR3 P250R mutation was the single largest contributor (24%) to the genetic group. Genetic diagnoses accounted for 21% of all craniosynostosis cases and were associated with increased rates of many complications. Children with an initial clinical diagnosis of nonsyndromic craniosynostosis were more likely to have a causative mutation if the synostoses were unicoronal or bicoronal (10 of 48 cases) than if they were sagittal or metopic (0 of 55 cases; P = .0003). Repeat craniofacial surgery was required for 58% of children with single-gene mutations but only 17% of those with chromosomal abnormalities (P = .01). CONCLUSIONS: Clinical genetic assessment is critical for the treatment of children with craniosynostosis. Genetic testing of nonsyndromic cases (at least for FGFR3 P250R and FGFR2 exons IIIa/c) should be targeted to patients with coronal or multisuture synostoses. Single-gene disorders that disrupt physiologic signaling in the cranial sutures often require reoperation, whereas chromosomal abnormalities follow a more-indolent course, which suggests a different, secondary origin of the associated craniosynostosis.

Goriely A, Lord H, Lim J, Johnson D, Lester T, Firth HV, Wilkie AO. 2010. Germline and somatic mosaicism for FGFR2 mutation in the mother of a child with Crouzon syndrome: Implications for genetic testing in "paternal age-effect" syndromes. Am J Med Genet A, 152A (8), pp. 2067-2073. | Show Abstract | Read more

Crouzon syndrome is a dominantly inherited disorder characterized by craniosynostosis and facial dysostosis, caused by mutations in the fibroblast growth factor receptor 2 (FGFR2) gene; it belongs to a class of disorders that mostly arise as de novo mutations and exhibit a near-exclusive paternal origin of mutation and elevated paternal age ("paternal age effect"). However, even if this is the major mode of origin of mutations in paternal age-effect disorders, germline mosaicism may also occur. Here we describe the first molecularly documented evidence of germline and somatic mosaicism for FGFR2 mutation, identified in the mother of a child with Crouzon syndrome caused by a heterozygous c.1007A>G (p.Asp336Gly) substitution. Levels of maternal somatic mosaicism for this mutation, estimated by pyrosequencing, ranged from 3.3% in hair roots to 14.1% in blood. Our observation underlines the importance of parental molecular testing for accurate genetic counseling of the risk of recurrence for Crouzon, and other paternal age-effect syndromes.

Goriely A, Wilkie AO. 2010. Missing heritability: paternal age effect mutations and selfish spermatogonia. Nat Rev Genet, 11 (8), pp. 589. | Read more

Kini U, Hurst JA, Byren JC, Wall SA, Johnson D, Wilkie AO. 2010. Etiological heterogeneity and clinical characteristics of metopic synostosis: Evidence from a tertiary craniofacial unit. Am J Med Genet A, 152A (6), pp. 1383-1389. | Show Abstract | Read more

Metopic synostosis (MS) accounts for approximately 10-15% of all craniosynostosis and is etiologically heterogeneous. This study aimed to examine the causes of MS, as observed in a tertiary craniofacial unit. We reviewed the case notes of 110 children with a diagnosis of MS, attending the craniofacial unit in Oxford between 1991 and 2008. Our results showed 38 children (38/110 or 34.6%) who had at least one additional structural abnormality or had a known syndromic diagnosis were classed as having syndromic MS. Chromosomal abnormalities were noted in 8/38 (21.4%) children: mosaic marker chromosome 2, 9p deletion (2/8), 11q deletion, 12pter deletion and duplication of 15q25 with other additional chromosomal abnormalities (3/8). Other syndromic diagnoses included Silver-Russell syndrome and Greig cephalopolysyndactyly. Prenatal exposure to sodium valproate (VPA) was noted in 8/110 children (7.8%), with the dose of the VPA being >or=1,000 mg/day in all cases. Other prenatal exposures reported in this study were: maternal diabetes (6/110), enoxaparin for hypercoagulable state (1/110), and thyroxine (1/110). The majority of patients (72/110 or 65.4%) had nonsyndromic MS. Speech delay was present in 11 children with nonsyndromic MS (11/72 or 15.3%) and 10 children with syndromic MS (10/38 or 26.3%). We conclude that approximately two-thirds of all MS is nonsyndromic. Prenatal exposure to VPA is a common cause of MS. Maternal diabetes, not previously linked to MS, was noted in 5.5% of cases. Chromosomal abnormalities account for about 6% of MS. An increased risk of speech delay is seen with both the syndromic and nonsyndromic forms.

Goriely A, Hansen RM, Taylor IB, Olesen IA, Jacobsen GK, McGowan SJ, Pfeifer SP, McVean GA, Rajpert-De Meyts E, Wilkie AO. 2009. Activating mutations in FGFR3 and HRAS reveal a shared genetic origin for congenital disorders and testicular tumors. Nat Genet, 41 (11), pp. 1247-1252. | Show Abstract | Read more

Genes mutated in congenital malformation syndromes are frequently implicated in oncogenesis, but the causative germline and somatic mutations occur in separate cells at different times of an organism's life. Here we unify these processes to a single cellular event for mutations arising in male germ cells that show a paternal age effect. Screening of 30 spermatocytic seminomas for oncogenic mutations in 17 genes identified 2 mutations in FGFR3 (both 1948A>G, encoding K650E, which causes thanatophoric dysplasia in the germline) and 5 mutations in HRAS. Massively parallel sequencing of sperm DNA showed that levels of the FGFR3 mutation increase with paternal age and that the mutation spectrum at the Lys650 codon is similar to that observed in bladder cancer. Most spermatocytic seminomas show increased immunoreactivity for FGFR3 and/or HRAS. We propose that paternal age-effect mutations activate a common 'selfish' pathway supporting proliferation in the testis, leading to diverse phenotypes in the next generation including fetal lethality, congenital syndromes and cancer predisposition.

Furniss D, Kan SH, Taylor IB, Johnson D, Critchley PS, Giele HP, Wilkie AO. 2009. Genetic screening of 202 individuals with congenital limb malformations and requiring reconstructive surgery. J Med Genet, 46 (11), pp. 730-735. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Congenital limb malformations (CLMs) are common and present to a variety of specialties, notably plastic and orthopaedic surgeons, and clinical geneticists. The authors aimed to characterise causative mutations in an unselected cohort of patients with CLMs requiring reconstructive surgery. METHODS: 202 patients presenting with CLM were recruited. The authors obtained G-banded karyotypes and screened EN1, GLI3, HAND2, HOXD13, ROR2, SALL1, SALL4, ZRS of SHH, SPRY4, TBX5, TWIST1 and WNT7A for point mutations using denaturing high performance liquid chromatography (DHPLC) and direct sequencing. Multiplex ligation dependent probe amplification (MLPA) kits were developed and used to measure copy number in GLI3, HOXD13, ROR2, SALL1, SALL4, TBX5 and the ZRS of SHH. RESULTS: Within the cohort, causative genetic alterations were identified in 23 patients (11%): mutations in GLI3 (n = 5), HOXD13 (n = 5), the ZRS of SHH (n = 4), and chromosome abnormalities (n = 4) were the most common lesions found. Clinical features that predicted the discovery of a genetic cause included a bilateral malformation, positive family history, and having increasing numbers of limbs affected (all p<0.01). Additionally, specific patterns of malformation predicted mutations in specific genes. CONCLUSIONS: Based on higher mutation prevalence the authors propose that GLI3, HOXD13 and the ZRS of SHH should be prioritised for introduction into molecular genetic testing programmes for CLM. The authors have developed simple criteria that can refine the selection of patients by surgeons for referral to clinical geneticists. The cohort also represents an excellent resource to test for mutations in novel candidate genes.

Kurth I, Klopocki E, Stricker S, van Oosterwijk J, Vanek S, Altmann J, Santos HG, van Harssel JJ et al. 2009. Duplications of noncoding elements 5' of SOX9 are associated with brachydactyly-anonychia. Nat Genet, 41 (8), pp. 862-863. | Read more

Twigg SR, Versnel SL, Nürnberg G, Lees MM, Bhat M, Hammond P, Hennekam RC, Hoogeboom AJ et al. 2009. Frontorhiny, a distinctive presentation of frontonasal dysplasia caused by recessive mutations in the ALX3 homeobox gene. Am J Hum Genet, 84 (5), pp. 698-705. | Show Abstract | Read more

We describe a recessively inherited frontonasal malformation characterized by a distinctive facial appearance, with hypertelorism, wide nasal bridge, short nasal ridge, bifid nasal tip, broad columella, widely separated slit-like nares, long philtrum with prominent bilateral swellings, and midline notch in the upper lip and alveolus. Additional recurrent features present in a minority of individuals have been upper eyelid ptosis and midline dermoid cysts of craniofacial structures. Assuming recessive inheritance, we mapped the locus in three families to chromosome 1 and identified mutations in ALX3, which is located at band 1p13.3 and encodes the aristaless-related ALX homeobox 3 transcription factor. In total, we identified seven different homozygous pathogenic mutations in seven families. These mutations comprise missense substitutions at critical positions within the conserved homeodomain as well as nonsense, frameshift, and splice-site mutations, all predicting severe or complete loss of function. Our findings contrast with previous studies of the orthologous murine gene, which showed no phenotype in Alx3(-/-) homozygotes, apparently as a result of functional redundancy with the paralogous Alx4 gene. We conclude that ALX3 is essential for normal facial development in humans and that deficiency causes a clinically recognizable phenotype, which we term frontorhiny.

Twigg SR, Healy C, Babbs C, Sharpe JA, Wood WG, Sharpe PT, Morriss-Kay GM, Wilkie AO. 2009. Skeletal analysis of the Fgfr3(P244R) mouse, a genetic model for the Muenke craniosynostosis syndrome. Dev Dyn, 238 (2), pp. 331-342. | Show Abstract | Read more

Muenke syndrome, defined by heterozygosity for a Pro250Arg substitution in fibroblast growth factor receptor 3 (FGFR3), is the most common genetic cause of craniosynostosis in humans. We have used gene targeting to introduce the Muenke syndrome mutation (equivalent to P244R) into the murine Fgfr3 gene. A rounded skull and shortened snout (often skewed) with dental malocclusion was observed in a minority of heterozygotes and many homozygotes. Development of this incompletely penetrant skull phenotype was dependent on genetic background and sex, with males more often affected. However, these cranial abnormalities were rarely attributable to craniosynostosis, which was only present in 2/364 mutants; more commonly, we found fusion of the premaxillary and/or zygomatic sutures. We also found decreased cortical thickness and bone mineral densities in long bones. We conclude that although both cranial and long bone development is variably affected by the murine Fgfr3(P244R) mutation, coronal craniosynostosis is not reliably reproduced.

Bochukova EG, Roscioli T, Hedges DJ, Taylor IB, Johnson D, David DJ, Deininger PL, Wilkie AO. 2009. Rare mutations of FGFR2 causing apert syndrome: identification of the first partial gene deletion, and an Alu element insertion from a new subfamily. Hum Mutat, 30 (2), pp. 204-211. | Show Abstract | Read more

Apert syndrome (AS) is a severe disorder, characterized by craniosynostosis and complex syndactyly of the hands and feet. Two heterozygous gain-of-function substitutions (Ser252Trp and Pro253Arg) in exon IIIa of fibroblast growth factor receptor 2 (FGFR2) are responsible for >98% of cases. Here we describe two novel mutations in FGFR2 in the two patients in whom a mutation had not previously been found in our cohort of 227 AS cases. The first is a 1.93-kb deletion, removing exon IIIc and substantial portions of the flanking introns. This is the first large FGFR2 deletion described in any individual with craniosynostosis. The other mutation is a 5' truncated Alu insertion into exon IIIc. This is the third Alu insertion identified in AS; all have occurred within an interval of only 104 bp, representing an enrichment of over a million-fold compared to the background genomic rate. We show that the inserted Alu element belongs to a small subfamily, not previously known to be mobile, which we term Alu Yk13. Both the deletion and insertion are likely to act by a similar gain-of-function mechanism in which disruption of exon IIIc leads to illegitimate mesenchymal expression of an FGFR2 spliceform containing the alternatively spliced exon IIIb. All the AS-associated Alu insertions have arisen in the paternal germline; we propose that their enrichment in FGFR2 is driven by positive selection of the mutant spermatogonial progenitors, a mechanism analogous to that explaining why the canonical AS nucleotide substitutions also reach exceptionally high levels in sperm.

Woods RH, Ul-Haq E, Wilkie AO, Jayamohan J, Richards PG, Johnson D, Lester T, Wall SA. 2009. Reoperation for intracranial hypertension in TWIST1-confirmed Saethre-Chotzen syndrome: a 15-year review. Plast Reconstr Surg, 123 (6), pp. 1801-1810. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Saethre-Chotzen syndrome is a syndromic craniosynostosis defined by a genetic mutation affecting the TWIST1 gene on chromosome 7p21. It is typically associated with unicoronal or bicoronal synostosis, eyelid ptosis, dysmorphic external ears, and other variable facial and limb abnormalities. Surgical management of the craniosynostosis addresses the calvarial deformity and may relieve or reduce the risk of intracranial hypertension. The aim of this study was to assess surgical intervention, with particular consideration of the reoperation rate for intracranial hypertension, in Saethre-Chotzen syndrome patients. METHODS: A retrospective case note analysis was performed on all patients with a confirmed TWIST1 gene abnormality who attended the Oxford Craniofacial Unit over a 15-year period. Each patient's mutation and clinical features were recorded. Surgical intervention and sequelae were examined in greater detail. RESULTS: Thirty-four patients with genetically confirmed Saethre-Chotzen syndrome were identified. All had craniosynostosis (bicoronal, 76 percent; unicoronal, 18 percent; bicoronal and sagittal, 6 percent), and the majority had eyelid ptosis, low frontal hairline, and external ear anomalies. Thirty-one patients had received surgical intervention. Nine of 26 patients (35 percent) with at least 12 months of follow-up after primary intervention and eight of 19 patients (42 percent) with at least 5 years of follow-up developed intracranial hypertension necessitating secondary calvarial surgery. CONCLUSIONS: Despite standard surgical intervention, patients with Saethre-Chotzen syndrome have a high rate (35 to 42 percent) of recurrent intracranial hypertension necessitating further surgical expansion. All patients with either bicoronal synostosis or unicoronal synostosis with syndromic features should be screened for TWIST1 mutations, as this confers a greater risk than nonsyndromic synostosis of the same sutures. Regular follow-up throughout the childhood years is essential.

Mansour SL, Twigg SR, Freeland RM, Wall SA, Li C, Wilkie AO. 2009. Hearing loss in a mouse model of Muenke syndrome. Hum Mol Genet, 18 (1), pp. 43-50. | Show Abstract | Read more

The heterozygous Pro250Arg substitution mutation in fibroblast growth factor receptor 3 (FGFR3), which increases ligand-dependent signalling, is the most common genetic cause of craniosynostosis in humans and defines Muenke syndrome. Since FGF signalling plays dosage-sensitive roles in the differentiation of the auditory sensory epithelium, we evaluated hearing in a large group of Muenke syndrome subjects, as well as in the corresponding mouse model (Fgfr3(P244R)). The Muenke syndrome cohort showed significant, but incompletely penetrant, predominantly low-frequency sensorineural hearing loss, and the Fgfr3(P244R) mice showed dominant, fully penetrant hearing loss that was more severe than that in Muenke syndrome individuals, but had the same pattern of relative high-frequency sparing. The mouse hearing loss correlated with an alteration in the fate of supporting cells (Deiters'-to-pillar cells) along the entire length of the cochlear duct, with the most extreme abnormalities found at the apical or low-frequency end. In addition, there was excess outer hair cell development in the apical region. We conclude that low-frequency sensorineural hearing loss is a characteristic feature of Muenke syndrome and that the genetically equivalent mouse provides an excellent model that could be useful in testing hearing loss therapies aimed at manipulating the levels of FGF signalling in the inner ear.

Wilkie AO. 2009. Pitfalls in the phylogenomic evaluation of human disease-causing mutations. J Biol, 8 (3), pp. 26. | Show Abstract | Read more

A detailed sequence comparison of the MSX homeobox family sheds light on its evolution and identifies new conserved motifs. But in the absence of corroborative genetic data, phylogenomics alone can provide only limited insights into the pathogenicity of heterozygous missense substitutions in human genes.

Koolen DA, Sharp AJ, Hurst JA, Firth HV, Knight SJ, Goldenberg A, Saugier-Veber P, Pfundt R et al. 2008. Clinical and molecular delineation of the 17q21.31 microdeletion syndrome. J Med Genet, 45 (11), pp. 710-720. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: The chromosome 17q21.31 microdeletion syndrome is a novel genomic disorder that has originally been identified using high resolution genome analyses in patients with unexplained mental retardation. AIM: We report the molecular and/or clinical characterisation of 22 individuals with the 17q21.31 microdeletion syndrome. RESULTS: We estimate the prevalence of the syndrome to be 1 in 16,000 and show that it is highly underdiagnosed. Extensive clinical examination reveals that developmental delay, hypotonia, facial dysmorphisms including a long face, a tubular or pear-shaped nose and a bulbous nasal tip, and a friendly/amiable behaviour are the most characteristic features. Other clinically important features include epilepsy, heart defects and kidney/urologic anomalies. Using high resolution oligonucleotide arrays we narrow the 17q21.31 critical region to a 424 kb genomic segment (chr17: 41046729-41470954, hg17) encompassing at least six genes, among which is the gene encoding microtubule associated protein tau (MAPT). Mutation screening of MAPT in 122 individuals with a phenotype suggestive of 17q21.31 deletion carriers, but who do not carry the recurrent deletion, failed to identify any disease associated variants. In five deletion carriers we identify a <500 bp rearrangement hotspot at the proximal breakpoint contained within an L2 LINE motif and show that in every case examined the parent originating the deletion carries a common 900 kb 17q21.31 inversion polymorphism, indicating that this inversion is a necessary factor for deletion to occur (p<10(-5)). CONCLUSION: Our data establish the 17q21.31 microdeletion syndrome as a clinically and molecularly well recognisable genomic disorder.

Furniss D, Lettice LA, Taylor IB, Critchley PS, Giele H, Hill RE, Wilkie AO. 2008. A variant in the sonic hedgehog regulatory sequence (ZRS) is associated with triphalangeal thumb and deregulates expression in the developing limb. Hum Mol Genet, 17 (16), pp. 2417-2423. | Show Abstract | Read more

A locus for triphalangeal thumb, variably associated with pre-axial polydactyly, was previously identified in the zone of polarizing activity regulatory sequence (ZRS), a long range limb-specific enhancer of the Sonic Hedgehog (SHH) gene at human chromosome 7q36.3. Here, we demonstrate that a 295T>C variant in the human ZRS, previously thought to represent a neutral polymorphism, acts as a dominant allele with reduced penetrance. We found this variant in three independently ascertained probands from southern England with triphalangeal thumb, demonstrated significant linkage of the phenotype to the variant (LOD = 4.1), and identified a shared microsatellite haplotype around the ZRS, suggesting that the probands share a common ancestor. An individual homozygous for the 295C allele presented with isolated bilateral triphalangeal thumb resembling the heterozygous phenotype, suggesting that the variant is largely dominant to the wild-type allele. As a functional test of the pathogenicity of the 295C allele, we utilized a mutated ZRS construct to demonstrate that it can drive ectopic anterior expression of a reporter gene in the developing mouse forelimb. We conclude that the 295T>C variant is in fact pathogenic and, in southern England, appears to be the most common cause of triphalangeal thumb. Depending on the dispersal of the founding mutation, it may play a wider role in the aetiology of this disorder.

Babbs C, Furniss D, Morriss-Kay GM, Wilkie AO. 2008. Polydactyly in the mouse mutant Doublefoot involves altered Gli3 processing and is caused by a large deletion in cis to Indian hedgehog. Mech Dev, 125 (5-6), pp. 517-526. | Show Abstract | Read more

The mouse mutant Doublefoot (Dbf) shows preaxial polydactyly with 6-9 triphalangeal digits in all four limbs and additional abnormalities including a broadened skull, hydrocephalus, and a thickened, kinked tail. The autopod undergoes a characteristic expansion between late embryonic day (E) 10.5 and E11.5, following the onset of ectopic Indian hedgehog (Ihh) expression in the entire distal mesenchyme, except for the zone of polarising activity (ZPA), at E10.5. We show here that limb prepattern, as indicated by expression of Gli3 and Hand2 at E9.5 is unaffected by the mutation. As both Sonic hedgehog (Shh) and Ihh expression are present in Dbf limb buds at E10.5, we generated Dbf/(+);Shh(-/-) mutants to analyse the effects of different patterns of Hedgehog activity on the limb phenotype and molecular differentiation. Dbf/(+) embryos lacking Shh showed postaxial as well as preaxial polydactyly, and the Ihh expression domain extended posteriorly into the domain in which Shh is normally expressed, indicating loss of ZPA identity. Differences in gene expression patterns in wild type, single and compound mutants were associated with differences in Gli3 processing: an increased ratio of Gli3 activator to Gli3 repressor was observed in the anterior half of Dbf/(+) limb buds and in both anterior and posterior halves of compound mutant limb buds at E10.5. To identify the cause of Ihh misregulation in Dbf/(+) mutants, we sequenced approximately 20 kb of genomic DNA around Ihh but found no pathogenic changes. However, Southern blot analysis revealed a approximately 600 kb deletion disrupting or deleting 25 transcripts, starting 50 kb 5' of Ihh and extending away from the gene. The large deletion interval may explain the wide range of abnormalities in Dbf/(+) mutants. However, we did not detect anologous deletions in cases of Laurin-Sandrow syndrome, a human disorder that shows phenotypic similarities to Dbf.

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Koolen DA, Sharp AJ, Hurst JA, Firth HV, Knight SJL, Goldenberg A, Saugier-Veber P, Pfundt R et al. 2008. Clinical and molecular delineation of the 17q21.31 microdeletion syndrome JOURNAL OF MEDICAL GENETICS, 45 (11), pp. 710-720. | Show Abstract | Read more

Background: The chromosome 17q21.31 microdeletion syndrome is a novel genomic disorder that has originally been identified using high resolution genome analyses in patients with unexplained mental retardation. Aim: We report the molecular and/or clinical characterisation of 22 individuals with the 17q21.31 microdeletion syndrome. Results: We estimate the prevalence of the syndrome to be 1 in 16 000 and show that it is highly underdiagnosed. Extensive clinical examination reveals that developmental delay, hypotonia, facial dysmorphisms including a long face, a tubular or pear-shaped nose and a bulbous nasal tip, and a friendly/amiable behaviour are the most characteristic features. Other clinically important features include epilepsy, heart defects and kidney/urologic anomalies. Using high resolution oligonucleotide arrays we narrow the 17q21.31 critical region to a 424 kb genomic segment (007: 41046729-41470954, hg17) encompassing at least six genes, among which is the gene encoding microtubule associated protein tau IMAM Mutation screening of MAPT in 122 individuals with a phenotype suggestive of 17q21.31 deletion carriers, but who do not carry the recurrent deletion, failed to identify any disease associated variants. In five deletion carriers we identify a <500 bp rearrangement hotspot at the proximal breakpoint contained within an L2 LINE motif and show that in every case examined the parent originating the deletion carries a common 900 kb 17q21.31 inversion polymorphism, indicating that this inversion is a necessary factor for deletion to occur (p<10-5). Conclusion: Our data establish the 17q21.31 microdeletion syndrome as a clinically and molecularly well recognisable genomic disorder.

Marucci DD, Johnston CP, Anslow P, Jayamohan J, Richards PG, Wilkie AO, Wall SA. 2008. Implications of a vertex bulge following modified strip craniectomy for sagittal synostosis. Plast Reconstr Surg, 122 (1), pp. 217-224. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Modified strip craniectomy is a common treatment for early isolated sagittal synostosis. The authors assessed the significance of the development of a progressive vertex bulge following strip craniectomy as a predictor of raised intracranial pressure or multiple suture synostosis. METHODS: All cases of sagittal synostosis treated by modified strip craniectomy (removal of the sagittal suture with lateral barrel staving) at the authors' institution were reviewed. Eighty-nine patients with isolated sagittal synostosis were treated by modified strip craniectomy, usually before 6 months of age, between 1995 and 2005. Seven patients were noted to have developed a progressive vertex bulge. The vertex bulge was noted an average of 8 months postoperatively (range, 2 to 25 months). The clinical records of these seven patients were evaluated with regard to their clinical course, radiologic investigations, genetics testing, intracranial pressure monitoring, and the need for further surgery. RESULTS: Computed tomographic scanning demonstrated new synostosis involving other calvarial sutures in five patients. Five patients underwent intracranial pressure monitoring, and this was elevated in four patients. One patient required a ventriculoperitoneal shunt for hydrocephalus. All patients underwent genetic screening, and two were found to have fibroblast growth factor receptor (FGFR) mutations (one FGFR2 and one FGFR3 mutation). All patients required reoperation (calvarial remodeling) for either raised intracranial pressure, deteriorating head shape, or both. CONCLUSIONS: A progressive vertex bulge after modified strip craniectomy is a sign of possible raised intracranial pressure, the development of progressive multiple suture synostosis, or both. It is an indication for genetic testing for FGFR mutations.

Furniss D, Critchley P, Giele H, Wilkie AO. 2007. Nonsense-mediated decay and the molecular pathogenesis of mutations in SALL1 and GLI3. Am J Med Genet A, 143A (24), pp. 3150-3160. | Show Abstract | Read more

Mutations in SALL1 and GLI3 are responsible for human limb malformation syndromes. The molecular pathophysiology of these mutations is incompletely understood, and many conclusions have been drawn from studies performed in the mouse. We identified truncating mutations in SALL1 and GLI3 in patients with limb malformation and studied the contribution of nonsense-mediated decay (NMD) to the expression of mutant mRNA in patient-derived fibroblasts. Quantification of the relative proportions of mutant and wild-type alleles was performed by pyrosequencing. In SALL1, a mutant allele causing Townes-Brocks syndrome was unexpectedly resistant to NMD, whereas a different mutation causing a much milder phenotype was susceptible to NMD. In GLI3, all three mutant alleles tested were susceptible to NMD. This work provides novel insights into the molecular pathophysiology of SALL1 and GLI3 mutations, extends the phenotypic spectrum of SALL1 mutations, and provides an example of a human mutation which does not follow the usual accepted positional rules governing mammalian NMD. (c) 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

Babbs C, Heller R, Everman DB, Crocker M, Twigg SR, Schwartz CE, Giele H, Wilkie AO. 2007. A new locus for split hand/foot malformation with long bone deficiency (SHFLD) at 2q14.2 identified from a chromosome translocation. Hum Genet, 122 (2), pp. 191-199. | Show Abstract | Read more

Split hand/foot malformation (SHFM) with long bone deficiency (SHFLD) is a distinct entity in the spectrum of ectrodactylous limb malformations characterised by associated tibial a/hypoplasia. Pedigrees with multiple individuals affected by SHFLD often include non-penetrant intermediate relatives, making genetic mapping difficult. Here we report a sporadic patient with SHFLD who carries a de novo chromosomal translocation t(2;18)(q14.2;p11.2). Characterisation of the breakpoints revealed that neither disrupts any known gene; however, the chromosome 2 breakpoint lies between GLI2 and INHBB, two genes known to be involved in limb development. To investigate whether mutation of a gene in proximity to the chromosome 2 breakpoint underlies the SHFLD, we sought independent evidence of mutations in GLI2, INHBB and two other genes (RALB and FLJ14816) in 44 unrelated patients with SHFM, SHFLD or isolated long bone deficiency. No convincing pathogenic mutations were found, raising the possibility that a long-range cis acting regulatory element may be disrupted by this translocation. The previous description of a translocation with a 2q14.2 breakpoint associated with ectrodactyly, and the mapping of the ectrodactylous Dominant hemimelia mouse mutation to a region of homologous synteny, suggests that 2q14.2 represents a novel locus for SHFLD.

Wilkie AO. 2007. Cancer drugs to treat birth defects. Nat Genet, 39 (9), pp. 1057-1059. | Show Abstract | Read more

Identical mutations of the same genes can lead either to congenital malformations or to cancer, depending on their cellular and temporal context. The demonstration of activated RAS-ERK signaling in a mouse model of Apert syndrome suggests that drugs designed to inhibit this pathway in cancer may also delay the progression of several serious pediatric syndromes. ©2007 Nature Publishing Group.

Wilkie AO, Bochukova EG, Hansen RM, Taylor IB, Rannan-Eliya SV, Byren JC, Wall SA, Ramos L et al. 2007. Clinical dividends from the molecular genetic diagnosis of craniosynostosis. Am J Med Genet A, 143A (16), pp. 1941-1949. | Show Abstract | Read more

A dozen years have passed since the first genetic lesion was identified in a family with craniosynostosis, the premature fusion of the cranial sutures. Subsequently, mutations in the FGFR2, FGFR3, TWIST1, and EFNB1 genes have been shown to account for approximately 25% of craniosynostosis, whilst several additional genes make minor contributions. Using specific examples, we show how these discoveries have enabled refinement of information on diagnosis, recurrence risk, prognosis for mental development, and surgical planning. However, phenotypic variability can present a significant challenge to the clinical interpretation of molecular genetic tests. In particular, the difficulty of analyzing the complex interaction of genetic background and prenatal environment in determining clinical features, limits the value of identifying low penetrance mutations.

Lehmann K, Seemann P, Silan F, Goecke TO, Irgang S, Kjaer KW, Kjaergaard S, Mahoney MJ et al. 2007. A new subtype of brachydactyly type B caused by point mutations in the bone morphogenetic protein antagonist NOGGIN. Am J Hum Genet, 81 (2), pp. 388-396. | Show Abstract | Read more

Brachydactyly type B (BDB) is characterized by terminal deficiency of fingers and toes, which is caused by heterozygous truncating mutations in the receptor tyrosine kinase-like orphan receptor 2 (ROR2) in the majority of patients. In a subset of ROR2-negative patients with BDB, clinically defined by the additional occurrence of proximal symphalangism and carpal synostosis, we identified six different point mutations (P35A, P35S, A36P, E48K, R167G, and P187S) in the bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) antagonist NOGGIN (NOG). In contrast to previously described loss-of-function mutations in NOG, which are known to cause a range of conditions associated with abnormal joint formation but without BDB, the newly identified BDB mutations do not indicate a major loss of function, as suggested by calculation of free-binding energy of the modeled NOG-GDF5 complex and functional analysis of the micromass culture system. Rather, they presumably alter NOG's ability to bind to BMPs and growth-differentiation factors (GDFs) in a subtle way, thus disturbing the intricate balance of BMP signaling. The combined features observed in this phenotypic subtype of BDB argue for a functional connection between BMP and ROR2 signaling and support previous findings of a modulating effect of ROR2 on the BMP-receptor pathway through the formation of a heteromeric complex of the receptors at the cell surface.

Prescott KR, Wilkie AO. 2007. Genetic aspects of birth defects: new understandings of old problems. Arch Dis Child Fetal Neonatal Ed, 92 (4), pp. F308-F314. | Show Abstract | Read more

Over the past two decades, combined advances in genetics, developmental biology and biochemistry have transformed the study of human birth defects. This review describes the importance of genome architecture, parent of origin effects (imprinting), molecular pathophysiology, developmental pathways, mosaicism and cancer predisposition syndromes in the understanding of birth defects. This knowledge can be applied to improve diagnostic accuracy, prognostic information, counselling and sometimes even treatment of these conditions.

Collin B, Taylor IB, Wilkie AO, Moss C. 2007. Fibroblast growth factor receptor 3 (FGFR3) mutation in a verrucous epidermal naevus associated with mild facial dysmorphism. Br J Dermatol, 156 (6), pp. 1353-1356. | Show Abstract | Read more

We report an activating fibroblast growth factor receptor 3 (FGFR3) mutation (R248C) occurring in a verrucous epidermal naevus, and not found in other tissues, in a girl with mild facial dysmorphism. We demonstrate the presence of the mutation in keratinocytes cultured from the naevus and we speculate that a low level of the mutation in other tissues may account for her facial dysmorphism. The possibility that the mutation is present in other tissues implies a possible risk to her future offspring.

Jenkins D, Seelow D, Jehee FS, Perlyn CA, Alonso LG, Bueno DF, Donnai D, Josifova D et al. 2007. RAB23 mutations in Carpenter syndrome imply an unexpected role for hedgehog signaling in cranial-suture development and obesity. Am J Hum Genet, 80 (6), pp. 1162-1170. | Show Abstract | Read more

Carpenter syndrome is a pleiotropic disorder with autosomal recessive inheritance, the cardinal features of which include craniosynostosis, polysyndactyly, obesity, and cardiac defects. Using homozygosity mapping, we found linkage to chromosome 6p12.1-q12 and, in 15 independent families, identified five different mutations (four truncating and one missense) in RAB23, which encodes a member of the RAB guanosine triphosphatase (GTPase) family of vesicle transport proteins and acts as a negative regulator of hedgehog (HH) signaling. In 10 patients, the disease was caused by homozygosity for the same nonsense mutation, L145X, that resides on a common haplotype, indicative of a founder effect in patients of northern European descent. Surprisingly, nonsense mutations of Rab23 in open brain mice cause recessive embryonic lethality with neural-tube defects, suggesting a species difference in the requirement for RAB23 during early development. The discovery of RAB23 mutations in patients with Carpenter syndrome implicates HH signaling in cranial-suture biogenesis--an unexpected finding, given that craniosynostosis is not usually associated with mutations of other HH-pathway components--and provides a new molecular target for studies of obesity.

Santos HG, Almeida M, Fernandes H, Wilkie AO. 2007. Clinical hypochondroplasia in a family caused by a heterozygous double mutation in FGFR3 encoding GLY380LYS. Am J Med Genet A, 143 (4), pp. 355-359. | Show Abstract | Read more

In classical achondroplasia (Ach), a glycine residue is replaced by an arginine at codon 380 in exon 10 of the fibroblast growth factor receptor 3 gene (FGFR3). Here we report on a mother and daughter with hypochondroplasia (Hch) caused by a new heterozygous double mutation (1138_1139GG > AA) at the same codon 380, but encoding a lysine instead of the usual arginine. Previous functional assays of these codon 380 amino acid substitutions demonstrated a lesser activation of receptor signaling by lysine compared to arginine [Webster and Donoghue, 1996; EMBO J 15:520-527]. This could explain the milder phenotype observed in our patients. Several other rare double mutations were previously described in both FGFR2 and FGFR3 and interpreted as resulting from positive selection of spermatogonial cells owing to gain-of-function in the encoded protein [Goriely et al., 2005; Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 102:6051-6056]. The present case contributes additional support for this hypothesis.

Wilkie AOM, Bochukova EG, Hansen RMS, Taylor IB, Rannan-Eliya SV, Byren JC, Wall SA, Ramos L et al. 2007. Clinical dividends from the molecular genetic diagnosis of craniosynostosis American Journal of Medical Genetics Part A, 143A (16), pp. 1941-1949. | Show Abstract | Read more

A dozen years have passed since the first genetic lesion was identified in a family with craniosynostosis, the premature fusion of the cranial sutures. Subsequently, mutations in the FGFR2, FGFR3, TWIST1, and EFNB1 genes have been shown to account for approximately 25% of craniosynostosis, whilst several additional genes make minor contributions. Using specific examples, we show how these discoveries have enabled refinement of information on diagnosis, recurrence risk, prognosis for mental development, and surgical planning. However, phenotypic variability can present a significant challenge to the clinical interpretation of molecular genetic tests. In particular, the difficulty of analyzing the complex interaction of genetic background and prenatal environment in determining clinical features, limits the value of identifying low penetrance mutations. (c) 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

Wilkie AO, Bochukova EG, Hansen RM, Taylor IB, Rannan-Eliya SV, Byren JC, Wall SA, Ramos L et al. 2006. Clinical dividends from the molecular genetic diagnosis of craniosynostosis. Am J Med Genet A, 140 (23), pp. 2631-2639. | Show Abstract | Read more

A dozen years have passed since the first genetic lesion was identified in a family with craniosynostosis, the premature fusion of the cranial sutures. Subsequently, mutations in the FGFR2, FGFR3, TWIST1, and EFNB1 genes have been shown to account for approximately 25% of craniosynostosis, whilst several additional genes make minor contributions. Using specific examples, we show how these discoveries have enabled refinement of information on diagnosis, recurrence risk, prognosis for mental development, and surgical planning. However, phenotypic variability can present a significant challenge to the clinical interpretation of molecular genetic tests. In particular, the difficulty of analyzing the complex interaction of genetic background and prenatal environment in determining clinical features, limits the value of identifying low penetrance mutations.

Robertson SP, Jenkins ZA, Morgan T, Adès L, Aftimos S, Boute O, Fiskerstrand T, Garcia-Miñaur S et al. 2006. Frontometaphyseal dysplasia: mutations in FLNA and phenotypic diversity. Am J Med Genet A, 140 (16), pp. 1726-1736. | Show Abstract | Read more

Frontometaphyseal dysplasia is an X-linked trait primarily characterized by a skeletal dysplasia comprising hyperostosis of the skull and modeling anomalies of the tubular bones. Extraskeletal features include tracheobronchial, cardiac, and urological malformations. A proportion of individuals have missense mutations or small deletions in the X-linked gene, FLNA. We report here our experience with comprehensive screening of the FLNA gene in a group of 23 unrelated probands (11 familial instances, 12 simplex cases; total affected individuals 32) with FMD. We found missense mutations leading to substitutions in the actin-binding domain and within filamin repeats 9, 10, 14, 16, 22, and 23 of filamin A in 13/23 (57%) of individuals in this cohort. Some mutations present with a male phenotype that is characterized by a severe skeletal dysplasia, cardiac, and genitourinary malformations that leads to perinatal death. Although no phenotypic feature consistently discriminates between females with FMD who are heterozygous for FLNA mutations and those in whom no FLNA mutation can be identified, there is a difference in the degree of skewing of X-inactivation between these two groups. This observation suggests that locus heterogeneity may exist for this disorder.

Vasudevan PC, Twigg SR, Mulliken JB, Cook JA, Quarrell OW, Wilkie AO. 2006. Expanding the phenotype of craniofrontonasal syndrome: two unrelated boys with EFNB1 mutations and congenital diaphragmatic hernia. Eur J Hum Genet, 14 (7), pp. 884-887. | Show Abstract | Read more

Craniofrontonasal syndrome (CFNS, MIM 304110) is an X-linked craniofacial disorder that shows paradoxically greater severity in heterozygous females than in hemizygous males. Mutations have been identified in the EFNB1 gene that encodes a member of the ephrin-B family of transmembrane ligands for Eph receptor tyrosine kinases. Here, we describe two unrelated families, in both of which a mother and her son have proven mutations in EFNB1. The mothers have classical features of CFNS; although the sons have no major craniofacial features other than telecanthus, both had a congenital diaphragmatic hernia (CDH). Our cases represent the first in which CDH has been confirmed in males with mutations in EFNB1, highlighting an important role for signalling by ephrin-B1 in the development of the diaphragm.

Twigg SR, Matsumoto K, Kidd AM, Goriely A, Taylor IB, Fisher RB, Hoogeboom AJ, Mathijssen IM et al. 2006. The origin of EFNB1 mutations in craniofrontonasal syndrome: frequent somatic mosaicism and explanation of the paucity of carrier males. Am J Hum Genet, 78 (6), pp. 999-1010. | Show Abstract | Read more

Craniofrontonasal syndrome (CFNS) is an X-linked disorder that exhibits a paradoxical sex reversal in phenotypic severity: females characteristically have frontonasal dysplasia, craniosynostosis, and additional minor malformations, but males are usually mildly affected with hypertelorism only. Despite this, males appear underrepresented in CFNS pedigrees, with carrier males encountered infrequently compared with affected females. To investigate these unusual genetic features of CFNS, we exploited the recent discovery of causative mutations in the EFNB1 gene, which encodes ephrin-B1, to survey the molecular alterations in 59 families (39 newly investigated and 20 published elsewhere). We identified the first complete deletions of EFNB1, catalogued 27 novel intragenic mutations, and used Pyrosequencing and analysis of nearby polymorphic alleles to quantify mosaic cases and to determine the parental origin of verified germline mutations. Somatic mosaicism was demonstrated in 6 of 53 informative families, and, of 17 germline mutations in individuals for whom the parental origin of mutation could be demonstrated, 15 arose from the father. We conclude that the major factor accounting for the relative scarcity of carrier males is the bias toward mutations in the paternal germline (which present as affected female offspring) combined with reduced reproductive fitness in affected females. Postzygotic mutations also contribute to the female preponderance, whereas true nonpenetrance in males who are hemizygous for an EFNB1 mutation appears unusual. These results highlight the importance of considering possible origins of mutation in the counseling of families with CFNS and provide a generally applicable approach to the combined analysis of mosaic and germline mutations.

Robertson SP, Thompson S, Morgan T, Holder-Espinasse M, Martinot-Duquenoy V, Wilkie AO, Manouvrier-Hanu S. 2006. Postzygotic mutation and germline mosaicism in the otopalatodigital syndrome spectrum disorders. Eur J Hum Genet, 14 (5), pp. 549-554. | Show Abstract | Read more

The otopalatodigital syndrome (OPD) spectrum disorders are a heterogeneous group of skeletal dysplasias caused by mutations in the X-linked gene, FLNA. All OPD spectrum disorders (otopalatodigital syndromes types 1 and 2, frontometaphyseal dysplasia and Melnick-Needles syndrome) exhibit significant interfamilial variability in their expressivity, especially in female subjects. Factors contributing to this may include allelic heterogeneity, variation in the degree of skewing of X inactivation or, conceivably, mosaicism for the underlying causative mutation. We report here monozygotic twin sisters who are discordant for the severe phenotype, Melnick-Needles syndrome, associated with the heterozygous mutation, 3596C>T. We also describe two brothers with otopalatodigital syndrome type 1 due to the FLNA mutation 620G>A. The mutation is not detectable in the blood leucocytes of their clinically unaffected mother, indicating that she is a germline mosaic for the condition. The description of somatic mutations and germline mosaicism in FLNA has implications for clinical and molecular diagnosis, phenotypic expression and genetic counseling of families with these disorders.

Merrill AE, Bochukova EG, Brugger SM, Ishii M, Pilz DT, Wall SA, Lyons KM, Wilkie AO, Maxson RE. 2006. Cell mixing at a neural crest-mesoderm boundary and deficient ephrin-Eph signaling in the pathogenesis of craniosynostosis. Hum Mol Genet, 15 (8), pp. 1319-1328. | Show Abstract | Read more

Boundaries between cellular compartments often serve as signaling interfaces during embryogenesis. The coronal suture is a major growth center of the skull vault and develops at a boundary between cells derived from neural crest and mesodermal origin, forming the frontal and parietal bones, respectively. Premature fusion of these bones, termed coronal synostosis, is a common human developmental anomaly. Known causes of coronal synostosis include haploinsufficiency of TWIST1 and a gain of function mutation in MSX2. In Twist1(+/-) mice with coronal synostosis, we found that the frontal-parietal boundary is defective. Specifically, neural crest cells invade the undifferentiated mesoderm of the Twist1(+/-) mutant coronal suture. This boundary defect is accompanied by an expansion in Msx2 expression and reduction in ephrin-A4 distribution. Reduced dosage of Msx2 in the Twist1 mutant background restores the expression of ephrin-A4, rescues the suture boundary and inhibits craniosynostosis. Underlining the importance of ephrin-A4, we identified heterozygous mutations in the human orthologue, EFNA4, in three of 81 patients with non-syndromic coronal synostosis. This provides genetic evidence that Twist1, Msx2 and Efna4 function together in boundary formation and the pathogenesis of coronal synostosis.

Jehee FS, Alonso LG, Cavalcanti DP, Kim C, Wall SA, Mulliken JB, Sun M, Jabs EW, Boyadjiev SA, Wilkie AO, Passos-Bueno MR. 2006. Mutational screening of FGFR1, CER1, and CDON in a large cohort of trigonocephalic patients. Cleft Palate Craniofac J, 43 (2), pp. 148-151. | Show Abstract | Read more

OBJECTIVE: Screen the known craniosynostotic related gene, FGFR1 (exon 7), and two new identified potential candidates, CER1 and CDON, in patients with syndromic and nonsyndromic metopic craniosynostosis to determine if they might be causative genes. DESIGN: Using single-strand conformational polymorphisms (SSCPs), denaturing high-performance liquid chromatography, and/or direct sequencing, we analyzed a total of 81 patients for FGFR1 (exon 7), 70 for CER1, and 44 for CDON. PATIENTS: Patients were ascertained in the Centro de Estudos do Genoma Humano in São Paulo, Brazil (n = 39), the Craniofacial Unit, Oxford, U.K. (n = 23), and the Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland (n = 31). Clinical inclusion criteria included a triangular head and/or forehead, with or without a metopic ridge, and a radiographic documentation of metopic synostosis. Both syndromic and nonsyndromic patients were studied. RESULTS: No sequence alterations were found for FGFR1 (exon 7). Different patterns of SSCP migration for CER1 compatible with the segregation of single nucleotide polymorphisms reported in the region were identified. Seventeen sequence alterations were detected in the coding region of CDON, seven of which are new, but segregation analysis in parents and homology studies did not indicate a pathological role. CONCLUSIONS: FGFR1 (exon 7), CER1, and CDON are not related to trigonocephaly in our sample and should not be considered as causative genes for metopic synostosis. Screening of FGFR1 (exon 7) for diagnostic purposes should not be performed in trigonocephalic patients.

Mavrogiannis LA, Taylor IB, Davies SJ, Ramos FJ, Olivares JL, Wilkie AO. 2006. Enlarged parietal foramina caused by mutations in the homeobox genes ALX4 and MSX2: from genotype to phenotype. Eur J Hum Genet, 14 (2), pp. 151-158. | Show Abstract | Read more

Heterozygous mutations of the homeobox genes ALX4 and MSX2 cause skull defects termed enlarged parietal foramina (PFM) and cranium bifidum (CB); a single MSX2 mutation has been documented in a unique craniosynostosis (CRS) family. However, the relative mutational contribution of these genes to PFM/CB and CRS is not known and information on genotype-phenotype correlations is incomplete. We analysed ALX4 and MSX2 in 11 new unrelated cases or families with PFM/CB, 181 cases of CRS, and a single family segregating a submicroscopic deletion of 11p11.2, including ALX4. We explored the correlations between skull defect size and age, gene, and mutation type, and reviewed additional phenotypic manifestations. Four PFM cases had mutations in either ALX4 or MSX2; including previous families, we have identified six ALX4 and six MSX2 mutations, accounting for 11/13 familial, but only 1/6 sporadic cases. The deletion family confirms the delineation of a mental retardation locus to within 1.1 Mb region of 11p11.2. Overall, no significant size difference was found between ALX4- and MSX2-related skull defects, but the ALX4 mutation p.R218Q tends to result in persistent CB and is associated with anatomical abnormalities of the posterior fossa. We conclude that PFM caused by mutations in ALX4 and MSX2 have a similar prevalence and are usually clinically indistinguishable. Mutation screening has a high pickup rate in PFM, especially in familial cases, but is not indicated in CRS.

Morriss-Kay GM, Wilkie AO. 2005. Growth of the normal skull vault and its alteration in craniosynostosis: insights from human genetics and experimental studies. J Anat, 207 (5), pp. 637-653. | Show Abstract | Read more

The mammalian skull vault is constructed principally from five bones: the paired frontals and parietals, and the unpaired interparietal. These bones abut at sutures, where most growth of the skull vault takes place. Sutural growth involves maintenance of a population of proliferating osteoprogenitor cells which differentiate into bone matrix-secreting osteoblasts. Sustained function of the sutures as growth centres is essential for continuous expansion of the skull vault to accommodate the growing brain. Craniosynostosis, the premature fusion of the cranial sutures, occurs in 1 in 2500 children and often presents challenging clinical problems. Until a dozen years ago, little was known about the causes of craniosynostosis but the discovery of mutations in the MSX2, FGFR1, FGFR2, FGFR3, TWIST1 and EFNB1 genes in both syndromic and non-syndromic cases has led to considerable insights into the aetiology, classification and developmental pathology of these disorders. Investigations of the biological roles of these genes in cranial development and growth have been carried out in normal and mutant mice, elucidating their individual and interdependent roles in normal sutures and in sutures undergoing synostosis. Mouse studies have also revealed a significant correspondence between the neural crest-mesoderm boundary in the early embryonic head and the position of cranial sutures, suggesting roles for tissue interaction in suture formation, including initiation of the signalling system that characterizes the functionally active suture.

Hansen RM, Goriely A, Wall SA, Roberts IS, Wilkie AO. 2005. Fibroblast growth factor receptor 2, gain-of-function mutations, and tumourigenesis: investigating a potential link. J Pathol, 207 (1), pp. 27-31. | Show Abstract | Read more

Activating germline mutations in the fibroblast growth factor receptor (FGFR) gene family have been identified in several dominantly inherited skeletal disorders; in the case of FGFR3, the same somatically arising mutations have also been isolated from a variety of tumour tissues. Whilst the role of FGFR2 mutations in congenital syndromes has been well documented, their relationship with cancer has not been clearly defined. Based on evidence that gain-of-function mutations in FGFR2 drive positive selection in adult spermatogonia, the present study investigated, by denaturing high-performance liquid chromatography (DHPLC), DNA sequencing, and restriction digestion, the prevalence of FGFR2 mutations in 58 tumour cell lines of various types, and 29 testicular germ cell tumour samples. Although sequence variations and allelic imbalance were identified in FGFR2, none of the previously documented dominant mutations was detected in any of the tumour types examined. This suggests that gain-of-function FGFR2 mutations are not commonly encountered in tumourigenesis and specifically excludes a major contribution in testicular tumours.

Jehee FS, Johnson D, Alonso LG, Cavalcanti DP, de Sá Moreira E, Alberto FL, Kok F, Kim C et al. 2005. Molecular screening for microdeletions at 9p22-p24 and 11q23-q24 in a large cohort of patients with trigonocephaly. Clin Genet, 67 (6), pp. 503-510. | Show Abstract | Read more

Trigonocephaly is a rare form of craniosynostosis characterized by the premature closure of the metopic suture. To contribute to a better understanding of the genetic basis of metopic synostosis and in an attempt to restrict the candidate regions related to metopic suture fusion, we studied 76 unrelated patients with syndromic and non-syndromic trigonocephaly. We found a larger proportion of syndromic cases in our population and the ratio of affected male to female was 1.8 : 1 and 5 : 1 in the non-syndromic and syndromic groups, respectively. A microdeletion screening at 9p22-p24 and 11q23-q24 was carried out for all patients and deletions in seven of them were detected, corresponding to 19.4% of all syndromic cases. Deletions were not found in non-syndromic patients. We suggest that a molecular screening for microdeletions at 9p22-p24 and 11q23-q24 should be offered to all syndromic cases with an apparently normal karyotype because it can potentially elucidate the cause of trigonocephaly in this subset of patients. We also suggest that genes on the X-chromosome play a major role in syndromic trigonocephaly.

Funato N, Twigg SR, Higashihori N, Ohyama K, Wall SA, Wilkie AO, Nakamura M. 2005. Functional analysis of natural mutations in two TWIST protein motifs. Hum Mutat, 25 (6), pp. 550-556. | Show Abstract | Read more

The basic helix-loop-helix protein Twist, a transcriptional repressor, is essential for embryogenesis in both invertebrates and vertebrates. Haploinsufficiency of the human TWIST1 gene, which causes the craniosynostosis disorder Saethre-Chotzen syndrome (SCS), is related to failure to repress transcription of CDKN1A (which encodes p21/WAF1/CIP1), promoting osteoblast differentiation. We have examined the functional significance of natural TWIST1 variants present in craniosynostosis patients and in their healthy relatives. Both deletion and duplication variants of the glycine-rich tract Gly5AlaGly5 inhibited E2A (E12/E47)-dependent transcription of CDKN1A to a similar degree as wild-type protein, indicating that the length of this glycine tract is not critical for efficient transcriptional repression. We also evaluated a newly identified heterozygous TWIST1 variant (c.115C>G, encoding p.Arg39Gly), located within a putative nuclear localization signal (NLS), that was present in a child with mild SCS and her clinically unaffected father and grandmother. Unlike wild-type protein, this mutant required cotransfected E12 to localize to the nucleus, indicating that the NLS, including amino acid 39, is essential for nuclear localization; inhibition of E2A-dependent transcription of CDKN1A occurred normally. This analysis further dissects the structure-function relationships of TWIST and corroborates with phenotypic observations of disease expressivity.

Goriely A, McVean GA, van Pelt AM, O'Rourke AW, Wall SA, de Rooij DG, Wilkie AO. 2005. Gain-of-function amino acid substitutions drive positive selection of FGFR2 mutations in human spermatogonia. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 102 (17), pp. 6051-6056. | Show Abstract | Read more

Despite the importance of mutation in genetics, there are virtually no experimental data on the occurrence of specific nucleotide substitutions in human gametes. C>G transversions at position 755 of FGF receptor 2 (FGFR2) cause Apert syndrome; this mutation, encoding the gain-of-function substitution Ser252Trp, occurs with a birth rate elevated 200- to 800-fold above background and originates exclusively from the unaffected father. We previously demonstrated high levels of both 755C>G and 755C>T FGFR2 mutations in human sperm and proposed that these particular mutations are enriched because the encoded proteins confer a selective advantage to spermatogonial cells. Here, we examine three corollaries of this hypothesis. First, we show that mutation levels at the adjacent FGFR2 nucleotides 752-754 are low, excluding any general increase in local mutation rate. Second, we present three instances of double-nucleotide changes involving 755C, expected to be extremely rare as chance events. Two of these double-nucleotide substitutions are shown, either by assessment of the pedigree or by direct analysis of sperm, to have arisen in sequential steps; the third (encoding Ser252Tyr) was predicted from structural considerations. Finally, we demonstrate that both major alternative spliceforms of FGFR2 (Fgfr2b and Fgfr2c) are expressed in rat spermatogonial stem cell lines. Taken together, these observations show that specific FGFR2 mutations attain high levels in sperm because they encode proteins with gain-of-function properties, favoring clonal expansion of mutant spermatogonial cells. Among FGFR2 mutations, those causing Apert syndrome may be especially prevalent because they enhance signaling by FGF ligands specific for each of the major expressed isoforms.

Wilkie AO. 2005. Bad bones, absent smell, selfish testes: the pleiotropic consequences of human FGF receptor mutations. Cytokine Growth Factor Rev, 16 (2), pp. 187-203. | Show Abstract | Read more

The discovery in 1994 that highly specific mutations of fibroblast growth factor (FGF) receptor 3 caused the most common form of human short-limbed dwarfism, achondroplasia, heralded a new era in FGF receptor (FGFR) biology. A decade later, the purpose of this review is to survey how the study of humans with FGFR mutations continues to provide insights into FGFR function in health and disease, and the clinical applications of these findings. Amongst the most interesting recent discoveries have been the description of novel phenotypes associated with FGFR1 and FGFR3 mutations; identification of fundamental differences in the cellular mechanisms of mutant FGFR2 and FGFR3 action; and the direct identification of FGFR2 and FGFR3 mutations in sperm. These clinical observations illustrate the pleiotropism of FGFR action and fuel ongoing efforts to understand the rich biology and pathophysiology of the FGF signalling system.

de Ravel TJ, Taylor IB, Van Oostveldt AJ, Fryns JP, Wilkie AO. 2005. A further mutation of the FGFR2 tyrosine kinase domain in mild Crouzon syndrome. Eur J Hum Genet, 13 (4), pp. 503-505. | Show Abstract | Read more

We report a family heterozygous for a newly identified mutation in the tyrosine kinase I domain of the FGFR2 gene (1576A > G, encoding the missense substitution Lys526Glu), associated with variable expressivity of Crouzon syndrome, including clinical nonpenetrance. Our observations expand both the clinical and molecular spectrum of this unusual subset of FGFR2 mutations.

Thomas GP, Wilkie AO, Richards PG, Wall SA. 2005. FGFR3 P250R mutation increases the risk of reoperation in apparent 'nonsyndromic' coronal craniosynostosis. J Craniofac Surg, 16 (3), pp. 347-352. | Show Abstract | Read more

Many patients with a clinical diagnosis of "nonsyndromic" coronal craniosynostosis have been found to be heterozygous for the fibroblast growth factor receptor 3 (FGFR3) mutation Pro250Arg. The phenotype associated with this mutation is variable and lacks highly distinctive features, so it is difficult to diagnose on clinical examination alone. The authors present a retrospective study of 76 patients with isolated coronal synostosis who were operated on in a single dedicated craniofacial unit over 25 years. The authors investigated whether any single factor, including the presence of a FGFR3 Pro250Arg mutation, predisposed to an increased transcranial reoperation rate. Eight patients had repeat transcranial surgery for a functional indication. Heterozygosity for the FGFR3 Pro250Arg mutation, present in 29 patients in the cohort, was the only factor found to have a significant association (P=0.048) with the transcranial reoperation rate. Six patients (20.7%) with the mutation underwent reoperation on the basis of raised intracranial pressure, as compared with two patients (4.3%) without the mutation. This highlights the need for genetic analysis and long-term clinical follow-up in apparently "isolated" coronal synostosis.

Mohammed SN, Swan MC, Wall SA, Wilkie AO. 2004. Monozygotic twins discordant for frontonasal malformation. Am J Med Genet A, 130A (4), pp. 384-388. | Show Abstract | Read more

Frontonasal malformation (FNM), also known as the median cleft face syndrome, encompasses a spectrum of phenotypes that are believed to result from a single underlying aetiology. Over the course of two decades, the Craniofacial Unit at the Radcliffe Infirmary, Oxford has been involved in the management of six same-sex twins where only a single twin is affected. With local ethical committee approval, five sets of twins were traced and consented to participation in this study. Monozygosity of all five twin pairs was confirmed, and the clinical features were reviewed. We discuss the mechanistic relationship between FNM and the twinning process and the genetic implications of this association.

Rannan-Eliya SV, Taylor IB, De Heer IM, Van Den Ouweland AM, Wall SA, Wilkie AO. 2004. Paternal origin of FGFR3 mutations in Muenke-type craniosynostosis. Hum Genet, 115 (3), pp. 200-207. | Show Abstract | Read more

Muenke syndrome, also known as FGFR3-associated coronal synostosis, is defined molecularly by the presence of a heterozygous nucleotide transversion, c.749C>G, encoding the amino acid substitution Pro250Arg, in the fibroblast growth factor receptor type 3 gene (FGFR3). This frequently occurs as a new mutation, manifesting one of the highest documented rates for any transversion in the human genome. To understand the biology of this mutation, we have investigated its parental origin, and the ages of the parents, in 19 families with de novo c.749C>G mutations. All ten informative cases originated from the paternal allele (95% confidence interval 74-100% paternal); the average paternal age at birth overall was 34.7 years. An exclusive paternal origin of mutations, and increased paternal age, were previously described for a different mutation (c.1138G>A) of the FGFR3 gene causing achondroplasia, as well as for mutations of the related FGFR2 gene causing Apert, Crouzon and Pfeiffer syndromes. We conclude that similar biological processes are likely to shape the occurrence of this c.749C>G mutation as for other mutations of FGFR3 as well as FGFR2.

Kan R, Twigg SR, Berg J, Wang L, Jin F, Wilkie AO. 2004. Expression analysis of an FGFR2 IIIc 5' splice site mutation (1084+3A->G). J Med Genet, 41 (8), pp. e108. | Read more

Parker M, Ashcroft R, Wilkie AO, Kent A. 2004. Ethical review of research into rare genetic disorders. BMJ, 329 (7460), pp. 288-289. | Read more

Twigg SR, Kan R, Babbs C, Bochukova EG, Robertson SP, Wall SA, Morriss-Kay GM, Wilkie AO. 2004. Mutations of ephrin-B1 (EFNB1), a marker of tissue boundary formation, cause craniofrontonasal syndrome. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 101 (23), pp. 8652-8657. | Show Abstract | Read more

Craniofrontonasal syndrome (CFNS) is an X-linked developmental disorder that shows paradoxically greater severity in heterozygous females than in hemizygous males. Females have frontonasal dysplasia and coronal craniosynostosis (fusion of the coronal sutures); in males, hypertelorism is the only typical manifestation. Here, we show that the classical female CFNS phenotype is caused by heterozygous loss-of-function mutations in EFNB1, which encodes a member of the ephrin family of transmembrane ligands for Eph receptor tyrosine kinases. In mice, the orthologous Efnb1 gene is expressed in the frontonasal neural crest and demarcates the position of the future coronal suture. Although EFNB1 is X-inactivated, we did not observe markedly skewed X-inactivation in either blood or cranial periosteum from females with CFNS, indicating that lack of ephrin-B1 does not compromise cell viability in these tissues. We propose that in heterozygous females, patchwork loss of ephrin-B1 disturbs tissue boundary formation at the developing coronal suture, whereas in males deficient in ephrin-B1, an alternative mechanism maintains the normal boundary. This is the only known mutation in the ephrin/Eph receptor signaling system in humans and provides clues to the biogenesis of craniosynostosis.

Antonopoulou I, Mavrogiannis LA, Wilkie AO, Morriss-Kay GM. 2004. Alx4 and Msx2 play phenotypically similar and additive roles in skull vault differentiation. J Anat, 204 (6), pp. 487-499. | Show Abstract | Read more

Alx4 and Msx2 encode homeodomain-containing transcription factors that show a clear functional overlap. In both mice and humans, loss of function of either gene is associated with ossification defects of the skull vault, although the major effect is on the frontal bones in mice and the parietal bones in humans. This study was undertaken to discover whether Alx4 and Msx2 show a genetic interaction in skull vault ossification, and to test the hypothesis that they interact with the pathway that includes the Fgfr genes, Twist1 and Runx2. We generated Alx4(+/-)/Msx2(+/-) double heterozygous mutant mice, interbred them to produce compound genotypes and analysed the genotype-phenotype relationships. Loss of an increasing number of alleles correlated with an incremental exacerbation of the skull vault defect; loss of Alx4 function had a marginally greater effect than loss of Msx2 and also affected skull thickness. In situ hybridization showed that Alx4 and Msx2 are expressed in the cranial skeletogenic mesenchyme and in the growing calvarial bones. Studies of the coronal suture region at embryonic day (E)16.5 revealed that Alx4 expression was decreased, but not abolished, in Msx2(-/-) mutants, and vice versa; expression of Fgfr2 and Fgfr1, but not Twist1, was reduced in both mutants at the same stage. Runx2 expression was unaffected in the coronal suture; in contrast, expression of the downstream ossification marker Spp1 was delayed. Double homozygous pups showed substantial reduction of alkaline phosphatase expression throughout the mineralized skull vault; they died at birth due to defects of the heart, lungs and diaphragm not previously associated with Alx4 or Msx2. Our observations suggest that Alx4 and Msx2 are partially functionally redundant, acting within a network of transcription factors and signalling events that regulate the rate of osteogenic proliferation and differentiation at a stage after the commitment of mesenchymal stem cells to osteogenesis.

Ng D, Thakker N, Corcoran CM, Donnai D, Perveen R, Schneider A, Hadley DW, Tifft C et al. 2004. Oculofaciocardiodental and Lenz microphthalmia syndromes result from distinct classes of mutations in BCOR. Nat Genet, 36 (4), pp. 411-416. | Show Abstract | Read more

Lenz microphthalmia is inherited in an X-linked recessive pattern and comprises microphthalmia, mental retardation, and skeletal and other anomalies. Two loci associated with this syndrome, MAA (microphthalmia with associated anomalies) and MAA2, are situated respectively at Xq27-q28 (refs. 1,2) and Xp11.4-p21.2 (ref. 3). We identified a substitution, nt 254C-->T; P85L, in BCOR (encoding BCL-6-interacting corepressor, BCOR) in affected males from the family with Lenz syndrome previously used to identify the MAA2 locus. Oculofaciocardiodental syndrome (OFCD; OMIM 300166) is inherited in an X-linked dominant pattern with presumed male lethality and comprises microphthalmia, congenital cataracts, radiculomegaly, and cardiac and digital abnormalities. Given their phenotypic overlap, we proposed that OFCD and MAA2-associated Lenz microphthalmia were allelic, and we found different frameshift, deletion and nonsense mutations in BCOR in seven families affected with OFCD. Like wild-type BCOR, BCOR P85L and an OFCD-mutant form of BCOR can interact with BCL-6 and efficiently repress transcription. This indicates that these syndromes are likely to result from defects in alternative functions of BCOR, such as interactions with transcriptional partners other than BCL-6. We cloned the zebrafish (Danio rerio) ortholog of BCOR and found that knock-down of this ortholog caused developmental perturbations of the eye, skeleton and central nervous system consistent with the human syndromes, confirming that BCOR is a key transcriptional regulator during early embryogenesis.

Elçioglu NH, Gustavson KH, Wilkie AO, Yüksel-Apak M, Spranger JW. 2004. Recessive omodysplasia: five new cases and review of the literature. Pediatr Radiol, 34 (1), pp. 75-82. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Autosomal recessive omodysplasia (MIM 258315) is a rare skeletal dysplasia characterized by severe congenital micromelia with shortening and distal tapering of the humeri and femora to give a club-like appearance. Fewer than 20 cases have been reported in the literature so far. OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this study was to more clearly describe the clinical and radiographic phenotypes and their changes with age. MATERIALS AND METHODS: Five new patients, including two sibs, with autosomal recessive omodysplasia are presented. RESULTS: Clinical features are rhizomelic dwarfism with limited extension of elbows and knees and a distinct face with a short nose, depressed nasal bridge, long philtrum, midline haemangiomas in infants and cryptorchidism in males. Radiological findings are distal hypoplasia of the short humerus and femur with characteristic radial dislocation and radioulnar diastasis. CONCLUSIONS: Based on a review of these and 16 previously reported patients, the regressive nature of the humerofemoral changes and the obvious male predominance are stressed. Phenotypic similarities with the atelosteogenesis group of disorders and with diastrophic dysplasia suggest common pathogenetic mechanisms.

Hajihosseini MK, Lalioti MD, Arthaud S, Burgar HR, Brown JM, Twigg SR, Wilkie AO, Heath JK. 2004. Skeletal development is regulated by fibroblast growth factor receptor 1 signalling dynamics. Development, 131 (2), pp. 325-335. | Show Abstract | Read more

Ligand-dependent signalling pathways have been characterised as having morphogen properties where there is a quantitative relationship between receptor activation and response, or threshold characteristics in which there is a binary switch in response at a fixed level of receptor activation. Here we report the use of a bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC)-based transgenic system in which a hypermorphic mutation has been introduced into the murine Fgfr1 gene. These mice exhibit cranial suture and sternal fusions that are exacerbated when the BAC copy number is increased. Surprisingly, increasing mutant BAC copy number also leads to the de novo appearance of digit I polydactyly in the hind limb and transformations of the vertebrae. Polydactyly is accompanied by a reduction of programmed cell death in the developing hind limb. Candidate gene analysis reveals downregulation of Dkk1 in the digit I field and upregulation of Wnt5a and Hoxd13. These findings show that Fgfr1-mediated developmental pathways exhibit differing signalling dynamics, whereby development of the cranial sutures and sternum follows a morphogen mode, whereas development of the vertebral column and the hind limbs has threshold signalling properties.

Garcia-Miñaur S, Mavrogiannis LA, Rannan-Eliya SV, Hendry MA, Liston WA, Porteous ME, Wilkie AO. 2003. Parietal foramina with cleidocranial dysplasia is caused by mutation in MSX2. Eur J Hum Genet, 11 (11), pp. 892-895. | Show Abstract | Read more

The combination of skull defects in the form of enlarged parietal foramina (PFM) and deficient ossification of the clavicles is known as parietal foramina with cleidocranial dysplasia (PFMCCD). It is considered to be distinct from classical cleidocranial dysplasia (CCD) and is listed as a separate OMIM entry (168550). So far, only two families have been reported and the molecular basis of the disorder is unknown. We present a third family with PFMCCD, comprising four affected individuals in three generations, and demonstrate that a heterozygous tetranucleotide duplication in the MSX2 homeobox gene (505_508dupATTG) segregates with the phenotype. PFMCCD is indeed aetiologically distinct from CCD, which is caused by mutations in the RUNX2 gene, but allelic with isolated PFM, in which MSX2 mutations were previously identified. Our observations highlight the role of MSX2 in clavicular development and the importance of radiological examination of the clavicles in subjects with PFM.

Kan SH, Johnson D, Giele H, Wilkie AO. 2003. An acceptor splice site mutation in HOXD13 results in variable hand, but consistent foot malformations. Am J Med Genet A, 121A (1), pp. 69-74. | Show Abstract | Read more

HOXD13 is the most 5' of the HOXD cluster of homeobox genes in chromosome band 2q31.1. Heterozygous expansions of a polyalanine tract in HOXD13 are typically associated with synpolydactyly characterized by insertional digit duplication associated with syndactyly. We screened for mutations of HOXD13 in patients with a variety of limb malformations and identified a novel heterozygous mutation (758-2delA) in a three-generation family without the typical synpolydactyly phenotype in the hands, but with bilateral partial duplication of the 2nd metatarsals within the first web space of the feet. This mutation locates in the acceptor splice site of exon 2 and is predicted to cause failure of normal splicing of HOXD13. The foot abnormality in this family is similar to that described in two families by Goodman et al. [1998: Am. J. Hum. Genet. 63: 992-1000] in which different deletions of HOXD13 were reported. These findings together lend support to a distinct phenotype resulting from haploinsufficiency of HOXD13.

Goriely A, McVean GA, Röjmyr M, Ingemarsson B, Wilkie AO. 2003. Evidence for selective advantage of pathogenic FGFR2 mutations in the male germ line. Science, 301 (5633), pp. 643-646. | Show Abstract | Read more

Observed mutation rates in humans appear higher in male than female gametes and often increase with paternal age. This bias, usually attributed to the accumulation of replication errors or inefficient repair processes, has been difficult to study directly. Here, we describe a sensitive method to quantify substitutions at nucleotide 755 of the fibroblast growth factor receptor 2 (FGFR2) gene in sperm. Although substitution levels increase with age, we show that even high levels originate from infrequent mutational events. We propose that these FGFR2 mutations, although harmful to embryonic development, are paradoxically enriched because they confer a selective advantage to the spermatogonial cells in which they arise.

Johnson D, Kan SH, Oldridge M, Trembath RC, Roche P, Esnouf RM, Giele H, Wilkie AO. 2003. Missense mutations in the homeodomain of HOXD13 are associated with brachydactyly types D and E. Am J Hum Genet, 72 (4), pp. 984-997. | Show Abstract | Read more

HOXD13, the most 5' gene of the HOXD cluster, encodes a homeodomain transcription factor with important functions in limb patterning and growth. Heterozygous mutations of human HOXD13, encoding polyalanine expansions or frameshifts, are believed to act by dominant negative or haploinsufficiency mechanisms and are predominantly associated with synpolydactyly phenotypes. Here, we describe two mutations of HOXD13 (923C-->G encoding Ser308Cys and 940A-->C encoding Ile314Leu) that cause missense substitutions within the homeodomain. Both are associated with distinctive limb phenotypes in which brachydactyly of specific metacarpals, metatarsals, and phalangeal bones is the most constant feature, exhibiting overlap with brachydactyly types D and E. We investigated the binding of synthetic mutant proteins to double-stranded DNA targets in vitro. No consistent differences were found for the Ser308Cys mutation compared with the wild type, but the Ile314Leu mutation (which resides at the 47th position of the homeodomain) exhibited increased affinity for a target containing the core recognition sequence 5'-TTAC-3' but decreased affinity for a 5'-TTAT-3' target. Molecular modeling of the Ile314Leu mutation indicates that this mixed gain and loss of affinity may be accounted for by the relative positions of methyl groups in the amino acid side chain and target base.

Robertson SP, Twigg SR, Sutherland-Smith AJ, Biancalana V, Gorlin RJ, Horn D, Kenwrick SJ, Kim CA et al. 2003. Localized mutations in the gene encoding the cytoskeletal protein filamin A cause diverse malformations in humans. Nat Genet, 33 (4), pp. 487-491. | Show Abstract | Read more

Remodeling of the cytoskeleton is central to the modulation of cell shape and migration. Filamin A, encoded by the gene FLNA, is a widely expressed protein that regulates re-organization of the actin cytoskeleton by interacting with integrins, transmembrane receptor complexes and second messengers. We identified localized mutations in FLNA that conserve the reading frame and lead to a broad range of congenital malformations, affecting craniofacial structures, skeleton, brain, viscera and urogenital tract, in four X-linked human disorders: otopalatodigital syndrome types 1 (OPD1; OMIM 311300) and 2 (OPD2; OMIM 304120), frontometaphyseal dysplasia (FMD; OMIM 305620) and Melnick-Needles syndrome (MNS; OMIM 309350). Several mutations are recurrent, and all are clustered into four regions of the gene: the actin-binding domain and rod domain repeats 3, 10 and 14/15. Our findings contrast with previous observations that loss of function of FLNA is embryonic lethal in males but manifests in females as a localized neuronal migration disorder, called periventricular nodular heterotopia (PVNH; refs. 3-6). The patterns of mutation, X-chromosome inactivation and phenotypic manifestations in the newly described mutations indicate that they have gain-of-function effects, implicating filamin A in signaling pathways that mediate organogenesis in multiple systems during embryonic development.

Brackenridge S, Wilkie AO, Screaton GR. 2003. Efficient use of a 'dead-end' GA 5' splice site in the human fibroblast growth factor receptor genes. EMBO J, 22 (7), pp. 1620-1631. | Show Abstract | Read more

We have investigated use of a conserved non-canonical GA 5' splice site present in vertebrate fibroblast growth factor receptor (FGFR) genes. Despite previous studies suggesting that GA at the beginning of an intron is incompatible with splicing, we observe efficient utilization of this splice site for human FGFR1 gene constructs. We show that use of the GA splice site is dependent on both a conventional splice site six nucleotides upstream and sequence elements within the downstream intron. Furthermore, our results are consistent with competition between the tandem 5' splice sites being mediated by U6 snRNP, rather than U1 snRNP. Thus the GA 5' splice site represents an extension of the adjacent conventional 5' splice site, the first natural example of such a composite 5' splice site.

Wilkie AO. 2003. Why study human limb malformations? J Anat, 202 (1), pp. 27-35. | Show Abstract | Read more

Congenital limb malformations occur in 1 in 500 to 1 in 1000 human live births and include both gross reduction defects and more subtle alterations in the number, length and anatomy of the digits. The major causes of limb malformations are abnormal genetic programming and intra-uterine disruption to development. The identification of causative gene mutations is important for genetic counselling and also provides insights into the mechanisms controlling limb development. This article illustrates some of the lessons learnt from the study of human limb malformation, organized into seven categories. These are: (1) identification of novel genes, (2) allelic mutation series, (3) pleiotropy, (4) qualitative or (5) quantitative differences between mouse and human development, (6) physical and teratogenic disruption, and (7) unusual biological phenomena.

Wilkie AO, Patey SJ, Kan SH, van den Ouweland AM, Hamel BC. 2002. FGFs, their receptors, and human limb malformations: clinical and molecular correlations. Am J Med Genet, 112 (3), pp. 266-278. | Show Abstract | Read more

Fibroblast growth factors (FGFs) comprise a family of 22 distinct proteins with pleiotropic signaling functions in development and homeostasis. These functions are mediated principally by four fibroblast growth factor receptors (FGFRs), members of the receptor tyrosine kinase family, with heparin glycosaminoglycan as an important cofactor. Developmental studies in chick and mouse highlight the critical role of FGF-receptor signaling in multiple phases of limb development, including the positioning of the limb buds, the maintenance of limb bud outgrowth, the detailed patterning of the limb elements, and the growth of the long bones. Corroborating these important roles, mutations of two members of the FGFR family (FGFR1 and FGFR2) are associated with human disorders of limb patterning; in addition, mutations of FGFR3 and FGF23 affect growth of the limb bones. Analysis of FGFR2 mutations in particular reveals a complex pattern of genotype/phenotype correlation, which will be reviewed in detail. Circumstantial evidence suggests that the more severe patterning abnormalities are mediated by illegitimate paracrine signaling in the mesoderm, mediated by FGF10 or by a related FGF, and this is beginning to gain some experimental support. A further test of this hypothesis is provided by a unique family segregating two FGFR2 mutations in cis (S252L; A315S), in which severe syndactyly occurs in the absence of the craniosynostosis that typically accompanies FGFR2 mutations.

Kan SH, Elanko N, Johnson D, Cornejo-Roldan L, Cook J, Reich EW, Tomkins S, Verloes A et al. 2002. Genomic screening of fibroblast growth-factor receptor 2 reveals a wide spectrum of mutations in patients with syndromic craniosynostosis. Am J Hum Genet, 70 (2), pp. 472-486. | Show Abstract | Read more

It has been known for several years that heterozygous mutations of three members of the fibroblast growth-factor-receptor family of signal-transduction molecules-namely, FGFR1, FGFR2, and FGFR3-contribute significantly to disorders of bone patterning and growth. FGFR3 mutations, which predominantly cause short-limbed bone dysplasia, occur in all three major regions (i.e., extracellular, transmembrane, and intracellular) of the protein. By contrast, most mutations described in FGFR2 localize to just two exons (IIIa and IIIc), encoding the IgIII domain in the extracellular region, resulting in syndromic craniosynostosis including Apert, Crouzon, or Pfeiffer syndromes. Interpretation of this apparent clustering of mutations in FGFR2 has been hampered by the absence of any complete FGFR2-mutation screen. We have now undertaken such a screen in 259 patients with craniosynostosis in whom mutations in other genes (e.g., FGFR1, FGFR3, and TWIST) had been excluded; part of this screen was a cohort-based study, enabling unbiased estimates of the mutation distribution to be obtained. Although the majority (61/62 in the cohort sample) of FGFR2 mutations localized to the IIIa and IIIc exons, we identified mutations in seven additional exons-including six distinct mutations of the tyrosine kinase region and a single mutation of the IgII domain. The majority of patients with atypical mutations had diagnoses of Pfeiffer syndrome or Crouzon syndrome. Overall, FGFR2 mutations were present in 9.8% of patients with craniosynostosis who were included in a prospectively ascertained sample, but no mutations were found in association with isolated fusion of the metopic or sagittal sutures. We conclude that the spectrum of FGFR2 mutations causing craniosynostosis is wider than previously recognized but that, nevertheless, the IgIIIa/IIIc region represents a genuine mutation hotspot.

Taylor JC, Martin HC, Lise S, Broxholme J, Cazier JB, Rimmer A, Kanapin A, Lunter G et al. 2015. Factors influencing success of clinical genome sequencing across a broad spectrum of disorders. Nat Genet, 47 (7), pp. 717-726. | Show Abstract | Read more

To assess factors influencing the success of whole-genome sequencing for mainstream clinical diagnosis, we sequenced 217 individuals from 156 independent cases or families across a broad spectrum of disorders in whom previous screening had identified no pathogenic variants. We quantified the number of candidate variants identified using different strategies for variant calling, filtering, annotation and prioritization. We found that jointly calling variants across samples, filtering against both local and external databases, deploying multiple annotation tools and using familial transmission above biological plausibility contributed to accuracy. Overall, we identified disease-causing variants in 21% of cases, with the proportion increasing to 34% (23/68) for mendelian disorders and 57% (8/14) in family trios. We also discovered 32 potentially clinically actionable variants in 18 genes unrelated to the referral disorder, although only 4 were ultimately considered reportable. Our results demonstrate the value of genome sequencing for routine clinical diagnosis but also highlight many outstanding challenges.

Twigg SR, Wilkie AO. 2015. A Genetic-Pathophysiological Framework for Craniosynostosis. Am J Hum Genet, 97 (3), pp. 359-377. | Show Abstract | Read more

Craniosynostosis, the premature fusion of one or more cranial sutures of the skull, provides a paradigm for investigating the interplay of genetic and environmental factors leading to malformation. Over the past 20 years molecular genetic techniques have provided a new approach to dissect the underlying causes; success has mostly come from investigation of clinical samples, and recent advances in high-throughput DNA sequencing have dramatically enhanced the study of the human as the preferred "model organism." In parallel, however, we need a pathogenetic classification to describe the pathways and processes that lead to cranial suture fusion. Given the prenatal onset of most craniosynostosis, investigation of mechanisms requires more conventional model organisms; principally the mouse, because of similarities in cranial suture development. We present a framework for classifying genetic causes of craniosynostosis based on current understanding of cranial suture biology and molecular and developmental pathogenesis. Of note, few pathologies result from complete loss of gene function. Instead, biochemical mechanisms involving haploinsufficiency, dominant gain-of-function and recessive hypomorphic mutations, and an unusual X-linked cellular interference process have all been implicated. Although few of the genes involved could have been predicted based on expression patterns alone (because the genes play much wider roles in embryonic development or cellular homeostasis), we argue that they fit into a limited number of functional modules active at different stages of cranial suture development. This provides a useful approach both when defining the potential role of new candidate genes in craniosynostosis and, potentially, for devising pharmacological approaches to therapy.

Twigg SR, Forecki J, Goos JA, Richardson IC, Hoogeboom AJ, van den Ouweland AM, Swagemakers SM, Lequin MH et al. 2015. Gain-of-Function Mutations in ZIC1 Are Associated with Coronal Craniosynostosis and Learning Disability. Am J Hum Genet, 97 (3), pp. 378-388. | Show Abstract | Read more

Human ZIC1 (zinc finger protein of cerebellum 1), one of five homologs of the Drosophila pair-rule gene odd-paired, encodes a transcription factor previously implicated in vertebrate brain development. Heterozygous deletions of ZIC1 and its nearby paralog ZIC4 on chromosome 3q25.1 are associated with Dandy-Walker malformation of the cerebellum, and loss of the orthologous Zic1 gene in the mouse causes cerebellar hypoplasia and vertebral defects. We describe individuals from five families with heterozygous mutations located in the final (third) exon of ZIC1 (encoding four nonsense and one missense change) who have a distinct phenotype in which severe craniosynostosis, specifically involving the coronal sutures, and variable learning disability are the most characteristic features. The location of the nonsense mutations predicts escape of mutant ZIC1 transcripts from nonsense-mediated decay, which was confirmed in a cell line from an affected individual. Both nonsense and missense mutations are associated with altered and/or enhanced expression of a target gene, engrailed-2, in a Xenopus embryo assay. Analysis of mouse embryos revealed a localized domain of Zic1 expression at embryonic days 11.5-12.5 in a region overlapping the supraorbital regulatory center, which patterns the coronal suture. We conclude that the human mutations uncover a previously unsuspected role for Zic1 in early cranial suture development, potentially by regulating engrailed 1, which was previously shown to be critical for positioning of the murine coronal suture. The diagnosis of a ZIC1 mutation has significant implications for prognosis and we recommend genetic testing when common causes of coronal synostosis have been excluded.

Giannoulatou E, McVean G, Taylor IB, McGowan SJ, Maher GJ, Iqbal Z, Pfeifer SP, Turner I et al. 2013. Contributions of intrinsic mutation rate and selfish selection to levels of de novo HRAS mutations in the paternal germline. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 110 (50), pp. 20152-20157. | Show Abstract | Read more

The RAS proto-oncogene Harvey rat sarcoma viral oncogene homolog (HRAS) encodes a small GTPase that transduces signals from cell surface receptors to intracellular effectors to control cellular behavior. Although somatic HRAS mutations have been described in many cancers, germline mutations cause Costello syndrome (CS), a congenital disorder associated with predisposition to malignancy. Based on the epidemiology of CS and the occurrence of HRAS mutations in spermatocytic seminoma, we proposed that activating HRAS mutations become enriched in sperm through a process akin to tumorigenesis, termed selfish spermatogonial selection. To test this hypothesis, we quantified the levels, in blood and sperm samples, of HRAS mutations at the p.G12 codon and compared the results to changes at the p.A11 codon, at which activating mutations do not occur. The data strongly support the role of selection in determining HRAS mutation levels in sperm, and hence the occurrence of CS, but we also found differences from the mutation pattern in tumorigenesis. First, the relative prevalence of mutations in sperm correlates weakly with their in vitro activating properties and occurrence in cancers. Second, specific tandem base substitutions (predominantly GC>TT/AA) occur in sperm but not in cancers; genomewide analysis showed that this same mutation is also overrepresented in constitutional pathogenic and polymorphic variants, suggesting a heightened vulnerability to these mutations in the germline. We developed a statistical model to show how both intrinsic mutation rate and selfish selection contribute to the mutational burden borne by the paternal germline.

Twigg SR, Vorgia E, McGowan SJ, Peraki I, Fenwick AL, Sharma VP, Allegra M, Zaragkoulias A et al. 2013. Reduced dosage of ERF causes complex craniosynostosis in humans and mice and links ERK1/2 signaling to regulation of osteogenesis. Nat Genet, 45 (3), pp. 308-313. | Show Abstract | Read more

The extracellular signal-related kinases 1 and 2 (ERK1/2) are key proteins mediating mitogen-activated protein kinase signaling downstream of RAS: phosphorylation of ERK1/2 leads to nuclear uptake and modulation of multiple targets. Here, we show that reduced dosage of ERF, which encodes an inhibitory ETS transcription factor directly bound by ERK1/2 (refs. 2,3,4,5,6,7), causes complex craniosynostosis (premature fusion of the cranial sutures) in humans and mice. Features of this newly recognized clinical disorder include multiple-suture synostosis, craniofacial dysmorphism, Chiari malformation and language delay. Mice with functional Erf levels reduced to ∼30% of normal exhibit postnatal multiple-suture synostosis; by contrast, embryonic calvarial development appears mildly delayed. Using chromatin immunoprecipitation in mouse embryonic fibroblasts and high-throughput sequencing, we find that ERF binds preferentially to elements away from promoters that contain RUNX or AP-1 motifs. This work identifies ERF as a novel regulator of osteogenic stimulation by RAS-ERK signaling, potentially by competing with activating ETS factors in multifactor transcriptional complexes.

Sharma VP, Fenwick AL, Brockop MS, McGowan SJ, Goos JA, Hoogeboom AJ, Brady AF, Jeelani NO et al. 2013. Mutations in TCF12, encoding a basic helix-loop-helix partner of TWIST1, are a frequent cause of coronal craniosynostosis. Nat Genet, 45 (3), pp. 304-307. | Show Abstract | Read more

Craniosynostosis, the premature fusion of the cranial sutures, is a heterogeneous disorder with a prevalence of ∼1 in 2,200 (refs. 1,2). A specific genetic etiology can be identified in ∼21% of cases, including mutations of TWIST1, which encodes a class II basic helix-loop-helix (bHLH) transcription factor, and causes Saethre-Chotzen syndrome, typically associated with coronal synostosis. Using exome sequencing, we identified 38 heterozygous TCF12 mutations in 347 samples from unrelated individuals with craniosynostosis. The mutations predominantly occurred in individuals with coronal synostosis and accounted for 32% and 10% of subjects with bilateral and unilateral pathology, respectively. TCF12 encodes one of three class I E proteins that heterodimerize with class II bHLH proteins such as TWIST1. We show that TCF12 and TWIST1 act synergistically in a transactivation assay and that mice doubly heterozygous for loss-of-function mutations in Tcf12 and Twist1 have severe coronal synostosis. Hence, the dosage of TCF12-TWIST1 heterodimers is critical for normal coronal suture development.

Goriely A, Wilkie AO. 2012. Paternal age effect mutations and selfish spermatogonial selection: causes and consequences for human disease. Am J Hum Genet, 90 (2), pp. 175-200. | Show Abstract | Read more

Advanced paternal age has been associated with an increased risk for spontaneous congenital disorders and common complex diseases (such as some cancers, schizophrenia, and autism), but the mechanisms that mediate this effect have been poorly understood. A small group of disorders, including Apert syndrome (caused by FGFR2 mutations), achondroplasia, and thanatophoric dysplasia (FGFR3), and Costello syndrome (HRAS), which we collectively term "paternal age effect" (PAE) disorders, provides a good model to study the biological and molecular basis of this phenomenon. Recent evidence from direct quantification of PAE mutations in sperm and testes suggests that the common factor in the paternal age effect lies in the dysregulation of spermatogonial cell behavior, an effect mediated molecularly through the growth factor receptor-RAS signal transduction pathway. The data show that PAE mutations, although arising rarely, are positively selected and expand clonally in normal testes through a process akin to oncogenesis. This clonal expansion, which is likely to take place in the testes of all men, leads to the relative enrichment of mutant sperm over time-explaining the observed paternal age effect associated with these disorders-and in rare cases to the formation of testicular tumors. As regulation of RAS and other mediators of cellular proliferation and survival is important in many different biological contexts, for example during tumorigenesis, organ homeostasis and neurogenesis, the consequences of selfish mutations that hijack this process within the testis are likely to extend far beyond congenital skeletal disorders to include complex diseases, such as neurocognitive disorders and cancer predisposition.

Twigg SRF, Lloyd D, Jenkins D, Elçioglu NE, Cooper CDO, Al-Sannaa N, Annagür A, Gillessen-Kaesbach G et al. 2012. Mutations in multidomain protein MEGF8 identify a carpenter syndrome subtype associated with defective lateralization American Journal of Human Genetics, 91 (5), pp. 897-905. | Show Abstract | Read more

Carpenter syndrome is an autosomal-recessive multiple-congenital- malformation disorder characterized by multisuture craniosynostosis and polysyndactyly of the hands and feet; many other clinical features occur, and the most frequent include obesity, umbilical hernia, cryptorchidism, and congenital heart disease. Mutations of RAB23, encoding a small GTPase that regulates vesicular transport, are present in the majority of cases. Here, we describe a disorder caused by mutations in multiple epidermal-growth-factor- like-domains 8 (MEGF8), which exhibits substantial clinical overlap with Carpenter syndrome but is frequently associated with abnormal left-right patterning. We describe five affected individuals with similar dysmorphic facies, and three of them had either complete situs inversus, dextrocardia, or transposition of the great arteries; similar cardiac abnormalities were previously identified in a mouse mutant for the orthologous Megf8. The mutant alleles comprise one nonsense, three missense, and two splice-site mutations; we demonstrate in zebrafish that, in contrast to the wild-type protein, the proteins containing all three missense alterations provide only weak rescue of an early gastrulation phenotype induced by Megf8 knockdown. We conclude that mutations in MEGF8 cause a Carpenter syndrome subtype frequently associated with defective left-right patterning, probably through perturbation of signaling by hedgehog and nodal family members. We did not observe any subject with biallelic loss-of function mutations, suggesting that some residual MEGF8 function might be necessary for survival and might influence the phenotypes observed. © 2012 The American Society of Human Genetics.

Lim J, Maher GJ, Turner GD, Dudka-Ruszkowska W, Taylor S, Rajpert-De Meyts E, Goriely A, Wilkie AO. 2012. Selfish spermatogonial selection: evidence from an immunohistochemical screen in testes of elderly men. PLoS One, 7 (8), pp. e42382. | Show Abstract | Read more

The dominant congenital disorders Apert syndrome, achondroplasia and multiple endocrine neoplasia-caused by specific missense mutations in the FGFR2, FGFR3 and RET proteins respectively-represent classical examples of paternal age-effect mutation, a class that arises at particularly high frequencies in the sperm of older men. Previous analyses of DNA from randomly selected cadaveric testes showed that the levels of the corresponding FGFR2, FGFR3 and RET mutations exhibit very uneven spatial distributions, with localised hotspots surrounded by large mutation-negative areas. These studies imply that normal testes are mosaic for clusters of mutant cells: these clusters are predicted to have altered growth and signalling properties leading to their clonal expansion (selfish spermatogonial selection), but DNA extraction eliminates the possibility to study such processes at a tissue level. Using a panel of antibodies optimised for the detection of spermatocytic seminoma, a rare tumour of spermatogonial origin, we demonstrate that putative clonal events are frequent within normal testes of elderly men (mean age: 73.3 yrs) and can be classed into two broad categories. We found numerous small (less than 200 cells) cellular aggregations with distinct immunohistochemical characteristics, localised to a portion of the seminiferous tubule, which are of uncertain significance. However more infrequently we identified additional regions where entire seminiferous tubules had a circumferentially altered immunohistochemical appearance that extended through multiple serial sections that were physically contiguous (up to 1 mm in length), and exhibited enhanced staining for antibodies both to FGFR3 and a marker of downstream signal activation, pAKT. These findings support the concept that populations of spermatogonia in individual seminiferous tubules in the testes of older men are clonal mosaics with regard to their signalling properties and activation, thus fulfilling one of the specific predictions of selfish spermatogonial selection.

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Johnson D, Wilkie AOM. 2011. Craniosynostosis European Journal of Human Genetics, 19 (4), pp. 369-376. | Show Abstract | Read more

Craniosynostosis, defined as the premature fusion of the cranial sutures, presents many challenges in classification and treatment. At least 20% of cases are caused by specific single gene mutations or chromosome abnormalities. This article maps out approaches to clinical assessment of a child presenting with an unusual head shape, and illustrates how genetic analysis can contribute to diagnosis and management. © 2011 Macmillan Publishers Limited All rights reserved.

Wilkie AO, Byren JC, Hurst JA, Jayamohan J, Johnson D, Knight SJ, Lester T, Richards PG, Twigg SR, Wall SA. 2010. Prevalence and complications of single-gene and chromosomal disorders in craniosynostosis. Pediatrics, 126 (2), pp. e391-e400. | Show Abstract | Read more

OBJECTIVES: We describe the first cohort-based analysis of the impact of genetic disorders in craniosynostosis. We aimed to refine the understanding of prognoses and pathogenesis and to provide rational criteria for clinical genetic testing. METHODS: We undertook targeted molecular genetic and cytogenetic testing for 326 children who required surgery because of craniosynostosis, were born in 1993-2002, presented to a single craniofacial unit, and were monitored until the end of 2007. RESULTS: Eighty-four children (and 64 relatives) had pathologic genetic alterations (86% single-gene mutations and 14% chromosomal abnormalities). The FGFR3 P250R mutation was the single largest contributor (24%) to the genetic group. Genetic diagnoses accounted for 21% of all craniosynostosis cases and were associated with increased rates of many complications. Children with an initial clinical diagnosis of nonsyndromic craniosynostosis were more likely to have a causative mutation if the synostoses were unicoronal or bicoronal (10 of 48 cases) than if they were sagittal or metopic (0 of 55 cases; P = .0003). Repeat craniofacial surgery was required for 58% of children with single-gene mutations but only 17% of those with chromosomal abnormalities (P = .01). CONCLUSIONS: Clinical genetic assessment is critical for the treatment of children with craniosynostosis. Genetic testing of nonsyndromic cases (at least for FGFR3 P250R and FGFR2 exons IIIa/c) should be targeted to patients with coronal or multisuture synostoses. Single-gene disorders that disrupt physiologic signaling in the cranial sutures often require reoperation, whereas chromosomal abnormalities follow a more-indolent course, which suggests a different, secondary origin of the associated craniosynostosis.

Goriely A, Hansen RM, Taylor IB, Olesen IA, Jacobsen GK, McGowan SJ, Pfeifer SP, McVean GA, Rajpert-De Meyts E, Wilkie AO. 2009. Activating mutations in FGFR3 and HRAS reveal a shared genetic origin for congenital disorders and testicular tumors. Nat Genet, 41 (11), pp. 1247-1252. | Show Abstract | Read more

Genes mutated in congenital malformation syndromes are frequently implicated in oncogenesis, but the causative germline and somatic mutations occur in separate cells at different times of an organism's life. Here we unify these processes to a single cellular event for mutations arising in male germ cells that show a paternal age effect. Screening of 30 spermatocytic seminomas for oncogenic mutations in 17 genes identified 2 mutations in FGFR3 (both 1948A>G, encoding K650E, which causes thanatophoric dysplasia in the germline) and 5 mutations in HRAS. Massively parallel sequencing of sperm DNA showed that levels of the FGFR3 mutation increase with paternal age and that the mutation spectrum at the Lys650 codon is similar to that observed in bladder cancer. Most spermatocytic seminomas show increased immunoreactivity for FGFR3 and/or HRAS. We propose that paternal age-effect mutations activate a common 'selfish' pathway supporting proliferation in the testis, leading to diverse phenotypes in the next generation including fetal lethality, congenital syndromes and cancer predisposition.

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