Genetic Requirements for Building a Brain of Sufficient Size: Insights from Mendelian Congenital Microcephaly Disorders
AdvisorRestifo, Linda L.
Committee ChairFuglevand, Andrew
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
EmbargoRelease after 24-Feb-2018
AbstractCongenital microcephaly (conMiC) is a manifestation of severely disrupted prenatal brain development, caused by genetic defects, toxins, severe maternal malnutrition, or infection. The Zika virus outbreak and the devastating impact of Zika infection on the fetal brain have focused much attention on the cellular and molecular pathophysiology of conMiC. Mendelian conMiC disorders offer a unique opportunity for understanding gene and protein networks that direct cellular processes essential for prenatal brain development. Using OMIM and literature searches, I analyzed 68 conMiC disorders and their 65 corresponding genes. ConMiC-disorder phenotypes were characterized by analyzing the co-occurrence of ID, retinal abnormalities, seizures, and short stature. Short stature co-occurred with 70% of conMiC disorders, while seizures and retinopathy co-occurred with 68% and 37%, respectively. In 53% of conMiC disorders, seizures and short stature overlapped, while all features overlapped in 22% of conMiC disorders; only 7% of conMiC disorders lacked one of these co-occurring features. This shows conMiC genes are rarely specialized for brain growth, with generalized functions in overall body growth, retinal development, and/or regulation of neural activity. ConMiC-gene transcript accumulation in the brain is typically greatest during the prenatal period, and then declines postnatally, suggesting active transcriptional repression. Nonetheless, in neurons and glia of the adult brain, 44 conMiC genes had confirmed persistent protein accumulation. Experimental evidence indicates transcription in neural progenitor cells (NPCs) for at least 82% of conMiC genes. The spatiotemporal expression patterns of conMiC genes tend to align well with their biological functions and corresponding mutant phenotypes. Nearly 60% of conMiC gene products have functions in the cell cycle and/or DNA repair. Most conMiC disorders are caused by recessive, loss-of-function mutations. There are direct binding and regulatory interactions amongst many conMiC genes, which interact in larger networks and shared pathways. Depletion of single conMiC gene products can affect the transcript and/or protein levels of other conMiC gene products, which could have a “domino effect”, and disrupt entire networks important for brain development. Further evidence for this model is that 22 conMiC genes are consistently dysregulated in Zika-infected developing human brain tissue. Due to the complexity of conMiC genes and their interactions, there are many unique challenges to developing treatments for conMiC, particularly conMiC caused by maternal Zika-virus infection. However, insights to treatment strategies could be gained by using human genetics to find potential modifiers, screening for drugs that can normalize disrupted cell cycle and DNA-repair processes, or can stabilize protein complexes that are disrupted due to a conMiC gene mutation.
Degree ProgramGraduate College