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Pittsburgh, PA, United States

Stefan M.,Birth Defects Laboratories | Stefan M.,University of Pittsburgh | Simmons R.A.,Childrens Hospital of Philadelphia | Bertera S.,University of Pittsburgh | And 5 more authors.
American Journal of Physiology - Endocrinology and Metabolism | Year: 2011

Prader-Willi syndrome (PWS) is a multisystem disorder caused by genetic loss of function of a cluster of imprinted, paternally expressed genes. Neonatal failure to thrive in PWS is followed by childhood-onset hyperphagia and obesity among other endocrine and behavioral abnormalities. PWS is typically assumed to be caused by an unknown hypothalamic-pituitary dysfunction, but the underlying pathogenesis remains unknown. A transgenic deletion mouse model (TgPWS) has severe failure to thrive, with very low levels of plasma insulin and glucagon in fetal and neonatal life prior to and following onset of progressive hypoglycemia. In this study, we tested the hypothesis that primary deficits in pancreatic islet development or function may play a fundamental role in the TgPWS neonatal phenotype. Major pancreatic islet hormones (insulin, glucagon) were decreased in TgPWS mice, consistent with plasma levels. Immunohistochemical analysis of the pancreas demonstrated disrupted morphology of TgPWS islets, with reduced α- and β-cell mass arising from an increase in apoptosis. Furthermore, in vivo and in vitro studies show that the rate of insulin secretion is significantly impaired in TgPWS β-cells. In TgPWS pancreas, mRNA levels for genes encoding all pancreatic hormones, other secretory factors, and the ISL1 transcription factor are upregulated by either a compensatory response to plasma hormone deficiencies or a primary effect of a deleted gene. Our findings identify a cluster of imprinted genes required for the development, survival, coordinate regulation of genes encoding hormones, and secretory function of pancreatic endocrine cells, which may underlie the neonatal phenotype of the TgPWS mouse model. © 2011 the American Physiological Society.

Henson B.J.,Birth Defects Laboratories | Zhu W.,University of Pittsburgh | Hardaway K.,Birth Defects Laboratories | Wetzel J.L.,Birth Defects Laboratories | And 4 more authors.
PLoS ONE | Year: 2012

Hereditary spastic paraplegias (HSPs) comprise a group of neurodegenerative disorders that are characterized by progressive spasticity of the lower extremities, due to axonal degeneration in the corticospinal motor tracts. HSPs are genetically heterogeneous and show autosomal dominant inheritance in ~70-80% of cases, with additional cases being recessive or X-linked. The most common type of HSP is SPG4 with mutations in the SPAST gene, encoding spastin, which occurs in 40% of dominantly inherited cases and in ~10% of sporadic cases. Both loss-of-function and dominant-negative mutation mechanisms have been described for SPG4, suggesting that precise or stoichiometric levels of spastin are necessary for biological function. Therefore, we hypothesized that regulatory mechanisms controlling expression of SPAST are important determinants of spastin biology, and if altered, could contribute to the development and progression of the disease. To examine the transcriptional and post-transcriptional regulation of SPAST, we used molecular phylogenetic methods to identify conserved sequences for putative transcription factor binding sites and miRNA targeting motifs in the SPAST promoter and 3′-UTR, respectively. By a variety of molecular methods, we demonstrate that SPAST transcription is positively regulated by NRF1 and SOX11. Furthermore, we show that miR-96 and miR-182 negatively regulate SPAST by effects on mRNA stability and protein level. These transcriptional and miRNA regulatory mechanisms provide new functional targets for mutation screening and therapeutic targeting in HSP. © 2012 Henson et al.

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