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See detailTowards a European strategy to address the COVID-19 pandemic
Priesemann, V.; Balling, Rudolf UL; Bauer, S. et al

in The Lancet (in press)

How will the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic develop in the coming months and years? Based on an expert survey, we examine key aspects that are likely to influence the COVID-19 pandemic in ... [more ▼]

How will the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic develop in the coming months and years? Based on an expert survey, we examine key aspects that are likely to influence the COVID-19 pandemic in Europe. The challenges and developments will strongly depend on the progress of national and global vaccination programs, the emergence and spread of variants of concern (VOCs), and public responses to non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs). In the short term, many people remain unvaccinated, VOCs continue to emerge and spread, and mobility and population mixing are expected to increase. Therefore, lifting restrictions too much and too early risk another damaging wave. This challenge remains despite the reduced opportunities for transmission given vaccination progress and reduced indoor mixing in summer 2021. In autumn 2021, increased indoor activity might accelerate the spread again, whilst a necessary reintroduction of NPIs might be too slow. The incidence may strongly rise again, possibly filling intensive care units, if vaccination levels are not high enough. A moderate, adaptive level of NPIs will thus remain necessary. These epidemiological aspects combined with economic, social, and health-related consequences provide a more holistic perspective on the future of the COVID-19 pandemic. [less ▲]

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See detailGene selection for optimal prediction of cell position in tissues from single-cell transcriptomics
Tanevski, Jovan; Nguyen, Thin; Truong, Buu et al

in Life Science Alliance (in press)

Single-cell RNA-seq (scRNAseq) technologies are rapidly evolving. While very informative, in standard scRNAseq experiments the spatial organization of the cells in the tissue of origin is lost. Conversely ... [more ▼]

Single-cell RNA-seq (scRNAseq) technologies are rapidly evolving. While very informative, in standard scRNAseq experiments the spatial organization of the cells in the tissue of origin is lost. Conversely, spatial RNA-seq technologies designed to maintain cell localization have limited throughput and gene coverage. Mapping scRNAseq to genes with spatial information increases coverage while providing spatial location. However, methods to perform such mapping have not yet been benchmarked. To fill this gap, we organized the DREAM Single-Cell Transcriptomics challenge focused on the spatial reconstruction of cells from the Drosophila embryo from scRNAseq data, leveraging as silver standard, genes with in situ hybridization data from the Berkeley Drosophila Transcription Network Project reference atlas. The 34 participating teams used diverse algorithms for gene selection and location prediction, while being able to correctly localize clusters of cells. Selection of predictor genes was essential for this task. Predictor genes showed a relatively high expression entropy, high spatial clustering and included prominent developmental genes such as gap and pair-rule genes and tissue markers. Application of the Top-10 methods to a zebrafish embryo dataset yielded similar performance and statistical properties of the selected genes than in the Drosophila data. This suggests that methods developed in this challenge are able to extract generalizable properties of genes that are useful to accurately reconstruct the spatial arrangement of cells in tissues. [less ▲]

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See detailA new synuclein-transgenic mouse model for early Parkinson's reveals molecular features of preclinical disease
Hendrickx, Diana M.; Garcia, Pierre; Ashrafi, Amer et al

in Molecular Neurobiology (in press)

Understanding Parkinson’s disease (PD) in particular in its earliest phases, is important for diagnosis and treatment. However, human brain samples are collected post- mortem, reflecting mainly end stage ... [more ▼]

Understanding Parkinson’s disease (PD) in particular in its earliest phases, is important for diagnosis and treatment. However, human brain samples are collected post- mortem, reflecting mainly end stage disease. Because brain samples of mouse models can be collected at any stage of the disease process, they are useful to investigate PD progression. Here, we compare ventral midbrain transcriptomics profiles from α- synuclein transgenic mice with a progressive, early PD-like striatal neurodegeneration across different ages using pathway, gene set and network analysis methods. Our study uncovers statistically significant altered genes across ages and between genotypes with known, suspected, or unknown function in PD pathogenesis and key pathways associated with disease progression. Among those are genotype-dependent alterations associated with synaptic plasticity, neurotransmission, as well as mitochondria-related genes and dysregulation of lipid metabolism. Age-dependent changes were among others observed in neuronal and synaptic activity, calcium homeostasis, and membrane receptor signaling pathways, many of which linked to G- protein coupled receptors. Most importantly, most changes occurred before neurodegeneration was detected in this model, which points to a sequence of gene expression events that may be relevant for disease initiation and progression. It is tempting to speculate that molecular changes similar to those changes observed in our model happen in midbrain dopaminergic neurons before they start to degenerate. In other words, we believe we have uncovered molecular changes that accompany the progression from preclinical to early PD. [less ▲]

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See detailA look into the future of the COVID-19 pandemic in Europe: an expert consultation
Iftekhar, E. N.; Priesemann, V.; Balling, Rudolf UL et al

in The Lancet Regional Health Europe (in press)

How will the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic develop in the coming months and years? Based on an expert survey, we examine key aspects that are likely to influence the COVID-19 pandemic in ... [more ▼]

How will the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic develop in the coming months and years? Based on an expert survey, we examine key aspects that are likely to influence the COVID-19 pandemic in Europe. The challenges and developments will strongly depend on the progress of national and global vaccination programs, the emergence and spread of variants of concern (VOCs), and public responses to non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs). In the short term, many people remain unvaccinated, VOCs continue to emerge and spread, and mobility and population mixing are expected to increase. Therefore, lifting restrictions too much and too early risk another damaging wave. This challenge remains despite the reduced opportunities for transmission given vaccination progress and reduced indoor mixing in summer 2021. In autumn 2021, increased indoor activity might accelerate the spread again, whilst a necessary reintroduction of NPIs might be too slow. The incidence may strongly rise again, possibly filling intensive care units, if vaccination levels are not high enough. A moderate, adaptive level of NPIs will thus remain necessary. These epidemiological aspects combined with economic, social, and health-related consequences provide a more holistic perspective on the future of the COVID-19 pandemic. [less ▲]

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See detailBiomedical and Clinical Research Data Management
Ganzinger, Matthias; Glaab, Enrico UL; Kerssemakers, Jules et al

in Wolkenhauer, Olaf (Ed.) Systems Medicine - Integrative, Qualitative and Computational Approaches (in press)

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See detailA Pharmacophore Model for SARS-CoV-2 3CLpro Small Molecule Inhibitors and in Vitro Experimental Validation of Computationally Screened Inhibitors
Glaab, Enrico UL; Manoharan, Ganesh Babu UL; Abankwa, Daniel UL

in Journal of Chemical Information and Modeling (2021), 61(8), 4082-4096

Among the biomedical efforts in response to the current coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, pharmacological strategies to reduce viral load in patients with severe forms of the disease are being studied ... [more ▼]

Among the biomedical efforts in response to the current coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, pharmacological strategies to reduce viral load in patients with severe forms of the disease are being studied intensively. One of the main drug target proteins proposed so far is the SARS-CoV-2 viral protease 3CLpro (also called Mpro), an essential component for viral replication. Ongoing ligand- and receptor-based computational screening efforts would be facilitated by an improved understanding of the electrostatic, hydrophobic and steric features that characterize small molecule inhibitors binding stably to 3CLpro, as well as by an extended collection of known binders. Here, we present combined virtual screening, molecular dynamics simulation, machine learning and in vitro experimental validation analyses which have led to the identification of small molecule inhibitors of 3CLpro with micromolar activity, and to a pharmacophore model that describes functional chemical groups associated with the molecular recognition of ligands by the 3CLpro binding pocket. Experimentally validated inhibitors using a ligand activity assay include natural compounds with available prior knowledge on safety and bioavailability properties, such as the natural compound rottlerin (IC50 = 37 µM), and synthetic compounds previously not characterized (e.g. compound CID 46897844, IC50 = 31 µM). In combination with the developed pharmacophore model, these and other confirmed 3CLpro inhibitors may provide a basis for further similarity-based screening in independent compound databases and structural design optimization efforts, to identify 3CLpro ligands with improved potency and selectivity. Overall, this study suggests that the integration of virtual screening, molecular dynamics simulations and machine learning can facilitate 3CLpro-targeted small molecule screening investigations. Different receptor-, ligand- and machine learning-based screening strategies provided complementary information, helping to increase the number and diversity of identified active compounds. Finally, the resulting pharmacophore model and experimentally validated small molecule inhibitors for 3CLpro provide resources to support follow-up computational screening efforts for this drug target. [less ▲]

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See detailArtificial intelligence in personalized medicine
Glaab, Enrico UL

Presentation (2021, January 13)

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See detailCrowdsourcing digital health measures to predict Parkinson's disease severity: the Parkinson's Disease Digital Biomarker DREAM Challenge
Sieberts, S.; Schaff, J.; Duda, M. et al

in npj Digital Medicine (2021), 4(53),

Consumer wearables and sensors are a rich source of data about patients’ daily disease and symptom burden, particularly in the case of movement disorders like Parkinson’s Disease (PD). However ... [more ▼]

Consumer wearables and sensors are a rich source of data about patients’ daily disease and symptom burden, particularly in the case of movement disorders like Parkinson’s Disease (PD). However, interpreting these complex data into so-called digital biomarkers requires complicated analytical approaches, and validating these biomarkers requires sufficient data and unbiased evaluation methods. Here we describe the use of crowdsourcing to specifically evaluate and benchmark features derived from accelerometer and gyroscope data in two different datasets to predict the presence of PD and severity of three PD symptoms: tremor, dyskinesia and bradykinesia. Forty teams from around the world submitted features, and achieved drastically improved predictive performance for PD status (best AUROC=0.87), as well as tremor- (best AUPR=0.75), dyskinesia- (best AUPR=0.48) and bradykinesia-severity (best AUPR=0.95). [less ▲]

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See detailAltered sphingolipid function in Alzheimer's disease; a gene regulatory network approach
Giovagnoni, Caterina; Ali, Muhammad; Eijssen, Lars M. T. et al

in Neurobiology of Aging (2021), in press(in press),

Sphingolipids (SLs) are bioactive lipids involved in various important physiological functions. The SL pathway has been shown to be affected in several brain-related disorders, including Alzheimer’s ... [more ▼]

Sphingolipids (SLs) are bioactive lipids involved in various important physiological functions. The SL pathway has been shown to be affected in several brain-related disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Recent evidence suggests that epigenetic dysregulation plays an important role in the pathogenesis of AD as well. Here, we use an integrative approach to better understand the relationship between epigenetic and transcriptomic processes in regulating SL function in the middle temporal gyrus of AD patients. Transcriptomic analysis of 252 SL-related genes, selected based on GO term annotations, from 46 AD patients and 32 healthy age-matched controls, revealed 103 differentially expressed SL-related genes in AD patients. Additionally, methylomic analysis of the same subjects revealed parallel hydroxymethylation changes in PTGIS, GBA, and ITGB2 in AD. Subsequent gene regulatory network-based analysis identified three candidate genes, i.e. SELPLG, SPHK1 and CAV1 whose alteration holds the potential to revert the gene expression program from a diseased towards a healthy state. Together, this epigenomic and transcriptomic approach highlights the importance of SL-related genes in AD, and may provide novel biomarkers and therapeutic alternatives to traditionally investigated biological pathways in AD. [less ▲]

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See detailPredicting correlated outcomes from molecular data
Rauschenberger, Armin UL; Glaab, Enrico UL

in Bioinformatics (2021), 37(21), 38893895

Motivation: Multivariate (multi-target) regression has the potential to outperform univariate (single-target) regression at predicting correlated outcomes, which frequently occur in biomedical and ... [more ▼]

Motivation: Multivariate (multi-target) regression has the potential to outperform univariate (single-target) regression at predicting correlated outcomes, which frequently occur in biomedical and clinical research. Here we implement multivariate lasso and ridge regression using stacked generalisation. Results: Our flexible approach leads to predictive and interpretable models in high-dimensional settings, with a single estimate for each input-output effect. In the simulation, we compare the predictive performance of several state-of-the-art methods for multivariate regression. In the application, we use clinical and genomic data to predict multiple motor and non-motor symptoms in Parkinson’s disease patients. We conclude that stacked multivariate regression, with our adaptations, is a competitive method for predicting correlated outcomes. Availability and Implementation: The R package joinet is available on GitHub (https://github.com/rauschenberger/joinet) and CRAN (https://CRAN.R-project.org/package=joinet). [less ▲]

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See detailCharacterization of DNA Methylomic signatures in induced pluripotent stem cells during neuronal differentiation
Imm, Jennifer; Pishva, Ehsan; Ali, Muhammad et al

in Frontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology (2021)

In development, differentiation from a pluripotent state results in global epigenetic changes, although the extent to which this occurs in induced pluripotent stem cell based neuronal models has not been ... [more ▼]

In development, differentiation from a pluripotent state results in global epigenetic changes, although the extent to which this occurs in induced pluripotent stem cell based neuronal models has not been extensively characterized. In the present study, induced pluripotent stem cell colonies (33Qn1 line) were differentiated and collected at four time-points, with DNA methylation assessed using the Illumina Infinium Human Methylation EPIC BeadChip array. Dynamic changes in DNA methylation occurring during differentiation were investigated using a data-driven trajectory inference method. We identified a large number of Bonferroni-significant loci that showed progressive alterations in DNA methylation during neuronal differentiation. A gene-gene interaction network analysis identified 60 densely connected genes that were influential in the differentiation of neurons, with STAT3 being the gene with the highest connectivity. [less ▲]

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See detailPredictive and interpretable models via the stacked elastic net
Rauschenberger, Armin UL; Glaab, Enrico UL; van de Wiel, Mark

in Bioinformatics (2021), 37(14), 20122016

Motivation: Machine learning in the biomedical sciences should ideally provide predictive and interpretable models. When predicting outcomes from clinical or molecular features, applied researchers often ... [more ▼]

Motivation: Machine learning in the biomedical sciences should ideally provide predictive and interpretable models. When predicting outcomes from clinical or molecular features, applied researchers often want to know which features have effects, whether these effects are positive or negative, and how strong these effects are. Regression analysis includes this information in the coefficients but typically renders less predictive models than more advanced machine learning techniques. Results: Here we propose an interpretable meta-learning approach for high-dimensional regression. The elastic net provides a compromise between estimating weak effects for many features and strong effects for some features. It has a mixing parameter to weight between ridge and lasso regularisation. Instead of selecting one weighting by tuning, we combine multiple weightings by stacking. We do this in a way that increases predictivity without sacrificing interpretability. Availability and Implementation: The R package starnet is available on GitHub: https://github.com/rauschenberger/starnet. [less ▲]

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See detailScoping review on machine learning methods for stratification
Glaab, Enrico UL

Presentation (2020, December 02)

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See detailNon-Coding RNAs in the Brain-Heart Axis: The Case of Parkinson’s Disease
Acharya, Shubhra; Salgado-Somoza, Antonio; Stefanizzi, Francesca Maria et al

in International Journal of Molecular Sciences (2020), 21(18), 6513

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a complex and heterogeneous disorder involving multiple genetic and environmental influences. Although a wide range of PD risk factors and clinical markers for the symptomatic ... [more ▼]

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a complex and heterogeneous disorder involving multiple genetic and environmental influences. Although a wide range of PD risk factors and clinical markers for the symptomatic motor stage of the disease have been identified, there are still no reliable biomarkers available for the early pre-motor phase of PD and for predicting disease progression. High-throughput RNA-based biomarker profiling and modeling may provide a means to exploit the joint information content from a multitude of markers to derive diagnostic and prognostic signatures. In the field of PD biomarker research, currently, no clinically validated RNA-based biomarker models are available, but previous studies reported several significantly disease-associated changes in RNA abundances and activities in multiple human tissues and body fluids. Here, we review the current knowledge of the regulation and function of non-coding RNAs in PD, focusing on microRNAs, long non-coding RNAs, and circular RNAs. Since there is growing evidence for functional interactions between the heart and the brain, we discuss the benefits of studying the role of non-coding RNAs in organ interactions when deciphering the complex regulatory networks involved in PD progression. We finally review important concepts of harmonization and curation of high throughput datasets, and we discuss the potential of systems biomedicine to derive and evaluate RNA biomarker signatures from high-throughput expression data. [less ▲]

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See detailA rare loss-of function variant of ADAM17 is associated with late-onset familial Alzheimer disease
Hartl, Daniela; May, Patrick UL; Gu, Wei UL et al

in Molecular Psychiatry (2020), 25(3), 629-639

Common variants of about 20 genes contributing to AD risk have so far been identified through genome-wide association studies (GWAS). However, there is still a large proportion of heritability that might ... [more ▼]

Common variants of about 20 genes contributing to AD risk have so far been identified through genome-wide association studies (GWAS). However, there is still a large proportion of heritability that might be explained by rare but functionally important variants. One of the so far identified genes with rare AD causing variants is ADAM10. Using whole-genome sequencing we now identified a single rare nonsynonymous variant (SNV) rs142946965 [p.R215I] in ADAM17 co-segregating with an autosomal-dominant pattern of late-onset AD in one family. Subsequent genotyping and analysis of available whole-exome sequencing data of additional case/control samples from Germany, the UK and the USA identified five variant carriers among AD patients only. The mutation inhibits pro-protein cleavage and the formation of the active enzyme, thus leading to loss-of-function of ADAM17 α-secretase. Further, we identified a strong negative correlation between ADAM17 and APP gene expression in human brain and present in vitro evidence that ADAM17 negatively controls the expression of APP. As a consequence, p.R215I mutation of ADAM17 leads to elevated Aß formation in vitro. Together our data supports a causative association of the identified ADAM17 variant in the pathogenesis of AD. [less ▲]

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See detailA patient-based model of RNA mis-splicing uncovers treatment targets in Parkinson's disease.
Boussaad, Ibrahim UL; Obermaier, Carolin D.; Hanss, Zoé et al

in Science translational medicine (2020), 12(560),

Parkinson's disease (PD) is a heterogeneous neurodegenerative disorder with monogenic forms representing prototypes of the underlying molecular pathology and reproducing to variable degrees the sporadic ... [more ▼]

Parkinson's disease (PD) is a heterogeneous neurodegenerative disorder with monogenic forms representing prototypes of the underlying molecular pathology and reproducing to variable degrees the sporadic forms of the disease. Using a patient-based in vitro model of PARK7-linked PD, we identified a U1-dependent splicing defect causing a drastic reduction in DJ-1 protein and, consequently, mitochondrial dysfunction. Targeting defective exon skipping with genetically engineered U1-snRNA recovered DJ-1 protein expression in neuronal precursor cells and differentiated neurons. After prioritization of candidate drugs, we identified and validated a combinatorial treatment with the small-molecule compounds rectifier of aberrant splicing (RECTAS) and phenylbutyric acid, which restored DJ-1 protein and mitochondrial dysfunction in patient-derived fibroblasts as well as dopaminergic neuronal cell loss in mutant midbrain organoids. Our analysis of a large number of exomes revealed that U1 splice-site mutations were enriched in sporadic PD patients. Therefore, our study suggests an alternative strategy to restore cellular abnormalities in in vitro models of PD and provides a proof of concept for neuroprotection based on precision medicine strategies in PD. [less ▲]

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See detailComparative transcriptome analysis of Parkinson’s disease and Hutchinson-Gilford progeria syndrome reveals shared susceptible cellular network processes
Hendrickx, Diana M.; Glaab, Enrico UL

in BMC Medical Genomics (2020), 13(114),

Background Parkinson’s Disease (PD) and Hutchinson-Gilford Progeria Syndrome (HGPS) are two heterogeneous disorders, which both display molecular and clinical alterations associated with the aging process ... [more ▼]

Background Parkinson’s Disease (PD) and Hutchinson-Gilford Progeria Syndrome (HGPS) are two heterogeneous disorders, which both display molecular and clinical alterations associated with the aging process. However, similarities and differences between molecular changes in these two disorders have not yet been investigated systematically at the level of individual biomolecules and shared molecular network alterations. Methods Here, we perform a comparative meta-analysis and network analysis of human transcriptomics data from case-control studies for both diseases to investigate common susceptibility genes and sub-networks in PD and HGPS. Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and primary melanoma (PM) were included as controls to confirm that the identified overlapping susceptibility genes for PD and HGPS are non-generic. Results We find statistically significant, overlapping genes and cellular processes with significant alterations in both diseases. Interestingly, the majority of these shared affected genes display changes with opposite directionality, indicating that shared susceptible cellular processes undergo different mechanistic changes in PD and HGPS. A complementary regulatory network analysis also reveals that the altered genes in PD and HGPS both contain targets controlled by the upstream regulator CDC5L. Conclusions Overall, our analyses reveal a significant overlap of affected cellular processes and molecular sub-networks in PD and HGPS, including changes in aging-related processes that may reflect key susceptibility factors associated with age-related risk for PD. [less ▲]

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See detailGBA variants in Parkinson’s disease: clinical, metabolomic and multimodal neuroimaging phenotypes
Greuel, Andrea; Trezzi, Jean-Pierre UL; Glaab, Enrico UL et al

in Movement Disorders (2020), 35(12), 2201-2210

Background: Alterations in the GBA gene (NM_000157.3) are the most important genetic risk factor for Parkinson’s disease. Biallelic GBA mutations cause the lysosomal storage disorder Gaucher´s disease ... [more ▼]

Background: Alterations in the GBA gene (NM_000157.3) are the most important genetic risk factor for Parkinson’s disease. Biallelic GBA mutations cause the lysosomal storage disorder Gaucher´s disease. The GBA variants p.E365K and p.T408M are associated with Parkinson’s but not with Gaucher´s disease. The pathophysiological role of these variants needs to be further explored. Objective: This study analyzed the clinical, neuropsychological, metabolic and neuroimaging phenotypes of Parkinson’s disease patients carrying the GBA variants p.E365K and p.T408M. Methods: GBA was sequenced in 56 mid-stage Parkinson’s disease patients. Carriers of GBA variants were compared to non-carriers regarding clinical history and symptoms, neuropsychological features, metabolomics and multimodal neuroimaging. Blood plasma gas chromatography coupled to mass spectrometry, [18F]FDopa PET, [18F]FDG PET, and resting-state fMRI were performed. Results: Sequence analysis detected 13 heterozygous GBA variant carriers (seven with p.E365K, six with p.T408M). One patient carried a GBA mutation (p.N409S) and was excluded. Clinical history and symptoms were not significantly different between groups. Global cognitive performance was lower in variant carriers. Metabolomic group differences were suggestive of more severe Parkinson’s disease-related alterations in carriers versus non-carriers. [18F]FDopa and [18F]FDG PET showed signs of a more advanced disease; [18F]FDG PET and fMRI showed similarities with Lewy body dementia and Parkinson’s disease dementia in carriers. Conclusions: This is the first study to comprehensively assess (neuro-)biological phenotypes of GBA variants in Parkinson’s disease. Metabolomics and neuroimaging detected more significant group differences than clinical and behavioral evaluation. These alterations could be promising to monitor effects of disease-modifying treatments targeting glucocerebrosidase metabolism. [less ▲]

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See detailA novel TIMP3 mutation associated with a retinitis pigmentosa-like phenotype
DeBenedictis, Meghan; Gindzin, Yosef; Glaab, Enrico UL et al

in Ophthalmic Genetics (2020), 41(5), 480-484

Sorsby Fundus Dystrophy is an inherited macular degeneration caused by pathogenic variants in the TIMP3 gene. In this study we describe a father and son initially diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa of ... [more ▼]

Sorsby Fundus Dystrophy is an inherited macular degeneration caused by pathogenic variants in the TIMP3 gene. In this study we describe a father and son initially diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa of unknown genetic origin. More recent genetic testing of the patients, identified a novel c.410A>G; p.Tyr137Cys variant of uncertain clinical significance in the Tissue Inhibitor of Metalloproteinase-3 (TIMP3) gene. The atypical clinical findings led us to compare the theoretical molecular effects of this variant on the TIMP3 protein structure and interactions with other proteins using homology modeling and machine learning predictions. [less ▲]

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See detailVariants in Miro1 cause alterations of ER-mitochondria contact sites in fibroblasts from Parkinson's disease patients
Berenguer, Clara UL; Grossmann, Dajana; Massart, François UL et al

in Journal of Clinical Medicine (2019)

Background: Although most cases of Parkinson´s disease (PD) are idiopathic with unknown cause, an increasing number of genes and genetic risk factors have been discovered that play a role in PD ... [more ▼]

Background: Although most cases of Parkinson´s disease (PD) are idiopathic with unknown cause, an increasing number of genes and genetic risk factors have been discovered that play a role in PD pathogenesis. Many of the PD‐associated proteins are involved in mitochondrial quality control, e.g., PINK1, Parkin, and LRRK2, which were recently identified as regulators of mitochondrial‐endoplasmic reticulum (ER) contact sites (MERCs) linking mitochondrial homeostasis to intracellular calcium handling. In this context, Miro1 is increasingly recognized to play a role in PD pathology. Recently, we identified the first PD patients carrying mutations in RHOT1, the gene coding for Miro1. Here, we describe two novel RHOT1 mutations identified in two PD patients and the characterization of the cellular phenotypes. Methods: Using whole exome sequencing we identified two PD patients carrying heterozygous mutations leading to the amino acid exchanges T351A and T610A in Miro1. We analyzed calcium homeostasis and MERCs in detail by live cell imaging and immunocytochemistry in patient‐derived fibroblasts. Results: We show that fibroblasts expressing mutant T351A or T610A Miro1 display impaired calcium homeostasis and a reduced amount of MERCs. All fibroblast lines from patients with pathogenic variants in Miro1, revealed alterations of the structure of MERCs. Conclusion: Our data suggest that Miro1 is important for the regulation of the structure and function of MERCs. Moreover, our study supports the role of MERCs in the pathogenesis of PD and further establishes variants in RHOT1 as rare genetic risk factors for neurodegeneration. [less ▲]

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