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Study Description

Study 1
2R01-NS050375 (PI: DOBYNS, William B.)
The genetic basis of mid-hindbrain malformations
Our general goal for this project is to advance our understanding of human developmental disorders that involve the brainstem and cerebellum - brain structures derived from the embryonic midbrain and hindbrain - that affect a minimum of 2.4 per 1000 resident births based on data from the CDC. Importantly, this large class of disorders co-occurs with more common developmental disorders such as autism, mental retardation and some forms of infantile epilepsy, and shares some of the same causes. With this renewal, we propose to expand the scope of our work beyond single phenotypes and genes to focus on delineating the critical phenotype spectra to which the most common MHM belong, and defining the underlying biological networks that are disrupted.

To pursue these goals, we will use our large and growing cohort of human subjects to map additional MHM loci using SNP microarrays that provide both high-resolution autozygosity and linkage data in informative families as well as detect critical copy number variants in sporadic subjects. The causative genes will be identified using traditional Sanger or new high-throughput sequencing methods as appropriate abased on size of the critical region. We will use these and other known MHM causative genes to construct and revise model biological networks of genes and proteins, and test these genes and networks in additional patients as a candidate gene or more accurately a candidate network approach. These approaches need to be supported by ongoing active subject recruitment, as studies of comparable disorders such as mental retardation and autism have benefited from even larger numbers of subjects that we have so far collected. We need to use new high-throughput sequencing methods to more efficiently test larger critical regions, and to test entire gene networks rather than individual genes in matched cohorts of subjects. At every step; phenotype analysis, CNV analysis, model network construction and high-throughput sequencing, we will need expanded bioinformatics capabilities. Finally, we need to test the biological function of new genes and networks to support our gene identification studies. We expect that these studies will contribute immediately to more accurate diagnosis and counseling, and over time will lead to development of specific treatments for a subset of these disorders. We further expect that studies of mid-hindbrain development will have broad significance for human developmental disorders generally, providing compelling evidence for a connection between cerebellar development and other classes of developmental disorders such as autism, mental retardation and epilepsy.

Study 2
R01-NS058721 (PI: DOBYNS, William B.)
De novo copy number variation and gene discovery in human brain malformations
Project Summary/Abstract
The number of recognized brain malformations and syndromes has grown rapidly during the past several decades, yet relatively few causative genes have been identified, especially for three common malformations that have been associated with numerous cytogenetically visible chromosome deletions and duplications, and that often occur together: agenesis of the corpus callosum (ACC), cerebellar vermis hypoplasia (CVH) including Dandy-Walker malformation (DWM), and polymicrogyria (PMG). We propose to perform high-resolution array comparative genome hybridization (aCGH), emerging technology able to detect small copy number variants (CNV), in 700 probands with one or more of these three malformations. Our central hypothesis states that more than 10% of patients with ACC, CVH or PMG will have de novo CNV below the resolution of routine cytogenetic analysis, but detectable by current array platforms. We therefore expect to identify 70-100 patients with small CNV. We will distinguish CNV found in normal individuals from potentially disease-associated changes, and will confirm CNV using fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) and microsatellite (STRP) analysis. We will give highest priority to CNV that are de novo and involve 2 or more BACs, and secondary priority to familial and smaller CNV excluding known polymorphisms. After that, we will evaluate and rank candidate genes in the critical regions using information from public databases and our own expression studies, and perform mutation analysis of the best candidate genes from well-defined critical regions by sequencing in a large panel of subjects with phenotypes that match the phenotypes of the patients whose CNV define the critical regions. Here, we will use more refined criteria to supplement our clinical classification, such as the developmental level and presence of epilepsy or other birth defects. Any abnormalities found will be analyzed using existing data regarding polymorphisms (i.e. dbSNP), cross-species comparisons, and functional assays appropriate for the specific sequence change.

Study 2A
In 1995, we described a novel multiple congenital anomaly syndrome associated with facial dysmorphism (congenital ptosis, high arched eyebrows, shallow orbits, trigonocephaly), colobomas of the eyes, neuronal migration malformation (frontal predominant lissencephaly) and variable hearing loss. We hypothesized from de novo mutations and used trio-based exome sequencing to identify de novo mutations in the ACTB and ACTG1 genes.

Study 2B
In 1997 and 2004, we and others defined two novel developmental syndromes associated with markedly enlarged brain size, or megalencephaly, and other highly recognizable features. The megalencephaly-capillary malformation syndrome (MCAP) consists of megalencephaly and associated growth dysregulation with variable asymmetry, developmental vascular anomalies, distal limb malformations, variable cortical malformation, and a mild connective tissue dysplasia. The megalencephaly-polymicrogyria-polydactyly-hydrocephalus syndrome (MPPH) resembles MCAP but lacks vascular malformations and syndactyly. We hypothesized that MCAP and MPPH result from mutations - including postzygotic events - in the same pathway, and studied them together. Using a combination of exome sequencing, Sanger sequencing, restriction-enzyme assays, and targeted ultra-deep sequencing in 50 families with MCAP or MPPH, we identified de novo germline or postzygotic mutations in three core components of the phosphatidylinositol-3-kinase/AKT pathway. These include two mutations in AKT3, a recurrent mutation in PIK3R2, and multiple mostly postzygotic mutations in PIK3CA (Rivière JB, Mirzaa GM, O'Roak BJ, Beddaoui M, Alcantara D, Conway RL, St-Onge J, Schwartzentruber JA, Gripp KW, Nikkel SM, Worthylake T, Sullivan CT, Ward TR, Butler HE, Kramer NA, Albrecht B, Armour CM, Armstrong L, Caluseriu O, Cytrynbaum C, Drolet BA, Innes AM, Lauzon JL, Lin AE, Mancini GMS, Meschino WS, Reggin JD, Saggar AK, Lerman-Sagie T, Uyanik G, Weksberg R, Zirn B, Beaulieu CL, FORGE Canada Consortium, Majewski J, Bulman DE, O'Driscoll M, Shendure J, Graham Jr. JM, Boycott KM, Dobyns WB. De novo germline and postzygotic mutations in AKT3, PIK3R2 and PIK3CA cause a spectrum of related megalencephaly syndromes. Nat. Genet. In press).

Study 3
2R01-NS046616 (PI: GOLDEN, Jeffrey A)
The role of ARX in normal and abnormal brain development
This subcontract from the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia to the University of Chicago (UC) is intended to support research studies of the ARX and functionally related genes in human subjects with any one of several specific developmental disorders. The Co-investigator at UC (W.B. Dobyns) will identify a series of patients with mental retardation and severe infantile epilepsy, some of whom will have specific brain malformations and others who will have normal brain structure by brain imaging studies, and collect research samples from these subjects with informed consent. The studies to be performed will include mutation analysis of ARX, mutation analysis of specific downstream target genes, X inactivation studies in humans and X inactivation studies in mutant mice. The results will be analyzed to determine the significance of any changes found in the gene.

  • Study Type: Cohort
  • dbGaP estimated ancestry components using GRAF-pop
  • Number of study subjects that have individual level data available through Authorized Access: 10

Authorized Access
Publicly Available Data (Public ftp)

Connect to the public download site. The site contains release notes and manifests. If available, the site also contains data dictionaries, variable summaries, documents, and truncated analyses.

Study Inclusion/Exclusion Criteria

Inclusion criteria

  1. Developmental brain disorder including many forebrain malformations (HPE, ACC), brainstem and cerebellar malformations (cerebellar hypoplasia, Dandy-Walker malformation), malformations of cortical development (microcephaly, megalencephaly, lissencephaly, heterotopia, cobblestone cortical malformation, polymicrogyria), and other developmental brain disorders with mostly normal brain structure (intellectural disability, autism, infantile seizures, severe developmental encephalopathies with autistic features, etc).
  2. Sufficient clinical records to confirm diagnosis
  3. Brain imaging study to confirm diagnosis
  4. Research DNA and other samples
  5. Informed consent documetation

Exclusion criteria

  1. Insufficient documentation

Molecular Data
TypeSourcePlatformNumber of Oligos/SNPsSNP Batch IdComment
Exome Capture Roche NimbleGen SeqCap EZ Exome Library v2.0 liquid-phase sequence capture kit N/A N/A
Whole Genome Sequencing Illumina Genome Analyzer II N/A N/A
Sequence Alignment Software Burrows-Wheeler Aligner (BWA) N/A N/A Li H. and Durbin R. (2009) Fast and accurate short read alignment with Burrows-Wheeler Transform. Bioinformatics, 25:1754-60. [PMID: 19451168]
Variant Calling Broad Institute The Genome Analysis Toolkit (GTAK) N/A N/A McKenna A. et al. (2010) The Genome Analysis Toolkit: a MapReduce framework for analyzing next-generation DNA sequencing data. Genome Res., 20:1297-303. [PMID: 20644199]
Study History

The long-term goal of this study is to define large classes and specific types of developmental brain disorders, identify their genetic causes, perform genotype-phenotype analysis, and begin studies of biological function. The study began in 1982 with enrollment of several children with lissencephaly, a severe malformation of cortical development, and gradually added studies of other severe developmental brain disorders. Other brain malformations involving the cerebral midline, cerebellum and cerebral cortex were added through the mid-1990's and disorders such as undefined mental retardation (intellectual disability), autism and infantile epilepsy since 2010. The project achieved consistent NIH funding in 1999.

This first release includes whole-exome sequencing data from one parent-proband trio with Baraitser-Winter syndrome (PMID: 22366783), two parent-proband trios with megalencephaly, and a single affected individual with megalencephaly.

Selected publications
Diseases/Traits Related to Study (MESH terms)
Authorized Data Access Requests
Study Attribution