• Issue front cover thumbnail

      Volume 97, Issue 3

      July 2018,   pages  587-806

    • Preface

      S. Ganesh

      More Details Abstract Fulltext PDF
    • Paradigm for disease deconvolution in rare neurodegenerative disorders in Indian population: insights from studies in cerebellar ataxias


      More Details Abstract Fulltext PDF

      Cerebellar ataxias are a group of rare progressive neurodegenerative disorders with an average prevalence ranges from 4.8 to 13.8 in 100,000 individuals. The inherited disorders affect multiple members of the families, or a community that is endogamous or consanguineous. Presence of more than 3000 mutations in different genes with overlapping clinical symptoms, genetic anticipation and pleiotropy, as well as incomplete penetrance and variable expressivity due to modifiers pose challenges in genotype–phenotype correlation. Development of a diagnostic algorithm could reduce the time as well as cost in clinicogenetic diagnostics and also help in reducing the economic and social burden of the disease. In a unique research collaboration spanning over 20 years, we have been able to develop a paradigm for studying cerebellar ataxias in the Indian population which would also be relevant in other rare diseases. This has involved clinical and genetic analysis of thousands of families from diverse Indian populations. The extensive resource on ataxia has led to the development of a clinicogenetic algorithm for cost-effective screening of ataxia and a unique ataxia clinic in thetertiary referral centre in All India Institute of Medical Sciences. Utilizing a population polymorphism scanning approach, we have been able to dissect the mechanisms of repeat instability and expansion in many ataxias, and also identify founders, and trace the mutational histories in the Indian population. This provides information for genetic testing of at—risk as well as protected individuals and populations. To dissect uncharacterized cases which comprises more than 50% of the cases, we have explored the potential of next-generation sequencing technologies coupled with the extensive resource of baseline data generated in-house and other public domains. We have also developed a repository of patient-derived peripheral blood mononuclear cells, lymphoblastoid cell lines andneuronal lineages (derived from iPSCs) for ascribing functionality to novel genes/mutations. Through integrating these technologies, novel genes have been identified that has broadened the diagnostic panel, increased the diagnostic yield to over 75%, helped in ascribing pathogenicity to novel mutations and enabled understanding of disease mechanisms. It has also provided a platform fortesting novel molecules for amelioration of pathophysiological phenotypes. This review through a perspective on CAs suggests a generic paradigm from diagnostics to therapeutic interventions for rare disorders in the context of heterogeneous Indian populations.

    • Lafora disease: from genotype to phenotype


      More Details Abstract Fulltext PDF

      The progressive myoclonic epilepsy of Lafora or Lafora disease (LD) is a neurodegenerative disorder characterized by recurrent seizures and cognitive deficits. With typical onset in the late childhood or early adolescence, the patients show progressive worsening of the disease symptoms, leading to death in about 10 years. It is an autosomal recessive disorder caused by the loss-of-function mutations in the EPM2A gene, coding for a protein phosphatase (laforin) or the NHLRC1 gene coding for an E3 ubiquitin ligase (malin). LD is characterized by the presence of abnormally branched water insoluble glycogen inclusions known as Lafora bodies in the neurons and other tissues, suggesting a role for laforin and malin in glycogen metabolic pathways. Mouse models of LD, developed by targeted disruption of the Epm2a or Nhlrc1 gene, recapitulated most of the symptoms and pathological features as seen in humans, and have offered insight into the pathomechanisms. Besides the formation of Lafora bodies in the neurons in the presymptomatic stage, the animal models have also demonstrated perturbations in the proteolytic pathways, such as ubiquitinproteasomesystem and autophagy, and inflammatory response. This review attempts to provide a comprehensive coverage on the genetic defects leading to the LD in humans, on the functional properties of the laforin and malin proteins, and on how defects in any one of these two proteins result in a clinically similar phenotype. We also discuss the disease pathologies as revealed by the studies on the animal models and, finally, on the progress with therapeutic attempts albeit in the animal models.

    • Advances in the discovery of genetic risk factors for complex forms of neurodegenerative disorders: contemporary approaches, success, challenges and prospects


      More Details Abstract Fulltext PDF

      Neurodegenerative diseases constitute a large proportion of disorders in elderly, majority being sporadic in occurrence with ∼5–10% familial. A strong genetic component underlies the Mendelian forms but nongenetic factors together with genetic vulnerability contributes to the complex sporadic forms. Several gene discoveries in the familial forms have provided novel insights into the pathogenesis of neurodegeneration with implications for treatment. Conversely, findings from genetic dissection of the sporadic forms, despite large genomewide association studies and more recently whole exome and whole genome sequencing, have been limited. This review provides a concise account of the genetics that we know, the pathways that they implicate, the challengesthat are faced and the prospects that are envisaged for the sporadic, complex forms of neurodegenerative diseases, taking four most common conditions, namely Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and Huntington disease as examples. Poor replication across studies, inability to establish genotype–phenotype correlations and the overall failure to predictrisk and/or prevent disease in this group poses a continuing challenge. Among others, clinical heterogeneity emerges as the most important impediment warranting newer approaches. Advanced computational and system biology tools to analyse the big data are being generated and the alternate strategy such as subgrouping of case–control cohorts based on deep phenotyping using theprinciples of Ayurveda to overcome current limitation of phenotype heterogeneity seem to hold promise. However, at this point, with advances in discovery genomics and functional analysis of putative determinants with translation potential for the complex forms being minimal, stem cell therapies are being attempted as potential interventions. In this context, the possibility to generatepatient derived induced pluripotent stem cells, mutant/gene/genome correction through CRISPR/Cas9 technology and repopulating the specific brain regions with corrected neurons, which may fulfil the dream of personalized medicine have been mentioned briefly. Understanding disease pathways/biology using this technology, with implications for development of novel therapeutics are optimisticexpectations in the near future.

    • Huntington’s disease: the coming of age


      More Details Abstract Fulltext PDF

      Huntington’s disease (HD) is caused due to an abnormal expansion of polyglutamine repeats in the first exon of huntingtin gene. The mutation in huntingtin causes abnormalities in the functioning of protein, leading to deleterious effects ultimately to the demise of specific neuronal cells. The disease is inherited in an autosomal dominant manner and leads to a plethora of neuropsychiatricbehaviour and neuronal cell death mainly in striatal and cortical regions of the brain, eventually leading to death of the individual. The discovery of the mutant gene led to a surge in molecular diagnostics of the disease and in making different transgenic models in different organisms to understand the function of wild-type and mutant proteins. Despite difficult challenges, there has been a significant increase in understanding the functioning of the protein in normal and other gain-of-function interactions in mutant form. However, there have been no significant improvements in treatments of the patients suffering from this ailment and most ofthe treatment is still symptomatic. HD warrants more attention towards better understanding and treatment as more advancement in molecular diagnostics and therapeutic interventions are available. Several different transgenic models are available in different organisms, ranging from fruit flies to primate monkeys, for studies on understanding the pathogenicity of the mutant gene. It is theright time to assess the advancement in the field and try new strategies for neuroprotection using key pathways as target. The present review highlights the key ingredients of pathology in the HD and discusses important studies for drug trials and future goals for therapeutic interventions.

    • Models and mechanisms of repeat expansion disorders: a worm’s eye view


      More Details Abstract Fulltext PDF

      The inappropriate genetic expansion of various repetitive DNA sequences underlies over 20 distinct inherited diseases. The genetic context of these repeats in exons, introns and untranslated regions has played a major role in thinking about the mechanisms by which various repeat expansions might cause disease. Repeat expansions in exons are thought to give rise to expanded toxic protein repeats (i.e. polyQ). Repeat expansions in introns and UTRs (i.e. FXTAS) are thought to produce aberrant repeat-bearing RNAs that interact with and sequester a wide variety of essential proteins, resulting in cellular toxicity. However, a new phenomenon termed ‘repeat-associated nonAUG dependent (RAN) translation’ paints a new and unifying picture of how distinct repeat expansion-bearing RNAs might act as substrates for this noncanonical form of translation, leading to the production of a wide range of repeat sequence-specific-encoded toxic proteins. Here, we review how the model system Caenorhabditis elegans has been utilized to model many repeat disorders and discuss how RAN translation could be a previously unappreciated contributor to the toxicity associated with these different models.

    • Neurodegenerative diseases: model organisms, pathology and autophagy


      More Details Abstract Fulltext PDF

      A proteostasis view of neurodegeneration (ND) identifies protein aggregation as a leading causative reason for damage seen at the cellular and organ levels. While investigative therapies that aim at dissolving aggregates have failed, and the promises of silencing expression of ND associated pathogenic proteins or the deployment of engineered induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) are still in the horizon, emerging literature suggests degrading aggregates through autophagy-related mechanisms hold the current potential for a possible cure. Macroautophagy (hereafter autophagy) is an intracellular degradative pathway where superfluous or unwanted cellular cargoes (such as peroxisomes, mitochondria, ribosomes, intracellular bacteria and misfolded protein aggregates) are wrapped in double membrane vesicles called autophagosomes that eventually fuses with lysosomes for their degradation. The selective branch of autophagy that deals with identification, capture and degradation of protein aggregates is called aggrephagy. Here, we cover the workings of aggrephagy detailing its selectivity towards aggregates. The diverse cellular adaptors that bridge the aggregates with the core autophagy machinery in terms of autophagosome formation are discussed. In ND, essential protein quality control mechanisms fail as the constituent components also find themselves trapped in the aggregates. Thus, although cellular aggrephagy has the potential to be upregulated, its dysfunction further aggravates the pathogenesis. This phenomenon when combinedwith the fact that neurons can neither dilute out the aggregates by cell division nor the dead neurons can be replaced due to low neurogenesis, makes a compelling case for aggrephagy pathway as a potential therapeutic option.

    • Mitochondrial dysfunction in protein conformational disorders


      More Details Abstract Fulltext PDF

      Protein aggregation is a hallmark of many neurodegenerative diseases. In Parkinson’s disease protein misfolding of α-synuclein involves conformational changes in the protein structure that often results in self-association and aggregation leading to accumulation of α-synuclein in neuronal cells. The underlying mechanisms by which aggregations can lead to impaired cellular functions are often not understood. Meanwhile, there is growing evidence that links mitochondrial dysfunction to Parkinson’s disease. As both mitochondria and protein aggregation of α-synuclein have been shown to play a major role in Parkinson’s disease, it seems likely that a converging mechanism exists that links the two pathways.

    • Regulation of membrane dynamics by Parkinson’s disease-associated genes


      More Details Abstract Fulltext PDF

      Parkinson’s disease (PD), the second most common neurodegenerative disease after Alzheimer’s disease, develops sporadically, and its cause is unknown. However, 5–10% of PD cases are inherited as monogenic diseases, which provides a chance to understand the molecular mechanisms underlying neurodegeneration. Over 20 causative genes have already been identified and arebeing characterized. These PD-associated genes are broadly classified into two groups: genes involved in mitochondrial functions and genes related to membrane dynamics such as intracellular vesicle transport and the lysosomal pathway. In this review, we summarize the latest findings on the mechanism by which members of the latter group of PD-associated genes regulate membrane dynamics, and we discuss how mutations of these genes lead to dopaminergic neurodegeneration.

    • Parkinson’s disease: what the model systems have taught us so far


      More Details Abstract Fulltext PDF

      Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a debilitating neurodegenerative disorder, for which people above the age of 60 show an increased risk. Although there has been great advancement in understanding the disease-related abnormalities in brain circuitry and development of symptomatic treatments, a cure for PD remains elusive. The discovery of PD associated gene mutations and environmental toxins have yielded animal models of the disease. These models could recapitulate several key aspects of PD, and provide more insights into the disease pathogenesis. They have also revealed novel aspects of the disease mechanism including noncell autonomous events and spreading of pathogenic protein species across the brain. Nevertheless, none of these models so far can comprehensively represent all aspects of the human disease. While the field is still searching for the perfect model system, recent developments in stem cell biology have provided a new dimension to modelling PD, especially doing it in a patient-specific manner. In the current review, we attempt to summarize the key findings in the areas discussed above, and highlight how the core PD pathologydistinguishes itself from other neurodegenerative disorders while also resembling them in many aspects.

    • Tied up: Does altering phosphoinositide-mediated membrane trafficking influence neurodegenerative disease phenotypes?


      More Details Abstract Fulltext PDF

      Phosphoinositides are a class of membrane lipids that are found on several intracellular compartments and play diverse roles inside cells, such as vesicle formation, protein trafficking, endocytosis etc. Intracellular distribution and levels ofphosphoinositides are regulated by enzymes that generate and breakdown these lipids as well as other proteins that associate with phosphoinositides. These events lead to differing levels of specific phosphoinositides on different intracellular compartments. At these intracellular locations, phosphoinositides and their associated proteins, such as Rab GTPases, dynamin and BARdomain-containing proteins, regulate a variety of membrane trafficking pathways. Neurodegenerative phenotypes in disorders such as Parkinson’s disease (PD) can arise as a consequence of altered or hampered intracellular trafficking. Altered trafficking can cause proteins such as α-synuclein to aggregate intracellularly. Several trafficking pathways are regulated by master regulators such as LRRK2, which is known to regulate the activity of phosphoinositide effector proteins. Perturbing either the levels of phosphoinositides or their interactions with different proteins disrupts intracellular trafficking pathways, contributing to phenotypes often observed in disorders such as Alzheimer’s or PDs. Thus, studying phosphoinositide regulation and its role in trafficking can give us a deeper understanding of the contribution of disrupted trafficking to neurodegenerative phenotypes.

    • Pathways to neurodegeneration: lessons learnt from unbiased genetic screens in Drosophila


      More Details Abstract Fulltext PDF

      Neurodegenerative diseases are a complex set of disorders that are known to be caused by environmental as well as genetic factors. In the recent past, mutations in a large number of genes have been identified that are linked to several neurodegenerative diseases. The pathogenic mechanisms in most of these disorders are unknown. Recently, studies of genes that are linked toneurodegeneration in Drosophila, the fruit flies, have contributed significantly to our understanding of mechanisms of neuroprotection and degeneration. In this review, we focus on forward genetic screens in Drosophila that helped in identification of novel genes and pathogenic mechanisms linked to neurodegeneration. We also discuss identification of four novel pathways that contribute to neurodegeneration upon mitochondrial dysfunction.

    • Neurofibrillary tangles mediated human neuronal tauopathies: insights from fly models


      More Details Abstract Fulltext PDF

      Tauopathies represent a group of neurodegenerative disorder which are characterized by the presence of tau positive specialized argyrophilic and insoluble intraneuronal and glial fibrillar lesions known as neurofibrillary tangles (NFTs). Tau is a neuron specific microtubule binding protein which is required for the integrity and functioning of neuronal cells, and hyperphosphorylationof tau and its subsequent aggregation and paired helical filaments (PHFs) and NFTs has emerged as one of the major pathogenic mechanisms of tauopathies in human and mammalian model systems. Modeling of human tauopathies in Drosophila results in manifestation of associated phenotypes, and a recent study has demonstrated that similar to human and mammalian models, accumulation of insoluble tau aggregates in the form of typical neurotoxic NFTs triggers the pathogenesis of tauopathies in fly models. In view of the availability of remarkable genetic tools, Drosophila tau models could be extremely useful for in-depth analysis of the role of NFTs in neurodegeneration and tau aetiology, and also for the screening of novel gene(s) and molecule(s) which suppressthe toxicity of tau aggregates.

    • Shared mechanisms among neurodegenerative diseases: from genetic factors to gene networks


      More Details Abstract Fulltext PDF

      Neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease,Parkinson’s disease, andamyotrophic lateral sclerosis are pressing health concerns in modern societies for which effective therapies are still lacking. Recent high-throughput genomic technologies have enabled genome-scale, multidimensional investigations to facilitate a better understanding of the underlying mechanisms and theidentification of novel targets. Here we review the molecular insights gained through such studies, and compare the similarities and differences between neurodegenerative diseases revealed by systems genomics and gene network modelling approaches. We focus specifically on the shared mechanisms at multiple molecular scales ranging from genetic factors to gene expression to network-level features of gene regulation, and whenever possible also point out mechanisms that distinguish one disease from another. Our reviewsets the stage for similar genomewide inspection in the future on shared/distinct features of neurodegenerative diseases at the levels of cellular, proteomic or epigenomic signatures, and how these features may interact to determine the progression and treatment response of different diseases afflicting the same individual.

  • Journal of Genetics | News

    • Editorial Note on Continuous Article Publication

      Posted on July 25, 2019

      Click here for Editorial Note on CAP Mode

© 2017-2019 Indian Academy of Sciences, Bengaluru.