Genetic brain disorder fixed in mice using precision epigenome editing

December 10, 2019

Using a targeted gene epigenome editing approach in the developing mouse brain, Johns Hopkins Medicine researchers reversed one gene mutation that leads to the genetic disorder WAGR syndrome, which causes intellectual disability and obesity in people. This specific editing was unique in that it changed the epigenome -- how the genes are regulated -- without changing the actual genetic code of the gene being regulated.

The researchers found that this gene, C11orf46, is an important regulator during brain development. Specifically, it turns on and off the direction-sensing proteins that help guide the long fibers growing out of newly formed neurons responsible for sending electrical messages, helping them form into a bundle, which connects the two hemispheres of the brain. Failure to properly form this bundled structure, known as the corpus callosum, can lead to conditions such as intellectual disability, autism or other brain developmental disorders.

"Although this work is early, these findings suggest that we may be able to develop future epigenome editing therapies that could help reshape the neural connections in the brain, and perhaps prevent developmental disorders of the brain from occurring," says Atsushi Kamiya, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

The study was published online in the September 11 issue of Nature Communications.

WAGR syndrome is also known as chromosome 11p13 deletion syndrome, which can result when some or all of the gene located in the region of chromosome 11p13 that includes C11orf46 is deleted by chance. The researchers used a genetic tool, short hairpin RNA, to cause less of the C11orf46 protein to be made in the brains of mice. The fibers of the neurons in the mouse brains with less of the C11orf46 protein failed to form the neuron bundled corpus callosum, as is found in WAGR syndrome.

The gene that makes Semaphorin 6a, a direction-sensing protein, was turned on higher in mice with lower C11orf46. By using a modified CRISPR genome editing system, the researchers were able to edit a portion of the regulatory region of the gene for Semaphorin. This editing of the epigenome allowed C11orf46 to bind and turn down the gene in the brains of these mice, which then restored the neuron fiber bundling to that found in normal brains.
-end-
Other authors on the study include Atsushi Saito, Yuto Hasegawa, Yuya Tanaka, Mohika Nagpal, Gabriel Perez and Emily Alway of Johns Hopkins; Cyril Peter, Sergio Espeso-Gil, Tariq Fayyad, Chana Ratner, Aslihan Dincer, Achla Gupta, Lakshmi Devi and Schahram Akbarian of Mount Sinai; John Pappas of New York University; François Lalonde of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), John Butman of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Clinical Center; and Joan Han of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD).

This work was supported by grants from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (DA041208), NIMH (MH091230, MH094268, MH104341, MH117790), the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (AT008547), a Johns Hopkins Catalyst Award, the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation, NICHD (ZIAHD008898), an NIH Bench-to-Bedside Award and Office of the Director at NIH (S10OD016374).

Han received grant funding from Rhythm Pharmaceuticals.

Johns Hopkins Medicine

Related Brain Articles from Brightsurf:

Glioblastoma nanomedicine crosses into brain in mice, eradicates recurring brain cancer
A new synthetic protein nanoparticle capable of slipping past the nearly impermeable blood-brain barrier in mice could deliver cancer-killing drugs directly to malignant brain tumors, new research from the University of Michigan shows.

Children with asymptomatic brain bleeds as newborns show normal brain development at age 2
A study by UNC researchers finds that neurodevelopmental scores and gray matter volumes at age two years did not differ between children who had MRI-confirmed asymptomatic subdural hemorrhages when they were neonates, compared to children with no history of subdural hemorrhage.

New model of human brain 'conversations' could inform research on brain disease, cognition
A team of Indiana University neuroscientists has built a new model of human brain networks that sheds light on how the brain functions.

Human brain size gene triggers bigger brain in monkeys
Dresden and Japanese researchers show that a human-specific gene causes a larger neocortex in the common marmoset, a non-human primate.

Unique insight into development of the human brain: Model of the early embryonic brain
Stem cell researchers from the University of Copenhagen have designed a model of an early embryonic brain.

An optical brain-to-brain interface supports information exchange for locomotion control
Chinese researchers established an optical BtBI that supports rapid information transmission for precise locomotion control, thus providing a proof-of-principle demonstration of fast BtBI for real-time behavioral control.

Transplanting human nerve cells into a mouse brain reveals how they wire into brain circuits
A team of researchers led by Pierre Vanderhaeghen and Vincent Bonin (VIB-KU Leuven, Université libre de Bruxelles and NERF) showed how human nerve cells can develop at their own pace, and form highly precise connections with the surrounding mouse brain cells.

Brain scans reveal how the human brain compensates when one hemisphere is removed
Researchers studying six adults who had one of their brain hemispheres removed during childhood to reduce epileptic seizures found that the remaining half of the brain formed unusually strong connections between different functional brain networks, which potentially help the body to function as if the brain were intact.

Alcohol byproduct contributes to brain chemistry changes in specific brain regions
Study of mouse models provides clear implications for new targets to treat alcohol use disorder and fetal alcohol syndrome.

Scientists predict the areas of the brain to stimulate transitions between different brain states
Using a computer model of the brain, Gustavo Deco, director of the Center for Brain and Cognition, and Josephine Cruzat, a member of his team, together with a group of international collaborators, have developed an innovative method published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Sept.

Read More: Brain News and Brain Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.