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  • Mattila, Pieta (Helsingin yliopisto, 2007)
    The cells of multicellular organisms have differentiated to carry out specific functions that are often accompanied by distinct cell morphology. The actin cytoskeleton is one of the key regulators of cell shape subsequently controlling multiple cellular events including cell migration, cell division, endo- and exocytosis. A large set of actin regulating proteins has evolved to achieve and tightly coordinate this wide range of functions. Some actin regulator proteins have so-called house keeping roles and are essential for all eukaryotic cells, but some have evolved to meet the requirements of more specialized cell-types found in higher organisms enabling complex functions of differentiated organs, such as liver, kidney and brain. Often processes mediated by the actin cytoskeleton, like formation of cellular protrusions during cell migration, are intimately linked to plasma membrane remodeling. Thus, a close cooperation between these two cellular compartments is necessary, yet not much is known about the underlying molecular mechanisms. This study focused on a vertebrate-specific protein called missing-in-metastasis (MIM), which was originally characterized as a metastasis suppressor of bladder cancer. We demonstrated that MIM regulates the dynamics of actin cytoskeleton via its WH2 domain, and is expressed in a cell-type specific manner. Interestingly, further examination showed that the IM-domain of MIM displays a novel membrane tubulation activity, which induces formation of filopodia in cells. Following studies demonstrated that this membrane deformation activity is crucial for cell protrusions driven by MIM. In mammals, there are five members of IM-domain protein family. Functions and expression patterns of these family members have remained poorly characterized. To understand the physiological functions of MIM, we generated MIM knockout mice. MIM-deficient mice display no apparent developmental defects, but instead suffer from progressive renal disease and increased susceptibility to tumors. This indicates that MIM plays a role in the maintenance of specific physiological functions associated with distinct cell morphologies. Taken together, these studies implicate MIM both in the regulation of the actin cytoskeleton and the plasma membrane. Our results thus suggest that members of MIM/IRSp53 protein family coordinate the actin cytoskeleton:plasma membrane interface to control cell and tissue morphogenesis in multicellular organisms.
  • Zheng, Chaozhi (Helsingin yliopisto, 2009)
    Many species inhabit fragmented landscapes, resulting either from anthropogenic or from natural processes. The ecological and evolutionary dynamics of spatially structured populations are affected by a complex interplay between endogenous and exogenous factors. The metapopulation approach, simplifying the landscape to a discrete set of patches of breeding habitat surrounded by unsuitable matrix, has become a widely applied paradigm for the study of species inhabiting highly fragmented landscapes. In this thesis, I focus on the construction of biologically realistic models and their parameterization with empirical data, with the general objective of understanding how the interactions between individuals and their spatially structured environment affect ecological and evolutionary processes in fragmented landscapes. I study two hierarchically structured model systems, which are the Glanville fritillary butterfly in the Åland Islands, and a system of two interacting aphid species in the Tvärminne archipelago, both being located in South-Western Finland. The interesting and challenging feature of both study systems is that the population dynamics occur over multiple spatial scales that are linked by various processes. My main emphasis is in the development of mathematical and statistical methodologies. For the Glanville fritillary case study, I first build a Bayesian framework for the estimation of death rates and capture probabilities from mark-recapture data, with the novelty of accounting for variation among individuals in capture probabilities and survival. I then characterize the dispersal phase of the butterflies by deriving a mathematical approximation of a diffusion-based movement model applied to a network of patches. I use the movement model as a building block to construct an individual-based evolutionary model for the Glanville fritillary butterfly metapopulation. I parameterize the evolutionary model using a pattern-oriented approach, and use it to study how the landscape structure affects the evolution of dispersal. For the aphid case study, I develop a Bayesian model of hierarchical multi-scale metapopulation dynamics, where the observed extinction and colonization rates are decomposed into intrinsic rates operating specifically at each spatial scale. In summary, I show how analytical approaches, hierarchical Bayesian methods and individual-based simulations can be used individually or in combination to tackle complex problems from many different viewpoints. In particular, hierarchical Bayesian methods provide a useful tool for decomposing ecological complexity into more tractable components.
  • Lindström, Riitta (Helsingin yliopisto, 2014)
    Mesencephalic astrocyte-derived neurotrophic factor (MANF) and cerebral dopamine neurotrophic factor (CDNF) proteins form a family of neurotrophic factors. Neurotrophic factors have been intensively studied as a putative therapeutic approach to treat neuronal injuries and neurodegenerative diseases. Mammalian MANF and CDNF have been shown to have protective and restorative effects on the nigrostriatal dopaminergic system. In addition, several studies have reported a role for MANF in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress response. A recently established MANF knockout mouse model revealed that MANF functions in the pancreatic insulin-producing beta cells and might be involved in the pathogenesis of diabetes mellitus. Beyond their neurotrophic properties, MANF and CDNF appear to play a more general role in the maintenance of cellular homeostasis. In this study, Drosophila melanogaster was used as a model organism to explore the function and interaction of the MANF/CDNF protein family in vivo. The sole member of the MANF/CDNF family in Drosophila, DmManf, was discovered to be crucial for fly development. The human orthologues, HsMANF and HsCDNF, were found to be able to substitute the endogenous DmManf. Likewise, DmManf had the cytoprotective properties of mammalian MANF in cultured murine neurons. These results support that the findings from the Drosophila model can be adapted for research in mammalian systems. MANF/CDNF proteins consist of amino (N) - and carboxy (C) -terminal domains. In this work, several functional features identified in mammalian MANF structure were explored in the Drosophila model. Separate N- or C-terminal domain constructs, even when co-expressed together, failed to complement for the loss of endogenous DmManf. The ER retention of DmManf, mediated by the C-terminal signal sequence, and the positive charge of the N-terminal surface amino acid residues were found to be important for appropriate DmManf function. Furthermore, entering the secretory pathway via ER was essential for the stability of DmManf protein. A CXXC motif characteristic for oxidoreductases is located in the C-terminal domain of MANF. In this study, effects of a point mutation (C129S) in CXXC motif of DmManf were analysed in vivo. Intact CXXC motif was discovered to be vital for DmManf function. Furthermore, the expression of DmManf-C129S in wild type background was harmful for fly viability suggesting that this specific mutation represents either a dominant negative or a gain-of-function allele of DmManf. Utilising the unique potential of Drosophila model for in vivo screening, interactions of DmManf were studied in this work. Consistent with a previous in vitro study, a genetic interaction was found between DmManf and the fly homologue of the major ER chaperone GRP78. Moreover, DmManf interacted with other genes that encode components of ER function and the unfolded protein response. Finally, novel interactions with DmManf and genes involved in the ubiquinone synthesis pathway and mitochondria were discovered. Taken together, this study demonstrates the functional conservation of mammalian and fly proteins and provides meaningful information on structural and functional features of the MANF/CDNF protein family in vivo. The genetic interaction studies confirmed and expanded the previous knowledge on the ER-associated functions of MANF. Furthermore, novel interactions with mitochondria-related genes and DmManf were discovered.
  • Starrfelt, Jostein (Helsingin yliopisto, 2011)
    Ecology and evolutionary biology is the study of life on this planet. One of the many methods applied to answering the great diversity of questions regarding the lives and characteristics of individual organisms, is the utilization of mathematical models. Such models are used in a wide variety of ways. Some help us to reason, functioning as aids to, or substitutes for, our own fallible logic, thus making argumentation and thinking clearer. Models which help our reasoning can lead to conceptual clarification; by expressing ideas in algebraic terms, the relationship between different concepts become clearer. Other mathematical models are used to better understand yet more complicated models, or to develop mathematical tools for their analysis. Though helping us to reason and being used as tools in the craftmanship of science, many models do not tell us much about the real biological phenomena we are, at least initially, interested in. The main reason for this is that any mathematical model is a simplification of the real world, reducing the complexity and variety of interactions and idiosynchracies of individual organisms. What such models can tell us, however, both is and has been very valuable throughout the history of ecology and evolution. Minimally, a model simplifying the complex world can tell us that in principle, the patterns produced in a model could also be produced in the real world. We can never know how different a simplified mathematical representation is from the real world, but the similarity models do strive for, gives us confidence that their results could apply. This thesis deals with a variety of different models, used for different purposes. One model deals with how one can measure and analyse invasions; the expanding phase of invasive species. Earlier analyses claims to have shown that such invasions can be a regulated phenomena, that higher invasion speeds at a given point in time will lead to a reduction in speed. Two simple mathematical models show that analysis on this particular measure of invasion speed need not be evidence of regulation. In the context of dispersal evolution, two models acting as proof-of-principle are presented. Parent-offspring conflict emerges when there are different evolutionary optima for adaptive behavior for parents and offspring. We show that the evolution of dispersal distances can entail such a conflict, and that under parental control of dispersal (as, for example, in higher plants) wider dispersal kernels are optimal. We also show that dispersal homeostasis can be optimal; in a setting where dispersal decisions (to leave or stay in a natal patch) are made, strategies that divide their seeds or eggs into fractions that disperse or not, as opposed to randomized for each seed, can prevail. We also present a model of the evolution of bet-hedging strategies; evolutionary adaptations that occur despite their fitness, on average, being lower than a competing strategy. Such strategies can win in the long run because they have a reduced variance in fitness coupled with a reduction in mean fitness, and fitness is of a multiplicative nature across generations, and therefore sensitive to variability. This model is used for conceptual clarification; by developing a population genetical model with uncertain fitness and expressing genotypic variance in fitness as a product between individual level variance and correlations between individuals of a genotype. We arrive at expressions that intuitively reflect two of the main categorizations of bet-hedging strategies; conservative vs diversifying and within- vs between-generation bet hedging. In addition, this model shows that these divisions in fact are false dichotomies.
  • Nymark, Penny (Helsingin yliopisto, 2010)
    Background: Asbestos is a well known cancer-causing mineral fibre, which has a synergistic effect on lung cancer risk in combination with tobacco smoking. Several in vitro and in vivo experiments have demonstrated that asbestos can evoke chromosomal damage and cause alterations as well as gene expression changes. Lung tumours, in general, have very complex karyotypes with several recurrently gained and lost chromosomal regions and this has made it difficult to identify specific molecular changes related primarily to asbestos exposure. The main aim of these studies has been to characterize asbestos-related lung cancer at a molecular level. Methods: Samples from asbestos-exposed and non-exposed lung cancer patients were studied using array comparative genomic hybridization (aCGH) and fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH) to detect copy number alterations (CNA) as well as microsatellite analysis to detect allelic imbalance (AI). In addition, asbestos-exposed cell lines were studied using gene expression microarrays. Results: Eighteen chromosomal regions showing differential copy number in the lung tumours of asbestos-exposed patients compared to those of non-exposed patients were identified. The most significant differences were detected at 2p21-p16.3, 5q35.3, 9q33.3-q34.11, 9q34.13-q34.3, 11p15.5, 14q11.2 and 19p13.1-p13.3 (p<0.005). The alterations at 2p and 9q were validated and characterized in detail using AI and FISH analysis in a larger study population. Furthermore, in vitro studies were performed to examine the early gene expression changes induced by asbestos in three different lung cell lines. The results revealed specific asbestos-associated gene expression profiles and biological processes as well as chromosomal regions enriched with genes believed to contribute to the common asbestos-related responses in the cell lines. Interestingly, the most significant region enriched with asbestos-response genes was identified at 2p22, close to the previously identified region showing asbestos-related CNA in lung tumours. Additionally, in this thesis, the dysregulated biological processes (Gene Ontology terms) detected in the cell line experiment were compared to dysregulated processes identified in patient samples in a later study (Ruosaari et al., 2008a). Commonly affected processes such as those related to protein ubiquitination, ion transport and surprisingly sensory perception of smell were identified. Conclusions: The identification of specific CNA and dysregulated biological processes shed some light on the underlying genes acting as mediators in asbestos-related lung carcinogenesis. It is postulated that the combination of several asbestos-specific molecular alterations could be used to develop a diagnostic method for the identification of asbestos-related lung cancer.
  • Nousiainen, Heidi (Helsingin yliopisto, 2011)
    This study identified the molecular defects underlying three lethal fetal syndromes. Lethal Congenital Contracture Syndrome 1 (LCCS1, MIM 253310) and Lethal Arthrogryposis with Anterior Horn Cell Disease (LAAHD, MIM 611890) are fetal motor neuron diseases. They affect the nerve cells that control voluntary muscle movement, and eventually result in severe atrophy of spinal cord motor neurons and fetal immobility. Both LCCS1 and LAAHD are caused by mutations in the GLE1 gene, which encodes for a multifunctional protein involved in posttranscriptional mRNA processing. LCCS2 and LCCS3, two syndromes that are clinically similar to LCCS1, are caused by defective proteins involved in the synthesis of inositol hexakisphosphate (IP6), an essential cofactor of GLE1. This suggests a common mechanism behind these fetal motor neuron diseases, and along with accumulating evidence from genetic studies of more late-onset motor neuron diseases such as Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) and Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), implicates mRNA processing as a common mechanism in motor neuron disease pathogenesis. We also studied gle1-/- zebrafish in order to investigate whether they would be a good model for studying the pathogenesis of LCCS1 and LAAHD. Mutant zebrafish exhibit cell death in their central nervous system at two days post fertilization, and the distribution of mRNA within the cells of mutant zebrafish differs from controls, encouraging further studies. The third lethal fetal syndrome is described in this study for the first time. Cocoon syndrome (MIM 613630) was discovered in a Finnish family with two affected individuals. Its hallmarks are the encasement of the limbs under the skin, and severe craniofacial abnormalities, including the lack of skull bones. We showed that Cocoon syndrome is caused by a mutation in the gene encoding the conserved helix-loop-helix ubiquitous kinase CHUK, also known as IκB kinase α (IKKα). The mutation results in the complete lack of CHUK protein expression. CHUK is a subunit of the IκB kinase enzyme that inhibits NF-κB transcription factors, but in addition, it has an essential, independent role in controlling keratinocyte differentiation, as well as informing morphogenetic events such as limb and skeletal patterning. CHUK also acts as a tumor suppressor, and is frequently inactivated in cancer. This study has brought significant new information about the molecular background of these three lethal fetal syndromes, as well as provided knowledge about the prerequisites of normal human development.
  • Montesano, Marcos (Helsingin yliopisto, 2002)
  • Savolainen-Kopra, Carita (Helsingin yliopisto, 2006)
    The first part of this work investigates the molecular epidemiology of a human enterovirus (HEV), echovirus 30 (E-30). This project is part of a series of studies performed in our research team analyzing the molecular epidemiology of HEV-B viruses. A total of 129 virus strains had been isolated in different parts of Europe. The sequence analysis was performed in three different genomic regions: 420 nucleotides (nt) in the VP4/VP2 capsid protein coding region, the entire VP1 capsid protein coding gene of 876 nt, and 150 nt in the VP1/2A junction region. The analysis revealed a succession of dominant sublineages within a major genotype. The temporally earlier genotypes had been replaced by a genetically homogenous lineage that has been circulating in Europe since the late 1970s. The same genotype was found by other research groups in North America and Australia. Globally, other cocirculating genetic lineages also exist. The prevalence of a dominant genotype makes E-30 different from other previously studied HEVs, such as polioviruses and coxsackieviruses B4 and B5, for which several coexisting genetic lineages have been reported. The second part of this work deals with molecular epidemiology of human rhinoviruses (HRVs). A total of 61 field isolates were studied in the 420-nt stretch in the capsid coding region of VP4/VP2. The isolates were collected from children under two years of age in Tampere, Finland. Sequences from the clinical isolates clustered in the two previously known phylogenetic clades. Seasonal clustering was found. Also, several distinct serotype-like clusters were found to co-circulate during the same epidemic season. Reappearance of a cluster after disappearing for a season was observed. The molecular epidemiology of the analyzed strains turned out to be complex, and we decided to continue our studies of HRV. Only five previously published complete genome sequences of HRV prototype strains were available for analysis. Therefore, all designated HRV prototype strains (n=102) were sequenced in the VP4/VP2 region, and the possibility of genetic typing of HRV was evaluated. Seventy-six of the 102 prototype strains clustered in HRV genetic group A (HRV-A) and 25 in group B (HRV-B). Serotype 87 clustered separately from other HRVs with HEV species D. The field strains of HRV represented as many as 19 different genotypes, as judged with an approximate demarcation of a 20% nt difference in the VP4/VP2 region. The interserotypic differences of HRV were generally similar to those reported between different HEV serotypes (i.e. about 20%), but smaller differences, less than 10%, were also observed. Because some HRV serotypes are genetically so closely related, we suggest that the genetic typing be performed using the criterion "the closest prototype strain". This study is the first systematic genetic characterization of all known HRV prototype strains, providing a further taxonomic proposal for classification of HRV. We proposed to divide the genus Human rhinoviruses into HRV-A and HRV-B. The final part of the work comprises a phylogenetic analysis of a subset (48) of HRV prototype strains and field isolates (12) in the nonstructural part of the genome coding for the RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (3D). The proposed division of the HRV strains in the species HRV-A and HRV-B was also supported by 3D region. HRV-B clustered closer to HEV species B, C, and also to polioviruses than to HRV-A. Intraspecies variation within both HRV-A and HRV-B was greater in the 3D coding region than in the VP4/VP2 coding region, in contrast to HEV. Moreover, the diversity of HRV in 3D exceeded that of HEV. One group of HRV-A, designated HRV-A', formed a separate cluster outside other HRV-A in the 3D region. It formed a cluster also in the capsid region, but located within HRV-A. This may reflect a different evolutionary history of distinct genomic regions among HRV-A. Furthermore, the tree topology within HRV-A in the 3D region differed from that in the VP4/VP2, suggesting possible recombination events in the evolution of the strains. No conflicting phylogenies were observed in any of the 12 field isolates. Possible recombination was further studied using the Similarity and Bootscanning analyses of the complete genome sequences of HRV available in public databases. Evidence for recombination among HRV-A was found, as HRV2 and HRV39 showed higher similarity in the nonstructural part of the genome. Whether HRV2 and HRV39 strains - and perhaps also some other HRV-A strains not yet completely sequenced - are recombinants remains to be determined.
  • Maunula, Leena (Helsingin yliopisto, 2001)
  • Suomalainen, Marjo (Helsingin yliopisto, 2014)
    Omptins are a family of conserved, integral outer membrane proteases and widely distributed within Gram-negative bacterial species. The family offers a good example of the evolution and the adaptation of a protein to novel functions and to differing pathogenic bacterial life-styles. This work investigates three different omptins: Pla of Yersinia pestis, PgtE of Salmonella enterica and OmpT of Escherichia coli. The omptin proteases differ in substrate specificity and need lipopolysaccharide (LPS) for activity. My thesis work addressed two main questions in omptin function: what is the molecular basis of the dissimilar substrate selectivity in the structurally very similar omptins; and what are the structural features in LPS that affect omptin activity. I studied the LPS dependency of omptins by expressing the proteins in bacterial cells that differ in LPS structure and by reconstituting purified, detergent-solubilized omptin protein with characterized, purified LPS molecules. Y. pestis alters its LPS structure in response to change of temperature from 20°C to 37°C, which reflects the transfer from a flea to a mammalian host. I found that the activity of Pla in cells from 20°C was very low, whereas cells from 37°C expressed high activity. I reconstituted detergent-purified His6-Pla protein with various model LPS structures and with LPSs of Y. pestis grown at different temperatures. Adding Y. pestis LPS from 37°C to the nonfunctional Pla protein induced high proteolytic activity, whereas 20°C-LPS gave very low activity, indicating that the activity of Pla is controlled by LPS. Similarly, I found that the activity of PgtE was high with rough LPS and low with smooth LPS; the difference mimics the LPS of intracellular (rough) and extracellular (smooth) S. enterica. Thus, in both bacterial species the omptin activity is controlled by the LPS type that the bacteria express during infection in mammals. I further studied the fine structure of Y. pestis LPS that affects Pla activity. This was done by reconstituting Pla activity with various structurally characterized Y. pestis and E. coli LPSs. I found that lower levels of lipid A acylation and phosphate substitution by aminoarabinose, are important for Pla activity, these features are characteristic for Y. pestis LPS from 37°C. A common and conserved feature in omptin structure is the presence of LPS-binding motif in protein barrel. Disrupting of the lipid A-binding motifs in PgtE and Pla abolished their proteolytic activity, emphasizing the importance of the LPS binding site for omptin activity. Omptins have a highly spatically conserved active center and catalytic domains but express functional heterogeneity. The omptin transmembrane barrel contains five surface-exposed loops that show slightly higher sequence variation than the transmembrane protein regions. To study the effect of loop structures in omptin proteolytic specificity, I changed OmpT of E. coli to a Pla-like enzyme by a stepwise substitution of the loop areas. The proteins were characterized by their ability to activate the human protease precursor plasminogen(Plg) to the active serine protease plasmin and to inactivate the main plasmin inhibitor, α2-antiplasmin(α2AP); both functions are important for bacterial virulence. Pla cleaves very efficiently both substrates, whereas OmpT is only poorly active with them. I showed that OmpT could be converted into a Pla-like enzyme by cumulative substitutions at the loop areas, especially the loops L3-L5 were important. The successful conversion of OmpT towards Pla indicates that the loop structures are critical for omptin activity by allowing correct recognition of the polypeptide substrate. More detailed substitution analysis was taken to identify the catalytic residues in Pla. My thesis demonstrates that the omptin proteolytic activity depends on two things: their specific interaction with LPS and the structure of their surface-exposed loops. The thesis offers an example of omptins extensive evolvability and of how they adapt to the lifestyle of their host bacterium.
  • Ekholm, Jenny (Helsingin yliopisto, 2006)
  • Tallila, Jonna (Helsingin yliopisto, 2009)
    Meckel syndrome (MKS, MIM 249000) is a severe developmental disorder that leads to death already in utero or shortly after birth. MKS diagnosis can be established by a careful ultrasound examination already at 11-14 weeks of gestation. The main features of MKS are occipital meningoencephalocele, cystic kidney dysplasia and fibrotic changes of the liver. In addition, polydactyly is frequently reported in the cases. The aim of the study was to characterize the molecular and functional defects in MKS. In this study we were able to identify two major MKS mutations in Finnish population, which cover over 90% of the cases. The first mutation is a 29 bp intronic deletion in the MKS1 gene (c.1483-7_35del) that is found in 70% of the families and the second is a C>T substitution in the coding region of CC2D2A (c.1762C>T), that is found in 20% of the MKS families. Both of these mutations result in abnormal splicing. The discovery of the disease genes has revealed that MKS is caused by primary cilia dysfunction. MKS1 gene has a conserved B9 domain, and it is found in the predicted ciliary proteome. CC2D2A protein is also found in the predicted ciliary proteome and it has a Ca2+ binding domain. The number of genes behind MKS has increased rapidly in the past years and to date, mutations have been identified in five genes (MKS1, TMEM67/MKS3, CEP290/MKS4, RPGRIP1L/MKS5 and CC2D2A/MKS6). Identification of the disease genes mutations has also revealed that MKS is an allelic disorder with other syndromes with overlapping phenotypes. Disorders that are caused by primary cilia dysfunction are collectively known as ciliopathies. Sequence analysis of all the known MKS genes in Finnish and non-Finnish families available to us, where the mutation was still unknown, revealed mutations in 14 out of the 30 families included in the study. When we collected all the reported mutations in MKS genes in different syndromes we could see that there was clearly a genotype-syndrome correlation between the mutations and the syndromes, since the same pair of mutations has never been reported in different syndromes. The basic molecular events behind MKS will not only give us information of this syndrome, but also significant novel information on early fetal development in general.
  • Siitonen, Annika (Helsingin yliopisto, 2008)
    RAPADILINO syndrome is an autosomally resessively inherited condition that belongs to a group of rare syndromes more common in Finland than in other parts of the world. RAPADILINO is characterized by pre- and postnatal growth retardation, radial ray defects, diarrhoea of unknown aetiology during chilhood, a facial resemblance with other patients and normal intelligence. In Finland, 15 patients with this condition have been found which compares with only five patients in other parts of the world. We found RECQL4 gene mutations in RAPADILINO patients and proved this syndrome to be allelic with a subgroup of Rothmund-Thomson syndrome (RTS). Later we found RECQL4 mutations in patients with Baller-Gerold syndrome (BGS). These three syndromes share clinical findings and differential diagnostics rely on poikiloderma and craniosynostosis not seen in RAPADILINO syndrome. We found five different mutations in the Finnish RAPADILINO patients. The g.2545delT mutation is the founder mutation in the Finnish population as all the patients are either homozygotes or compound heterozygotes for it. This mutation leads to the inframe skipping of exon seven from mRNA. The protein encoded by this mutant mRNA lacks the nuclear retention signal and thus leads to the mislocalization of the mutant protein. The genotype-phenotype correlation is not straightforward but it seems that RAPADILINO could be due to alteration in protein function and truncating mutations in both alleles are more common among RTS patients. RTS patients with RECQL4 mutations have an elevated risk for osteosarcoma, but their risk to develop other types of malignancies is not increased.Two Finnish RAPADILINO patients have been diagnosed with osteosarcoma, but in addition to this we have found an excess of lymphoma cases among the Finnish RAPADILINO patients. This difference between cancer types could be due to different mutations found in these syndromes. The mutation screening of the patients will help to differentiate patients who have RECQL4 mutations and thus the elevated cancer risk. Patients will benefit from the follow up since early detection of malignancies is important for the treatment.
  • Nieminen, Pekka (Helsingin yliopisto, 2007)
    Congenital missing of teeth, tooth agenesis or hypodontia, is one of the most common developmental anomalies in man. The common forms in which one or a few teeth are absent, may cause occlusal or cosmetic harm, while severe forms which are relatively rare always require clinical attention to support and maintain the dental function. Observation of tooth agenesis is also important for diagnosis of malformation syndromes. Some external factors may cause developmental defects and agenesis in dentition. However, the role of inheritance in the etiology of tooth agenesis is well established by twin and family studies. Studies on familial tooth agenesis as well as mouse null mutants have also identified several genetic factors. However, these explain syndromic or rare dominant forms of tooth agenesis, whereas the genes and defects responsible for the majority of cases of tooth agenesis, especially the common and less severe forms, are largely unknown. In this study it was shown, that a dominant nonsense mutation in PAX9 was responsible for severe tooth agenesis (oligodontia) in a Finnish family. In a study of tooth agenesis associated with Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome, it was shown that severe tooth agenesis was present if the causative deletion in 4p spanned the MSX1 locus. It was concluded that severe tooth agenesis was caused by haploinsufficiency of these transcription factors. A summary of the phenotypes associated with known defects in MSX1 and PAX9 showed that, despite similarities, they were significantly different, suggesting that the genes, in addition to known interactions, also have independent roles during the development of human dentition. The original aim of this work was to identify gene defects that underlie the common incisor and premolar hypodontia. After excluding several candidate genes, a genome-wide search was conducted in seven Finnish families in which this phenotype was inherited in an autosomal dominant manner. A promising locus for second premolar agenesis was identified in chromosome 18 in one family and this finding was supported by results from other families. The results also implied the existence of other loci both for second premolar agenesis and for incisor agenesis. On the other hand the results did not lend support for comprehensive involvement of the most obvious candidate genes in the etiology of incisor and premolar hypodontia. Rather, they suggest remarkable genetic heterogeneity of tooth agenesis. The available evidence suggests that quantitative defects during tooth development predispose to a failure to overcome a developmental threshold and to agenesis. The results of the study increase the understanding of the etiology and heredity of tooth agenesis. Further studies may lead to identification of novel genes that affect the development of teeth.
  • Lagus, Markus (Helsingin yliopisto, 2013)
    BACKGROUND Sleep disturbances and mood alterations are highly interrelated. The majority of patients suffering from depression report a reduced sleep quality. Inversely, people with sleep complaints are at elevated risk to develop depression. The complex regulation of these phenomena involves several brain areas and mechanisms. The susceptibility to change in this system is influenced by several factors, such as age and stressful lifestyle that are considered in this study. HYPOTHESIS The hypothesis of this study was that sleep and mood share common genetic/molecular regulatory networks and that both are also regulated by epigenetic mechanisms and neural plasticity. METHODS The studies were conducted both on humans and using an animal model for depression. In the animal model we measured the genome wide expression of genes in different brain areas of clomipramine-treated pups and adults. Using these data we conducted both individual area and inter-area network analyses of basal forebrain, frontal cortex, hypothalamus and hippocampus. We also measured the amount of BDNF, one of the plasticity-related factors, in sleep restriction and under aging. In the human study we conducted epigenetic analysis of the serotonin transporter gene and related the epigenetic changes to stress in a stressful working environment. RESULTS In the models investigated changes were observed on the system, protein, transcript and transcriptional regulatory levels. Inter-tissue pathways related to synaptic transmission, regulation of translation and ubiquitinylation were disrupted. The involved pathways are within the cellular components of the axons, growth cones, melanosomes and pigment granules. The disturbed networks are centred around serotonin, Mn(II) and Rhoa. In the basal forebrain the imbalance in gene expression is widely controlled by CREB1. Some of the changes seem to be epigenetically induced by sleep deprivation and stress. Individuals working in a high stress environment have significantly less methylation in the promoter area of serotonin transporter gene SLC6A4, as compared to individuals working in a low stress environment. We also found that the expression of cortical BDNF correlated with the recovery non-REM (NREM) slow wave activity (SWA) response, and that both the cortical BDNF and the SWA response to sleep deprivation were decreased in the aged animals, as were the changes in sleep latency. CONCLUSIONS The disturbances in the models investigated, arise, largely, but not solely, due to disruption in neurological systems previously related to the regulation of sleep and mood. Novelty value could be ascribed to findings that suggest involvement of inter-tissue networks, and more precisely, imbalance of melanosome related gene expression and gene networks connected to Mn(II). The stress induced demethylation of the SLC6A4 promoter suggests a mechanism for the body to cope with prolonged excessive stress. The downside of this coping mechanism is the possibility that this reprogramming increases the long-term risk for mood disorders. The findings in the sleep deprived aging rats support the hypothesis that the age related decrease in homeostatic NREM SWA is related to a reduced sleep need.