Prof Anne Goriely

Research Area: Genetics and Genomics
Technology Exchange: Biobanking, Bioinformatics, Human genetics, Immunohistochemistry, In situ hybridisation and Mouse models
Scientific Themes: Genes, Genetics, Epigenetics & Genomics and Developmental Biology & Stem Cells
Keywords: de novo mutations, spermatogonial stem cells, paternal age, disease risk, selfish selection, clonal expansion and mosaicism
Process of Selfish Spermatogonial Selection in the Human Testis and Its Predicted Long-Term Consequences Across Several generations

Process of Selfish Spermatogonial Selection in the Human Testis and Its Predicted Long-Term ...

As mutations are at the origin of all genetic variations, understanding the factors that influence mutational rates and patterns (and the reason for which they occur) is crucial to the study of disease, evolution and genome diversity. It is now well established that 30-100 point mutations are acquired spontaneously at each generation. Although these point mutations initially arise as random miscopying events, preferentially from the paternal germline, we have described a new mechanism which predicts that some pathogenic mutations may hijack the way sperm production is controlled to their own advantage.  In doing so, these ‘selfish’ mutations become progressively enriched in the testis as men age and are therefore associated with an increased risk of transmission to the next generation. 

  The concept of 'Selfish Spermtogonial Selection’ was originally proposed to explain the paternal age-effect and high birth prevalence observed for a group of rare Mendelian diseases, which we collectively called ‘paternal age-effect (PAE) disorders’, such as Apert syndrome (caused by activating mutations in FGFR2), achondroplasia (FGFR3) or Costello (HRAS) and Noonan (PTPN11/SHP2) syndromes. It relies on principles similar to oncogenesis to explain why these disorders occur spontaneously at levels up to 1000-fold higher than background mutation rates.

So far our data – gathered originally through direct quantification of these ultra-rare pathogenic mutations in human sperm and testes – have shown that molecularly this process relies on specific oncogenic pathways, such as the growth factor-receptor-RAS signalling cascade, which are key determinants of spermatogonial cell self-renewal. As these molecular pathways are also implicated in many other cellular contexts, including growth control and neurogenesis, it raises the possibility that this mechanism has broader implications.

This process, which affects all men as they age, is anticipated to be associated with an increased risk of transmission of functional (pathogenic) alleles and is likely to be relevant to the pathology of common disorders, including cancer predisposition and neurodevelopmental disorders, such as schizophrenia and autism - for which paternal age-effects have been described epidemiologically. It is also predicted to be particularly relevant for ageing reproductive populations. 

Name Department Institution Country
Prof Andrew OM Wilkie FRS FMedSci FRCP Nuffield Division of Clinical Laboratory Sciences Oxford University, Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine United Kingdom
Professor Gil McVean FRS FMedSci Big Data Institute Oxford University, Henry Wellcome Building of Genomic Medicine United Kingdom
Dr Ewa Rajpert-DeMeyts Dept. of Growth & Reproduction Copenhagen University Hospital, Rigshospitalet Denmark
Dr Alexander Hoischen Radboud University Medical Center Netherlands
Guo J, Grow EJ, Yi C, Mlcochova H, Maher GJ, Lindskog C, Murphy PJ, Wike CL, Carrell DT, Goriely A et al. 2017. Chromatin and Single-Cell RNA-Seq Profiling Reveal Dynamic Signaling and Metabolic Transitions during Human Spermatogonial Stem Cell Development. Cell Stem Cell, 21 (4), pp. 533-546.e6. | Show Abstract | Read more

Human adult spermatogonial stem cells (hSSCs) must balance self-renewal and differentiation. To understand how this is achieved, we profiled DNA methylation and open chromatin (ATAC-seq) in SSEA4+ hSSCs, analyzed bulk and single-cell RNA transcriptomes (RNA-seq) in SSEA4+ hSSCs and differentiating c-KIT+ spermatogonia, and performed validation studies via immunofluorescence. First, DNA hypomethylation at embryonic developmental genes supports their epigenetic "poising" in hSSCs for future/embryonic expression, while core pluripotency genes (OCT4 and NANOG) were transcriptionally and epigenetically repressed. Interestingly, open chromatin in hSSCs was strikingly enriched in binding sites for pioneer factors (NFYA/B, DMRT1, and hormone receptors). Remarkably, single-cell RNA-seq clustering analysis identified four cellular/developmental states during hSSC differentiation, involving major transitions in cell-cycle and transcriptional regulators, splicing and signaling factors, and glucose/mitochondria regulators. Overall, our results outline the dynamic chromatin/transcription landscape operating in hSSCs and identify crucial molecular pathways that accompany the transition from quiescence to proliferation and differentiation.

Giannoulatou E, Maher GJ, Ding Z, Gillis AJM, Dorssers LCJ, Hoischen A, Rajpert-De Meyts E, WGS500 Consortium, McVean G, Wilkie AOM et al. 2017. Whole-genome sequencing of spermatocytic tumors provides insights into the mutational processes operating in the male germline. PLoS One, 12 (5), pp. e0178169. | Show Abstract | Read more

Adult male germline stem cells (spermatogonia) proliferate by mitosis and, after puberty, generate spermatocytes that undertake meiosis to produce haploid spermatozoa. Germ cells are under evolutionary constraint to curtail mutations and maintain genome integrity. Despite constant turnover, spermatogonia very rarely form tumors, so-called spermatocytic tumors (SpT). In line with the previous identification of FGFR3 and HRAS selfish mutations in a subset of cases, candidate gene screening of 29 SpTs identified an oncogenic NRAS mutation in two cases. To gain insights in the etiology of SpT and into properties of the male germline, we performed whole-genome sequencing of five tumors (4/5 with matched normal tissue). The acquired single nucleotide variant load was extremely low (~0.2 per Mb), with an average of 6 (2-9) non-synonymous variants per tumor, none of which is likely to be oncogenic. The observed mutational signature of SpTs is strikingly similar to that of germline de novo mutations, mostly involving C>T transitions with a significant enrichment in the ACG trinucleotide context. The tumors exhibited extensive aneuploidy (50-99 autosomes/tumor) involving whole-chromosomes, with recurrent gains of chr9 and chr20 and loss of chr7, suggesting that aneuploidy itself represents the initiating oncogenic event. We propose that SpT etiology recapitulates the unique properties of male germ cells; because of evolutionary constraints to maintain low point mutation rate, rare tumorigenic driver events are caused by a combination of gene imbalance mediated via whole-chromosome aneuploidy. Finally, we propose a general framework of male germ cell tumor pathology that accounts for their mutational landscape, timing and cellular origin.

Janecka M, Mill J, Basson MA, Goriely A, Spiers H, Reichenberg A, Schalkwyk L, Fernandes C. 2017. Advanced paternal age effects in neurodevelopmental disorders-review of potential underlying mechanisms. Transl Psychiatry, 7 (1), pp. e1019. | Show Abstract | Read more

Multiple epidemiological studies suggest a relationship between advanced paternal age (APA) at conception and adverse neurodevelopmental outcomes in offspring, particularly with regard to increased risk for autism and schizophrenia. Conclusive evidence about how age-related changes in paternal gametes, or age-independent behavioral traits affect neural development is still lacking. Recent evidence suggests that the origins of APA effects are likely to be multidimensional, involving both inherited predisposition and de novo events. Here we provide a review of the epidemiological and molecular findings to date. Focusing on the latter, we present the evidence for genetic and epigenetic mechanisms underpinning the association between late fatherhood and disorder in offspring. We also discuss the limitations of the APA literature. We propose that different hypotheses relating to the origins of the APA effects are not mutually exclusive. Instead, multiple mechanisms likely contribute, reflecting the etiological complexity of neurodevelopmental disorders.

Stevenson DA, Schill L, Schoyer L, Andresen BS, Bakker A, Bayrak-Toydemir P, Burkitt-Wright E, Chatfield K, Elefteriou F, Elgersma Y et al. 2016. The Fourth International Symposium on Genetic Disorders of the Ras/MAPK pathway. Am J Med Genet A, 170 (8), pp. 1959-1966. | Show Abstract | Read more

The RASopathies are a group of disorders due to variations of genes associated with the Ras/MAPK pathway. Some of the RASopathies include neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1), Noonan syndrome, Noonan syndrome with multiple lentigines, cardiofaciocutaneous (CFC) syndrome, Costello syndrome, Legius syndrome, and capillary malformation-arteriovenous malformation (CM-AVM) syndrome. In combination, the RASopathies are a frequent group of genetic disorders. This report summarizes the proceedings of the 4th International Symposium on Genetic Disorders of the Ras/MAPK pathway and highlights gaps in the field. © 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Goriely A. 2016. Decoding germline de novo point mutations. Nat Genet, 48 (8), pp. 823-824. | Show Abstract | Read more

Analysis of a large whole-genome sequencing data set of 36,441 high-quality de novo mutations (DNMs) that arose in 816 family trios provides an unprecedented view into the landscape of DNMs in the germ line. This work both refines and challenges some of the views previously held on the nature and origin of DNMs.

Fenwick AL, Kliszczak M, Cooper F, Murray J, Sanchez-Pulido L, Twigg SRF, Goriely A, McGowan SJ, Miller KA, Taylor IB et al. 2016. Mutations in CDC45, Encoding an Essential Component of the Pre-initiation Complex, Cause Meier-Gorlin Syndrome and Craniosynostosis. Am J Hum Genet, 99 (1), pp. 125-138. | Show Abstract | Read more

DNA replication precisely duplicates the genome to ensure stable inheritance of genetic information. Impaired licensing of origins of replication during the G1 phase of the cell cycle has been implicated in Meier-Gorlin syndrome (MGS), a disorder defined by the triad of short stature, microtia, and a/hypoplastic patellae. Biallelic partial loss-of-function mutations in multiple components of the pre-replication complex (preRC; ORC1, ORC4, ORC6, CDT1, or CDC6) as well as de novo stabilizing mutations in the licensing inhibitor, GMNN, cause MGS. Here we report the identification of mutations in CDC45 in 15 affected individuals from 12 families with MGS and/or craniosynostosis. CDC45 encodes a component of both the pre-initiation (preIC) and CMG helicase complexes, required for initiation of DNA replication origin firing and ongoing DNA synthesis during S-phase itself, respectively, and hence is functionally distinct from previously identified MGS-associated genes. The phenotypes of affected individuals range from syndromic coronal craniosynostosis to severe growth restriction, fulfilling diagnostic criteria for Meier-Gorlin syndrome. All mutations identified were biallelic and included synonymous mutations altering splicing of physiological CDC45 transcripts, as well as amino acid substitutions expected to result in partial loss of function. Functionally, mutations reduce levels of full-length transcripts and protein in subject cells, consistent with partial loss of CDC45 function and a predicted limited rate of DNA replication and cell proliferation. Our findings therefore implicate the preIC as an additional protein complex involved in the etiology of MGS and connect the core cellular machinery of genome replication with growth, chondrogenesis, and cranial suture homeostasis.

Mirzaa G, Timms AE, Conti V, Boyle EA, Girisha KM, Martin B, Kircher M, Olds C, Juusola J, Collins S et al. 2016. PIK3CA-associated developmental disorders exhibit distinct classes of mutations with variable expression and tissue distribution. JCI Insight, 1 (9), | Show Abstract | Read more

Mosaicism is increasingly recognized as a cause of developmental disorders with the advent of next-generation sequencing (NGS). Mosaic mutations of PIK3CA have been associated with the widest spectrum of phenotypes associated with overgrowth and vascular malformations. We performed targeted NGS using 2 independent deep-coverage methods that utilize molecular inversion probes and amplicon sequencing in a cohort of 241 samples from 181 individuals with brain and/or body overgrowth. We identified PIK3CA mutations in 60 individuals. Several other individuals (n = 12) were identified separately to have mutations in PIK3CA by clinical targeted-panel testing (n = 6), whole-exome sequencing (n = 5), or Sanger sequencing (n = 1). Based on the clinical and molecular features, this cohort segregated into three distinct groups: (a) severe focal overgrowth due to low-level but highly activating (hotspot) mutations, (b) predominantly brain overgrowth and less severe somatic overgrowth due to less-activating mutations, and (c) intermediate phenotypes (capillary malformations with overgrowth) with intermediately activating mutations. Sixteen of 29 PIK3CA mutations were novel. We also identified constitutional PIK3CA mutations in 10 patients. Our molecular data, combined with review of the literature, show that PIK3CA-related overgrowth disorders comprise a discontinuous spectrum of disorders that correlate with the severity and distribution of mutations.

Maher GJ, Rajpert-De Meyts E, Goriely A, Wilkie AOM. 2016. Cellular correlates of selfish spermatogonial selection. Andrology, 4 (3), pp. 550-553. | Read more

Maher GJ, McGowan SJ, Giannoulatou E, Verrill C, Goriely A, Wilkie AOM. 2016. Visualizing the origins of selfish de novo mutations in individual seminiferous tubules of human testes. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 113 (9), pp. 2454-2459. | Show Abstract | Read more

De novo point mutations arise predominantly in the male germline and increase in frequency with age, but it has not previously been possible to locate specific, identifiable mutations directly within the seminiferous tubules of human testes. Using microdissection of tubules exhibiting altered expression of the spermatogonial markers MAGEA4, FGFR3, and phospho-AKT, whole genome amplification, and DNA sequencing, we establish an in situ strategy for discovery and analysis of pathogenic de novo mutations. In 14 testes from men aged 39-90 y, we identified 11 distinct gain-of-function mutations in five genes (fibroblast growth factor receptors FGFR2 and FGFR3, tyrosine phosphatase PTPN11, and RAS oncogene homologs HRAS and KRAS) from 16 of 22 tubules analyzed; all mutations have known associations with severe diseases, ranging from congenital or perinatal lethal disorders to somatically acquired cancers. These results support proposed selfish selection of spermatogonial mutations affecting growth factor receptor-RAS signaling, highlight its prevalence in older men, and enable direct visualization of the microscopic anatomy of elongated mutant clones.

Ilkovski B, Pagnamenta AT, O'Grady GL, Kinoshita T, Howard MF, Lek M, Thomas B, Turner A, Christodoulou J, Sillence D et al. 2015. Mutations in PIGY: expanding the phenotype of inherited glycosylphosphatidylinositol deficiencies. Hum Mol Genet, 24 (21), pp. 6146-6159. | Show Abstract | Read more

Glycosylphosphatidylinositol (GPI)-anchored proteins are ubiquitously expressed in the human body and are important for various functions at the cell surface. Mutations in many GPI biosynthesis genes have been described to date in patients with multi-system disease and together these constitute a subtype of congenital disorders of glycosylation. We used whole exome sequencing in two families to investigate the genetic basis of disease and used RNA and cellular studies to investigate the functional consequences of sequence variants in the PIGY gene. Two families with different phenotypes had homozygous recessive sequence variants in the GPI biosynthesis gene PIGY. Two sisters with c.137T>C (p.Leu46Pro) PIGY variants had multi-system disease including dysmorphism, seizures, severe developmental delay, cataracts and early death. There were significantly reduced levels of GPI-anchored proteins (CD55 and CD59) on the surface of patient-derived skin fibroblasts (∼20-50% compared with controls). In a second, consanguineous family, two siblings had moderate development delay and microcephaly. A homozygous PIGY promoter variant (c.-540G>A) was detected within a 7.7 Mb region of autozygosity. This variant was predicted to disrupt a SP1 consensus binding site and was shown to be associated with reduced gene expression. Mutations in PIGY can occur in coding and non-coding regions of the gene and cause variable phenotypes. This article contributes to understanding of the range of disease phenotypes and disease genes associated with deficiencies of the GPI-anchor biosynthesis pathway and also serves to highlight the potential importance of analysing variants detected in 5'-UTR regions despite their typically low coverage in exome data.

Taylor JC, Martin HC, Lise S, Broxholme J, Cazier J-B, Rimmer A, Kanapin A, Lunter G, Fiddy S, Allan C et al. 2015. Factors influencing success of clinical genome sequencing across a broad spectrum of disorders. Nat Genet, 47 (7), pp. 717-726. | Show Abstract | Read more

To assess factors influencing the success of whole-genome sequencing for mainstream clinical diagnosis, we sequenced 217 individuals from 156 independent cases or families across a broad spectrum of disorders in whom previous screening had identified no pathogenic variants. We quantified the number of candidate variants identified using different strategies for variant calling, filtering, annotation and prioritization. We found that jointly calling variants across samples, filtering against both local and external databases, deploying multiple annotation tools and using familial transmission above biological plausibility contributed to accuracy. Overall, we identified disease-causing variants in 21% of cases, with the proportion increasing to 34% (23/68) for mendelian disorders and 57% (8/14) in family trios. We also discovered 32 potentially clinically actionable variants in 18 genes unrelated to the referral disorder, although only 4 were ultimately considered reportable. Our results demonstrate the value of genome sequencing for routine clinical diagnosis but also highlight many outstanding challenges.

Wilkie A, Maher G, Giannoulatou E, McVean G, Goriely A. 2014. Selfish mutations in spermatogenesis and paternal age effects MUTAGENESIS, 29 (6), pp. 546-546.

Maher GJ, Goriely A, Wilkie AOM. 2014. Cellular evidence for selfish spermatogonial selection in aged human testes. Andrology, 2 (3), pp. 304-314. | Show Abstract | Read more

Owing to a recent trend for delayed paternity, the genomic integrity of spermatozoa of older men has become a focus of increased interest. Older fathers are at higher risk for their children to be born with several monogenic conditions collectively termed paternal age effect (PAE) disorders, which include achondroplasia, Apert syndrome and Costello syndrome. These disorders are caused by specific mutations originating almost exclusively from the male germline, in genes encoding components of the tyrosine kinase receptor/RAS/MAPK signalling pathway. These particular mutations, occurring randomly during mitotic divisions of spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs), are predicted to confer a selective/growth advantage on the mutant SSC. This selective advantage leads to a clonal expansion of the mutant cells over time, which generates mutant spermatozoa at levels significantly above the background mutation rate. This phenomenon, termed selfish spermatogonial selection, is likely to occur in all men. In rare cases, probably because of additional mutational events, selfish spermatogonial selection may lead to spermatocytic seminoma. The studies that initially predicted the clonal nature of selfish spermatogonial selection were based on DNA analysis, rather than the visualization of mutant clones in intact testes. In a recent study that aimed to identify these clones directly, we stained serial sections of fixed testes for expression of melanoma antigen family A4 (MAGEA4), a marker of spermatogonia. A subset of seminiferous tubules with an appearance and distribution compatible with the predicted mutant clones were identified. In these tubules, termed 'immunopositive tubules', there is an increased density of spermatogonia positive for markers related to selfish selection (FGFR3) and SSC self-renewal (phosphorylated AKT). Here we detail the properties of the immunopositive tubules and how they relate to the predicted mutant clones, as well as discussing the utility of identifying the potential cellular source of PAE mutations.

Giannoulatou E, McVean G, Taylor IB, McGowan SJ, Maher GJ, Iqbal Z, Pfeifer SP, Turner I, Burkitt Wright EMM, Shorto J et al. 2013. Contributions of intrinsic mutation rate and selfish selection to levels of de novo HRAS mutations in the paternal germline. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 110 (50), pp. 20152-20157. | Show Abstract | Read more

The RAS proto-oncogene Harvey rat sarcoma viral oncogene homolog (HRAS) encodes a small GTPase that transduces signals from cell surface receptors to intracellular effectors to control cellular behavior. Although somatic HRAS mutations have been described in many cancers, germline mutations cause Costello syndrome (CS), a congenital disorder associated with predisposition to malignancy. Based on the epidemiology of CS and the occurrence of HRAS mutations in spermatocytic seminoma, we proposed that activating HRAS mutations become enriched in sperm through a process akin to tumorigenesis, termed selfish spermatogonial selection. To test this hypothesis, we quantified the levels, in blood and sperm samples, of HRAS mutations at the p.G12 codon and compared the results to changes at the p.A11 codon, at which activating mutations do not occur. The data strongly support the role of selection in determining HRAS mutation levels in sperm, and hence the occurrence of CS, but we also found differences from the mutation pattern in tumorigenesis. First, the relative prevalence of mutations in sperm correlates weakly with their in vitro activating properties and occurrence in cancers. Second, specific tandem base substitutions (predominantly GC>TT/AA) occur in sperm but not in cancers; genomewide analysis showed that this same mutation is also overrepresented in constitutional pathogenic and polymorphic variants, suggesting a heightened vulnerability to these mutations in the germline. We developed a statistical model to show how both intrinsic mutation rate and selfish selection contribute to the mutational burden borne by the paternal germline.

Roberts I, Alford K, Hall G, Juban G, Richmond H, Norton A, Vallance G, Perkins K, Marchi E, McGowan S et al. 2013. GATA1-mutant clones are frequent and often unsuspected in babies with Down syndrome: identification of a population at risk of leukemia. Blood, 122 (24), pp. 3908-3917. | Show Abstract | Read more

Transient abnormal myelopoiesis (TAM), a preleukemic disorder unique to neonates with Down syndrome (DS), may transform to childhood acute myeloid leukemia (ML-DS). Acquired GATA1 mutations are present in both TAM and ML-DS. Current definitions of TAM specify neither the percentage of blasts nor the role of GATA1 mutation analysis. To define TAM, we prospectively analyzed clinical findings, blood counts and smears, and GATA1 mutation status in 200 DS neonates. All DS neonates had multiple blood count and smear abnormalities. Surprisingly, 195 of 200 (97.5%) had circulating blasts. GATA1 mutations were detected by Sanger sequencing/denaturing high performance liquid chromatography (Ss/DHPLC) in 17 of 200 (8.5%), all with blasts >10%. Furthermore low-abundance GATA1 mutant clones were detected by targeted next-generation resequencing (NGS) in 18 of 88 (20.4%; sensitivity ∼0.3%) DS neonates without Ss/DHPLC-detectable GATA1 mutations. No clinical or hematologic features distinguished these 18 neonates. We suggest the term "silent TAM" for neonates with DS with GATA1 mutations detectable only by NGS. To identify all babies at risk of ML-DS, we suggest GATA1 mutation and blood count and smear analyses should be performed in DS neonates. Ss/DPHLC can be used for initial screening, but where GATA1 mutations are undetectable by Ss/DHPLC, NGS-based methods can identify neonates with small GATA1 mutant clones.

Goriely A, McGrath JJ, Hultman CM, Wilkie AOM, Malaspina D. 2013. "Selfish spermatogonial selection": a novel mechanism for the association between advanced paternal age and neurodevelopmental disorders. Am J Psychiatry, 170 (6), pp. 599-608. | Show Abstract | Read more

There is robust evidence from epidemiological studies that the offspring of older fathers have an increased risk of neurodevelopmental disorders, such as schizophrenia and autism. The authors present a novel mechanism that may contribute to this association. Because the male germ cell undergoes many more cell divisions across the reproductive age range, copy errors taking place in the paternal germline are associated with de novo mutations in the offspring of older men. Recently it has been recognized that somatic mutations in male germ cells that modify proliferation through dysregulation of the RAS protein pathway can lead to within-testis expansion of mutant clonal lines. First identified in association with rare disorders related to paternal age (e.g., Apert syndrome, achondroplasia), this process is known as "selfish spermatogonial selection." This mechanism favors propagation of germ cells carrying pathogenic mutations, increasingly skews the mutational profile of sperm as men age, and enriches de novo mutations in the offspring of older fathers that preferentially affect specific cellular signaling pathways. This mechanism not only offers a parsimonious explanation for the association between advanced paternal age and various neurodevelopmental disorders but also provides insights into the genetic architecture (role of de novo mutations), neurobiological correlates (altered cell cycle), and some epidemiological features of these disorders. The authors outline hypotheses to test this model. Given the secular changes for delayed parenthood in most societies, this hypothesis has important public health implications.

Twigg SRF, Babbs C, van den Elzen MEP, Goriely A, Taylor S, McGowan SJ, Giannoulatou E, Lonie L, Ragoussis J, Sadighi Akha E et al. 2013. Cellular interference in craniofrontonasal syndrome: males mosaic for mutations in the X-linked EFNB1 gene are more severely affected than true hemizygotes. Hum Mol Genet, 22 (8), pp. 1654-1662. | Show Abstract | Read more

Craniofrontonasal syndrome (CFNS), an X-linked disorder caused by loss-of-function mutations of EFNB1, exhibits a paradoxical sex reversal in phenotypic severity: females characteristically have frontonasal dysplasia, craniosynostosis and additional minor malformations, but males are usually more mildly affected with hypertelorism as the only feature. X-inactivation is proposed to explain the more severe outcome in heterozygous females, as this leads to functional mosaicism for cells with differing expression of EPHRIN-B1, generating abnormal tissue boundaries-a process that cannot occur in hemizygous males. Apparently challenging this model, males occasionally present with a more severe female-like CFNS phenotype. We hypothesized that such individuals might be mosaic for EFNB1 mutations and investigated this possibility in multiple tissue samples from six sporadically presenting males. Using denaturing high performance liquid chromatography, massively parallel sequencing and multiplex-ligation-dependent probe amplification (MLPA) to increase sensitivity above standard dideoxy sequencing, we identified mosaic mutations of EFNB1 in all cases, comprising three missense changes, two gene deletions and a novel point mutation within the 5' untranslated region (UTR). Quantification by Pyrosequencing and MLPA demonstrated levels of mutant cells between 15 and 69%. The 5' UTR variant mutates the stop codon of a small upstream open reading frame that, using a dual-luciferase reporter construct, was demonstrated to exacerbate interference with translation of the wild-type protein. These results demonstrate a more severe outcome in mosaic than in constitutionally deficient males in an X-linked dominant disorder and provide further support for the cellular interference mechanism, normally related to X-inactivation in females.

Stavrou EF, Goriely A. 2012. Santorini mutation detection meeting 2011: rapid advance in sequencing technology poses challenges for interpretation of genetic variations. Hum Mutat, 33 (10), pp. 1497-1500. | Show Abstract | Read more

The 11th International Symposium on Mutations in the Genome was held on 6-10 June, 2011, in Santorini, Greece. Meeting participants described novel detection technologies, rapid advances in whole genome and whole-exome sequencing, but also highlighted the urgent need for the development of sequence variation databases and the clinical interpretation of the genomic data. This report summarizes some of the major themes presented during the meeting.

Goriely A, Wilkie AOM. 2012. Paternal age effect mutations and selfish spermatogonial selection: causes and consequences for human disease. Am J Hum Genet, 90 (2), pp. 175-200. | Show Abstract | Read more

Advanced paternal age has been associated with an increased risk for spontaneous congenital disorders and common complex diseases (such as some cancers, schizophrenia, and autism), but the mechanisms that mediate this effect have been poorly understood. A small group of disorders, including Apert syndrome (caused by FGFR2 mutations), achondroplasia, and thanatophoric dysplasia (FGFR3), and Costello syndrome (HRAS), which we collectively term "paternal age effect" (PAE) disorders, provides a good model to study the biological and molecular basis of this phenomenon. Recent evidence from direct quantification of PAE mutations in sperm and testes suggests that the common factor in the paternal age effect lies in the dysregulation of spermatogonial cell behavior, an effect mediated molecularly through the growth factor receptor-RAS signal transduction pathway. The data show that PAE mutations, although arising rarely, are positively selected and expand clonally in normal testes through a process akin to oncogenesis. This clonal expansion, which is likely to take place in the testes of all men, leads to the relative enrichment of mutant sperm over time-explaining the observed paternal age effect associated with these disorders-and in rare cases to the formation of testicular tumors. As regulation of RAS and other mediators of cellular proliferation and survival is important in many different biological contexts, for example during tumorigenesis, organ homeostasis and neurogenesis, the consequences of selfish mutations that hijack this process within the testis are likely to extend far beyond congenital skeletal disorders to include complex diseases, such as neurocognitive disorders and cancer predisposition.

Stavrou EF, Goriely A. 2012. Santorini mutation detection meeting 2011: Rapid advance in sequencing technology poses challenges for interpretation of genetic variations Human Mutation, 33 (10), pp. 1497-1500. | Show Abstract | Read more

The 11th International Symposium on Mutations in the Genome was held on 6-10 June, 2011, in Santorini, Greece. Meeting participants described novel detection technologies, rapid advances in whole genome and whole-exome sequencing, but also highlighted the urgent need for the development of sequence variation databases and the clinical interpretation of the genomic data. This report summarizes some of the major themes presented during the meeting. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Lim J, Maher GJ, Turner GDH, Dudka-Ruszkowska W, Taylor S, Rajpert-De Meyts E, Goriely A, Wilkie AOM. 2012. Selfish spermatogonial selection: evidence from an immunohistochemical screen in testes of elderly men. PLoS One, 7 (8), pp. e42382. | Show Abstract | Read more

The dominant congenital disorders Apert syndrome, achondroplasia and multiple endocrine neoplasia-caused by specific missense mutations in the FGFR2, FGFR3 and RET proteins respectively-represent classical examples of paternal age-effect mutation, a class that arises at particularly high frequencies in the sperm of older men. Previous analyses of DNA from randomly selected cadaveric testes showed that the levels of the corresponding FGFR2, FGFR3 and RET mutations exhibit very uneven spatial distributions, with localised hotspots surrounded by large mutation-negative areas. These studies imply that normal testes are mosaic for clusters of mutant cells: these clusters are predicted to have altered growth and signalling properties leading to their clonal expansion (selfish spermatogonial selection), but DNA extraction eliminates the possibility to study such processes at a tissue level. Using a panel of antibodies optimised for the detection of spermatocytic seminoma, a rare tumour of spermatogonial origin, we demonstrate that putative clonal events are frequent within normal testes of elderly men (mean age: 73.3 yrs) and can be classed into two broad categories. We found numerous small (less than 200 cells) cellular aggregations with distinct immunohistochemical characteristics, localised to a portion of the seminiferous tubule, which are of uncertain significance. However more infrequently we identified additional regions where entire seminiferous tubules had a circumferentially altered immunohistochemical appearance that extended through multiple serial sections that were physically contiguous (up to 1 mm in length), and exhibited enhanced staining for antibodies both to FGFR3 and a marker of downstream signal activation, pAKT. These findings support the concept that populations of spermatogonia in individual seminiferous tubules in the testes of older men are clonal mosaics with regard to their signalling properties and activation, thus fulfilling one of the specific predictions of selfish spermatogonial selection.

Babbs C, Stewart HS, Williams LJ, Connell L, Goriely A, Twigg SRF, Smith K, Lester T, Wilkie AOM. 2011. Duplication of the EFNB1 gene in familial hypertelorism: imbalance in ephrin-B1 expression and abnormal phenotypes in humans and mice. Hum Mutat, 32 (8), pp. 930-938. | Show Abstract | Read more

Familial hypertelorism, characterized by widely spaced eyes, classically shows autosomal dominant inheritance (Teebi type), but some pedigrees are compatible with X-linkage. No mechanism has been described previously, but clinical similarity has been noted to craniofrontonasal syndrome (CFNS), which is caused by mutations in the X-linked EFNB1 gene. Here we report a family in which females in three generations presented with hypertelorism, but lacked either craniosynostosis or a grooved nasal tip, excluding CFNS. DNA sequencing of EFNB1 was normal, but further analysis revealed a duplication of 937 kb including EFNB1 and two flanking genes: PJA1 and STARD8. We found that the X chromosome bearing the duplication produces ∼1.6-fold more EFNB1 transcript than the normal X chromosome and propose that, in the context of X-inactivation, this difference in expression level of EFNB1 results in abnormal cell sorting leading to hypertelorism. To support this hypothesis, we provide evidence from a mouse model carrying a targeted human EFNB1 cDNA, that abnormal cell sorting occurs in the cranial region. Hence, we propose that X-linked cases resembling Teebi hypertelorism may have a similar mechanism to CFNS, and that cellular mosaicism for different levels of ephrin-B1 (as well as simple presence/absence) leads to craniofacial abnormalities.

Lim J, Goriely A, Turner GD, Ewen KA, Jacobsen GK, Graem N, Wilkie AO, Rajpert-De Meyts E. 2011. OCT2, SSX and SAGE1 reveal the phenotypic heterogeneity of spermatocytic seminoma reflecting distinct subpopulations of spermatogonia. J Pathol, 224 (4), pp. 473-483. | Show Abstract | Read more

Spermatocytic seminoma (SS) is a rare testicular neoplasm that occurs predominantly in older men. In this study, we aimed to shed light on the histogenesis of SS by investigating the developmental expression of protein markers that identify distinct subpopulations of human spermatogonia in the normal adult testis. We analysed the expression pattern of OCT2, SSX2-4, and SAGE1 in 36 SS cases and four intratubular SS (ISS) as well as a series of normal testis samples throughout development. We describe for the first time two different types of SS characterized by OCT2 or SSX2-4 immunoexpression. These findings are consistent with the mutually exclusive antigenic profile of these markers during different stages of testicular development and in the normal adult testis. OCT2 was expressed predominantly in A(dark) spermatogonia, SSX2-4 was present in A(pale) and B spermatogonia and leptotene spermatocytes, whilst SAGE1 was exclusively present in a subset of post-pubertal germ cells, most likely B spermatogonia. The presence of OCT2 and SSX2-4 in distinct subsets of germ cells implies that these markers represent germ cells at different maturation stages. Analysis of SAGE1 and SSX2-4 in ISS showed spatial differences suggesting ongoing maturation of germ cells during progression of SS tumourigenesis. We conclude that the expression pattern of OCT2, SSX2-4, and SAGE1 supports the origin of SS from spermatogonia and provides new evidence for heterogeneity of this tumour, potentially linked either to the cellular origin of SS or to partial differentiation during tumour progression, including a hitherto unknown OCT2-positive variant of the tumour likely derived from A(dark) spermatogonia.

Goriely A, Wilkie AOM. 2010. Missing heritability: paternal age effect mutations and selfish spermatogonia. Nat Rev Genet, 11 (8), pp. 589. | Read more

Goriely A, Lord H, Lim J, Johnson D, Lester T, Firth HV, Wilkie AOM. 2010. Germline and somatic mosaicism for FGFR2 mutation in the mother of a child with Crouzon syndrome: Implications for genetic testing in "paternal age-effect" syndromes. Am J Med Genet A, 152A (8), pp. 2067-2073. | Show Abstract | Read more

Crouzon syndrome is a dominantly inherited disorder characterized by craniosynostosis and facial dysostosis, caused by mutations in the fibroblast growth factor receptor 2 (FGFR2) gene; it belongs to a class of disorders that mostly arise as de novo mutations and exhibit a near-exclusive paternal origin of mutation and elevated paternal age ("paternal age effect"). However, even if this is the major mode of origin of mutations in paternal age-effect disorders, germline mosaicism may also occur. Here we describe the first molecularly documented evidence of germline and somatic mosaicism for FGFR2 mutation, identified in the mother of a child with Crouzon syndrome caused by a heterozygous c.1007A>G (p.Asp336Gly) substitution. Levels of maternal somatic mosaicism for this mutation, estimated by pyrosequencing, ranged from 3.3% in hair roots to 14.1% in blood. Our observation underlines the importance of parental molecular testing for accurate genetic counseling of the risk of recurrence for Crouzon, and other paternal age-effect syndromes.

Lower KM, Hughes JR, De Gobbi M, Henderson S, Viprakasit V, Fisher C, Goriely A, Ayyub H, Sloane-Stanley J, Vernimmen D et al. 2009. Adventitious changes in long-range gene expression caused by polymorphic structural variation and promoter competition. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 106 (51), pp. 21771-21776. | Show Abstract | Read more

It is well established that all of the cis-acting sequences required for fully regulated human alpha-globin expression are contained within a region of approximately 120 kb of conserved synteny. Here, we show that activation of this cluster in erythroid cells dramatically affects expression of apparently unrelated and noncontiguous genes in the 500 kb surrounding this domain, including a gene (NME4) located 300 kb from the alpha-globin cluster. Changes in NME4 expression are mediated by physical cis-interactions between this gene and the alpha-globin regulatory elements. Polymorphic structural variation within the globin cluster, altering the number of alpha-globin genes, affects the pattern of NME4 expression by altering the competition for the shared alpha-globin regulatory elements. These findings challenge the concept that the genome is organized into discrete, insulated regulatory domains. In addition, this work has important implications for our understanding of genome evolution, the interpretation of genome-wide expression, expression-quantitative trait loci, and copy number variant analyses.

Goriely A, Hansen RMS, Taylor IB, Olesen IA, Jacobsen GK, McGowan SJ, Pfeifer SP, McVean GAT, Rajpert-De Meyts E, Wilkie AOM. 2009. Activating mutations in FGFR3 and HRAS reveal a shared genetic origin for congenital disorders and testicular tumors. Nat Genet, 41 (11), pp. 1247-1252. | Show Abstract | Read more

Genes mutated in congenital malformation syndromes are frequently implicated in oncogenesis, but the causative germline and somatic mutations occur in separate cells at different times of an organism's life. Here we unify these processes to a single cellular event for mutations arising in male germ cells that show a paternal age effect. Screening of 30 spermatocytic seminomas for oncogenic mutations in 17 genes identified 2 mutations in FGFR3 (both 1948A>G, encoding K650E, which causes thanatophoric dysplasia in the germline) and 5 mutations in HRAS. Massively parallel sequencing of sperm DNA showed that levels of the FGFR3 mutation increase with paternal age and that the mutation spectrum at the Lys650 codon is similar to that observed in bladder cancer. Most spermatocytic seminomas show increased immunoreactivity for FGFR3 and/or HRAS. We propose that paternal age-effect mutations activate a common 'selfish' pathway supporting proliferation in the testis, leading to diverse phenotypes in the next generation including fetal lethality, congenital syndromes and cancer predisposition.

Edghill EL, Gloyn AL, Goriely A, Harries LW, Flanagan SE, Rankin J, Hattersley AT, Ellard S. 2007. Origin of de novo KCNJ11 mutations and risk of neonatal diabetes for subsequent siblings. J Clin Endocrinol Metab, 92 (5), pp. 1773-1777. | Show Abstract | Read more

CONTEXT: Activating mutations in the KCNJ11 gene, which encodes the Kir6.2 subunit of the pancreatic beta-cell K(ATP) channel, result in permanent and transient neonatal diabetes. The majority of KCNJ11 mutations are spontaneous, but the parental origin of these mutations is not known. OBJECTIVE: Our objective was to determine the parental origin of de novo KCNJ11 mutations and investigate the possibility of mosaicism in transmitting parents. DESIGN: We identified 68 index cases with a KCNJ11 mutation where neither parent was known to be affected. DNA was available from both parents of 41 probands. The parental origin of the mutation was determined in 18 families by examination of pedigrees, microsatellite analysis, or allele-specific PCR. RESULTS: A nonsignificant excess of paternally derived mutations was found with 13 of 18 (72%) shown to have arisen on the paternal allele. There was no evidence to suggest an association with increased age at conception. In two families, there were half-siblings with permanent neonatal diabetes born to an unaffected father, suggesting germline mosaicism that was confirmed by the presence of the R201C mutation in one father's semen. Somatic mosaicism was detected in one unaffected mother, and this mutation will also be present in her germ cells. CONCLUSION: De novo KCNJ11 mutations can arise either during gametogenesis or embryogenesis. The possibility of germline mosaicism means that future siblings are at increased risk of neonatal diabetes, and we recommend that molecular genetic testing is routinely offered at birth for subsequent siblings of children with de novo KCNJ11 mutations.

Twigg SRF, Matsumoto K, Kidd AMJ, Goriely A, Taylor IB, Fisher RB, Hoogeboom AJM, Mathijssen IMJ, Lourenco MT, Morton JEV et al. 2006. The origin of EFNB1 mutations in craniofrontonasal syndrome: frequent somatic mosaicism and explanation of the paucity of carrier males. Am J Hum Genet, 78 (6), pp. 999-1010. | Show Abstract | Read more

Craniofrontonasal syndrome (CFNS) is an X-linked disorder that exhibits a paradoxical sex reversal in phenotypic severity: females characteristically have frontonasal dysplasia, craniosynostosis, and additional minor malformations, but males are usually mildly affected with hypertelorism only. Despite this, males appear underrepresented in CFNS pedigrees, with carrier males encountered infrequently compared with affected females. To investigate these unusual genetic features of CFNS, we exploited the recent discovery of causative mutations in the EFNB1 gene, which encodes ephrin-B1, to survey the molecular alterations in 59 families (39 newly investigated and 20 published elsewhere). We identified the first complete deletions of EFNB1, catalogued 27 novel intragenic mutations, and used Pyrosequencing and analysis of nearby polymorphic alleles to quantify mosaic cases and to determine the parental origin of verified germline mutations. Somatic mosaicism was demonstrated in 6 of 53 informative families, and, of 17 germline mutations in individuals for whom the parental origin of mutation could be demonstrated, 15 arose from the father. We conclude that the major factor accounting for the relative scarcity of carrier males is the bias toward mutations in the paternal germline (which present as affected female offspring) combined with reduced reproductive fitness in affected females. Postzygotic mutations also contribute to the female preponderance, whereas true nonpenetrance in males who are hemizygous for an EFNB1 mutation appears unusual. These results highlight the importance of considering possible origins of mutation in the counseling of families with CFNS and provide a generally applicable approach to the combined analysis of mosaic and germline mutations.

Hansen RMS, Goriely A, Wall SA, Roberts ISD, Wilkie AOM. 2005. Fibroblast growth factor receptor 2, gain-of-function mutations, and tumourigenesis: investigating a potential link. J Pathol, 207 (1), pp. 27-31. | Show Abstract | Read more

Activating germline mutations in the fibroblast growth factor receptor (FGFR) gene family have been identified in several dominantly inherited skeletal disorders; in the case of FGFR3, the same somatically arising mutations have also been isolated from a variety of tumour tissues. Whilst the role of FGFR2 mutations in congenital syndromes has been well documented, their relationship with cancer has not been clearly defined. Based on evidence that gain-of-function mutations in FGFR2 drive positive selection in adult spermatogonia, the present study investigated, by denaturing high-performance liquid chromatography (DHPLC), DNA sequencing, and restriction digestion, the prevalence of FGFR2 mutations in 58 tumour cell lines of various types, and 29 testicular germ cell tumour samples. Although sequence variations and allelic imbalance were identified in FGFR2, none of the previously documented dominant mutations was detected in any of the tumour types examined. This suggests that gain-of-function FGFR2 mutations are not commonly encountered in tumourigenesis and specifically excludes a major contribution in testicular tumours.

Goriely A, McVean GAT, van Pelt AMM, O'Rourke AW, Wall SA, de Rooij DG, Wilkie AOM. 2005. Gain-of-function amino acid substitutions drive positive selection of FGFR2 mutations in human spermatogonia. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 102 (17), pp. 6051-6056. | Show Abstract | Read more

Despite the importance of mutation in genetics, there are virtually no experimental data on the occurrence of specific nucleotide substitutions in human gametes. C>G transversions at position 755 of FGF receptor 2 (FGFR2) cause Apert syndrome; this mutation, encoding the gain-of-function substitution Ser252Trp, occurs with a birth rate elevated 200- to 800-fold above background and originates exclusively from the unaffected father. We previously demonstrated high levels of both 755C>G and 755C>T FGFR2 mutations in human sperm and proposed that these particular mutations are enriched because the encoded proteins confer a selective advantage to spermatogonial cells. Here, we examine three corollaries of this hypothesis. First, we show that mutation levels at the adjacent FGFR2 nucleotides 752-754 are low, excluding any general increase in local mutation rate. Second, we present three instances of double-nucleotide changes involving 755C, expected to be extremely rare as chance events. Two of these double-nucleotide substitutions are shown, either by assessment of the pedigree or by direct analysis of sperm, to have arisen in sequential steps; the third (encoding Ser252Tyr) was predicted from structural considerations. Finally, we demonstrate that both major alternative spliceforms of FGFR2 (Fgfr2b and Fgfr2c) are expressed in rat spermatogonial stem cell lines. Taken together, these observations show that specific FGFR2 mutations attain high levels in sperm because they encode proteins with gain-of-function properties, favoring clonal expansion of mutant spermatogonial cells. Among FGFR2 mutations, those causing Apert syndrome may be especially prevalent because they enhance signaling by FGF ligands specific for each of the major expressed isoforms.

Diez del Corral R, Olivera-Martinez I, Goriely A, Gale E, Maden M, Storey K. 2003. Opposing FGF and retinoid pathways control ventral neural pattern, neuronal differentiation, and segmentation during body axis extension. Neuron, 40 (1), pp. 65-79. | Show Abstract | Read more

Vertebrate body axis extension involves progressive generation and subsequent differentiation of new cells derived from a caudal stem zone; however, molecular mechanisms that preserve caudal progenitors and coordinate differentiation are poorly understood. FGF maintains caudal progenitors and its attenuation is required for neuronal and mesodermal differentiation and to position segment boundaries. Furthermore, somitic mesoderm promotes neuronal differentiation in part by downregulating Fgf8. Here we identify retinoic acid (RA) as this somitic signal and show that retinoid and FGF pathways have opposing actions. FGF is a general repressor of differentiation, including ventral neural patterning, while RA attenuates Fgf8 in neuroepithelium and paraxial mesoderm, where it controls somite boundary position. RA is further required for neuronal differentiation and expression of key ventral neural patterning genes. Our data demonstrate that FGF and RA pathways are mutually inhibitory and suggest that their opposing actions provide a global mechanism that controls differentiation during axis extension.

Goriely A, McVean GAT, Röjmyr M, Ingemarsson B, Wilkie AOM. 2003. Evidence for selective advantage of pathogenic FGFR2 mutations in the male germ line. Science, 301 (5633), pp. 643-646. | Show Abstract | Read more

Observed mutation rates in humans appear higher in male than female gametes and often increase with paternal age. This bias, usually attributed to the accumulation of replication errors or inefficient repair processes, has been difficult to study directly. Here, we describe a sensitive method to quantify substitutions at nucleotide 755 of the fibroblast growth factor receptor 2 (FGFR2) gene in sperm. Although substitution levels increase with age, we show that even high levels originate from infrequent mutational events. We propose that these FGFR2 mutations, although harmful to embryonic development, are paradoxically enriched because they confer a selective advantage to the spermatogonial cells in which they arise.

Goriely A, Mollereau B, Coffinier C, Desplan C. 1999. Munster, a novel paired-class homeobox gene specifically expressed in the Drosophila larval eye. Mech Dev, 88 (1), pp. 107-110. | Show Abstract | Read more

Munster (Mu) is a homeobox-containing gene of the Paired-class which is specifically expressed in the developing Bolwig organs, the Drosophila larval eyes. This expression is first detected during early germ band retraction stage (stage 12 from 7 h 20 at 25 degrees C) and persists until the end of embryogenesis. Mu homeodomain is most similar to that of Aristaless and D-Goosecoid. Strikingly, the Munster gene maps within 6 kb of D-goosecoid, in the same genomic region as aristaless, suggesting that these genes are part of a homeobox gene cluster.

Goriely A, Diez del Corral R, Storey KG. 1999. c-Irx2 expression reveals an early subdivision of the neural plate in the chick embryo. Mech Dev, 87 (1-2), pp. 203-206. | Show Abstract | Read more

We have cloned c-Irx2, a chick homologue of the Xiro2 and mIrx2 genes and a new member of the Iroquois family of homeodomain-containing transcription factors. Strikingly, c-Irx2 expression reveals an early subdivision of the neural plate at late primitive streak stages which later transiently resolves to a single stripe within the developing hindbrain corresponding to rhombomere 1.

Jun S, Wallen RV, Goriely A, Kalionis B, Desplan C. 1998. Lune/eye gone, a Pax-like protein, uses a partial paired domain and a homeodomain for DNA recognition. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 95 (23), pp. 13720-13725. | Show Abstract | Read more

Pax proteins, characterized by the presence of a paired domain, play key regulatory roles during development. The paired domain is a bipartite DNA-binding domain that contains two helix-turn-helix domains joined by a linker region. Each of the subdomains, the PAI and RED domains, has been shown to be a distinct DNA-binding domain. The PAI domain is the most critical, but in specific circumstances, the RED domain is involved in DNA recognition. We describe a Pax protein, originally called Lune, that is the product of the Drosophila eye gone gene (eyg). It is unique among Pax proteins, because it contains only the RED domain. eyg seems to play a role both in the organogenesis of the salivary gland during embryogenesis and in the development of the eye. A high-affinity binding site for the Eyg RED domain was identified by using systematic evolution of ligands by exponential enrichment techniques. This binding site is related to a binding site previously identified for the RED domain of the Pax-6 5a isoform. Eyg also contains another DNA-binding domain, a Prd-class homeodomain (HD), whose palindromic binding site is similar to other Prd-class HDs. The ability of Pax proteins to use the PAI, RED, and HD, or combinations thereof, may be one mechanism that allows them to be used at different stages of development to regulate various developmental processes through the activation of specific target genes.

Mailhos C, André S, Mollereau B, Goriely A, Hemmati-Brivanlou A, Desplan C. 1998. Drosophila Goosecoid requires a conserved heptapeptide for repression of paired-class homeoprotein activators. Development, 125 (5), pp. 937-947. | Show Abstract

Goosecoid (Gsc) is a homeodomain protein expressed in the organizer region of vertebrate embryos. Its Drosophila homologue, D-Gsc, has been implicated in the formation of the Stomatogastric Nervous System. Although there are no apparent similarities between the phenotypes of mutations in the gsc gene in flies and mice, all known Gsc proteins can rescue dorsoanterior structures in ventralized Xenopus embryos. We describe how D-Gsc behaves as a transcriptional repressor in Drosophila cells, acting through specific palindromic HD binding sites (P3K). D-Gsc is a 'passive repressor' of activator homeoproteins binding to the same sites and an 'active repressor' of activators binding to distinct sites. In addition, D-Gsc is able to strongly repress transcription activated by Paired-class homeoproteins through P3K, via specific protein-protein interactions in what we define as 'interactive repression'. This form of repression requires the short conserved GEH/eh-1 domain, also present in the Engrailed repressor. Although the GEH/eh-1 domain is necessary for rescue of UV-ventralized Xenopus embryos, it is dispensable for ectopic induction of Xlim-1 expression, demonstrating that this domain is not required for all Gsc functions in vivo. Interactive repression may represent specific interactions among Prd-class homeoproteins, several of which act early during development of invertebrate and vertebrate embryos.

Storey KG, Goriely A, Sargent CM, Brown JM, Burns HD, Abud HM, Heath JK. 1998. Early posterior neural tissue is induced by FGF in the chick embryo. Development, 125 (3), pp. 473-484. | Show Abstract

Signals that induce neural cell fate in amniote embryos emanate from a unique cell population found at the anterior end of the primitive streak. Cells in this region express a number of fibroblast growth factors (FGFs), a group of secreted proteins implicated in the induction and patterning of neural tissue in the amphibian embryo. Here we exploit the large size and accessibility of the early chick embryo to analyse the function of FGF signalling specifically during neural induction. Our results demonstrate that extraembryonic epiblast cells previously shown to be responsive to endogenous neural-inducing signals express early posterior neural genes in response to local, physiological levels of FGF signal. This neural tissue does not express anterior neural markers or undergo neuronal differentiation and forms in the absence of axial mesoderm. Prospective mesodermal tissue is, however, induced and we present evidence for both the direct and indirect action of FGFs on prospective posterior neural tissue. These findings suggest that FGF signalling underlies a specific aspect of neural induction, the initiation of the programme that leads to the generation of the posterior central nervous system.

Goriely A, Stella M, Coffinier C, Kessler D, Mailhos C, Dessain S, Desplan C. 1996. A functional homologue of goosecoid in Drosophila. Development, 122 (5), pp. 1641-1650. | Show Abstract

We have cloned a Drosophila homologue (D-gsc) of the vertebrate homeobox gene goosecoid (gsc). In the Gsc proteins, the pressure for conservation has been imposed on the homeodomain, the functional domain of the protein: sequence homology is limited to the homeodomain (78% identity) and to a short stretch of 7 aminoacids also found in other homeoproteins such as Engrailed. Despite this weak homology, D-gsc is able to mimic gsc function in a Xenopus assay, as shown by its ability to rescue the axis development of a UV-irradiated embryo. Moreover, our data suggest that the position of insect and vertebrate gsc homologues within a regulatory network has also been conserved: D-gsc expression is controlled by decapentaplegic, orthodenticle, sloppy-paired and tailless whose homologues control gsc expression (for BMP4 and Otx-2), or are expressed at the right time and the right place (for XFKH1/Pintallavis and Tlx) to be interacting with gsc during vertebrate development. However, the pattern of D-gsc expression in ectodermal cells of the nervous system and foregut cannot easily be reconciled with that of vertebrate gsc mesodermal expression, suggesting that its precise developmental function might have diverged. Still, this comparison of domains of expression and functions among Gsc proteins could shed light on a common origin of gut formation and/or on basic cellular processes. The identification of gsc target genes and/or other genes involved in similar developmental processes will allow the definition of the precise phylogenetic relationship among Gsc proteins.

Goriely A, Dumont N, Dambly-Chaudière C, Ghysen A. 1991. The determination of sense organs in Drosophila: effect of the neurogenic mutations in the embryo. Development, 113 (4), pp. 1395-1404. | Show Abstract

We have examined the early pattern of sensory mother cells in embryos mutant for six different neurogenic loci. Our results show that the neurogenic loci are required to restrict the number of competent cells that will become sensory mother cells, but are not involved in controlling the localization or the position-dependent specification of competent cells. We conclude that these loci are involved in setting up a system of mutual inhibition, which transforms graded differences within the proneural clusters into an all-or-none difference between one cell, which becomes the sense organ progenitor cell, and the other cells, which remain epidermal.

Wilkie AOM, Goriely A. 2017. Gonadal mosaicism and non-invasive prenatal diagnosis for 'reassurance' in sporadic paternal age effect (PAE) disorders. Prenat Diagn, 37 (9), pp. 946-948. | Read more

Bernkopf M, Hunt D, Koelling N, Morgan T, Collins AL, Fairhurst J, Robertson SP, Douglas AGL, Goriely A. 2017. Quantification of transmission risk in a male patient with a FLNB mosaic mutation causing Larsen syndrome: Implications for genetic counseling in postzygotic mosaicism cases. Hum Mutat, 38 (10), pp. 1360-1364. | Show Abstract | Read more

We report the case of a male patient with Larsen syndrome found to be mosaic for a novel point mutation in FLNB in whom it was possible to provide evidence-based personalized counseling on transmission risk to future offspring. Using dideoxy sequencing, a low-level FLNB c.698A>G, encoding p.(Tyr233Cys) mutation was detected in buccal mucosa and fibroblast DNA. Mutation quantification was performed by deep next-generation sequencing (NGS) of DNA extracted from three somatic tissues (blood, fibroblasts, saliva) and a sperm sample. The mutation was detectable in all tissues tested, at levels ranging from 7% to 10% (mutation present in ∼20% of diploid somatic cells and 7% of haploid sperm), demonstrating the involvement of both somatic and gonadal lineages in this patient. This report illustrates the clinical utility of performing targeted NGS analysis on sperm from males with a mosaic condition in order to provide personalized transmission risk and offer evidence-based counseling on reproductive safety.

Giannoulatou E, McVean G, Taylor IB, McGowan SJ, Maher GJ, Iqbal Z, Pfeifer SP, Turner I, Burkitt Wright EMM, Shorto J et al. 2013. Contributions of intrinsic mutation rate and selfish selection to levels of de novo HRAS mutations in the paternal germline. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 110 (50), pp. 20152-20157. | Show Abstract | Read more

The RAS proto-oncogene Harvey rat sarcoma viral oncogene homolog (HRAS) encodes a small GTPase that transduces signals from cell surface receptors to intracellular effectors to control cellular behavior. Although somatic HRAS mutations have been described in many cancers, germline mutations cause Costello syndrome (CS), a congenital disorder associated with predisposition to malignancy. Based on the epidemiology of CS and the occurrence of HRAS mutations in spermatocytic seminoma, we proposed that activating HRAS mutations become enriched in sperm through a process akin to tumorigenesis, termed selfish spermatogonial selection. To test this hypothesis, we quantified the levels, in blood and sperm samples, of HRAS mutations at the p.G12 codon and compared the results to changes at the p.A11 codon, at which activating mutations do not occur. The data strongly support the role of selection in determining HRAS mutation levels in sperm, and hence the occurrence of CS, but we also found differences from the mutation pattern in tumorigenesis. First, the relative prevalence of mutations in sperm correlates weakly with their in vitro activating properties and occurrence in cancers. Second, specific tandem base substitutions (predominantly GC>TT/AA) occur in sperm but not in cancers; genomewide analysis showed that this same mutation is also overrepresented in constitutional pathogenic and polymorphic variants, suggesting a heightened vulnerability to these mutations in the germline. We developed a statistical model to show how both intrinsic mutation rate and selfish selection contribute to the mutational burden borne by the paternal germline.

Goriely A, McGrath JJ, Hultman CM, Wilkie AOM, Malaspina D. 2013. "Selfish spermatogonial selection": a novel mechanism for the association between advanced paternal age and neurodevelopmental disorders. Am J Psychiatry, 170 (6), pp. 599-608. | Show Abstract | Read more

There is robust evidence from epidemiological studies that the offspring of older fathers have an increased risk of neurodevelopmental disorders, such as schizophrenia and autism. The authors present a novel mechanism that may contribute to this association. Because the male germ cell undergoes many more cell divisions across the reproductive age range, copy errors taking place in the paternal germline are associated with de novo mutations in the offspring of older men. Recently it has been recognized that somatic mutations in male germ cells that modify proliferation through dysregulation of the RAS protein pathway can lead to within-testis expansion of mutant clonal lines. First identified in association with rare disorders related to paternal age (e.g., Apert syndrome, achondroplasia), this process is known as "selfish spermatogonial selection." This mechanism favors propagation of germ cells carrying pathogenic mutations, increasingly skews the mutational profile of sperm as men age, and enriches de novo mutations in the offspring of older fathers that preferentially affect specific cellular signaling pathways. This mechanism not only offers a parsimonious explanation for the association between advanced paternal age and various neurodevelopmental disorders but also provides insights into the genetic architecture (role of de novo mutations), neurobiological correlates (altered cell cycle), and some epidemiological features of these disorders. The authors outline hypotheses to test this model. Given the secular changes for delayed parenthood in most societies, this hypothesis has important public health implications.

Goriely A, Wilkie AOM. 2012. Paternal age effect mutations and selfish spermatogonial selection: causes and consequences for human disease. Am J Hum Genet, 90 (2), pp. 175-200. | Show Abstract | Read more

Advanced paternal age has been associated with an increased risk for spontaneous congenital disorders and common complex diseases (such as some cancers, schizophrenia, and autism), but the mechanisms that mediate this effect have been poorly understood. A small group of disorders, including Apert syndrome (caused by FGFR2 mutations), achondroplasia, and thanatophoric dysplasia (FGFR3), and Costello syndrome (HRAS), which we collectively term "paternal age effect" (PAE) disorders, provides a good model to study the biological and molecular basis of this phenomenon. Recent evidence from direct quantification of PAE mutations in sperm and testes suggests that the common factor in the paternal age effect lies in the dysregulation of spermatogonial cell behavior, an effect mediated molecularly through the growth factor receptor-RAS signal transduction pathway. The data show that PAE mutations, although arising rarely, are positively selected and expand clonally in normal testes through a process akin to oncogenesis. This clonal expansion, which is likely to take place in the testes of all men, leads to the relative enrichment of mutant sperm over time-explaining the observed paternal age effect associated with these disorders-and in rare cases to the formation of testicular tumors. As regulation of RAS and other mediators of cellular proliferation and survival is important in many different biological contexts, for example during tumorigenesis, organ homeostasis and neurogenesis, the consequences of selfish mutations that hijack this process within the testis are likely to extend far beyond congenital skeletal disorders to include complex diseases, such as neurocognitive disorders and cancer predisposition.

Goriely A, Wilkie AOM. 2010. Missing heritability: paternal age effect mutations and selfish spermatogonia. Nat Rev Genet, 11 (8), pp. 589. | Read more

Goriely A, Lord H, Lim J, Johnson D, Lester T, Firth HV, Wilkie AOM. 2010. Germline and somatic mosaicism for FGFR2 mutation in the mother of a child with Crouzon syndrome: Implications for genetic testing in "paternal age-effect" syndromes. Am J Med Genet A, 152A (8), pp. 2067-2073. | Show Abstract | Read more

Crouzon syndrome is a dominantly inherited disorder characterized by craniosynostosis and facial dysostosis, caused by mutations in the fibroblast growth factor receptor 2 (FGFR2) gene; it belongs to a class of disorders that mostly arise as de novo mutations and exhibit a near-exclusive paternal origin of mutation and elevated paternal age ("paternal age effect"). However, even if this is the major mode of origin of mutations in paternal age-effect disorders, germline mosaicism may also occur. Here we describe the first molecularly documented evidence of germline and somatic mosaicism for FGFR2 mutation, identified in the mother of a child with Crouzon syndrome caused by a heterozygous c.1007A>G (p.Asp336Gly) substitution. Levels of maternal somatic mosaicism for this mutation, estimated by pyrosequencing, ranged from 3.3% in hair roots to 14.1% in blood. Our observation underlines the importance of parental molecular testing for accurate genetic counseling of the risk of recurrence for Crouzon, and other paternal age-effect syndromes.

Goriely A, Hansen RMS, Taylor IB, Olesen IA, Jacobsen GK, McGowan SJ, Pfeifer SP, McVean GAT, Rajpert-De Meyts E, Wilkie AOM. 2009. Activating mutations in FGFR3 and HRAS reveal a shared genetic origin for congenital disorders and testicular tumors. Nat Genet, 41 (11), pp. 1247-1252. | Show Abstract | Read more

Genes mutated in congenital malformation syndromes are frequently implicated in oncogenesis, but the causative germline and somatic mutations occur in separate cells at different times of an organism's life. Here we unify these processes to a single cellular event for mutations arising in male germ cells that show a paternal age effect. Screening of 30 spermatocytic seminomas for oncogenic mutations in 17 genes identified 2 mutations in FGFR3 (both 1948A>G, encoding K650E, which causes thanatophoric dysplasia in the germline) and 5 mutations in HRAS. Massively parallel sequencing of sperm DNA showed that levels of the FGFR3 mutation increase with paternal age and that the mutation spectrum at the Lys650 codon is similar to that observed in bladder cancer. Most spermatocytic seminomas show increased immunoreactivity for FGFR3 and/or HRAS. We propose that paternal age-effect mutations activate a common 'selfish' pathway supporting proliferation in the testis, leading to diverse phenotypes in the next generation including fetal lethality, congenital syndromes and cancer predisposition.

Goriely A, McVean GAT, van Pelt AMM, O'Rourke AW, Wall SA, de Rooij DG, Wilkie AOM. 2005. Gain-of-function amino acid substitutions drive positive selection of FGFR2 mutations in human spermatogonia. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 102 (17), pp. 6051-6056. | Show Abstract | Read more

Despite the importance of mutation in genetics, there are virtually no experimental data on the occurrence of specific nucleotide substitutions in human gametes. C>G transversions at position 755 of FGF receptor 2 (FGFR2) cause Apert syndrome; this mutation, encoding the gain-of-function substitution Ser252Trp, occurs with a birth rate elevated 200- to 800-fold above background and originates exclusively from the unaffected father. We previously demonstrated high levels of both 755C>G and 755C>T FGFR2 mutations in human sperm and proposed that these particular mutations are enriched because the encoded proteins confer a selective advantage to spermatogonial cells. Here, we examine three corollaries of this hypothesis. First, we show that mutation levels at the adjacent FGFR2 nucleotides 752-754 are low, excluding any general increase in local mutation rate. Second, we present three instances of double-nucleotide changes involving 755C, expected to be extremely rare as chance events. Two of these double-nucleotide substitutions are shown, either by assessment of the pedigree or by direct analysis of sperm, to have arisen in sequential steps; the third (encoding Ser252Tyr) was predicted from structural considerations. Finally, we demonstrate that both major alternative spliceforms of FGFR2 (Fgfr2b and Fgfr2c) are expressed in rat spermatogonial stem cell lines. Taken together, these observations show that specific FGFR2 mutations attain high levels in sperm because they encode proteins with gain-of-function properties, favoring clonal expansion of mutant spermatogonial cells. Among FGFR2 mutations, those causing Apert syndrome may be especially prevalent because they enhance signaling by FGF ligands specific for each of the major expressed isoforms.

Goriely A, McVean GAT, Röjmyr M, Ingemarsson B, Wilkie AOM. 2003. Evidence for selective advantage of pathogenic FGFR2 mutations in the male germ line. Science, 301 (5633), pp. 643-646. | Show Abstract | Read more

Observed mutation rates in humans appear higher in male than female gametes and often increase with paternal age. This bias, usually attributed to the accumulation of replication errors or inefficient repair processes, has been difficult to study directly. Here, we describe a sensitive method to quantify substitutions at nucleotide 755 of the fibroblast growth factor receptor 2 (FGFR2) gene in sperm. Although substitution levels increase with age, we show that even high levels originate from infrequent mutational events. We propose that these FGFR2 mutations, although harmful to embryonic development, are paradoxically enriched because they confer a selective advantage to the spermatogonial cells in which they arise.

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