University of Helsinki, Helsinki 2006
Characterization of the TRIM37 gene and mutations underlying mulibrey nanism
Doctoral dissertation, October 2006.
Mulibrey nanism is a hereditary developmental disorder, characterized by prenatal onset growth failure without postnatal catch-up growth, distinctive craniofacial features, progressive cardiopathy and failure of sexual maturation. In addition, the patients develop insulin resistance syndrome and type 2 diabetes and they have an increased risk of developing tumors. The TRIM37 gene that underlies mulibrey nanism encodes for a member of the tripartite motif (TRIM) protein family. The physiological function of TRIM37 and the pathogenetic mechanisms leading from TRIM37 dysfunction to the mulibrey nanism phenotype are unknown. However, TRIM37 localizes at least partially to peroxisomes, and possesses ubiquitin E3-ligase activity. Thus, it may mediate ubiquitin dependent protein degradation, suggesting that accumulation of yet unknown substrate proteins may underlie the disease pathogenesis.
In this study, the TRIM37 gene was characterized in detail. A transcription initiation window, with several separate transcription start sites, was identified and the putative promoter region immediately upstream from the transcription initiation window was shown to possess basal promoter activity. Further, several alternative splice variants of the gene were identified, including a highly expressed testis specific variant, encoding for an identical protein product with the main transcript. Expression of TRIM37 mRNA was detected in several different tissues, with highest expression seen in testis and in brain, when the expression patterns of the two major transcripts in different human tissues were studied by quantitative real-time PCR. Several mulibrey nanism patients were studied and thirteen novel mutations in TRIM37 were found, including three mutations (p.Gly322Val, p.Cys109Ser, p.Glu271_Ser287), that are likely to express mutant TRIM37 proteins. These mutations were further shown to alter the subcellular localization of the mutant proteins. Most of the mulibrey nanism associated mutations however, lead to premature termination codons and degradation of mRNA. All the TRIM37 mutations identified to date predict loss-of-function alleles, and thus no phenotype-genotype correlation is seen among the patients. In order to understand the pathogenetic mechanisms underlying mulibrey nanism, an animal model for the disorder is needed. For the development of a Trim37 knock-out mouse, the mouse Trim37 gene was characterized. Alternative splice variants, were identified, including a testis specific variant predicting a longer protein product. Further, a strictly tissue and cell-specific pattern of Trim37 expression was observed in developing and adult mouse tissues, when studied by immunohistochemical methods. This distribution of Trim37 expression in mouse tissues is in agreement with the clinical findings in human mulibrey nanism patients. This thesis work gives new tools for the diagnostics of mulibrey nanism as well as for studying the molecular pathogenesis behind this interesting disorder.
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Last updated 02.10.2006