University of Helsinki, Helsinki 2006
Identification of the Meckel syndrome gene (MKS1) exposes a novel ciliopathy
Doctoral dissertation, March 2006.
Meckel syndrome (MKS, MIM 249000) is an autosomal recessive developmental disorder causing death in utero or shortly after birth. The hallmarks of the disease are cystic kidney dysplasia and fibrotic changes of the liver, occipital encephalocele with or without hydrocephalus and polydactyly. Other anomalies frequently seen in the patients are incomplete development of the male genitalia, club feet and cleft lip or palate. The clinical picture has been well characterized in the literature while the molecular pathology underlying the disease has remained unclear until now.
In this study we identified the first MKS gene by utilizing the disease haplotypes in Finnish MKS families linked to the MKS1 locus on chromosome 17q23 (MKS1) locus. Subsequently, the genetic heterogeneity of MKS was established in the Finnish families. Mutations in at least four different genes can cause MKS. These genes have been mapped to the chromosomes 17q23 (MKS1), 11q13 (MKS2), 8q22 (MKS3) and 9q33 (MKS4). Two of these genes have been identified so far: The MKS1 gene (this work) and the MKS3 gene.
The identified MKS1 gene was initially a novel human gene which is conserved among species. We found three different MKS mutations, one of them being the Finnish founder mutation. The information available from MKS1 orthologs in other species convinced us that the MKS1 gene is required for normal ciliogenesis. Defects of the cilial system in other human diseases and model organisms actually cause phenotypic features similar to those seen in MKS patients. The MKS3 (TMEM67) gene encodes a transmembrane protein and the gene maps to the syntenic Wpk locus in the rat, which is a model with polycystic kidney disease, agenesis of the corpus callosum and hydrocephalus. The available information from these two genes suggest that MKS1 would encode a structural component of the centriole required for normal ciliary functions, and MKS3 would be a transmembrane component most likely required for normal ciliary sensory signaling.
The MKS4 locus was localized to chromosme 9q32-33 in this study by using an inbred Finnish family with two affected and two healthy children. This fourth locus contains TRIM32 gene, which is associated to another well characterized human ciliopathy, Bardet Biedl syndrome (BBS). Future studies should identify the MKS4 gene on chromosome 9q and confirm if there are more than two genes causing MKS Finnish families.
The research on critical signaling pathways in organogenesis have shown that both Wnt and Hedgehog pathways are dependent on functional cilia. The MKS gene products will serve as excellent model molecules for more detailed studies of the functional role of cilia in organogenesis in more detail.
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© University of Helsinki 2006
Last updated 22.03.2006