Genetic enhancement of limb defects in a mouse model of Cornelia de Lange syndrome

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Abstract

Cornelia de Lange Syndrome (CdLS) is characterized by a wide variety of structural and functional abnormalities in almost every organ system of the body. CdLS is now known to be caused by mutations that disrupt the function of the cohesin complex or its regulators, and studies of animal models and cell lines tell us that the effect of these mutations is to produce subtle yet pervasive dysregulation of gene expression. With many hundreds of mostly small gene expression changes occurring in every cell type and tissue, identifying the etiology of any particular birth defect is very challenging. Here we focus on limb abnormalities, which are commonly seen in CdLS. In the limb buds of the Nipbl-haploinsufficient mouse (Nipbl+/− mouse), a model for the most common form of CdLS, modest gene expression changes are observed in several candidate pathways whose disruption is known to cause limb abnormalities, yet the limbs of Nipbl+/− mice develop relatively normally. We hypothesized that further impairment of candidate pathways might produce limb defects similar to those seen in CdLS, and performed genetic experiments to test this. Focusing on Sonic hedgehog (Shh), Bone morphogenetic protein (Bmp), and Hox gene pathways, we show that decreasing Bmp or Hox function (but not Shh function) enhances polydactyly in Nipbl+/− mice, and in some cases produces novel skeletal phenotypes. However, frank limb reductions, as are seen in a subset of individuals with CdLS, do not occur, suggesting that additional signaling and/or gene regulatory pathways are involved in producing such dramatic changes. © 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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