Connecting the CNTNAP2 Networks with Neurodevelopmental Disorders.
ABSTRACT: Based on genomic rearrangements and copy number variations, the contactin-associated protein-like 2 gene (CNTNAP2) has been implicated in neurodevelopmental disorders such as Gilles de la Tourette syndrome, intellectual disability, obsessive compulsive disorder, cortical dysplasia-focal epilepsy syndrome, autism, schizophrenia, Pitt-Hopkins syndrome, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. To explain the phenotypic pleiotropy of CNTNAP2 alterations, several hypotheses have been put forward. Those include gene disruption, loss of a gene copy by a heterozygous deletion, altered regulation of gene expression due to loss of transcription factor binding and DNA methylation sites, and mutations in the amino acid sequence of the encoded protein which may provoke altered interactions of the CNTNAP2-encoded protein, Caspr2, with other proteins. Also exome sequencing, which covers <0.2% of the CNTNAP2 genomic DNA, has revealed numerous single nucleotide variants in healthy individuals and in patients with neurodevelopmental disorders. In some of these disorders, disruption of CNTNAP2 may be interpreted as a susceptibility factor rather than a directly causative mutation. In addition to being associated with impaired development of language, CNTNAP2 may turn out to be a central node in the molecular networks controlling neurodevelopment. This review discusses the impact of CNTNAP2 mutations on its functioning at multiple levels of the combinatorial genetic networks that govern brain development. In addition, recommendations for genomic testing in the context of clinical genetic management of patients with neurodevelopmental disorders and their families are put forward.
Project description:Intragenic deletions of the contactin-associated protein-like 2 gene (CNTNAP2) have been found in patients with Gilles de la Tourette syndrome, intellectual disability (ID), obsessive compulsive disorder, cortical dysplasia-focal epilepsy syndrome, autism, schizophrenia, Pitt-Hopkins syndrome, stuttering, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. A variety of molecular mechanisms, such as loss of transcription factor binding sites and perturbation of penetrance and expressivity, have been proposed to account for the phenotypic variability resulting from CNTNAP2 mutations. Deletions of both CNTNAP2 alleles produced truncated proteins lacking the transmembrane or some of the extracellular domains, or no protein at all. This observation can be extended to heterozygous intragenic deletions by assuming that such deletion-containing alleles lead to expression of a Caspr2 protein lacking one or several extracellular domains. Such altered forms of Capr2 proteins will lack the ability to bridge the intercellular space between neurons by binding to partners, such as CNTN1, CNTN2, DLG1, and DLG4. This presumed effect of intragenic deletions of CNTNAP2, and possibly other genes involved in connecting neuronal cells, represents a molecular basis for the postulated neuronal hypoconnectivity in autism and probably other neurodevelopmental disorders, including epilepsy, ID, language impairments and schizophrenia. Thus, CNTNAP2 may represent a paradigmatic case of a gene functioning as a node in a genetic and cellular network governing brain development and acquisition of higher cognitive functions.
Project description:Introduction: Mutations in the contactin-associated protein-like 2 (CNTNAP2) gene (MIM#604569) encoding for CASPR2, a cell adhesion protein of the neurexin family, are known to be associated with autism, intellectual disability, and other neuropsychiatric disorders. A set of intronic deletions of CNTNAP2 gene has also been suggested to have a causative role in individuals with a wide phenotypic spectrum, including Pitt-Hopkins syndrome, cortical dysplasia-focal epilepsy syndrome, Tourette syndrome, language dysfunction, and abnormal behavioral manifestations. Case presentation: A 10-years-old boy was referred to the hospital with mild intellectual disability and language impairment. Moreover, the child exhibited minor facial features, epileptic seizures, and notable behavioral abnormalities including impulsivity, aggressivity, and hyperactivity suggestive of the diagnosis of disruptive, impulse-control and conduct disorder (CD). Array comparative genomic hybridization (CGH) revealed a copy number variant (CNV) deletion in the first intron of CNTNAP2 gene inherited from a healthy father. Conclusions: A comprehensive description of the phenotypic features of the child is provided, revealing a distinct and remarkable alteration of social behavior not previously reported in individuals affected by disorders related to CNTNAP2 gene disruptions. A possible causative link between the deletion of a non-coding regulatory region and the symptoms presented by the boy has been advanced.
Project description:Heterozygous copy-number variants and SNPs of CNTNAP2 and NRXN1, two distantly related members of the neurexin superfamily, have been repeatedly associated with a wide spectrum of neuropsychiatric disorders, such as developmental language disorders, autism spectrum disorders, epilepsy, and schizophrenia. We now identified homozygous and compound-heterozygous deletions and mutations via molecular karyotyping and mutational screening in CNTNAP2 and NRXN1 in four patients with severe mental retardation (MR) and variable features, such as autistic behavior, epilepsy, and breathing anomalies, phenotypically overlapping with Pitt-Hopkins syndrome. With a frequency of at least 1% in our cohort of 179 patients, recessive defects in CNTNAP2 appear to significantly contribute to severe MR. Whereas the established synaptic role of NRXN1 suggests that synaptic defects contribute to the associated neuropsychiatric disorders and to severe MR as reported here, evidence for a synaptic role of the CNTNAP2-encoded protein CASPR2 has so far been lacking. Using Drosophila as a model, we now show that, as known for fly Nrx-I, the CASPR2 ortholog Nrx-IV might also localize to synapses. Overexpression of either protein can reorganize synaptic morphology and induce increased density of active zones, the synaptic domains of neurotransmitter release. Moreover, both Nrx-I and Nrx-IV determine the level of the presynaptic active-zone protein bruchpilot, indicating a possible common molecular mechanism in Nrx-I and Nrx-IV mutant conditions. We therefore propose that an analogous shared synaptic mechanism contributes to the similar clinical phenotypes resulting from defects in human NRXN1 and CNTNAP2.
Project description:While heterozygous variants in CNTNAP2 and NRXN1 are reported as susceptibility factors for neuropsychiatric disorders, homozygous or compound heterozygous defects in either gene were reported as causative for severe neurodevelopmental disorders. This review provides an overview of the clinical aspects in patients with recessive defects in CNTNAP2 and NRXN1.
Project description:Contactin associated protein-like 2 (CNTNAP2) has emerged as a prominent susceptibility gene implicated in multiple complex neurodevelopmental disorders, including autism spectrum disorders (ASD), intellectual disability (ID), and schizophrenia (SCZ). The presence of seizure comorbidity in many of these cases, as well as inhibitory neuron dysfunction in Cntnap2 knockout (KO) mice, suggests CNTNAP2 may be crucial for proper inhibitory network function. However, underlying cellular mechanisms are unclear. Here we show that cultured Cntnap2 KO mouse neurons exhibit an inhibitory neuron-specific simplification of the dendritic tree. These alterations can be replicated by acute knockdown of CNTNAP2 in mature wild-type (WT) neurons and are caused by faulty dendrite stabilization rather than outgrowth. Using structured illumination microscopy (SIM) and stimulated-emission depletion microscopy (STED), two super-resolution imaging techniques, we uncovered relationships between nanoscale CNTNAP2 protein localization and dendrite arborization patterns. Employing yeast two-hybrid screening, biochemical analysis, in situ proximity ligation assay (PLA), SIM, and phenotype rescue, we show that these effects are mediated at the membrane by the interaction of CNTNAP2's C-terminus with calcium/calmodulin-dependent serine protein kinase (CASK), another ASD/ID risk gene. Finally, we show that adult Cntnap2 KO mice have reduced interneuron dendritic length and branching in particular cortical regions, as well as decreased CASK levels in the cortical membrane fraction. Taken together, our data reveal an interneuron-specific mechanism for dendrite stabilization that may provide a cellular mechanism for inhibitory circuit dysfunction in CNTNAP2-related disorders.
Project description:Although genetic variations in several genes encoding for synaptic adhesion proteins have been found to be associated with autism spectrum disorders, one of the most consistently replicated genes has been CNTNAP2, encoding for contactin-associated protein-like 2 (CASPR2), a multidomain transmembrane protein of the neurexin superfamily. Using immunofluorescence confocal microscopy and complementary biochemical techniques, we compared wild-type CASPR2 to 12 point mutations identified in individuals with autism. In contrast to the wild-type protein, localized to the cell surface, some of the mutants show altered cellular disposition. In particular, CASPR2-D1129H is largely retained in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) in HEK-293 cells and in hippocampal neurons. BiP/Grp78, Calnexin and ERp57, key ER chaperones, appear to be responsible for retention of this mutant and activation of one signaling pathway of the unfolded protein response (UPR). The presence of this mutation also lowers expression and activates proteosomal degradation. A frame-shift mutation that causes a form of syndromic epilepsy (CASPR2-1253*), results in a secreted protein with seemingly normal folding and oligomerization. Taken together, these data indicate that CASPR2-D1129H has severe trafficking abnormalities and CASPR2-1253* is a secreted soluble protein, suggesting that the structural or signaling functions of the membrane tethered form are lost. Our data support a complex genetic architecture in which multiple distinct risk factors interact with others to shape autism risk and presentation.
Project description:Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) form a heterogeneous, neurodevelopmental syndrome characterized by deficits in social interactions and repetitive behavior/restricted interests. Dysregulation of mTOR signaling has been implicated in the pathogenesis of certain types of ASD, and inhibition of mTOR by rapamycin has been demonstrated to be an effective therapeutics for impaired social interaction in Tsc1+/-, Tsc2+/-, Pten-/- mice and valproic acid-induced ASD animal models. However, it is still unknown if dysregulation of mTOR signaling is responsible for the ASD-related deficit caused by other genes mutations. Contactin associated protein-like 2 (CNTNAP2) is the first widely replicated autism-predisposition gene. Mice deficient in Cntnap2 (Cntnap2-/- mice) show core ASD-like phenotypes, and have been demonstrated as a validated model for ASD-relevant drug discovery. In this study, we found hyperactive Akt-mTOR signaling in the hippocampus of Cntnap2-/- mice with RNA sequencing followed with biochemical analysis. Treatment with Akt inhibitor LY294002 or mTOR inhibitor rapamycin rescued the social deficit, but had no effect on hyperactivity and repetitive behavior/restricted behavior in Cntnap2-/- mice. We further showed that the effect of LY294002 and rapamycin on social behaviors is reversible. Our results thus identified hyperactive Akt-mTOR signaling pathway as a therapeutic target for abnormal social behavior in patients with dysfunction of CNTNAP2.
Project description:Autism is a genetically complex neurodevelopmental syndrome in which language deficits are a core feature. We describe results from two complimentary approaches used to identify risk variants on chromosome 7 that likely contribute to the etiology of autism. A two-stage association study tested 2758 SNPs across a 10 Mb 7q35 language-related autism QTL in AGRE (Autism Genetic Resource Exchange) trios and found significant association with Contactin Associated Protein-Like 2 (CNTNAP2), a strong a priori candidate. Male-only containing families were identified as primarily responsible for this association signal, consistent with the strong male affection bias in ASD and other language-based disorders. Gene-expression analyses in developing human brain further identified CNTNAP2 as enriched in circuits important for language development. Together, these results provide convergent evidence for involvement of CNTNAP2, a Neurexin family member, in autism, and demonstrate a connection between genetic risk for autism and specific brain structures.
Project description:A decade of genetic studies has established contactin-associated protein-like 2 (CNTNAP2) as a prominent susceptibility gene associated with multiple neurodevelopmental disorders. The development and characterization of Cntnap2 knockout models in multiple species have bolstered this claim by establishing clear connections with certain endophenotypes. Despite these remarkable in vivo findings, CNTNAP2's molecular functions are relatively unexplored, highlighting the need to identify novel protein partners. Here, we characterized an interaction between CNTNAP2 and partitioning-defective 3 (PAR3)-a polarity molecule isolated in a yeast two-hybrid screen with CNTNAP2's C-terminus. We provide evidence that the two proteins interact via PDZ domain-mediated binding, that CNTNAP2<sup>+</sup> /PAR3<sup>+</sup> complexes are largely associated with clathrin-coated endocytic vesicles in heterologous cells and that PAR3 causes an enlargement of CNTNAP2 puncta size. Live imaging and fluorescence recovery after photobleaching (FRAP) reveals that PAR3 limits the mobility of CNTNAP2. Finally, overexpression of PAR3 but not a PAR3 mutant lacking all PDZ domains (PAR3∆PDZall) can cluster endogenous CNTNAP2 in primary neurons. Collectively, we conclude that PAR3 regulates CNTNAP2 spatial localization.
Project description:Genetic studies are rapidly identifying variants that shape risk for disorders of human cognition, but the question of how such variants predispose to neuropsychiatric disease remains. Noninvasive human brain imaging allows assessment of the brain in vivo, and the combination of genetics and imaging phenotypes remains one of the only ways to explore functional genotype-phenotype associations in human brain. Common variants in contactin-associated protein-like 2 (CNTNAP2), a neurexin superfamily member, have been associated with several allied neurodevelopmental disorders, including autism and specific language impairment, and CNTNAP2 is highly expressed in frontal lobe circuits in the developing human brain. Using functional neuroimaging, we have demonstrated a relationship between frontal lobar connectivity and common genetic variants in CNTNAP2. These data provide a mechanistic link between specific genetic risk for neurodevelopmental disorders and empirical data implicating dysfunction of long-range connections within the frontal lobe in autism. The convergence between genetic findings and cognitive-behavioral models of autism provides evidence that genetic variation at CNTNAP2 predisposes to diseases such as autism in part through modulation of frontal lobe connectivity.