Carola G.M. van Berkel

VU University Medical Center, Amsterdamo, North Holland, Netherlands

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Publications (42)394.85 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Objective The objective of this study was to investigate the genetic etiology of the X-linked disorder “Hypomyelination of Early Myelinating Structures” (HEMS).Methods We included 16 patients from 10 families diagnosed with HEMS by brain MRI criteria. Exome sequencing was used to search for causal mutations. In silico analysis of effects of the mutations on splicing and RNA folding was performed. In vitro gene splicing was examined in RNA from patients’ fibroblasts and an immortalized immature oligodendrocyte cell line after transfection with mutant minigene splicing constructs.ResultsAll patients had unusual hemizygous mutations of PLP1 located in exon 3B (one deletion, one missense and two silent), which is spliced out in isoform DM20, or in intron 3 (five mutations). The deletion led to truncation of PLP1, but not DM20. Four mutations were predicted to affect PLP1/DM20 alternative splicing by creating exonic splicing silencer motifs or new splice donor sites or by affecting the local RNA structure of the PLP1 splice donor site. Four deep intronic mutations were predicted to destabilize a long-distance interaction structure in the secondary PLP1 RNA fragment involved in regulating PLP1/DM20 alternative splicing. Splicing studies in fibroblasts and transfected cells confirmed a decreased PLP1/DM20 ratio.InterpretationBrain structures that normally myelinate early are poorly myelinated in HEMS, while they are the best myelinated structures in Pelizaeus–Merzbacher disease, also caused by PLP1 alterations. Our data extend the phenotypic spectrum of PLP1-related disorders indicating that normal PLP1/DM20 alternative splicing is essential for early myelination and support the need to include intron 3 in diagnostic sequencing.
    04/2015; 2(6). DOI:10.1002/acn3.203
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    ABSTRACT: Hypomyelination with atrophy of the basal ganglia and cerebellum is a rare leukoencephalopathy that was identified using magnetic resonance imaging in 2002. In 2013, whole exome sequencing of 11 patients with the disease revealed that they all had the same de novo mutation in TUBB4A, which encodes tubulin β-4A. We investigated the mutation spectrum in a cohort of 42 patients and the relationship between genotype and phenotype. Patients were selected on the basis of clinical and magnetic resonance imaging abnormalities that are indicative of hypomyelination with atrophy of the basal ganglia and cerebellum. Genetic testing and a clinical inventory were performed, and sequential magnetic resonance images were evaluated using a standard protocol. The heterozygous TUBB4A mutation observed in the first 11 patients was the most common (25 patients). Additionally, 13 other heterozygous mutations were identified, located in different structural domains of tubulin β-4A. We confirmed that the mutations were de novo in all but three patients. In two of these three cases we lacked parental DNA and in one the mutation was also found in the mother, most likely due to mosaicism. Patients showed a phenotypic continuum ranging from neonatal to childhood disease onset, normal to delayed early development and slow to more rapid neurological deterioration. Neurological symptomatology consisted of extrapyramidal movement abnormalities, spasticity, ataxia, cognitive deficit and sometimes epilepsy. Three patients died and the oldest living patient was 29 years of age. The patients' magnetic resonance images showed an absent or disappearing putamen, variable cerebellar atrophy and highly variable cerebral atrophy. Apart from hypomyelination, myelin loss was evident in several cases. Three severely affected patients had similar, somewhat atypical magnetic resonance image abnormalities. The study results were strongly suggestive of a genotype-phenotype correlation. The 25 patients with the common c.745G>A mutation generally had a less rapidly progressive disease course than the 17 cases with other TUBB4A mutations. Overall, this work demonstrates that the distinctive magnetic resonance imaging pattern for hypomyelination with atrophy of the basal ganglia and cerebellum defines a homogeneous clinical phenotype of variable severity. Patients almost invariably have prominent extrapyramidal movement abnormalities, which are rarely seen in patients with hypomyelination of different origin. A dominant TUBB4A mutation is also associated with dystonia type 4, in which magnetic resonance images of the brain seem normal. It is highly likely that there is a disease continuum associated with TUBB4A mutations, of which hypomyelination with atrophy of the basal ganglia and cerebellum and dystonia type 4 are the extremes. This would indicate that extrapyramidal movement abnormalities constitute the core feature of the disease spectrum related to dominant TUBB4A mutations and that all other features are variable.
    Brain 04/2014; 137(7). DOI:10.1093/brain/awu110 · 9.20 Impact Factor

  • Brain 04/2014; 137(4):1019-1029. DOI:10.1093/brain/awu026 · 9.20 Impact Factor

  • Muscle & Nerve 04/2014; 49(4). DOI:10.1002/mus.24147 · 2.28 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Leukoencephalopathy with brainstem and spinal cord involvement and lactate elevation is a disorder caused by recessive mutations in the gene DARS2, which encodes mitochondrial aspartyl-tRNA synthetase. Recent observations indicate that the phenotypic range of the disease is much wider than initially thought. Currently, no treatment is available. The aims of our study were (i) to explore a possible genotype-phenotype correlation; and (ii) to identify potential therapeutic agents that modulate the splice site mutations in intron 2 of DARS2, present in almost all patients. A cross-sectional observational study was performed in 78 patients with two DARS2 mutations in the Amsterdam and Helsinki databases up to December 2012. Clinical information was collected via questionnaires. An inventory was made of the DARS2 mutations in these patients and those previously published. An assay was developed to assess mitochondrial aspartyl-tRNA synthetase enzyme activity in cells. Using a fluorescence reporter system we screened for drugs that modulate DARS2 splicing. Clinical information of 66 patients was obtained. The clinical severity varied from infantile onset, rapidly fatal disease to adult onset, slow and mild disease. The most common phenotype was characterized by childhood onset and slow neurological deterioration. Full wheelchair dependency was rare and usually began in adulthood. In total, 60 different DARS2 mutations were identified, 13 of which have not been reported before. Except for 4 of 42 cases published by others, all patients were compound heterozygous. Ninety-four per cent of the patients had a splice site mutation in intron 2. The groups of patients sharing the same two mutations were too small for formal assessment of genotype-phenotype correlation. However, some combinations of mutations were consistently associated with a mild phenotype. The mitochondrial aspartyl-tRNA synthetase activity was strongly reduced in patient cells. Among the compounds screened, cantharidin was identified as the most potent modulator of DARS2 splicing. In conclusion, the phenotypic spectrum of leukoencephalopathy with brainstem and spinal cord involvement and lactate elevation is wide, but most often the disease has a relatively slow and mild course. The available evidence suggests that the genotype influences the phenotype, but because of the high number of private mutations, larger numbers of patients are necessary to confirm this. The activity of mitochondrial aspartyl-tRNA synthetase is significantly reduced in patient cells. A compound screen established a 'proof of principle' that the splice site mutation can be influenced. This finding is promising for future therapeutic strategies.
    Brain 02/2014; · 9.20 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Mutant mouse models suggest that the chloride channel ClC-2 has functions in ion and water homoeostasis, but this has not been confirmed in human beings. We aimed to define novel disorders characterised by distinct patterns of MRI abnormalities in patients with leukoencephalopathies of unknown origin, and to identify the genes mutated in these disorders. We were specifically interested in leukoencephalopathies characterised by white matter oedema, suggesting a defect in ion and water homoeostasis.
    The Lancet Neurology 05/2013; 12(7). DOI:10.1016/S1474-4422(13)70053-X · 21.90 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Objective: To identify the mutated gene in a group of patients with an unclassified heritable white matter disorder sharing the same, distinct MRI pattern. Methods: We used MRI pattern recognition analysis to select a group of patients with a similar, characteristic MRI pattern. We performed whole-exome sequencing to identify the mutated gene. We examined patients' fibroblasts for biochemical consequences of the mutant protein. Results: We identified 6 patients from 5 unrelated families with a similar MRI pattern showing predominant abnormalities of the cerebellar cortex, deep cerebral white matter, and corpus callosum. The 4 tested patients had a respiratory chain complex І deficiency. Exome sequencing revealed mutations in NUBPL, encoding an iron-sulfur cluster assembly factor for complex І, in all patients. Upon identification of the mutated gene, we analyzed the MRI of a previously published case with NUBPL mutations and found exactly the same pattern. A strongly decreased amount of NUBPL protein and fully assembled complex I was found in patients' fibroblasts. Analysis of the effect of mutated NUBPL on the assembly of the peripheral arm of complex I indicated that NUBPL is involved in assembly of iron-sulfur clusters early in the complex I assembly pathway. Conclusion: Our data show that NUBPL mutations are associated with a unique, consistent, and recognizable MRI pattern, which facilitates fast diagnosis and obviates the need for other tests, including assessment of mitochondrial complex activities in muscle or fibroblasts.
    Neurology 04/2013; 80(17). DOI:10.1212/WNL.0b013e31828f1914 · 8.29 Impact Factor
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    Tijdschrift voor kindergeneeskunde 02/2013; 81(1). DOI:10.1007/s12456-013-0065-3
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    ABSTRACT: Aim: Leukoencephalopathy with brainstem and spinal cord involvement and lactate elevation (LBSL) is known as a relatively mild leukoencephalopathy. We investigated the occurrence of severe variants of LBSL with extensive brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) abnormalities. Method: MRIs of approximately 3,000 patients with an unknown leukoencephalopathy were retrospectively reviewed for extensive signal abnormalities of the cerebral and cerebellar white matter, posterior limb of the internal capsule, cerebellar peduncles, pyramids, and medial lemniscus. Clinical data were retrospectively collected. Results: Eleven patients fulfilled the MRI criteria (six males); six had DARS2 mutations. Clinical and laboratory findings did not distinguish between patients with and without DARS2 mutations, but MRI did. Patients with DARS2 mutations more often had involvement of structures typically affected in LBSL, including decussatio of the medial lemniscus, anterior spinocerebellar tracts, and superior and inferior cerebellar peduncles. Also, involvement of the globus pallidus was associated with DARS2 mutations. Earliest disease onset was neonatal; earliest death at 20 months. Interpretation: This study confirms the occurrence of early infantile, severe LBSL, extending the known phenotypic range of LBSL. Abnormality of specific brainstem tracts and cerebellar peduncles are MRI findings that point to the correct diagnosis.
    Neuropediatrics 10/2012; 43(6). DOI:10.1055/s-0032-1329395 · 1.24 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: In the large group of genetically undetermined infantile-onset mitochondrial encephalopathies, multiple defects of mitochondrial DNA-related respiratory-chain complexes constitute a frequent biochemical signature. In order to identify responsible genes, we used exome-next-generation sequencing in a selected cohort of patients with this biochemical signature. In an isolated patient, we found two mutant alleles for EARS2, the gene encoding mitochondrial glutamyl-tRNA synthetase. The brain magnetic resonance imaging of this patient was hallmarked by extensive symmetrical cerebral white matter abnormalities sparing the periventricular rim and symmetrical signal abnormalities of the thalami, midbrain, pons, medulla oblongata and cerebellar white matter. Proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy showed increased lactate. We matched this magnetic resonance imaging pattern with that of a cohort of 11 previously selected unrelated cases. We found mutations in the EARS2 gene in all. Subsequent detailed clinical and magnetic resonance imaging based phenotyping revealed two distinct groups: mild and severe. All 12 patients shared an infantile onset and rapidly progressive disease with severe magnetic resonance imaging abnormalities and increased lactate in body fluids and proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy. Patients in the 'mild' group partially recovered and regained milestones in the following years with striking magnetic resonance imaging improvement and declining lactate levels, whereas those of the 'severe' group were characterized by clinical stagnation, brain atrophy on magnetic resonance imaging and persistent lactate increases. This new neurological disease, early-onset leukoencephalopathy with thalamus and brainstem involvement and high lactate, is hallmarked by unique magnetic resonance imaging features, defined by a peculiar biphasic clinical course and caused by mutations in a single gene, EARS2, expanding the list of medically relevant defects of mitochondrial DNA translation.
    Brain 04/2012; 135(Pt 5):1387-94. DOI:10.1093/brain/aws070 · 9.20 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: LBSL (leukoencephalopathy with brain stem and spinal cord involvement and lactate elevation) is an autosomal recessive white matter disorder with slowly progressive cerebellar ataxia, spasticity and dorsal column dysfunction. Magnetic resonance imaging shows characteristic abnormalities in the cerebral white matter and specific brain stem and spinal cord tracts. LBSL is caused by mutations in the gene DARS2, which encodes mtAspRS (mitochondrial aspartyl-tRNA synthetase). The selective involvement of specific white matter tracts in LBSL is striking since this protein is ubiquitously expressed. Almost all LBSL patients have one mutation in intron 2 of DARS2, affecting the splicing of the third exon. Using a splicing reporter construct, we find cell-type-specific differences in the sensitivity to these mutations: the mutations have a larger effect on exon 3 exclusion in neural cell lines, especially neuronal cell lines, than in non-neural cell lines. Furthermore, correct inclusion of exon 3 in the normal mtAspRS mRNA occurs less efficiently in neural cells than in other cell types, and this effect is again most pronounced in neuronal cells. The combined result of these two effects may explain the selective vulnerability of specific white matter tracts in LBSL patients.
    Biochemical Journal 02/2012; 441(3):955-62. DOI:10.1042/BJ20110795 · 4.40 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Autosomal recessive mutations in eukaryotic initiation factor 2B (eIF2B) cause leukoencephalopathy vanishing white matter with a wide clinical spectrum. eIF2B comprises five subunits (α-ε; genes EIF2B1, 2, 3, 4 and 5) and is the guanine nucleotide-exchange factor (GEF) for eIF2. It plays a key role in protein synthesis. Here, we have studied the functional effects of selected VWM mutations in EIF2B2-5 by co-expressing mutated and wildtype subunits in human cells. The observed functional effects are very diverse, including defects in eIF2B complex integrity; binding to the regulatory α-subunit; substrate binding; and GEF activity. Activity data for recombinant eIF2B complexes agree closely with those for patient-derived cells with the same mutations. Some mutations do not affect these parameters even though they cause severe disease. These findings are important for three reasons; they demonstrate that measuring eIF2B activity in patients' cells has limited value as a diagnostic test; they imply that severe disease can result from alterations in eIF2B function other than defects in complex integrity, substrate binding or GEF activity and, lastly, the diversity of functional effects of VWM mutations implies that seeking agents to manage or treat VWM should focus on downstream effectors of eIF2B, not restoring eIF2B activity. © 2011 Wiley-Liss, Inc.
    Human Mutation 09/2011; 32(9). DOI:10.1002/humu.21535 · 5.14 Impact Factor
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    Laura van Berge · Carola G M van Berkel · Gert C Scheper · Marjo S van der Knaap ·

    Journal of child neurology 08/2011; 26(8):1057; author reply 1058. DOI:10.1177/0883073811412072 · 1.72 Impact Factor

  • European Journal of Paediatric Neurology 05/2011; 15. DOI:10.1016/S1090-3798(11)70248-3 · 2.30 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Vanishing white matter (VWM) disease is a genetic leukoencephalopathy linked to mutations in the eukaryotic translation initiation factor 2B. It is a disease of infants, children, and adults who experience a slowly progressive neurologic deterioration with episodes of rapid clinical worsening triggered by stress and eventually leading to death. Characteristic neuropathologic findings include cystic degeneration of the white matter with scarce reactive gliosis, dysmorphic astrocytes, and paucity of myelin despite an increase in oligodendrocytic density. To assess whether a defective maturation of macroglia may be responsible for the feeble gliosis and lack of myelin, weinvestigated the maturation status of astrocytes and oligodendrocytes in the brains of 8 VWM patients, 4 patients with other white matter disorders and 6 age-matched controls with a combination of immunocytochemistry, histochemistry, scratch-wound assays, Western blot, and quantitative polymerase chain reaction. We observed increased proliferation and a defect in the maturation of VWM astrocytes. They show an anomalous composition of their intermediate filament network with predominance of the δ-isoform of the glial fibrillary acidic protein and an increase in the heat shock protein αB-crystallin, supporting the possibility that a deficiency in astrocyte function may contribute to the loss of white matter in VWM. We also demonstrated a significant increase in numbers of premyelinating oligodendrocyte progenitors in VWM, which may explain the coexistence of oligodendrocytosis and myelin paucity in the patients' white matter.
    Journal of Neuropathology and Experimental Neurology 01/2011; 70(1):69-82. DOI:10.1097/NEN.0b013e318203ae74 · 3.80 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Vanishing white matter (VWM) is an autosomal recessive leukoencephalopathy characterized by slowly progressive ataxia and spasticity with additional stress-provoked episodes of rapid and major deterioration. The disease is caused by mutations in the genes encoding the subunits of eukaryotic initiation factor 2B, which is pivotal in translation of mRNAs into proteins. The disease onset, clinical severity, and disease course of VWM vary greatly. The influence of genotype and gender on the phenotype is unclear. From our database of 184 patients with VWM, we selected those with the following mutations in the gene EIF2B5: p.Arg113His in the homozygous state (n = 23), p.Arg113His in the compound-heterozygous state (n = 49), p.Thr91Ala in the homozygous state (n = 8), p.Arg113His/p.Arg339any (n = 9), and p.Thr91Ala/p.Arg339any (n = 7). We performed a cross-sectional observational study. Evaluated clinical characteristics were gender, age at onset, age at loss of walking without support, and age at death. Means, male/female ratios, and Kaplan-Meier curves were compared. Patients homozygous for p.Arg113His had a milder disease than patients compound heterozygous for p.Arg113His and patients homozygous for p.Thr91Ala. Patients with p.Arg113His/p.Arg339any had a milder phenotype than patients with p.Thr91Ala/p.Arg339any. Overall, females tended to have a milder disease than males. The clinical phenotype in VWM is influenced by the combination of both mutations. Females tend to do better than males.
    Neurology 10/2010; 75(17):1555-9. DOI:10.1212/WNL.0b013e3181f962ae · 8.29 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Mutations in the gene MLC1 are found in approximately 80% of the patients with the inherited childhood white matter disorder megalencephalic leukoencephalopathy with subcortical cysts (MLC). Genetic linkage studies have not led to the identification of another disease gene. We questioned whether mutations in CLCN2, coding for the chloride channel protein 2 (ClC-2), are involved in MLC. Mice lacking this protein develop white matter abnormalities, which are characterized by vacuole formation in the myelin sheaths, strikingly similar to the intramyelinic vacuoles in MLC. Sequence analysis of CLCN2 at genomic DNA and cDNA levels in 18 MLC patients without MLC1 mutations revealed some nucleotide changes, but they were predicted to be nonpathogenic. Further, in electrophysiological experiments, one of the observed amino acid changes was shown to have no effect on the ClC-2-mediated currents. In conclusion, we found no evidence suggesting that the CLCN2 gene is involved in MLC.
    Genetic Testing and Molecular Biomarkers 02/2010; 14(2):255-7. DOI:10.1089/gtmb.2009.0148 · 1.46 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Leukoencephalopathy with brain stem and spinal cord involvement and lactate elevation (LBSL) has recently been defined based on a highly characteristic constellation of abnormalities observed by magnetic resonance imaging and spectroscopy. LBSL is an autosomal recessive disease, most often manifesting in early childhood. Affected individuals develop slowly progressive cerebellar ataxia, spasticity and dorsal column dysfunction, sometimes with a mild cognitive deficit or decline. We performed linkage mapping with microsatellite markers in LBSL families and found a candidate region on chromosome 1, which we narrowed by means of shared haplotypes. Sequencing of genes in this candidate region uncovered mutations in DARS2, which encodes mitochondrial aspartyl-tRNA synthetase, in affected individuals from all 30 families. Enzyme activities of mutant proteins were decreased. We were surprised to find that activities of mitochondrial complexes from fibroblasts and lymphoblasts derived from affected individuals were normal, as determined by different assays.
    Nature Genetics 05/2007; 39(4):534-9. DOI:10.1038/ng2013 · 29.35 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Leukoencephalopathy with vanishing white matter (VWM) is an inherited childhood white matter disorder, caused by mutations in the genes encoding eukaryotic initiation factor 2B (eIF2B). The present study showed that, while the eIF2B activity was reduced in VWM lymphoblasts, the expression levels of the eIF2B subunits were similar to control lymphoblast lines. The mutations in eIF2B did not affect the interaction with eIF2. Strikingly, no apparent differences for the regulation of protein synthesis, measured by [35S]-methionine incorporation, were found between control and VWM lymphoblasts. Western blotting showed that, in some VWM cells, exposure to heat shock caused a decrease in the expression of specific eIF2B subunits. Most importantly, the increase in phosphorylation of eIF2alpha in response to heat shock was lower in VWM lymphoblasts than in control cells. These findings could form part of the explanation for the episodes of rapid and severe deterioration in VWM patients that are precipitated by febrile infections.
    Neurobiology of Disease 04/2006; 21(3):496-504. DOI:10.1016/j.nbd.2005.08.009 · 5.08 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Vanishing white matter is a leukoencephalopathy that usually affects young children. Five genes were found recently for this disease, allowing a DNA-based diagnosis. The authors describe six patients homozygous for the Arg113His mutation in eIF2Bepsilon. Only one had a childhood onset; four had a later onset and a protracted disease course; one adult still has no symptoms. Our data suggest that the Arg113His mutation is particularly mild and should be considered in the differential diagnosis of adult diffuse leukoencephalopathies, independent of whether there are associated clinical signs, an episodic course, or MRI shows white matter rarefaction/cystic degeneration.
    Neurology 06/2004; 62(9):1598-600. DOI:10.1212/01.WNL.0000123118.86746.FC · 8.29 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

3k Citations
394.85 Total Impact Points


  • 2006-2015
    • VU University Medical Center
      • • Department of Clinical Genetics
      • • Department of Pediatrics
      Amsterdamo, North Holland, Netherlands
  • 2007-2014
    • VU University Amsterdam
      Amsterdamo, North Holland, Netherlands
  • 2000-2003
    • Academisch Medisch Centrum Universiteit van Amsterdam
      • Department of Clinical Chemistry
      Amsterdamo, North Holland, Netherlands
  • 1989-1999
    • University of Amsterdam
      Amsterdamo, North Holland, Netherlands
  • 1997
    • University of Toronto
      • Hospital for Sick Children
      Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  • 1995
    • University of the Free State
      Bloemfontein, Orange Free State, South Africa