Alessio Di Fonzo

University of Milan, Milano, Lombardy, Italy

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Publications (33)195.58 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: To investigate the molecular defect underlying a large Italian kindred with progressive adult-onset respiratory failure, proximal weakness of the upper limbs, and evidence of lower motor neuron degeneration. We describe the clinical features of 5 patients presenting with prominent respiratory insufficiency, proximal weakness of the upper limbs, and no signs of frontotemporal lobar degeneration or semantic dementia. Molecular analysis was performed combining linkage and exome sequencing analyses. Further investigations included transcript analysis and immunocytochemical and protein studies on established cell models. Genome-wide linkage analysis showed an association with chromosome 17q21. Exome analysis disclosed a missense change in MAPT segregating dominantly with the disease and resulting in D348G-mutated tau protein. Motor neuron cell lines overexpressing mutated D348G tau isoforms displayed a consistent reduction in neurite length and arborization. The mutation does not seem to modify tau interactions with microtubules. Neuropathologic studies were performed in one affected subject, which exhibited α-motoneuron loss and atrophy of the spinal anterior horns with accumulation of phosphorylated tau within the surviving motor neurons. Staining for 3R- and 4R-tau revealed pathology similar to that observed in familial cases harboring MAPT mutations. Our study broadens the phenotype of tauopathies to include lower motor neuron disease and implicate tau degradation pathway defects in motor neuron degeneration.
    Neurology 05/2014; · 8.30 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Syndromes associated with multiple mtDNA deletions are due to different molecular defects that can result in a wide spectrum of predominantly adult-onset clinical presentations, ranging from progressive external ophthalmoplegia (PEO) to multisystemic disorders of variable severity. The autosomal-dominant form of PEO is genetically heterogeneous. Recently, causative mutations have been reported in several nuclear genes that encode proteins of the mtDNA replisome machinery (POLG, POLG2, and C10orf2) or that are involved in pathways for the synthesis of deoxyribonuclotides (ANT1 and RRM2B). Despite these findings, putative mutations remain unknown in half of the subjects with PEO. We report the identification, by exome sequencing, of mutations in DNA2 in adult-onset individuals with a form of mitochondrial myopathy featuring instability of muscle mtDNA. DNA2 encodes a helicase/nuclease family member that is most likely involved in mtDNA replication, as well as in the long-patch base-excision repair (LP-BER) pathway. In vitro biochemical analysis of purified mutant proteins revealed a severe impairment of nuclease, helicase, and ATPase activities. These results implicate human DNA2 and the LP-BER pathway in the pathogenesis of adult-onset disorders of mtDNA maintenance.
    The American Journal of Human Genetics 01/2013; · 11.20 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Congenital myasthenic syndromes are inherited disorders caused by various defects in neuromuscular transmission. Although the typical presentation is fatigable weakness with prominent cranial involvement, neonates can lack these hallmark manifestations, and in those with choline acetyltransferase gene mutations, basal electrophysiological testing can yield negative findings. The authors report the case of a male infant presenting at birth with oculomotor and bulbofacial weakness, hypotonia, clubfoot, and severe respiratory insufficiency. Electromyography showed myogenic signs, and basal repetitive nerve stimulation yielded negative findings. Since age 6 months, the infant had progressively improved, acquiring autonomous respiration. Prolonged subtetanic repetitive nerve stimulation disclosed a marked decremental response compatible with suspected congenital myasthenic syndrome with episodic apnea. Genetic testing identified 2 novel choline acetyltransferase mutations (R470X, F580C). Keeping a high clinical suspicion of this rare condition and undertaking early comprehensive electrophysiological assessments including prolonged repetitive nerve stimulation (10 Hz for 5 minutes) can expedite the diagnosis.
    Journal of child neurology 01/2013; · 1.59 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Although mutations in mitochondrial tRNAs constitute the most common mtDNA defect, the presence of pathological variants in mitochondrial tRNA(Asn) is extremely rare. We were able to identify a novel mtDNA tRNA(Asn) gene pathogenic mutation associated with a myopathic phenotype and a previously unreported respiratory impairment. Our proband is an adult woman with ophthalmoparesis and respiratory impairment. Her muscle biopsy presented several cytochrome c oxidase-negative (COX-) fibres and signs of mitochondrial proliferation (ragged red fibres). Sequence analysis of the muscle-derived mtDNA revealed an m.5709T>C substitution, affecting mitochondrial tRNA(Asn) gene. Restriction-fragment length polymorphism analysis of the mutation in isolated muscle fibres showed that a threshold of at least 91.9% mutated mtDNA results in the COX deficiency phenotype. The new phenotype further increases the clinical spectrum of mitochondrial diseases caused by mutations in the tRNA(Asn) gene.
    European journal of human genetics: EJHG 12/2011; 20(3):357-60. · 3.56 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Leigh syndrome (LS) is an incurable, nearly always fatal, neurodegenerative, pediatric disorder that results from respiratory chain failure. The most common mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) mutations that result in LS are m.8993T→C/G and m.9176T→C/G, which were previously found in several patients with early-onset Leigh syndrome. Here, we describe clinical and molecular features of a novel pedigree, where LS developed in two siblings. The proband was a young woman with an unusual adult-onset LS. She harbored a homoplasmic m.9176T→C mutation, based on analysis of a muscle biopsy. In contrast, the brother died at a young age. This novel case report and literature review highlights the variability of phenotypic expression of the m.9176T→C mutation.
    Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications 07/2011; 412(2):245-8. · 2.28 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Maintenance and replication of mitochondrial DNA require the concerted action of several factors encoded by nuclear genome. The mitochondrial helicase Twinkle is a key player of replisome machinery. Heterozygous mutations in its coding gene, PEO1, are associated with progressive external ophthalmoplegia (PEO) characterised by ptosis and ophthalmoparesis, with cytochrome c oxidase (COX)-deficient fibres, ragged-red fibres (RRF) and multiple mtDNA deletions in muscle. Here we describe clinical, histological and molecular features of two patients presenting with mitochondrial myopathy associated with PEO. PEO1 sequencing disclosed two novel mutations in exons 1 and 4 of the gene, respectively. Although mutations in PEO1 exon 1 have already been described, this is the first report of mutation occurring in exon 4.
    Journal of the neurological sciences 06/2011; 308(1-2):173-6. · 2.32 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Mutations in the ATP13A2 (PARK9) and FBXO7 (PARK15) genes are linked to different forms of autosomal recessive juvenile-onset neurodegenerative diseases with overlapping phenotypes, including levodopa-responsive parkinsonism, pyramidal disturbances, cognitive decline, and supranuclear gaze disturbance. However, the associated genotypes and phenotypes are poorly characterized due to the small number of patients described. Here, we report clinical, instrumental, and genetic findings in an Italian family with novel PARK9 and PARK15 mutations. The proband developed a severe progressive phenotype including juvenile-onset parkinsonism, pyramidal disturbances, cognitive decline, and oculomotor abnormalities. On the contrary, his brother only shows mild abnormalities (pyramidal, cognitive, and oculomotor) on the neurological examination at the age of 31 years. These two brothers both carry a novel homozygous PARK9 missense (p.G877R) and a novel heterozygous PARK15 mutation (p.R481C). The PARK9 mutation replaces a crucial residue for the ATPase activity, and is therefore most likely a loss-of-function mutation and disease-causing in homozygous state. The pathogenic significance of the PARK15 single heterozygous mutation remains unclear. In both sibs, DaTSCAN single photon emission computed tomography showed marked nigrostriatal dopaminergic defects, and transcranial magnetic stimulation detected prolonged central motor conduction time. MRI, including T2*-weighted imaging, detected no evidence of brain iron accumulation. This family, the third reported with homozygous PARK9 mutations and the first with mutations in two genes for atypical juvenile parkinsonism, illustrates that PARK9-linked disease might display wide intra-familial clinical variability and milder phenotypes, suggesting the existence of strong, still unknown, modifiers.
    Neurogenetics 02/2011; 12(1):33-9. · 3.58 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Six chromosomal loci have been mapped for restless legs syndrome (RLS) through family-based linkage analysis (RLS-1 to RLS-6), but confirmation has met with limited success, and causative mutations have not yet been identified. We ascertained a large multigenerational Dutch family with RLS of early onset (average 18 years-old). The clinical study included a follow-up of 2 years. To map the underlying genetic defect, we performed a genome-wide scan for linkage using high-density SNP microarrays. A single, strong linkage peak was detected on chromosome 20p13, under an autosomal-dominant model, in the region of the RLS-5 locus (maximum multipoint LOD score 3.02). Haplotype analysis refined the RLS-5 critical region from 5.2 to 4.5 megabases. In conclusion, we provide the first confirmation of the RLS-5 locus, and we reduce its critical region. The identification of the underlying mutation might reveal an important susceptibility gene for this common movement disorder.
    Movement Disorders 08/2010; 25(11):1715-22. · 5.63 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: A disulfide relay system (DRS) was recently identified in the yeast mitochondrial intermembrane space (IMS) that consists of two essential components: the sulfhydryl oxidase Erv1 and the redox-regulated import receptor Mia40. The DRS drives the import of cysteine-rich proteins into the IMS via an oxidative folding mechanism. Erv1p is reoxidized within this system, transferring its electrons to molecular oxygen through interactions with cytochrome c and cytochrome c oxidase (COX), thereby linking the DRS to the respiratory chain. The role of the human Erv1 ortholog, GFER, in the DRS has been poorly explored. Using homozygosity mapping, we discovered that a mutation in the GFER gene causes an infantile mitochondrial disorder. Three children born to healthy consanguineous parents presented with progressive myopathy and partial combined respiratory-chain deficiency, congenital cataract, sensorineural hearing loss, and developmental delay. The consequences of the mutation at the level of the patient's muscle tissue and fibroblasts were 1) a reduction in complex I, II, and IV activity; 2) a lower cysteine-rich protein content; 3) abnormal ultrastructural morphology of the mitochondria, with enlargement of the IMS space; and 4) accelerated time-dependent accumulation of multiple mtDNA deletions. Moreover, the Saccharomyces cerevisiae erv1(R182H) mutant strain reproduced the complex IV activity defect and exhibited genetic instability of the mtDNA and mitochondrial morphological defects. These findings shed light on the mechanisms of mitochondrial biogenesis, establish the role of GFER in the human DRS, and promote an understanding of the pathogenesis of a new mitochondrial disease.
    The American Journal of Human Genetics 06/2009; 84(5):594-604. · 11.20 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Mutations in the Grb10-interacting GYF protein 2 (GIGYF2) gene, within the PARK11 locus, have been nominated as a cause of Parkinson's disease in Italian and French populations. By sequencing the whole GIGYF2 coding region in forty-six probands (thirty-seven Italians) with familial Parkinson's disease compatible with an autosomal dominant inheritance, we identified no mutations. Our data add to a growing body of evidence suggesting that GIGYF2 mutations are not a frequent cause of PD.
    Parkinsonism & Related Disorders 06/2009; 15(9):703-5. · 3.27 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The combination of early-onset, progressive parkinsonism with pyramidal tract signs has been known as pallido-pyramidal or parkinsonian-pyramidal syndrome since the first description by Davison in 1954. Very recently, a locus was mapped in a single family with an overlapping phenotype, and an FBXO7 gene mutation was nominated as the likely disease cause. We performed clinical and genetic studies in two families with early-onset, progressive parkinsonism and pyramidal tract signs. An FBXO7 homozygous truncating mutation (Arg498Stop) was found in an Italian family, while compound heterozygous mutations (a splice-site IVS7 + 1G/T mutation and a missense Thr22Met mutation) were present in a Dutch family. We also found evidence of expression of novel normal splice-variants of FBXO7. The phenotype associated with FBXO7 mutations consisted of early-onset, progressive parkinsonism and pyramidal tract signs, thereby matching clinically the pallido-pyramidal syndrome of Davison. The parkinsonism exhibits varying degrees of levodopa responsiveness in different patients. We conclusively show that recessive FBXO7 mutations cause progressive neurodegeneration with extrapyramidal and pyramidal system involvement, delineating a novel genetically defined entity that we propose to designate as PARK15. Understanding how FBXO7 mutations cause disease will shed further light on the molecular mechanisms of neurodegeneration, with potential implications also for more common forms of parkinsonism, such as Parkinson disease and multiple system atrophy.
    Neurology 12/2008; 72(3):240-5. · 8.30 Impact Factor
  • Movement Disorders 11/2008; 24(1):144-7. · 5.63 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The c.G4883C variant in the leucine-rich repeat kinase 2 (LRRK2) gene (protein effect: Arg1628Pro) has been recently proposed as a second risk factor for sporadic Parkinson's disease in the Han Chinese population (after the Gly2385Arg variant). In this paper, we analyze the Arg1628Pro variant and the associated haplotype in a large sample of 1,337 Han subjects (834 patients and 543 controls) ascertained from a single referral center in Taiwan. In our sample, the Arg1628Pro allele was more frequent among patients (3.8%) than among controls (1.8%; p = 0.004, OR 2.13, 95% CI 1.29-3.52). Sixty heterozygous and two homozygous carriers of the Arg1628Pro variant were identified among the patients, of which only one was also a carrier of the LRRK2 Gly2385Arg variant. We also show that carriers of the Arg1628Pro variant share a common, extended haplotype, suggesting a founder effect. Parkinson's disease onset age was similar in patients who carried the Arg1628Pro variant and in those who did not carry it. Our data support the contention that the Arg1628Pro variant is a second risk factor for Parkinson's disease in the Han Chinese population. Adding the estimated effects of Arg1628Pro (population attributable risk [PAR] approximately 4%) and Gly2385Arg variants (PAR approximately 6%) yields a total PAR of approximately 10%.
    Neurogenetics 09/2008; 9(4):271-6. · 3.58 Impact Factor
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    Neurology 07/2008; 70(24):2348; author reply 2348-9. · 8.30 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Hereditary spastic paraplegias (HSP) are a heterogeneous group of neurodegenerative disorders leading to progressive spasticity of the lower limbs. Here, we describe clinical and genetic features in an Italian family affected by autosomal recessive HSP (ARHSP) with mental impairment and thin corpus callosum (TCC). In both affected subjects, genetic analysis revealed the presence of a homozygous small deletion (733_734delAT) leading to a frameshift (M245VfsX) within the coding region of SPG11 gene, encoding spatacsin. This finding is the first independent confirmation that spatacsin loss of function mutations cause ARHPS-TCC.
    Neurogenetics 12/2007; 8(4):301-5. · 3.58 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Mutations in the Leucine-Rich Repeat Kinase 2 (LRRK2) gene are the most frequent known cause of Parkinson's disease (PD), but their prevalence varies markedly between populations. Here we studied the frequency and associated phenotype of four recurrent LRRK2 mutations (R1441C, R1441G, R1441H, and G2019S) in familial and sporadic PD from a single referral center in Lisbon, Portugal. Among 138 unrelated PD probands, we identified 9 heterozygous G2019S carriers (6.52%) and 1 heterozygous R1441H carrier (0.72%). The G2019S mutation was present in 4 of the 107 sporadic (3.74%) and in 5 of the 31 familial probands (16.1%). Mutations were not found among 101 Portuguese controls. The G2019S mutation was present on a single haplotype and displayed reduced penetrance. Heterozygous parkin gene mutations were also found in 2 G2019S-positive probands, but their pathogenic role is unclear. The clinical phenotype in patients with LRRK2 mutations was indistinguishable from that of typical PD, including impaired sense of smell. The G2019S mutation is a very common genetic determinant among the Portuguese patients with PD, and the R1441H mutation is also present in this population. These data have important implications for the diagnostic work-up and genetic counseling of patients with this disease in Portugal.
    Movement Disorders 07/2007; 22(8):1194-201. · 4.56 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We tested the hypothesis that parkin polymorphisms (SNPs) and environmental exposure (EE) interact to reduce the age of onset of idiopathic Parkinson disease (PD). We prospectively and consecutively enrolled a total of 81 Italian PD patients. The diagnosis of PD was based on the UK Parkinson's Disease Society's brain bank criteria. Twenty-one patients with a positive family history for PD or tremor were excluded from the study. We collected information about medical history and EE. PARK1, PARK2 genes and PARK8 (exon 41) were screened. We detected one parkin mutation in a single patient and three parkin polymorphisms in a total of 25 patients; no alpha synuclein mutations, no common mutations of LRKK2 gene were found. The mutation-positive patient has been excluded from the study. The cohort of the remaining 59 patients has been divided into four subgroups, according to the presence/absence of parkin polymorphisms and the presence/absence of environmental factors-exposure. The age of onset of PD was significantly lower in patients with both SNPs and EE as compared to patients without (62.18+/-9.5 years versus 71.62+/-8 years, p=0.024; -13%). Patients with either SNPs or EE had an intermediate age of onset. The association of parkin polymorphisms and environmental exposure has a strong effect in lowering the age of onset of PD; the effect of environmental exposure or parkin polymorphisms alone seems to influence modestly the age of onset of PD. Individuals with environmental/occupational exposure should be screened for the presence of parkin SNPs.
    NeuroToxicology 06/2007; 28(3):698-701. · 2.65 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: To assess the prevalence, nature, and associated phenotypes of ATP13A2 gene mutations among patients with juvenile parkinsonism (onset <21 years) or young onset (between 21 and 40 years) Parkinson disease (YOPD). We studied 46 patients, mostly from Italy or Brazil, including 11 with juvenile parkinsonism and 35 with YOPD. Thirty-three cases were sporadic and 13 had positive family history compatible with autosomal recessive inheritance. Forty-two had only parkinsonian signs, while four (all juvenile-onset) had multisystemic involvement. The whole ATP13A2 coding region (29 exons) and exon-intron boundaries were sequenced from genomic DNA. A novel homozygous missense mutation (Gly504Arg) was identified in one sporadic case from Brazil with juvenile parkinsonism. This patient had symptoms onset at age 12, levodopa-responsive severe akinetic-rigid parkinsonism, levodopa-induced motor fluctuations and dyskinesias, severe visual hallucinations, and supranuclear vertical gaze paresis, but no pyramidal deficit nor dementia. Brain CT scan showed moderate diffuse atrophy. Furthermore, two Italian cases with YOPD without atypical features carried a novel missense mutation (Thr12Met, Gly533Arg) in single heterozygous state. We confirm that ATP13A2 homozygous mutations are associated with human parkinsonism, and expand the associated genotypic and clinical spectrum, by describing a homozygous missense mutation in this gene in a patient with a phenotype milder than that initially associated with ATP13A2 mutations (Kufor-Rakeb syndrome). Our data also suggest that ATP13A2 single heterozygous mutations might be etiologically relevant for patients with YOPD and further studies of this gene in Parkinson disease are warranted.
    Neurology 05/2007; 68(19):1557-62. · 8.30 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The Leucine-Rich Repeat Kinase 2 (LRRK2) Gly2019Ser mutation is frequent among Parkinson's disease (PD) patients from the Arab, Jewish, and Iberian populations, while another mutation, Arg1441Gly, is common in the Basque population. We studied the prevalence of these mutations in Sardinia, a Mediterranean genetic isolate with peculiar structure and similarities with the Basque population. Among 98 Sardinian PD probands we detected one heterozygous Gly2019Ser carrier. This mutation was also found in one of 55 Sardinian controls, an 85-year-old man, later shown to have a positive family history of parkinsonism. No carriers of Arg1441Gly, Arg1441Cys, or Arg1441His mutations were found among cases and controls. Our results suggest that the "Basque"LRRK2 mutation is absent or very rare in Sardinia. The Gly2019Ser mutation is present but its frequency is lower than that in Iberian, Arab, or Jewish populations. The identification of an 85-year-old, healthy Gly2019Ser carrier supports the concept that this mutation displays incomplete penetrance.
    Parkinsonism & Related Disorders 03/2007; 13(1):17-21. · 3.27 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Evidence of LRRK2 haplotypes associated with Parkinson's disease (PD) risk was recently found in the Chinese population from Singapore, and a common LRRK2 missense variant, Gly2385Arg, was independently detected as a putative risk factor for PD in the Chinese population from Taiwan. To test the association between the Gly2385Arg variant in a large case-control sample of Chinese ethnicity from Singapore, and to perform functional studies of the wild type and Gly2385Arg LRRK2 protein in human cell lines. In a case-control study involving 989 Chinese subjects, the frequency of the heterozygous Gly2385Arg genotype was higher in PD compared to controls (7.3 vs. 3.6%, odds ratio = 2.1, 95% CI: 1.1-3.9, P = 0.014); these values yield an estimated population attributable risk (PAR) of approximately 4%. In a multivariate logistic regression analysis with the disease group (PD vs. controls) as the dependent variable and the genotype as an independent factor with adjustments made for the effect of age and gender, the heterozygous Gly2385Arg genotype remained associated with an increased risk of PD compared to wild type genotype (odds ratio = 2.67, 95% CI: 1.43-4.99, P = 0.002). The glycine at position 2385 is a candidate site for N-myristoylation, and the Gly2385Arg variant replaces the hydrophobic glycine with the hydrophilic arginine, and increases the net positive charge of the LRRK2 WD40 domain. In transfection studies, we demonstrated that both the wild type and Gly2385Arg variant LRRK2 protein localize to the cytoplasm and form aggregates. However, under condition of oxidative stress, the Gly2385Arg variant was more toxic and associated with a higher rate of apoptosis. Our study lends support to the contention that the Gly2385Arg is a common risk factor for PD in the Chinese population. Our bioinformatics and in-vitro studies also suggest that the Gly2385Arg variant is biologically relevant and it might act through pro-apoptotic mechanisms.
    Human Genetics 03/2007; 120(6):857-63. · 4.63 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

1k Citations
195.58 Total Impact Points


  • 2003–2013
    • University of Milan
      • • Department of Pathophysiology and Transplantation
      • • Department of Neurological Sciences
      Milano, Lombardy, Italy
  • 2011
    • University of Naples Federico II
      • Department of Molecular Medicine and Medical Biotechnology
      Napoli, Campania, Italy
  • 2006–2010
    • Erasmus MC
      • • Department of Neurology
      • • Department of Clinical Genetics
      Rotterdam, South Holland, Netherlands
  • 2008
    • Centro de Investigación Biomédica en Red, Enfermedades Neurodegenerativas
      Madrid, Madrid, Spain
    • Chang Gung Memorial Hospital
      • Neuroscience Research Center
      Taipei, Taipei, Taiwan
  • 2007
    • Università degli Studi di Torino
      • Dipartimento di Neuroscienze
      Torino, Piedmont, Italy
  • 2005
    • Istituti Clinici di Perfezionamento
      Milano, Lombardy, Italy