James M Polke

University of Cambridge, Cambridge, England, United Kingdom

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Publications (37)156 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Recurrent rhabdomyolysis complicates a number of inherited muscle and metabolic disorders and represents a serious, potentially life-threatening condition which frequently requires critical care. Identification of the underlying genetic cause has traditionally relied upon detailed history and examination findings which subsequently guide the investigative work-up. However, in many cases the causative molecular defect remains undetermined. This study aims to investigate whether utilising next-generation sequencing (NGS) technology early in the diagnostic pathway might offer a rapid, cost-effective tool for the diagnosis of patients with recurrent attacks of rhabdomyolysis when a genetic aetiology is suspected. We have designed a “rhabdomyolysis gene panel” comprised of 48 genes known or predicted to cause rhabdomyolysis using NGS technology. Over 200 patients have been recruited. In addition, array CGH and whole exome sequencing may be used. A pilot study of 53 patients with a panel of sequenced 35 rhabdomyolysis genes using an amplicon based sequencing panel on an Illumina MiSeq was performed. 52 of the first 53 first evaluated patients have a variant in at least 1 gene. 49 patients have heterozygous variants in at least two different genes. We identified 15 cases out of 52 with probable pathogenic mutations using this approach. The pilot study showed that the rhabdomyolysis genetic panel is a potentially useful way to identify genetic alterations in patients with rhabdomyolysis. The high number of symptomatic patients with mutations identified in more than one gene associated with rhabdomyolysis suggests that gene–gene interaction(s) may play an important role. We are currently preparing a new extended panel of 48 genes.
    Neuromuscular Disorders 10/2014; 24(s 9–10):801. · 3.46 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: An expanded hexanucleotide repeat in the C9orf72 gene is the most common genetic cause of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and frontotemporal dementia (C9ALS/FTD). Although 0-30 hexanucleotide repeats are present in the general population, expansions >500 repeats are associated with C9ALS/FTD. Large C9ALS/FTD expansions share a common haplotype and whether these expansions derive from a single founder or occur more frequently on a predisposing haplotype is yet to be determined and is relevant to disease pathomechanisms. Furthermore, although cases carrying 50-200 repeats have been described, their role and the pathogenic threshold of the expansions remain to be identified and carry importance for diagnostics and genetic counseling. We present clinical and genetic data from a UK ALS cohort and report the detailed molecular study of an atypical somatically unstable expansion of 90 repeats. Our results across different tissues provide evidence for the pathogenicity of this repeat number by showing they can somatically expand in the central nervous system to the well characterized pathogenic range. Our results support the occurrence of multiple expansion events for C9ALS/FTD.
    Neurobiology of aging. 08/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: To establish the phenotypic spectrum of KIF5A mutations and to investigate whether KIF5A mutations cause axonal neuropathy associated with hereditary spastic paraplegia (HSP) or typical Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease type 2 (CMT2).METHODS: KIF5A sequencing of the motor-domain coding exons was performed in 186 patients with the clinical diagnosis of HSP and in 215 patients with typical CMT2. Another 66 patients with HSP or CMT2 with pyramidal signs were sequenced for all exons of KIF5A by targeted resequencing. One additional patient was genetically diagnosed by whole-exome sequencing.RESULTS: Five KIF5A mutations were identified in 6 unrelated patients: R204W and D232N were novel mutations; R204Q, R280C, and R280H have been previously reported. Three patients had CMT2 as the predominant and presenting phenotype; 2 of them also had pyramidal signs. The other 3 patients presented with HSP but also had significant axonal neuropathy or other additional features.CONCLUSION: This is currently the largest study investigating KIF5A mutations. By combining next-generation sequencing and conventional sequencing, we confirm that KIF5A mutations can cause variable phenotypes ranging from HSP to CMT2. The identification of mutations in CMT2 broadens the phenotypic spectrum and underlines the importance of KIF5A mutations, which involve degeneration of both the central and peripheral nervous systems and should be tested in HSP and CMT2.
    Neurology 07/2014; · 8.25 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: GTP cyclohydrolase 1, encoded by the GCH1 gene, is an essential enzyme for dopamine production in nigrostriatal cells. Loss-of-function mutations in GCH1 result in severe reduction of dopamine synthesis in nigrostriatal cells and are the most common cause of DOPA-responsive dystonia, a rare disease that classically presents in childhood with generalized dystonia and a dramatic long-lasting response to levodopa. We describe clinical, genetic and nigrostriatal dopaminergic imaging ([123I]N-omega-fluoropropyl-2beta-carbomethoxy-3beta-(4-iodophenyl) tropane single photon computed tomography) findings of four unrelated pedigrees with DOPA-responsive dystonia in which pathogenic GCH1 variants were identified in family members with adult-onset parkinsonism. Dopamine transporter imaging was abnormal in all parkinsonian patients, indicating Parkinson's disease-like nigrostriatal dopaminergic denervation. We subsequently explored the possibility that pathogenic GCH1 variants could contribute to the risk of developing Parkinson's disease, even in the absence of a family history for DOPA-responsive dystonia. The frequency of GCH1 variants was evaluated in whole-exome sequencing data of 1318 cases with Parkinson's disease and 5935 control subjects. Combining cases and controls, we identified a total of 11 different heterozygous GCH1 variants, all at low frequency. This list includes four pathogenic variants previously associated with DOPA-responsive dystonia (Q110X, V204I, K224R and M230I) and seven of undetermined clinical relevance (Q110E, T112A, A120S, D134G, I154V, R198Q and G217V). The frequency of GCH1 variants was significantly higher (Fisher's exact test P-value 0.0001) in cases (10/1318 = 0.75%) than in controls (6/5935 = 0.1%; odds ratio 7.5; 95% confidence interval 2.4-25.3). Our results show that rare GCH1 variants are associated with an increased risk for Parkinson's disease. These findings expand the clinical and biological relevance of GTP cycloydrolase 1 deficiency, suggesting that it not only leads to biochemical striatal dopamine depletion and DOPA-responsive dystonia, but also predisposes to nigrostriatal cell loss. Further insight into GCH1-associated pathogenetic mechanisms will shed light on the role of dopamine metabolism in nigral degeneration and Parkinson's disease.
    Brain : a journal of neurology. 01/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: In many cases where Huntington disease (HD) is suspected, the genetic test for HD is negative: these are known as HD phenocopies. A repeat expansion in the C9orf72 gene has recently been identified as a major cause of familial and sporadic frontotemporal lobar degeneration and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Our objective was to determine whether this mutation causes HD phenocopies. A cohort of 514 HD phenocopy patients were analyzed for the C9orf72 expansion using repeat primed PCR. In cases where the expansion was found, Southern hybridization was performed to determine expansion size. Clinical case notes were reviewed to determine the phenotype of expansion-positive cases. Ten subjects (1.95%) had the expansion, making it the most common identified genetic cause of HD phenocopy presentations. The size of expansion was not significantly different from that associated with other clinical presentations of C9orf72 expanded cases. The C9orf72 expansion-positive subjects were characterized by the presence of movement disorders, including dystonia, chorea, myoclonus, tremor, and rigidity. Furthermore, the age at onset in this cohort was lower than previously reported for subjects with the C9orf72 expansion and included one case with pediatric onset. This study extends the known phenotype of the C9orf72 expansion in both age at onset and movement disorder symptoms. We propose a revised clinico-genetic algorithm for the investigation of HD phenocopy patients based on these data.
    Neurology 12/2013; · 8.25 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: IMPORTANCE Isolated cytochrome-c oxidase (COX) deficiency is one of the most frequent respiratory chain defects seen in human mitochondrial disease. Typically, patients present with severe neonatal multisystem disease and have an early fatal outcome. We describe an adult patient with isolated COX deficiency associated with a relatively mild clinical phenotype comprising myopathy; demyelinating neuropathy; premature ovarian failure; short stature; hearing loss; pigmentary maculopathy; and renal tubular dysfunction. OBSERVATIONS Whole-exome sequencing detected 1 known pathogenic and 1 novel COX10 mutation: c.1007A>T; p.Asp336Val, previously associated with fatal infantile COX deficiency, and c.1015C>T; p.Arg339Trp. Muscle COX holoenzyme and subassemblies were undetectable on immunoblots of blue-native gels, whereas denaturing gels and immunocytochemistry showed reduced core subunit MTCO1. Heme absorption spectra revealed low heme aa3 compatible with heme A:farnesyltransferase deficiency due to COX10 dysfunction. Both mutations demonstrated respiratory deficiency in yeast, confirming pathogenicity. A COX10 protein model was used to predict the structural consequences of the novel Arg339Trp and all previously reported substitutions. CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE These findings establish that COX10 mutations cause adult mitochondrial disease. Nuclear modifiers, epigenetic phenomenon, and/or environmental factors may influence the disease phenotype caused by reduced COX activity and contribute to the variable clinical severity related to COX10 dysfunction.
    JAMA neurology. 10/2013;
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    ABSTRACT: Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (CMT) refers to a group of inherited neuropathies with a broad range of phenotypes, inheritance patterns and causative genes. The number of disease genes identified in CMT has expanded rapidly over the past few decades, such that more than 60 CMT-associated genes have now been discovered. This rise in genetic discovery can be attributed to the development of next-generation sequencing (NGS) technology, which allows the entire exome or genome to be sequenced in a matter of days. In this Review, we discuss how NGS is being employed in the diagnostic evaluation of patients with CMT and how the genetic advances in CMT are influencing clinical practice. In particular, we explore how genetic advances have broadened the phenotype of CMT and related disorders and how NGS allows a large number of CMT genes to be screened simultaneously early in the evaluation of an unexplained neuropathy. Finally, we discuss the different methods of NGS that can be used in CMT and related disorders, and propose a simple diagnostic algorithm in which clinical assessment and neurophysiology are used to guide the application of phenotype specific 'panels'.
    Nature Reviews Neurology 09/2013; · 15.52 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: An expanded hexanucleotide repeat in the C9orf72 gene is the most common genetic cause of frontotemporal dementia and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (c9FTD/ALS). We now report the first description of a homozygous patient and compare it to a series of heterozygous cases. The patient developed early-onset frontotemporal dementia without additional features. Neuropathological analysis showed c9FTD/ALS characteristics, with abundant p62-positive inclusions in the frontal and temporal cortices, hippocampus and cerebellum, as well as less abundant TDP-43-positive inclusions. Overall, the clinical and pathological features were severe, but did not fall outside the usual disease spectrum. Quantification of C9orf72 transcript levels in post-mortem brain demonstrated expression of all known C9orf72 transcript variants, but at a reduced level. The pathogenic mechanisms by which the hexanucleotide repeat expansion causes disease are unclear and both gain- and loss-of-function mechanisms may play a role. Our data support a gain-of-function mechanism as pure homozygous loss of function would be expected to lead to a more severe, or completely different clinical phenotype to the one described here, which falls within the usual range. Our findings have implications for genetic counselling, highlighting the need to use genetic tests that distinguish C9orf72 homozygosity.
    Acta Neuropathologica 07/2013; · 9.73 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The molecular basis of cytochrome c oxidase (COX, complex IV) deficiency remains genetically undetermined in many cases. Homozygosity mapping and whole-exome sequencing were performed in a consanguineous pedigree with isolated COX deficiency linked to a Leigh syndrome neurological phenotype. Unexpectedly, affected individuals harbored homozygous splice donor site mutations in NDUFA4, a gene previously assigned to encode a mitochondrial respiratory chain complex I (NADH:ubiquinone oxidoreductase) subunit. Western blot analysis of denaturing gels and immunocytochemistry revealed undetectable steady-state NDUFA4 protein levels, indicating that the mutation causes a loss-of-function effect in the homozygous state. Analysis of one- and two-dimensional blue-native polyacrylamide gels confirmed an interaction between NDUFA4 and the COX enzyme complex in control muscle, whereas the COX enzyme complex without NDUFA4 was detectable with no abnormal subassemblies in patient muscle. These observations support recent work in cell lines suggesting that NDUFA4 is an additional COX subunit and demonstrate that NDUFA4 mutations cause human disease. Our findings support reassignment of the NDUFA4 protein to complex IV and suggest that patients with unexplained COX deficiency should be screened for NDUFA4 mutations.
    Cell Reports 06/2013; · 7.21 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: OBJECTIVE: To describe the clinical and neurophysiologic phenotype of a family with hereditary sensory and autonomic neuropathy type 1 (HSANI) due to a novel mutation in SPTLC2 and to characterize the biochemical properties of this mutation. METHODS: We screened 107 patients with HSAN who were negative for other genetic causes for mutations in SPTLC2. The biochemical properties of a new mutation were characterized in cell-free and cell-based activity assays. RESULTS: A novel mutation (A182P) was found in 2 subjects of a single family. The phenotype of the 2 subjects was an ulcero-mutilating sensory-predominant neuropathy as described previously for patients with HSANI, but with prominent motor involvement and earlier disease onset in the first decade of life. Affected patients had elevated levels of plasma 1-deoxysphingolipids (1-deoxySLs). Biochemically, the A182P mutation was associated with a reduced canonical activity but an increased alternative activity with alanine, which results in largely increased 1-deoxySL levels, supporting their pathogenicity. CONCLUSION: This study confirms that mutations in SPTLC2 are associated with increased deoxySL formation causing HSANI.
    Neurology 05/2013; · 8.25 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Hexanucleotide repeat expansions in C9orf72 are a major cause of frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Understanding the disease mechanisms and a method for clinical diagnostic genotyping have been hindered because of the difficulty in estimating the expansion size. We found 96 repeat-primed PCR expansions: 85/2,974 in six neurodegenerative diseases cohorts (FTLD, ALS, Alzheimer disease, sporadic Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, Huntington disease-like syndrome, and other nonspecific neurodegenerative disease syndromes) and 11/7,579 (0.15%) in UK 1958 birth cohort (58BC) controls. With the use of a modified Southern blot method, the estimated expansion range (smear maxima) in cases was 800-4,400. Similarly, large expansions were detected in the population controls. Differences in expansion size and morphology were detected between DNA samples from tissue and cell lines. Of those in whom repeat-primed PCR detected expansions, 68/69 were confirmed by blotting, which was specific for greater than 275 repeats. We found that morphology in the expansion smear varied among different individuals and among different brain regions in the same individual. Expansion size correlated with age at clinical onset but did not differ between diagnostic groups. Evidence of instability of repeat size in control families, as well as neighboring SNP and microsatellite analyses, support multiple expansion events on the same haplotype background. Our method of estimating the size of large expansions has potential clinical utility. C9orf72-related disease might mimic several neurodegenerative disorders and, with potentially 90,000 carriers in the United Kingdom, is more common than previously realized.
    The American Journal of Human Genetics 02/2013; · 11.20 Impact Factor
  • Cell Reports 01/2013; 3(6):1795-805. · 7.21 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: BACKGROUND: TRPV4 mutations have been identified in Charcot-Marie-Tooth type 2 (CMT2), scapuloperoneal spinal muscular atrophy and distal hereditary motor neuropathy (dHMN). OBJECTIVE: We aimed to screen the TRPV4 gene in 422 British patients with inherited neuropathy for potentially pathogenic mutations. METHODS: We sequenced TRPV4 coding regions and splice junctions in 271 patients with CMT2 and 151 patients with dHMN. Mutations were clinically and genetically characterised and screened in ≥345 matched controls. RESULTS: 13 missense and nonsense variants were identified, of which five were novel and absent from controls (G20R, E218K, N302Y, Y567X and T701I). N302Y and T701I mutations were present in typical CMT2 cases and are potentially pathogenic based on in silico analyses. G20R was detected in a patient with dHMN and her asymptomatic father and is possibly pathogenic with variable expressivity. The Y567X variant segregated with disease in a family with severe CMT2 but also with a MFN2 mutation reported to cause a mild CMT2 phenotype. Although Y567X caused nonsense mediated mRNA decay, the amount of TRPV4 protein on western blotting of patient lymphoblasts was no different to control. Y567X is therefore unlikely to be pathogenic. E218K is unlikely to be pathogenic based on segregation. CONCLUSIONS: In this comprehensive analysis of the TRPV4 gene, we identified mutations in <1% of patients with CMT2/dHMN. We found that TRPV4 likely harbours many missense and nonsense non-pathogenic variants that should be analysed in detail to prove pathogenicity before results are given to patients.
    Journal of neurology, neurosurgery, and psychiatry 07/2012; · 4.87 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Mutations in the gene HSPB1, encoding the small heat shock protein 27 (HSP27), are a cause of distal hereditary motor neuropathy (dHMN) and axonal Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (CMT2). dHMN and CMT2 are differentiated by the presence of a sensory neuropathy in the latter although in the case of HSPB1 this division is artificial as CMT2 secondary to HSPB1 mutations is predominantly a motor neuropathy with only minimal sensory involvement. A recent study in mice has suggested that mutations in the C-terminus result in a motor only phenotype resembling dHMN, whereas mutations at the N-terminus result in a CMT2-like phenotype. However, we present a family with a novel mutation in the C-terminus of HSP27 (p.Glu175X) with a motor predominant distal neuropathy but with definite sensory involvement compatible with CMT2. This case highlights the artificial distinction between patients with motor predominant forms of CMT2 and dHMN and argues against the hypothesis that mutations in the C-terminus have no sensory involvement.
    Journal of the Peripheral Nervous System 06/2012; 17(2):201-5. · 2.57 Impact Factor
  • Journal of the Peripheral Nervous System 06/2012; 17(2):223-5. · 2.57 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (CMT) is a clinically and genetically heterogeneous group of diseases with approximately 45 different causative genes described. The aims of this study were to determine the frequency of different genes in a large cohort of patients with CMT and devise guidelines for genetic testing in practice. The genes known to cause CMT were sequenced in 1607 patients with CMT (425 patients attending an inherited neuropathy clinic and 1182 patients whose DNA was sent to the authors for genetic testing) to determine the proportion of different subtypes in a UK population. A molecular diagnosis was achieved in 62.6% of patients with CMT attending the inherited neuropathy clinic; in 80.4% of patients with CMT1 (demyelinating CMT) and in 25.2% of those with CMT2 (axonal CMT). Mutations or rearrangements in PMP22, GJB1, MPZ and MFN2 accounted for over 90% of the molecular diagnoses while mutations in all other genes tested were rare. Four commonly available genes account for over 90% of all CMT molecular diagnoses; a diagnostic algorithm is proposed based on these results for use in clinical practice. Any patient with CMT without a mutation in these four genes or with an unusual phenotype should be considered for referral for an expert opinion to maximise the chance of reaching a molecular diagnosis.
    Journal of neurology, neurosurgery, and psychiatry 05/2012; 83(7):706-10. · 4.87 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: X-linked Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (CMT1X) is the second most common inherited neuropathy, caused by mutations in gap junction beta-1 (GJB1). Males have a uniformly moderately severe phenotype while females have a variable phenotype, suggested to be due to X inactivation. We aimed to assess X inactivation pattern in females with CMT1X and correlate this with phenotype using the CMT examination score to determine whether the X inactivation pattern accounted for the variable phenotype in females with CMT1X. We determined X inactivation pattern in 67 females with CMT1X and 24 controls using the androgen receptor assay. We were able to determine which X chromosome carried the GJB1 mutation in 30 females. There was no difference in X inactivation pattern between patients and controls. In addition, there was no correlation between X inactivation pattern in blood and phenotype. A possible explanation for these findings is that the X inactivation pattern in Schwann cells rather than in blood may explain the variable phenotype in females with CMT1X.
    Neuromuscular Disorders 04/2012; 22(7):617-21. · 3.46 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: An intronic expansion of a hexanucleotide GGGGCC repeat in the C9ORF72 gene has recently been shown to be an important cause of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal dementia (FTD) in familial and sporadic cases. The frequency has only been defined in a small number of populations where the highest sporadic rate was identified in Finland (21.1%) and the lowest in mainland Italy (4.1%). We examined the C9ORF72 expansion in a series of 146 Greek ALS cases, 10.95% (n = 16) of cases carried the pathological expansion defined as greater than 30 repeats. In the 10 familial ALS probands, 50% (n = 5) of them carried a pathologically large expansion. In the remaining 136 sporadic ALS cases, 11 were carriers (8.2%). None of the 228 Greek controls carried an expanded repeat. The phenotype of our cases was spinal (13/16) or bulbar (3/16) ALS, the familial cases were all spinal ALS and none of our cases had behavioral frontotemporal dementia. Expansions in the C9ORF72 gene therefore represent a common cause of ALS in Greece and this test will be diagnostically very important to implement in the Greek population. The frequency is higher than other populations with the exception of Finland and this may be due to Greece being a relatively isolated population.
    Neurobiology of aging 03/2012; 33(8):1851.e1-5. · 5.94 Impact Factor
  • Brain 03/2012; 135(Pt 8):e217, 1-6; author reply e218, 1-2. · 9.92 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The hereditary sensory and autonomic neuropathies (HSAN, also known as the hereditary sensory neuropathies) are a clinically and genetically heterogeneous group of disorders, characterised by a progressive sensory neuropathy often complicated by ulcers and amputations, with variable motor and autonomic involvement. To date, mutations in twelve genes have been identified as causing HSAN. To study the frequency of mutations in these genes and the associated phenotypes, we screened 140 index patients in our inherited neuropathy cohort with a clinical diagnosis of HSAN for mutations in the coding regions of SPTLC1, RAB7, WNK1/HSN2, FAM134B, NTRK1 (TRKA) and NGFB. We identified 25 index patients with mutations in six genes associated with HSAN (SPTLC1, RAB7, WNK1/HSN2, FAM134B, NTRK1 and NGFB); 20 of which appear to be pathogenic giving an overall mutation frequency of 14.3%. Mutations in the known genes for HSAN are rare suggesting that further HSAN genes are yet to be identified. The p.Cys133Trp mutation in SPTLC1 is the most common cause of HSAN in the UK population and should be screened first in all patients with sporadic or autosomal dominant HSAN.
    Journal of Neurology 02/2012; 259(8):1673-85. · 3.58 Impact Factor