Bernd Wollnik

University of Cologne, Köln, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany

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Publications (136)787.42 Total impact

  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Cranioectodermal dysplasia (CED), also known as Sensenbrenner syndrome, is an autosomal recessive ciliary chondrodysplasia characterized by a recognizable craniofacial gestalt, skeletal abnormalities, and ectodermal features. To date, four genes have been shown to underlie the syndrome, namely, IFT122 (WDR10), WDR35 (IFT121), IFT43 (C14orf179), and WDR19 (IFT144). Clinical characterization of a larger cohort of patients with CED has been undertaken previously. Nevertheless, there are too few molecularly confirmed patients reported in the literature to determine precise genotype–phenotype correlations. To date, biallelic IFT122 mutations have been described in only five families. We therefore studied three unrelated Argentinian patients with typical features of CED using a 4813 next-generation sequencing (NGS) gene panel, which we call the “Mendeliome.” The three patients had different, novel, compound heterozygous mutations in IFT122. Consequently, we compared these three patients to those previously described with IFT122 mutations. Thus, our report serves to add 6 novel mutations to the IFT122 mutation spectrum and to contribute to the IFT122-related clinical characterization.
    No preview · Article · Jan 2016 · American Journal of Medical Genetics Part A
  • Shahida Moosa · Bernd Wollnik
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    ABSTRACT: The fibroblast growth factor (FGF) signalling pathway has been the focus of intense genetic and functional research for several decades. The emerging data implicate FGF signalling in diverse regulatory processes, both in the developing embryo as well as in the adult organism. Alterations in this tightly regulated pathway can lead to a number of pathological conditions, ranging from well-recognized congenital disorders to cancer. In order to mediate their cellular processes, FGFs signal through a subfamily of tyrosine kinase receptors, called FGF receptors (FGFRs). In humans, four FGFRs are described, and, to date, mutations in FGFR1, FGFR2, and FGFR3 have been shown to underlie human developmental disorders. FGFs/FGFRs are known to be key players in both endochondral and intramembranous bone development. In this review, we focus on the major developmental craniofacial and skeletal disorders which result from altered FGF signalling.
    No preview · Article · Dec 2015 · Seminars in Cell and Developmental Biology
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    ABSTRACT: Using whole-exome sequencing, we identified a homozygous acceptor splice-site mutation in intron 6 of the KATNB1 gene in a patient from a consanguineous Turkish family who presented with congenital microcephaly, lissencephaly, short stature, polysyndactyly, and dental abnormalities. cDNA analysis revealed complete loss of the natural acceptor splice-site resulting either in the usage of an alternative, exonic acceptor splice-site inducing a frame-shift and premature protein truncation or, to a minor extent, in complete skipping of exon 7. Both effects most likely lead to complete loss of KATNB1 function. Homozygous and compound heterozygous mutations in KATNB1 have very recently been described as a cause of microcephaly with brain malformations and seizures. We extend the KATNB1 associated phenotype by describing a syndrome characterized by primordial dwarfism, lissencephaly, polysyndactyly, and dental anomalies, which is caused by a homozygous truncating KATNB1 mutation. © 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
    No preview · Article · Dec 2015 · American Journal of Medical Genetics Part A
  • Gökhan Yigit · Nadine Rosin · Bernd Wollnik
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    ABSTRACT: Autosomal recessive primary microcephaly (MCPH) is a genetically very heterogeneous disorder, mainly characterized by severe microcephaly at birth, mental retardation of variable extent in the absence of any additional significant neurological findings, malformations, or growth anomalies. So far, 14 different genes have been identified, which on a cellular level play an important role during cell division processes, regulation of the cell cycle, and in DNA damage responses. Furthermore, microcephaly may occur as part of a syndrome such as Seckel syndrome or microcephalic osteodysplastic primordial dwarfism type II (MOPD II).
    No preview · Article · Nov 2015 · Medizinische Genetik
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    ABSTRACT: DNA lesions encountered by replicative polymerases threaten genome stability and cell cycle progression. Here we report the identification of mutations in TRAIP, encoding an E3 RING ubiquitin ligase, in patients with microcephalic primordial dwarfism. We establish that TRAIP relocalizes to sites of DNA damage, where it is required for optimal phosphorylation of H2AX and RPA2 during S-phase in response to ultraviolet (UV) irradiation, as well as fork progression through UV-induced DNA lesions. TRAIP is necessary for efficient cell cycle progression and mutations in TRAIP therefore limit cellular proliferation, providing a potential mechanism for microcephaly and dwarfism phenotypes. Human genetics thus identifies TRAIP as a component of the DNA damage response to replication-blocking DNA lesions.
    Full-text · Article · Nov 2015 · Nature Genetics

  • No preview · Article · Oct 2015 · Clinical Genetics

  • No preview · Article · Oct 2015 · International Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery
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    ABSTRACT: The genetic disorder Kabuki syndrome (KS) is characterized by developmental delay and congenital anomalies. Dominant mutations in the chromatin regulators lysine (K)-specific methyltransferase 2D (KMT2D) (also known as MLL2) and lysine (K)-specific demethylase 6A (KDM6A) underlie the majority of cases. Although the functions of these chromatin-modifying proteins have been studied extensively, the physiological systems regulated by them are largely unknown. Using whole-exome sequencing, we identified a mutation in RAP1A that was converted to homozygosity as the result of uniparental isodisomy (UPD) in a patient with KS and a de novo, dominant mutation in RAP1B in a second individual with a KS-like phenotype. We elucidated a genetic and functional interaction between the respective KS-associated genes and their products in zebrafish models and patient cell lines. Specifically, we determined that dysfunction of known KS genes and the genes identified in this study results in aberrant MEK/ERK signaling as well as disruption of F-actin polymerization and cell intercalation. Moreover, these phenotypes could be rescued in zebrafish models by rebalancing MEK/ERK signaling via administration of small molecule inhibitors of MEK. Taken together, our studies suggest that the KS pathophysiology overlaps with the RASopathies and provide a potential direction for treatment design.
    No preview · Article · Aug 2015 · The Journal of clinical investigation
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    ABSTRACT: Seckel syndrome is a heterogeneous, autosomal recessive disorder marked by prenatal proportionate short stature, severe microcephaly, intellectual disability, and characteristic facial features. Here, we describe the novel homozygous splice-site mutations c.383+1G>C and c.4005-9A>G in CDK5RAP2 in two consanguineous families with Seckel syndrome. CDK5RAP2 (CEP215) encodes a centrosomal protein which is known to be essential for centrosomal cohesion and proper spindle formation and has been shown to be causally involved in autosomal recessive primary microcephaly. We establish CDK5RAP2 as a disease-causing gene for Seckel syndrome and show that loss of functional CDK5RAP2 leads to severe defects in mitosis and spindle organization, resulting in cells with abnormal nuclei and centrosomal pattern, which underlines the important role of centrosomal and mitotic proteins in the pathogenesis of the disease. Additionally, we present an intriguing case of possible digenic inheritance in Seckel syndrome: A severely affected child of nonconsanguineous German parents was found to carry heterozygous mutations in CDK5RAP2 and CEP152. This finding points toward a potential additive genetic effect of mutations in CDK5RAP2 and CEP152.
    Full-text · Article · May 2015
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    ABSTRACT: DNA double strand breaks (DSBs) are highly toxic lesions, which, if not properly repaired, can give rise to genomic instability. Non-homologous end-joining (NHEJ), a well-orchestrated, multistep process involving numerous proteins essential for cell viability, represents one major pathway to repair DSBs in mammalian cells, and mutations in different NHEJ components have been described in microcephalic syndromes associated, e.g., with short stature, facial dysmorphism, and immune dysfunction. By using whole-exome sequencing (WES) we now identified in three affected brothers of a consanguineous Turkish family a homozygous mutation, c.482G>A, in the XRCC4 gene encoding a crucial component of the NHEJ pathway. Moreover, we found one additional patient of Swiss origin carrying the compound heterozygous mutations c.25.delC (p.His9Thrfs*8) and c.823C>T (p.Arg275*) in XRCC4. The clinical phenotype presented in these patients was characterized by severe microcephaly, facial dysmorphism, and short stature, but they did not show a recognizable immunological phenotype. We showed that the XRCC4 c.482G>A mutation, which affects the last nucleotide of exon 4, induces defective splicing of XRCC4 mRNA mainly resulting in premature protein truncation and most likely loss of XRCC4 function. Moreover, we observed on cellular level that XRCC4 deficiency leads to hypersensitivity to DSB-inducing agents and defective DSB repair, which results in increased cell death after exposure to genotoxic agents. Taken together, our data provide evidence that autosomal recessive mutations in XRCC4 induce increased genomic instability and cause a NHEJ-related syndrome defined by facial dysmorphism, primary microcephaly, and short stature. © The Author 2015. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please email:
    No preview · Article · Apr 2015 · Human Molecular Genetics

  • No preview · Article · Mar 2015 · American Journal of Medical Genetics Part A
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    ABSTRACT: Coffin-Siris syndrome (CSS) and Nicolaides-Baraitser syndrome (NCBRS) are rare intellectual disability/congenital malformation syndromes that represent distinct entities but show considerable clinical overlap. They are caused by mutations in genes encoding members of the BRG1- and BRM-associated factor (BAF) complex. However, there are a number of patients with the clinical diagnosis of CSS or NCBRS in whom the causative mutation has not been identified. In this study, we performed trio-based whole-exome sequencing (WES) in ten previously described but unsolved individuals with the tentative diagnosis of CSS or NCBRS and found causative mutations in nine out of ten individuals. Interestingly, our WES analysis disclosed overlapping differential diagnoses including Wiedemann-Steiner, Kabuki, and Adams-Oliver syndromes. In addition, most likely causative de novo mutations were identified in GRIN2A and SHANK3. Moreover, trio-based WES detected SMARCA2 and SMARCA4 deletions, which had not been annotated in a previous Haloplex target enrichment and next-generation sequencing of known CSS/NCBRS genes emphasizing the advantages of WES as a diagnostic tool. In summary, we discuss the phenotypic and diagnostic challenges in clinical genetics, establish important differential diagnoses, and emphasize the cardinal features and the broad clinical spectrum of BAF complex disorders and other disorders caused by mutations in epigenetic landscapers.
    No preview · Article · Feb 2015 · Human Genetics
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    ABSTRACT: As a result of a whole-exome sequencing study, we report three mutant alleles in SEC24D, a gene encoding a component of the COPII complex involved in protein export from the ER: the truncating mutation c.613C>T (p.Gln205(∗)) and the missense mutations c.3044C>T (p.Ser1015Phe, located in a cargo-binding pocket) and c.2933A>C (p.Gln978Pro, located in the gelsolin-like domain). Three individuals from two families affected by a similar skeletal phenotype were each compound heterozygous for two of these mutant alleles, with c.3044C>T being embedded in a 14 Mb founder haplotype shared by all three. The affected individuals were a 7-year-old boy with a phenotype most closely resembling Cole-Carpenter syndrome and two fetuses initially suspected to have a severe type of osteogenesis imperfecta. All three displayed a severely disturbed ossification of the skull and multiple fractures with prenatal onset. The 7-year-old boy had short stature and craniofacial malformations including macrocephaly, midface hypoplasia, micrognathia, frontal bossing, and down-slanting palpebral fissures. Electron and immunofluorescence microscopy of skin fibroblasts of this individual revealed that ER export of procollagen was inefficient and that ER tubules were dilated, faithfully reproducing the cellular phenotype of individuals with cranio-lentico-sutural dysplasia (CLSD). CLSD is caused by SEC23A mutations and displays a largely overlapping craniofacial phenotype, but it is not characterized by generalized bone fragility and presented with cataracts in the original family described. The cellular and morphological phenotypes we report are in concordance with the phenotypes described for the Sec24d-deficient fish mutants vbi (medaka) and bulldog (zebrafish). Copyright © 2015 The American Society of Human Genetics. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
    Full-text · Article · Feb 2015 · The American Journal of Human Genetics
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    ABSTRACT: Colobomatous macrophthalmia with microcornea syndrome (MACOM, OMIM 602499) is an autosomal dominantly inherited malformation of the eye which is characterized by microcornea with increased axial length, coloboma of the iris and of the optic disc, and severe myopia. We performed whole-exome sequencing (WES) in two affected individuals from the 2p23-p16-linked MACOM family, which includes 13 affected individuals in three generations. Since no shared novel variation was found on the linked haplotype, we performed CNV analysis by comparing the coverage of all exons in the WES data sets of the two patients with the coverage of 26 control exomes. We identified a heterozygous deletion predicted to span 22 kb including exons 14 to 17 of CRIM1 (cysteine rich transmembrane BMP regulator 1). qPCR analysis confirmed the deletion, which was present in 11 affected individuals. Split-read analysis of WES data followed by breakpoint-PCR and Sanger sequencing determined both breakpoints flanked by a 4-bp microhomology (CTTG). In the mouse, Crim1 is a growth-factor-binding protein with pleiotropic roles in the development of multiple organs, including the eye. To investigate the role of Crim1 during eye development in mice, we crossed a Crim1(flox) mouse line with the Ap2α-cre mouse line, which expresses Cre in the head surface ectoderm. Strikingly, we observed alterations of eye development in homozygous mice leading to severe anatomical and morphological changes overlapping with the anomalies observed in MACOM patients. Taken together, these findings identify CRIM1 as the causative gene for MACOM syndrome and emphasize the importance of CRIM1 in eye development. © The Author 2015. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please email:
    No preview · Article · Jan 2015 · Human Molecular Genetics
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    ABSTRACT: Filippi syndrome is a rare, presumably autosomal-recessive disorder characterized by microcephaly, pre- and postnatal growth failure, syndactyly, and distinctive facial features, including a broad nasal bridge and underdeveloped alae nasi. Some affected individuals have intellectual disability, seizures, undescended testicles in males, and teeth and hair abnormalities. We performed homozygosity mapping and whole-exome sequencing in a Sardinian family with two affected children and identified a homozygous frameshift mutation, c.571dupA (p.Ile191Asnfs*6), in CKAP2L , encoding the protein cytoskeleton-associated protein 2-like (CKAP2L). The func- tion of this protein was unknown until it was rediscovered in mice as Radmis (radial fiber and mitotic spindle) and shown to play a pivotal role in cell division of neural progenitors. Sanger sequencing of CKAP2L in a further eight unrelated individuals with clinical features consistent with Filippi syndrome revealed biallelic mutations in four subjects. In contrast to wild-type lymphoblastoid cell lines (LCLs), dividing LCLs established from the individuals homozygous for the c.571dupA mutation did not show CKAP2L at the spindle poles. Furthermore, in cells from the affected individuals, we observed an increase in the number of disorganized spindle microtubules owing to multipolar configurations and defects in chromosome segregation. The observed cellular phenotypes are in keeping with data from in vitro and in vivo knockdown studies performed in human cells and mice, respectively. Our findings show that loss-of-function mutations in CKAP2L are a major cause of Filippi syndrome
    Full-text · Article · Nov 2014 · The American Journal of Human Genetics
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    ABSTRACT: Osteogenesis imperfecta (OI) is a hereditary connective tissue disorder characterized by a wide range of skeletal symptoms. Most patients have dominantly inherited or de novo mutations in COL1A1 or COL1A2. Up to 5% of patients have OI type V, characterized by hyperplastic callus formation after fractures, calcification of the membrane interossea of the forearm, and a mesh-like lamellation pattern observed in bone histology. Recently, a heterozygous mutation in the 5'-untranslated region of IFITM5 (c.-14C > T) was identified as the underlying cause of OI type V, and only this specific mutation was subsequently identified in all patient cohorts with this OI subtype. We now present a case of a heterozygous mutation within the coding region of IFITM5 (c.119C > T; p.S40L). The mutation occurred de novo in the patient and resulted in severe OI with prenatal onset and extreme short stature. At the age of 19 months, the typical clinical hallmarks of OI type V were not present. Our finding has important consequences for the genetic "work-up" of patients suspected to have OI, both in pre- and in postnatal settings: The entire gene - and not only the 5'-UTR harbouring the "classical" OI type V mutation - has to be analyzed to exclude a causal role of IFITM5. We propose that this should be part of the initial diagnostic steps for genetic laboratories performing SANGER sequencing in OI patients. © 2013 American Society for Bone and Mineral Research.
    No preview · Article · Jun 2014 · Journal of bone and mineral research: the official journal of the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research
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    ABSTRACT: CHARGE syndrome is a complex developmental disorder caused by mutations in the chromodomain helicase DNA-binding gene CHD7. Kabuki syndrome, another developmental disorder, is characterized by typical facial features in combination with developmental delay, short stature, prominent digit pads and visceral abnormalities. Mutations in the KMT2D gene, which encodes a H3K4 histone methyltransferase, are the major cause of Kabuki syndrome. Here, we report a patient, who was initially diagnosed with CHARGE syndrome based on the spectrum of inner organ malformations like choanal hypoplasia, heart defect, anal atresia, vision problems and conductive hearing impairment. While sequencing and MLPA analysis of all coding exons of CHD7 revealed no pathogenic mutation, sequence analysis of the KMT2D gene identified the heterozygous de novo nonsense mutation c.5263C > T (p.Gln1755*). Thus, our patient was diagnosed with Kabuki syndrome. By using co-immunoprecipitation, immunohistochemistry and direct yeast two hybrid assays, we could show that, like KMT2D, CHD7 interacts with members of the WAR complex, namely WDR5, ASH2L and RbBP5. We therefore propose that CHD7 and KMT2D function in the same chromatin modification machinery, thus pointing out a mechanistic connection, and presenting a probable explanation for the phenotypic overlap between Kabuki and CHARGE syndromes.
    Preview · Article · Apr 2014 · Human Molecular Genetics
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    ABSTRACT: Ligase IV syndrome is a rare differential diagnosis for Nijmegen Breakage syndrome owing to a shared predisposition to lympho-reticular malignancies, significant microcephaly and radiation hypersensitivity. Only 16 cases with mutations in LIG4 have been described to date with phenotypes varying from malignancy in developmentally normal individuals, to severe combined immunodeficiency and early mortality. Here we report the identification of biallelic truncating LIG4 mutations in 11 patients with microcephalic primordial dwarfism presenting with restricted prenatal growth and extreme postnatal global growth failure (average OFC -10.1 s.d., height -5.1 s.d.). Subsequently most patients developed thrombocytopenia and leucopenia later in childhood and many were found to have previously unrecognised immunodeficiency following molecular diagnosis. None have yet developed malignancy, though all patients tested had cellular radiosensitivity. A genotype:phenotype correlation was also noted with position of truncating mutations corresponding to disease severity. This work extends the phenotypic spectrum associated with LIG4 mutations, establishing that extreme growth retardation with microcephaly is a common presentation of bilallelic truncating mutations. Such growth failure is therefore sufficient to consider a diagnosis of LIG4 deficiency and early recognition of such cases is important as bone marrow failure, immunodeficiency and sometimes malignancy are long term sequelae of this disorder. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
    Full-text · Article · Jan 2014 · Human Mutation
  • B.B. Beck · B. Wollnik · M. Kömhoff
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    ABSTRACT: Genetic kidney diseases represent a significant proportion of kidney diseases manifesting in childhood and adolescence, but are also gaining importance in slowly progressive or late-onset adult diseases. A significant portion of kidney diseases particularly in childhood are associated with end stage renal disease and/or other relevant morbidity. An early (molecular) diagnosis can be a prerequisite for a better prognostic assessment and provides opportunities in terms of optimized symptomatic therapy. Mechanistically speaking, mutations in ion channel-associated nephropathy represent—in addition to structural defects of the glomerular filter (e.g., COL4A3, LAMB2, nephrin) and disorders of signaling pathways that are relevant for the development of the urogenital tract (e.g., HNF1B, WT1)—a significant proportion of the group with respect to number and prototypes. Determination of the molecular genetics of (hypokalemic) salt-losing tubulopathies has contributed significantly to our understanding of the central role of the kidney in salt balance. The spectrum of renal ion channelopathies is shown using the example of classical salt-losing tubulopathies (Bartter syndrome and Gitelman syndrome), the transient receptor potential (TRP) channel group and the role of channel changes in aldosteronism and congenital hypertension.
    No preview · Article · Dec 2013 · Medizinische Genetik
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    ABSTRACT: Retinitis pigmentosa (RP) and Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA) are major causes of blindness. They result from mutations in many genes which has long hampered comprehensive genetic analysis. Recently, targeted next-generation sequencing (NGS) has proven useful to overcome this limitation. To uncover "hidden mutations" such as copy number variations (CNVs) and mutations in non-coding regions, we extended the use of NGS data by quantitative readout for the exons of 55 RP and LCA genes in 126 patients, and by including non-coding 5' exons. We detected several causative CNVs which were key to the diagnosis in hitherto unsolved constellations, e.g. hemizygous point mutations in consanguineous families, and CNVs complemented apparently monoallelic recessive alleles. Mutations of non-coding exon 1 of EYS revealed its contribution to disease. In view of the high carrier frequency for retinal disease gene mutations in the general population, we considered the overall variant load in each patient to assess if a mutation was causative or reflected accidental carriership in patients with mutations in several genes or with single recessive alleles. For example, truncating mutations in RP1, a gene implicated in both recessive and dominant RP, were causative in biallelic constellations, unrelated to disease when heterozygous on a biallelic mutation background of another gene, or even non-pathogenic if close to the C-terminus. Patients with mutations in several loci were common, but without evidence for di- or oligogenic inheritance. Although the number of targeted genes was low compared to previous studies, the mutation detection rate was highest (70%) which likely results from completeness and depth of coverage, and quantitative data analysis. CNV analysis should routinely be applied in targeted NGS, and mutations in non-coding exons give reason to systematically include 5'-UTRs in disease gene or exome panels. Consideration of all variants is indispensable because even truncating mutations may be misleading.
    Full-text · Article · Nov 2013 · PLoS ONE

Publication Stats

4k Citations
787.42 Total Impact Points


  • 2005-2016
    • University of Cologne
      • • Center for Molecular Medicine (CMMC)
      • • Institute of Human Genetics
      • • CECAD - Cluster of Excellence: Cellular Stress Responses in Aging-Associated Diseases
      Köln, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany
  • 2013
    • Institute of Human Genetics
      Amadavad, Gujarāt, India
  • 2012
    • Charité Universitätsmedizin Berlin
      • Institute of Medical Genetics and Human Genetics
      Berlín, Berlin, Germany
  • 1998-2007
    • Istanbul University
      • • Department of Family Medicine (Istanbul Medical Faculty)
      • • Department of Child Health (Institute of Health Sciences)
      İstanbul, Istanbul, Turkey
  • 2003
    • Pamukkale University
      • Department of Medical Biology
      Denisli, Denizli, Turkey
  • 1997
    • Universität Hamburg
      • Center for Molecular Neurobiology (ZMNH)
      Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany
  • 1993
    • University of Bonn
      Bonn, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany