DATA RELEASE HIGHLIGHTS – JUNE 2018

Following today’s data release, the DMDD website now contains detailed phenotype data for nearly 700 embryos from 82 different knockout mouse lines. Highlights include the identification of limb defects and cysts in Col4a2 knockouts and replication of the major features of Meckel syndrome in B9d2 knockouts.

We have begun to add immunohistochemistry image data for the brain and spinal cord of some embryos at E18.5. These images give further information about lines in which the embryos appeared morphologically normal at E14.5, but were still not viable. We have also added viability data for every line at both E9.5 and E14.5.

Together with the placental phenotype data that we hold for more than 100 knockout lines, the DMDD website is a rich resource for those investigating the effect of gene mutations on embryo development, and may provide clues about the genetic basis of rare diseases.


LIMB DEFECTS SEEN IN Col4a2 KNOCKOUTS

In humans, COL4A2 mutations have been linked to porencephaly, a rare disorder with phenotypes that include the development of intracranial cysts. In the latest DMDD data, Col4a2 knockouts have a variety of nervous system disorders in line with porencephaly. However, all four embryos also show abnormal autopod morphology and cysts between the nasal septum and the oral cavity, as well as other morphological defects.

 

A Col4a2 knockout embryo has a cyst between the nasal septum and oral cavity (left) and abnormal autopod morphology (right). The individual fingers don’t diverge distally and can’t be discerned from an external view.

 


B9d2 KNOCKOUTS MODEL MECKEL SYNDROME

In humans, mutations of the gene B9D2 have been linked to Meckel syndrome, a severe disorder caused by dysfunction of the primary cilia during the early stages of embryogenesis. Meckel syndrome is characterised by multiple kidney cysts, occipital encephalocele (where a portion of the brain protrudes through an opening in the skull) and polydactyly, but it also commonly affects the brain and spinal cord, eyes, heart, lungs and bones.

B9d2 knockout mouse embryos included in our latest data release show the major features of Meckel syndrome, including polydactyly and defects in the brain, peripheral nervous system, heart and vascular system. They also display situs defects, where the left-right asymmetry of the body did not develop as expected. The image below shows a B9d2 knockout embryo with left pulmonary isomerism and symmetric branching of the principle bronchi from the trachea.

 

A B9d2 embryo showing situs defects (left). A magnified view (right) shows that both lungs have developed with a single-lobe structure. In mice the left lung usually has one lobe, while the right lung has four. In addition, the principle bronchi (red arrows) have branched symmetrically from the trachea. This branching would normally have a distinct asymmetry.

 


NEURAL IMAGE DATA NOW AVAILABLE

In around 20% of embryonic lethal lines, embryos appear morphologically normal at E14.5 but still go on to die before or shortly after birth. To understand more about why these embryos were not viable, DMDD colleagues Professor Corinne Houart and Dr Ihssane Bouybayoune at Kings College London analysed the lines at E18.5 – when embryo development is almost complete. They used immunohistochemistry to identify abnormalities in the brain and spinal cord that could not be picked up in our standard, whole-embryo morphological analyses. This data is now available for the line Trappc9, and additional lines will be added in future data releases.

 

Click to view larger image.
Immunohistochemistry analysis of the brains of two Trappc9 knockout mice. The calretinin (green) + neurofilament (red) combined stain highlights interneurons and axons, while Hoechst (blue) is a nuclear stain.

 

Neural images are available as 20-micron sections through the brain and spinal cord, and the images from different embryos can be compared side by side using the stack viewer. A separate Nissl stain was used to highlight neural death and these images can also be explored online.


 

A FULL LIST OF NEW DATA IN THE LATEST RELEASE

NEW EMBRYO PHENOTYPE DATA AVAILABLE

New image and phenotype data for embryos and placentas from embryonic lethal knockout mouse lines has been made available on the DMDD website today. The knockout data includes the ciliary gene Rpgrip1l as well as Atg16l1, a gene encoding a protein that forms part of a larger complex needed for autophagy. In total we have added HREM image data for 10 new lines, embryo phenotypes for 11 lines and placenta image and phenotype data for 6 lines.

The new data was released at the same time as enhancements to our website, which have been described in a separate blog post. Keep reading to see some highlights from the phenotype data.


DETAILED EMBRYO PHENOTYPES REVEALED

The comprehensive and detailed nature of DMDD embryo phenotyping means that we are able to identify a wide range of abnormalities. In the data released today, a total of 423 phenotypes were scored across 78 embryos. These included gross morphological defects such as exencephaly and edema, but also abormalities on a much smaller scale such as an unusually small dorsal root ganglion, absent hypoglossal nerve and narrowing of the semicircular ear canal.

In the image below, a Trim45 embryo at E14.5, was found to have abnormal optic cup morphology and aphakia (a missing lens).

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HREM imaging of a Trim45 knockout embryo reveals abnormal optic cup morphology and aphakia on the left side.

3D modelling of the exterior of an Rpgrip1l knockout embryo at E14.5 revealed a cleft upper lip, as well as polydactyly.

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A 3D HREM model of an Rpgrip1l embryo shows a cleft upper lip.

All phenotypes are searchable on the DMDD website, highlighted on relevant images, and the full-resolution image data is available to explore online.


SYSTEMATIC PLACENTAL ANALYSIS

DMDD also carries out systematic phenotyping of the placentas from knockout lines. The image below shows a Cfap53 knockout placenta at E14.5, which was found to have an aberrant fibrotic lesion. The density of fetal blood vessels was also considerably reduced, the overall effect being to reduce the nutrient flow from mother to embryo.

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Placental histology for the line Cfap53 shows a fibrotic lesion (large arrow) and several regions of reduced blood vessel density (small arrows).

 


GENE EXPRESSION PROFILES

Work is underway to measure the gene expression profiles for embryos from embryonic lethal knockout lines, a study that complements the morphological phenotype data we are gathering. One of our ultimate goals is to allow data users to explore correlations between gene, morphological phenotype and gene expression profile. The first part of this dataset was released recently – a temporal baseline gene expression profile for wild type embryos.

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Example expression profiles of Nacad and Pdzk1 with increasing somite number. The data shows that, at this depth of sequencing, Nacad is switched on during somitogenesis and Pdzk1 is switched off.

 

The expression data is now accessible via a dedicated wild type gene expression profiling page on the DMDD website, which also gives background information about the analysis. Mutant expression data will follow in the new year.


LINKS BETWEEN DMDD GENES AND HUMAN DISEASE

Many of the genes studied by the DMDD programme are known to have links to human disease, including several new lines that have been made available in this release.

Rpgripl1: in humans, mutations in RPGRIPL1 are known to cause Joubert Syndrome (type 7) and Meckel Syndrome (type 5), a rare disorder affecting the cerebellum.

Cfap53: the human ortholog of this gene is known to be associated with visceral heterotaxy-6, in which organs have an abnormal placement and/or orientation.

Arhgef7: in humans the ortholog is associated with Borjeson-Forssman-Lehmann Syndrome.

Arid1b: in humans, mutations in ARID1B are associated with Coffin-Siris Syndrome.

Embryonic lethal lines with no known links to human disease may also be novel candidate genes for undiagnosed genetic disorders. Visit the DMDD website to explore the phenotype data.


A FULL LIST OF NEW DATA

HREM embryo image data has been added for Actn4, Arid1b, Cfap53, Crim1, Cyp11a1, Dmxl2, Fut8, Gas2l2, Mfsd7c, Rala.

Embryo phenotype data has been added for Atg16l1, Capza2, Coro1c, Crim1, Cyfip2Gas2l2, Gm5544Rala, Rpgrip1l, Syt1, Trim45.

Placenta image and phenotype data has been added for Arhgef7, Arid1b, Fam21, Fut8, Med23, Timmdc1.

If you have questions about the DMDD programme or our data, please email contact@dmdd.org.uk.