Mecp2e1 Gene

  • Published: Mar 28, 2017
  • Earliest Priority: Feb 17 2004
  • Family: 7
  • Cited Works: 92
  • Cited by: 0
  • Cites: 10
  • Sequences: 55
  • Additional Info: Cited Works Full text
  *US09605314B2*
  US009605314B2                                 
(12)United States Patent(10)Patent No.: US 9,605,314 B2
  et al. (45) Date of Patent:*Mar.  28, 2017

(54)MECP2E1 gene 
    
(75)Inventors: The Hospital For Sick Children,  Toronto (CA); 
  Centre for Addiction and Mental Health,  Toronto (CA) 
(73)Assignees:The Hospital for Sick Children,  Toronto, Ontario (CA), Type: Foreign Company;
Centre for Addiction and Mental Health,  Toronto, Ontario (CA), Type: Foreign Company
 
(*)Notice: Subject to any disclaimer, the term of this patent is extended or adjusted under 35 U.S.C. 154(b) by 309 days. 
  This patent is subject to a terminal disclaimer. 
(21)Appl. No.: 14/100,889 
(22)Filed: Dec.  9, 2013 
(65)Prior Publication Data 
 US 2014/0186834 A1 Jul.  3, 2014 
 Related U.S. Patent Documents 
(63) .
Continuation of application No. 12/657,559, filed on Jan.  21, 2010, now Pat. No. 8,637,236 , which is a continuation-in-part of application No. 11/352,153, filed on Feb.  9, 2006, now Pat. No. 7,670,773 , which is a continuation of application No. PCT/CA2005/000198, filed on Feb.  17, 2005 .
 
(60)Provisional application No. 60/544,311, filed on Feb.  17, 2004.
 
Jan.  1, 2013 C 12 Q 1 6883 F I Mar.  28, 2017 US B H C Jan.  1, 2013 C 07 K 14 47 L I Mar.  28, 2017 US B H C Jan.  1, 2013 G 01 N 33 6896 L I Mar.  28, 2017 US B H C Jan.  1, 2013 A 61 K 38 00 L A Mar.  28, 2017 US B H C Jan.  1, 2013 A 61 K 48 00 L A Mar.  28, 2017 US B H C Jan.  1, 2013 C 12 Q 2600 156 L A Mar.  28, 2017 US B H C Jan.  1, 2013 G 01 N 2500 00 L A Mar.  28, 2017 US B H C Jan.  1, 2013 G 01 N 2800 28 L A Mar.  28, 2017 US B H C
(51)Int. Cl. C12Q 001/68 (20060101); C07K 014/47 (20060101); G01N 033/68 (20060101); A61K 038/00 (20060101); A61K 048/00 (20060101)
(58)Field of Search  None

 
(56)References Cited
 
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 6,709,817  B1  3/2004    Zoghbi et al.     
 7,670,773  B2  3/2010    Minassian et al.     
 2002//0137067  A1  9/2002    Beaudet et al.     
 2003//0082606  A1  5/2003    Lebo et al.     
 2005//0227229  A1  10/2005    Lebo et al.     
 2006//0194257  A1  8/2006    Minassian et al.     
 2009//0098565  A1  4/2009    Minassian et al.     

 
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       WO       WO 02/068579       A2                9/2002      
       WO       WO 20/05/078099       A1                8/2005      

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     Primary Examiner —Ileana Popa
     Art Unit — 1633
     Exemplary claim number — 1
 
(74)Attorney, Agent, or Firm — Foley & Lardner LLP

(57)

Abstract

The invention is a novel MECP2E1 splice variant and its corresponding polypeptide. The invention also includes methods of using these nucleic acid sequences and proteins in medical diagnosis and treatment of neuropsychiatric disorders or development disorders.
7 Claims, 6 Drawing Sheets, and 6 Figures


RELATED APPLICATIONS

[0001] This application is a continuation of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 12/657,559, filed Jan. 21, 2010, which is a continuation-in-part of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/352,153, filed Feb. 9, 2006, now U.S. Pat. No. 7,670,773, which is a continuation of International Patent Application No. PCT/CA2005/000198 which designated the United States and was filed on Feb. 17, 2005, which claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 60/544,311, filed on Feb. 17, 2004. The contents of the above applications are incorporated herein by reference in their entirety.

SEQUENCE LISTING

[0002] The instant application contains a Sequence Listing which has been submitted in ASCII format via EFS-Web and is hereby incorporated by reference in its entirety. Said ASCII copy, created on Feb. 28, 2014, is named 103779-0609 SL.txt and is 154,492 bytes in size.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0003] Neuropsychiatric disorders account for six of the ten highest impact diseases worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. Cost to the US economy is $100 billion—one of every four persons entering physician offices has a diagnosable mental disorder.
[0004] Rett syndrome (RTT) (OMIM #312750) is characterized by onset, in girls, of a gradual slowing of neurodevelopment in the second half of the first year of life towards stagnation by age four, followed by regression and loss of acquired fine motor and communication skills. A pseudostationary period follows during which a picture of preserved ambulation, aberrant communication and stereotypic hand wringing approximates early autism. Regression, however, remains insidiously ongoing and ultimately results in profound mental retardation.
[0005] Up to 80% of patients with RTT have mutations in exons 3 and 4 of the 4-exon MECP2 gene (FIG. 1a) encoding the MeCP2 transcriptional repressor. Mutations in the remaining 20% of patients has remained elusive. In the known transcript of the gene all four exons are utilized, the translation start site is in exon 2, and exon 1 and most of exon 2 form the 5′ untranslated region (UTR). For clarity, this transcript is named MECP2E2 (previously MECP2A), and its encoded protein MeCP2E2 (previously MeCP2A).
[0006] No mutation specific to the MeCP2E2-defining exon 2 has been found to date despite several hundred patients analyzed for mutations in this exon. These studies did not include exon 1 as it was considered non-coding.
[0007] Non-inactivating MECP2 mutations have also been associated with phenotypes that overlap RTT such as mental retardation and autism. There is a need for the identification of further mutations to account for the remaining 20% of RTT patients so that methods of diagnosing and treating RTT can be identified.
[0008] Mutations in the Rett syndrome gene, MECP2, have also been found among autism patients as well as in patients with childhood onset psychosis, Angelman syndrome, non-syndromic mental retardation and neo-natal encepalopathy, demonstrating that there may be diverse phenotypic consequences of mutations in MECP2.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0009] The present inventors have identified a novel open reading frame of the MECP2 gene, that is called MECP2E1. Inspection of the 5′UTR revealed that, whereas exon 2 has a number of in-frame stops upstream of the ATG, exon 1 contains an open reading frame across its entire length including an ATG. This open reading frame encodes a transcript composed of exons 1, 3 and 4 of the MECP2 gene. MECP2E1 is similar to MECP2E2 (GenBank accession # NM_004992, SEQ ID NO. 1, except with nucleotides 71-193 absent, corresponding to the splicing out of exon 2.
[0010] Accordingly, the present invention provides an isolated nucleic acid molecule comprising a sequence encoding the MeCP2E1 protein. The invention also includes the corresponding polypeptide, MeCP2E1.
[0011] In one embodiment, the purified and isolated nucleic acid molecule comprises
[0012] (a) a nucleic acid sequence encoding a protein as shown in SEQ ID No. 4;
[0013] (b) a nucleic acid sequence complementary to (a);
[0014] (c) a nucleic acid sequence that has substantial homology to (a) or (b);
[0015] (d) a nucleic acid sequence that is an analog to a nucleic acid sequence of (a), (b), or (c);
[0016] (e) a fragment of (a) to (d) that is at least 15 bases, preferably 20 to 30 bases, and which will hybridize to a nucleic acid sequence of (a), (b), (c) or (d) under stringent hybridization conditions; or
[0017] (f) a nucleic acid molecule differing from any of the nucleic acids of (a) to (c) in codon sequences due to the degeneracy of the genetic code.
[0018] In a specific embodiment of the invention, an isolated nucleic acid molecule is provided having a sequence as shown in SEQ ID No. 3 or a fragment or variant thereof.
[0019] The inventors have found that patients with a neuropsychiatric disorder or developmental disorder such as Rett's syndrome and mental retardation, had mutations in exon 1 of the MECP2E1 gene. Accordingly, the present invention provides a method of detecting a neuropsychiatric disorder or developmental disorder comprising detecting a mutation or deletion in exon 1 of the MECP2E1 sequence (SEQ ID No. 3). A mutation can be detected by sequencing PCR products from genomic DNA using primers X1F/X1R: mutation screening primers (FIG. 1). Detection of insertion or deletion mutations may require the cloning of the PCR product into a suitable plasmid vector, followed by transfection into E. Coli, and sequencing of clones from isolated colonies. Alternatively, a mutation can be detected by multiple ligation-dependent probe amplification (MLPA) using 20 probe pairs that target the four MECP2 exons, six X-linked control regions and ten autosomal control regions. A mutation or deletion can also be detected by assaying for the protein product encoded by MECP2E1.
[0020] Other features and advantages of the present invention will become apparent from the following detailed description. It should be understood, however, that the detailed description and the specific examples while indicating preferred embodiments of the invention are given by way of illustration only, since various changes and modifications within the spirit and scope of the invention will become apparent to those skilled in the art from this detailed description.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0021] The patent or application file contains at least one drawing executed in color. Copies of this patent or patent application publication with color drawings will be provided by the Office upon request and payment of the necessary fee.
[0022] The invention will now be described in relation to the drawings in which:
[0023] FIG. 1 shows MECP2 5′ splice variants. a) Structure of the MECP2 gene. Numbered boxes indicate exons; asterisks indicate in-frame stop codons. In the traditional MECP2E2 splice variant, the start codon is in exon 2. In MECP2E1, exon 2 is not present and the start codon is in exon 1. HF/HR1 and MF/MR: human and mouse primer pairs used in the rtPCR experiments shown in panel c. HR2: a second human reverse primer, which confirms the results obtained with HR1(data not shown). X1F/X1R: mutation screening primers (see FIG. 2). Primer sequences (5′-3′): HF-ctcggagagagggctgtg (SEQ ID No. 5), HR1-cttgaggggtttgtccttga (SEQ ID No. 6), HR2-cgtttgatcaccatgacctg (SEQ ID No. 7), MF-aggaggcgaggaggagagac (SEQ ID No. 8), MR-ctggctctgcagaatggtg (SEQ ID No. 9), X1F-ccatcacagccaatgacg (SEQ ID No. 19), X1R-agggggagggtagagaggag (SEQ ID No. 20). b) Examples of MECP2 ESTs. c) PCR results using primers in (a) (HF/HR1 and MF/MR) on cDNA from indicated adult tissues (except where indicated otherwise) and cell cultures; d.p.c.: days postcoitum. d) Transcript-specific real-time quantitative PCR (SYBR Green detection method) on cDNA from indicated tissues or cell cultures. e) 3′myc-tagged MeCP2E1 (and MeCP2E2) localize principally in the nucleus, and in indeterminate puncti in the cytoplasm. f) N-termini of indicated proteins (SEQ ID NOS 30-42, respectively, in order of appearance); dashes represent no amino acids.
[0024] FIG. 2 shows a deletion mutation in patient V1. a1) Sequence of PCR product from genomic DNA using primers X1F/X1R (FIG. 1a). Note mixed sequence. a2) and a3) Sequences of clones of the patient's wild-type and mutant alleles respectively; red box indicating the 11 nucleotides deleted in the mutated allele. b) Electropherograms of the same cloned wild-type and deleted alleles (SEQ ID NOS 43-46, respectively, in order of appearance). c) PCR on indicated cDNAs using primers HF/HR1 (FIG. 1a,c). Lanes 1 and 2 (on 2.5% high resolution agarose) are from control and patient whole blood respectively. Lanes 3 to 8 (on 6% denaturing polyacrylamide) are from control blood (3), patient blood (4), control fetal brain (5), control adult brain (6), control testis (7) and control genomic DNA (8). Note that expression of the patient's MECP2E2 transcript with the 11bp exon 1 deletion (band at 266bp) is not diminished compared to the non-deleted allele (277bp). The 141 and 152bp bands are the deleted and non-deleted MECP2E1 transcripts respectively.
[0025] FIG. 3 shows a deletion mutation in patient V2. MECP2 Multiplex ligation-dependent probe amplification (MLPA) peak profiles are shown. Control loci are listed along the top. Boxed regions (E1-E4) indicate MECP2 exons 1-4. a) MLPA profile of normal control. b) MLPA profile of patient V2 shows a hemizygous exon 1 deletion (asterisk). The result was consistently reproducible and sequencing ruled out the possibility of a SNP interfering with the ligation efficiency of the MLPA reaction.
[0026] FIG. 4 shows the characterization of the primary brain cell cultures by rtPCRR (A) and IF (B). (A) Map2, Gfap and Nestin expressions indicate that the cultures in B-27 medium were composed primarily of neurons and those in G-5 medium were glial cells. Fibroblasts from the same embryos were also cultured and used as negative controls. Whole brain tissue (15.5 dpc) was used as a positive control for Map2 and Nestin. (B) Double staining for neurons was performed with mouse anti-MAP2 and rabbit anti-GFAP antibodies. They were also counterstained with DAPI (blue). Most of the cells are neurons, which stained positively for MAP2 (green), and an insignificant percentage of contamination with glial cells stained positively for GFAP (red) was detected.
[0027] FIG. 5 shows the nucleotide sequence of the five MECP2 exon 1 variants identified in female MR patients. All sequences were obtained from single colonies, after cloning the heterozygous PCR product into the pDRIVE vector (Qiagen). The ATG start codon is indicated by a red box, where possible. The resulting amino acid sequence is also indicated, with wild type sequence shown in red, and changes indicated in green type. FIG. 5 discloses SEQ ID NOS 18 and 47-55, respectively, in order of appearance.
[0028] FIG. 6 shows a high resolution agarose gel (2.2%) of PCR product for MECP2 exon 1 for negative controls (Lanes 1 and 2), 3 bp insertion (Lanes 3 and 4), 9 bp insertion (Lane 5) and 2 bp deletion (Lane 6). Size ladder (M) 100 bp ladder (MBI Fermentas), flanks the PCR lanes.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

[0029] The present inventors have identified a MECP2 splice variant that contributes to new coding sequence that may contain mutations in patients with neuropsychiatric disorders such as Rett's syndrome and mental retardation.

I. Nucleic Acid Molecules of the Invention

[0030] As hereinbefore mentioned, the present invention relates to isolated MECP2E1 nucleic acid molecules. The term “isolated” refers to a nucleic acid substantially free of cellular material or culture medium when produced by recombinant DNA techniques, or chemical precursors, or other chemicals when chemically synthesized.
[0031] The term “nucleic acid” is intended to include DNA and RNA and can be either double stranded or single stranded. The term is also intended to include a strand that is a mixture of nucleic acid molecules and nucleic acid analogs and/or nucleotide analogs, or that is made entirely of nucleic acid analogs and/or nucleotide analogs.
[0032] Broadly stated, the present invention provides an isolated nucleic acid molecule containing a sequence encoding the MECP2E1 transcript of the MECP2 gene. Accordingly, the present invention provides an isolated nucleic acid molecule containing a sequence encoding MECP2E1 shown in SEQ ID No. 4 or a fragment, variant, or analog thereof.
[0033] In one embodiment, the purified and isolated nucleic acid molecule comprises
[0034] (a) a nucleic acid sequence encoding a MECP2E1 protein as shown in SEQ ID No. 4;
[0035] (b) a nucleic acid sequence complementary to (a);
[0036] (c) a nucleic acid sequence that has substantial homology to (a) or (b);
[0037] (d) a nucleic acid sequence that is an analog to a nucleic acid sequence of (a), (b), or (c);
[0038] (e) a fragment of (a) to (d) that is at least 15 bases, preferably 20 to 30 bases, and which will hybridize to a nucleic acid sequence of (a), (b), (c) or (d) under stringent hybridization conditions; or
[0039] (f) a nucleic acid molecule differing from any of the nucleic acids of (a) to (c) in codon sequences due to the degeneracy of the genetic code.
[0040] In a specific embodiment of the invention, the isolated nucleic acid molecule has a sequence as shown in SEQ ID No. 3 or a fragment or variant thereof.
[0041] The term “MECP2E1” means an isoform of the MECP2 gene that contains exons 1, 3 and 4 but lacks exon 2. This gene was previously referred to as MECP2B but is now called MECP2E1 indicating the translation start site in exon one. The term “MECP2E1” includes the nucleic acid sequence as shown in SEQ ID No. 3 as well as mutations, variants and fragments thereof that are associated with neuropsychiatric disorders and developmental disorders. “MECP2E1” can also be referred to as “MECP2_e1.” The “MeCP2E1” protein can also be referred to as “MeCP2_e1.” MECP2E2 is the transcript of the gene that contains exons 1, 2, 3 and 4. “MECP2E2” can also be referred to as “MECP2_e2.” The “MeCP2E2” protein can also be referred to as “MeCP2_e2.”
[0042] It will be appreciated that the invention includes nucleic acid molecules encoding truncations of the MeCP2E1 proteins of the invention, and analogs and homologs of the MeCP2E1 proteins of the invention and truncations thereof, as described below.
[0043] Further, it will be appreciated that the invention includes nucleic acid molecules comprising nucleic acid sequences having substantial sequence homology with the nucleic acid sequences of the invention and fragments thereof. The term “sequences having substantial sequence homology” means those nucleic acid sequences which have slight or inconsequential sequence variations from these sequences, i.e. the sequences function in substantially the same manner to produce functionally equivalent proteins. The variations may be attributable to local mutations or structural modifications.
[0044] Generally, nucleic acid sequences having substantial homology include nucleic acid sequences having at least 70%, preferably 80-90% identity with the nucleic acid sequences of the invention.
[0045] Sequence identity is most preferably assessed by the algorithm of the BLAST version 2.1 program advanced search (BLAST is a series of programs that are available online at www.ncbi.nlm.nih gov/BLAST. The advanced blast search (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/blast/blast.cgi?Jform=1) is set to default parameters. (i.e. Matrix BLOSUM62; Gap existence cost 11; Per residue gap cost 1; Lambda ratio 0.85 default).). For example, if a nucleotide sequence (called “Sequence A”) has 90% identity to a portion of the nucleotide sequence in SEQ ID No. 3, then Sequence A will be identical to the referenced portion of the nucleotide sequence in SEQ ID No. 3, except that Sequence A may include up to 10 point mutations, such as substitutions with other nucleotides, per each 100 nucleotides of the referenced portion of the nucleotide sequence in SEQ ID No. 3. Nucleotide sequences functionally equivalent to the MECP2E1 transcript can occur in a variety of forms as described below.
[0046] The term “a nucleic acid sequence which is an analog” means a nucleic acid sequence which has been modified as compared to the sequence of (a), (b) or (c) wherein the modification does not alter the utility of the sequence as described herein. The modified sequence or analog may have improved properties over the sequence shown in (a), (b) or (c). One example of a modification to prepare an analog is to replace one of the naturally occurring bases (i.e. adenine, guanine, cytosine or thymine) of the sequence shown in SEQ ID No. 3, with a modified base such as such as xanthine, hypoxanthine, 2-aminoadenine, 6-methyl, 2-propyl and other alkyl adenines, 5-halo uracil, 5-halo cytosine, 6-aza uracil, 6-aza cytosine and 6-aza thymine, pseudo uracil, 4-thiouracil, 8-halo adenine, 8-aminoadenine, 8-thiol adenine, 8-thiolalkyl adenines, 8-hydroxyl adenine and other 8-substituted adenines, 8-halo guanines, 8 amino guanine, 8-thiol guanine, 8-thiolalkyl guanines, 8-hydroxyl guanine and other 8-substituted guanines, other aza and deaza uracils, thymidines, cytosines, adenines, or guanines, 5-trifluoromethyl uracil and 5-trifluoro cytosine.
[0047] Another example of a modification is to include modified phosphorous or oxygen heteroatoms in the phosphate backbone, short chain alkyl or cycloalkyl intersugar linkages or short chain heteroatomic or heterocyclic intersugar linkages in the nucleic acid molecule shown in SEQ ID No. 3. For example, the nucleic acid sequences may contain phosphorothioates, phosphotriesters, methyl phosphonates, and phosphorodithioates.
[0048] A further example of an analog of a nucleic acid molecule of the invention is a peptide nucleic acid (PNA) wherein the deoxyribose (or ribose) phosphate backbone in the DNA (or RNA), is replaced with a polyamide backbone which is similar to that found in peptides (P. E. Nielsen, et al Science 1991, 254, 1497). PNA analogs have been shown to be resistant to degradation by enzymes and to have extended lives in vivo and in vitro. PNAs also bind stronger to a complimentary DNA sequence due to the lack of charge repulsion between the PNA strand and the DNA strand. Other nucleic acid analogs may contain nucleotides containing polymer backbones, cyclic backbones, or acyclic backbones. For example, the nucleotides may have morpholino backbone structures (U.S. Pat. No. 5,034,506). The analogs may also contain groups such as reporter groups, a group for improving the pharmacokinetic or pharmacodynamic properties of nucleic acid sequence.
[0049] Another aspect of the invention provides a nucleic acid molecule, and fragments thereof having at least 15 bases, which hybridizes to the nucleic acid molecules of the invention under hybridization conditions. Such nucleic acid molecules preferably hybridize to all or a portion of MECP2E1 or its complement under stringent conditions as defined herein (see Sambrook et al. (most recent edition) Molecular Cloning: A Laboratory Manual, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y.; Ausubel et al. (eds.), 1995, Current Protocols in Molecular Biology, (John Wiley & Sons, NY)). The portion of the hybridizing nucleic acids is typically at least 15 (e.g. 20, 25, 30 or 50) nucleotides in length. The hybridizing portion of the hybridizing nucleic acid is at least 80% e.g. at least 95% or at least 98% identical to the sequence or a portion or all of a nucleic acid encoding a MeCP2E1 polypeptide, or its complement. Hybridizing nucleic acids of the type described herein can be used, for example, as a cloning probe, a primer (e.g. a PCR primer) or a diagnostic probe. Hybridization of the oligonucleotide probe to a nucleic acid sample typically is performed under stringent conditions. Nucleic acid duplex or hybrid stability is expressed as the melting temperature or Tm, which is the temperature at which a probe dissociates from a target DNA. This melting temperature is used to define the required stringency conditions. If sequences are to be identified that are related and substantially identical to the probe, rather than identical, then it is useful to first establish the lowest temperature at which only homologous hybridization occurs with a particular concentration of salt (e.g. SSC or SSPE). Then, assuming that 1% mismatching results in a 1 degree Celsius decrease in the Tm, the temperature of the final wash in the hybridization reaction is reduced accordingly (for example, if sequences having greater than 95% identity with the probe are sought, the final wash temperature is decreased by 5 degrees Celsius). In practice, the change in Tm can be between 0.5 degrees Celsius and 1.5 degrees Celsius per 1% mismatch. Low stringency conditions involve hybridizing at about: 1×SSC, 0.1% SDS at 50° C. High stringency conditions are: 0.1×SSC, 0.1% SDS at 65° C. Moderate stringency is about 1×SSC 0.1% SDS at 60 degrees Celsius. The parameters of salt concentration and temperature can be varied to achieve the optimal level of identity between the probe and the target nucleic acid.
[0050] Isolated and purified nucleic acid molecules having sequences which differ from the nucleic acid sequence shown in SEQ ID No. 3 due to degeneracy in the genetic code are also within the scope of the invention. The genetic code is degenerate so other nucleic acid molecules, which encode a polypeptide identical to the MeCP2E1 amino acid sequence SEQ ID No. 3 may also be used.
[0051] The present invention also includes mutated forms of MEC2P2E1 associated with a neuropsychiatric disorder or developmental disorder including the specific mutations listed in Table 1. Specifically, the following mutations are associated with Rett's syndrome: (1) an 11 bp deletion in nucleotides 38 to 54 shown in SEQ ID No. 1; (2) a deletion of exon 1 containing nucleotides 1-69 shown in SEQ ID No. 1; (3) an adenine to thymine change at nucleotide position 8 shown in SEQ ID No. 1; (4) a deletion in the sequence TG at nucleotide positions 70-71 in SEQ ID No. 1 (5) an adenine to guanine change at nucleotide position 8 shown in SEQ ID No. 1; (6) a cytosine to thymine change at nucleotide position 12 shown in SEQ ID No. 1; and (7) a deletion in the sequence TG at nucleotide positions 69 and 70 in SEQ ID No. 1.
[0052] The following mutations are associated with developmental delay: (1) an insertion of one or more copies of the trinucleotide sequence GCC between nucleotides 11 and 29 shown in SEQ ID No. 1; (2) a deletion of one or more copies of the trinucleotide sequence GCC between nucleotides 11 and 29 shown in SEQ ID No. 1; (3) an insertion of the nucleotide sequence GGA between nucleotides 38 and 54 shown in SEQ ID No. 1; (4) a deletion of the nucleotide sequence GC at nucleotides −38 and −39 upstream of nucleotide 1 shown in SEQ ID No. 1; and (5) a deletion of the nucleotide sequence AG at nucleotides −19 and −20 upstream of nucleotide 1 shown in SEQ ID No. 1.
[0053] With respect to mutations (4) and (5) in the developmental delay group, these are upstream of nucleotide 1 shown in SEQ ID No. 1 GenBank Accession number BX538060 has the upstream sequences. Therefore, for greater clarity mutation (4), that consists of a deletion of the nucleotide sequence GC at nucleotides −38 and −39, corresponds to nucleotides 11-12 of sequence BX538060; and mutation (5), that consists of a deletion of the nucleotide sequence AG at nucleotides −19 and −20, corresponds to nucleotides 30-31 of BX538060.
[0054] Nucleic acid molecules from MECP2E1 can be isolated by preparing a labeled nucleic acid probe based on all or part of the nucleic acid sequences as shown in SEQ ID No. 3, and using this labelled nucleic acid probe to screen an appropriate DNA library (e.g. a cDNA or genomic DNA library). Nucleic acids isolated by screening of a cDNA or genomic DNA library can be sequenced by standard techniques. Another method involves comparing the MECP2E1 sequence to other sequences, for example using bioinformatics techniques such as database searches or alignment strategies, and detecting the presence of a MECP2E1 nucleic acid sequence.
[0055] Nucleic acid molecules of the invention can also be isolated by selectively amplifying a nucleic acid using the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) methods and cDNA or genomic DNA. It is possible to design synthetic oligonucleotide primers from the nucleic acid molecules as shown in SEQ ID No. 3 for use in PCR. A nucleic acid can be amplified from cDNA or genomic DNA using these oligonucleotide primers and standard PCR amplification techniques. The nucleic acid so amplified can be cloned into an appropriate vector and characterized by DNA sequence analysis. It will be appreciated that cDNA may be prepared from mRNA, by isolating total cellular mRNA by a variety of techniques, for example, by using the guanidinium-thiocyanate extraction procedure of Chirgwin et al., Biochemistry, 18, 5294-5299 (1979). cDNA is then synthesized from the mRNA using reverse transcriptase (for example, Moloney MLV reverse transcriptase available from Gibco/BRL, Bethesda, Md., or AMV reverse transcriptase available from Seikagaku America, Inc., St. Petersburg, Fla.).
[0056] An isolated nucleic acid molecule of the invention which is RNA can be isolated by cloning a cDNA encoding a novel protein of the invention into an appropriate vector which allows for transcription of the cDNA to produce an RNA molecule which encodes the MeCP2E1 protein. For example, a cDNA can be cloned downstream of a bacteriophage promoter, (e.g. a T7 promoter) in a vector, cDNA can be transcribed in vitro with T7 polymerase, and the resultant RNA can be isolated by standard techniques.
[0057] A nucleic acid molecule of the invention may also be chemically synthesized using standard techniques. Various methods of chemically synthesizing polydeoxynucleotides are known, including solid-phase synthesis which, like peptide synthesis, has been fully automated in commercially available DNA synthesizers (See e.g., Itakura et al. U.S. Pat. No. 4,598,049; Caruthers et al. U.S. Pat. No. 4,458,066; and Itakura U.S. Pat. Nos. 4,401,796 and 4,373,071).
[0058] The initiation codon and untranslated sequences of the nucleic acid molecules of the invention may be determined using currently available computer software designed for the purpose, such as PC/Gene (IntelliGenetics Inc., Calif.). Regulatory elements can be identified using conventional techniques. The function of the elements can be confirmed by using these elements to express a reporter gene which is operatively linked to the elements. These constructs may be introduced into cultured cells using standard procedures. In addition to identifying regulatory elements in DNA, such constructs may also be used to identify proteins interacting with the elements, using techniques known in the art.
[0059] The sequence of a nucleic acid molecule of the invention may be inverted relative to its normal presentation for transcription to produce an antisense nucleic acid molecule. Preferably, an antisense sequence is constructed by inverting a region preceding the initiation codon or an unconserved region. In particular, the nucleic acid sequences contained in the nucleic acid molecules of the invention or a fragment thereof, preferably a nucleic acid sequence shown in SEQ ID No. 3 may be inverted relative to its normal presentation for transcription to produce antisense nucleic acid molecules.
[0060] The antisense nucleic acid molecules of the invention or a fragment thereof, may be chemically synthesized using naturally occurring nucleotides or variously modified nucleotides designed to increase the biological stability of the molecules or to increase the physical stability of the duplex formed with mRNA or the native gene e.g. phosphorothioate derivatives and acridine substituted nucleotides. The antisense sequences may be produced biologically using an expression vector introduced into cells in the form of a recombinant plasmid, phagemid or attenuated virus in which antisense sequences are produced under the control of a high efficiency regulatory region, the activity of which may be determined by the cell type into which the vector is introduced.
[0061] The invention also provides nucleic acids encoding fusion proteins comprising a novel protein of the invention and a selected protein, or a selectable marker protein (see below).

II. Novel Proteins of the Invention

[0062] The invention further includes an isolated MeCP2E1 protein encoded by the nucleic acid molecules of the invention. Within the context of the present invention, a protein of the invention may include various structural forms of the primary protein which retain biological activity.
[0063] Broadly stated, the present invention provides an isolated protein encoded by exon 1, 3 and 4 of the MECP2 gene.
[0064] In a preferred embodiment of the invention, the MeCP2E1 protein has the amino acid sequence as shown in SEQ ID No. 4 or a fragment or variant thereof.
[0065] The invention also includes mutated forms of the MeCP2E 1 protein that are associated with a neuropsychiatric disorder or developmental disorder. Specifically, the invention includes the mutations in MECP2E1 described in Table 1.
[0066] In addition to full length amino acid sequences, the proteins of the present invention also include truncations of the protein, and analogs, and homologs of the protein and truncations thereof as described herein. Truncated proteins may comprise peptides of at least fifteen amino acid residues.
[0067] Analogs or variants of the protein having the amino acid sequence shown in SEQ ID No. 4 and/or truncations thereof as described herein, may include, but are not limited to an amino acid sequence containing one or more amino acid substitutions, insertions, and/or deletions Amino acid substitutions may be of a conserved or non-conserved nature. Conserved amino acid substitutions involve replacing one or more amino acids of the proteins of the invention with amino acids of similar charge, size, and/or hydrophobicity characteristics. When only conserved substitutions are made the resulting analog should be functionally equivalent. Non-conserved substitutions involve replacing one or more amino acids of the amino acid sequence with one or more amino acids which possess dissimilar charge, size, and/or hydrophobicity characteristics.
[0068] One or more amino acid insertions may be introduced into the amino acid sequence shown in SEQ ID No. 4. Amino acid insertions may consist of single amino acid residues or sequential amino acids ranging from 2 to 15 amino acids in length. For example, amino acid insertions may be used to destroy target sequences so that the protein is no longer active. This procedure may be used in vivo to inhibit the activity of a protein of the invention.
[0069] Deletions may consist of the removal of one or more amino acids, or discrete portions from the amino acid sequence shown in SEQ ID No. 4. The deleted amino acids may or may not be contiguous. The lower limit length of the resulting analog with a deletion mutation is about 10 amino acids, preferably 100 amino acids.
[0070] Analogs of a protein of the invention may be prepared by introducing mutations in the nucleotide sequence encoding the protein. Mutations in nucleotide sequences constructed for expression of analogs of a protein of the invention must preserve the reading frame of the coding sequences. Furthermore, the mutations will preferably not create complementary regions that could hybridize to produce secondary mRNA structures, such as loops or hairpins, which could adversely affect translation of the receptor mRNA.
[0071] Mutations may be introduced at particular loci by synthesizing oligonucleotides containing a mutant sequence, flanked by restriction sites enabling ligation to fragments of the native sequence. Following ligation, the resulting reconstructed sequence encodes an analog having the desired amino acid insertion, substitution, or deletion.
[0072] Alternatively, oligonucleotide-directed site specific mutagenesis procedures may be employed to provide an altered gene having particular codons altered according to the substitution, deletion, or insertion required. Deletion or truncation of a protein of the invention may also be constructed by utilizing convenient restriction endonuclease sites adjacent to the desired deletion. Subsequent to restriction, overhangs may be filled in, and the DNA religated. Exemplary methods of making the alterations set forth above are disclosed by Sambrook et al (Molecular Cloning: A Laboratory Manual, 2nd Ed., Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, 1989).
[0073] The proteins of the invention also include homologs of the amino acid sequence having the exon 1 region shown in SEQ ID No. 4 and/or truncations thereof as described herein.
[0074] A homologous protein includes a protein with an amino acid sequence having at least 70%, preferably 80-90% identity with the amino acid sequence as shown in SEQ ID No. 4 and includes the exon 1 region characteristic of the MeCP2E1 protein. As with the nucleic acid molecules of the invention, identity is calculated according to methods known in the art. Sequence identity is most preferably assessed by the algorithm of BLAST version 2.1 advanced search. BLAST is a series of programs that are available online at www.ncbi.nlm nih.gov/BLAST. The advanced BLAST search (www.ncbi.nlm nih gov/blast/blast.cgi?Jform=1) is set to default parameters (i.e. Matrix BLOSUM62, Gap existence cost 11; Per residue gap cost 1; Lambda ration 0.85 default).
[0075] The invention also contemplates isoforms of the proteins of the invention. An isoform contains the same number and kinds of amino acids as a protein of the invention, but the isoform has a different molecular structure. The isoforms contemplated by the present invention are those having the same properties as a protein of the invention as described herein.
[0076] The present invention also includes a protein of the invention conjugated with a selected protein, or a selectable marker protein (see below) to produce fusion proteins. Additionally, immunogenic portions of a protein of the invention are within the scope of the invention.
[0077] The proteins of the invention (including truncations, analogs, etc.) may be prepared using recombinant DNA methods. Accordingly, the nucleic acid molecules of the present invention having a sequence which encodes a protein of the invention may be incorporated in a known manner into an appropriate expression vector which ensures good expression of the protein. Possible expression vectors include but are not limited to cosmids, plasmids, or modified viruses (e.g. replication defective retroviruses, adenoviruses and adeno-associated viruses), so long as the vector is compatible with the host cell used. The expression vectors are “suitable for transformation of a host cell”, means that the expression vectors contain a nucleic acid molecule of the invention and regulatory sequences selected on the basis of the host cells to be used for expression, which is operatively linked to the nucleic acid molecule. Operatively linked is intended to mean that the nucleic acid is linked to regulatory sequences in a manner which allows expression of the nucleic acid.
[0078] The invention therefore contemplates a recombinant expression vector of the invention containing a nucleic acid molecule of the invention, or a fragment thereof, and the necessary regulatory sequences for the transcription and translation of the inserted protein-sequence. Suitable regulatory sequences may be derived from a variety of sources, including bacterial, fungal, or viral genes (For example, see the regulatory sequences described in Goeddel, Gene Expression Technology: Methods in Enzymology 185, Academic Press, San Diego, Calif. (1990). Selection of appropriate regulatory sequences is dependent on the host cell chosen, and may be readily accomplished by one of ordinary skill in the art. Examples of such regulatory sequences include: a transcriptional promoter and enhancer or RNA polymerase binding sequence, a ribosomal binding sequence, including a translation initiation signal. Additionally, depending on the host cell chosen and the vector employed, other sequences, such as an origin of replication, additional DNA restriction sites, enhancers, and sequences conferring inducibility of transcription may be incorporated into the expression vector. It will also be appreciated that the necessary regulatory sequences may be supplied by the native protein and/or its flanking regions.
[0079] The invention further provides a recombinant expression vector comprising a DNA nucleic acid molecule of the invention cloned into the expression vector in an antisense orientation. That is, the DNA molecule is operatively linked to a regulatory sequence in a manner which allows for expression, by transcription of the DNA molecule, of an RNA molecule which is antisense to a nucleotide sequence comprising the nucleotides as shown SEQ ID No. 3. Regulatory sequences operatively linked to the antisense nucleic acid can be chosen which direct the continuous expression of the antisense RNA molecule.
[0080] The recombinant expression vectors of the invention may also contain a selectable marker gene which facilitates the selection of host cells transformed or transfected with a recombinant molecule of the invention. Examples of selectable marker genes are genes encoding a protein such as G418 and hygromycin which confer resistance to certain drugs, β-galactosidase, chloramphenicol acetyltransferase, or firefly luciferase. Transcription of the selectable marker gene is monitored by changes in the concentration of the selectable marker protein such as β-galactosidase, chloramphenicol acetyltransferase, or firefly luciferase. If the selectable marker gene encodes a protein conferring antibiotic resistance such as neomycin resistance transformant cells can be selected with G418. Cells that have incorporated the selectable marker gene will survive, while the other cells die. This makes it possible to visualize and assay for expression of recombinant expression vectors of the invention and in particular to determine the effect of a mutation on expression and phenotype. It will be appreciated that selectable markers can be introduced on a separate vector from the nucleic acid of interest.
[0081] The recombinant expression vectors may also contain genes which encode a fusion moiety which provides increased expression of the recombinant protein; increased solubility of the recombinant protein; and aid in the purification of a target recombinant protein by acting as a ligand in affinity purification. For example, a proteolytic cleavage site may be added to the target recombinant protein to allow separation of the recombinant protein from the fusion moiety subsequent to purification of the fusion protein.
[0082] Recombinant expression vectors can be introduced into host cells to produce a transformed host cell. The term “transformant host cell” is intended to include prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells which have been transformed or transfected with a recombinant expression vector of the invention. The terms “transformed with”, “transfected with”, “transformation” and “transfection” are intended to encompass introduction of nucleic acid (e.g. a vector) into a cell by one of many possible techniques known in the art. Prokaryotic cells can be transformed with nucleic acid by, for example, electroporation or calcium-chloride mediated transformation. Nucleic acid can be introduced into mammalian cells via conventional techniques such as calcium phosphate or calcium chloride co-precipitation, DEAE-dextran-mediated transfection, lipofectin, electroporation or microinjection. Suitable methods for transforming and transfecting host cells can be found in Sambrook et al. (Molecular Cloning: A Laboratory Manual, 2nd Edition, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory press (1989)), and other laboratory textbooks.
[0083] Suitable host cells include a wide variety of prokaryotic and eukaryotic host cells. For example, the proteins of the invention may be expressed in bacterial cells such as E. coli, insect cells (using baculovirus), yeast cells or mammalian cells. Other suitable host cells can be found in Goeddel, Gene Expression Technology: Methods in Enzymology 185, Academic Press, San Diego, Calif. (1991).
[0084] The proteins of the invention may also be prepared by chemical synthesis using techniques well known in the chemistry of proteins such as solid phase synthesis (Merrifield, 1964, J. Am. Chem. Assoc. 85:2149-2154) or synthesis in homogenous solution (Houbenweyl, 1987, Methods of Organic Chemistry, ed. E. Wansch, Vol. 15 I and II, Thieme, Stuttgart).

III. Applications

A. Diagnostic Applications

[0085] As previously mentioned, the present inventors have isolated a novel splice variant of the MECP2 gene, MECP2E1, and have shown that exon 1 is deleted or mutated in people with neuropsychiatric disorders or developmental disorders such as Rett's syndrome or mental retardation. As a result, the present invention also includes a method of detecting a neuropsychiatric or developmental disorder by detecting a mutation or deletion in the MECP2E1 nucleic acid or MeCP2E1 protein.
[0086] The term “neuropsychiatric disorder” as used herein includes, but is not limited to, autism/autism spectrum disorder, epilepsy, Angelman syndrome, Prader-Willi syndrome, encephalopathy, schizophrenia, bipolar affective disorder, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, panic disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and ataxia.
[0087] The term “developmental disorder” includes but is not limited to, mental retardation.

i) Detecting Mutations in the Nucleic Acid Sequence

[0088] In one embodiment, the present invention provides a method for detecting a neuropsychiatric or developmental disorder comprising detecting a deletion or mutation in exon 1 of the MECP2 gene in a sample obtained from an animal, preferably a mammal, more preferably a human
[0089] The Examples and Table 1 summarize some of the mutations found in MECP2E1 in patient's with Rett's syndrome or developmental delay. (They are also described in Section I). Screening assays can be developed for each of the mutations. Examples of methods that can be used to detect mutations include sequencing, polymerase chain reaction, reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction, denaturing HPLC, electrophoretic mobility, nucleic acid hybridization, fluorescent in situ hybridization and multiplex ligation-dependent probe amplification. Details of screening assays that may be employed are provided in Examples 3, 4 or 5.
[0090] Rett's syndrome has been shown to be caused by deletions in exon 1 of MECP2. Patients homozygous for these deletions can be detected by PCR-amplifying and sequencing exon 1 and flanking sequences using X1F/X1R primers. Consequently, the present invention includes a method for determining a deletion in exon 1 of the MECP2 gene by a method comprising:
[0091] (a) amplifying the nucleic acid sequences in the sample with primers X1F (5′-CCATCACAGCCAATGACG-3′) (SEQ ID No. 19) and X1R (5′-AGGGGGAGGGTAGAGAGGAG-3′) (SEQ ID No. 20) in a polymerase chain reaction;
[0092] (b) amplifying the nucleic acid sequences from a control with same primers;
[0093] (c) sequencing the amplified sequences; and
[0094] (d) comparing the sample sequences to the control sequences
[0095] wherein deletion of nucleotides in the sample sequence compared to the control sequence indicates that the sample is from an animal with Rett's syndrome.
[0096] Additional exon 1 mutations not detectable by the PCR reaction, can be identified using multiplex ligation-dependent probe amplification (MLPA) in all four exons. MLPA analysis is described in reference 5 and in Schouten, U.S. application Ser. No. 10/218,567, (publication number 2003/0108913) which are incorporated herein in by reference. Accordingly, the present invention includes a method for determining a deletion in exon 1 of the MECP2 gene by performing MLPA analysis with 20 probe pairs that target the four MECP2 exons, six X-linked control regions and ten autosomal control regions.
[0097] One skilled in the art will appreciate that other methods, in addition to the ones discussed above and in the examples, can be used to detect mutations in exon 1 of the MECP2 gene. For example, in order to isolate nucleic acids from a sample, one can prepare nucleotide probes from the nucleic acid sequences of the invention. In addition, the nucleic acid probes described herein (for example, see FIG. 1) can also be used. A nucleotide probe may be labelled with a detectable marker such as a radioactive label which provides for an adequate signal and has sufficient half life such as 32P, 3H, 14C or the like. Other detectable markers which may be used include antigens that are recognized by a specific labelled antibody, fluorescent compounds, enzymes, antibodies specific for a labelled antigen, and chemiluminescent compounds. An appropriate label may be selected having regard to the rate of hybridization and binding of the probe to the nucleotide to be detected and the amount of nucleotide available for hybridization.
[0098] Accordingly, the present invention also relates to a method of detecting the presence of a nucleic acid molecule containing exon 1 of the MECP2 gene in a sample comprising contacting the sample under hybridization conditions with one or more of nucleotide probes which hybridize to the nucleic acid molecules and are labelled with a detectable marker, and determining the degree of hybridization between the nucleic acid molecule in the sample and the nucleotide probes.
[0099] Hybridization conditions which may be used in the methods of the invention are known in the art and are described for example in Sambrook J, Fritch E F, Maniatis T. In: Molecular Cloning, A Laboratory Manual, 1989. (Nolan C, Ed.), Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y. The hybridization product may be assayed using techniques known in the art. The nucleotide probe may be labelled with a detectable marker as described herein and the hybridization product may be assayed by detecting the detectable marker or the detectable change produced by the detectable marker.
[0100] Prior to hybridizing a sample with DNA probes, the sample can be treated with primers that flank the MECP2 gene in order to amplify the nucleic acid sequences in the sample. The primers used may be the ones described in the present application. For example, primers specific for human MECP2 include HF(ctcggagagagggctgtg) (SEQ ID No. 5), HR1(cttgaggggtttgtccttga) (SEQ ID No. 6), HR2(cgtttgatcaccatgacctg) (SEQ ID No. 7). Primers for mouse MECP2 include MF(aggaggcgaggaggagagac) (SEQ ID NO. 8) and MR (ctggctctgcagaatggtg) (SEQ ID No. 9). In addition, the sequence of the MECP2 gene provided herein also permits the identification and isolation, or synthesis of new nucleotide sequences which may be used as primers to amplify a nucleic acid molecule of the invention. The primers may be used to amplify the genomic DNA of other species. The PCR amplified sequences can be examined to determine the relationship between the genes of various species.
[0101] The length and bases of the primers for use in the PCR are selected so that they will hybridize to different strands of the desired sequence and at relative positions along the sequence such that an extension product synthesized from one primer when it is separated from its template can serve as a template for extension of the other primer into a nucleic acid of defined length. Primers which may be used in the invention are oligonucleotides i.e. molecules containing two or more deoxyribonucleotides of the nucleic acid molecule of the invention which occur naturally as in a purified restriction endonuclease digest or are produced synthetically using techniques known in the art such as for example phosphotriester and phosphodiester methods (See Good et al Nucl. Acid Res 4:2157, 1977) or automated techniques (See for example, Conolly, B.A. Nucleic Acids Res. 15(7): 3131, 1987). The primers are capable of acting as a point of initiation of synthesis when placed under conditions which permit the synthesis of a primer extension product which is complementary to the DNA sequence of the invention i.e. in the presence of nucleotide substrates, an agent for polymerization such as DNA polymerase and at suitable temperature and pH. Preferably, the primers are sequences that do not form secondary structures by base pairing with other copies of the primer or sequences that form a hair pin configuration. The primer preferably contains between about 7 and 25 nucleotides.
[0102] The primers may be labelled with detectable markers which allow for detection of the amplified products. Suitable detectable markers are radioactive markers such as P-32, S-35, I-125, and H-3, luminescent markers such as chemiluminescent markers, preferably luminol, and fluorescent markers, preferably dansyl chloride, fluorescein-5-isothiocyanate, and 4-fluor-7-nitrobenz-2-axa-1,3 diazole, enzyme markers such as horseradish peroxidase, alkaline phosphatase, β-galactosidase, acetylcholinesterase, or biotin.
[0103] It will be appreciated that the primers may contain non-complementary sequences provided that a sufficient amount of the primer contains a sequence which is complementary to a nucleic acid molecule of the invention or oligonucleotide fragment thereof, which is to be amplified. Restriction site linkers may also be incorporated into the primers allowing for digestion of the amplified products with the appropriate restriction enzymes facilitating cloning and sequencing of the amplified product.
[0104] In an embodiment of the invention a method of determining the presence of a nucleic acid molecule of the invention is provided comprising treating the sample with primers which are capable of amplifying the nucleic acid molecule or a predetermined oligonucleotide fragment thereof in a polymerase chain reaction to form amplified sequences, under conditions which permit the formation of amplified sequences and, assaying for amplified sequences.
[0105] The polymerase chain reaction refers to a process for amplifying a target nucleic acid sequence as generally described in Innis et al, Academic Press, 1990 in Mullis et al., U.S. Pat. No. 4,863,195 and Mullis, U.S. Pat. No. 4,683,202 which are incorporated herein by reference. Conditions for amplifying a nucleic acid template are described in M. A. Innis and D.H. Gelfand, PCR Protocols, A Guide to Methods and Applications M.A. Innis, D.H. Gelfand, J.J. Sninsky and T.J. White eds, pp 3-12, Academic Press 1989, which is also incorporated herein by reference.
[0106] The amplified products can be isolated and distinguished based on their respective sizes using techniques known in the art. For example, after amplification, the DNA sample can be separated on an agarose gel and visualized, after staining with ethidium bromide, under ultra violet (UV) light. DNA may be amplified to a desired level and a further extension reaction may be performed to incorporate nucleotide derivatives having detectable markers such as radioactive labelled or biotin labelled nucleoside triphosphates. The primers may also be labelled with detectable markers as discussed above. The detectable markers may be analyzed by restriction and electrophoretic separation or other techniques known in the art.
[0107] The conditions which may be employed in the methods of the invention using PCR are those which permit hybridization and amplification reactions to proceed in the presence of DNA in a sample and appropriate complementary hybridization primers. Conditions suitable for the polymerase chain reaction are generally known in the art. For example, see M.A. Innis and D.H. Gelfand, PCR Protocols, A guide to Methods and Applications M.A. Innis, D.H. Gelfand, J.J. Sninsky and T.J. White eds, pp 3-12, Academic Press 1989, which is incorporated herein by reference. Preferably, the PCR utilizes polymerase obtained from the thermophilic bacterium Thermus aquatics (Taq polymerase, GeneAmp Kit, Perkin Elmer Cetus) or other thermostable polymerase may be used to amplify DNA template strands.
[0108] It will be appreciated that other techniques such as the Ligase Chain Reaction (LCR) and NASBA may be used to amplify a nucleic acid molecule of the invention (Barney in “PCR Methods and Applications”, August 1991, Vol. 1(1), page 5, and European Published Application No. 0320308, published Jun. 14, 1989, and U.S. Pat. No. 5,130,238 to Malek).

(ii) Detecting the MeCP2E1 Protein

[0109] In another embodiment, the present invention provides a method for detecting a neuropsychiatric or developmental disorder comprising detecting a deletion or mutation in the MeCP2E1 protein in a sample from an animal.
[0110] The MeCP2E1 protein of the present invention may be detected in a biological sample using antibodies that are specific for MeCP2E1 using various immunoassays that are discussed below.
[0111] Conventional methods can be used to prepare the antibodies. For example, by using a peptide from the MeCP2E1 protein of the invention, polyclonal antisera or monoclonal antibodies can be made using standard methods. A mammal, (e.g., a mouse, hamster, or rabbit) can be immunized with an immunogenic form of the peptide which elicits an antibody response in the mammal. Techniques for conferring immunogenicity on a peptide include conjugation to carriers or other techniques well known in the art. For example, the peptide can be administered in the presence of adjuvant. The progress of immunization can be monitored by detection of antibody titers in plasma or serum. Standard ELISA or other immunoassay procedures can be used with the immunogen as antigen to assess the levels of antibodies. Following immunization, antisera can be obtained and, if desired, polyclonal antibodies isolated from the sera.
[0112] To produce monoclonal antibodies, antibody producing cells (lymphocytes) can be harvested from an immunized animal and fused with myeloma cells by standard somatic cell fusion procedures thus immortalizing these cells and yielding hybridoma cells. Such techniques are well known in the art, (e.g., the hybridoma technique originally developed by Kohler and Milstein (Nature 256, 495-497 (1975)) as well as other techniques such as the human B-cell hybridoma technique (Kozbor et al., Immunol. Today 4, 72 (1983)), the EBV-hybridoma technique to produce human monoclonal antibodies (Cole et al. Monoclonal Antibodies in Cancer Therapy (1985) Allen R. Bliss, Inc., pages 77-96), and screening of combinatorial antibody libraries (Huse et al., Science 246, 1275 (1989)). Hybridoma cells can be screened immunochemically for production of antibodies specifically reactive with the peptide and the monoclonal antibodies can be isolated. Therefore, the invention also contemplates hybridoma cells secreting monoclonal antibodies with specificity for a protein of the invention.
[0113] The term “antibody” as used herein is intended to include fragments thereof which also specifically react with a protein of the invention, or peptide thereof. Antibodies can be fragmented using conventional techniques and the fragments screened for utility in the same manner as described above. For example, F(ab′)2 fragments can be generated by treating antibody with pepsin. The resulting F(ab′)2 fragment can be treated to reduce disulfide bridges to produce Fab′ fragments.
[0114] Chimeric antibody derivatives, i.e., antibody molecules that combine a non-human animal variable region and a human constant region are also contemplated within the scope of the invention. Chimeric antibody molecules can include, for example, the antigen binding domain from an antibody of a mouse, rat, or other species, with human constant regions. Conventional methods may be used to make chimeric antibodies containing the immunoglobulin variable region which recognizes a CipA protein (See, for example, Morrison et al., Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 81,6851 (1985); Takeda et al., Nature 314, 452 (1985), Cabilly et al., U.S. Pat. No. 4,816,567; Boss et al., U.S. Pat. No. 4,816,397; Tanaguchi et al., European Patent Publication EP171496; European Patent Publication 0173494, United Kingdom patent GB 2177096B).
[0115] Monoclonal or chimeric antibodies specifically reactive with a protein of the invention as described herein can be further humanized by producing human constant region chimeras, in which parts of the variable regions, particularly the conserved framework regions of the antigen-binding domain, are of human origin and only the hypervariable regions are of non-human origin. Such immunoglobulin molecules may be made by techniques known in the art, (e.g., Teng et al., Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A., 80, 7308-7312 (1983); Kozbor et al., Immunology Today, 4, 7279 (1983); Olsson et al., Meth. Enzymol., 92, 3-16 (1982)), and PCT Publication WO92/06193 or EP 0239400). Humanized antibodies can also be commercially produced (Scotgen Limited, 2 Holly Road, Twickenham, Middlesex, Great Britain.)
[0116] Specific antibodies, or antibody fragments, reactive against a protein of the invention may also be generated by screening expression libraries encoding immunoglobulin genes, or portions thereof, expressed in bacteria with peptides produced from the nucleic acid molecules of the present invention. For example, complete Fab fragments, VH regions and FV regions can be expressed in bacteria using phage expression libraries (See for example Ward et al., Nature 341, 544-546: (1989); Huse et al., Science 246, 1275-1281 (1989); and McCafferty et al. Nature 348, 552-554 (1990)).
[0117] Antibodies may also be prepared using DNA immunization. For example, an expression vector containing a nucleic acid of the invention (as described above) may be injected into a suitable animal such as mouse. The protein of the invention will therefore be expressed in vivo and antibodies will be induced. The antibodies can be isolated and prepared as described above for protein immunization.
[0118] The antibodies may be labelled with a detectable marker including various enzymes, fluorescent materials, luminescent materials and radioactive materials. Examples of suitable enzymes include horseradish peroxidase, biotin, alkaline phosphatase, β-galactosidase, or acetylcholinesterase; examples of suitable fluorescent materials include umbelliferone, fluorescein, fluorescein isothiocyanate, rhodamine, dichlorotriazinylamine fluorescein, dansyl chloride or phycoerythrin; an example of a luminescent material includes luminol; and examples of suitable radioactive material include S-35, Cu-64, Ga-67, Zr-89, Ru-97, Tc-99m, Rh-105, Pd-109, In-111, I-123, I-125, I131, Re-186, Au-198, Au-199, Pb-203, At −211, Pb-212 and Bi-212. The antibodies may also be labelled or conjugated to one partner of a ligand binding pair. Representative examples include avidin-biotin and riboflavin-riboflavin binding protein. Methods for conjugating or labelling the antibodies discussed above with the representative labels set forth above may be readily accomplished using conventional techniques.
[0119] The antibodies reactive against proteins of the invention (e.g. enzyme conjugates or labelled derivatives) may be used to detect a protein of the invention in various samples, for example they may be used in any known immunoassays which rely on the binding interaction between an antigenic determinant of a protein of the invention and the antibodies. Examples of such assays are radioimmunoassays, enzyme immunoassays (e.g. ELISA), immunofluorescence, immuno-precipitation, latex agglutination, hemagglutination, and histochemical tests. Thus, the antibodies may be used to identify or quantify the amount of a protein of the invention in a sample in order to diagnose the presence of Rett's syndrome.
[0120] In a method of the invention a predetermined amount of a sample or concentrated sample is mixed with antibody or labelled antibody. The amount of antibody used in the process is dependent upon the labelling agent chosen. The resulting protein bound to antibody or labelled antibody may be isolated by conventional isolation techniques, for example, salting out, chromatography, electrophoresis, gel filtration, fractionation, absorption, polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis, agglutination, or combinations thereof.
[0121] The sample or antibody may be insolubilized, for example, the sample or antibody can be reacted using known methods with a suitable carrier. Examples of suitable carriers are Sepharose or agarose beads. When an insolubilized sample or antibody is used protein bound to antibody or unreacted antibody is isolated by washing. For example, when the sample is blotted onto a nitrocellulose membrane, the antibody bound to a protein of the invention is separated from the unreacted antibody by washing with a buffer, for example, phosphate buffered saline (PBS) with bovine serum albumin (BSA).
[0122] When labelled antibody is used, the presence of MeCP2E1 can be determined by measuring the amount of labelled antibody bound to a protein of the invention in the sample or of the unreacted labelled antibody. The appropriate method of measuring the labelled material is dependent upon the labelling agent.
[0123] When unlabelled antibody is used in the method of the invention, the presence of MeCP2E1 can be determined by measuring the amount of antibody bound to the protein using substances that interact specifically with the antibody to cause agglutination or precipitation. In particular, labelled antibody against an antibody specific for a protein of the invention, can be added to the reaction mixture. The presence of a protein of the invention can be determined by a suitable method from among the already described techniques depending on the type of labelling agent. The antibody against an antibody specific for a protein of the invention can be prepared and labelled by conventional procedures known in the art which have been described herein. The antibody against an antibody specific for a protein of the invention may be a species specific anti-immunoglobulin antibody or monoclonal antibody, for example, goat anti-rabbit antibody may be used to detect rabbit antibody specific for a protein of the invention.

(iii) Kits

[0124] The reagents suitable for carrying out the methods of the invention may be packaged into convenient kits providing the necessary materials, packaged into suitable containers. Such kits may include all the reagents required to detect a nucleic acid molecule or protein of the invention in a sample by means of the methods described herein, and optionally suitable supports useful in performing the methods of the invention.
[0125] In one embodiment of the invention, the kit includes primers which are capable of amplifying a nucleic acid molecule of the invention or a predetermined oligonucleotide fragment thereof, all the reagents required to produce the amplified nucleic acid molecule or predetermined fragment thereof in the polymerase chain reaction, and means for assaying the amplified sequences. The kit may also include restriction enzymes to digest the PCR products. In another embodiment of the invention the kit contains a nucleotide probe which hybridizes with a nucleic acid molecule of the invention, reagents required for hybridization of the nucleotide probe with the nucleic acid molecule, and directions for its use. In a further embodiment of the invention the kit includes antibodies of the invention and reagents required for binding of the antibody to a protein of the invention in a sample.
[0126] The kits may include nucleic acid molecules, proteins or antibodies of the invention (described above) to detect or treat neuropsychiatric disorders and developmental disorders together with instructions for the use thereof.
[0127] The methods and kits of the present invention may be used to detect neuropsychiatric and developmental disorders such as Rett's syndrome and mental retardation. Samples which may be tested include bodily materials such as blood, urine, serum, tears, saliva, feces, tissues, organs, cells and the like. In addition to human samples, samples may be taken from mammals such as non-human primates, etc.
[0128] Before testing a sample in accordance with the methods described herein, the sample may be concentrated using techniques known in the art, such as centrifugation and filtration. For the hybridization and/or PCR-based methods described herein, nucleic acids may be extracted from cell extracts of the test sample using techniques known in the art.

B. Therapeutic Applications

[0129] As mentioned previously, the nucleic acid molecules of the present invention are deleted or mutated in people with neuropsychiatric disorders and developmental disorders. Accordingly, the present invention provides a method of treating or preventing neuropsychiatric disorders and developmental disorders by administering a nucleic acid sequence containing a sufficient portion of the MECP2E1 splice variant to treat or prevent neuropsychiatric disorders and developmental disorders. The present invention includes a use of a nucleic acid molecule or protein of the invention to treat or detect neuropsychiatric disorders and developmental disorders.
[0130] Recombinant molecules comprising a nucleic acid sequence or fragment thereof, may be directly introduced into cells or tissues in vivo using delivery vehicles such as retroviral vectors, adenoviral vectors and DNA virus vectors. They may also be introduced into cells in vivo using physical techniques such as microinjection and electroporation or chemical methods such as coprecipitation and incorporation of DNA into liposomes. Recombinant molecules may also be delivered in the form of an aerosol or by lavage.
[0131] The nucleic acid sequences may be formulated into pharmaceutical compositions for administration to subjects in a biologically compatible form suitable for administration in vivo. By “biologically compatible form suitable for administration in vivo” is meant a form of the substance to be administered in which any toxic effects are outweighed by the therapeutic effects. The substances may be administered to living organisms including humans, and animals. Administration of a therapeutically active amount of the pharmaceutical compositions of the present invention is defined as an amount effective, at dosages and for periods of time necessary to achieve the desired result. For example, a therapeutically active amount of a substance may vary according to factors such as the disease state, age, sex, and weight of the individual, and the ability of antibody to elicit a desired response in the individual. Dosage regima may be adjusted to provide the optimum therapeutic response. For example, several divided doses may be administered daily or the dose may be proportionally reduced as indicated by the exigencies of the therapeutic situation.
[0132] The active substance may be administered in a convenient manner such as by injection (subcutaneous, intravenous, etc.), oral administration, inhalation, transdermal application, or rectal administration. Depending on the route of administration, the active substance may be coated in a material to protect the compound from the action of enzymes, acids and other natural conditions which may inactivate the compound.
[0133] The compositions described herein can be prepared by per se known methods for the preparation of pharmaceutically acceptable compositions which can be administered to subjects, such that an effective quantity of the active substance is combined in a mixture with a pharmaceutically acceptable vehicle. Suitable vehicles are described, for example, in Remington's Pharmaceutical Sciences (Remington's Pharmaceutical Sciences, Mack Publishing Company, Easton, Pa., USA 1985). On this basis, the compositions include, albeit not exclusively, solutions of the substances in association with one or more pharmaceutically acceptable vehicles or diluents, and contained in buffered solutions with a suitable pH and iso-osmotic with the physiological fluids.

C. Experimental Models

[0134] The present invention also includes methods and experimental models for studying the function of the MECP2 gene and MeCP2E 1 protein. Cells, tissues and non-human animals that lack the MECP2E1 splice variant or partially lack in MeCP2E1 expression may be developed using recombinant expression vectors having a specific deletion or mutation in the MECP2E1 gene. A recombinant expression vector may be used to inactivate or alter the MECP2 gene by homologous recombination and thereby create a MECP2E1 deficient cell, tissue or animal. In particular, a targeted mutation could be designed to result in deficient MECP2E1 while MECP2E2 remains unaltered. This can be accomplished by targeting exon 1 of the MECP2 gene.
[0135] Null alleles may be generated in cells, such as embryonic stem cells by deletion mutation. A recombinant MECP2 gene may also be engineered to contain an insertion mutation which inactivates MECP2E1. Such a construct may then be introduced into a cell, such as an embryonic stem cell, by a technique such as transfection, electroporation, injection etc. Cells lacking an intact MECP2 gene may then be identified, for example by Southern blotting, Northern Blotting or by assaying for MECP2E1 using the methods described herein. Such cells may then be fused to embryonic stem cells to generate transgenic non-human animals deficient in MECP2E1. Germline transmission of the mutation may be achieved, for example, by aggregating the embryonic stem cells with early stage embryos, such as 8 cell embryos, in vitro; transferring the resulting blastocysts into recipient females and; generating germline transmission of the resulting aggregation chimeras. Such a mutant animal may be used to define specific cell populations, developmental patterns and in vivo processes, normally dependent on MECP2E1 expression. The present invention also includes the preparation of tissue specific knock-outs of the MECP2E 1 variant.
[0136] The following non-limiting examples are illustrative of the present invention:

EXAMPLES

Example 1

Identification of MEC2E1 Splice Variant

[0137] Inspection of the 5′UTR revealed that, whereas exon 2 has a number of in-frame stops upstream of the ATG, exon 1 contains an open reading frame across its entire length including an ATG. Submitting a theoretical construct composed of exons 1, 3 and 4 to the ATGpr program (www.hri.co.jp/atgpr/), which predicts the likelihood of an ATG to be an initiation codon based on significance of its surrounding Kozak nucleotide context, returned a reliability score of 97% compared to 64% for MECP2E2. A search in EST databases identified eight examples of our theorized transcript (named MECP2E1) (FIG. 1b) (vs. 14 examples of MECP2E2). MECP2E1 would be predicted to encode a new variant, MeCP2E1, with an alternative longer N-terminus determined by exon 1.

Example 2

Expression of MECP2E1

[0138] To confirm that MECP2E1 is in fact expressed and not an artifact of cDNA library preparations, cDNA from a variety of tissues was PCR-amplified using a 5′-primer in exon 1 and a 3″-primer in exon 3 (FIG. 1a). Two PCR products corresponding to MECP2E2 and MECP2E1 by size and sequence were obtained in all tissues, including fetal and adult brain, and in brain subregions (FIG. 1c). Results in mouse were similar (FIG. 1c). The expression levels of the two transcripts in adult human brain were quantified. MECP2E1 expression is 10 times higher than MECP2E2 (FIG. 1d). The subcellular localization of MeCP2E1 following transfection of 3′ myc-tagged MECP2E1 into COS-7 cells was found to be principally in the nucleus (FIG. 1e).
[0139] MECP2E1 was not detected in previous expression studies. Northern analyses reveal three transcripts, 1.9, 5 and 10.1 kb, with the differences in size due to alternative polyadenylation signal usage (4, 6, 8) (FIG. 1a). MECP2E1 differs from MECP2E2 in lacking the 124-nucleotide exon 2. At the 5 and 10.1 kb positions on the gel, the two transcripts would not be separable. In the 1.9 kb range, published northern blots do show a thick or double band likely corresponding to the two transcripts. Likewise, conventional western blot analysis would not allow resolution of the two MeCP2 isoforms (molecular weight difference <0.9 kD; FIG. 1f).

Example 3

Mutations in MECP2E1 in Rett's Syndrome

[0140] To determine whether the new coding region is mutated in Rett's syndrome, Exon 1 and flanking sequences were PCR-amplified and sequenced in 19 girls with typical RTT in whom no mutations had been found in the other exons. One patient (V1) was found to carry an 1 lbp deletion mutation in exon 1 (FIG. 2). The deletion occurs within the predicted exon 1 open reading frame of MECP2E1 and leads to a frame shift that results in a missense amino acid sequence followed by a premature stop codon after amino acid 36. It does not affect the coding sequence of MECP2E2. This sequence change was not found in 200 control individuals including the patient's parents and brother.
[0141] To search, in the remaining patients, for additional exon 1 deletions not detectable by our PCR reaction, multiplex ligation-dependent probe amplification (MLPA) (5) was performed in all four exons and detected a hemizygous deletion of exon 1 in one patient (Patient V2; FIG. 3). Finally, an additional patient with an MLPA-detected deletion restricted to exon 1 was recently documented in abstract form, though the effect on MECP2E1 was not realized (S. Boulanger et al. Am J Hum Genet. 73, 572 (2003)).
[0142] In contrast, no mutation specific to the MeCP2E2-defining exon 2 has been found to date despite several hundred patients analyzed for mutations in this exon (31 publications; most reviewed in ref. 3). These studies did not include exon 1 as it was considered non-coding.
[0143] Exon 1 deletions result in absent or truncated MeCP2E1 proteins. However, they also result in shortening of MECP2E2's 5′UTR and may possibly affect its expression. This possibility was tested in patient V1 by RT-PCR on whole blood. No diminution of MECP2E2 expression was present (FIG. 2c). In conclusion, mutation data indicate that inactivation of MeCP2E1 is sufficient in RTT, but the same cannot be said, to date, of MeCP2E2.

Materials and Methods

[0144] PCR, manual sequencing, cloning, rtPCR, gel blotting. PCR amplification was performed using [NH4]2SO4-containing PCR buffer (MBI Fermentas) with 1M betaine, 200 μM dNTPs including 50% deaza dGTP, with a 95° C. denaturing step for 3 minutes, followed by cycling at 95° C. for 30 secs, 55° C. for 30 secs, 72° C. for 45 secs for 30 cycles, followed by a 7 minute soak step at 72° C. Manual sequencing was performed, following extraction from a 1% agarose gel, using the Thermosequenase™ kit (USB/Amersham) and run on a 6% denaturing polyacrylamide gel for 3 hours. PCR products were cloned using the pDRIVE vector (Qiagen PCR cloning kit). Whole blood RNA was extracted using the PAXgene Blood RNA Kit (Qiagen). Reverse transcription was performed with random hexamers and a standard Superscript III protocol (Invitrogen). Human brain subregion cDNA was obtained from OriGene. The polyacrylamide gel in (FIG. 2c) was blotted onto Hybond N+(Amersham) and hybridized with primer HF labeled at the 3′ end with [α32I]-dCTP using deoxynucleotidyl transferase (MBI Fermentas).
[0145] Preparation of neuronal and glial cultures. Cerebral cortices were prepared from 15.5 days postcoitum (15.5 dpc) embryos of CD-1 mice. The procedure of Yamasaki et al. (Yamasaki et al. Hum Mol Genet. 12: 837-847, 2003) was used. Briefly, fetal cerebral cortices without meninges were dissociated by mechanical trituration and digested with 0.25% trypsin with EDTA. After adding fetal bovine serum (FBS; GIBCO BRL), filtered cells were collected by centrifugation. The cell pellet was resuspended in Neurobasal (GIBCO BRL) medium supplemented with B-27 (GIBCO BRL) for growth of neurons or with G-5 (GIBCO BRL) for growth of glial cells. Cells were plated on polyethyleneimine-coated plastic dishes at a density of 2×106 cells/ml. Cultures of neurons and glial cells were maintained in 5% CO2 at 37° C. for 6 days and 12 days, respectively. Isolated brain cells were characterized by RT-PCR and immunofluorescence (IF) using the markers MAP2 (microtubule-associated protein 2) for neurons, GFAP (glial fibrillary acidic protein) for glial cells and NESTIN for progenitor cells. For IF, the following specific antibodies were used: mouse monoclonal anti-MAP2 (CHEMICON), and rabbit polyclonal anti-GFAP (DAKO). The primers used for rtPCR were same as Yamasaki et al. To obtain a semi-quantitative PCR, optimal cDNA concentration and number of cycles were determined according to Gapdh amplification as an internal control. FIG. 4 shows the characterization of the primary brain cell cultures by rtPCR (A) and IF (B).
[0146] Quantitative rtPCR. To determine the quantity of the MECP2 transcripts in different tissues, we developed transcript-specific real-time quantitative PCR assays using SYBR Green detection method (PE Applied Biosystems, ABI PRISM 7900 Sequence Detection System). The following MECP2E2-specific forward primer (25 nM) (in exon 2) was designed: 5′-ctcaccagttcctgctttgatgt-3′ (SEQ ID No. 12). The MECP2E1-specific primer (25 nM) was placed at the junction of exons 1 and 3: 5′-aggagagactggaagaaaagtc-3′ (SEQ ID No. 10). Both assays used the same reverse primer (25 nM) in exon 3: 5′-cttgaggggtttgtccttga-3′ (SEQ ID No. 11), producing fragments of 161—(MECP2E2) and 65-bp (MECP2E1). The corresponding transcript-specific primers (25 nM) for the mouse mecp2 transcripts (mecp2e2 167 by and mecp2e1 71 bp) were 5′-ctcaccagttcctgctttgatgt-3′ (SEQ ID No. 12) (MECP2E2); 5′-aggagagactggaggaaaagtc-3′ (SEQ ID No. 13) (MECP2E1) and the common reverse primer 5′-cttaaacttcagtggcttgtctctg-3′ (SEQ ID No. 14). PCR conditions were: 2 min 50 C, 10 min 95 C and 40 cycles of 15 sec 95 C, 85 s 60 C. The PCR reactions were performed in separate tubes; and absolute quantitation of the MECP2E2 and E1 transcripts was performed from cDNA from human adult brain, cerebellum, fibroblast and lymphoblast (Clontech, Palo Alto, USA), as well as from murine neuronal and glial cell cultures (see above). Results were analyzed using the standard curve method according to the manufacturer's instructions (PE Applied Biosystems, ABI PRISM 7900 Sequence Detection System). The standard curve was developed using dilutions of the transcript-specific purified PCR products.
[0147] Immunofluorescence light microscopy. 3′-myc-tagged MECP2E2 and MECP2E1 constructs (pcDNA3.1A-MECP2E2-myc and pcDNA3.1A-MECP2E1-myc) were generated by PCR amplification of full-length cDNA of each transcript with BamHI (5′) and XbaI (3′) restriction sites attached and subsequent cloning in-frame with myc into pcDNA3.1 version A (Invitrogen). The forward primer for MECP2E2 contained the start codon in exon 2 (5′-tatggatccATGgtagctgggat-3′) (SEQ ID No. 15), while the forward primer for MECP2E1 included the start codon in exon1 (5′-tatggatccggaaaATGgccg-3′) (SEQ ID No. 16) (BamHI restriction site underlined, start codon uppercase). The reverse primer was the same for both amplifications (5′-gcgtctagagctaactctct-3′) (SEQ ID No. 17) (XbaI restriction site underlined). The template used for PCR was small intestine cDNA for MECP2E2 and skeletal muscle cDNA for MECP2E1. pcDNA3.1A-MECP2E2-myc and pcDNA3.1A-MECP2E1-myc (2 ug) were transfected into COS-7 cells using lipofectamine (Invitrogen) and the lipid-DNA complex was exposed in DMEM (GIBCO) for 5 hours. Forty-eight hours post-transfection the cultures were rinsed in PBS and fixed for 15 min at −20° C. in an acetone:methanol (1:1) mix, blocked for 1 hour (10% BSA in PBS) and incubated with anti-myc (Santa Cruz Biotechnology, 1:50 in blocking buffer) for 45 min at room temperature. After washing with PBS, slides were incubated with secondary antibody (FITC-labeled goat anti-mouse (Jackson Immunoresearch labs), 1:400, detectable through the green filter) in blocking solution, mounted with Dako Anti-Fade and analyzed by immunofluorescence light microscopy.
[0148] MLPA analysis. MLPA was performed as described by Schouten et al., supra and as described by Schouten, supra. MECP2 test kits from MRC-Holland, Amsterdam, Netherlands (www.mrc-holland.com) were utilized and consisted of 20 probe pairs that target the four MECP2 exons, six X-linked control regions and ten autosomal control regions. Briefly, 100-200 ng of genomic DNA was denatured and hybridized with the probe mix overnight at 60° C. The following morning the paired probes were ligated using heat stable Ligase-65 at 54° C. for 15 minutes. The ligation was followed with PCR with a common primer pair that hybridizes to the terminal end of each ligation product. One PCR primer was FAM-labeled and conditions for the PCR were as follows: 95° C. 30s, 60° C. 30s and 72° C. 1 min. The resulting amplicons were analyzed on an ABI 3100 capillary electrophoresis instrument and ABI Genescan software. All data management and comparisons to normal controls were done with Excel software.

Discussion

[0149] Recently, studies in frog (Xenopus laevis) afforded important insight into the role of MeCP2 in neurodevelopmental transcription regulation. MeCP2 was shown to be a component of the SMRT complex involved in the regulation of genes involved in neuronal differentiation following developmental stage-specific mediation by Notch-Delta. The frog Mecp2 transcript targeted for silencing in these experiments is an orthologue of MECP2E1 (FIG. 1f). In fact, MeCP2E1 appears to be the only form of MeCP2 in non-mammalian vertebrates (FIG. 1f).
[0150] The new MeCP2 N-terminus is a distinctive 21 amino acid peptide including polyalanine and polyglycine tracts (MAAAAAAAPSGGGGGGEEERL) (SEQ ID No. 18) (FIG. 1f). A similar N-terminus occurs in the ERK1 (MAPK3) extracellular signal-regulated kinase (FIG. 1f), a key common component of multiple signal transduction pathways. Intriguingly, in neurons, both ERK1 and MeCP2 have been shown to be present in the post-synaptic compartment, in addition to the nucleus, and the former shown to translocate between the two compartments to link synaptic activity to transcriptional regulation. It is possible that MeCP2E1 similarly links synaptic function, in this case neurodevelopmental synaptic contact guidance, with transcriptional regulation. The only other proteins in which consecutive polyalanine and polyglycine tracts are found are in some members of the homeobox (HOX) family. These, like MeCP2, are developmental transcription regulators.
[0151] Finally, non-inactivating MECP2 mutations have been associated with phenotypes that overlap RTT such as mental retardation and autism. The MeCP2 variant discovered in this study is a candidate for involvement in these disorders.

Example 4

Mutations in MECP2E1 in Mental Retardation

[0152] The inventors screened the MECP2E1 gene in N=401 autism probands, and in N=493 patients with non-specific mental retardation. Autism probands recruited through the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto (N=146; 114 male, 32 female) and from London, UK (N=13; 10 male, 3 female) were also screened, as well as probands from multiplex families from the Autism Genetic Resource Exchange (AGRE; N=242; 100 female, 142 male). Local institutional ethics board approval was obtained, and written consent given by participants. Anonymized DNA samples were also obtained for 293 female and 200 male patients with non-specific developmental delay/mental retardation who had been referred for fragile-X testing (but tested negative) to the Department of Pediatric Laboratory Medicine at the Hospital for Sick Children. Polymerase chain reaction followed by denaturing high performance liquid chromatography (DHPLC) was used for mutation detection, with PCR primers and conditions as described previously in Example 3. PCR product from female individuals suspected of carrying a sequence variant was cloned into the pDRIVE vector (Qiagen), and at least four clones sequenced using automated BIGDYE™ Terminator v3.1 Cycle Sequencing Kit (ABI 3100) in forward and reverse directions. PCR products from males were excised from agarose gel, column purified, then sequenced, also using automated BIGDYE™ Terminator v3.1 Cycle Sequencing Kit (ABI 3100) in both forward and reverse directions. No mutations were identified among the autism screening set, however sequence variants were identified among eight of the female MR cases (see FIG. 5), three of which result in insertion or deletion of amino acids within the polyalanine repeat stretch, and two of which result in insertion of a glycine residue within the polyglycine repeat at the N-terminal portion of MECP2E1. The first individual identified was heterozygous for a deletion of a GpC dinucleotide positioned 45-46 bp upstream of the putative MECP2E1 start codon. This deletion could disrupt a potential SP1 transcription factor binding site (as predicted using AliBaba2.1 www.gene-regulation.com/pub/programs/alibaba2/index.html), and may also eliminate potentially methylatable cytosine residues. Another individual is heterozygous for an ApG dinucleotide deletion 26 bp upstream of the MECP2E1 start codon. Two individuals are heterozygous for a GGA trinucleotide insertion within a poly[GGA] stretch, which would result in an additional glycine residue within the predicted polyglycine stretch. A fifth individual is heterozygous for a GCC trinucleotide deletion within a triplet repeat stretch encoding polyalanine. Two individuals are heterozygous for a 9 bp insertion, also within the GCC trinucleotide repeat/polyalanine region, and would result in the polyalanine stretch being extended from seven to ten residues.
[0153] The amino acid sequence variation in ˜2% of female non-specific MR cases in a new isoform of a protein that has previously been associated with a mental retardation syndrome, is extremely intriguing. Moreover, the fact that the variation occurs within a part of the protein that is conserved across many vertebrate species also adds to the interest (100% identity to chimpanzee, orang-utan, macaque, cat and dog MeCP2E1 amino acid sequence). It would be particularly useful to know whether there are any specific phenotypic features among the individuals with the variants, how severe the symptoms are an whether there are overlaps with or distinctions from the Rett syndrome phenotypes. However, since the DNAs were anonymized, it is not possible, in this instance, to correlate the mutations discovered with phenotypic features or severity. In an attempt to address this issue, a second sample set of MR cases (188 female and 96 male) from the Greenwood Genetic Center, South Carolina, were screened, followed by sequencing. No variants were found in the males, and two of the females carried the GGA insertion encoding an extra glycine residue.
[0154] In the present study, three female MR patients were identified with a 3 bp insertion leading to an extra glycine residue within the polyglycine stretch at the N-terminal end of MeCP2E 1. No disease association has previously been reported with expansion within a glycine repeat. The function of polyglycine stretches, either within the context of the MeCP2E1 protein or more generally, is not known, although a study of the Toc75 protein in plants suggests that a polyglycine stretch in the protein is essential for correct targeting of the protein to the chloroplast outer envelope. A similar function of protein trafficking may also be the case for mammalian proteins with polyglycine stretches, and for MeCP2E1.
[0155] The variants within the polyalanine tracts are of particular interest, as they are rarely polymorphic, and because a number of small expansions (or duplications) within such tracts have been reported to cause diseases, ranging from cleidocranial dysplasia (RUNX2), oculopharyngeal muscular dystrophy (PABPN1) and mental retardation (ARX; this gene is also X-chromosomal and has a very broad array of phenotypes—see above). The majority of polyalanine disease genes encode transcription factors, although PABPN1 gene encodes a polyadenylate binding protein. On the one hand, amongst these diseases, the smallest pathogenic repeats within the transcription factor genes are generally greater than 20 alanines in length, thus it could be considered improbable that a stretch of alanines as short as that encoded by MECP2E1 could be pathogenic, and a change of 1 or 3 alanine residues could be considered likely to be rare polymorphisms. There is currently some uncertainty as to whether small expansion of 1 or 3 alanine residues within the ARX gene may be pathogenic or innocent variants. On the other hand, oculopharyngeal muscular dystrophy is caused by mutations within a GCG tract in the PABPN1 gene, that expand a polyalanine tract from just 10 alanine residues to between 12 and 17 alanine residues. Moreover, as with the polyalanine tract in MeCP2E1, the polyalanine tract in PABPN1 is right at the N-terminal end of the gene, and thus it is possible that smaller mutations within repeat stretches within the N-terminal portion of a protein may be more detrimental than larger mutations located in the central portions of proteins.
[0156] A recently published study screened for mutations in MECP2 exon 1 among 97 Rett patients with no mutation in exons 2, 3 or 4, and among 146 controls. One of the Rett patients was found to have a 6 bp insertion within the polyalanine-encoding [GCC] stretch, but no such variations were observed among the controls. The variant was inherited from an unaffected mother, and it was concluded that the variant is thus unlikely to be etiologically relevant. However, it has also been demonstrated recently that even subtle changes in expression of MECP2 in mice can have profound neurological and behavioural consequences. It is apparent that patients with the same MECP2 mutation may have very different phenotypic features and severity, and it is likely that variation in X-inactivation pattern plays a role in this discordancy. Thus it is quite feasible that variation in exon 1, either within the repeat stretches resulting in change in length of polyalanine or polyglycine stretch, or in the region just upstream of the start codon, may affect function or expression levels resulting in a neuropathological phenotype.

Example 5

Additional Mutations in MECP2E1 in Rett's Syndrome

[0157] The entire coding regions of exons 1, 2, 3 and 4 and their intronic flanking sequences were analyzed. Exons 2 to 4 were amplified by PCR with primer pairs designed with the use of genomic sequence information from the Human Genome Project working draft site (UCSC, www.genome.ucsc.edu) and the Lasergene Primer select program. The PCR products were loaded on 2% agarose gel to confirm amplification before analysis for base changes by dHPLC (WAVE Nucleic Acid Fragment Analysis System from Transgenomic, San Jose, Calif.). Solvent A consisted of 0.1 mol/L triethylammonim acetate (TEAA) and 25% acetonitrile and solvent B contained 1M TEAA, 25% acenonitril. PCR products showing a chromatographic variation on dHPLC were sequenced directly on an automatic sequencer (Gene Reader 4200). The sequencing data was analyzed using DNA Star software SeqMan (Lasergene). Exon 1 was PCR amplified and sequenced in all patients as recently described.
[0158] The first exon 1 mutation consists of two missing base pairs at the exon 1 intron 1 boundary. Because of the nature of the sequence in this region, we cannot resolve whether the missing two nucleotides are the first two base pairs of intron 1 (GT) or the last nucleotide of exon 1 (T) and the first nucleotide of intron 1 (G). In either case, the missing pair of nucleotides destroys the predicted consensus splice site and results in read through of intron 1 (data not shown). In the second patient with an exon 1 mutation a 1A-3T substitution (ATG->TTG) changes the first Methionine codon into a Leucine. The prediction is that MECP2E1 translation would be greatly or totally hindered due to absence of a start codon. MECP2E2 would be normally made (and appears unable to rescue the disease phenotype).

Example 6

Additional Mutations in MECP2E1 in Rett's Syndrome

Patients

[0159] Thirty-five samples from females were referred to Children's Mercy Hospital for RTT testing in a two year period spanning September of 2004 through September of 2006 (See, for example, Saunders, C. J., et al., “Novel Exon 1 Mutations in MECP2 Implicate Isoform MeCP2_e1 in Classical Rett Syndrome,” American Journal of Medical Genetics, 149A: 1019-1023 (2009)). These patients had various clinical presentations, including autism, mental retardation, developmental delay, and “Angelman-like”, and only 9 patients fit the criteria for classical (N=7) or variant (N=2) RTT. Permission to review patient charts was obtained through the Children's Mercy Hospitals and Clinics' Institutional Review Board. In addition, 16 female patients were ascertained through either the Hospital for Sick Children or Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, either with autism and developmental delay (N=14) or Rett syndrome (N=2). This ascertainment was subsequent to the study reported by Mnatzakanian, G. et al., “A previously unidentified MECP2 open reading frame defines a new protein isoform relevant to Rett syndrome,” Nat. Genet., 36: 339-341 (2004) and there is no overlap of subjects between that and the current study. Screening for mutations in MECP2 identified four patients with mutations involving exon 1.
[0160] Patient 1 was a 20-year-old at the time of testing who had a long standing clinical diagnosis of RTT but had never undergone confirmatory DNA testing. She met the criteria for classical RTT, with the exception of acquired microcephaly (head circumference is at 15%). Following normal perinatal development, she sat at 6 months, walked at 14 months, used simple words at 18 months, around which time she began to regress. She lost all speech in addition to purposeful hand movements, which were replaced by a sifting activity. She now walks with a shuffling gait, exhibits some aggressive behavior, is nonverbal, and has medically intractable epilepsy.
[0161] Patient 2 was 7 years old at the time of testing. She met the criteria for classical RTT, with the exception of acquired microcephaly (head circumference 50%). She had a period of normal development, such as smiling, rolling over, and sitting at appropriate times, but around 10 months she exhibited global developmental delay. There was no clear regression in her skills at that point. Around the age of 2, she developed a stereotypic midline hand movement involving her left hand in her mouth and her right hand twirling her hair or rubbing her hair between her fingers. She commando crawls for mobility and will take steps with assistance. She is very hirsute and has precocious puberty with pubic hair development beginning at age 5. She has episodic seizures that do not require daily medication. She had previously tested negative for MECP2 mutations in exons 2-4, MECP2 duplications and deletions, and research testing involving sequencing of the MECP2 promoter region. The family came to the clinic in pursuit of mutation screening for the cyclin-dependent kinase-like 5 (CDKL5) gene, but upon closer examination of the patient's medical record, it was discovered that exon 1 of MECP2 had not been sequenced.
[0162] Patient 3 was a 16-year-old female with a clinical diagnosis of Rett syndrome since 20 months of age. She had microcephaly, developmental regression, severe cognitive insufficiency, midline hand movements, general tonic-clonic seizure disorder, loss of gait, diffuse hypertonicity, scoliosis treated with surgery, GE reflux requiring gastrostomy tube, and multiple hospitalizations for bacterial pneumonia. On her last admission for pneumonia, she succumbed to respiratory insufficiency and was not resuscitated. Brain autopsy showed microencephaly, subpial gliosis, minimal loss of Purkinje cells with gliosis, and isolated eosinophilic neurons in the dentate nucleus and brain stem. Previous testing for MECP2 exons 2-4 was negative.
[0163] Patient 4 had a clinical diagnosis of Rett syndrome since age 10. At birth, she had a normal head circumference but poor muscle tone. Global developmental delays, intense eye contact and screaming spells were noted in infancy. Teeth grinding, hand flapping, and deterioration in fine motor skills began from age 3 to 4. Speech development was slow but she acquired a vocabulary of about 25 words before the onset of loss of speech at age 6 and she became non-verbal by age 10. She first walked at age 14 months following intensive physiotherapy, and still walks unassisted despite occasional loss of balance due to mild gait dyspraxia. Other significant medical history included scoliosis (treated with surgery) and chronic constipation. There is no history of seizures or acquired microcephaly. When the patient was 28 years old, the family sought molecular genetic testing to confirm the clinical diagnosis of Rett syndrome.
[0164] Research ethics board approval was obtained for the study, and written consent obtained for the four patients described here.

Sequence Analysis

[0165] DNA from blood, or in the case of patient 3, cultured fibroblast cells, was extracted by a manual salting out procedure (Lahiri, D.K. and Nurnberger, J.I., “A rapid non-enzymatic method for the preparation of HMW DNA from blood for RFLP studies,” Nucleic Acids Res., 19: 5444 (1991)). For most of the 35 subjects the entire MECP2 coding region (exons 1-4) was analyzed (primers and PCR conditions available upon request); for Patients 2 and 3, only exon 1 was analyzed since the remaining coding region had been previously tested by an outside laboratory. Exon 1 of the MECP2 gene was PCR-amplified as described previously (Mnatzakanian, G. et al., “A previously unidentified MECP2 open reading frame defines a new protein isoform relevant to Rett syndrome,” Nat. Genet., 36: 339-341 (2004)) and verified on a 2% agarose gel. Fragments were purified using ExoSAPit (USB Corp., Cleveland Ohio). Purified products were sequenced in both forward and reverse directions by automated fluorescent dye-terminator sequencing using Big Dye v3.0 (Applied Biosystems, Foster City, Calif.) and run on an ABI310 (Applied Biosystems). For Patient 2, allele-specific sequence was obtained after cloning the heterozygous PCR product into a TA cloning vector (Invitrogen, Carlsbad, Calif.). The sequence data was compared to the MECP2 reference sequence AF030876 using Sequencher software (Gene Codes, Ann Arbor, Mich.).
[0166] In silica analysis of efficiency of translation start sites affected by exon 1 mutations was performed on MEPC2 mRNA sequences using NetStart (www.cbs.dtu.dk/services/NetStart).

X-Chromosome Inactivation

[0167] X-chromosome inactivation was assessed on genomic DNA from peripheral blood leukocytes by methylation-sensitive restriction digestion followed by PCR amplification across the androgen receptor [CAG] repeat region, according to the method described by Plenge, R. M. et al., “Skewed X-chromosome inactivation is a common feature of X-linked mental retardation disorders,” Am J Hum Genet., 71: 168-173 (2002).

Results

[0168] In 51 samples tested for RTT, four unrelated patients with exon 1 mutations were identified.
[0169] In Patient 1, a mutation was detected, c.1A>T in SEQ ID No. 1 that disrupts the initiation codon, changing it to a leucine. SEQ ID No. 1 contains non-coding exon sequence upstream of the start codon, so the mutation is located at position 8 in SEQ ID No. 1 which corresponds to the first position in the coding exon of SEQ ID No. 1. In silica analysis of translation initiation using NetStart predicts that translation of MeCP2_e1 would be ablated, but without any negative affect on translation of MeCP2_e2. The patient's mother tested negative for this mutation, however the father's DNA was not available for testing. X-chromosome inactivation in peripheral blood leukocytes appeared to be random.
[0170] Patient 2 has a mutation, c.62+1delTG in SEQ ID No. 1, affecting the splice donor (Amir, R E et al., “Mutations in exon 1 of MECP2 are a rare cause of Rett syndrome,” J Med. Genet., 42: e15 (2005)). SEQ ID No. 1 contains non-coding exon sequence upstream of the start codon, so the mutation is located at positions 69 and 70 in SEQ ID No. 1 which corresponds to positions 62 and 63 in the coding exon of SEQ ID No. 1. Analysis of parental DNA revealed that it arose as a de novo mutation, not present in either parent. This mutation is predicted to disrupt splicing of the MECP2E1 mRNA, and may also affect the translation of the MeCP2_e2 isoform from the exon 2-containing mRNA, MECP2E2 (Amir, R E. et al., “Mutations in exon 1 of MECP2 are a rare cause of Rett syndrome,” J Med. Genet., 42: e15 (2005) and Saxena, A. et al., “Lost in translation: translational interference from a recurrent mutation in exon 1 of MECP2,”J Med. Genet., 43: 470-477 (2006)). This patient had a random pattern of X-chromosome inactivation in peripheral blood leukocytes.
[0171] Patient 3 had a C>T transition (c.5C>T) in SEQ ID No. 1 resulting in a missense mutation, A2V. SEQ ID No. 1 contains non-coding exon sequence upstream of the start codon, so the mutation is located at position 12 in SEQ ID No. 1 which corresponds to the fifth position in the coding exon of SEQ ID No. 1. Though an alanine to valine substitution is conservative in retaining a nonpolar side chain, this is a residue that is perfectly conserved throughout evolution and marks the beginning of a polyalanine stretch which is present in all vertebrate species (Harvey, C. G. et al., “Sequence Variants Within Exon 1 of MECP2 Occur in Females With Mental Retardation,” Am J Med Genet (Neuropsychiatr Genet), 144: 355-360 (2007)). Though the role of this repeat is unknown, it contains multiple binding sites for the SP1 transcription factor, the alterations of which would affect the rate of gene transcription. This patient's parents both tested negative for this mutation, indicating this is a de novo mutation.
[0172] Patient 4 had a A>G transition (c.1 A>G) in SEQ ID No. 1 resulting in the start methionine codon being substituted by a valine codon. SEQ ID No. 1 contains non-coding exon sequence upstream of the start codon, so the mutation is located at position 8 in SEQ ID No. 1 which corresponds to the first position in the coding exon of SEQ ID No. 1. Both parents were negative for this mutation. As with Patient 1, this mutation is predicted to ablate translation of MeCP2_e1, but without any negative affect on translation of MeCP2_e2. X-chromosome inactivation in peripheral blood leukocytes showed skewing, 90:10.
[0173] The presence of these missense/start codon mutations in classic Rett patients, uniquely affecting the MeCP2_e1 isoform, clearly indicates the importance of this isoform in the etiology of Rett syndrome. None of these sequence changes were identified in a previous study that screened MECP2 exon 1 in 1,811 subjects with developmental delay or autism, and 498 healthy adult control individuals (Harvey, C. G. et al., “Sequence Variants Within Exon 1 of MECP2 Occur in Females With Mental Retardation,” Am J Med Genet (Neuropsychiatr Genet), 144: 355-360 (2007)).

Discussion

[0174] MECP2 was sequenced in 51 females with various clinical presentations, including developmental delay, autism, atypical and classical RTT, referred to the laboratory for testing. In patients with identified mutations, X-chromosome inactivation was analyzed. Four patients were identified with exon 1 mutations (c.1A>T; c.1A>G; c.5C>T), two of which affected the start codon, one a missense change, and one patient had a previously reported splice site mutation, c.62+1delGT. The 4 patients fit criteria for classical RTT, and thus these findings add support to previous reports that exon 1 mutations may be associated with a severe phenotype. Also, these findings add significant weight to the mounting evidence suggesting that the MeCP2_e1 isoform is the etiologically relevant form of the protein.
[0175] As discussed above, three mutations were detected within exon 1 of the MECP2 gene in 35 clinical samples referred to CMH for MECP2 sequencing, and in one out of 16 samples from the Toronto patient set. All four were associated with classical RTT. Two of these patients had previously tested negative by molecular testing, which at the time included sequencing of exons 2-4 of the MECP2 gene. Following the reports of the second MeCP2 isoform (MeCP2_e1) and the clinical utility of sequencing exon 1, these patients were tested for exon 1 mutations. The total number of distinct exon 1 mutations detected by sequencing is now 10. Two of these mutations, c.47_57del11nt and c.62+1delGT, have been found in more than one patient (see Table 2). This brings the number of Rett patients known to have a mutation within exon 1 of MECP2 to 14.
[0176] All mutations localized to exon 1 reported until recently have been either small insertions or deletions or large deletions removing the entire exon. The c.1A>T and c.1A>G mutations, which are single base pair changes, are the first point mutations to be reported in exon 1 of the MECP2 gene (also see Gauthier, J. et al., “Clinical stringency greatly improves mutation detection in Rett syndrome,” Can J Neurol Sci, 32: 321-6 (2005)). The c.1A>T and c.1A>G mutations alter the initiation codon, which would mostly likely result in absent translation of MeCP2_e1. MeCP2_e2 would be presumably unaffected but is clearly unable to compensate, as evidenced by the patients' classic RTT symptoms. Patient 3 had a C>T transition (c.5C>T) resulting in a missense mutation, A2V. This alanine is a perfectly conserved residue that marks beginning of a polyalanine stretch that is present in all vertebrate species (Harvey, C. G. et al., “Sequence Variants Within Exon 1 of MECP2 Occur in Females With Mental Retardation,” Am J Med Genet (Neuropsychiatr Genet), 144: 355-360 (2007)). The role of this repeat is unknown, but it could play a role in the regulation of gene transcription, given the multiple binding sites for the SP1 transcription factor. This patient's parents both tested negative for this mutation, indicating this is a de novo, most likely pathogenic mutation. This also emphasizes the functional importance of the N-terminal portion of MeCP2_e1. There are a number of lines of evidence pointing to the likelihood that the MeCP2_e1 isoform is more relevant to RTT etiology than MeCP2_e2: a) no exon 2 missense mutations (which should only affect MeCP2_e2) have been identified to date; b) MeCP2_e 1 is the predominant isoform expressed in neuronal tissues Kriaucionis, S, and Bird, A., “The major form of MECP2 has a novel N-terminus generated by alternative splicing,” Nucleic Acids Res, 32: 1818-1823 (2004); Mnatzakanian, G. et al., “A previously unidentified MECP2 open reading frame defines a new protein isoform relevant to Rett syndrome,” Nat. Genet., 36: 339-341 (2004)); c) MeCP2_e1 appears to be the ancestral form of the gene-MeCP2_e2 is only found among the higher vertebrates (Mnatzakanian, G. et al., “A previously unidentified MECP2 open reading frame defines a new protein isoform relevant to Rett syndrome,” Nat. Genet., 36: 339-341 (2004) and Harvey, C. G. et al., “Sequence Variants Within Exon 1 of MECP2 Occur in Females With Mental Retardation,” Am J Med Genet (Neuropsychiatr Genet), 144: 355-360 (2007). On the other hand, analysis of the MECP2 exon 1 llbp deletion (c.47_57del11nt (p.Gly16Glufs)) identified in a number of studies (Mnatzakanian, G. et al., “A previously unidentified MECP2 open reading frame defines a new protein isoform relevant to Rett syndrome,” Nat. Genet., 36: 339-341 (2004); Amir, R. E. et al., “Mutations in exon 1 of MECP2 are a rare cause of Rett syndrome,” J Med. Genet., 42: e15 (2005); Saxena, A. et al., “Lost in translation: translational interference from a recurrent mutation in exon 1 of MECP2,” J Med. Genet., 43: 470-477 (2006); and Ravn, K. et al., “Mutations found within exon 1 of MECP2 in Danish patients with Rett syndrome,” Clin Genet., 67: 532-533 (2005)) has suggested that both isoforms of MeCP2 are disrupted in these patients, and thus could not exclude a role for MeCP2_e2 in RTT etiology (Saxena, A. et al., “Lost in translation: translational interference from a recurrent mutation in exon 1 of MECP2,” J Med. Genet., 43: 470-477 (2006)). However, the missense and start codon mutations, where only MeCP2_e1 is likely disrupted, cast further doubt on a role for MeCP2_e2 in the disorder.
[0177] Previous studies have concluded that sequencing exon 1 contributes little to the mutation detection rate in RTT, even in pre-selected populations such as classical RTT patients who had already tested negative for mutations in exons 2-4 of the gene (Amir, R. E. et al., “Mutations in exon 1 of MECP2 are a rare cause of Rett syndrome,” J Med. Genet., 42: e15 (2005); Evans, J. C. et al., “Variation in exon 1 coding region and promoter of MECP2 in Rett syndrome and controls,” Eur J Hum Genet., 13: 124-126 (2005); and Quenard, A. et al., “Deleterious mutation in exon 1 of MECP2 in Rett syndrome,” Eur J Med. Genet., 49: 313-322 (2006)). However, the results of the study described herein, which spanned two years with a total of 51 female patients tested, a minority of whom met the clinical criteria for classical RTT (9) or variant RTT (2), were quite different. Other clinical presentations such as autism or developmental delay were much more frequent in this testing population, which would be less likely to be associated with a MECP2 mutation. Seven other studies examining the exon 1 mutation frequency in Rett females have been published to date (see Table 3). All of these studies were restricted to patients meeting criteria for classic or variant RTT and except for one study (Quenard, A. et al., “Deleterious mutation in exon 1 of MECP2 in Rett syndrome,” Eur J Med Genet., 49: 313-322 (2006)), all were looking at patients who had previously tested negative for mutations in exons 2-4. The detection rates for mutations within exon 1 range from 0% to 25% (See Table 3) in these studies, with several groups concluding that exon 1 mutations are a rare cause of RTT (Amir, R. E. et al., “Mutations in exon 1 of MECP2 are a rare cause of Rett syndrome,” J Med. Genet., 42: e15 (2005); Evans, J. C. et al., “Variation in exon 1 coding region and promoter of MECP2 in Rett syndrome and controls,” Eur J Hum Genet., 13: 124-126 (2005); and Quenard, A. et al., “Deleterious mutation in exon 1 of MECP2 in Rett syndrome,” Eur J Med. Genet., 49: 313-322 (2006)). In this study of 51 unselected patients, 4 had exon 1 mutations (7.8%). For the sake of comparison, if the numbers are restricted to only those patients who fit the classic or atypical RTT criteria, then the exon 1 mutation frequency is 36%. The average detection rate from the reports listed in Table 3 is 8.1% (median 5%). Taken together, these data indicate that exon 1 mutations detectable by sequencing are slightly more common than previously reported (Amir, R. E. et al., “Mutations in exon 1 of MECP2 are a rare cause of Rett syndrome,” J Med. Genet., 42: e15 (2005); Evans, J. C. et al., “Variation in exon 1 coding region and promoter of MECP2 in Rett syndrome and controls,” Eur J Hum Genet., 13: 124-126 (2005); and Quenard, A. et al., “Deleterious mutation in exon 1 of MECP2 in Rett syndrome,” Eur J Med. Genet., 49: 313-322 (2006)).
[0178] Although genotype-phenotype correlations are difficult to make in RTT because of differences in X-chromosome inactivation (XCI), several authors have observed that patients with exon 1 mutations result in a severe RTT phenotype (Amir, R. E. et al., “Mutations in exon 1 of MECP2 are a rare cause of Rett syndrome,” J Med. Genet., 42: e15 (2005); Bartholdi, D. et al., “Clinical profiles of four patients with Rett syndrome carrying a novel exon 1 mutation or genomic rearrangement in the MECP2 gene,” Clin Genet., 69: 319-326 (2006); and Chunshu, Y. et al., “A patient with classic Rett syndrome with a novel mutation in MECP2 exon 1,” Clin Genet., 70: 530-531 (2006)). This could be because exon 1 mutations cause premature truncation of the more relevant, brain-dominant isoform (Kriaucionis, S, and Bird, A., “The major form of MECP2 has a novel N-terminus generated by alternative splicing,” Nucleic Acids Res, 32: 1818-1823 (2004) and Mnatzakanian, G. et al., “A previously unidentified MECP2 open reading frame defines a new protein isoform relevant to Rett syndrome,” Nat. Genet., 36: 339-341 (2004)).
[0179] Out of the 14 patients harboring mutations within exon 1, all but two had classic/severe RTT. The two patients with atypically mild RTT had the same c.47_57del11nt mutation, which has also been reported in classic RTT patients (Table 2), differences for which could be attributed to skewed XCI. All four of the patients in this study had classic RTT, with one dying at an early age from pneumonia at the age of 16. Although the numbers are too small to be of any statistical significance, it is worth noting that 4 of the 14 patients listed in Table 2 died by the age of 25 (median age 17.5). RTT patients do have a decreased survival compared to the general population, but survival to 20 years was 94% in a preliminary study of patients from Texas (del Junco, D. et al., “Survival in a large cohort of US girls and women with Rett syndrome,”. J Child Neurol., 8:101-102 (1993), Abstract.) and 85.3% in a large Australian cohort of 276 RTT patients (Laurvick, C. L. et al., “Rett syndrome in Australia: a review of the epidemiology,”. J Pediatr, 148: 347-352 (2006)).
[0180] While the present invention has been described with reference to what are presently considered to be the preferred examples, it is to be understood that the invention is not limited to the disclosed examples. To the contrary, the invention is intended to cover various modifications and equivalent arrangements included within the spirit and scope of the appended claims.
[0181] All publications, patents and patent applications are herein incorporated by reference in their entirety to the same extent as if each individual publication, patent or patent application was specifically and individually indicated to be incorporated by reference in its entirety.
[0182] 
[00001] [TABLE-US-00001]
  TABLE 1
 
  MECP2E1 mutations or variants identified to date.
            Number
    Position         of
    relative to         Patients
  Nucleotide   NM_004992     Effect of   Associated   with
  change   (SEQ ID No. 1)   Amino acid change   change   phenotype   mutation
 
  11 bp deletion   Between 38 to   Frameshift leads to   MECP2E1   Rett   1
    54   nonsense mutation,   disrupted,
      premature truncation of   MECP2E2 not
      protein after amino acid 36   disrupted
  Exon 1 deletion   1-69   No MECP2E1 translation   MECP2E1 and   Rett   1
        MECP2E2
        disrupted
  1A->T   8   1Met->Leu   MECP2E1   Rett   1
        disrupted,
        MECP2E2
        possibly
        diminished
  del [TG]   69 to 70   Destroys exon1/intron 1   MECP2E1   Rett   1
      splice site, resulting in read   disrupted,
      through and nonsense   MECP2E2
      translation, with truncation   probably not
      after amino acid 97   disrupted
  ins [GCCGCCGCC]   Between nt 11   ins[Ala]3 within N terminal   May affect   Developmental   2
    and 29   polyalanine stretch of   function and or   Delay
      MECP2E1   translation of
        MECP2E1, but
        not MECP2E2
  del [GCC]   Between nt 11   del Ala within N terminal   May affect   Developmental   1
    and 29   polyalanine stretch of   function and or   Delay
      MECP2E1   translation of
        MECP2E1, but
        not MECP2E2
  ins [GGA]   Between 38 to   ins Gly   May affect   Developmental   5
    54     function and or   Delay
        translation of
        MECP2E1, but
        not MECP2E2
  −45 del [GC]   −38 to −39   In 5′UTR, 45nt upstream of   May affect   Developmental   1
    relative to   START codon-potential   transcription or   Delay
    BX538060   SP1 transcription factor   translation of
      binding site   MECP2E1
  −26 del [AG]   −19 to −20   In 5′UTR, 26nt upstream of   May affect   Developmental   1
    relative to   START codon   transcription or   Delay
    BX538060     translation of
        MECP2E1
 
  “del” indicates a deletion;
  “ins” indicates an insertion
[0183] 
[00002] [TABLE-US-00002]
  TABLE 2
 
  Summary of reported exon 1 sequence mutations in MECP2 to date.
    Patient   Age at Death     RTT
  Mutation   Age   (Cause)   XCI   Phenotype
 
  c.1A > T (p.Met1?)   20   n/a   63:37   classic
  c.1A > G (p.Met1?)   28   n/a   90:10   classic
  c.5C > T (p.A2V)     16 (pneumonia)   Not done   classic
  c.23_27dup5nt     25 (not given)   —   classic
  (p.Ser10Argfs)
  c.30delCinsGA     19 (pneumonia)   70:30   classic
  (p.Ser10Argfs)
  c.47_57del11nt   27   n/a   —   classic
  (p.Gly16Glufs)
  c.47_57del11nt   37   n/a   —   classic
  (p.Gly16Glufs)
  c.47_57del11nt   ?   n/a   44:56   atypical
  (p.Gly16Glufs)         (mild)
  c.47_57del11nt   13   n/a   73:27   atypical
  (p.Gly16Glufs)         (mild)
  c.48_55dup   5   n/a   Random   classic
  (p.Glu19Alafs)
  c.59_60delGA   5   n/a   48:52   classic
  (p.Arg20Thrfs)
  c.62 + 1delGT   8   n/a   68:32   classic
  c.62 + 1delGT   7   n/a   78:22   classic
  c.62 + 2_62 + 3del     6½ (not given)   Random   atypical
          (severe)
 
[0184] 
[00003] [TABLE-US-00003]
  TABLE 3
 
  Literature reports of exon 1 mutation frequency in females
  with RTT and variant RTT phenotype.
  Frequency      
  of     Previously   Large Gene
  Mutations in     Negative for   Rearrangements
  Exon 1   Phenotype   Exons 2-4   Including Exon 1
 
  1/19; 5.2%   Typical RTT   Yes   1 patient, exon 1
  2/63; 3.2%   38 classic   Yes   Not tested
    RTT, 25
    atypical RTT
  2/212; .9%   211 typical   No   4 patients, large
    RTT, 1     deletions*
    atypical
    (severe) RTT
  2/10; 20%   Typical RTT   Yes   None
  1/20; 5%   12 classic   Yes   1 patient, exons
    RTT, 8     1-2
    variant RTT,
  1/20; 5%   Classic and   Yes   Not tested
    atypical RTT
  0/97; 0%   37 classic   Yes   None (Not all
    RTT and 60     were tested)
    atypical
  1/4; 25%   Classic RTT   Not   n/a
      specified
  4/51; 7.8%   9 classical   21 Patients   Not tested
    RTT, 2
    variant RTT;
    (the rest have
    autism, MR,
    microcephaly,
    etc.)
  Total:       6 Deletions
  14/496;
  2.8%
 
  *One deletion including promoter and exon 1, one including exons 1-2, one including promoter and exons 1-2, and one complete gene deletion
(57)

Claims

1. A method of detecting a point mutation in the human MECP2 gene that disrupts the initiation codon in exon 1, comprising
(a) contacting an MECP2 nucleic acid in a sample from a human with a detectably labelled oligonucleotide that specifically hybridizes to an MECP2 nucleic acid sequence comprising a guanine at a position corresponding to nucleotide position 8 of SEQ ID NO:1 under high stringency conditions, and
(b) detecting hybridization of the oligonucleotide to the MECP2 nucleic acid from the human, wherein detecting hybridization indicates the presence of a guanine at a position corresponding to nucleotide position 8 of SEQ ID NO:1, and wherein the mutation disrupts the initiation codon in exon 1.
2. The method according to claim 1, wherein the method further comprises: amplifying the MECP2 nucleic acid in the sample with primers X1F (5′- CCATCACAGCCAATGACG-3′) (SEQ ID No. 19) and X1R (5′-AGGGGGAGGGTAGAGAGGAG-3′) (SEQ ID No. 20) in a polymerase chain reaction.
3. The method according to claim 1, wherein the MECP2 nucleic acid from the sample comprises SEQ ID NO:3.
4. The method of claim 1, further comprising extracting nucleic acid from the sample.
5. The method of claim 1, further comprising amplifying the nucleic acid in the sample.
6. The method according to claim 1, wherein the method further comprises performing an assay selected from the group consisting of multiplex ligation-dependent probe amplification, direct sequencing, polymerase chain reaction, reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction, denaturing high performance liquid chromatography, electrophoretic mobility, and fluorescent in situ hybridization.
7. The method according to claim 1, wherein the oligonucleotide is detectably labelled with a radioactive label, a fluorescent compound, an enzyme, or a chemiluminescent compound.
*****

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