May 1, 2016

A mutation in the tuft mouse disrupts TET1 activity and alters the expression of genes that are crucial for neural tube closure

Keith S. K. Fong, Robert B. Hufnagel, Vedbar S. Khadka, Michael J. Corley, Alika K. Maunakea, Ben Fogelgren, Zubair M. Ahmed, and Scott Lozanoff

Disease Models & Mechanisms

Genetic variations affecting neural tube closure along the head result in malformations of the face and brain. Neural tube defects (NTDs) are among the most common birth defects in humans. We previously reported a mouse mutant called tuft that arose spontaneously in our wild-type 3H1 colony. Adult tuft mice present midline craniofacial malformations with or without an anterior cephalocele. In addition, affected embryos presented neural tube closure defects resulting in insufficient closure of the anterior neuropore or exencephaly. Here, through whole-genome sequencing, we identified a nonsense mutation in the Tet1 gene, which encodes a methylcytosine dioxygenase (TET1), co-segregating with the tuft phenotype. This mutation resulted in premature termination that disrupts the catalytic domain that is involved in the demethylation of cytosine. We detected a significant loss of TET enzyme activity in the heads of tuft embryos that were homozygous for the mutation and had NTDs. RNA-Seq transcriptome analysis indicated that multiple gene pathways associated with neural tube closure were dysregulated in tuft embryo heads. Among them, the expressions of Cecr2, Epha7 and Grhl2 were significantly reduced in some embryos presenting neural tube closure defects, whereas one or more components of the noncanonical WNT signaling pathway mediating planar cell polarity and convergent extension were affected in others. We further show that the recombinant mutant TET1 protein was capable of entering the nucleus and affected the expression of endogenous Grhl2 in IMCD-3 (inner medullary collecting duct) cells. These results indicate that TET1 is an epigenetic determinant for regulating genes that are crucial to closure of the anterior neural tube and its mutation has implications to craniofacial development, as presented by the tuft mouse.

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