An extremely rare hereditary disorder called BPTA syndrome has been thoroughly studied by scientists from Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics (MPIMG), and the University Hospital Schleswig-Holstein (UKSH). Developmental disorders are caused when cellular self-organization is hampered by a change in a protein’s charge. The study also discovered hundreds of comparable genetic alterations linked to a number of illnesses, including cancer propensity and problems of brain development. Numerous unknown diseases and health disorders may be caused by this system, which has now been reported in the journal Nature.
Numerous diseases, ailments, and situations are correlated with thousands of genetic alterations. It is rarely understood how these mutations cause disease, though. This is due to the fact that the modifications are related to portions of proteins with a disorganized three-dimensional structure and an as-yet-unknown function inside the cell. According to Dr. Martin Mensah of the Institute of Medical and Human Genetics at Charité, “it’s difficult to research what these kinds of protein segments are responsible for accomplishing since, in many situations, they have to interact with other molecules before creating their effects.” He is a fellow in the Digital Clinician Scientist Program, run by Charité and the Berlin Institute of Health (BIH) at Charité, and one of the study’s two original authors.
We have now thoroughly explained how BPTA syndrome, as an example, arose from changes in disordered protein regions. This indicates that a novel heritable disease-causing mechanism has been identified by the research team, one that turns out to be surprisingly common after all.
Brachyphalangy, polydactyly, and tibial aplasia/hypoplasia are collectively known as BPTA. Severe abnormalities of the extremities, face, neurological system, bones, and other organs are seen in patients. This condition is extremely rare, with fewer than ten documented occurrences globally. The researchers analyzed the genetic data of five of the affected patients to determine the etiology of this illness, and they found that each one of them had an alteration in the HMGB1 protein. The final third of the protein’s structure has a positive charge rather than the typical negative one because of a mutation known as a frameshift.
The shift in charge makes HMGB1 resemble proteins that frequently collect in the nucleolus, a confined region in the cell’s nucleus where components of the protein factories are put together. The nucleolus is essential for a cell’s survival because of this function. The altered HMGB1 protein, which now has a positively charged terminal part, is incorrectly pulled toward the nucleolus, as the study team demonstrated based on investigations on isolated proteins and cell cultures. The HMGB1 protein also forms clumps as a result of the extension of the protein becoming stiffer. Under a microscope, we could observe that this results in the nucleolus losing its natural liquid-like characteristics and becoming more stiff.”, explains Dr. Henri Niskanen, an MPIMG researcher and the other initial author of the paper.
The critical functions of the cells are badly impacted by this nucleolus solidification. In the culture, more cells with the mutant protein than those without it died. One of the study’s three lead authors, Prof. Dr. Malte Spielmann, who also serves as Director of UKSH’s Institute of Human Genetics, draws the following conclusion: “We showed how mutations in disordered portions of proteins might cause a disease. The protein incorrectly accumulates in the nucleolus when the charge changes, which negatively impacts the nucleolus’ essential functions. The development of the organism is disrupted as a result.
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