CLEVELAND November 10, 2008 A multidisciplinary research team at Case Western Reserve University led by Gary Landreth, Ph.D., a professor in the School of Medicine's Department of Neurosciences, has uncovered a common genetic pathway for a number of birth defects that affect the development of the heart and head. Abnormal development of the jaw, palate, brain and heart are relatively common congenital defects and frequently arise due to genetic errors that affect a key developmental pathway.
The research, titled "Mouse and human phenotypes indicate a critical conserved role for ERK2 signaling in neural crest development" is published in the November 10 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.
Landreth, also the senior author of the study, developed a mouse model of these disorders by removing a gene central to this developmental pathway, called ERK2. He, together with Dr. William Snider at the University of North Carolina, discovered that the mice missing the gene for ERK2 in neural crest cells had developmental defects resembling those of human patients with a deletion that includes this gene. The patients have features that are similar to DiGeorge syndrome, which is associated with cardiac and palate defects. Interestingly, the ERK2 gene is central to a well-known pathway already associated with a different distinct group of cardiac and craniofacial syndromes that include Noonan, Costello, Cardiofaciocutaneous syndrome, and LEOPARD syndrome.
Landreth enlisted the help of Michiko Watanabe, Ph.D., professor of Pediatrics at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine to look at the mouse hearts. She and her team found that they had characteristic heart defects resembling those seen in the patients with ERK2 deletions.
"Given Dr. Watanabe's findings, we determined that we had in fact developed animal models that mimicked the human deletion syndrome,"
|Contact: Christina Thompson|
Case Western Reserve University