Functional Analysis Of Primary Microcephaly Gene Product ASPM
Autosomal recessive primary microcephaly (MCPH) is defined by congenital microcephaly and associated mental retardation with head circumference of the affected individual at least 3 standard deviations below age- and sex-means. It is a disorder of abnormal fetal brain growth which is a consequence of impaired neurogenesis. It is genetically heterogeneous with seven known loci and genes for all the seven loci have been identified: MCPH-1-MCPH1, MCPH2-WDR62, MCPH3-CDK5RAP2, MCPH4-CEP152, MCPH5-ASPM, MCPH6-CENPJ, and MCPH7-STIL. All the seven MCPH proteins localize at the centrosome. Apart from MCPH, many other proteins associated with the phenotype microcephaly have been localized to the centrosome or linked to it functionally. For example, Microcephalic osteodysplastic primordial dwarfism type II protein PCNT and Seckel syndrome protein ATR are also centrosomal proteins. All of the above findings show the importance of centrosomal proteins as the key players in neurogenesis and brain development. However, the exact mechanism as to how the loss-of-function of these proteins leads to microcephaly remains to be elucidated. The study of MCPH genes can also provide insights into the basics of neurogenesis that lead to a normal brain size. The most common cause of MCPH is mutations in the ASPM (abnormal spindle-like, microcephaly-associated protein) gene. The main aim of this study was to gain insight into the function of ASPM using the yeast two-hybrid technique. The main findings of the study are listed below. To find novel interacting proteins for SPM, a GAL4 based yeast two-hybrid system was used. The 3,477 amino acid long ASPM was divided into eight different baits and each bait was individually used for screening a human fetal brain cDNA library cloned in the pACT2 vector. To generate baits, the different regions were amplified from human fetal brain cDNA and cloned in-frame with the GAL4-DNA binding domain in the pGBKT7 vector. Screening with a C-terminus ASPM bait (pGBKT7-CTR) identified Angelman syndrome protein ubiquitin protein ligase E3A (UBE3A) as an ASPM interactor. A region of UBE3A from amino acids 639-875 was found to interact with ASPM. The identification of UBE3A as an ASPM interacting partner was interesting as more than 80% of Angleman syndrome patients are reported to have microcephaly. Screening with the baits pGBKT7-1.4 kb ASPM and pGBKT7-2.1 kb ASPM harboring parts of IQ domain identified calmodulin as an ASPM interating partner. The full length calmodulin was found to interact with the IQ domain of ASPM. The interactions identified in the yeast two-hybrid assay were confirmed in vivo by co-immunoprecipitation studies. For this, a rabbit polyclonal anti-ASPM antibody was raised against the N-terminal region of ASPM (from amino acids 544-1059). The specificity of the antibody was tested by Western blot analysis and immunofluorescence microscopy. ASPM antibody recognized the 410 KDa fulllength ASPM protein in lysates from human fetal tissues and different cell lines. Immunofluorescence analysis in HEK293 cells with the antibody revealed centrosomal staining of ASPM throughout mitosis and midbody staining in cytokinesis, as reported previously. Using antibodies against ASPM and UBE3A and human fetal kidney lysate, ASPM and UBE3A interaction was confirmed in vivo by co-immunoprecipitation. The interaction between ASPM and calmodulin was confirmed similarly. The relevance of the interaction between ASPM and UBE3A was pursued further Like ASPM, UBE3A localized to the centrosome throughout mitotic progression. ASPM levels were found to be unaffected upon overexpression of UBE3A in HEK293 cells, indicating that ASPM is not degraded by a UBE3A-dependent proteasomal pathway or the degradation may be spatial-temporal control. Further, immunofluorescence analysis of UBE3A overexpressing HEK293 cells revealed that UBE3A does not affect either the ASPM localization or its protein level at the centrosome. Synchronization of HEK293 cells in different cell cycle phases revealed that UBE3A is a cell cycle dependent protein and its level peaks in mitosis To explore the functional role of UBE3A’s increased level in mitosis, UBE3A was depleted in HEK293 cells with a shRNA construct and stable clones were generated. HEK293- UBE3A shRNA knockdown cells were examined for normal mitotic progession and spindle defects. There was a 3.81- to 5.52-fold increase in the frequency of anaphase/telophase cells with missegregated chromosomes in UBE3A knockdown clones as compared to scrambled clones. Hence, we identified a definitive role of UBE3A in chromosome segregation. Defective chromosome segregation has been reported in many studies associated with microcephaly-related proteins. Interestingly, chromosome malfunctioning has also been reported in Drosophilia asp mutants (ASPM orthologue) and Celegans aspm-1 knockdown cells. Therefore, the loss of both ASPM and UBE3A leading to chromosome segregation defects reveals the existence of a molecular pathway common to both ASPM and UBE3A As a consequence of chromosome missegregation, UBE3A knockdown cells were found to undergo abnormal cytokinesis and apoptosis. The percentage of apoptotic cells in UBE3A knockdown clones was 1.25- to 3.04-fold higher as compared to scrambled clones. Interestingly, an extensive apoptosis has been found in the neural folds of MCPH7 gene STIL null mice embryos. Thus, the present study links Angleman syndrome protein UBE3A to ASPM, centrosome and mitosis for the first time.