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Title: Human neuronal LUHMES cell line as a model system for studying Rett syndrome
Author: Shah, Ruth Rama
ISNI:       0000 0004 7429 5470
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2018
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Rett syndrome (RTT) is a severe neurological disorder that affects approximately 1:10000 girls. Classical RTT is defined by a developmental regression phase and subsequent stabilisation of diagnostic criteria, which include partial or complete loss of spoken language, dyspraxic gait and stereotypic hand movements such as hand mouthing. RTT is a monogenic disorder, with the majority of cases being due to loss-of-function mutations in MeCP2 (methyl-CpG binding protein 2). Due to this clear genotype-phenotype link multiple RTT mouse models have been used to elucidate the molecular details, and consequent neuropathogenesis, of this complex neurological disease, as well as for the development of potential therapeutics for RTT. However, as the molecular details become clearer, the need for a simpler model system becomes evident. Human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) generated from RTT patient fibroblasts are an option; however the handling of these cells is laborious, time-consuming and expensive and they often differentiate into a heterogeneous population of cells. To explore an alternative human model system I have been genetically engineering and experimenting with the human dopaminergic LUHMES cell line. LUHMES cells are an immortalised pre-neuronal cell line derived from an 8-week old, female foetus and can readily be differentiated into a homogeneous population of mature, electrically active neurons in just one week. In this thesis I have assessed the phenotypic properties of the wild-type cell line, demonstrated the ease of genetic manipulation of LUHMES cells by CRISPR/Cas9 approaches, generated seven mutant MECP2 LUHMES cell lines and explored the potential of protein therapy as a therapeutic approach for RTT. The LUHMES cell line proves to be extremely easy to handle and robust and has yielded novel molecular insights into the function of MeCP2 in human neurons. In particular, MeCP2-null cells show a striking relationship between the level of gene body methylation and the extent of transcriptional upregulation when compared to wild-type neurons. In contrast neurons that express a form of MeCP2 that can bind to DNA but cannot recruit a transcriptional corepressor complex (the R306C mutant) do not exhibit substantial gene expression alterations, yet do display a consistent decrease in total RNA amount. This decrease in total RNA is recapitulated in MeCP2-null LUHMES-derived neurons and in brain regions from MeCP2-R306C mice. The requirement for functional DNA binding for normal gene-body methylation dependent gene repression is demonstrated by assessing LUHMES cells that overexpress MeCP2-R111G, a protein that cannot bind to DNA. Furthermore, overexpression of the MeCP2-R306C protein highlights the importance of NCoR binding for normal gene repression, but also demonstrates that MeCP2-R306C protein retains some gene repression activity. Thinking more broadly, this cell line also has applications as a model system for a variety of other neurological disorders; as a simplified model system to elucidate molecular and neurological phenotypes, and as a relevant human system that can be cultured in a high-throughput manner for testing therapeutic strategies.
Supervisor: Bird, Adrian ; Bayne, Elizabeth Sponsor: Wellcome Trust
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Rett syndrome ; MECP2 ; DNA-binding proteins ; mCpG ; LUHMES cells ; MeCP2 mutant cell lines ; MeCP2 protein