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Title: Clinical and molecular investigation of rare congenital defects of the palate
Author: Seselgyte, Rimante
ISNI:       0000 0004 8507 8324
Awarding Body: UCL (University College London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2019
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Cleft palate (CP) affects around 1/1500 live births and, along with cleft lip, is one of the most common forms of birth defect. The studies presented here focus on unusual defects of the palate, especially to understand better the rarely reported but surprisingly common condition called submucous cleft palate (SMCP). The frequency and consequences of SMCP from a surgical perspective were first investigated based on the caseload of the North Thames Cleft Service at Great Ormond Street Hospital and St Andrew's Centre, Broomfield Hospital, Mid Essex Hospitals Trust. It was previously reported that up to 80% of individuals with unrepaired SMCP experience speech difficulties as a consequence of velopharyngeal insufficiency (VPI). Attempted repair of the palatal defect can sometimes give poor results, so controversies still exist about the correct choice of surgical technique to use. Over 23 years, 222 patients at The North Thames Cleft Service underwent operations to manage SMCP. Nearly half of them (42.8%) were diagnosed with 22q11.2 deletion syndrome (22q11.2 DS). The first operation was palate repair, with an exception of one case, followed by a second surgical intervention required in approximately half of the patients. A third procedure to manage VPI was carried out in 6% of patients. To better understand the histological anatomy of the palatal muscles in cleft patients, biopsies were taken from levator veli palatini (LVP) and/or palatopharyngeus (PP) muscles during surgical correction of CP. Muscles were compared from patients with SMCP to those with overt CP and also to controls. The controls consisted of descending PP muscle fibres from healthy children who underwent a tonsillectomy operation for obstructive sleep apnoea or recurrent chronic tonsillitis. Fifty-seven biopsy samples were available from children between 10 months to 9 years of age. Individual biopsy samples were also available from patients with achondroplasia, Apert, Cornelia de Lange and Kabuki syndromes. The study showed a prevalence of fast fibres in both muscles in all CP types. However, in both SMCP LVP and SMCP 22q11.2 DS LVP, this trend was reversed in favour of slow fibres. Single cases with syndromes did not reveal any obvious differences compared to more common cleft types. Mutations in TBX22 are a frequent genetic cause of cleft palate and SMCP. The functional role of the encoded TBX22 transcription factor was investigated in a mouse model with SMCP. Cell lineage-specific fluorescence activated cell sorting of a conditional allele of Tbx22, was used to look at the RNA-Seq transcriptome in developing palatal shelves, with a view to identify downstream target genes. Eleven up regulated genes reached statistical significance after multiple testing correction in cranial mesoderm (CM) derived cells when comparing Tbx22null/Y and WT samples (Cspg4, Foxp2, Reln, Bmpr1b, Adgrb3, Sox6, Zim1, Scarna13, Fat1, Notch3, Peg3). Eleven genes were down regulated in the same comparison (Nr2f2, Lars2, Ahr, Aplnr, Emcn, Npnt, Apln, Ccr2, Tll1, Snord34, Snord99). Comparing Tbx22null/Y and WT in cranial neural crest (CNC) derived cells, only Cxcl14 was up regulated, while Tbx22 was down regulated. Osteoclast differentiation, calcium signalling, focal adhesion, Wnt signalling and cell adhesion molecule pathways were the most enriched pathways in functional annotation of significantly differentially expressed genes analysis. Finally, a family with an unusual velopharyngeal anatomy was investigated in order to determine the likely genetic cause. This involved the implementation of genetic technologies in an autosomal dominant multigeneration Egyptian family with 8 affected individuals who presented with absent uvula, short posterior border of the soft palate and abnormal pillars of the fauces. Using a combination of cytogenetic, linkage analysis and exome sequencing, followed by more detailed segregation and functional analysis, a dominantly acting missense mutation in the activation domain of FOXF2 was revealed. This variant was found to co-segregate with a copy number variant of unknown significance that could not at this stage be causally distinguished from the point mutation.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available