Beyond a simple association, the study provides the first evidence that mutations affecting cellular recycling centers called lysosomes actually play a role in causing some people to stutter.
“This was extremely unexpected,” says senior author Stuart A. Kornfeld, MD, the David C. and Betty Farrell Professor of Medicine. “Why would impairment in a lysosomal pathway lead to stuttering? We don’t know the answer to that. Partly because we don’t know very much about the mechanisms of speech, including which neurons in the brain are involved. So we can’t fully explain stuttering, but now we have clues.”
The research is available online in the Journal of Biological Chemistry
Genetic clues to stuttering were first identified in a paper published in the New England Journal of Medicine in February 2010. In it, Dennis Drayna, PhD, a senior investigator with the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders and a co-author on the current study, and his colleagues reported results of genetic studies on members of a large Pakistani family, many of whom stutter.
Among most of the stuttering family members, they found mutations in three genes involved in directing proteins to the lysosome. These same mutations were present in many unrelated individuals in Pakistan, North America and Europe who stutter, but not in those with normal speech.
Until now, one of the three genes, NAGPA, had not been implicated in any human disorder. This is where Kornfeld and Wang-Sik Lee, PhD, research instructor in medicine at Washington University, began their in-depth biochemical investigation of the mutations that Drayna’s group identified.
NAGPA encodes an enzyme responsible for the last step in “addressing” proteins to the lysosome. Drayna’s work identified three separate mutations in NAGPA in individuals who stutter. And according to Lee’s biochemical analysis, all three of the mutations impaired the enzyme, but each did so in a different way. In general, mutations in a gene often cause the resulting protein to be folded into the wrong shape. Cells are very good at recognizing misfolded proteins and destroying them.
In this case, Lee’s biochemical analysis shows that two mutations appear to trap the proteins in the cell’s protein manufacturing center, though some get out before being destroyed.
“It’s not an all-or-nothing thing,” Kornfeld says. “Of the material that does get out, its activity is normal.”
But the third mutation causes a larger folding problem and the protein is destroyed just minutes after being made.
Such findings offer a glimpse at possible future therapies for stuttering. For two of the mutations at least, the problem is not that the protein can’t function, but rather that it can’t get out of the cell’s protein manufacturing center and go to the intracellular site where it acts to direct proteins to lysosomes. If some compound can be found that helps the protein escape, Lee’s work suggests that it would function normally. But Kornfeld cautions that this type of therapy for stuttering is a long way off.
“There are billions of neurons in the brain, and we have very little idea which neurons are involved in speech,” he says. “Our main finding is that these three mutations in NAGPA in people with persistent stuttering all have harmful effects. This is biochemical evidence that these mutations are meaningful, and not just markers of some other genetic change that is the real cause.”
Having described the three harmful mutations in NAGPA, Kornfeld’s group is now performing biochemical analyses on the other two mutated genes Drayna’s group identified: GNPTAB and GNPTG. Drayna and his colleagues estimate that these three mutated genes account for only about 10 percent of people who stutter with a family history. As such, they are continuing the search for additional genes responsible for stuttering.
Lee WS, Kang C, Drayna D, Kornfeld S. Analysis of mannose 6-phosphate uncovering enzyme mutations associated with persistent stuttering. Journal of Biological Chemistry. Nov. 18, 2011.
Kang C, Riazuddin S, Mundorff J, Krasnewich D, Friedman P, Mullikin JC, Drayna D. Mutations in the lysosomal enzyme-targeting pathway and persistent stuttering. The New England Journal of Medicine. February 2010.
This work was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, which is a part of the NIH.
Washington University School of Medicine’s 2,100 employed and volunteer faculty physicians also are the medical staff of Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals. The School of Medicine is one of the leading medical research, teaching and patient care institutions in the nation, currently ranked fourth in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Through its affiliations with Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals, the School of Medicine is linked to BJC HealthCare.
Judy Martin | EurekAlert!
Water forms 'spine of hydration' around DNA, group finds
26.05.2017 | Cornell University
How herpesviruses win the footrace against the immune system
26.05.2017 | Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung
Staphylococcus aureus is a feared pathogen (MRSA, multi-resistant S. aureus) due to frequent resistances against many antibiotics, especially in hospital infections. Researchers at the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut have identified immunological processes that prevent a successful immune response directed against the pathogenic agent. The delivery of bacterial proteins with RNA adjuvant or messenger RNA (mRNA) into immune cells allows the re-direction of the immune response towards an active defense against S. aureus. This could be of significant importance for the development of an effective vaccine. PLOS Pathogens has published these research results online on 25 May 2017.
Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) is a bacterium that colonizes by far more than half of the skin and the mucosa of adults, usually without causing infections....
Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.
The quantum computer has fuelled the imagination of scientists for decades: It is based on fundamentally different phenomena than a conventional computer....
An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.
We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...
Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.
Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...
An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...
24.05.2017 | Event News
23.05.2017 | Event News
22.05.2017 | Event News
26.05.2017 | Life Sciences
26.05.2017 | Life Sciences
26.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy