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High-Throughput Transcriptome Sequencing Identifies Candidate Genetic Modifiers of Vulnerability to Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders

Authors

  • Ana Garic,

    1. Departments of Nutritional Sciences and Animal Sciences, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin
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    • These authors contributed equally to this work and have joint first authorship.
  • Mark E. Berres,

    1. Departments of Nutritional Sciences and Animal Sciences, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin
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    • These authors contributed equally to this work and have joint first authorship.
  • Susan M. Smith

    Corresponding author
    1. Departments of Nutritional Sciences and Animal Sciences, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin
    • Reprint requests: Susan M. Smith, PhD, Department of Nutritional Sciences, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1415 Linden Drive, Madison, WI 53706; Tel.: 608-263-4316; Fax: 608-262-5860; E-mail: suesmith@nutrisci.wisc.edu

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Abstract

Background

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) is a leading cause of neurodevelopmental disability. Genetic factors can modify vulnerability to FASD, but these elements are poorly characterized.

Methods

We performed high-throughput transcriptional profiling to identify gene candidates that could potentially modify vulnerability to ethanol's (EtOH's) neurotoxicity. We interrogated a unique genetic resource, neuroprogenitor cells from 2 closely related Gallus gallus lines having well-characterized robust or attenuated EtOH responses with respect to intracellular calcium mobilization and CaMKII/β-catenin-dependent apoptosis. Samples were not exposed to EtOH prior to analysis.

Results

We identified 363 differentially expressed genes in neuroprogenitors from these 2 lines. Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes analysis revealed several gene clusters having significantly differential enrichment in gene expression. The largest and most significant cluster comprised ribosomal proteins (38 genes, = 1.85 × 10−47). Other significantly enriched gene clusters included metabolism (25 genes, = 0.0098), oxidative phosphorylation (18 genes, = 1.10 × 10−11), spliceosome (13 genes, = 7.02 × 10−8), and protein processing in the endoplasmic reticulum (9 genes, = 0.0011). Inspection of gene ontogeny (GO) terms identified 24 genes involved in the calcium/β-catenin signals that mediate EtOH's neurotoxicity in this model, including β-catenin itself and both calmodulin isoforms.

Conclusions

Four of the identified pathways with altered transcript abundance mediate the flow of cellular information from RNA to protein. Importantly, ribosome biogenesis also senses nucleolar stress and regulates p53-mediated apoptosis in neural crest. Human ribosomopathies produce craniofacial malformations and 11 known ribosomopathy genes were differentially expressed in this model of neural crest apoptosis. Rapid changes in ribosome expression are consistently observed in EtOH-treated mouse embryo neural folds, a model that is developmentally similar to ours. The recurring identification of ribosome biogenesis suggests it is a candidate modifier of EtOH vulnerability. These results highlight this approach's efficacy to formulate new, mechanistic hypotheses regarding EtOH's developmental damage.

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