Functional Studies of Genetic Variants in TRPM7 and AKAP9 – Two Candidate Genes for Stillbirth
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For every 200 births in the UK, one will end in a stillbirth. Stillbirth is classified as a baby born dead after 24 weeks gestation. Mutations in genes that cause ion channelopathies are known to cause sudden cardiac death in adults and children. Prenatal diagnosis of LQT has been possible for decades, creating a disease spectrum where channelopathies may fatally influence pregnancy. We sequenced 35 candidate genes in 70 unexplained stillbirth cases. Thirty-nine cases harboured a predicted damaging protein missense variant. Two novel and two rare variants were observed in the transient receptor potential melastatin 7 (TRPM7) gene and five rare genetic variants were found in A-kinase anchor protein 9 (AKAP9). The aim of this PhD was to perform functional studies of these variants in TRPM7 and AKAP9. TRPM7 is an ion channel indispensable for mouse cardiogenesis. Two TRPM7 variants (p.G179V and p.T860M) showed significantly reduced current compared to wild-type channels. Conversely, cells expressing p.R494Q TRPM7, had a significant increase in current compared to WT channels, but only in CHO-K1 cells. Western blot analyses failed to detect full length TRPM7 in cells transfected with either p.G179V or p.T860M compared to wild-type expressing cells. Proteosomal inhibition using MG132 produced a small but visible band in p.T860M transfected cells. Expression of TRPM7 in iPSC-derived cardiomyocytes increases during cell maturation, and TRPM7-like current was measured in 20-23 day old cardiomyocytes. AKAP9 is required to couple adrenergic stimulation in the heart with faster cardiac repolarisation. Cells expressing WT AKAP9 alongside the KCNQ1/KCNE1 potassium channel responded to β-adrenergic stimulation, however those transfected with p.A3043T AKAP9 did not respond to treatment with forskolin. Our analyses supports two deleterious variants in TRPM7 and one in AKAP9 in unexplained stillbirth cases. These heterozygous variants could lead to haploinsufficiency and may be a cause of stillbirth.
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