Gene for Joubert syndrom with excessive brain folds discovered by UCSD researchers and Harvard team

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) School of Medicine have discovered the gene for a form of Joubert Syndrome, a condition present before birth that affects an area of the brain controlling balance and coordination in about 1 in 10,000 individuals. Their study, published in the November 2004 issue of the American Journal of Human Genetics*, pointed to mutations in a gene called AHI1 that lead to the production of a protein the scientists named Jouberin.

Separate research by a team from Harvard Medical School concurrently identified the same gene in a paper published in the November 2004 issue of the journal Nature Genetics.** Both the UCSD and Harvard studies were published online prior to the print publications in November.

The AHI1 gene mutation is responsible for a form of Joubert Syndrome manifested by absence of part of the cerebellum, the part of the brain controlling balance, and by excessive folding in the cerebral cortex, the part of the brain controlling consciousness and thought. The results from both UCSD and Harvard involved a gene-by-gene search of chromosome 6 DNA from three families studied by UCSD and three separate families studied by Harvard. Researchers believe the disorder linked to chromosome 6 is the most common of the three known forms of Joubert Syndrome.

"This is a tremendously exciting finding because it is the first genetic defect clearly associated with this condition. Although Joubert Syndrome is relatively rare, we think that the genes causing this condition are going to underlie more common childhood brain and behavioral abnormalities, such as autism, mental retardation, and poor coordination" said the UCSD paper's senior author, Joseph Gleeson, M.D., assistant professor of neurosciences at UCSD and Children's Hospital San Diego.

This identification caps a five-year hunt for the first gene for Joubert syndrome. The Gleeson team initially recruited famil

Contact: Sue Pondrom
University of California - San Diego

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