The overarching goal of Project II is to identify the defining characteristics of disease neurons in Williams syndrome (WS), and to address the interplay between gene expression and the WS social phenotype. Genetic reprogramming of somatic cells to a pluripotent state (induced pluripotent stem cells or iPSCs) by over-expression of specific genes has been accomplished using mouse and human cells. The resulting iPSCs are isogenic to the donor individual, i.e., they carry a similar genetic background, and thus are attractive not only for future therapeutic purposes, with lower risk of immune rejection, but also for the understanding of complex diseases with heritable and sporadic conditions. Thus, the use of human iPSCs as a biological tool to understand complex disorders, such as WS, may provide additional insights into the disease pathology, and new compounds that ameliorate disease progression. Wth an unparalleled history of research on WS as a compelling model for understanding the linkages from molecular genetics to neurobiology to higher cognition and social functions, WS provides a privileged setting for the proposed studies. The remarkable potential of iPSCs has sparked profuse interest and excitement in researchers studying individuals with a variety of neurodevelopment disorders, because of their potential to reveal avenues for intervention. WS offers an excellent model due to a well-defined genetic basis and a robust social phenotype. To this end, the Specific Aims are: (1) to derive iPSCs from individuals with WS as well as typical controls;(2) to analyze the gene expression profile of neural cells derived from controls and WS iPSCs;and (3) to test cross-level hypotheses generated during the course of the Program Project, e.g., the role of specific genes in the atypical WS social behavior, neuronal phenotype, and brain anatomy. The pluripotent stem cells will be driven to differentiate in neurons for a comprehensive transcriptional analysis and future mechanistic explorations based on our hypotheses. The ultimate aim of this research is to discover potential biomarkers and specific therapeutic targets. Elucidating the links between genes and social-affective behavior in WS may provide fundamental insight into the genetic mechanisms and neural circuits responsible for human social behavior

Public Health Relevance

The goal of this propsal is to develop a cellular human model to study Williams syndrome. We will determine the correlation between the gene expression profile and the neuronal phenotypes from WS neurons derived from reporgrammed cells. The outcome of this study will increase our understanding of the mechanism behind the pathology, allowing better diagnoses and new therapeufic interventions.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD)
Research Program Projects (P01)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZHD1-MRG-C (BU))
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Salk Institute for Biological Studies
La Jolla
United States
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Chailangkarn, Thanathom; Noree, Chalongrat; Muotri, Alysson R (2018) The contribution of GTF2I haploinsufficiency to Williams syndrome. Mol Cell Probes 40:45-51
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Griesi-Oliveira, Karina; Suzuki, Angela May; Muotri, Alysson Renato (2017) TRPC Channels and Mental Disorders. Adv Exp Med Biol 976:137-148
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Ng, Rowena; Brown, Timothy T; Erhart, Matthew et al. (2016) Morphological differences in the mirror neuron system in Williams syndrome. Soc Neurosci 11:277-88
Green, Tamar; Fierro, Kyle C; Raman, Mira M et al. (2016) Surface-based morphometry reveals distinct cortical thickness and surface area profiles in Williams syndrome. Am J Med Genet B Neuropsychiatr Genet 171B:402-13
Järvinen, Anna; Ng, Rowena; Crivelli, Davide et al. (2015) Relations between social-perceptual ability in multi- and unisensory contexts, autonomic reactivity, and social functioning in individuals with Williams syndrome. Neuropsychologia 73:127-40
Järvinen, Anna; Ng, Rowena; Bellugi, Ursula (2015) Autonomic response to approachability characteristics, approach behavior, and social functioning in Williams syndrome. Neuropsychologia 78:159-70
Ng, Rowena; Fishman, Inna; Bellugi, Ursula (2015) Frontal asymmetry index in Williams syndrome: Evidence for altered emotional brain circuitry? Soc Neurosci 10:366-75

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