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Functional testing of BMP pathway variants identified on whole exome sequencing in a patient with delayed-onset fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva (FOP) using ACVR1R206H -specific human cellular and zebrafish models

Wentworth KL, Lalonde RL, Groppe JC, Brewer N, Moody T, Hansberry S, Taylor K, Shore EM, Kaplan FS, Pignolo RJ, Yelick PC, Hsiao EC
J Bone Miner Res. 2022 Sep 25. doi: 10.1002/jbmr.4711. Online ahead of print
Bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) signaling is critical in skeletal development. Over-activation can trigger heterotopic ossification (HO) as in fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva (FOP), a rare, progressive disease of massive HO formation. A small subset of FOP patients harboring the causative ACVR1R206H mutation show strikingly mild or delayed-onset HO, suggesting that genetic variants in the BMP pathway could act as disease modifiers. Whole exome sequencing of one such patient identified BMPR1AR443C and ACVR2AV173I as candidate modifiers. Molecular modeling predicted significant structural perturbations. Neither variant decreased BMP signaling in ACVR1R206H HEK 293T cells at baseline or after stimulation with BMP4 or activin A (AA), ligands that activate ACVR1R206H signaling. Overexpression of BMPR1AR443C in a Tg(ACVR1-R206Ha) embryonic zebrafish model, in which over-active BMP signaling yields ventralized embryos, did not alter ventralization severity, while ACVR2AV173I exacerbated ventralization. Co-expression of both variants did not affect dorsoventral patterning. In contrast, BMPR1A knockdown in ACVR1R206H HEK cells decreased ligand-stimulated BMP signaling but did not affect dorsoventral patterning in Tg(ACVR1-R206Ha) zebrafish. ACVR2A knockdown decreased only AA-stimulated signaling in ACVR1R206H HEK cells and had no effect in Tg(ACVR1-R206Ha) zebrafish. Co-knockdown in ACVR1R206H HEK cells decreased basal and ligand-stimulated signaling, and co-knockdown/knockout (bmpr1aa/ab; acvr2aa/ab) decreased Tg(ACVR1-R206Ha) ventralization phenotypes. Our functional studies showed that knockdown of wild-type BMPR1A and ACVR2A could abrogate ACVR1R206H signaling, particularly in response to AA, and that the ACVR2AV173I unexpectedly increased ACVR1R206H mediated signaling in zebrafish. These studies describe a useful strategy and platform for functionally interrogating potential genes and genetic variants that may impact the BMP signaling pathway.
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