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PLoS By Category | Recent PLoS Articles
Neuroscience - Ophthalmology

A Spontaneous Mutation in Contactin 1 in the Mouse
Published: Thursday, December 29, 2011
Author: Muriel T. Davisson et al.

by Muriel T. Davisson, Roderick T. Bronson, Abigail L. D. Tadenev, William W. Motley, Arjun Krishnaswamy, Kevin L. Seburn, Robert W. Burgess

Mutations in the gene encoding the immunoglobulin-superfamily member cell adhesion molecule contactin1 (CNTN1) cause lethal congenital myopathy in human patients and neurodevelopmental phenotypes in knockout mice. Whether the mutant mice provide an accurate model of the human disease is unclear; resolving this will require additional functional tests of the neuromuscular system and examination of Cntn1 mutations on different genetic backgrounds that may influence the phenotype. Toward these ends, we have analyzed a new, spontaneous mutation in the mouse Cntn1 gene that arose in a BALB/c genetic background. The overt phenotype is very similar to the knockout of Cntn1, with affected animals having reduced body weight, a failure to thrive, locomotor abnormalities, and a lifespan of 2–3 weeks. Mice homozygous for the new allele have CNTN1 protein undetectable by western blotting, suggesting that it is a null or very severe hypomorph. In an analysis of neuromuscular function, neuromuscular junctions had normal morphology, consistent with previous studies in knockout mice, and the muscles were able to generate appropriate force when normalized for their reduced size in late stage animals. Therefore, the Cntn1 mutant mice do not show evidence for a myopathy, but instead the phenotype is likely to be caused by dysfunction in the nervous system. Given the similarity of CNTN1 to other Ig-superfamily proteins such as DSCAMs, we also characterized the expression and localization of Cntn1 in the retinas of mutant mice for developmental defects. Despite widespread expression, no anomalies in retinal anatomy were detected histologically or using a battery of cell-type specific antibodies. We therefore conclude that the phenotype of the Cntn1 mice arises from dysfunction in the brain, spinal cord or peripheral nervous system, and is similar in either a BALB/c or B6;129;Black Swiss background, raising a possible discordance between the mouse and human phenotypes resulting from Cntn1 mutations.