Musunuru Lab

Kiran Musunuru

Principal Investigator (PI)
Assistant Professor
Kiran Musunuru (PI)
Harvard University
7 Divinity Ave
Cambridge, MA 02138
Strong, A., et al., 2012. Hepatic sortilin regulates both apolipoprotein B secretion and LDL catabolism. J Clin Invest , 122 (8) , pp. 2807-16.Abstract
Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified a genetic variant at a locus on chromosome 1p13 that is associated with reduced risk of myocardial infarction, reduced plasma levels of LDL cholesterol (LDL-C), and markedly increased expression of the gene sortilin-1 (SORT1) in liver. Sortilin is a lysosomal sorting protein that binds ligands both in the Golgi apparatus and at the plasma membrane and traffics them to the lysosome. We previously reported that increased hepatic sortilin expression in mice reduced plasma LDL-C levels. Here we show that increased hepatic sortilin not only reduced hepatic apolipoprotein B (APOB) secretion, but also increased LDL catabolism, and that both effects were dependent on intact lysosomal targeting. Loss-of-function studies demonstrated that sortilin serves as a bona fide receptor for LDL in vivo in mice. Our data are consistent with a model in which increased hepatic sortilin binds intracellular APOB-containing particles in the Golgi apparatus as well as extracellular LDL at the plasma membrane and traffics them to the lysosome for degradation. We thus provide functional evidence that genetically increased hepatic sortilin expression both reduces hepatic APOB secretion and increases LDL catabolism, providing dual mechanisms for the very strong association between increased hepatic sortilin expression and reduced plasma LDL-C levels in humans.
Musunuru, K., et al., 2010. Exome sequencing, ANGPTL3 mutations, and familial combined hypolipidemia. N Engl J Med , 363 (23) , pp. 2220-7.Abstract
We sequenced all protein-coding regions of the genome (the "exome") in two family members with combined hypolipidemia, marked by extremely low plasma levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, and triglycerides. These two participants were compound heterozygotes for two distinct nonsense mutations in ANGPTL3 (encoding the angiopoietin-like 3 protein). ANGPTL3 has been reported to inhibit lipoprotein lipase and endothelial lipase, thereby increasing plasma triglyceride and HDL cholesterol levels in rodents. Our finding of ANGPTL3 mutations highlights a role for the gene in LDL cholesterol metabolism in humans and shows the usefulness of exome sequencing for identification of novel genetic causes of inherited disorders. (Funded by the National Human Genome Research Institute and others.).
Ding, Q., et al., 2014. Permanent alteration of PCSK9 with in vivo CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing. Circ Res , 115 (5) , pp. 488-92.Abstract
RATIONALE: Individuals with naturally occurring loss-of-function proprotein convertase subtilisin/kexin type 9 (PCSK9) mutations experience reduced low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels and protection against cardiovascular disease. OBJECTIVE: The goal of this study was to assess whether genome editing using a clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR)/CRISPR-associated system can efficiently introduce loss-of-function mutations into the endogenous PCSK9 gene in vivo. METHODS AND RESULTS: We used adenovirus to express CRISPR-associated 9 and a CRISPR guide RNA targeting Pcsk9 in mouse liver, where the gene is specifically expressed. We found that <3 to 4 days of administration of the virus, the mutagenesis rate of Pcsk9 in the liver was as high as >50%. This resulted in decreased plasma PCSK9 levels, increased hepatic low-density lipoprotein receptor levels, and decreased plasma cholesterol levels (by 35-40%). No off-target mutagenesis was detected in 10 selected sites. CONCLUSIONS: Genome editing with the CRISPR-CRISPR-associated 9 system disrupts the Pcsk9 gene in vivo with high efficiency and reduces blood cholesterol levels in mice. This approach may have therapeutic potential for the prevention of cardiovascular disease in humans.
Musunuru, K., et al., 2010. From noncoding variant to phenotype via SORT1 at the 1p13 cholesterol locus. Nature , 466 (7307) , pp. 714-9.Abstract
Recent genome-wide association studies (GWASs) have identified a locus on chromosome 1p13 strongly associated with both plasma low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) and myocardial infarction (MI) in humans. Here we show through a series of studies in human cohorts and human-derived hepatocytes that a common noncoding polymorphism at the 1p13 locus, rs12740374, creates a C/EBP (CCAAT/enhancer binding protein) transcription factor binding site and alters the hepatic expression of the SORT1 gene. With small interfering RNA (siRNA) knockdown and viral overexpression in mouse liver, we demonstrate that Sort1 alters plasma LDL-C and very low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) particle levels by modulating hepatic VLDL secretion. Thus, we provide functional evidence for a novel regulatory pathway for lipoprotein metabolism and suggest that modulation of this pathway may alter risk for MI in humans. We also demonstrate that common noncoding DNA variants identified by GWASs can directly contribute to clinical phenotypes.
Ding, Q., et al., 2013. A TALEN genome-editing system for generating human stem cell-based disease models. Cell Stem Cell , 12 (2) , pp. 238-51.Abstract
Transcription activator-like effector nucleases (TALENs) are a new class of engineered nucleases that are easier to design to cleave at desired sites in a genome than previous types of nucleases. We report here the use of TALENs to rapidly and efficiently generate mutant alleles of 15 genes in cultured somatic cells or human pluripotent stem cells, the latter for which we differentiated both the targeted lines and isogenic control lines into various metabolic cell types. We demonstrate cell-autonomous phenotypes directly linked to disease-dyslipidemia, insulin resistance, hypoglycemia, lipodystrophy, motor-neuron death, and hepatitis C infection. We found little evidence of TALEN off-target effects, but each clonal line nevertheless harbors a significant number of unique mutations. Given the speed and ease with which we were able to derive and characterize these cell lines, we anticipate TALEN-mediated genome editing of human cells becoming a mainstay for the investigation of human biology and disease.
Veres, A., et al., 2014. Low incidence of off-target mutations in individual CRISPR-Cas9 and TALEN targeted human stem cell clones detected by whole-genome sequencing. Cell Stem Cell , 15 (1) , pp. 27-30.Abstract
Genome editing has attracted wide interest for the generation of cellular models of disease using human pluripotent stem cells and other cell types. CRISPR-Cas systems and TALENs can target desired genomic sites with high efficiency in human cells, but recent publications have led to concern about the extent to which these tools may cause off-target mutagenic effects that could potentially confound disease-modeling studies. Using CRISPR-Cas9 and TALEN targeted human pluripotent stem cell clones, we performed whole-genome sequencing at high coverage in order to assess the degree of mutagenesis across the entire genome. In both types of clones, we found that off-target mutations attributable to the nucleases were very rare. From this analysis, we suggest that, although some cell types may be at risk for off-target mutations, the incidence of such effects in human pluripotent stem cells may be sufficiently low and thus not a significant concern for disease modeling and other applications.
Teslovich, T.M., et al., 2010. Biological, clinical and population relevance of 95 loci for blood lipids. Nature , 466 (7307) , pp. 707-13.Abstract
Plasma concentrations of total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol and triglycerides are among the most important risk factors for coronary artery disease (CAD) and are targets for therapeutic intervention. We screened the genome for common variants associated with plasma lipids in >100,000 individuals of European ancestry. Here we report 95 significantly associated loci (P < 5 x 10(-8)), with 59 showing genome-wide significant association with lipid traits for the first time. The newly reported associations include single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) near known lipid regulators (for example, CYP7A1, NPC1L1 and SCARB1) as well as in scores of loci not previously implicated in lipoprotein metabolism. The 95 loci contribute not only to normal variation in lipid traits but also to extreme lipid phenotypes and have an impact on lipid traits in three non-European populations (East Asians, South Asians and African Americans). Our results identify several novel loci associated with plasma lipids that are also associated with CAD. Finally, we validated three of the novel genes-GALNT2, PPP1R3B and TTC39B-with experiments in mouse models. Taken together, our findings provide the foundation to develop a broader biological understanding of lipoprotein metabolism and to identify new therapeutic opportunities for the prevention of CAD.

Wenjian Lu

Post-Doctoral Fellow in Stem Cell & Regenerative Biology

Xiao Wang

Post-Doctoral Fellow in Stem Cell & Regenerative Biology