Theses Doctoral

A Precision Medicine Approach to Understanding KIF1A Associated Neurological Disorder

Boyle, Lia

The functional compartmentalization underlying neuronal polarity makes tightly regulated intracellular transport between the cell body, axons, and dendrites essential for proper development and homeostatic maintenance. Disruptions to neuronal trafficking are a major cause of neurodegenerative disease. Pathogenic variants in the microtubule motor protein KIF1A cause KIF1A Associated Neurological Disorder (KAND), a spectrum of rare neurodegenerative conditions. KAND is clinically and genetically heterogeneous, with a broad phenotypic spectrum and over a hundred pathogenic variants identified. KAND is poorly understood at both the clinical and molecular level, and there is currently no treatment.

This work characterizes the natural history of KAND and describes a novel heuristic severity score. This severity score is then used to show how the location of pathogenic missense variants within the KIF1A motor domain correlates with disease severity, providing evidence the clinical phenotypic heterogeneity in KAND reflects and parallels the molecular phenotypes. Insights from the neuropathology of deceased KAND patients is used to focus a histopathologic assessment of the C3-Kif1aLgdg mouse model. C3-Kif1aLgdg/Lgdg mice have a cerebellar axonal torpedo phenotype, paralleling some of the pathological changes seen in the patients. Phenotypically, the C3-Kif1aLgdg mice were found to recapitulate some of the symptoms seen in patients including progressive spasticity and gait abnormalities associated with hind limb paralysis.

To model the disease at a cellular level, iPSCs were derived from affected individuals and successfully used to generate neural stem cells and neurons. These patient-derived neurons were found to have increased markers of protein aggregates, a cellular phenotype that can be used to test potential treatments. Taken together, these studies provide foundational knowledge for future therapeutic development.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Cellular, Molecular and Biomedical Studies
Thesis Advisors
Chung, Wendy K.
Gennarino, Vincenzo Alessandro
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
August 4, 2021