Human molecular genetics

Shortened primary cilium length and dysregulated Sonic hedgehog signaling in Niemann-Pick C1 disease.

PMID 28379564


The Niemann-Pick type C1 (NPC1) disease is a neurodegenerative lysosomal storage disorder due to mutations in the NPC1 gene, encoding a transmembrane protein related to the Sonic hedgehog (Shh) receptor, Patched, and involved in intracellular trafficking of cholesterol. We have recently found that the proliferation of cerebellar granule neuron precursors is significantly reduced in Npc1-/- mice due to the downregulation of Shh expression. This finding prompted us to analyze the formation of the primary cilium, a non-motile organelle that is specialized for Shh signal transduction and responsible, when defective, for several human genetic disorders. In this study, we show that the expression and subcellular localization of Shh effectors and ciliary proteins are severely disturbed in Npc1-deficient mice. The dysregulation of Shh signaling is associated with a shortening of the primary cilium length and with a reduction of the fraction of ciliated cells in Npc1-deficient mouse brains and the human fibroblasts of NPC1 patients. These defects are prevented by treatment with 2-hydroxypropyl-β-cyclodextrin, a promising therapy currently under clinical investigation. Our findings indicate that defective Shh signaling is responsible for abnormal morphogenesis of the cerebellum of Npc1-deficient mice and show, for the first time, that the formation of the primary cilium is altered in NPC1 disease.