Study question: Are single nucleotide variants (SNVs) in Aurora kinases B and C (AURKB, AURKC) associated with risk of aneuploid conception?
Summary answer: Two SNVs were found in patients with extreme aneuploid concepti rates with respect to their age; one variant, AURKC p.I79V, is benign, while another, AURKB p.L39P, is a potential gain-of-function mutant with increased efficiency in promoting chromosome alignment.
What is known already: Maternal age does not always predict aneuploidy risk, and rare gene variants can be drivers of disease. The AURKB and AURKC regulate chromosome segregation, and are associated with reproductive impairments in mouse and human.
Study design, size, duration: An extreme phenotype sample selection scheme was performed for variant discovery. Ninety-six DNA samples were from young patients with higher than average embryonic aneuploidy rates and an additional 96 DNA samples were from older patients with lower than average aneuploidy rates.
Participants/materials, setting, methods: Using the192 DNA samples, the coding regions of AURKB and AURKC were sequenced using next generation sequencing. To assess biological significance, we expressed complementary RNA encoding the human variants in mouse oocytes. Assays such as determining subcellular localization and assessing catalytic activity were performed to determine alterations in protein function during meiosis.
Main results and the role of chance: Ten SNVs were identified using three independent variant-calling methods. Two of the SNVs (AURKB p.L39P and AURKC p.I79V) were non-synonymous and identified by at least two variant-identification methods. The variant encoding AURKC p.I79V, identified in a young woman with a higher than average rate of aneuploid embryos, showed wild-type localization pattern and catalytic activity. On the other hand, the variant encoding AURKB p.L39P, identified in an older woman with lower than average rates of aneuploid embryos, increased the protein's ability to regulate alignment of chromosomes at the metaphase plate. These experiments were repeated three independent times using 2-3 mice for each trial.
Large scale data: N/A.
Limitations, reasons for caution: Biological significance of the human variants was assessed in an in vitro mouse oocyte model where the variants are over-expressed. Therefore, the human protein may not function identically to the mouse homolog, or the same in mouse oocytes as in human oocytes. Furthermore, supraphysiological expression levels may not accurately reflect endogenous activity. Moreover, the evaluated variants were identified in one patient each, and no trial linking the SNV to pregnancy outcomes was conducted. Finally, the patient aneuploidy rates were established by performing comprehensive chromosome screening in blastocysts, and because of the link between female gamete aneuploidy giving rise to aneuploid embryos, we evaluate the role of the variants in Meiosis I. However, it is possible that the chromosome segregation mistake arose during Meiosis II or in mitosis in the preimplantation embryo. Their implications in human female meiosis and aneuploidy risk remain to be determined.
Wider implications of the findings: The data provide evidence that gene variants exist in reproductively younger or advanced aged women that are predictive of the risk of producing aneuploid concepti in humans. Furthermore, a single amino acid in the N-terminus of AURKB is a gain-of-function mutant that could be protective of euploidy.
Study funding/competing interests: This work was supported by a Research Grant from the American Society of Reproductive Medicine and support from the Charles and Johanna Busch Memorial Fund at Rutgers, the State University of NJ to K.S. and the Foundation for Embryonic Competence, Inc to N.T. The authors declare no conflicts of interest.
Keywords: Aurora kinase; aneuploidy; infertility; meiosis; oocyte; single nucleotide variants..
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