Bercier, V., Brustein, E., Liao, M., Dion, P.A., Lafrenière, R.G., Rouleau, G.A., and Drapeau, P. (2013) WNK1/HSN2 Mutation in Human Peripheral Neuropathy Deregulates KCC2 Expression and Posterior Lateral Line Development in Zebrafish (Danio rerio). PLoS Genetics. 9(1):e1003124.
Hereditary sensory and autonomic neuropathy type 2 (HSNAII) is a rare pathology characterized by an early onset of severe sensory loss (all modalities) in the distal limbs. It is due to autosomal recessive mutations confined to exon “HSN2” of the WNK1 (with-no-lysine protein kinase 1) serine-threonine kinase. While this kinase is well studied in the kidneys, little is known about its role in the nervous system. We hypothesized that the truncating mutations present in the neural-specific HSN2 exon lead to a loss-of-function of the WNK1 kinase, impairing development of the peripheral sensory system. To investigate the mechanisms by which the loss of WNK1/HSN2 isoform function causes HSANII, we used the embryonic zebrafish model and observed strong expression of WNK1/HSN2 in neuromasts of the peripheral lateral line (PLL) system by immunohistochemistry. Knocking down wnk1/hsn2 in embryos using antisense morpholino oligonucleotides led to improper PLL development. We then investigated the reported interaction between the WNK1 kinase and neuronal potassium chloride cotransporter KCC2, as this transporter is a target of WNK1 phosphorylation. In situ hybridization revealed kcc2 expression in mature neuromasts of the PLL and semi-quantitative RT–PCR of wnk1/hsn2 knockdown embryos showed an increased expression of kcc2 mRNA. Furthermore, overexpression of human KCC2 mRNA in embryos replicated the wnk1/hsn2 knockdown phenotype. We validated these results by obtaining double knockdown embryos, both for wnk1/hsn2 and kcc2, which alleviated the PLL defects. Interestingly, overexpression of inactive mutant KCC2-C568A, which does not extrude ions, allowed a phenocopy of the PLL defects. These results suggest a pathway in which WNK1/HSN2 interacts with KCC2, producing a novel regulation of its transcription independent of KCC2's activation, where a loss-of-function mutation in WNK1 induces an overexpression of KCC2 and hinders proper peripheral sensory nerve development, a hallmark of HSANII.