Intragenic deletions in ATP7B as an unusual molecular genetics mechanism of Wilson's disease pathogenesis

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Wilson's disease (WD) is an autosomal recessive disorder caused by mutations in the ATP7B resulting in copper overload in the liver and brain. Direct sequencing is routinely used to confirm WD diagnosis; however, partial and whole gene deletions in the heterozygous state cannot be detected by exon amplification since the normal allele will mask its presence. The aim of the present work was to search for unusual mutational events in the unexplained WD cases and to provide insight into the mechanisms. Out of 1420 clinically and biochemically confirmed WD samples received between 2000 and 2014 for routine mutation analysis, we were unable to detect mutant alleles in 142 samples, after extensive sequencing analysis. We used selective amplification and MLPA to identify the partial gene deletions and identified three different partial gene deletions in seven different families. All three deletions were fully characterized at the DNA sequence level. We report the first hemizygous case with WD due to intragenic deletion in the ATP7B (c.3134-3556+689del). This novel deletion resulted from an excision event mediated by consensus sequences in an AluSq2 repeat element and could be traced to micro homologous end joining (MMEJ). Finally, we determined the prevalence of the three deletions in DNA samples from a multinational group of WD patients. Our results emphasize the need for searching mutant alleles beyond routine methods and highlight that large ATP7B deletions are rare, but account for a detectable proportion in some WD patients. Screening for gene aberrations will further improve mutation detection in patients with unidentified ATP7B mutations presenting with clinical manifestations of WD.




Todorov, T., Balakrishnan, P., Savov, A., Socha, P., & Schmidt, H. H. J. (2016). Intragenic deletions in ATP7B as an unusual molecular genetics mechanism of Wilson’s disease pathogenesis. PLoS ONE, 11(12).

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