In-depth characterisation of a cohort of individuals with missense and loss-of-function variants disrupting FOXP2

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Background Heterozygous disruptions of FOXP2 were the first identified molecular cause for severe speech disorder: childhood apraxia of speech (CAS), and yet few cases have been reported, limiting knowledge of the condition. Methods Here we phenotyped 28 individuals from 17 families with pathogenic FOXP2-only variants (12 loss-of-function, five missense variants; 14 males; aged 2 to 62 years). Health and development (cognitive, motor, social domains) were examined, including speech and language outcomes with the first cross-linguistic analysis of English and German. Results Speech disorders were prevalent (23/25, 92%) and CAS was most common (22/25, 88%), with similar speech presentations across English and German. Speech was still impaired in adulthood, and some speech sounds (eg, € th', € r', € ch', € j') were never acquired. Language impairments (21/25, 84%) ranged from mild to severe. Comorbidities included feeding difficulties in infancy (10/26, 38%), fine (13/26, 50%) and gross (13/26, 50%) motor impairment, anxiety (5/27, 19%), depression (6/27, 22%) and sleep disturbance (10/24, 42%). Physical features were common (22/27, 81%) but with no consistent pattern. Cognition ranged from average to mildly impaired and was incongruent with language ability; for example, seven participants with severe language disorder had average non-verbal cognition. Conclusions Although we identify an increased prevalence of conditions like anxiety, depression and sleep disturbance, we confirm that the consequences of FOXP2 dysfunction remain relatively specific to speech disorder, as compared with other recently identified monogenic conditions associated with CAS. Thus, our findings reinforce that FOXP2 provides a valuable entry point for examining the neurobiological bases of speech disorder.

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Morison, L. D., Meffert, E., Stampfer, M., Steiner-Wilke, I., Vollmer, B., Schulze, K., … Morgan, A. T. (2023). In-depth characterisation of a cohort of individuals with missense and loss-of-function variants disrupting FOXP2. Journal of Medical Genetics, 60(6), 597–607.

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