Congenital cataract, a clinically and genetically highly heterogeneous eye disorder, is one of the significant causes of visual impairment or blindness in children. It is frequently inherited as an autosomal dominant trait. We investigated a three-generation family of Indian origin with 12 members affected with cerulean cataract. Linkage analysis was carried out in this family using more than 100 microsatellite markers for the known cataract candidate gene loci. A positive two-point lod score of 3.9 at theta = 0.000, indicative of linkage, was obtained with three microsatellite markers for chromosome 16. Multipoint and haplotype analysis narrowed the cataract locus to a 15.3 cM region between markers D16S518 and D16S511 that corresponds to the region 16q23.1. Direct sequencing of the candidate gene MAF, which lies in the critical linked region, revealed a novel heterozygous missense mutation in the basic region (BR) of the DNA-binding domain. This sequence change was considered pathogenic as it segregated in all affected family members, neither seen in unaffected family members nor in 106 unrelated controls. The mutation also results in substitution of highly conserved lysine 297 by arginine (K297R) that affects a residue that forms a part of a predicted DNA-interaction region of the protein. The association of microcornea with congenital cataract in some affected individuals further underlines the role of the MAF transcription factor in lens and anterior ocular development. Our findings expand the mutation spectrum of MAF in association with congenital cataract and highlight the genetic and phenotypic heterogeneity of congenital cataract.
2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.