Lymphedema is the clinical manifestation of defects in lymphatic structure or function. Mutations identified in genes regulating lymphatic development result in inherited lymphedema. No mutations have yet been identified in genes mediating lymphatic function that result in inherited lymphedema. Survey microarray studies comparing lymphatic and blood endothelial cells identified expression of several connexins in lymphatic endothelial cells. Additionally, gap junctions are implicated in maintaining lymphatic flow. By sequencing GJA1, GJA4, and GJC2 in a group of families with dominantly inherited lymphedema, we identified six probands with unique missense mutations in GJC2 (encoding connexin [Cx] 47). Two larger families cosegregate lymphedema and GJC2 mutation (LOD score = 6.5). We hypothesize that missense mutations in GJC2 alter gap junction function and disrupt lymphatic flow. Until now, GJC2 mutations were only thought to cause dysmyelination, with primary expression of Cx47 limited to the central nervous system. The identification of GJC2 mutations as a cause of primary lymphedema raises the possibility of novel gap-junction-modifying agents as potential therapy for some forms of lymphedema.
Copyright 2010 The American Society of Human Genetics. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.