Mutant GlialCAM causes megalencephalic leukoencephalopathy with subcortical cysts, benign familial macrocephaly, and macrocephaly with retardation and autism

Am J Hum Genet. 2011 Apr 8;88(4):422-32. doi: 10.1016/j.ajhg.2011.02.009. Epub 2011 Mar 17.


Megalencephalic leukoencephalopathy with subcortical cysts (MLC) is a leukodystrophy characterized by early-onset macrocephaly and delayed-onset neurological deterioration. Recessive MLC1 mutations are observed in 75% of patients with MLC. Genetic-linkage studies failed to identify another gene. We recently showed that some patients without MLC1 mutations display the classical phenotype; others improve or become normal but retain macrocephaly. To find another MLC-related gene, we used quantitative proteomic analysis of affinity-purified MLC1 as an alternative approach and found that GlialCAM, an IgG-like cell adhesion molecule that is also called HepaCAM and is encoded by HEPACAM, is a direct MLC1-binding partner. Analysis of 40 MLC patients without MLC1 mutations revealed multiple different HEPACAM mutations. Ten patients with the classical, deteriorating phenotype had two mutations, and 18 patients with the improving phenotype had one mutation. Most parents with a single mutation had macrocephaly, indicating dominant inheritance. In some families with dominant HEPACAM mutations, the clinical picture and magnetic resonance imaging normalized, indicating that HEPACAM mutations can cause benign familial macrocephaly. In other families with dominant HEPACAM mutations, patients had macrocephaly and mental retardation with or without autism. Further experiments demonstrated that GlialCAM and MLC1 both localize in axons and colocalize in junctions between astrocytes. GlialCAM is additionally located in myelin. Mutant GlialCAM disrupts the localization of MLC1-GlialCAM complexes in astrocytic junctions in a manner reflecting the mode of inheritance. In conclusion, GlialCAM is required for proper localization of MLC1. HEPACAM is the second gene found to be mutated in MLC. Dominant HEPACAM mutations can cause either macrocephaly and mental retardation with or without autism or benign familial macrocephaly.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Autistic Disorder / genetics*
  • Autistic Disorder / metabolism
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Cell Adhesion Molecules, Neuronal / genetics*
  • Cell Adhesion Molecules, Neuronal / metabolism
  • Cell Cycle Proteins
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cysts / genetics
  • Cysts / metabolism
  • Genes, Dominant
  • Hereditary Central Nervous System Demyelinating Diseases / genetics
  • Hereditary Central Nervous System Demyelinating Diseases / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Intellectual Disability / genetics*
  • Intellectual Disability / metabolism
  • Megalencephaly / genetics*
  • Megalencephaly / metabolism
  • Membrane Proteins / genetics
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Mutation*
  • Protein Binding
  • Protein Interaction Domains and Motifs / genetics
  • Proteins / genetics*
  • Proteins / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid


  • Cell Adhesion Molecules, Neuronal
  • Cell Cycle Proteins
  • HEPACAM protein, human
  • MLC1 protein, human
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Proteins

Supplementary concepts

  • Macrocephaly, benign familial
  • Megalencephalic leukoencephalopathy with subcortical cysts