Autosomal Recessive Primary Microcephaly (MCPH): clinical manifestations, genetic heterogeneity and mutation continuum

Orphanet J Rare Dis. 2011 Jun 13:6:39. doi: 10.1186/1750-1172-6-39.


Autosomal Recessive Primary Microcephaly (MCPH) is a rare disorder of neurogenic mitosis characterized by reduced head circumference at birth with variable degree of mental retardation. In MCPH patients, brain size reduced to almost one-third of its original volume due to reduced number of generated cerebral cortical neurons during embryonic neurogensis. So far, seven genetic loci (MCPH1-7) for this condition have been mapped with seven corresponding genes (MCPH1, WDR62, CDK5RAP2, CEP152, ASPM, CENPJ, and STIL) identified from different world populations. Contribution of ASPM and WDR62 gene mutations in MCPH World wide is more than 50%. By and large, primary microcephaly patients are phenotypically indistinguishable, however, recent studies in patients with mutations in MCPH1, WDR62 and ASPM genes showed a broader clinical and/or cellular phenotype. It has been proposed that mutations in MCPH genes can cause the disease phenotype by disturbing: 1) orientation of mitotic spindles, 2) chromosome condensation mechanism during embryonic neurogenesis, 3) DNA damage-response signaling, 4) transcriptional regulations and microtubule dynamics, 5) certain unknown centrosomal mechanisms that control the number of neurons generated by neural precursor cells. Recent discoveries of mammalian models for MCPH have open up horizons for researchers to add more knowledge regarding the etiology and pathophysiology of MCPH. High incidence of MCPH in Pakistani population reflects the most probable involvement of consanguinity. Genetic counseling and clinical management through carrier detection/prenatal diagnosis in MCPH families can help reducing the incidence of this autosomal recessive disorder.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Humans
  • Microcephaly / epidemiology
  • Microcephaly / genetics*
  • Microcephaly / pathology*
  • Mutation
  • Pakistan / epidemiology
  • Rare Diseases