Purpose: Optic nerve aplasia (ONA, OMIM 165550) is a very rare unilateral or bilateral condition that leads to blindness in the affected eye, and is usually associated with other ocular abnormalities. Although bilateral ONA often occurs in association with severe congenital anomalies of the brain, nonsyndromic sporadic forms with bilateral ONA have been described. So far, no autosomal-dominant nonsyndromic ONA has been reported. The genetic basis of this condition remains largely unknown, as no developmental genes other than paired box gene 6 (PAX6) are known to be implicated in sporadic bilateral ONA.
Methods: The individuals reported underwent extensive ophthalmological, endocrinological, and neurologic evaluation, including neuroimaging of the visual pathways. In addition genomewide copy number screening was performed.
Results: Here we report an autosomal-dominant form of nonsyndromic ONA in a Belgian pedigree, with unilateral microphthalmia and ONA in the second generation (II:1), and bilateral ONA in two sibs of the third generation (III:1; III:2). No PAX6 mutation was found. Genome wide copy number screening revealed a microdeletion of maximal 363 kb of chromosome 10q23.33q23.33 in all affected individuals (II:1, III:1; III:2) and in unaffected I:1, containing three genes: exocyst complex component 6 (EXOC6), cytochrome p450, subfamily XXVIA, polypeptide 1 (CYP26A1), and cytochrome p450, subfamily XXVIC, polypeptide 1 (CYP26C1). The latter two encode retinoic acid-degrading enzymes.
Conclusions: This is the first study reporting an autosomal-dominant form of nonsyndromic ONA. The diagnostic value of neuroimaging in uncovering ONA in microphthalmic patients is demonstrated. Although involvement of other genetic factors cannot be ruled out, our study might point to a role of CYP26A1 and CYP26C1 in the pathogenesis of nonsyndromic ONA.