Two Missense Mutations in the Primary Autosomal Recessive Microcephaly Gene MCPH1 Disrupt the Function of the Highly Conserved N-Terminal BRCT Domain of Microcephalin

Mol Syndromol. 2012 Jun;3(1):6-13. doi: 10.1159/000338975. Epub 2012 Jun 13.


Primary microcephaly MCPH1 is an extremely rare autosomal recessive disorder associated with congenital microcephaly, mental retardation and a distinctive cellular phenotype of misregulated chromosome condensation. The MCPH1 gene encodes an 835-amino acid protein, microcephalin, which contains 1 N-terminal and 2 C-terminal BRCT (BRCA1 C-terminus) domains. BRCT domains are predominantly found in proteins involved in cell cycle control and DNA repair. Here we describe 1 novel and 1 previously reported MCPH1 missense mutation, p.Trp75Arg and p.Ser72Leu, respectively, in the N-terminal BRCT domain of microcephalin associated with severe congenital microcephaly. Both residues are entirely conserved in the MCPH1 orthologs of all vertebrate species and Drosophila. Proliferating lymphocytes of the patients with p.Trp75Arg and p.Ser72Leu show the unique cellular MCPH1 phenotype of misregulated chromosome condensation, indicating that these missense alterations disrupt the function of the N-terminal BRCT domain of the protein. Interestingly, both residues are strictly conserved in BRCT domains of BRCA1. ClustalW alignments show that the residue p.Ser72 of microcephalin corresponds to p.Ser1715 of the N-terminal BRCT domain of BRCA1, while the microcephalin residue p.Trp75 is analogous to p.Trp1718 in the N-terminal BRCT and to p.Trp1837 in C-terminal BRCT domains of BRCA1. Missense alterations for all 3 corresponding BRCA1 residues were described and are predicted to be deleterious resulting in the destabilization of the BRCA1 protein. Our data on the 2 MCPH1 missense alterations provide further evidence for the functional significance of these residues in BRCT domains.