Autosomal-recessive congenital cerebellar ataxia was identified in Roma patients originating from a small subisolate with a known strong founder effect. Patients presented with global developmental delay, moderate to severe stance and gait ataxia, dysarthria, mild dysdiadochokinesia, dysmetria and tremors, intellectual deficit, and mild pyramidal signs. Brain imaging revealed progressive generalized cerebellar atrophy, and inferior vermian hypoplasia and/or a constitutionally small brain were observed in some patients. Exome sequencing, used for linkage analysis on extracted SNP genotypes and for mutation detection, identified two novel (i.e., not found in any database) variants located 7 bp apart within a unique 6q24 linkage region. Both mutations cosegregated with the disease in five affected families, in which all ten patients were homozygous. The mutated gene, GRM1, encodes metabotropic glutamate receptor mGluR1, which is highly expressed in cerebellar Purkinje cells and plays an important role in cerebellar development and synaptic plasticity. The two mutations affect a gene region critical for alternative splicing and the generation of receptor isoforms; they are a 3 bp exon 8 deletion and an intron 8 splicing mutation (c.2652_2654del and c.2660+2T>G, respectively [RefSeq accession number NM_000838.3]). The functional impact of the deletion is unclear and is overshadowed by the splicing defect. Although ataxia lymphoblastoid cell lines expressed GRM1 at levels comparable to those of control cells, the aberrant transcripts skipped exon 8 or ended in intron 8 and encoded various species of nonfunctional receptors either lacking the transmembrane domain and containing abnormal intracellular tails or completely missing the tail. The study implicates mGluR1 in human hereditary ataxia. It also illustrates the potential of the Roma founder populations for mutation identification by exome sequencing.
Copyright © 2012 The American Society of Human Genetics. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.