The neuronal endopeptidase ECEL1 is associated with a distinct form of recessive distal arthrogryposis

Hum Mol Genet. 2013 Apr 15;22(8):1483-92. doi: 10.1093/hmg/dds514. Epub 2012 Dec 11.


Distal arthrogryposis (DA) is a heterogeneous subgroup of arthrogryposis multiplex congenita (AMC), a large family of disorders characterized by multiple congenital joint limitations due to reduced fetal movements. DA is mainly characterized by contractures afflicting especially the distal extremities without overt muscular or neurological signs. Although a limited number of genes mostly implicated in the contractile apparatus have been identified in DA, most patients failed to show mutations in currently known genes. Using a pangenomic approach, we demonstrated linkage of DA to chromosome 2q37 in two consanguineous families and the endothelin-converting enzyme like 1 (ECEL1) gene present in this region was associated with DA. Screening of a panel of 20 families with non-specific DA identified seven homozygous or compound heterozygous mutations of ECEL1 in a total of six families. Mutations resulted mostly in the absence of protein. ECEL1 is a neuronal endopeptidase predominantly expressed in the central nervous system and brain structures during fetal life in mice and human. ECEL1 plays a major role in intramuscular axonal branching of motor neurons in skeletal muscle during embryogenesis. A detailed review of clinical findings of DA patients with ECEL1 mutations revealed a homogeneous and recognizable phenotype characterized by limited knee flexion, flexed third to fifth fingers and severe muscle atrophy predominant on lower limbs and tongue that suggested a common pathogenic mechanism. We described a new and homogenous phenotype of DA associated with ECEL1 that resulted in symptoms involving rather the peripheral than the central nervous system and suggesting a developmental dysfunction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arthrogryposis / embryology
  • Arthrogryposis / genetics*
  • Arthrogryposis / pathology
  • Central Nervous System / pathology
  • Chromosome Mapping
  • Consanguinity
  • Embryonic Development / genetics*
  • Genes, Recessive
  • Genetic Linkage
  • Homozygote
  • Humans
  • Metalloendopeptidases / genetics*
  • Mice
  • Motor Neurons / pathology
  • Mutation
  • Pedigree
  • Phenotype


  • ECEL1 protein, human
  • Ecel1 protein, mouse
  • Metalloendopeptidases