Background: Cornelia de Lange syndrome (CdLS) is a multisystem disorder with distinctive facial appearance, intellectual disability and growth failure as prominent features. Most individuals with typical CdLS have de novo heterozygous loss-of-function mutations in NIPBL with mosaic individuals representing a significant proportion. Mutations in other cohesin components, SMC1A, SMC3, HDAC8 and RAD21 cause less typical CdLS.
Methods: We screened 163 affected individuals for coding region mutations in the known genes, 90 for genomic rearrangements, 19 for deep intronic variants in NIPBL and 5 had whole-exome sequencing.
Results: Pathogenic mutations [including mosaic changes] were identified in: NIPBL 46  (28.2%); SMC1A 5  (3.1%); SMC3 5  (3.1%); HDAC8 6  (3.6%) and RAD21 1  (0.6%). One individual had a de novo 1.3 Mb deletion of 1p36.3. Another had a 520 kb duplication of 12q13.13 encompassing ESPL1, encoding separase, an enzyme that cleaves the cohesin ring. Three de novo mutations were identified in ANKRD11 demonstrating a phenotypic overlap with KBG syndrome. To estimate the number of undetected mosaic cases we used recursive partitioning to identify discriminating features in the NIPBL-positive subgroup. Filtering of the mutation-negative group on these features classified at least 18% as 'NIPBL-like'. A computer composition of the average face of this NIPBL-like subgroup was also more typical in appearance than that of all others in the mutation-negative group supporting the existence of undetected mosaic cases.
Conclusions: Future diagnostic testing in 'mutation-negative' CdLS thus merits deeper sequencing of multiple DNA samples derived from different tissues.
Keywords: Clinical genetics; Copy-number; Molecular genetics.
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