Retinitis pigmentosa (RP), the most common form of inherited retinal degeneration, is clinically and genetically heterogeneous and can appear as syndromic or non-syndromic. Mucopolysaccharidosis type IIIC (MPS IIIC) is a lethal disorder, caused by mutations in the heparan-alpha-glucosaminide N-acetyltransferase (HGSNAT) gene and characterized by progressive neurological deterioration, with retinal degeneration as a prominent feature. We identified HGSNAT mutations in six patients with non-syndromic RP. Whole exome sequencing (WES) in an Ashkenazi Jewish Israeli RP patient revealed a novel homozygous HGSNAT variant, c.370A>T, which leads to partial skipping of exon 3. Screening of 66 Ashkenazi RP index cases revealed an additional family with two siblings homozygous for c.370A>T. WES in three Dutch siblings with RP revealed a complex HGSNAT variant, c.[398G>C; 1843G>A] on one allele, and c.1843G>A on the other allele. HGSNAT activity levels in blood leukocytes of patients were reduced compared with healthy controls, but usually higher than those in MPS IIIC patients. All patients were diagnosed with non-syndromic RP and did not exhibit neurological deterioration, or any phenotypic features consistent with MPS IIIC. Furthermore, four of the patients were over 60 years old, exceeding by far the life expectancy of MPS IIIC patients. HGSNAT is highly expressed in the mouse retina, and we hypothesize that the retina requires higher HGSNAT activity to maintain proper function, compared with other tissues associated with MPS IIIC, such as the brain. This report broadens the spectrum of phenotypes associated with HGSNAT mutations and highlights the critical function of HGSNAT in the human retina.
© The Author 2015. Published by Oxford University Press.