The paradigm of a single gene associated with one specific phenotype and mode of inheritance has been repeatedly challenged. Genotype-phenotype correlations can often be traced to different mutation types, localization of the variants in distinct protein domains, or the trigger of or escape from nonsense-mediated decay. Using whole-exome sequencing, we identified homozygous variants in EMC1 that segregated with a phenotype of developmental delay, hypotonia, scoliosis, and cerebellar atrophy in three families. In addition, a de novo heterozygous EMC1 variant was seen in an individual with a similar clinical and MRI imaging phenotype. EMC1 encodes a member of the endoplasmic reticulum (ER)-membrane protein complex (EMC), an evolutionarily conserved complex that has been proposed to have multiple roles in ER-associated degradation, ER-mitochondria tethering, and proper assembly of multi-pass transmembrane proteins. Perturbations of protein folding and organelle crosstalk have been implicated in neurodegenerative processes including cerebellar atrophy. We propose EMC1 as a gene in which either biallelic or monoallelic variants might lead to a syndrome including intellectual disability and preferential degeneration of the cerebellum.
Keywords: EMC1; Whole-exome sequencing; cerebellar atrophy; endoplasmic reticulum (ER)-membrane complex; inter-organellar communication; intracellular transport; mitochondrial membrane; neurodegeneration.
Copyright © 2016 The American Society of Human Genetics. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.