Objective: To explore the phenotypic spectrum and pathophysiology of human disease deriving from mutations in the CNTNAP1 gene.
Methods: In a field study on consanguineous Palestinian families, we identified 3 patients carrying homozygous mutations in the CNTNAP1 gene using whole-exome sequencing. An unrelated Irish family was detected by screening the GENESIS database for further CNTNAP1 mutations. Neurophysiology, MRI, and nerve biopsy including electron microscopy were performed for deep phenotyping.
Results: We identified 3 novel CNTNAP1 mutations in 5 patients from 2 families: c.2015G>A:p.(Trp672*) in a homozygous state in family 1 and c.2011C>T:p.(Gln671*) in a compound heterozygous state with c.2290C>T:p.(Arg764Cys) in family 2. Affected patients suffered from a severe CNS disorder with hypomyelinating leukodystrophy and peripheral neuropathy of sensory-motor type. Arthrogryposis was present in 2 patients but absent in 3 patients. Brain MRI demonstrated severe hypomyelination and secondary cerebral and cerebellar atrophy as well as a mega cisterna magna and corpus callosum hypoplasia. Nerve biopsy revealed very distinct features with lack of transverse bands at the paranodes and widened paranodal junctional gaps.
Conclusions: CNTNAP1 mutations have recently been linked to patients with arthrogryposis multiplex congenita. However, we show that arthrogryposis is not an obligate feature. CNTNAP1-related disorders are foremost severe hypomyelinating disorders of the CNS and the peripheral nervous system. The pathology is partly explained by the involvement of CNTNAP1 in the proper formation and preservation of paranodal junctions and partly by the assumed role of CNTNAP1 as a key regulator in the development of the cerebral cortex.