Homozygous mutation in MFSD2A, encoding a lysolipid transporter for docosahexanoic acid, is associated with microcephaly and hypomyelination

Neurogenetics. 2018 Dec;19(4):227-235. doi: 10.1007/s10048-018-0556-6. Epub 2018 Jul 24.


The major facilitator superfamily domain-containing protein 2A (MFSD2A) is a constituent of the blood-brain barrier and functions to transport lysophosphatidylcholines (LPCs) into the central nervous system. LPCs such as that derived from docosahexanoic acid (DHA) are indispensable to neurogenesis and maintenance of neurons, yet cannot be synthesized within the brain and are dependent on MFSD2A for brain uptake. Recent studies have implicated MFSD2A mutations in lethal and non-lethal microcephaly syndromes, with the severity correlating to the residual activity of the transporter. We describe two siblings with shared parental ancestry, in whom we identified a homozygous missense mutation (c.1205C > A; p.Pro402His) in MFSD2A. Both affected individuals had microcephaly, hypotonia, appendicular spasticity, dystonia, strabismus, and global developmental delay. Neuroimaging revealed paucity of white matter with enlarged lateral ventricles. Plasma lysophosphatidylcholine (LPC) levels were elevated, reflecting reduced brain transport. Cell-based studies of the p.Pro402His mutant protein indicated complete loss of activity of the transporter despite the non-lethal, attenuated phenotype. The aggregate data of MFSD2A-associated genotypes and phenotypes suggest that additional factors, such as nutritional supplementation or modifying genetic factors, may modulate the severity of disease and call for consideration of treatment options for affected individuals.

Keywords: Blood-brain barrier; Docosahexanoic acid; Lysolipid transporters; Lysophosphatidylcholine; MFSD2A; Microcephaly.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Substitution
  • Animals
  • Biological Transport / genetics
  • Blood-Brain Barrier / metabolism
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Demyelinating Diseases / genetics*
  • Demyelinating Diseases / metabolism
  • Developmental Disabilities / genetics
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids / metabolism*
  • Female
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Homozygote
  • Humans
  • Lipid Metabolism / genetics
  • Lysophosphatidylcholines / metabolism
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Microcephaly / genetics*
  • Microcephaly / metabolism
  • Models, Molecular
  • Mutation, Missense*
  • Myelin Sheath / metabolism
  • Pedigree
  • Siblings
  • Symporters
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins / chemistry
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins / genetics*
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins / metabolism


  • Lysophosphatidylcholines
  • MFSD2A protein, human
  • Symporters
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids