Mutated zinc finger protein of the cerebellum 1 leads to microcephaly, cortical malformation, callosal agenesis, cerebellar dysplasia, tethered cord and scoliosis

Eur J Med Genet. 2018 Dec;61(12):783-789. doi: 10.1016/j.ejmg.2018.10.018. Epub 2018 Oct 31.


Heterozygous gain of function mutations in the ZIC1 gene have been described with syndromic craniosynostosis, variable cerebral or cerebellar abnormalities and mild to moderate developmental delay. Deletion of chromosome 3q25.1 including both adjacent ZIC1 and ZIC4 genes have been described as a cause of variable cerebellar abnormalities including Dandy-Walker malformation. We report two siblings presenting with neonatal microcephaly, agenesis of the corpus callosum, brachycephaly with reduced volume of the posterior fossa, cerebellar and pons hypoplasia, scoliosis and tethered cord (closed neural tube defect). One of the siblings had apparent partial rhombencephalosynapsis. Trio analysis of exome sequencing data revealed a novel heterozygous frameshift mutation in ZIC1 at the end of exon 3 in one sibling and was confirmed by Sanger sequencing in both children. The mutation was not detected in DNA of both parents, which suggests parental gonadal mosaicism. We show that expression of the mutant allele leads to synthesis of a stable abnormal transcript in patient cells, without evidence for nonsense-mediated decay. Craniosynostosis was not present at birth, which explains why ZIC1 mutations were not initially considered. This severe brain malformation indicates that premature closure of sutures can be independent of the abnormal brain development in subjects with pathogenic variants in ZIC1.

Keywords: Cerebellum; Corpus callosum; Microcephaly; Rhombencephalosynapsis; Tethered cord; ZIC1.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Agenesis of Corpus Callosum / genetics
  • Agenesis of Corpus Callosum / physiopathology
  • Cerebellum / physiopathology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Craniosynostoses / genetics*
  • Craniosynostoses / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Frameshift Mutation
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Malformations of Cortical Development / genetics*
  • Malformations of Cortical Development / physiopathology
  • Microcephaly / genetics*
  • Microcephaly / physiopathology
  • Neural Tube Defects / genetics
  • Neural Tube Defects / physiopathology
  • Phenotype
  • Scoliosis / genetics
  • Scoliosis / physiopathology
  • Transcription Factors / genetics*


  • Transcription Factors
  • ZIC1 protein, human