To date, mutations in 15 actin- or microtubule-associated genes have been associated with the cortical malformation lissencephaly and variable brainstem hypoplasia. During a multicenter review, we recognized a rare lissencephaly variant with a complex brainstem malformation in three unrelated children. We searched our large brain-malformation databases and found another five children with this malformation (as well as one with a less severe variant), analyzed available whole-exome or -genome sequencing data, and tested ciliogenesis in two affected individuals. The brain malformation comprised posterior predominant lissencephaly and midline crossing defects consisting of absent anterior commissure and a striking W-shaped brainstem malformation caused by small or absent pontine crossing fibers. We discovered heterozygous de novo missense variants or an in-frame deletion involving highly conserved zinc-binding residues within the GAR domain of MACF1 in the first eight subjects. We studied cilium formation and found a higher proportion of mutant cells with short cilia than of control cells with short cilia. A ninth child had similar lissencephaly but only subtle brainstem dysplasia associated with a heterozygous de novo missense variant in the spectrin repeat domain of MACF1. Thus, we report variants of the microtubule-binding GAR domain of MACF1 as the cause of a distinctive and most likely pathognomonic brain malformation. A gain-of-function or dominant-negative mechanism appears likely given that many heterozygous mutations leading to protein truncation are included in the ExAC Browser. However, three de novo variants in MACF1 have been observed in large schizophrenia cohorts.
Keywords: ACF7; MACF1; actin; axonal pathfinding; brainstem hypoplasia; cilia; cytoskeleton; lissencephaly; microtubules; midline crossing.
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