SCAPER localizes to primary cilia and its mutation affects cilia length, causing Bardet-Biedl syndrome

Eur J Hum Genet. 2019 Jun;27(6):928-940. doi: 10.1038/s41431-019-0347-z. Epub 2019 Feb 5.


Studies of ciliopathies have served in elucidating much of our knowledge of structure and function of primary cilia. We report humans with Bardet-Biedl syndrome who display intellectual disability, retinitis pigmentosa, obesity, short stature and brachydactyly, stemming from a homozyogous truncation mutation in SCAPER, a gene previously associated with mitotic progression. Our findings, based on linkage analysis and exome sequencing studies of two remotely related large consanguineous families, are in line with recent reports of SCAPER variants associated with intellectual disability and retinitis pigmentosa. Using immuno-fluorescence and live cell imaging in NIH/3T3 fibroblasts and SH-SY5Y neuroblastoma cell lines over-expressing SCAPER, we demonstrate that both wild type and mutant SCAPER are expressed in primary cilia and co-localize with tubulin, forming bundles of microtubules. While wild type SCAPER was rarely localized along the ciliary axoneme and basal body, the aberrant protein remained sequestered to the cilia, mostly at the ciliary tip. Notably, longer cilia were demonstrated both in human affected fibroblasts compared to controls, as well as in NIH/3T3 cells transfected with mutant versus wildtype SCAPER. As SCAPER expression is known to peak at late G1 and S phase, overlapping the timing of ciliary resorption, our data suggest a possible role of SCAPER in ciliary dynamics and disassembly, also affecting microtubule-related mitotic progression. Thus, we outline a human ciliopathy syndrome and demonstrate that it is caused by a mutation in SCAPER, affecting primary cilia.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bardet-Biedl Syndrome* / genetics
  • Bardet-Biedl Syndrome* / metabolism
  • Bardet-Biedl Syndrome* / pathology
  • Carrier Proteins* / genetics
  • Carrier Proteins* / metabolism
  • Cilia* / genetics
  • Cilia* / metabolism
  • Cilia* / pathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intellectual Disability* / metabolism
  • Intellectual Disability* / pathology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mutation*
  • NIH 3T3 Cells
  • Retinitis Pigmentosa* / genetics
  • Retinitis Pigmentosa* / metabolism
  • Retinitis Pigmentosa* / pathology


  • Carrier Proteins
  • SCAPER protein, human