Purpose: To report molecular genetic findings in six probands with congenital hereditary endothelial dystrophy (CHED) variably associated with hearing loss (also known as Harboyan syndrome). Furthermore, we developed a cellular model to determine if disease-associated variants induce aberrant SLC4A11 pre-mRNA splicing.
Methods: Direct sequencing of the entire SLC4A11 coding region was performed in five probands. In one individual, whole genome sequencing was undertaken. The effect of c.2240+5G>A on pre-mRNA splicing was evaluated in a corneal endothelial-like (CE-like) cell model expressing SLC4A11. CE-like cells were derived from autologous induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) via neural crest cells exposed to B27, PDGF-BB, and DKK-2. Total RNA was extracted, and RT-PCR was performed followed by Sanger and a targeted next generation sequencing (NGS) approach to identify and quantify the relative abundance of alternatively spliced transcripts.
Results: In total, 11 different mutations in SLC4A11 evaluated as pathogenic were identified; of these, c.1237G>A, c.2003T>C, c.1216+1G>A, and c.2240+5G>A were novel. The c.2240+5G>A variant was demonstrated to result in aberrant pre-mRNA splicing. A targeted NGS approach confirmed that the variant introduces a leaky cryptic splice donor site leading to the production of a transcript containing an insertion of six base pairs with the subsequent introduction of a premature stop codon (p.Thr747*). Furthermore, a subset of transcripts comprising full retention of intron 16 also were observed, leading to the same functionally null allele.
Conclusions: This proof-of-concept study highlights the potential of using CE-like cells to investigate the pathogenic consequences of SLC4A11 disease-associated variants.