Background: A subset of individuals affected by imprinting disorders displays multi-locus imprinting disturbances (MLID). MLID has been associated with maternal-effect variants that alter the maintenance of methylation at germline-derived differentially methylated regions (gDMRs) in early embryogenesis. Pedigrees of individuals with MLID also include siblings with healthy phenotype. However, it is unknown if these healthy individuals have MLID themselves or if their methylation patterns differ from those associated with imprinting disorders, and in general, if MLID affects the clinical phenotype.
Methods: We have investigated gDMR methylation by locus-specific and whole-genome analyses in a family with multiple pregnancy losses, a child with Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome (BWS) and a further child with no clinical diagnosis of imprinting disorder or other pathologies.
Results: We detected MLID with different methylation profiles in the BWS-affected and healthy siblings. Whole-exome sequencing demonstrated the presence of novel loss-of-function variants of NLRP5 in compound heterozygosity in the mother. The methylation profiles of the two siblings were compared with those of other cases with MLID and control groups by principal component analysis and unsupervised hierarchical clustering, but while their patterns were clearly separated from those of controls, we were unable to cluster those associated with specific clinical phenotypes among the MLID cases.
Conclusion: The identification of two novel maternal-effect variants of NLRP5 associated with poly-abortivity and MLID adds further evidence to the role of this gene in the maintenance of genomic imprinting in early embryos. Furthermore, our results demonstrate that within these pedigrees, MLID can also be present in the progeny with healthy phenotype, indicating that some sort of compensation occurs between altered imprinted loci in these individuals. The analysis of larger cohorts of patients with MLID is needed to formulate more accurate epigenotype-phenotype correlations.
Keywords: Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome; DNA-methylation; Genomic imprinting; Maternal-effect variants; Multi-locus imprinting disturbances; NLRP5.