Epidermolysis bullosa (EB) is a genotypically heterogeneous group of disorders characterized by cutaneous blistering and erosions with a tremendous spectrum of severity. One of the distinct forms of EB, Kindler EB (KEB), manifests with blistering and poikiloderma; this subtype of EB is caused by mutations in the FERMT1 gene encoding kindlin-1. In this study, we investigated a patient clinically diagnosed as KEB with reduced FERMT1 gene expression and intensity of immunostaining for kindlin-1. Transmission electron microscopy showed lamina densa reduplication, frequently observed in KEB. However, no mutations were identified in FERMT1 in this patient with consanguineous parents, and this gene resided outside of genomic regions of homozygosity (ROH). Instead, whole-exome sequencing and homozygosity mapping identified a homozygous sequence variant at the +4 position of intron 2 in the USB1 gene, encoding an exoribonuclease required for processing of U6 snRNA, a critical component of spliceosomes. Examination of the patient's RNA by RNA-Seq confirmed the pathogenicity of this variant, causing aberrant splicing predicted to result in loss of function of USB1. Mutations in this gene have been reported in patients with poikiloderma and neutropenia, with a few reported cases in association with skin fragility, a condition distinct from the KEB phenotype. Transcriptome analysis revealed that several genes, expressed in the cutaneous basement membrane zone and previously associated with different subtypes of EB, were differentially downregulated at the mRNA level. EB-associated mRNA downregulation was confirmed at protein levels by skin immunofluorescence. These observations provide a novel mechanism for blistering and erosions in the skin as a result reduced presence of adhesion complexes critical for stable association of epidermis and dermis at the level of cutaneous basement membrane zone.
Keywords: Cutaneous basement membrane zone; Heritable blistering diseases; Kindler epidermolysis bullosa; Poikiloderma with neutropenia; USB1.
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