Prenatal phenotype of PNKP-related primary microcephaly associated with variants affecting both the FHA and phosphatase domain

Eur J Hum Genet. 2021 Oct 25. doi: 10.1038/s41431-021-00982-y. Online ahead of print.


Biallelic PNKP variants cause heterogeneous disorders ranging from neurodevelopmental disorder with microcephaly/seizures to adult-onset Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease. To date, only postnatal descriptions exist. We present the first prenatal diagnosis of PNKP-related primary microcephaly. Pathological examination of a male fetus in the 18th gestational week revealed micrencephaly with extracerebral malformations and thus presumed syndromic microcephaly. A recessive disorder was suspected because of previous pregnancy termination for similar abnormalities. Prenatal trio-exome sequencing identified compound heterozygosity for the PNKP variants c.498G>A, p.[(=),0?] and c.302C>T, p.(Pro101Leu). Segregation confirmed both variants in the sister fetus. Through RNA analyses, we characterized exon 4 skipping affecting the PNKP forkhead-associated (FHA) and phosphatase domains (p.Leu67_Lys166del) as the predominant effect of the paternal c.498G>A variant. We retrospectively investigated two unrelated individuals diagnosed with biallelic PNKP-variants to compare prenatal/postnatal phenotypes. Both carry the splice donor variant c.1029+2T>C in trans with a variant in the FHA domain (c.311T>C, p.(Leu104Pro); c.151G>C, p.(Val51Leu)). RNA-seq showed complex splicing for c.1029+2T>C and c.151G>C. Structural modeling revealed significant clustering of missense variants in the FHA domain with variants generating structural damage. Our clinical description extends the PNKP-continuum to the prenatal stage. Investigating possible PNKP-variant effects using RNA and structural modeling, we highlight the mutational complexity and exemplify a PNKP-variant characterization framework.