Genotype-phenotype correlations and disease mechanisms in PEX13-related Zellweger spectrum disorders

Orphanet J Rare Dis. 2022 Jul 19;17(1):286. doi: 10.1186/s13023-022-02415-5.


Background: Pathogenic variants in PEX-genes can affect peroxisome assembly and function and cause Zellweger spectrum disorders (ZSDs), characterized by variable phenotypes in terms of disease severity, age of onset and clinical presentations. So far, defects in at least 15 PEX-genes have been implicated in Mendelian diseases, but in some of the ultra-rare ZSD subtypes genotype-phenotype correlations and disease mechanisms remain elusive.

Methods: We report five families carrying biallelic variants in PEX13. The identified variants were initially evaluated by using a combination of computational approaches. Immunofluorescence and complementation studies on patient-derived fibroblasts were performed in two patients to investigate the cellular impact of the identified mutations.

Results: Three out of five families carried a recurrent p.Arg294Trp non-synonymous variant. Individuals affected with PEX13-related ZSD presented heterogeneous clinical features, including hypotonia, developmental regression, hearing/vision impairment, progressive spasticity and brain leukodystrophy. Computational predictions highlighted the involvement of the Arg294 residue in PEX13 homodimerization, and the analysis of blind docking predicted that the p.Arg294Trp variant alters the formation of dimers, impairing the stability of the PEX13/PEX14 translocation module. Studies on muscle tissues and patient-derived fibroblasts revealed biochemical alterations of mitochondrial function and identified mislocalized mitochondria and a reduced number of peroxisomes with abnormal PEX13 concentration.

Conclusions: This study expands the phenotypic and mutational spectrum of PEX13-related ZSDs and also highlight a variety of disease mechanisms contributing to PEX13-related clinical phenotypes, including the emerging contribution of secondary mitochondrial dysfunction to the pathophysiology of ZSDs.

Keywords: PEX13; mitochondrial dysfunction; Peroxisome biogenesis disorders; Zellweger spectrum disorder.

MeSH terms

  • Genetic Association Studies
  • Humans
  • Membrane Proteins / genetics
  • Mutation / genetics
  • Peroxisomes / genetics
  • Peroxisomes / pathology
  • Zellweger Syndrome* / genetics
  • Zellweger Syndrome* / pathology


  • Membrane Proteins
  • PEX13 protein, human