Tubulin mutations in human neurodevelopmental disorders

Semin Cell Dev Biol. 2023 Mar 15:137:87-95. doi: 10.1016/j.semcdb.2022.07.009. Epub 2022 Jul 30.


Mutations causing dysfunction of tubulins and microtubule-associated proteins, also known as tubulinopathies, are a group of recently described entities that lead to complex brain malformations. Anatomical and functional consequences of the disruption of tubulins include microcephaly, combined with abnormal corticogenesis due to impaired migration or lamination and abnormal growth cone dynamics of projecting and callosal axons. Key imaging features of tubulinopathies are characterized by three major patterns of malformations of cortical development (MCD): lissencephaly, microlissencephaly, and dysgyria. Additional distinctive MRI features include dysmorphism of the basal ganglia, midline commissural structure hypoplasia or agenesis, and cerebellar and brainstem hypoplasia. Tubulinopathies can be diagnosed as early as 21-24 gestational weeks using imaging and neuropathology, with possible extreme microlissencephaly with an extremely thin cortex, lissencephaly with either thick or thin/intermediate cortex, and dysgyria combined with cerebellar hypoplasia, pons hypoplasia and corpus callosum dysgenesis. More than 100 MCD-associated mutations have been reported in TUBA1A, TUBB2B, or TUBB3 genes, whereas fewer than ten are known in other genes such TUBB2A, TUBB or TUBG1. Although these mutations are scattered along the α- and β-tubulin sequences, recurrent mutations are consistently associated with almost identical cortical dysgenesis. Much of the evidence supports that these mutations alter the dynamic properties and functions of microtubules in several fashions. These include diminishing the abundance of functional tubulin heterodimers, altering GTP binding, altering longitudinal and lateral protofilament interactions, and impairing microtubule interactions with kinesin and/or dynein motors or with MAPs. In this review we discuss the recent advances in our understanding of the effects of mutations of tubulins and microtubule-associated proteins on human brain development and the pathogenesis of malformations of cortical development.

Keywords: Dysgyria; Lissencephaly; Malformations of cortical development; Tubulin mutations; Tubulinopathies.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Developmental Disabilities
  • Humans
  • Lissencephaly* / diagnosis
  • Lissencephaly* / genetics
  • Microcephaly*
  • Microtubule-Associated Proteins
  • Mutation
  • Tubulin* / genetics


  • Microtubule-Associated Proteins
  • Tubulin