A (GCC) repeat in SBF1 reveals a novel biological phenomenon in human and links to late onset neurocognitive disorder

Sci Rep. 2022 Sep 14;12(1):15480. doi: 10.1038/s41598-022-19878-y.


The human SBF1 (SET binding factor 1) gene, alternatively known as MTMR5, is predominantly expressed in the brain, and its epigenetic dysregulation is linked to late-onset neurocognitive disorders (NCDs), such as Alzheimer's disease. This gene contains a (GCC)-repeat at the interval between + 1 and + 60 of the transcription start site (SBF1-202 ENST00000380817.8). We sequenced the SBF1 (GCC)-repeat in a sample of 542 Iranian individuals, consisting of late-onset NCDs (N = 260) and controls (N = 282). While multiple alleles were detected at this locus, the 8 and 9 repeats were predominantly abundant, forming > 95% of the allele pool across the two groups. Among a number of anomalies, the allele distribution was significantly different in the NCD group versus controls (Fisher's exact p = 0.006), primarily as a result of enrichment of the 8-repeat in the former. The genotype distribution departed from the Hardy-Weinberg principle in both groups (p < 0.001), and was significantly different between the two groups (Fisher's exact p = 0.001). We detected significantly low frequency of the 8/9 genotype in both groups, higher frequency of this genotype in the NCD group, and reverse order of 8/8 versus 9/9 genotypes in the NCD group versus controls. Biased heterozygous/heterozygous ratios were also detected for the 6/8 versus 6/9 genotypes (in favor of 6/8) across the human samples studied (Fisher's exact p = 0.0001). Bioinformatics studies revealed that the number of (GCC)-repeats may change the RNA secondary structure and interaction sites at least across human exon 1. This STR was specifically expanded beyond 2-repeats in primates. In conclusion, we report indication of a novel biological phenomenon, in which there is selection against certain heterozygous genotypes at a STR locus in human. We also report different allele and genotype distribution at this STR locus in late-onset NCD versus controls. In view of the location of this STR in the 5' untranslated region, RNA/RNA or RNA/DNA heterodimer formation of the involved genotypes and alternative RNA processing and/or translation should be considered.

MeSH terms

  • 5' Untranslated Regions
  • Alleles
  • Animals
  • Biological Phenomena*
  • Humans
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / genetics
  • Iran
  • Neurocognitive Disorders / genetics
  • Primates* / genetics


  • 5' Untranslated Regions
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • SBF1 protein, human