The X-linked SMC1A gene encodes a core subunit of the cohesin complex that plays a pivotal role in genome organization and gene regulation. Pathogenic variants in SMC1A are often dominant-negative and cause Cornelia de Lange syndrome (CdLS) with growth retardation and typical facial features; however, rare SMC1A variants cause a developmental and epileptic encephalopathy (DEE) with intractable early-onset epilepsy that is absent in CdLS. Unlike the male-to-female ratio of 1:2 in those with CdLS associated with dominant-negative SMC1A variants, SMC1A-DEE loss-of-function (LOF) variants are found exclusively in females due to presumed lethality in males. It is unclear how different SMC1A variants cause CdLS or DEE. Here, we report on phenotypes and genotypes of three females with DEE and de novo SMC1A variants, including a novel splice-site variant. We also summarize 41 known SMC1A-DEE variants to characterize common and patient-specific features. Interestingly, compared to 33 LOFs detected throughout the gene, 7/8 non-LOFs are specifically located in the N/C-terminal ATPase head or the central hinge domain, both of which are predicted to affect cohesin assembly, thus mimicking LOFs. Along with the characterization of X-chromosome inactivation (XCI) and SMC1A transcription, these variants strongly suggest that a differential SMC1A dosage effect of SMC1A-DEE variants is closely associated with the manifestation of DEE phenotypes.
Keywords: SMC1A; SMC1A-DEE; X-chromosome inactivation; developmental and epileptic encephalopathy; epilepsy; escape.