Aagenaes syndrome/lymphedema cholestasis syndrome 1 is caused by a founder variant in the 5'-untranslated region of UNC45A

J Hepatol. 2023 Oct;79(4):945-954. doi: 10.1016/j.jhep.2023.05.037. Epub 2023 Jun 14.


Background & aims: Lymphedema cholestasis syndrome 1 or Aagenaes syndrome is a condition characterized by neonatal cholestasis, lymphedema, and giant cell hepatitis. The genetic background of this autosomal recessive disease was unknown up to now.

Methods: A total of 26 patients with Aagenaes syndrome and 17 parents were investigated with whole-genome sequencing and/or Sanger sequencing. PCR and western blot analyses were used to assess levels of mRNA and protein, respectively. CRISPR/Cas9 was used to generate the variant in HEK293T cells. Light microscopy, transmission electron microscopy and immunohistochemistry for biliary transport proteins were performed in liver biopsies.

Results: One specific variant (c.-98G>T) in the 5'-untranslated region of Unc-45 myosin chaperone A (UNC45A) was identified in all tested patients with Aagenaes syndrome. Nineteen were homozygous for the c.-98G>T variant and seven were compound heterozygous for the variant in the 5'-untranslated region and an exonic loss-of-function variant in UNC45A. Patients with Aagenaes syndrome exhibited lower expression of UNC45A mRNA and protein than controls, and this was reproduced in a CRISPR/Cas9-created cell model. Liver biopsies from the neonatal period demonstrated cholestasis, paucity of bile ducts and pronounced formation of multinucleated giant cells. Immunohistochemistry revealed mislocalization of the hepatobiliary transport proteins BSEP (bile salt export pump) and MRP2 (multidrug resistance-associated protein 2).

Conclusions: c.-98G>T in the 5'-untranslated region of UNC45A is the causative genetic variant in Aagenaes syndrome.

Impact and implications: The genetic background of Aagenaes syndrome, a disease presenting with cholestasis and lymphedema in childhood, was unknown until now. A variant in the 5'-untranslated region of the Unc-45 myosin chaperone A (UNC45A) was identified in all tested patients with Aagenaes syndrome, providing evidence of the genetic background of the disease. Identification of the genetic background provides a tool for diagnosis of patients with Aagenaes syndrome before lymphedema is evident.

Keywords: UNC45A; bile acids; cholestasis; genetic; lymphedema; myosin; non-coding; non-coding variant; untranslated region.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 5' Untranslated Regions / genetics
  • Carrier Proteins / genetics
  • Cholestasis* / genetics
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins* / genetics
  • Lymphedema* / diagnosis
  • Lymphedema* / genetics
  • Lymphedema* / metabolism
  • Myosins / genetics
  • Myosins / metabolism


  • 5' Untranslated Regions
  • Carrier Proteins
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • Myosins
  • UNC45A protein, human

Supplementary concepts

  • Aagenaes syndrome