Heterozygous loss-of-function SMC3 variants are associated with variable growth and developmental features

HGG Adv. 2024 Apr 11;5(2):100273. doi: 10.1016/j.xhgg.2024.100273. Epub 2024 Jan 30.


Heterozygous missense variants and in-frame indels in SMC3 are a cause of Cornelia de Lange syndrome (CdLS), marked by intellectual disability, growth deficiency, and dysmorphism, via an apparent dominant-negative mechanism. However, the spectrum of manifestations associated with SMC3 loss-of-function variants has not been reported, leading to hypotheses of alternative phenotypes or even developmental lethality. We used matchmaking servers, patient registries, and other resources to identify individuals with heterozygous, predicted loss-of-function (pLoF) variants in SMC3, and analyzed population databases to characterize mutational intolerance in this gene. Here, we show that SMC3 behaves as an archetypal haploinsufficient gene: it is highly constrained against pLoF variants, strongly depleted for missense variants, and pLoF variants are associated with a range of developmental phenotypes. Among 14 individuals with SMC3 pLoF variants, phenotypes were variable but coalesced on low growth parameters, developmental delay/intellectual disability, and dysmorphism, reminiscent of atypical CdLS. Comparisons to individuals with SMC3 missense/in-frame indel variants demonstrated an overall milder presentation in pLoF carriers. Furthermore, several individuals harboring pLoF variants in SMC3 were nonpenetrant for growth, developmental, and/or dysmorphic features, and some had alternative symptomatologies with rational biological links to SMC3. Analyses of tumor and model system transcriptomic data and epigenetic data in a subset of cases suggest that SMC3 pLoF variants reduce SMC3 expression but do not strongly support clustering with functional genomic signatures of typical CdLS. Our finding of substantial population-scale LoF intolerance in concert with variable growth and developmental features in subjects with SMC3 pLoF variants expands the scope of cohesinopathies, informs on their allelic architecture, and suggests the existence of additional clearly LoF-constrained genes whose disease links will be confirmed only by multilayered genomic data paired with careful phenotyping.

Keywords: CdLS3; Cornelia de Lange syndrome; LoF; SMC3; cohesin; loss-of-function.

MeSH terms

  • Cell Cycle Proteins / genetics
  • Chondroitin Sulfate Proteoglycans / genetics
  • Chromosomal Proteins, Non-Histone / genetics
  • De Lange Syndrome* / genetics
  • Heterozygote
  • Humans
  • Intellectual Disability* / genetics
  • Mutation
  • Phenotype


  • Cell Cycle Proteins
  • Chondroitin Sulfate Proteoglycans
  • Chromosomal Proteins, Non-Histone
  • SMC3 protein, human