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PLoS Genet. 2011 May;7(5):e1002062. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1002062. Epub 2011 May 19.

COL4A1 mutations cause ocular dysgenesis, neuronal localization defects, and myopathy in mice and Walker-Warburg syndrome in humans.

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  • 1Departments of Ophthalmology and Anatomy, Institute for Human Genetics, University of California San Francisco School of Medicine, San Francisco, California, United States of America.


Muscle-eye-brain disease (MEB) and Walker Warburg Syndrome (WWS) belong to a spectrum of autosomal recessive diseases characterized by ocular dysgenesis, neuronal migration defects, and congenital muscular dystrophy. Until now, the pathophysiology of MEB/WWS has been attributed to alteration in dystroglycan post-translational modification. Here, we provide evidence that mutations in a gene coding for a major basement membrane protein, collagen IV alpha 1 (COL4A1), are a novel cause of MEB/WWS. Using a combination of histological, molecular, and biochemical approaches, we show that heterozygous Col4a1 mutant mice have ocular dysgenesis, neuronal localization defects, and myopathy characteristic of MEB/WWS. Importantly, we identified putative heterozygous mutations in COL4A1 in two MEB/WWS patients. Both mutations occur within conserved amino acids of the triple-helix-forming domain of the protein, and at least one mutation interferes with secretion of the mutant proteins, resulting instead in intracellular accumulation. Expression and posttranslational modification of dystroglycan is unaltered in Col4a1 mutant mice indicating that COL4A1 mutations represent a distinct pathogenic mechanism underlying MEB/WWS. These findings implicate a novel gene and a novel mechanism in the etiology of MEB/WWS and expand the clinical spectrum of COL4A1-associated disorders.

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