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PLoS One. 2012;7(1):e29708. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0029708. Epub 2012 Jan 4.

A mild form of SLC29A3 disorder: a frameshift deletion leads to the paradoxical translation of an otherwise noncoding mRNA splice variant.

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St. Giles Laboratory of Human Genetics of Infectious Diseases, Rockefeller Branch, The Rockefeller University, New York, New York, United States of America.


We investigated two siblings with granulomatous histiocytosis prominent in the nasal area, mimicking rhinoscleroma and Rosai-Dorfman syndrome. Genome-wide linkage analysis and whole-exome sequencing identified a homozygous frameshift deletion in SLC29A3, which encodes human equilibrative nucleoside transporter-3 (hENT3). Germline mutations in SLC29A3 have been reported in rare patients with a wide range of overlapping clinical features and inherited disorders including H syndrome, pigmented hypertrichosis with insulin-dependent diabetes, and Faisalabad histiocytosis. With the exception of insulin-dependent diabetes and mild finger and toe contractures in one sibling, the two patients with nasal granulomatous histiocytosis studied here displayed none of the many SLC29A3-associated phenotypes. This mild clinical phenotype probably results from a remarkable genetic mechanism. The SLC29A3 frameshift deletion prevents the expression of the normally coding transcripts. It instead leads to the translation, expression, and function of an otherwise noncoding, out-of-frame mRNA splice variant lacking exon 3 that is eliminated by nonsense-mediated mRNA decay (NMD) in healthy individuals. The mutated isoform differs from the wild-type hENT3 by the modification of 20 residues in exon 2 and the removal of another 28 amino acids in exon 3, which include the second transmembrane domain. As a result, this new isoform displays some functional activity. This mechanism probably accounts for the narrow and mild clinical phenotype of the patients. This study highlights the 'rescue' role played by a normally noncoding mRNA splice variant of SLC29A3, uncovering a new mechanism by which frameshift mutations can be hypomorphic.

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