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PLoS One. 2017 Jun 1;12(6):e0178630. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0178630. eCollection 2017.

Alport syndrome cold cases: Missing mutations identified by exome sequencing and functional analysis.

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Department of Biomedical Sciences, Humanitas University, Rozzano, Milan, Italy.
Humanitas Clinical and Research Center, Rozzano, Milan, Italy.
UOC Nefrologia Pediatrica, Fondazione IRCCS Cà Granda Ospedale Maggiore Policlinico, Milan, Italy.
UO Audiologia, Fondazione IRCCS Cà Granda Ospedale Maggiore Policlinico, Milan, Italy.
Dipartimento di Scienze Cliniche e di Comunità, Università degli Studi di Milano, Milan, Italy.


Alport syndrome (AS) is an inherited progressive renal disease caused by mutations in COL4A3, COL4A4, and COL4A5 genes. Despite simultaneous screening of these genes being widely available, mutation detection still remains incomplete in a non-marginal portion of patients. Here, we applied whole-exome sequencing (WES) in 3 Italian families negative after candidate-gene analyses. In Family 1, we identified a novel heterozygous intronic variant (c.2245-40A>G) -outside the conventionally screened candidate region for diagnosis- potentially disrupting COL4A5 exon29 splicing. Using a minigene-based approach in HEK293 cells we demonstrated that this variant abolishes exon29 branch site, causing exon skipping. Moreover, skewed X-inactivation of the c.2245-40A>G allele correlated with disease severity in heterozygous females. In Family 2, WES highlighted a novel COL4A5 hemizygous missense mutation (p.Gly491Asp), which segregates with the phenotype and impacts on a highly-conserved residue. Finally, in Family 3, we detected a homozygous 24-bp in-frame deletion in COL4A3 exon1 (NM_000091.4:c.30_53del:p.Val11_Leu18del or c.40_63del24:p.Leu14_Leu21del), which is ambiguously annotated in databases, although it corresponds to a recurrent AS mutation. Functional analyses showed that this deletion disrupts COL4A3 signal peptide, possibly altering protein secretion. In conclusion, WES -together with functional studies- was fundamental for molecular diagnosis in 3 AS families, highlighting pathogenic variants that escaped previous screenings.

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