A new mouse model of ATR-X syndrome carrying a common patient mutation exhibits neurological and morphological defects.
Tillotson R., Yan K., Ruston J., DeYoung T., Córdova A., Turcotte-Cardin V., Yee Y., Taylor C., Visuvanathan S., Babbs C., Ivakine EA., Sled JG., Nieman BJ., Picketts DJ., Justice MJ.
ATRX is a chromatin remodelling ATPase that is involved in transcriptional regulation, DNA damage repair and heterochromatin maintenance. It has been widely studied for its role in ALT-positive cancers, but its role in neurological function remains elusive. Hypomorphic mutations in the X-linked ATRX gene cause a rare form of intellectual disability combined with alpha-thalassemia called ATR-X syndrome in hemizygous males. Clinical features also include facial dysmorphism, microcephaly, short stature, musculoskeletal defects and genital abnormalities. As complete deletion of ATRX in mice results in early embryonic lethality, the field has largely relied on conditional knockout models to assess the role of ATRX in multiple tissues. Given that null alleles are not found in patients, a more patient-relevant model was needed. Here, we have produced and characterized the first patient mutation knock-in model of ATR-X syndrome, carrying the most common causative mutation, R246C. This is one of a cluster of missense mutations located in the chromatin-binding domain and disrupts its function. The knock-in mice recapitulate several aspects of the patient disorder, including craniofacial defects, microcephaly, reduced body size and impaired neurological function. They provide a powerful model for understanding the molecular mechanisms underlying ATR-X syndrome and testing potential therapeutic strategies.