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Human ZIC1 (zinc finger protein of cerebellum 1), one of five homologs of the Drosophila pair-rule gene odd-paired, encodes a transcription factor previously implicated in vertebrate brain development. Heterozygous deletions of ZIC1 and its nearby paralog ZIC4 on chromosome 3q25.1 are associated with Dandy-Walker malformation of the cerebellum, and loss of the orthologous Zic1 gene in the mouse causes cerebellar hypoplasia and vertebral defects. We describe individuals from five families with heterozygous mutations located in the final (third) exon of ZIC1 (encoding four nonsense and one missense change) who have a distinct phenotype in which severe craniosynostosis, specifically involving the coronal sutures, and variable learning disability are the most characteristic features. The location of the nonsense mutations predicts escape of mutant ZIC1 transcripts from nonsense-mediated decay, which was confirmed in a cell line from an affected individual. Both nonsense and missense mutations are associated with altered and/or enhanced expression of a target gene, engrailed-2, in a Xenopus embryo assay. Analysis of mouse embryos revealed a localized domain of Zic1 expression at embryonic days 11.5-12.5 in a region overlapping the supraorbital regulatory center, which patterns the coronal suture. We conclude that the human mutations uncover a previously unsuspected role for Zic1 in early cranial suture development, potentially by regulating engrailed 1, which was previously shown to be critical for positioning of the murine coronal suture. The diagnosis of a ZIC1 mutation has significant implications for prognosis and we recommend genetic testing when common causes of coronal synostosis have been excluded.

Original publication

DOI

10.1016/j.ajhg.2015.07.007

Type

Journal article

Journal

Am J Hum Genet

Publication Date

03/09/2015

Volume

97

Pages

378 - 388

Keywords

Animals, Base Sequence, Cloning, Molecular, Codon, Nonsense, Craniosynostoses, Female, Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental, Homeodomain Proteins, Humans, In Situ Hybridization, Karyotyping, Learning Disorders, Male, Mice, Molecular Sequence Data, Mutation, Missense, Nerve Tissue Proteins, Pedigree, Phenotype, Sequence Analysis, DNA, Transcription Factors, Xenopus laevis