GLI1, GLI2 and GLI3 form a family of transcription factors which regulate development by mediating the action of Hedgehog (Hh) morphogens. Accordingly, inactivating variants in GLI2 and GLI3 are found in several developmental disorders. In contrast, loss-of-function mutations in GLI1 have remained elusive, maintaining enigmatic the role of this gene in the human embryo. We describe eight patients from three independent families having biallelic truncating variants in GLI1 and developmental defects overlapping with Ellis-van Creveld syndrome (EvC), a disease caused by diminished Hh signaling. Two families had mutations in the last exon of the gene and a third family was identified with an N-terminal stop gain variant predicted to be degraded by the NMD-pathway. Analysis of fibroblasts from one of the patients with homozygous C-terminal truncation of GLI1 demonstrated that the corresponding mutant GLI1 protein is fabricated by patient cells and becomes upregulated in response to Hh signaling. However, the transcriptional activity of the truncated GLI1 factor was found to be severely impaired by cell culture and in vivo assays, indicating that the balance between GLI repressors and activators is altered in affected subjects. Consistent with this, reduced expression of the GLI target PTCH1 was observed in patient fibroblasts after chemical induction of the Hh pathway. We conclude that GLI1 inactivation is associated with a phenotypic spectrum extending from isolated postaxial polydactyly to an EvC-like condition.
- Journal Article