Mosaicism for GNAS methylation defects associated with pseudohypoparathyroidism type 1B arose in early post-zygotic phases

Francesca Marta Elli, Paolo Bordogna, Maura Arosio, Anna Spada, Giovanna Mantovani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Pseudohypoparathyroidism type 1B (PHP1B; MIM603233) is a rare imprinting disorder (ID), associated with the GNAS locus, characterized by parathyroid hormone (PTH) resistance in the absence of other endocrine or physical abnormalities. Sporadic PHP1B cases, with no known underlying primary genetic lesions, could represent true stochastic errors in early embryonic maintenance of methylation. Previous data confirmed the existence of different degrees of methylation defects associated with PHP1B and suggested the presence of mosaicism, a phenomenon already described in the context of other IDs. Results: With respect to mosaic conditions, the study of multiple tissues is a necessary approach; thus, we investigated somatic cell lines (peripheral blood and buccal epithelium and cells from the urine sediment) descending from different germ layers from 19 PHP patients (11 spor-PHP1B, 4 GNAS mutated PHP1A, and 4 PHP with no GNAS (epi)genetic defects) and 5 healthy controls. We identified 11 patients with epigenetic defects, further subdivided in groups with complete or partial methylation defects. The recurrence of specific patterns of partial methylation defects limited to specific CpGs was confirmed by checking methylation profiles of spor-PHP1B patients diagnosed in our lab (n = 56). Underlying primary genetic defects, such as uniparental disomy or deletion, potentially causative for the detected partial methylation were excluded in all samples. Conclusions: Our data showed no differences of methylation levels between organs and tissues from the same patient, so we concluded that the epimutation occurred in early post-zygotic phases and that the partial defects were mosaics. The number of patients with no detectable (epi)genetic GNAS defects was too small to exclude epimutations occurring in later post-zygotic phases, affecting only selected tissues different from blood, thus leading to underdiagnosis during routine molecular diagnosis. Finally, we found no correlation between methylation ratios, representing the proportion of epimutated cells, and the clinical presentation, further confirming the hypothesis of a threshold effect of the GNAS loss of imprinting leading to an "all-or-none" phenotype.

Original languageEnglish
Article number16
JournalClinical Epigenetics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 6 2018


  • Albright hereditary osteodystrophy
  • Epigenetics
  • GNAS
  • Imprinting
  • Methylation defects
  • Mosaicism
  • Pseudohypoparathyroidism
  • PTH resistance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Developmental Biology
  • Genetics(clinical)


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