Periventricular nodular heterotopia (PNH) is a brain malformation in which nodules of neurons are ectopically retained along the lateral ventricles. Genetic causes include FLNA abnormalities (classical X-linked PNH), rare variants in ARFGEF2, DCHS1, ERMARD, FAT4, INTS8, MAPB1, MCPH1, and NEDD4L, as well as several chromosomal abnormalities. We performed array-CGH in 106 patients with different malformations of cortical development (MCD) and looked for common pathways possibly involved in PNH. Forty-two patients, including two parent/proband couples, exhibited PNH associated or not with other brain abnormalities, 44 had polymicrogyria and 20 had rarer MCDs. We found an enrichment of either large rearrangements or cryptic copy number variants (CNVs) in PNH (15/42, 35.7%) vs polymicrogyria (4/44, 9.1%) (i.e., 5.6 times increased risk for PNH of carrying a pathogenic CNV). CNVs in seven genomic regions (2p11.2q12.1, 4p15, 14q11.2q12, 16p13.3, 19q13.33, 20q13.33, 22q11) represented novel, potentially causative, associations with PNH. Through in silico analysis of genes included in imbalances whose breakpoints were clearly detailed, we detected in 9/12 unrelated patients in our series and in 15/24 previously published patients, a significant (P < 0.05) overrepresentation of genes involved in vesicle-mediated transport. Rare genomic imbalances, either small CNVs or large rearrangements, are cumulatively a frequent cause of PNH. Dysregulation of specific cellular mechanisms might play a key pathogenic role in PNH but it remains to be determined whether this is exerted through single genes or the cumulative dosage effect of more genes. Array-CGH should be considered as a first-line diagnostic test in PNH, especially if sporadic and non-classical.
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