BACKGROUND: Neural tube defects (NTD) are among the most common defects affecting 1:1000 births. They are caused by a failure of neural tube closure during development. Their clinical presentation is diverse and dependent on the site and severity of the original defect on the embryonic axis. The etiology of NTD is multifactorial involving environmental factors and genetic variants that remain largely unknown.
METHODS: We have conducted a whole exome sequencing (WES) study in five new NTD families and pooled the results with WES data from three NTD families and 43 trios that were previously investigated by our group. We analyzed the data using biased candidate gene and unbiased gene burden approaches.
RESULTS: We identified four novel loss-of-function variants in three genes, MTHFR, DLC1, and ITGB1, previously associated with NTD. Notably, DLC1 carried two protein truncating variants in two independent cases. We also demonstrated an enrichment of variants in MYO1E involved in cytoskeletal remodeling. This enrichment reached borderline significance in a replication cohort supporting the association of this new candidate gene to NTD.
CONCLUSION: These data provide some key insights into the pathogenic mechanisms of human NTD and demonstrate the power of next-generation sequencing in deciphering the genetics of this complex trait.
- GTPase-Activating Proteins/genetics
- Genetic Predisposition to Disease
- Integrin beta1/genetics
- Loss of Function Mutation
- Methylenetetrahydrofolate Reductase (NADPH2)/genetics
- Neural Tube Defects/genetics
- Tumor Suppressor Proteins/genetics