Mutations in XRCC4 cause primary microcephaly, short stature and increased genomic instability
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DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) are highly toxic lesions, which, if not properly repaired, can give rise to genomic instability. Non-homologous end-joining (NHEJ), a well-orchestrated, multistep process involving numerous proteins essential for cell viability, represents one major pathway to repair DSBs in mammalian cells, and mutations in different NHEJ components have been described in microcephalic syndromes associated, e.g. with short stature, facial dysmorphism and immune dysfunction. By using whole-exome sequencing, we now identified in three affected brothers of a consanguineous Turkish family a homozygous mutation, c.482G>A, in the XRCC4 gene encoding a crucial component of the NHEJ pathway. Moreover, we found one additional patient of Swiss origin carrying the compound heterozygous mutations c.25delG (p. His9Thrfs*8) and c.823C>T (p. Arg275*) in XRCC4. The clinical phenotype presented in these patients was characterized by severe microcephaly, facial dysmorphism and short stature, but they did not show a recognizable immunological phenotype. We showed that the XRCC4 c.482G>A mutation, which affects the last nucleotide of exon 4, induces defective splicing of XRCC4 pre-mRNA mainly resulting in premature protein truncation and most likely loss of XRCC4 function. Moreover, we observed on cellular level that XRCC4 deficiency leads to hypersensitivity to DSB-inducing agents and defective DSB repair, which results in increased cell death after exposure to genotoxic agents. Taken together, our data provide evidence that autosomal recessive mutations in XRCC4 induce increased genomic instability and cause a NHEJ-related syndrome defined by facial dysmorphism, primary microcephaly and short stature. © The Author 2015. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved.