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Inframe deletion of human ESPN is associated with deafness, vestibulopathy and vision impairment


Background Usher syndrome (USH) is a neurosensory disorder characterised by deafness, variable vestibular areflexia and vision loss. The aim of the study was to identify the genetic defect in a Pakistani family (PKDF1051) segregating USH.

Methods Genome-wide linkage analysis was performed by using an Illumina linkage array followed by Sanger and exome sequencing. Heterologous cells and mouse organ of Corti explant-based transfection assays were used for functional evaluations. Detailed clinical evaluations were performed to characterise the USH phenotype.

Results Through homozygosity mapping, we genetically linked the USH phenotype segregating in family PKDF1051 to markers on chromosome 1p36.32-p36.22. The locus was designated USH1M. Using a combination of Sanger sequencing and exome sequencing, we identified a novel homozygous 18 base pair inframe deletion in ESPN. Variants of ESPN, encoding the actin-bundling protein espin, have been previously associated with deafness and vestibular areflexia in humans with no apparent visual deficits. Our functional studies in heterologous cells and in mouse organ of Corti explant cultures revealed that the six deleted residues in affected individuals of family PKDF1051 are essential for the actin bundling function of espin demonstrated by ultracentrifugation actin binding and bundling assays. Funduscopic examination of the affected individuals of family PKDF1051 revealed irregular retinal contour, temporal flecks and disc pallor in both eyes. ERG revealed diminished rod photoreceptor function among affected individuals.

Conclusion Our study uncovers an additional USH gene, assigns the USH1 phenotype to a variant of ESPN and provides a 12th molecular component to the USH proteome.

  • deafness
  • vision impairment
  • usher syndrome

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