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Original research
Congenital mirror movements are associated with defective polymerisation of RAD51


Background Mirror movements are involuntary movements of one hand that mirror intentional movements of the other hand. Congenital mirror movements (CMM) is a rare genetic disorder with autosomal dominant inheritance, in which mirror movements are the main neurological manifestation. CMM is associated with an abnormal decussation of the corticospinal tract, a major motor tract for voluntary movements. RAD51 is known to play a key role in homologous recombination with a critical function in DNA repair. While RAD51 haploinsufficiency was first proposed to explain CMM, other mechanisms could be involved.

Methods We performed Sanger sequencing of RAD51 in five newly identified CMM families to identify new pathogenic variants. We further investigated the expression of wild-type and mutant RAD51 in the patients’ lymphoblasts at mRNA and protein levels. We then characterised the functions of RAD51 altered by non-truncating variants using biochemical approaches.

Results The level of wild-type RAD51 protein was lower in the cells of all patients with CMM compared with their non-carrier relatives. The reduction was less pronounced in asymptomatic carriers. In vitro, mutant RAD51 proteins showed loss-of-function for polymerisation, DNA binding and strand exchange activity.

Conclusion Our study demonstrates that RAD51 haploinsufficiency, including loss-of-function of non-truncating variants, results in CMM. The incomplete penetrance likely results from post-transcriptional compensation. Changes in RAD51 levels and/or polymerisation properties could influence guidance of the corticospinal axons during development. Our findings open up new perspectives to understand the role of RAD51 in neurodevelopment.

  • gene expression
  • germ-line mutation
  • human genetics
  • movement disorders

Data availability statement

All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as supplementary information.

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