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A newly identified chromosomal microdeletion and an N-box mutation of the AChR epsilon gene cause a congenital myasthenic syndrome.

Brain 2002 May;125(Pt 5):1005-13

Genzentrum and Friedrich-Baur-Institut, Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich, Germany.

Congenital myasthenic syndromes (CMSs) are frequently caused by mutations of the coding region of the acetylcholine receptor epsilon subunit (AChRepsilon) gene leading to a reduced expression of the acetylcholine receptor (AChR) at the postsynaptic membrane. Two recent observations have linked two different N-box mutations of the human AChRepsilon promoter to a clinical CMS phenotype. N-boxes are regulatory sequence elements of mammalian promoters that confer synapse-specific expression of several genes, including the AChR subunit genes. Here, we report on a novel point mutation (epsilon-154G-->A) in the N-box of the AChRepsilon promoter in a German CMS pedigree. Semiquantitative analysis of AChRepsilon mRNA levels in the patient's muscle indicated significantly impaired AChRepsilon expression. We provide additional evidence of a pathogenic role for this mutation using the mutated promoter (epsilon-154G-->A) driving a heterologous gene (luciferase) in rat skeletal muscle. We show that agrin-induced gene expression is significantly reduced by the N-box mutant (mt) compared with the wild-type (wt) promoter. Refined haplotype analysis and direct sequencing revealed maternal inheritance of the mutant AChRepsilon promoter (epsilon-154G-->A) together with paternal inheritance of a chromosomal microdeletion (Delta1290 bp) encompassing the promoter and the first two exons of the AChRepsilon gene in the index patient. In conclusion, we provide genetic and functional evidence that a mutation of the AChRepsilon subunit promoter (epsilon-154G-->A) causes CMS due to the reduction of gene expression in skeletal muscle. Moreover, this is the first report of a chromosomal microdeletion affecting an AChR gene. This type of mutation may be missed in standard screening techniques of CMS patients.

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