RESEARCH SUPPORT, U.S. GOV'T, P.H.S.
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Genetic heterogeneity in erythrokeratodermia variabilis: novel mutations in the connexin gene GJB4 (Cx30.3) and genotype-phenotype correlations.

Erythrokeratodermia variabilis is an autosomal dominant genodermatosis characterized by persistent plaque-like or generalized hyperkeratosis and transient red patches of variable size, shape, and location. The disorder maps to a cluster of connexin genes on chromosome 1p34-p35.1 and, in a subset of families, results from mutations in the gene GJB3 encoding the gap junction protein connexin-31 (Cx31). A recent report suggested the involvement of another connexin gene (GJB4) in the etiology of erythrokeratodermia variabilis. In this study, we sequenced the coding region of GJB4 in 13 unrelated erythrokeratodermia variabilis families without detectable mutations in GJB3. Mutation analysis revealed six distinct missense mutations in five families and a sporadic case of erythrokeratodermia variabilis, all of which were not found in controls. Mutation G12D, identified in an extended Dutch family, lies in the predicted amino-terminus and may interfere with the flexibility of this domain, connexin selectivity, or gating polarity of gap junction channels. Other mutations (R22H, T85P, F137L, F189Y) were located in the transmembrane domains of Cx30.3, and are predicted to hinder regulation of voltage gating or alter the kinetics of channel closure. Affected individuals of two unrelated families harbored point mutations leading to amino acid substitution F137L, which was also reported in GJB3, yet the extent and severity of hyperkeratosis was milder compared to the corresponding mutation in GJB3. Two mutations (T85P, F137L) were associated with the occurrence of rapidly changing erythematous patches with prominent, circinate, or gyrate borders in affected children but not in adults, supporting the notion that this feature is specific to Cx30.3 defects. Nevertheless, we observed highly variable intrafamilial phenotypes, suggesting the strong influence of modifying genetic and epigenetic factors. In addition to pathogenic mutations, we identified several missense mutations and a 4 bp deletion within the GJB4 coding region, which might represent either inconsequential polymorphisms or recessive mutations. In conclusion, our results demonstrate genetic heterogeneity in erythrokeratodermia variabilis, and emphasize that intercellular communication mediated by both Cx31 and Cx30.3 is crucial for epidermal differentiation.

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