The DCDC2/intron 2 deletion and white matter disorganization: focus on developmental dyslexia

Cecilia Marino, Paola Scifo, Pasquale A Della Rosa, Sara Mascheretti, Andrea Facoetti, Maria L Lorusso, Roberto Giorda, Monica Consonni, Andrea Falini, Massimo Molteni, Jeffrey R Gruen, Daniela Perani
Cortex; a Journal Devoted to the Study of the Nervous System and Behavior 2014, 57: 227-43

INTRODUCTION: The DCDC2 gene is involved in neuronal migration. Heterotopias have been found within the white matter of DCDC2-knockdown rats. A deletion in DCDC2/intron 2 (DCDC2d), which encompasses a regulatory region named 'regulatory element associated with dyslexia 1' (READ1), increases the risk for dyslexia. We hypothesized that DCDC2d can be associated to alterations of the white matter structure in general and in dyslexic brains.

METHODS: Based on a full-factorial analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) model, we investigated voxel-based diffusion tensor imaging (VB-DTI) data of four groups of subjects: dyslexia with/without DCDC2d, and normal readers with/without DCDC2d. We also tested DCDC2d effects upon correlation patterns between fractional anisotropy (FA) and reading scores.

RESULTS: We found that FA was reduced in the left arcuate fasciculus and splenium of the corpus callosum in subjects with versus without DCDC2d, irrespective of dyslexia. Subjects with dyslexia and DCDC2d showed reduced FA, mainly in the left hemisphere and in the corpus callosum; their counterpart without DCDC2d showed similar FA alterations. Noteworthy, a conjunction analysis in impaired readers revealed common regions with lower FA mainly in the left hemisphere. When we compared subjects with dyslexia with versus without DCDC2d, we found lower FA in the inferior longitudinal fasciculus and genu of the corpus callosum, bilaterally. Normal readers with versus without DCDC2d had FA increases and decreases in both the right and left hemisphere.

DISCUSSION: The major contribution of our study was to provide evidence relating genes, brain and behaviour. Overall, our findings support the hypothesis that DCDC2d is associated with altered FA. In normal readers, DCDC2-related anatomical patterns may mark some developmental cognitive vulnerability to learning disabilities. In subjects with dyslexia, DCDC2d accounted for both common - mainly located in the left hemisphere - and unique - a more severe and extended pattern - alterations of white matter fibre tracts.

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