DLK1 Is a Novel Link Between Reproduction and Metabolism

Larissa G Gomes, Marina Cunha-Silva, Raiane P Crespo, Carolina O Ramos, Luciana R Montenegro, Ana Canton, Melissa Lees, Helen Spoudeas, Andrew Dauber, Delanie B Macedo, Danielle S Bessa, Gustavo A Maciel, Edmund C Baracat, Alexander A L Jorge, Berenice B Mendonca, Vinicius N Brito, Ana Claudia Latronico
Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism 2019 June 1, 104 (6): 2112-2120

BACKGROUND: Delta-like homolog 1 (DLK1), also called preadipocyte factor 1, prevents adipocyte differentiation and has been considered a molecular gatekeeper of adipogenesis. A DLK1 complex genomic defect was identified in five women from a single family with central precocious puberty (CPP) and increased body fat percentage.

METHODS: We studied 60 female patients with a diagnosis of CPP or history of precocious menarche. Thirty-one of them reported a family history of precocious puberty. DLK1 DNA sequencing was performed in all patients. Serum DLK1 concentrations were measured using an ELISA assay in selected cases. Metabolic and reproductive profiles of adult women with CPP caused by DLK1 defects were compared with those of 20 women with idiopathic CPP.

RESULTS: We identified three frameshift mutations of DLK1 (p.Gly199Alafs*11, p.Val271Cysfs*14, and p.Pro160Leufs*50) in five women from three families with CPP. Segregation analysis was consistent with the maternal imprinting of DLK1. Serum DLK1 concentrations were undetectable in three affected women. Metabolic abnormalities, such as overweight/obesity, early-onset glucose intolerance/type 2 diabetes mellitus, and hyperlipidemia, were more prevalent in women with the DLK1 mutation than in the idiopathic CPP group. Notably, the human metabolic alterations were similar to the previously described dlk1-null mice phenotype. Two sisters who carried the p.Gly199Alafs*11 mutation also exhibited polycystic ovary syndrome and infertility.

CONCLUSIONS: Loss-of-function mutations of DLK1 are a definitive cause of familial CPP. The high prevalence of metabolic alterations in adult women who experienced CPP due to DLK1 defects suggests that this antiadipogenic factor represents a link between reproduction and metabolism.

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