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A novel de novo variant in POLR3B gene associated with a primary axonal involvement of the largest nerve fibers.

BACKGROUND AND AIMS: POLR3B gene encodes a subunit of RNA polymerase III (Pol III). Biallelic mutations in POLR3B are associated with leukodystrophies, but recently de novo heterozygous mutations have been described in early onset peripheral demyelinating neuropathies with or without central involvement. Here, we report the first Italian case carrying a de novo variant in POLR3B with a pure neuropathy phenotype and primary axonal involvement of the largest nerve fibers.

METHODS: Nerve conduction studies, sympathetic skin response, dynamic sweat test, tactile and thermal quantitative sensory testing and brain magnetic resonance imaging were performed according to standard procedures. Histopathological examination was performed on skin and sural nerve biopsies. Molecular analysis of the proband and his relatives was performed with Next Generation Sequencing. The impact of the identified variant on the overall protein structure was evaluated through rotamers method.

RESULTS: Since his early adolescence, the patient presented with signs of polyneuropathy with severe distal weakness, atrophy, and reduced sensation. Neurophysiological studies showed a sensory-motor axonal polyneuropathy, with confirmed small fiber involvement. In addition, skin biopsy and sural nerve biopsy showed predominant large fibers involvement. A trio's whole exome sequencing revealed a novel de novo variant p.(Arg1046Cys) in POLR3B, which was classified as Probably Pathogenic. Molecular modeling data confirmed a deleterious effect of the variant on protein structure.

INTERPRETATION: Neurophysiological and morphological findings suggest a primary axonal involvement of the largest nerve fibers in POLR3B-related neuropathies. A partial loss of function mechanism is proposed for both neuropathy and leukodystrophy phenotypes.

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