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Pseudoexon activation by deep intronic variation in GNE myopathy with thrombocytopenia.

Muscle & Nerve 2024 April 2
INTRODUCTION/AIMS: GNE myopathy is a rare autosomal recessive disorder caused by pathogenic variants in the GNE gene, which is essential for the sialic acid biosynthesis pathway. Although over 300 GNE variants have been reported, some patients remain undiagnosed with monoallelic pathogenic variants. This study aims to analyze the entire GNE genomic region to identify novel pathogenic variants.

METHODS: Patients with clinically compatible GNE myopathy and monoallelic pathogenic variants in the GNE gene were enrolled. The other GNE pathogenic variant was verified using comprehensive methods including exon 2 quantitative polymerase chain reaction and nanopore long-read single-molecule sequencing (LRS).

RESULTS: A deep intronic GNE variant, c.862+870C>T, was identified in nine patients from eight unrelated families. This variant generates a cryptic splice site, resulting in the activation of a novel pseudoexon between exons 5 and 6. It results in the insertion of an extra 146 nucleotides into the messengerRNA (mRNA), which is predicted to result in a truncated humanGNE1(hGNE1) protein. Peanut agglutinin(PNA) lectin staining of muscle tissues showed reduced sialylation of mucin O-glycans on sarcolemmal glycoproteins. Notably, a third of patients with the c.862+870C>T variant exhibited thrombocytopenia. A common core haplotype harboring the deep intronic GNE variant was found in all these patients.

DISCUSSION: The transcript with pseudoexon activation potentially affects sialic acid biosynthesis via nonsense-mediated mRNA decay, or resulting in a truncated hGNE1 protein, which interferes with normal enzyme function. LRS is expected to be more frequently incorporated in genetic analysis given its efficacy in detecting hard-to-find pathogenic variants.

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