Background: Rare genetic variants contribute to the etiology of both autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and schizophrenia (SCZ). Most genetic studies limit their focus to likely gene-disrupting mutations because they are relatively easier to interpret their effects on the gene product. Interpretation of missense variants is also informative to some pathophysiological mechanisms of these neurodevelopmental disorders; however, their contribution has not been elucidated because of relatively small effects. Therefore, we characterized missense variants detected in NRXN1, a well-known neurodevelopmental disease-causing gene, from individuals with ASD and SCZ. Methods: To discover rare variants with large effect size and to evaluate their role in the shared etiopathophysiology of ASD and SCZ, we sequenced NRXN1 coding exons with a sample comprising 562 Japanese ASD and SCZ patients, followed by a genetic association analysis in 4273 unrelated individuals. Impact of each missense variant detected here on cell surface expression, interaction with NLGN1, and synaptogenic activity was analyzed using an in vitro functional assay and in silico three-dimensional (3D) structural modeling. Results: Through mutation screening, we regarded three ultra-rare missense variants (T737M, D772G, and R856W), all of which affected the LNS4 domain of NRXN1α isoform, as disease-associated variants. Diagnosis of individuals with T737M, D772G, and R856W was 1ASD and 1SCZ, 1ASD, and 1SCZ, respectively. We observed the following phenotypic and functional burden caused by each variant. (i) D772G and R856W carriers had more serious social disabilities than T737M carriers. (ii) In vitro assay showed reduced cell surface expression of NRXN1α by D772G and R856W mutations. In vitro functional analysis showed decreased NRXN1α-NLGN1 interaction of T737M and D772G mutants. (iii) In silico 3D structural modeling indicated that T737M and D772G mutations could destabilize the rod-shaped structure of LNS2-LNS5 domains, and D772G and R856W could disturb N-glycan conformations for the transport signal. Conclusions: The combined data suggest that missense variants in NRXN1 could be associated with phenotypes of neurodevelopmental disorders beyond the diagnosis of ASD and/or SCZ.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
- Pathology and Forensic Medicine
- Clinical Neurology
- Cognitive Neuroscience