Despite recent advances in understanding the genetic bases of microcephaly, a large number of cases of microcephaly remain unexplained, suggesting that many microcephaly syndromes and associated genes have yet to be identified. Here, we report mutations in PYCR2, which encodes an enzyme in the proline biosynthesis pathway, as the cause of a unique syndrome characterized by postnatal microcephaly, hypomyelination, and reduced cerebral white-matter volume. Linkage mapping and whole-exome sequencing identified homozygous mutations (c.355C>T [p.Arg119Cys] and c.751C>T [p.Arg251Cys]) in PYCR2 in the affected individuals of two consanguineous families. A lymphoblastoid cell line from one affected individual showed a strong reduction in the amount of PYCR2. When mutant cDNAs were transfected into HEK293FT cells, both variant proteins retained normal mitochondrial localization but had lower amounts than the wild-type protein, suggesting that the variant proteins were less stable. A PYCR2-deficient HEK293FT cell line generated by genome editing with the clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeat (CRISPR)-Cas9 system showed that PYCR2 loss of function led to decreased mitochondrial membrane potential and increased susceptibility to apoptosis under oxidative stress. Morpholino-based knockdown of a zebrafish PYCR2 ortholog, pycr1b, recapitulated the human microcephaly phenotype, which was rescued by wild-type human PYCR2 mRNA, but not by mutant mRNAs, further supporting the pathogenicity of the identified variants. Hypomyelination and the absence of lax, wrinkly skin distinguishes this condition from that caused by previously reported mutations in the gene encoding PYCR2's isozyme, PYCR1, suggesting a unique and indispensable role for PYCR2 in the human CNS during development.
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