Functionally pathogenic EARS2 variants in vitro may not manifest a phenotype in vivo29 Sep 2017
OBJECTIVE: To investigate the genetic etiology of a patient diagnosed with leukoencephalopathy, brain calcifications, and cysts (LCC). METHODS: Whole-exome sequencing was performed on a patient with LCC and his unaffected family members. The variants were subject to in silico and in vitro functional testing to determine pathogenicity. RESULTS: Whole-exome sequencing uncovered compound heterozygous mutations in EARS2, c.328G>A (p.G110S), and c.1045G>A (p.E349K). This gene has previously been implicated in the autosomal recessive leukoencephalopathy with thalamus and brainstem involvement and high lactate (LTBL). The p.G110S mutation has been found in multiple patients with LTBL. In silico analysis supported pathogenicity in the second variant. In vitro functional testing showed a significant mitochondrial dysfunction demonstrated by an ∼11% decrease in the oxygen consumption rate and ∼43% decrease in the maximum respiratory rate in the patient's skin fibroblasts compared with the control. EARS2 protein levels were reduced to 30% of normal controls in the patient's fibroblasts. These deficiencies were corrected by the expression of the wild-type EARS2 protein. However, a further unrelated genetic investigation of our patient revealed the presence of biallelic variants in a small nucleolar RNA (SNORD118) responsible for LCC. CONCLUSIONS: Here, we report seemingly pathogenic EARS2 mutations in a single patient with LCC with no biochemical or neuroimaging presentations of LTBL. This patient illustrates that variants with demonstrated impact on protein function should not necessarily be considered clinically relevant.