Warburg Micro syndrome and Martsolf syndrome are heterogenous autosomal-recessive developmental disorders characterized by brain, eye, and endocrine abnormalities. Previously, identification of mutations in RAB3GAP1 and RAB3GAP2 in both these syndromes implicated dysregulation of the RAB3 cycle (which controls calcium-mediated exocytosis of neurotransmitters and hormones) in disease pathogenesis. RAB3GAP1 and RAB3GAP2 encode the catalytic and noncatalytic subunits of the hetrodimeric enzyme RAB3GAP (RAB3GTPase-activating protein), a key regulator of the RAB3 cycle. We performed autozygosity mapping in five consanguineous families without RAB3GAP1/2 mutations and identified loss-of-function mutations in RAB18. A c.71T > A (p.Leu24Gln) founder mutation was identified in four Pakistani families, and a homozygous exon 2 deletion (predicted to result in a frameshift) was found in the fifth family. A single family whose members were compound heterozygotes for an anti-termination mutation of the stop codon c.619T > C (p.X207QextX20) and an inframe arginine deletion c.277-279 del (p.Arg93 del) were identified after direct gene sequencing and multiplex ligation-dependent probe amplification (MLPA) of a further 58 families. Nucleotide binding assays for RAB18(Leu24Gln) and RAB18(Arg93del) showed that these mutant proteins were functionally null in that they were unable to bind guanine. The clinical features of Warburg Micro syndrome patients with RAB3GAP1 or RAB3GAP2 mutations and RAB18 mutations are indistinguishable, although the role of RAB18 in trafficking is still emerging, and it has not been linked previously to the RAB3 pathway. Knockdown of rab18 in zebrafish suggests that it might have a conserved developmental role. Our findings imply that RAB18 has a critical role in human brain and eye development and neurodegeneration.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We thank the families who helped with this research; many colleagues for referring affected families; and the West Midlands Regional Genetics laboratory, with whom we worked closely. We thank the UK Newlife Charity and WellChild for financial support. Work in the group of F.A.B. was supported by a Wellcome Trust programme award (082467/Z/07/Z). I.A.A. is funded through a Programme Leader Development Track Fellowship from the Medical Research Council.