Am J Hum Genet. 90(5):847-55. doi: 10.1016/j.ajhg.2012.03.021. May 4, 2012.
Abbasi-Moheb L, Mertel S, Gonsior M, Nouri-Vahid L, Kahrizi K, Cirak S, Wieczorek D, Motazacker MM, Esmaeeli-Nieh S, Cremer K, Weißmann R, Tzschach A, Masoud Garshasbi, Abedini SS, Najmabadi H, Ropers HH, Sigrist SJ, and Kuss AW
With a prevalence between 1 and 3%, hereditary forms of intellectual disability (ID) are among the most important problems in health care. Particularly, autosomal-recessive forms of the disorder have a very heterogeneous molecular basis, and genes with an increased number of disease-causing mutations are not common. Here, we report on three different mutations (two nonsense mutations, c.679C>T [p.Gln227(∗)] and c.1114C>T [p.Gln372(∗)], as well as one splicing mutation, g.6622224A>C [p.Ile179Argfs(∗)192]) that cause a loss of the tRNA-methyltransferase-encoding NSUN2 main transcript in homozygotes. We identified the mutations by sequencing exons and exon-intron boundaries within the genomic region where the linkage intervals of three independent consanguineous families of Iranian and Kurdish origin overlapped with the previously described MRT5 locus. In order to gain further evidence concerning the effect of a loss of NSUN2 on memory and learning, we constructed a Drosophila model by deleting the NSUN2 ortholog, CG6133, and investigated the mutants by using molecular and behavioral approaches. When the Drosophila melanogaster NSUN2 ortholog was deleted, severe short-term-memory (STM) deficits were observed; STM could be rescued by re-expression of the wild-type protein in the nervous system. The humans homozygous for NSUN2 mutations showed an overlapping phenotype consisting of moderate to severe ID and facial dysmorphism (which includes a long face, characteristic eyebrows, a long nose, and a small chin), suggesting that mutations in this gene might even induce a syndromic form of ID. Moreover, our observations from the Drosophila model point toward an evolutionarily conserved role of RNA methylation in normal cognitive development.