De novo loss-of-function mutations in WAC cause a recognizable intellectual disability syndrome and learning deficits in Drosophila

Dorien Lugtenberg, Margot R. F. Reijnders, Michaela Fenckova, Emilia K. Bijlsma, Raphael Bernier, Bregje W. M. van Bon, Eric Smeets, Anneke T. Vulto-van Silfhout, Danielle Bosch, Evan E. Eichler, Heather C. Mefford, Gemma L. Carvill, Ernie M. H. F. Bongers, Janneke H. M. Schuurs-Hoeijmakers, Claudia A. Ruivenkamp, Gijs W. E. Santen, Arn M. J. M. van den Maagdenberg, Cacha M. P. C. D. Peeters-Scholte, Sabine Kuenen, Patrik VerstrekenRolph Pfundt, Helger G. Yntema, Petra F. de Vries, Joris A. Veltman, Alexander Hoischen, Christian Gilissen, Bert B. A. de Vries, Annette Schenck, Tjitske Kleefstra*, Lisenka E. L. M. Vissers*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

21 Citations (Web of Science)


Recently WAC was reported as a candidate gene for intellectual disability (ID) based on the identification of a de novo mutation in an individual with severe ID. WAC regulates transcription-coupled histone H2B ubiquitination and has previously been implicated in the 10p12p11 contiguous gene deletion syndrome. In this study, we report on 10 individuals with de novo WAC mutations which we identified through routine (diagnostic) exome sequencing and targeted resequencing of WAC in 2326 individuals with unexplained ID. All but one mutation was expected to lead to a loss-of-function of WAC. Clinical evaluation of all individuals revealed phenotypic overlap for mild ID, hypotonia, behavioral problems and distinctive facial dysmorphisms, including a square-shaped face, deep set eyes, long palpebral fissures, and a broad mouth and chin. These clinical features were also previously reported in individuals with 10p12p11 microdeletion syndrome. To investigate the role of WAC in ID, we studied the importance of the Drosophila WAC orthologue (CG8949) in habituation, a non-associative learning paradigm. Neuronal knockdown of Drosophila CG8949 resulted in impaired learning, suggesting that WAC is required in neurons for normal cognitive performance. In conclusion, we defined a clinically recognizable ID syndrome, caused by de novo loss-of-function mutations in WAC. Independent functional evidence in Drosophila further supported the role of WAC in ID. On the basis of our data WAC can be added to the list of ID genes with a role in transcription regulation through histone modification.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1145-1153
JournalEuropean Journal of Human Genetics
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2016

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