Partial MCM4 deficiency in patients with growth retardation, adrenal insufficiency, and natural killer cell deficiency

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Abstract

Natural killer (NK) cells are circulating cytotoxic lymphocytes that exert potent and nonredundant antiviral activity and antitumoral activity in the mouse; however, their function in host defense in humans remains unclear. Here, we investigated 6 related patients with autosomal recessive growth retardation, adrenal insufficiency, and a selective NK cell deficiency characterized by a lack of the CD56dim NK subset. Using linkage analysis and fine mapping, we identified the disease-causing gene, MCM4, which encodes a component of the MCM2-7 helicase complex required for DNA replication. A splice-site mutation in the patients produced a frameshift, but the mutation was hypomorphic due to the creation of two new translation initiation methionine codons downstream of the premature termination codon. The patients’ fibroblasts exhibited genomic instability, which was rescued by expression of WT MCM4. These data indicate that the patients’ growth retardation and adrenal insufficiency likely reflect the ubiquitous but heterogeneous impact of the MCM4 mutation in various tissues. In addition, the specific loss of the NK CD56dim subset in patients was associated with a lower rate of NK CD56bright cell proliferation, and the maturation of NK CD56bright cells toward an NK CD56dim phenotype was tightly dependent on MCM4-dependent cell division. Thus, partial MCM4 deficiency results in a genetic syndrome of growth retardation with adrenal insufficiency and selective NK deficiency.

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