EPHA2 is a transmembrane tyrosine kinase receptor that, when disrupted, causes congenital and age-related cataracts. Cat-Map reports 22 pathogenic EPHA2
variants associated with congenital cataracts, variable microcornea, and lenticonus, but no previous association with microphthalmia (small, underdeveloped eye, ≥2 standard deviations below normal axial length). Microphthalmia arises from ocular maldevelopment with >90 monogenic causes, and can include a complex ocular phenotype. In this paper, we report two pathogenic EPHA2
variants in unrelated families presenting with bilateral microphthalmia and congenital cataracts. Whole genome sequencing through the 100,000 Genomes Project and cataract-related targeted gene panel testing identified autosomal dominant heterozygous mutations segregating with the disease: (i) missense c.1751C>T, p.(Pro584Leu) and (ii) splice site c.2826-9G>A. To functionally validate pathogenicity, morpholino knockdown of epha2a
in zebrafish resulted in significantly reduced eye size ± cataract formation. Misexpression of N-cadherin and retained fibre cell nuclei were observed in the developing lens of the epha2b
knockdown morphant fish by 3 days post-fertilisation, which indicated a putative mechanism for microphthalmia pathogenesis through disruption of cadherin-mediated adherens junctions, preventing lens maturation and the critical signals stimulating eye growth. This study demonstrates a novel association of EPHA2
with microphthalmia, suggesting further analysis of pathogenic variants in unsolved microphthalmia cohorts may increase molecular diagnostic rates.
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