Special Issue "Molecular Genetics and Pathogenesis of Ehlers–Danlos Syndrome and Related Connective Tissue Disorders"

A special issue of Genes (ISSN 2073-4425). This special issue belongs to the section "Human Genomics and Genetic Diseases".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 June 2019).

Special Issue Editors

Prof. Marina Colombi
E-Mail Website1 Website2
Guest Editor
University of Brescia, Medical School, Department of Molecular and Translational Medicine, Division of Biology and Genetics, Viale Europa 1, 25123 Brescia, Italy
Interests: Heritable connective tissue disorders; Ehlers-Danlos syndrome; arterial tortuosity syndrome; Loeys-Dietz syndrome; Cutis Laxa; collagen genes; extracellular matrix; fibronectin; integrins
Dr. Marco Ritelli
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
University of Brescia, Medical School, Department of Molecular and Translational Medicine, Division of Biology and Genetics, Viale Europa 1, 25123 Brescia, Italy
Interests: Heritable connective tissue disorders; Ehlers-Danlos syndrome; Arterial tortuosity syndrome; Loeys-Dietz syndrome; Marfan syndrome; Cutis laxa; Next generation sequencing, Transcriptome analysis, Matrisome

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Ehlers–Danlos syndrome (EDS) comprises a group of rare heritable connective tissue disorders (HCTD) mainly characterized by a variable degree of skin hyperextensibility, joint hypermobility and tissue fragility. EDS shows huge heterogeneity both at the clinical and molecular level that contributes to the difficulty of the diagnostic process. The recently revised EDS nosology recognizes 13 different types that all, except hypermobile EDS, have a known molecular basis. Up to now, 19 different causal genes involved in collagens and extracellular matrix synthesis and maintenance are recognized, although for some recently discovered genes the exact mechanism remains to be clarified. EDS needs to be differentiated from other HCTDs with variable clinical overlap, including Marfan, Loeys–Dietz, and arterial tortuosity syndromes as well as Cutis laxa, Osteogenesis imperfecta and some skeletal dysplasia. Therefore, careful clinical evaluation and confirmation by molecular testing, especially taking advantage of the NGS technology, are essential to the diagnosis of these disorders. The diagnosis of hypermobile EDS, which is the most frequent EDS form, is only clinical, given the absence of any laboratory test. This EDS type as well as other phenotypes that remain without a known molecular basis are currently being investigated worldwide both at a molecular and cellular level to unravel the underlying molecular defect(s) and associated pathomechanism(s) representing the major challenging task in this field.

In this Special Issue, we aim to describe the current state-of-the-art and novel research findings concerning the molecular basis and pathogenesis of all EDS types and related HCTDs.

This issue is not meant to include papers reporting only clinical descriptions of the different EDS and related phenotypes.

Prof. Marina Colombi
Dr. Marco Ritelli
Guest Editors

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Published Papers (10 papers)

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Open AccessArticle
Clinical and Molecular Characterization of Classical-Like Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome Due to a Novel TNXB Variant
Genes 2019, 10(11), 843; https://doi.org/10.3390/genes10110843 - 25 Oct 2019
Abstract
The Ehlers-Danlos syndromes (EDS) constitute a clinically and genetically heterogeneous group of connective tissue disorders. Tenascin X (TNX) deficiency is a rare type of EDS, defined as classical-like EDS (clEDS), since it phenotypically resembles the classical form of EDS, though lacking atrophic scarring. [...] Read more.
The Ehlers-Danlos syndromes (EDS) constitute a clinically and genetically heterogeneous group of connective tissue disorders. Tenascin X (TNX) deficiency is a rare type of EDS, defined as classical-like EDS (clEDS), since it phenotypically resembles the classical form of EDS, though lacking atrophic scarring. Although most patients display a well-defined phenotype, the diagnosis of TNX-deficiency is often delayed or overlooked. Here, we described an additional patient with clEDS due to a homozygous null-mutation in the TNXB gene. A review of the literature was performed, summarizing the most important and distinctive clinical signs of this disorder. Characterization of the cellular phenotype demonstrated a distinct organization of the extracellular matrix (ECM), whereby clEDS distinguishes itself from most other EDS subtypes by normal deposition of fibronectin in the ECM and a normal organization of the α5β1 integrin. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Severe Peripheral Joint Laxity is a Distinctive Clinical Feature of Spondylodysplastic-Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS)-B4GALT7 and Spondylodysplastic-EDS-B3GALT6
Genes 2019, 10(10), 799; https://doi.org/10.3390/genes10100799 - 12 Oct 2019
Abstract
Variations in genes encoding for the enzymes responsible for synthesizing the linker region of proteoglycans may result in recessive conditions known as “linkeropathies”. The two phenotypes related to mutations in genes B4GALT7 and B3GALT6 (encoding for galactosyltransferase I and II respectively) are similar, [...] Read more.
Variations in genes encoding for the enzymes responsible for synthesizing the linker region of proteoglycans may result in recessive conditions known as “linkeropathies”. The two phenotypes related to mutations in genes B4GALT7 and B3GALT6 (encoding for galactosyltransferase I and II respectively) are similar, characterized by short stature, hypotonia, joint hypermobility, skeletal features and a suggestive face with prominent forehead, thin soft tissue and prominent eyes. The most outstanding feature of these disorders is the combination of severe connective tissue involvement, often manifesting in newborns and infants, and skeletal dysplasia that becomes apparent during childhood. Here, we intend to more accurately define some of the clinical features of B4GALT7 and B3GALT6-related conditions and underline the extreme hypermobility of distal joints and the soft, doughy skin on the hands and feet as features that may be useful as the first clues for a correct diagnosis. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Genotypic Categorization of Loeys-Dietz Syndrome Based on 24 Novel Families and Literature Data
Genes 2019, 10(10), 764; https://doi.org/10.3390/genes10100764 - 28 Sep 2019
Abstract
Loeys-Dietz syndrome (LDS) is a connective tissue disorder first described in 2005 featuring aortic/arterial aneurysms, dissections, and tortuosity associated with craniofacial, osteoarticular, musculoskeletal, and cutaneous manifestations. Heterozygous mutations in 6 genes (TGFBR1/2, TGFB2/3, SMAD2/3), encoding components of the TGF-β pathway, cause [...] Read more.
Loeys-Dietz syndrome (LDS) is a connective tissue disorder first described in 2005 featuring aortic/arterial aneurysms, dissections, and tortuosity associated with craniofacial, osteoarticular, musculoskeletal, and cutaneous manifestations. Heterozygous mutations in 6 genes (TGFBR1/2, TGFB2/3, SMAD2/3), encoding components of the TGF-β pathway, cause LDS. Such genetic heterogeneity mirrors broad phenotypic variability with significant differences, especially in terms of the age of onset, penetrance, and severity of life-threatening vascular manifestations and multiorgan involvement, indicating the need to obtain genotype-to-phenotype correlations for personalized management and counseling. Herein, we report on a cohort of 34 LDS patients from 24 families all receiving a molecular diagnosis. Fifteen variants were novel, affecting the TGFBR1 (6), TGFBR2 (6), SMAD3 (2), and TGFB2 (1) genes. Clinical features were scored for each distinct gene and matched with literature data to strengthen genotype-phenotype correlations such as more severe vascular manifestations in TGFBR1/2-related LDS. Additional features included spontaneous pneumothorax in SMAD3-related LDS and cervical spine instability in TGFB2-related LDS. Our study broadens the clinical and molecular spectrum of LDS and indicates that a phenotypic continuum emerges as more patients are described, although genotype-phenotype correlations may still contribute to clinical management. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Further Defining the Phenotypic Spectrum of B3GAT3 Mutations and Literature Review on Linkeropathy Syndromes
Genes 2019, 10(9), 631; https://doi.org/10.3390/genes10090631 - 21 Aug 2019
Abstract
The term linkeropathies (LKs) refers to a group of rare heritable connective tissue disorders, characterized by a variable degree of short stature, skeletal dysplasia, joint laxity, cutaneous anomalies, dysmorphism, heart malformation, and developmental delay. The LK genes encode for enzymes that add glycosaminoglycan [...] Read more.
The term linkeropathies (LKs) refers to a group of rare heritable connective tissue disorders, characterized by a variable degree of short stature, skeletal dysplasia, joint laxity, cutaneous anomalies, dysmorphism, heart malformation, and developmental delay. The LK genes encode for enzymes that add glycosaminoglycan chains onto proteoglycans via a common tetrasaccharide linker region. Biallelic variants in XYLT1 and XYLT2, encoding xylosyltransferases, are associated with Desbuquois dysplasia type 2 and spondylo-ocular syndrome, respectively. Defects in B4GALT7 and B3GALT6, encoding galactosyltransferases, lead to spondylodysplastic Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (spEDS). Mutations in B3GAT3, encoding a glucuronyltransferase, were described in 25 patients from 12 families with variable phenotypes resembling Larsen, Antley-Bixler, Shprintzen-Goldberg, and Geroderma osteodysplastica syndromes. Herein, we report on a 13-year-old girl with a clinical presentation suggestive of spEDS, according to the 2017 EDS nosology, in whom compound heterozygosity for two B3GAT3 likely pathogenic variants was identified. We review the spectrum of B3GAT3-related disorders and provide a comparison of all LK patients reported up to now, highlighting that LKs are a phenotypic continuum bridging EDS and skeletal disorders, hence offering future nosologic perspectives. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Defining the Clinical, Molecular and Ultrastructural Characteristics in Occipital Horn Syndrome: Two New Cases and Review of the Literature
Genes 2019, 10(7), 528; https://doi.org/10.3390/genes10070528 - 12 Jul 2019
Cited by 1
Abstract
Occipital horn syndrome (OHS) is a rare connective tissue disorder caused by pathogenic variants in ATP7A, encoding a copper transporter. The main clinical features, including cutis laxa, bony exostoses, and bladder diverticula are attributed to a decreased activity of lysyl oxidase (LOX), a [...] Read more.
Occipital horn syndrome (OHS) is a rare connective tissue disorder caused by pathogenic variants in ATP7A, encoding a copper transporter. The main clinical features, including cutis laxa, bony exostoses, and bladder diverticula are attributed to a decreased activity of lysyl oxidase (LOX), a cupro-enzyme involved in collagen crosslinking. The absence of large case series and natural history studies precludes efficient diagnosis and management of OHS patients. This study describes the clinical and molecular characteristics of two new patients and 32 patients previously reported in the literature. We report on the need for long-term specialized care and follow-up, in which MR angiography, echocardiography and spirometry should be incorporated into standard follow-up guidelines for OHS patients, next to neurodevelopmental, orthopedic and urological follow-up. Furthermore, we report on ultrastructural abnormalities including increased collagen diameter, mild elastic fiber abnormalities and multiple autophagolysosomes reflecting the role of lysyl oxidase and defective ATP7A trafficking as pathomechanisms of OHS. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Transcriptome Profiling of Primary Skin Fibroblasts Reveal Distinct Molecular Features Between PLOD1- and FKBP14-Kyphoscoliotic Ehlers–Danlos Syndrome
Genes 2019, 10(7), 517; https://doi.org/10.3390/genes10070517 - 08 Jul 2019
Cited by 1
Abstract
Kyphoscoliotic Ehlers–Danlos Syndrome (kEDS) is a rare genetic heterogeneous disease clinically characterized by congenital muscle hypotonia, kyphoscoliosis, and joint hypermobility. kEDS is caused by biallelic pathogenic variants in either PLOD1 or FKBP14. PLOD1 encodes the lysyl hydroxylase 1 enzyme responsible for hydroxylating [...] Read more.
Kyphoscoliotic Ehlers–Danlos Syndrome (kEDS) is a rare genetic heterogeneous disease clinically characterized by congenital muscle hypotonia, kyphoscoliosis, and joint hypermobility. kEDS is caused by biallelic pathogenic variants in either PLOD1 or FKBP14. PLOD1 encodes the lysyl hydroxylase 1 enzyme responsible for hydroxylating lysyl residues in the collagen helix, which undergo glycosylation and form crosslinks in the extracellular matrix thus contributing to collagen fibril strength. FKBP14 encodes a peptidyl-prolyl cis–trans isomerase that catalyzes collagen folding and acts as a chaperone for types III, VI, and X collagen. Despite genetic heterogeneity, affected patients with mutations in either PLOD1 or FKBP14 are clinically indistinguishable. We aim to better understand the pathomechanism of kEDS to characterize distinguishing and overlapping molecular features underlying PLOD1-kEDS and FKBP14-kEDS, and to identify novel molecular targets that may expand treatment strategies. Transcriptome profiling by RNA sequencing of patient-derived skin fibroblasts revealed differential expression of genes encoding extracellular matrix components that are unique between PLOD1-kEDS and FKBP14-kEDS. Furthermore, we identified genes involved in inner ear development, vascular remodeling, endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress, and protein trafficking that were differentially expressed in patient fibroblasts compared to controls. Overall, our study presents the first transcriptomics data in kEDS revealing distinct molecular features between PLOD1-kEDS and FKBP14-kEDS, and serves as a tool to better understand the disease. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Characterization of Two Novel Intronic Variants Affecting Splicing in FBN1-Related Disorders
Genes 2019, 10(6), 442; https://doi.org/10.3390/genes10060442 - 10 Jun 2019
Abstract
FBN1 encodes fibrillin 1, a key structural component of the extracellular matrix, and its variants are associated with a wide range of hereditary connective tissues disorders, such as Marfan syndrome (MFS) and mitral valve–aorta–skeleton–skin (MASS) syndrome. Interpretations of the genomic data and possible [...] Read more.
FBN1 encodes fibrillin 1, a key structural component of the extracellular matrix, and its variants are associated with a wide range of hereditary connective tissues disorders, such as Marfan syndrome (MFS) and mitral valve–aorta–skeleton–skin (MASS) syndrome. Interpretations of the genomic data and possible genotype–phenotype correlations in FBN1 are complicated by the high rate of intronic variants of unknown significance. Here, we report two unrelated individuals with the FBN1 deep intronic variants c.6872-24T>A and c.7571-12T>A, clinically associated with MFS and MASS syndrome, respectively. The individual carrying the c.6872-24T>A variant is positive for aortic disease. Both individuals lacked ectopia lentis. In silico analysis and subsequent mRNA study by RT-PCR demonstrated the effect of the identified variant on the splicing process in both cases. The c.6872-24T>A and c.7571-12T>A variants generate the retention of intronic nucleotides and lead to the introduction of a premature stop codon. This study enlarges the mutation spectrum of FBN1 and points out the importance of intronic sequence analysis and the need for integrative functional studies in FBN1 diagnostics. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Expanding the Clinical and Mutational Spectrum of Recessive AEBP1-Related Classical-Like Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome
Genes 2019, 10(2), 135; https://doi.org/10.3390/genes10020135 - 12 Feb 2019
Cited by 2
Abstract
Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS) comprises clinically heterogeneous connective tissue disorders with diverse molecular etiologies. The 2017 International Classification for EDS recognized 13 distinct subtypes caused by pathogenic variants in 19 genes mainly encoding fibrillar collagens and collagen-modifying or processing proteins. Recently, a new EDS [...] Read more.
Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS) comprises clinically heterogeneous connective tissue disorders with diverse molecular etiologies. The 2017 International Classification for EDS recognized 13 distinct subtypes caused by pathogenic variants in 19 genes mainly encoding fibrillar collagens and collagen-modifying or processing proteins. Recently, a new EDS subtype, i.e., classical-like EDS type 2, was defined after the identification, in six patients with clinical findings reminiscent of EDS, of recessive alterations in AEBP1, which encodes the aortic carboxypeptidase–like protein associating with collagens in the extracellular matrix. Herein, we report on a 53-year-old patient, born from healthy second-cousins, who fitted the diagnostic criteria for classical EDS (cEDS) for the presence of hyperextensible skin with multiple atrophic scars, generalized joint hypermobility, and other minor criteria. Molecular analyses of cEDS genes did not identify any causal variant. Therefore, AEBP1 sequencing was performed that revealed homozygosity for the rare c.1925T>C p.(Leu642Pro) variant classified as likely pathogenetic (class 4) according to the American College of Medical Genetics and Genomics (ACMG) guidelines. The comparison of the patient’s features with those of the other patients reported up to now and the identification of the first missense variant likely associated with the condition offer future perspectives for EDS nosology and research in this field. Full article
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Review

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Open AccessReview
Cellular and Molecular Mechanisms in the Pathogenesis of Classical, Vascular, and Hypermobile Ehlers‒Danlos Syndromes
Genes 2019, 10(8), 609; https://doi.org/10.3390/genes10080609 - 12 Aug 2019
Abstract
The Ehlers‒Danlos syndromes (EDS) constitute a heterogenous group of connective tissue disorders characterized by joint hypermobility, skin abnormalities, and vascular fragility. The latest nosology recognizes 13 types caused by pathogenic variants in genes encoding collagens and other molecules involved in collagen processing and [...] Read more.
The Ehlers‒Danlos syndromes (EDS) constitute a heterogenous group of connective tissue disorders characterized by joint hypermobility, skin abnormalities, and vascular fragility. The latest nosology recognizes 13 types caused by pathogenic variants in genes encoding collagens and other molecules involved in collagen processing and extracellular matrix (ECM) biology. Classical (cEDS), vascular (vEDS), and hypermobile (hEDS) EDS are the most frequent types. cEDS and vEDS are caused respectively by defects in collagen V and collagen III, whereas the molecular basis of hEDS is unknown. For these disorders, the molecular pathology remains poorly studied. Herein, we review, expand, and compare our previous transcriptome and protein studies on dermal fibroblasts from cEDS, vEDS, and hEDS patients, offering insights and perspectives in their molecular mechanisms. These cells, though sharing a pathological ECM remodeling, show differences in the underlying pathomechanisms. In cEDS and vEDS fibroblasts, key processes such as collagen biosynthesis/processing, protein folding quality control, endoplasmic reticulum homeostasis, autophagy, and wound healing are perturbed. In hEDS cells, gene expression changes related to cell-matrix interactions, inflammatory/pain responses, and acquisition of an in vitro pro-inflammatory myofibroblast-like phenotype may contribute to the complex pathogenesis of the disorder. Finally, emerging findings from miRNA profiling of hEDS fibroblasts are discussed to add some novel biological aspects about hEDS etiopathogenesis. Full article
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Other

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Open AccessCase Report
Absence of Collagen Flowers on Electron Microscopy and Identification of (Likely) Pathogenic COL5A1 Variants in Two Patients
Genes 2019, 10(10), 762; https://doi.org/10.3390/genes10100762 - 27 Sep 2019
Abstract
Two probands are reported with pathogenic and likely pathogenic COL5A1 variants (frameshift and splice site) in whom no collagen flowers have been identified with transmission electron microscopy (TEM). One proband fulfils the clinical criteria for classical Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (cEDS) while the other does [...] Read more.
Two probands are reported with pathogenic and likely pathogenic COL5A1 variants (frameshift and splice site) in whom no collagen flowers have been identified with transmission electron microscopy (TEM). One proband fulfils the clinical criteria for classical Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (cEDS) while the other does not and presents with a vascular complication. This case report highlights the significant intrafamilial variability within the cEDS phenotype and demonstrates that patients with pathogenic COL5A1 variants can have an absence of collagen flowers on TEM skin biopsy analysis. This has not been previously reported in the literature and is important when evaluating the significance of a TEM result in patients with clinically suspected cEDS and underscores the relevance of molecular analysis. Full article
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