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      Identification of a methylation profile for DNMT1-associated autosomal dominant cerebellar ataxia, deafness, and narcolepsy

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          DNA methylation is an essential epigenetic mark, controlled by DNA methyltransferase (DNMT) proteins, which regulates chromatin structure and gene expression throughout the genome. In this study, we describe a family with adult-onset autosomal dominant cerebellar ataxia with deafness and narcolepsy (ADCA-DN) caused by mutations in the maintenance methyltransferase DNMT1 and assess the DNA methylation profile of these individuals.


          We report a family with six individuals affected with ADCA-DN; specifically, patients first developed hearing loss and ataxia, followed by narcolepsy, and cognitive decline. We identified a heterozygous DNMT1 variant, c.1709C>T [p.Ala570Val] by Sanger sequencing, which had been previously reported as pathogenic for ADCA-DN and segregated with disease in the family. DNA methylation analysis by high-resolution genome-wide DNA methylation array identified a decrease in CpGs with 0–10 % methylation and 80–95 % methylation and a concomitant increase in sites with 10–30 % methylation and >95 % methylation. This pattern suggests an increase in methylation of normally unmethylated regions, such as promoters and CpG islands, as well as further methylation of highly methylated gene bodies and intergenic regions. Furthermore, a regional analysis identified 82 hypermethylated loci with consistent robust differences across ≥5 consecutive probes compared to our large reference cohort.


          This report identifies robust changes in the DNA methylation patterns in ADCA-DN patients, which is an important step towards elucidating disease pathogenesis.

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          The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13148-016-0254-x) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

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          Mutations in DNMT1 cause hereditary sensory neuropathy with dementia and hearing loss

          DNA methyltransferase 1 (DNMT1) is crucial for maintenance of methylation, gene regulation and chromatin stability 1-3 . DNA mismatch repair, cell cycle regulation in post-mitotic neurons 4,5 and neurogenesis 6 are influenced by DNA methylation. Here we show mutations in DNMT1 cause both central and peripheral neurodegeneration in one form of hereditary sensory and autonomic neuropathy (HSAN1) with dementia and hearing loss 7,8 . Exome sequencing led to the identification of DNMT1 mutation c.A1484G (p.Tyr495Cys) in two American and one Japanese kindreds and a triple nucleotide change c.1470TCC-1472ATA (p.Asp490Glu-Pro491Tyr) in one European kindred. All mutations are within the targeting sequence (TS) domain of DNMT1. These mutations cause premature degradation of mutant proteins, reduced methyltransferase activity and impaired heterochromatin binding during the G2 cell cycle phase, leading to global hypomethylation and site specific hypermethylation. Our study demonstrates DNMT1 mutations cause aberrant methylation implicated in complex pathogenesis. The discovered DNMT1 mutations provide a new framework for the study of neurodegenerative diseases.
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            Mutations in DNMT1 cause autosomal dominant cerebellar ataxia, deafness and narcolepsy.

            Autosomal dominant cerebellar ataxia, deafness and narcolepsy (ADCA-DN) is characterized by late onset (30-40 years old) cerebellar ataxia, sensory neuronal deafness, narcolepsy-cataplexy and dementia. We performed exome sequencing in five individuals from three ADCA-DN kindreds and identified DNMT1 as the only gene with mutations found in all five affected individuals. Sanger sequencing confirmed the de novo mutation p.Ala570Val in one family, and showed co-segregation of p.Val606Phe and p.Ala570Val, with the ADCA-DN phenotype, in two other kindreds. An additional ADCA-DN kindred with a p.GLY605Ala mutation was subsequently identified. Narcolepsy and deafness were the first symptoms to appear in all pedigrees, followed by ataxia. DNMT1 is a widely expressed DNA methyltransferase maintaining methylation patterns in development, and mediating transcriptional repression by direct binding to HDAC2. It is also highly expressed in immune cells and required for the differentiation of CD4+ into T regulatory cells. Mutations in exon 20 of this gene were recently reported to cause hereditary sensory neuropathy with dementia and hearing loss (HSAN1). Our mutations are all located in exon 21 and in very close spatial proximity, suggesting distinct phenotypes depending on mutation location within this gene.
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              Defects of mutant DNMT1 are linked to a spectrum of neurological disorders.

              We report a broader than previously appreciated clinical spectrum for hereditary sensory and autonomic neuropathy type 1E (HSAN1E) and a potential pathogenic mechanism for DNA methyltransferase (DNMT1) mutations. The clinical presentations and genetic characteristics of nine newly identified HSAN1E kinships (45 affected subjects) were investigated. Five novel mutations of DNMT1 were discovered; p.C353F, p.T481P, p.P491L, p.Y524D and p.I531N, all within the target-sequence domain, and two mutations (p.T481P, p.P491L) arising de novo. Recently, HSAN1E has been suggested as an allelic disorder of autosomal dominant cerebellar ataxia, deafness and narcolepsy. Our results indicate that all the mutations causal for HSAN1E are located in the middle part or N-terminus end of the TS domain, whereas all the mutations causal for autosomal dominant cerebellar ataxia, deafness and narcolepsy are located in the C-terminus end of the TS domain. The impact of the seven causal mutations in this cohort was studied by cellular localization experiments. The binding efficiency of the mutant DNMT proteins at the replication foci and heterochromatin were evaluated. Phenotypic characterizations included electromyography, brain magnetic resonance and nuclear imaging, electroencephalography, sural nerve biopsies, sleep evaluation and neuropsychometric testing. The average survival of HSAN1E was 53.6 years. [standard deviation = 7.7, range 43-75 years], and mean onset age was 37.7 years. (standard deviation = 8.6, range 18-51 years). Expanded phenotypes include myoclonic seizures, auditory or visual hallucinations, and renal failure. Hypersomnia, rapid eye movement sleep disorder and/or narcolepsy were identified in 11 subjects. Global brain atrophy was found in 12 of 14 who had brain MRI. EEGs showed low frequency (delta waves) frontal-predominant abnormality in five of six patients. Marked variability in cognitive deficits was observed, but the majority of patients (89%) developed significant cognitive deficit by the age of 45 years. Cognitive function decline often started with personality changes and psychiatric manifestations. A triad of hearing loss, sensory neuropathy and cognitive decline remains as the stereotypic presentation of HSAN1E. Moreover, we show that mutant DNMT1 proteins translocate to the cytoplasm and are prone to form aggresomes while losing their binding ability to heterochromatin during the G2 cell cycle. Our results suggest mutations in DNMT1 result in imbalanced protein homeostasis through aggresome-induced autophagy. This mechanism may explain why mutations in the sole DNA maintenance methyltransferase lead to selective central and peripheral neurodegeneration. © The Author (2015). Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Guarantors of Brain. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please email:

                Author and article information

                613-737-7600 ,
                519- 665-8500 ,
                Clin Epigenetics
                Clin Epigenetics
                Clinical Epigenetics
                BioMed Central (London )
                5 September 2016
                5 September 2016
                : 8
                : 1
                [1 ]Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute, University of Ottawa, 401 Smyth Road, Ottawa, Ontario K1H 8L1 Canada
                [2 ]Department of Pathology and Lab Medicine, Western University, London, Ontario Canada
                [3 ]Department of Pathology and Molecular Medicine, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON Canada
                [4 ]Department of Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON Canada
                [5 ]Department of Biochemistry, Western University, London, ON Canada
                [6 ]Children’s Health Research Institute, London, ON Canada
                [7 ]Division of Neurology, The Ottawa Hospital, Ottawa, Ontario Canada
                [8 ]Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, Ottawa, Ontario Canada
                [9 ]Molecular Genetics Laboratory, Victoria Hospital, London Health Sciences Centre, 800 Commissioner’s Road E, London, ON N6A 5W9 Canada
                © The Author(s). 2016

                Open AccessThis article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

                Funded by: Genome Canada (CA)
                Funded by: Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CA)
                Funded by: Ontario Genomics Institute (CA)
                Funded by: Ontario Research Fund
                Funded by: Genome Quebec
                Funded by: Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario Foundation
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                © The Author(s) 2016


                hearing loss, dnmt1, dna methylation, cpg methylation array, ataxia, narcolepsy, dementia


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