Cloning and characterization of the human GFRA2 locus and investigation of the gene in Hirschsprung disease
The glial-cell-line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) family receptors alpha (GFRα) are cell surface bound glycoproteins that mediate interactions of the GDNF ligand family with the RET receptor. These interactions are crucial to the development of the kidney and some peripheral nerve lineages. In humans, mutations of RET or RET ligands are associated with the congenital abnormality Hirschsprung disease (HSCR) in which nerves and ganglia of the hind gut are absent. As the GFRα family are required for normal activation of the RET receptor, they are also candidates for a role in HSCR. The GFRA2 gene, which is required for the development of the myenteric nerve plexus, is an excellent candidate gene for HSCR. In this study, we cloned the human GFRA2 locus, characterized the gene structure, and compared it with other GFRA family members. We further investigated the GFRA2 gene for mutations in a panel of HSCR patients. GFRA2 has nine coding exons that are similar in size and organization to those of other GFRA family genes. We identified six sequence variants of GFRA2, four of which did not affect the amino acid sequence of the GFRα-2 protein. Two further changes that resulted in amino acid substitutions were found in exon 9 and were predicted to lie in the amino acid sequence encoding the glycosylphosphatidylinositol-linkage signal of GFRα-2. There was no difference in frequency of any of the sequence variants between control and HSCR populations. Our data indicate that members of the GFRA gene family are closely related in intron/exon structure and in sequence. We have not detected any correlation between sequence variants of GFRA2 and the HSCR phenotype.
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