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A novel somatic mutation in GNAQ in a capillary malformation provides insight into molecular pathogenesis


Sturge-Weber syndrome (SWS) is a sporadic, congenital, neuro-cutaneous disorder characterized by a mosaic, capillary malformation. SWS and non-syndromic capillary malformations are both caused by a somatic activating mutation in GNAQ encoding the G protein subunit alpha-q protein. The missense mutation R183Q is the sole GNAQ mutation identified thus far in 90% of SWS-associated or isolated capillary malformations. In this study, we sequenced skin biopsies of capillary malformations from 9 patients. We identified the R183Q mutation in nearly all samples, but one sample exhibited a Q209R mutation. This new mutation occurs at the same residue as the constitutively-activating Q209L mutation, commonly seen in tumors. However, Q209R is a rare variant in this gene. To compare the effect of the Q209R mutation on downstream signaling, we performed reporter assays with a GNAQ-responsive reporter co-transfected with either GNAQ WT, R183Q, Q209L, Q209R, or C9X (representing a null allele). Q209L showed the highest reporter activation, with R183Q and Q209R showing significantly lower activation. To determine whether these mutations had similar or different downstream consequences we performed RNA-seq analysis in microvascular endothelial cells (HMEC-1) electroporated with the same GNAQ variants. The R183 and Q209 missense variants caused extensive dysregulation of a broad range of transcripts compared to the WT or null allele, confirming that these are all activating mutations. However, the missense variants exhibited very few differentially expressed genes (DEGs) when compared to each other. These data suggest that these activating GNAQ mutations differ in magnitude of activation but have similar downstream effects.

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This work was supported in part by The Brain Vascular Malformation Consortium (U54NS065705) of the NCATS Rare Diseases Clinical Research Network (RDCRN). RDCRN is an initiative of the Office of Rare Diseases Research (ORDR) and NCATS, funded through a collaboration between NCATS and NINDS. We also thank the Sturge-Weber Foundation for encouragement and support.

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Galeffi, F., Snellings, D.A., Wetzel-Strong, S.E. et al. A novel somatic mutation in GNAQ in a capillary malformation provides insight into molecular pathogenesis. Angiogenesis (2022).

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  • GalphaQ
  • RNA sequencing
  • Signaling