Deep intronic variant causes aberrant splicing of ATP7A in a family with a variable occipital horn syndrome phenotype

J. Robert Harkness, Huw B. Thomas, Jill E. Urquhart, Peter Jamieson, Raymond T. O'Keefe, Helen M. Kingston, Charulata Deshpande, William G. Newman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Genetic variants in ATP7A are associated with a spectrum of X-linked disorders. In descending order of severity, these are Menkes disease, occipital horn syndrome, and X-linked distal spinal muscular atrophy. After 30 years of diagnostic investigation, we identified a deep intronic ATP7A variant in four males from a family affected to variable degrees by a predominantly skeletal phenotype, featuring bowing of long bones, elbow joints with restricted mobility which dislocate frequently, coarse curly hair, chronic diarrhoea, and motor coordination difficulties. Analysis of whole genome sequencing data from the Genomics England 100,000 Genomes Project following clinical re-evaluation identified a deep intronic ATP7A variant, which was predicted by SpliceAI to have a modest splicing effect. Using a mini-gene splicing assay, we determined that the intronic variant results in aberrant splicing. Sanger sequencing of patient cDNA revealed ATP7A transcripts with exon 5 skipping, or inclusion of a novel intron 4 pseudoexon. In both instances, frameshift leading to premature termination are predicted. Quantification of ATP7A mRNA transcripts using a qPCR assay indicated that the majority of transcripts (86.1 %) have non-canonical splicing, with 68.0 % featuring exon 5 skipping, and 18.1 % featuring the novel pseudoexon. We suggest that the variability of the phenotypes within the affected males results from the stochastic effects of splicing. This deep intronic variant, resulting in aberrant ATP7A splicing, expands the understanding of intronic variation on the ATP7A-related disease spectrum.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104907
JournalEuropean journal of medical genetics
Early online date21 Dec 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2024


  • ATP7A
  • Deep intronic variant
  • Genome
  • Menkes disease
  • Non-coding
  • Occipital horn syndrome
  • Rare disease
  • Splicing


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