Homozygous ARHGEF2 mutation causes intellectual disability and midbrain-hindbrain malformation

Ethiraj Ravindran, Hao Hu, Scott A. Yuzwa, Luis R. Hernandez-Miranda, Nadine Kraemer, Olaf Ninnemann, Luciana Musante, Eugen Boltshauser, Detlev Schindler, Angela Hübner, Hans Christian Reinecker, Hans Hilger Ropers, Carmen Birchmeier, Freda D. Miller, Thomas F. Wienker, Christoph Hübner, Angela M. Kaindl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Mid-hindbrain malformations can occur during embryogenesis through a disturbance of transient and localized gene expression patterns within these distinct brain structures. Rho guanine nucleotide exchange factor (ARHGEF) family members are key for controlling the spatiotemporal activation of Rho GTPase, to modulate cytoskeleton dynamics, cell division, and cell migration. We identified, by means of whole exome sequencing, a homozygous frameshift mutation in the ARHGEF2 as a cause of intellectual disability, a midbrain-hindbrain malformation, and mild microcephaly in a consanguineous pedigree of Kurdish-Turkish descent. We show that loss of ARHGEF2 perturbs progenitor cell differentiation and that this is associated with a shift of mitotic spindle plane orientation, putatively favoring more symmetric divisions. The ARHGEF2 mutation leads to reduction in the activation of the RhoA/ROCK/MLC pathway crucial for cell migration. We demonstrate that the human brain malformation is recapitulated in Arhgef2 mutant mice and identify an aberrant migration of distinct components of the precerebellar system as a pathomechanism underlying the midbrain-hindbrain phenotype. Our results highlight the crucial function of ARHGEF2 in human brain development and identify a mutation in ARHGEF2 as novel cause of a neurodevelopmental disorder.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1006746
JournalPLoS genetics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2017
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)
  • Cancer Research


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