General population ZBTB18 missense variants influence DNA binding and transcriptional regulation

Isabel A. Hemming, Steven Blake, Mark Agostino, Julian I.T. Heng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Genetic variation of the multi-zinc finger BTB domain transcription factor ZBTB18 can cause a spectrum of human neurodevelopmental disorders, but the underlying mechanisms are not well understood. Recently, we reported that pathogenic, de novo ZBTB18 missense mutations alter its DNA-binding specificity and gene regulatory functions, leading to human neurodevelopmental disease. However, the functional impact of the general population ZBTB18 missense variants is unknown. Here, we investigated such variants documented in the Genome Aggregation Database (gnomAD) to discover that ZBTB gene family members are intolerant to loss-of-function and missense mutations, but not synonymous mutations. We studied ZBTB18 as a protein–DNA complex to find that general population missense variants are rare, and disproportionately map to non-DNA-contact residues, in contrast to the majority of disease-associated variants that map to DNA-contact residues, essential to motif binding. We studied a selection of variants (n = 12), which spans the multi-zinc finger region to find 58.3% (7/12) of variants displayed altered DNA binding, 41.6% (5/12) exhibited altered transcriptional activity in a luciferase reporter assay, 33.3% (4/12) exhibited altered DNA binding and transcriptional activity, whereas 33.3% (4/12) displayed a negligible functional impact. Our results demonstrate that general population variants, while rare, can influence ZBTB18 function, with potential consequences for neurodevelopment, homeostasis, and disease.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1629-1644
Number of pages16
JournalHuman Mutation
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2020


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