Trichohepatoenteric syndrome (THES) is an autosomal recessive disorder characterised by life-threatening diarrhoea in infancy, immunodeficiency, liver disease, trichorrhexis nodosa, facial dysmorphism, hypopigmentation and cardiac defects. We attempted to characterise the phenotype and elucidate the molecular basis of THES.
Twelve patients with classical THES from 11 families had detailed phenotyping. Autozygosity mapping was undertaken in 8 patients from consanguineous families using 250k single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) arrays and linked regions evaluated using microsatellite markers. Linkage was confirmed to one region from which candidate genes were analysed. The effect of mutations on protein production and/or localisation in hepatocytes and intestinal epithelial cells from affected patients was characterised by immunohistochemistry.
Previously unrecognised platelet abnormalities (reduced platelet α-granules, unusual stimulated alpha granule content release, abnormal lipid inclusions, abnormal platelet canalicular system and reduced number of microtubules) were identified. The THES locus was mapped to 5q14.3 – 5q21.2. Sequencing of candidate genes demonstrated mutations in TTC37, which encodes the uncharacterised tetratricopeptide repeat protein, thespin. Bioinformatic analysis suggested thespin to be involved in protein-protein interactions or chaperone. Preliminary studies of enterocyte brush-border ion transporter proteins (NHE2, NHE3, Aquaporin 7, Na/I symporter and H / K ATPase) showed reduced expression or mislocalisation in all THES patients with different profiles for each. In contrast the basolateral localisation of Na/K ATPase was not altered.
THES is caused by mutations in TTC37. TTC37 mutations have a multisystem effect which may be due to abnormal stability and / or intracellular localisation of TTC37 target proteins.