A novel Romani microdeletion variant in the promoter sequence of ASS1 causes citrullinemia type I

Eri Imagawa, George A. Diaz, Kimihiko Oishi

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3 Scopus citations


Background: Citrullinemia type I (CTLN1, MIM #215700) is an autosomal recessive urea cycle disorder caused by deficiency of argininosuccinate synthase (ASS). CTLN1 is characterized by life-threatening hyperammonemia and risk for resulting neurocognitive impairments. The diagnosis of CTLN1 is confirmed by the identification of biallelic pathogenic variants in the ASS1 gene. However, there are a small percentage of CTLN1 patients with a characteristic biochemical phenotype without identifiable variants in ASS1. We describe the molecular characterization of two related Romani children with biochemically diagnosed CTLN1, whose clinical genetic testing failed to detect any pathogenic variant in ASS1. Methods: Genomic DNA was extracted from peripheral blood lymphocytes collected from both patients. Sanger sequencing was performed after PCR amplifications of 5′- and 3′-untranslated regions of the ASS1 gene. A luciferase reporter assay was performed using the human malignant melanoma A2058 cell line and the human liver cancer cell line HepG2. Results: We interrogated the non-coding regions of ASS1 by targeted PCR amplification and identified a homozygous 477-bp microdeletion in the promoter region of the ASS1 gene in both patients. Heterozygosity of the variant was confirmed in their parents. Sanger sequencing confirmed the microdeletion contained the entire sequence of the non-coding exon 1 of ASS1 that includes promoter elements of GC-box, E-box, AP2-binding site, and TATA-box. Luciferase reporter assay using an expression plasmid containing the wild-type or mutant ASS1 sequences showed robust reporter expression from the wild-type sequence and significantly reduced expression driven by the mutant insert (3.6% in A2058 cells and 3.3% in HepG2 cells). These findings were consistent with the hypothesis that the microdeletion identified in the patients disrupted an essential promoter element and resulted in deficiency of ASS1 mRNA expression. Conclusions: This is the first report of CTLN1 patients caused by a Romani microdeletion variant affecting the non-coding upstream sequence of ASS1. Ablation of the promoter sequence can cause CTLN1 by the reduction of ASS1 expression. Currently available clinical sequencing methods usually do not cover the promoter sequence including the non-coding exon of ASS1, highlighting the importance of evaluating this region in genetic testing for CTLN1.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100619
JournalMolecular Genetics and Metabolism Reports
StatePublished - Sep 2020


  • ASS1 gene
  • Argininosuccinate synthase
  • Citrullinemia type I
  • Luciferase reporter assay
  • Microdeletion
  • Non-coding region


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