Identification of the Wilson's disease gene: Clues for disease pathogenesis and the potential for molecular diagnosis



Wilson disease (WD) is an autosomal recessive disorder of copper transport which maps to chromosome 13q14.3. In pursuit of the WD gene, we developed yeast artificial chromosome and cosmid contigs, and microsatellite markers which span the WD gene region. Linkage disequilibrium and haplotype analysis of 115 WD families confined the disease locus to a single marker interval. A candidate cDNA clone was mapped to this interval which, as shown in the accompanying paper, is very likely the WD gene. Our haplotype and mutation analyses predict that approximately half of all WD mutations will be rare in the American and Russian populations.

Wilson disease (WD) is an autosomal recessive disorder characterized by the toxic accumulation of copper in a number of organs, particularly the liver and brain. As shown in the accompanying paper, linkage disequilibrium & haplotype analysis confirmed the disease locus to a single marker interval at 13q14.3. Here we describe a partial cDNA clone (pWD) which maps to this region and shows a particular 76% amino acid homology to the Menkes disease gene, Mc1. The predicted functional properties of the pWD gene together with its strong homology to Mc1, genetic mapping data and identification of four independent disease-specific mutations, provide convincing evidence that pWD is the Wilson disease gene.

Wilson disease (WD) is an autosomal recessive disorder of copper transport, resulting in copper accumulation and toxicity to the liver and brain. The gene (WD) has been mapped to chromosome 13 q14.3. On yeast artificial chromosomes from this region we have identified a sequence, similar to that coding for the proposed copper binding regions of the putative ATPase gene (MNK) defective in Menkes disease. We show that this sequence forms part of a P-type ATPase gene (referred to here as Wc1) that is very similar to MNK, with six putative metal binding regions similar to those found in prokaryotic heavy metal transporters. The gene, expressed in liver and kidney, lies within a 300 kb region likely to include the WD locus. Two WD patients were found to be homozygous for a seven base deletion within the coding region of WC1. WC1 is proposed as the gene for WD.

The putative copper and ATP-binding domains of the human Menkes disease gene were used as probes to screen a human liver cDNA library at reduced stringency. Sixty-five clones which remained positive after tertiary screening were subcloned and sequenced. One of these cDNA clones contains an open reading frame with 65% amino acid homology to the Menkes protein. Southern blot analysis localizes this cDNA to the region of the Wilson disease locus on chromosome 13. This cDNA detects a 7.5 kB transcipt which is present in human liver and cell lines devoid of the Menkes transcript and which is absent in liver from a patient with Wilson disease. These data suggest that this cDNA is a candidate gene for Wilson disease and that the protein encoded at this locus is a member of the P-type ATPase family.