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Keywords:

  • primary microcephaly;
  • Seckel syndrome;
  • ATR;
  • DNA replication;
  • genomic instability

ABSTRACT

Ataxia telangiectasia-mutated (ATM) and ataxia telangiectasia and Rad3-related (ATR) kinases are two key regulators of DNA-damage responses (DDR) that are mainly activated in response to DNA double-strand breaks and single-stranded DNA damages, respectively. Seckel syndrome, a rare genetic disorder characterized by a microcephaly and a markedly reduced body size, has been associated with defective ATR-dependent DNA damage signaling. However, the only human genetic ATR defect reported so far is a hypomorphic splicing mutation identified in five related individuals with Seckel syndrome. Here, we report the first case of primary microcephaly with compound heterozygous mutations in ATR: a 540 kb genomic deletion on one allele and a missense mutation leading to splice dysregulation on the other, which ultimately lead to a sharp decrease in ATR expression. DNA combing technology revealed a profound spontaneous alteration of several DNA replication parameters in patient's cells and FISH analyses highlighted the genomic instability caused by ATR deficiency. Collectively, our results emphasize the crucial role for ATR in the control of DNA replication, and reinforce the complementary and nonredundant contributions of ATM and ATR in human cells to face DNA damages and warrant genome integrity.