Background: Nerve growth factor b (NGFb) and tyrosine kinase receptor type A (TRKA) are a well studied neurotrophin/receptor duo involved in neuronal survival and differentiation. The only previously reported hereditary sensory neuropathy caused by an NGF mutation, c.661C>T (HSAN5), and the pathology caused by biallelic mutations in the TRKA gene (NTRK1) (HSAN4), share only some clinical features. A consanguineous Arab family, where five of the six children were completely unable to perceive pain, were mentally retarded, did not sweat, could not discriminate temperature, and had a chronic immunodeficiency, is reported here. The condition is linked to a new homozygous mutation in the NGF gene, c. [680C>A]+[681-682delGG]. Methods: Genetic linkage and standard sequencing techniques were used to identify the causative gene. Using wild-type or mutant over-expression constructs transfected into PC12 and COS-7 cells, the cellular and molecular consequences of the mutations were investigated. Results: The mutant gene produced a precursor protein V232fs that was unable to differentiate PC12 cells. V232fs was not secreted from cells as mature NGFβ. Conclusions: Both the clinical and cellular data suggest that the c.[680C>A]+[681-682delGG] NGF mutation is a functional null. The HSAN5 phenotype is extended to encompass HSAN4-like characteristics. It is concluded that the HSAN4 and HSAN5 phenotypes are parts of a phenotypic spectrum caused by changes in the NGF/TRKA signalling pathway.
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