Loss of SMPD4 Causes a Developmental Disorder Characterized by Microcephaly and Congenital Arthrogryposis

Pamela Magini, Daphne J. Smits, Laura Vandervore, Rachel Schot, Marta Columbaro, Esmee Kasteleijn, Mees van der Ent, Flavia Palombo, Maarten H. Lequin, Marjolein Dremmen, Marie Claire Y. de Wit, Mariasavina Severino, Maria Teresa Divizia, Pasquale Striano, Natalia Ordonez-Herrera, Amal Alhashem, Ahmed Al Fares, Malak Al Ghamdi, Arndt Rolfs, Peter BauerJeroen Demmers, Frans W. Verheijen, Martina Wilke, Marjon van Slegtenhorst, Peter J. van der Spek, Marco Seri, Anna C. Jansen, Rolf W. Stottmann, Robert B. Hufnagel, Robert J. Hopkin, Deema Aljeaid, Wojciech Wiszniewski, Pawel Gawlinski, Milena Laure-Kamionowska, Fowzan S. Alkuraya, Hanah Akleh, Valentina Stanley, Damir Musaev, Joseph G. Gleeson, Maha S. Zaki, Nicola Brunetti-Pierri, Gerarda Cappuccio, Bella Davidov, Lina Basel-Salmon, Lily Bazak, Noa Ruhrman Shahar, Aida Bertoli-Avella, Ghayda M. Mirzaa, William B. Dobyns, Tommaso Pippucci*, Maarten Fornerod, Grazia M.S. Mancini

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Sphingomyelinases generate ceramide from sphingomyelin as a second messenger in intracellular signaling pathways involved in cell proliferation, differentiation, or apoptosis. Children from 12 unrelated families presented with microcephaly, simplified gyral pattern of the cortex, hypomyelination, cerebellar hypoplasia, congenital arthrogryposis, and early fetal/postnatal demise. Genomic analysis revealed bi-allelic loss-of-function variants in SMPD4, coding for the neutral sphingomyelinase-3 (nSMase-3/SMPD4). Overexpression of human Myc-tagged SMPD4 showed localization both to the outer nuclear envelope and the ER and additionally revealed interactions with several nuclear pore complex proteins by proteomics analysis. Fibroblasts from affected individuals showed ER cisternae abnormalities, suspected for increased autophagy, and were more susceptible to apoptosis under stress conditions, while treatment with siSMPD4 caused delayed cell cycle progression. Our data show that SMPD4 links homeostasis of membrane sphingolipids to cell fate by regulating the cross-talk between the ER and the outer nuclear envelope, while its loss reveals a pathogenic mechanism in microcephaly.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)689-705
Number of pages17
JournalAmerican Journal of Human Genetics
Issue number4
StatePublished - 3 Oct 2019


FundersFunder number
Jordan's Guardian Angels
Jordan’s Guardian Angels
National Institutes of Health
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and StrokeK08NS092898, R01NS085023
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
Broad InstituteU54HG003067, UM1HG008900
Broad Institute
Fonds Wetenschappelijk OnderzoekCA16118
Fonds Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek
Narodowe Centrum Nauki2015/19/B/NZ2/01824
Narodowe Centrum Nauki
Università di Bologna


    • NET13
    • SMPD4
    • arthrogryposis
    • microcephaly
    • neutral-sphingomyelinase


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