The paired-like homeobox gene expressed in embryonic stem cells Hesx1/HESX1 encodes a developmental repressor and is expressed in early development in a region fated to form the forebrain, with subsequent localization to Rathke’s pouch, the primordium of the anterior pituitary gland. Mutations within the gene have been associated with septo-optic dysplasia, a constellation of phenotypes including eye, forebrain, and pituitary abnormalities, or milder degrees of hypopituitarism. We identified a novel homozygous nonconservative missense mutation (I26T) in the critical Engrailed homology repressor domain (eh1) of HESX1, the first, to our knowledge, to be described in humans, in a girl with evolving combined pituitary hormone deficiency born to consanguineous parents. Neuroimaging revealed a thin pituitary stalk with anterior pituitary hypoplasia and an ectopic posterior pituitary, but no midline or optic nerve abnormalities. This I26T mutation did not affect the DNA-binding ability of HESX1 but led to an impaired ability to recruit the mammalian Groucho homolog/Transducin-like enhancer of split-1 (Gro/TLE1), a crucial corepressor for HESX1, thereby leading to partial loss of repression. Thus, the novel pituitary phenotype highlighted here appears to be a specific consequence of the inability of HESX1 to recruit Groucho-related corepressors, suggesting that other molecular mechanisms govern HESX1 function in the forebrain.
Luciani R. Carvalho, Kathryn S. Woods, Berenice B. Mendonca, Nathalie Marcal, Andrea L. Zamparini, Stefano Stifani, Joshua M. Brickman, Ivo J.P. Arnhold, Mehul T. Dattani