Nephronophthisis (NPHP), an autosomal recessive cystic kidney disease, is the most frequent genetic cause for end-stage renal failure in the first three decades of life. Mutations in 13 genes (NPHP1-NPHP11, AHI1, and CC2D2A) cause NPHP with ubiquitous expression of the corresponding proteins consistent with the multiorgan involvement of NPHP-related diseases. The genotype-phenotype correlation in these ciliopathies can be explained by gene locus heterogeneity, allelism, and the impact of modifier genes. In some NPHP-related ciliopathies, the nature of the recessive mutations determines disease severity. In order to define the genotype-phenotype correlation more clearly, we evaluated a worldwide cohort of 440 patients from 365 families with NPHP-related ciliopathies, in whom both disease-causing alleles were identified. The phenotypes were ranked in the order of severity from degenerative to degenerative/dysplastic to dysplastic. A genotype of two null alleles caused a range of phenotypes, with an increasing order of severity of NPHP1, NPHP3, NPHP4, NPHP5, NPHP2, NPHP10, NPHP6, to AHI1. Only NPHP6 showed allelic influences on the phenotypes; the presence of two null mutations caused dysplastic phenotypes, whereas at least one missense allele rescued it to a milder degenerative phenotype. We also found nine novel mutations in the NPHP genes. Thus, our studies have important implications for genetic counseling and planning of renal replacement therapy.
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