The Journal of investigative dermatology

An autosomal recessive mutation of DSG4 causes monilethrix through the ER stress response.

PMID 25615553


Monilethrix is a hair shaft anomaly characterized by beaded hair with periodic changes in hair thickness. Mutations in the desmoglein 4 (DSG4) gene reportedly underlie the autosomal recessive form of the disease. However, the pathogenesis and cellular basis for the DSG4 mutation-induced monilethrix remained largely unknown. We report a Japanese female patient with monilethrix. Observation of her hair shaft by means of transmission electron microscopy showed fewer desmosomes and abnormal keratinization. Genetic analysis revealed a homozygous mutation, c.2119delG (p.Asp707Ilefs*109), in the DSG4 gene, which was predicted to cause a frameshift and premature termination in the intracellular region of the DSG4 protein. The mutation has not been reported previously. In the patient's hair shaft, we detected reduced but partial expression of the mutant DSG4 protein. Cellular analyses demonstrated that the mutant DSG4 lost its affinity to plakoglobin and accumulated in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER). The amounts of mutant DSG4 were increased by proteasome inhibitor treatment, and the expression of an ER chaperone, GRP78/BiP, was elevated in the patient's skin. Collectively, these results suggest that the dysfunctional mutated DSG4, tethered in the ER, undergoes ER-associated degradation, leading to unfolded protein response induction, and thus ER stress may have a role in the pathogenesis of monilethrix.