Genome sequencing of idiopathic speech delay

Eising, E., Vino, A., Mabie, H. L., Campbell, T. F., Shriberg, L. D., & Fisher, S. E. (2024). Genome sequencing of idiopathic speech delay. Human Mutation, 2024: 9692863. doi:10.1155/2024/9692863.
Genetic investigations of people with speech and language disorders can provide windows into key aspects of human biology. Most genomic research into impaired speech development has so far focused on childhood apraxia of speech (CAS), a rare neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by difficulties with coordinating rapid fine motor sequences that underlie proficient speech. In 2001, pathogenic variants of FOXP2 provided the first molecular genetic accounts of CAS aetiology. Since then, disruptions in several other genes have been implicated in CAS, with a substantial proportion of cases being explained by high-penetrance variants. However, the genetic architecture underlying other speech-related disorders remains less well understood. Thus, in the present study, we used systematic DNA sequencing methods to investigate idiopathic speech delay, as characterized by delayed speech development in the absence of a motor speech diagnosis (such as CAS), a language/reading disorder, or intellectual disability. We performed genome sequencing in a cohort of 23 children with a rigorous diagnosis of idiopathic speech delay. For roughly half of the sample (ten probands), sufficient DNA was also available for genome sequencing in both parents, allowing discovery of de novo variants. In the thirteen singleton probands, we focused on identifying loss-of-function and likely damaging missense variants in genes intolerant to such mutations. We found that one speech delay proband carried a pathogenic frameshift deletion in SETD1A, a gene previously implicated in a broader variable monogenic syndrome characterized by global developmental problems including delayed speech and/or language development, mild intellectual disability, facial dysmorphisms, and behavioural and psychiatric symptoms. Of note, pathogenic SETD1A variants have been independently reported in children with CAS in two separate studies. In other probands in our speech delay cohort, likely pathogenic missense variants were identified affecting highly conserved amino acids in key functional domains of SPTBN1 and ARF3. Overall, this study expands the phenotype spectrum associated with pathogenic SETD1A variants, to also include idiopathic speech delay without CAS or intellectual disability, and suggests additional novel potential candidate genes that may harbour high-penetrance variants that can disrupt speech development.
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