Causative and common PHOX2B variants define a broad phenotypic spectrum.Clin Genet. 2020 01; 97(1):103-113.CG
Paired Like homeobox 2B (PHOX2B) is a gene crucial for the differentiation of the neural lineages of the autonomic nervous system (ANS), whose coding mutations cause congenital central hypoventilation syndrome (CCHS). The vast majority of PHOX2B mutations in CCHS is represented by expansions of a polyalanine region in exon 3, collectively defined PARMs (PolyAlanine Repeat Mutations), the minority being frameshift, missense and nonsense mutations, defined as NPARMs (Non-PARMs). While PARMs are nearly exclusively associated with isolated CCHS, most of NPARMs is detected in syndromic CCHS, presenting with neuroblastoma and/or Hirschsprung disease. More recently, evidence of a complex role of PHOX2B in the pathogenesis of a wider spectrum of ANS disorders has emerged. Indeed, common and hypomorphic PHOX2B variants, including synonymous, polyalanine-contractions, gene deletions may influence the occurrence of either apparent life-threatening event (ALTE), Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), neuroblastoma, or isolated HSCR, likely through small effects on PHOX2B expression levels. After an introduction to the role of PHOX2B in the ANS development, causative mutations, common variants, and gene expression deregulation of the PHOX2B gene are discussed, though the involvement of synonymous variants and contractions requires further confirmations with respect to ANS disorders and molecular mechanisms underlying the PHOX2B phenotypic heterogeneity.