Childhood-onset essential hypertension (COEH) is an uncommon form of hypertension that manifests in childhood or adolescence and, in the United States, disproportionately affects children of African ancestry. The etiology of COEH is unknown, but its childhood onset, low prevalence, high heritability, and skewed ancestral demography suggest the potential to identify rare genetic variation segregating in a Mendelian manner among affected individuals and thereby implicate genes important to disease pathogenesis. However, no COEH genes have been reported to date. Here, we identify recessive segregation of rare and putatively damaging missense variation in the spectrin domain of spectrin repeat containing nuclear envelope protein 1 (SYNE1), a cardiovascular candidate gene, in 3 of 16 families with early-onset COEH without an antecedent family history. By leveraging exome sequence data from an additional 48 COEH families, 1,700 in-house trios, and publicly available data sets, we demonstrate that compound heterozygous SYNE1 variation in these COEH individuals occurred more often than expected by chance and that this class of biallelic rare variation was significantly enriched among individuals of African genetic ancestry. Using in vitro shRNA knockdown of SYNE1, we show that reduced SYNE1 expression resulted in a substantial decrease in the elasticity of smooth muscle vascular cells that could be rescued by pharmacological inhibition of the downstream RhoA/Rho-associated protein kinase pathway. These results provide insights into the molecular genetics and underlying pathophysiology of COEH and suggest a role for precision therapeutics in the future.


Ian Copeland, Edmond Wonkam-Tingang, Monesha Gupta-Malhotra, S. Shahrukh Hashmi, Yixing Han, Aarti Jajoo, Nancy J. Hall, Paula P. Hernandez, Natasha Lie, Dan Liu, Jun Xu, Jill Rosenfeld, Aparna Haldipur, Zelene Desire, Zeynep H. Coban-Akdemir, Daryl A. Scott, Qing Li, Hsiao-Tuan Chao, Ana M. Zaske, James R. Lupski, Dianna M. Milewicz, Sanjay Shete, Jennifer E. Posey, Neil A. Hanchard


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