BNIP1 (BCL2 interacting protein 1) is a soluble N-ethylmaleimide-sensitive factor-attachment protein receptor involved in ER membrane fusion. We identified the homozygous BNIP1 intronic variant c.84+3A>T in the apparently unrelated patients 1 and 2 with disproportionate short stature. Radiographs showed abnormalities affecting both the axial and appendicular skeleton and spondylo-epiphyseal dysplasia. We detected ~80% aberrantly spliced BNIP1 pre-mRNAs, reduced BNIP1 mRNA level to ~80%, and BNIP1 protein level reduction by ~50% in patient 1 compared to control fibroblasts. The BNIP1 ortholog in Drosophila, Sec20, regulates autophagy and lysosomal degradation. We assessed lysosome positioning and identified a decrease in lysosomes in the perinuclear region and an increase in the cell periphery in patient 1 cells. Immunofluorescence microscopy and immunoblotting demonstrated an increase in LC3B-positive structures and LC3B-II levels, respectively, in patient 1 fibroblasts under steady-state condition. Treatment of serum-starved fibroblasts with or without bafilomycin A1 identified significantly decreased autophagic flux in patient 1 cells. Our data suggest a block at the terminal stage of autolysosome formation and/or clearance in patient fibroblasts. BNIP1 together with RAB33B and VPS16, disease genes for Smith-McCort dysplasia 2 and a multisystem disorder with short stature, respectively, highlight the importance of autophagy in skeletal development.
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