Research Highlights

Somatic Mutations in Vascular Malformations of Hereditary Hemorrhagic Telangiectasia Result in Bi-allelic Loss of ENG or ACVRL1


Daniel A. Snellings, Carol J. Gallione, Dewi S. Clark, Nicholas T. Vozoris, Marie E. Faughnan, Douglas A. Marchuk

The American Journal of Human Genetics (17 October 2019)

Hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia (HHT) is a Mendelian disease characterized by vascular malformations (VMs) including visceral arteriovenous malformations and mucosal telangiectasia. HHT is caused by loss-of-function (LoF) mutations in one of three genes, ENG, ACVRL1, or SMAD4, and is inherited as an autosomal-dominant condition. Intriguingly, the constitutional mutation causing HHT is present throughout the body, yet the multiple VMs in individuals with HHT occur focally, rather than manifesting as a systemic vascular defect. This disconnect between genotype and phenotype suggests that a local event is necessary for the development of VMs. We investigated the hypothesis that local somatic mutations seed the formation HHT-related telangiectasia in a genetic two-hit mechanism. We identified low-frequency somatic mutations in 9/19 telangiectasia through the use of next-generation sequencing. We established phase for seven of nine samples, which confirms that the germline and somatic mutations in all seven samples exist in trans configuration; this is consistent with a genetic two-hit mechanism. These combined data suggest that bi-allelic loss of ENG or ACVRL1 may be a required event in the development of telangiectasia, and that rather than haploinsufficiency, VMs in HHT are caused by a Knudsonian two-hit mechanism.