Diamond-Blackfan anemia (DBA), a form of congenital red cell aplasia with marked clinical heterogeneity and increased risk of malignancy, has been associated with mutations in ribosomal protein (RP) gene RPS19 in 25% of probands and in RPS24 or RPS17 in ∼2% of patients. Thus, DBA appears to be a disorder of ribosome synthesis. To test the hypothesis that mutations in other RP genes may also cause DBA, we carried out direct sequencing of candidate RP genes. Genomic DNA samples from 96 unrelated DBA probands (14 familial and 82 sporadic cases) without RPS19 or RPS24 mutations were screened for mutations in RPS3a, RPS13, and RPS16 (previous studies revealed that RPs S19, S24, S3a, S13, and S16 are involved in binding of eIF-2 to the 40S subunit); RP genes L18, L13A, L36, L28, L18A, L40, S5, S9, S11, and S28 (located on chromosome 19); and RP genes, L5, L11, L22, S8, and S27 (on chromosome 1). PCR primers were designed to amplify the coding exons and intron/exon boundaries. We found multiple mutations in two RP genes, L5 and L11. Subsequently we sequenced these two genes in 42 additional DNA samples from DBA probands. In total, we screened 5′UTR, promoter and coding regions, and exon/intron boundaries of RPL5 and RPL11 in 138 DBA unrelated probands. We identified 14 mutations in RPL5 in 138 probands (∼10%), 13 of which are nonsense mutations, deletions or insertions of 1–5 nucleotides causing frameshift and premature termination. One missense mutation, 418G>A, results in a G140S substitution. We found nine mutations in RPL11 in138 DBA probands (6.5%), including five acceptor or donor splice site mutations (introns 1–4) and four deletions or insertions of 1–4 nucleotides causing frameshifts (codons 32-120). None of these sequence changes were found on the NCBI (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/SNP/) or the HapMap (http://www.hapmap.org/) SNP lists. Both genes, as well as RPL23 have recently been demonstrated by others to activate the p53 tumor suppressor protein by inhibiting MDM2-mediated p53 ubiquitination and degradation. Moreover, knockdown of any of these genes by siRNAs markedly reduced p53 induction by the ribosomal biogenesis stressor, actinomycin-D. These findings suggest that DBA patients with mutated L5 and L11 proteins may have inadequate p53 pathway activation and (consistent with clinical observations) be at increased risk for neoplasia. We are currently investigating the role of RPL5 and RPL11 mutations in ribosomal biogenesis and in the p53-mediated cell cycle arrest and apoptosis in DBA patients.

Author notes

Disclosure: No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.