The WAGR syndrome gene PRRG4 is a functional homologue of the commissureless axon guidance gene
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WAGR syndrome is characterized by Wilm's tumor, aniridia, genitourinary abnormalities and intellectual disabilities. WAGR is caused by a chromosomal deletion that includes the PAX6, WT1 and PRRG4 genes. PRRG4 is proposed to contribute to the autistic symptoms of WAGR syndrome, but the molecular function of PRRG4 genes remains unknown. The Drosophila commissureless ( comm) gene encodes a short transmembrane protein characterized by PY motifs, features that are shared by the PRRG4 protein. Comm intercepts the Robo axon guidance receptor in the ER/Golgi and targets Robo for degradation, allowing commissural axons to cross the CNS midline. Expression of human Robo1 in the fly CNS increases midline crossing and this was enhanced by co-expression of PRRG4, but not CYYR, Shisa or the yeast Rcr genes. In cell culture experiments, PRRG4 could re-localize hRobo1 from the cell surface, suggesting that PRRG4 is a functional homologue of Comm. Comm is required for axon guidance and synapse formation in the fly, so PRRG4 could contribute to the autistic symptoms of WAGR by disturbing either of these processes in the developing human brain.