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Human genetics and molecular mechanisms of vein of Galen malformation

Daniel Duran, Philipp Karschnia, Jonathan R. Gaillard, Jason K. Karimy, Mark W. Youngblood, Michael L. DiLuna, Charles C. Matouk, Beverly Aagaard-Kienitz, Edward R. Smith, Darren B. Orbach, Georges Rodesch, Alejandro Berenstein, Murat Gunel, and Kristopher T. Kahle

Vein of Galen malformations (VOGMs) are rare developmental cerebrovascular lesions characterized by fistulas between the choroidal circulation and the median prosencephalic vein. Although the treatment of VOGMs has greatly benefited from advances in endovascular therapy, including technical innovation in interventional neuroradiology, many patients are recalcitrant to procedural intervention or lack accessibility to specialized care centers, highlighting the need for improved screening, diagnostics, and therapeutics. A fundamental obstacle to identifying novel targets is the limited understanding of VOGM molecular pathophysiology, including its human genetics, and the lack of an adequate VOGM animal model. Herein, the known human mutations associated with VOGMs are reviewed to provide a framework for future gene discovery. Gene mutations have been identified in 2 Mendelian syndromes of which VOGM is an infrequent but associated phenotype: capillary malformation–arteriovenous malformation syndrome (RASA1) and hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia (ENG and ACVRL1). However, these mutations probably represent only a small fraction of all VOGM cases. Traditional genetic approaches have been limited in their ability to identify additional causative genes for VOGM because kindreds are rare, limited in patient number, and/or seem to have sporadic inheritance patterns, attributable in part to incomplete penetrance and phenotypic variability. The authors hypothesize that the apparent sporadic occurrence of VOGM may frequently be attributable to de novo mutation or incomplete penetrance of rare transmitted variants. Collaboration among treating physicians, patients’ families, and investigators using next-generation sequencing could lead to the discovery of novel genes for VOGM. This could improve the understanding of normal vascular biology, elucidate the pathogenesis of VOGM and possibly other more common arteriovenous malformation subtypes, and pave the way for advances in the diagnosis and treatment of patients with VOGM.