ALFY-Controlled DVL3 Autophagy Regulates Wnt Signaling, Determining Human Brain Size

Rotem Kadir, Tamar Harel, Barak Markus, Yonatan Perez, Anna Bakhrat, Idan Cohen, Michael Volodarsky, Miora Feintsein-Linial, Elana Chervinski, Joel Zlotogora, Sara Sivan, Ramon Y. Birnbaum, Uri Abdu, Stavit Shalev, Ohad S. Birk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

63 Scopus citations


Primary microcephaly is a congenital neurodevelopmental disorder of reduced head circumference and brain volume, with fewer neurons in the cortex of the developing brain due to premature transition between symmetrical and asymmetrical cellular division of the neuronal stem cell layer during neurogenesis. We now show through linkage analysis and whole exome sequencing, that a dominant mutation in ALFY, encoding an autophagy scaffold protein, causes human primary microcephaly. We demonstrate the dominant effect of the mutation in drosophila: transgenic flies harboring the human mutant allele display small brain volume, recapitulating the disease phenotype. Moreover, eye-specific expression of human mutant ALFY causes rough eye phenotype. In molecular terms, we demonstrate that normally ALFY attenuates the canonical Wnt signaling pathway via autophagy-dependent removal specifically of aggregates of DVL3 and not of Dvl1 or Dvl2. Thus, autophagic attenuation of Wnt signaling through removal of Dvl3 aggregates by ALFY acts in determining human brain size.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1005919
JournalPLoS Genetics
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)
  • Cancer Research


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