Medulloblastoma-associated mutations in the DEAD-box RNA helicase DDX3X/DED1 cause specific defects in translation

Nicolette P. Brown, Ashley M. Vergara, Alisha B. Whelan, Paolo Guerra, Timothy A. Bolger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Medulloblastoma is the most common pediatric brain cancer, and sequencing studies identified frequent mutations in DDX3X, a DEAD-box RNA helicase primarily implicated in translation. Forty-two different sites were identified, suggesting that the functional effects of the mutations are complex. To investigate how these mutations are affecting DDX3X cellular function, we constructed a full set of equivalent mutant alleles in DED1, the Saccharomyces cerevisiae ortholog of DDX3X, and characterized their effects in vivo and in vitro. Most of the medulloblastoma-associated mutants in DDX3X/DED1 (ded1- mam) showed substantial growth defects, indicating that functional effects are conserved in yeast. Further, while translation was affected in some mutants, translation defects affecting bulk mRNA were neither consistent nor correlated with the growth phenotypes. Likewise, increased formation of stress granules in ded1-mam mutants was common but did not correspond to the severity of the mutants' growth defects. In contrast, defects in translating mRNAs containing secondary structure in their 5′ untranslated regions (UTRs) were found in almost all ded1-mam mutants and correlated well with growth phenotypes. We thus conclude that these specific translation defects, rather than generalized effects on translation, are responsible for the observed cellular phenotypes and likely contribute to DDX3X-mutant medulloblastoma. Examination of ATPase activity and RNA binding of recombinant mutant proteins also did not reveal a consistent defect, indicating that the translation defects are derived from multiple enzymatic deficiencies. This work suggests that future studies into medulloblastoma pathology should focus on this specific translation defect, while taking into account the wide spectrum of DDX3X mutations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number100296
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
StatePublished - Jan 1 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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