Spleen function is reduced in individuals with NR5A1 variants with or without a difference of sex development: a cross-sectional study

Martine Cools*, Celien Grijp, Jana Neirinck, Simon J. Tavernier, Petra Schelstraete, Julie Van De Velde, Lieve Morbée, Elfride De Baere, Carolien Bonroy, Yolande van Bever, Hennie Bruggenwirth, Clementien Vermont, Sabine E. Hannema, Yolanda De Rijke, Maha Abdulhadi-Atwan, David Zangen, Hannah Verdin, Filomeen Haerynck

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: NR5A1 is a key regulator of sex differentiation and has been implicated in spleen development through transcription activation of TLX1. Concerns exist about hypo- or asplenism in individuals who have a difference of sex development (DSD) due to an NR5A1 disease-causing variant. We aimed to assess spleen anatomy and function in a clinical cohort of such individuals and in their asymptomatic family member carriers. Design: Cross-sectional assessment in 22 patients with a DSD or primary ovarian insufficiency and 5 asymptomatic carriers from 18 families, harboring 14 different NR5A1 variants. Methods: Spleen anatomy was assessed by ultrasound, spleen function by peripheral blood cell count, white blood cell differentiation, percentage of nonswitched memory B cells, specific pneumococcal antibody response, % pitted red blood cells, and Howell–Jolly bodies. Results: Patients and asymptomatic heterozygous individuals had significantly decreased nonswitched memory B cells compared to healthy controls, but higher than asplenic patients. Thrombocytosis and spleen hypoplasia were present in 50% of heterozygous individuals. Four out of 5 individuals homozygous for the previously described p.(Arg103Gln) variant had asplenia. Conclusions: Individuals harboring a heterozygous NR5A1 variant that may cause DSD have a considerable risk for functional hyposplenism, irrespective of their gonadal phenotype. Splenic function should be assessed in these individuals, and if affected or unknown, prophylaxis is recommended to prevent invasive encapsulated bacterial infections. The splenic phenotype associated with NR5A1 variants is more severe in homozygous individuals and is, at least for the p.(Arg103Gln) variant, associated with asplenism.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)34-43
Number of pages10
JournalEuropean Journal of Endocrinology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 3 Jan 2024
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

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  • DSD
  • NR5A1
  • PPV-23
  • SF1
  • asplenism
  • difference/disorder of sex development
  • hyposplenism
  • primary ovarian insufficiency
  • spleen function


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