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Ataxin-2 intermediate-length polyglutamine expansions in European ALS patients
Umeå University, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Pharmacology and Clinical Neuroscience, Clinical Neuroscience.
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2011 (English)In: Human Molecular Genetics, ISSN 0964-6906, E-ISSN 1460-2083, Vol. 20, no 9, 1697-1700 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a fatal adult-onset neurodegenerative disease primarily affecting motor neurons. We recently identified intermediate-length polyglutamine (polyQ) expansions (27-33 Qs) in ataxin 2 as a genetic risk factor for sporadic ALS in North American ALS patients. To extend these findings, we assessed the ataxin 2 polyQ repeat length in 1294 European ALS patients and 679 matched healthy controls. We observed a significant association between polyQ expansions and ALS (>30 Qs; P= 6.2 × 10(-3)). Thus, intermediate-length ataxin 2 polyQ repeat expansions are associated with increased risk for ALS also in the European cohort. The specific polyQ length cutoff, however, appears to vary between different populations, with longer repeat lengths showing a clear association. Our findings support the hypothesis that ataxin 2 plays an important role in predisposing to ALS and that polyQ expansions in ataxin 2 are a significant risk factor for the disease.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2011. Vol. 20, no 9, 1697-1700 p.
National Category
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-57322DOI: 10.1093/hmg/ddr045PubMedID: 21292779OAI: diva2:540816
Available from: 2012-07-11 Created: 2012-07-11 Last updated: 2013-04-08Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. On the aetiology of ALS: a comprehensive genetic study
Open this publication in new window or tab >>On the aetiology of ALS: a comprehensive genetic study
2013 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Introduction: Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a deadly, progressive neuromuscular disease that affects individuals all over the world. About 10% of the patients have a familial predisposition (FALS) while the remainder of cases are isolated or sporadic (SALS) and of unknown cause. To date, the principal recognized risk factors for ALS are higher age, male gender, slim figure (BMI<23) and a family history of ALS. In 1993, Rosen et al. observed that some FALS cases were associated with mutations in the gene encoding the CuZn superoxide dismutase enzyme (SOD1). Since then, several mutations in the SOD1 gene have been discovered, and mutations in more than 18 other genes have been associated with causing ALS. The aim of this thesis was to identify new mutations associated with ALS pathogenesis, and by comparing patients from different countries, were we also able to identify population-specific genetic variations. The studies are referred to as I–V.

Methods: With written informed consent and adhering to the tenets of the Declaration of Helsinki, through a national network of ALS clinicians´, venous blood samples were collected from ALS patients and healthy subjects in Europe and the USA. The patients were diagnosed according to the El Escorial criteria, and as having FALS according to the criteria of Byrne et al. (2011). The DNA variations were amplified by various PCR techniques. (I, III and IV) The amplicons of ataxin 2 (ATXN2), profilin 1 (PFN1), and vesicle-associated membrane protein type B (VAPB) were characterised by direct sequencing. (II) After quantitative PCR, a genotype-phenotype correlation was performed to assess whether the survival motor neuron gene (SMN) modulates the phenotype of ALS. (V) The amplicons of the 50 base pair deletion in the SOD1 promotor (50 bp) were separated by electrophoresis on agarose.

Results: (I) We observed a significant association between CAG expansions in the ATXN2 gene and ALS in a European cohort. (II) Abnormal copy number of the SMN1 gene was identified as a risk factor in France, but not in Sweden. Homozygosity of the SMN2 deletion prolonged survival among Swedish ALS patients, compared to French patients. (III) We identified two mutations in the PFN1 gene, the novel p.Thr109Met mutation and the p.Gln117Gly mutation, in two unrelated FALS patients. (IV) In our cohort, we identified five VAPB mutations p.Asp130Glu, p.Ser160del, p.Asp162Glu, p.Met170Ile, and p.Arg184Trp, two of which are novel. (V) The 50 bp deletion upstream of the SOD1 gene was found in equal frequencies in both the patient and control cohorts. The 50 bp deletion did not affect SOD1 enzymatic activity. Furthermore, we found no differences in age of onset or disease duration in relation to the 50 bp deletion genotype.VI

Conclusions: (I) Our findings indicate that ATXN2 plays an important role in the pathogenesis of ALS, and that CAG expansions in ATXN2 are a significant risk factor for the disease. (II) We suggest that abnormal SMN1 gene copynumber cannot be considered a universal genetic susceptibility factor for ALS. We also propose that the effect of abnormal SMN2 gene copy number on ALS phenotype may differ between populations. (III) This work provides evidence that PFN1 mutations can cause ALS as a Mendelian dominant trait. The novel p.Thr109Met mutation also shows that disturbance of actin dynamics can cause motor neuron degeneration. (IV) We find it unlikely that the VAPB mutations cause ALS in our cohorts. (V) We find it unlikely that the 50 bp region contains important regulatory elements for SOD1 expression. This thesis supports the theory that ALS is a multigenetic disease, but there appears to be great genetic variation among apparently identical populations. These studies emphasise the importance of continuous genetic screening, to identify further mutations and genes involved in ALS disease, but it also highlights the importance of cooperation and comparison between countries.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Umeå Universitet, 2013. 82 p.
Umeå University medical dissertations, ISSN 0346-6612 ; 1563
ALS, risk factor, VAPB, SOD1, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, ATXN2, SMN1, SMN2, PFN1, 50 bp deletion in SOD1 promotor, population-specific genetic variations
National Category
Research subject
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-67460 (URN)978-91-7459-582-6 (ISBN)
Public defence
2013-04-17, Sal Betula, By 6M, Norrlands Universitessjukhus, Umeå, 10:00 (English)
On the aetiology of ALS: A comprehensive genetic study
Swedish Research Council
Available from: 2013-03-27 Created: 2013-03-19 Last updated: 2013-04-12Bibliographically approved

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