Farhan SMK, Howrigan DP, Abbott LE, Klim JR, Topp SD, Byrnes AE, Churchhouse C, Phatnani H, Smith BN, Rampersaud E, Wu G, Wuu J, Shatunov A, Iacoangeli A, Al Khleifat A, Mordes DA, Ghosh S, Eggan K, Rademakers R, McCauley JL, Schüle R, Züchner S, Benatar M, Taylor JP, Nalls M, Gotkine M, Shaw PJ, Morrison KE, Al-Chalabi A, Traynor B, Shaw CE, Goldstein DB, Harms MB, Daly MJ, Neale BM. 2019. Exome sequencing in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis implicates a novel gene, DNAJC7, encoding a heat-shock protein. Nature neuroscience. 22(12):1966-1974. Pubmed: 31768050 DOI:10.1038/s41593-019-0530-0


To discover novel genes underlying amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), we aggregated exomes from 3,864 cases and 7,839 ancestry-matched controls. We observed a significant excess of rare protein-truncating variants among ALS cases, and these variants were concentrated in constrained genes. Through gene level analyses, we replicated known ALS genes including SOD1, NEK1 and FUS. We also observed multiple distinct protein-truncating variants in a highly constrained gene, DNAJC7. The signal in DNAJC7 exceeded genome-wide significance, and immunoblotting assays showed depletion of DNAJC7 protein in fibroblasts in a patient with ALS carrying the p.Arg156Ter variant. DNAJC7 encodes a member of the heat-shock protein family, HSP40, which, along with HSP70 proteins, facilitates protein homeostasis, including folding of newly synthesized polypeptides and clearance of degraded proteins. When these processes are not regulated, misfolding and accumulation of aberrant proteins can occur and lead to protein aggregation, which is a pathological hallmark of neurodegeneration. Our results highlight DNAJC7 as a novel gene for ALS.

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Kevin Eggan investigates the mechanisms that cause motor neuron degeneration in Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), and seeks to translate new discoveries into new therapeutic options for patients.

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