De novo mutations in SOD1 are a cause of ALS

Objective

The only identified cause of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) are mutations in a number of genes found in familial cases but also in sporadic cases. De novo mutations occurring in a parental gonadal cell, in the zygote or postzygotic during embryonal development can result in an apparently sporadic/isolated case of ALS later in life. We searched for de novo mutations in SOD1 as a cause of ALS.

Methods

We analysed peripheral-blood exome, genome and Sanger sequencing to identify deleterious mutations in SOD1 in 4000 ALS patients from Germany, South Korea and Sweden. Parental kinship was confirmed using highly polymorphic microsatellite markers across the genome. Medical genealogical and clinical data were reviewed and compared with the literature.

Results

We identified four sporadic ALS cases with de novo mutations in SOD1. They aggregate in hot-spot codons earlier found mutated in familial cases. Their phenotypes match closely what has earlier been reported in familial cases with pathogenic mutations in SOD1. We also encountered familial cases where de novo mutational events in recent generations may have been involved.

Conclusions

De novo mutations are a cause of sporadic ALS and may also be underpinning smaller families with few affected ALS cases. It was not possible to ascertain if the origin of the de novo mutations was parental germline, zygotic or postzygotic during embryonal development. All ALS patients should be offered genetic counselling and genetic screening, the challenges of variant interpretation do not outweigh the potential benefits including earlier confirmed diagnosis and possible bespoken therapy.

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