To identify the causative gene mutation in a 5-generation Belgian family with dominantly inherited spinocerebellar ataxia and polyneuropathy, in which known genetic etiologies had been excluded.Methods:
We collected DNA samples of 28 family members, including 7 living affected individuals, whose clinical records were reviewed by a neurologist experienced in ataxia. We combined linkage data of 21 family members with whole exome sequencing in 2 affected individuals to identify shared heterozygous variants mapping to potentially linked regions. Variants were screened for rarity and for predicted damaging effect. A candidate mutation was confirmed by Sanger sequencing and tested for cosegregation with the disease.Results:
Affected individuals presented with late-onset sensorimotor axonal polyneuropathy; all but one also had cerebellar ataxia. We identified a variant in the MME gene, p.C143Y, that was absent from control databases, cosegregated with the phenotype, and was predicted to have a strong damaging effect on the encoded protein by all algorithms we used.Conclusions:
MME encodes neprilysin (NEP), a zinc-dependent metalloprotease expressed in most tissues, including the central and peripheral nervous systems. The mutated cysteine 143 forms a disulfide bridge, which is 100% conserved in NEP and in similar enzymes. The recent identification of recessive MME mutations in 10 unrelated individuals from Japan with axonal polyneuropathy further supports the causality of the mutation, despite the dominant mode of inheritance and the presence of cerebellar involvement in our study family. Functional studies are needed to identify the mechanisms underlying these differences.