Neuron 2014 Oct 22;84(2):324-31. Epub 2014 Oct 22.
Department of Neurology, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, MA 01605, USA. Electronic address:
Exome sequencing is an effective strategy for identifying human disease genes. However, this methodology is difficult in late-onset diseases where limited availability of DNA from informative family members prohibits comprehensive segregation analysis. To overcome this limitation, we performed an exome-wide rare variant burden analysis of 363 index cases with familial ALS (FALS). The results revealed an excess of patient variants within TUBA4A, the gene encoding the Tubulin, Alpha 4A protein. Analysis of a further 272 FALS cases and 5,510 internal controls confirmed the overrepresentation as statistically significant and replicable. Functional analyses revealed that TUBA4A mutants destabilize the microtubule network, diminishing its repolymerization capability. These results further emphasize the role of cytoskeletal defects in ALS and demonstrate the power of gene-based rare variant analyses in situations where causal genes cannot be identified through traditional segregation analysis.