Distal hereditary motor neuropathy is a heterogeneous group of inherited neuropathies characterised by distal limb muscle weakness and atrophy. Although at least 15 genes have been implicated in distal hereditary motor neuropathy, the genetic causes remain elusive in many families. To identify an additional causal gene for distal hereditary motor neuropathy, the authors performed exome sequencing for two affected individuals and two unaffected members in a Taiwanese family with an autosomal dominant distal hereditary motor neuropathy in which mutations in common distal hereditary motor neuropathy-implicated genes had been excluded. The exome sequencing revealed a heterozygous mutation, c.770A > G (p.His257Arg), in the cytoplasmic tryptophanyl-tRNA synthetase (TrpRS) gene (WARS) that co-segregates with the neuropathy in the family. Further analyses of WARS in an additional 79 Taiwanese pedigrees with inherited neuropathies and 163 index cases from Australian, European, and Korean distal hereditary motor neuropathy families identified the same mutation in another Taiwanese distal hereditary motor neuropathy pedigree with different ancestries and one additional Belgian distal hereditary motor neuropathy family of Caucasian origin. Cell transfection studies demonstrated a dominant-negative effect of the p.His257Arg mutation on aminoacylation activity of TrpRS, which subsequently compromised protein synthesis and reduced cell viability. His257Arg TrpRS also inhibited neurite outgrowth and led to neurite degeneration in the neuronal cell lines and rat motor neurons. Further in vitro analyses showed that the WARS mutation could potentiate the angiostatic activities of TrpRS by enhancing its interaction with vascular endothelial-cadherin. Taken together, these findings establish WARS as a gene whose mutations may cause distal hereditary motor neuropathy and alter canonical and non-canonical functions of TrpRS.
Tsai PC, Soong BW, Mademan I, et al. A recurrent WARS mutation is a novel cause of autosomal dominant distal hereditary motor neuropathy. Brain. 2017 Mar 22. doi: 10.1093/brain/awx058. [Epub ahead of print]