Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (CMT) represents a family of related sensorimotor neuropathies. We studied a large family from a rural eastern Canadian community, with multiple individuals suffering from a condition clinically most similar to autosomal recessive axonal CMT, or AR-CMT2. Homozygosity mapping with high-density SNP genotyping of six affected individuals from the family excluded 23 known genes for various subtypes of CMT and instead identified a single homozygous region on chromosome 9, at 122,423,730–129,841,977 Mbp, shared identical by state in all six affected individuals. A homozygous pathogenic variant was identified in the gene encoding leucine rich repeat and sterile alpha motif 1 (LRSAM1) by direct DNA sequencing of genes within the region in affected DNA samples. The single nucleotide change mutates an intronic consensus acceptor splicing site from AG to AA. Direct analysis of RNA from patient blood demonstrated aberrant splicing of the affected exon, causing an obligatory frameshift and premature truncation of the protein. Western blotting of immortalized cells from a homozygous patient showed complete absence of detectable protein, consistent with the splice site defect. LRSAM1 plays a role in membrane vesicle fusion during viral maturation and for proper adhesion of neuronal cells in culture. Other ubiquitin ligases play documented roles in neurodegenerative diseases. LRSAM1 is a strong candidate for the causal gene for the genetic disorder in our kindred.
Sensory motor neuropathies are diseases of the peripheral nervous system, involving primarily the nerves which control our muscles. These can result from either genetic or non-genetic causes, with genetic causes usually referred to as Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT) disease after the three clinicians who first described the key diagnostic markers. CMT patients lose muscle function, mainly in their arms and legs, with increasing severity during their lives. There are almost two dozen known genes that can mutate to cause CMT, and these fall into a wide variety of biochemical cellular pathways. We identified a group of patients with CMT from a small rural community, with good reason to suspect a genetic basis for their disease. Using high-throughput mapping and DNA sequencing technologies developed as part of the Human Genome Project, we were able to find the likely mutated gene, which was not any of the previously known CMT genes. Based on its sequence, the gene, called LRSAM1, probably plays a role in the correct metabolism of other proteins in the cell. Among the known CMT genes, some are also involved in protein metabolism, suggesting that this is a generally important pathway in the neurons that control muscle activity.