Mutations in the lysosomal glucocerebrosidase (GBA) gene increase the risk of Parkinson's Disease (PD). We determined the frequency and relative risk of major GBA mutations in a large series of Italian patients with primary parkinsonism.
We studied 2766 unrelated consecutive patients with clinical diagnosis of primary degenerative parkinsonism (including 2350 PD), and 1111 controls. The entire cohort was screened for mutations in GBA exons 9 and 10, covering approximately 70% of mutations, including the two most frequent defects, p.N370S and p.L444P.
Four known mutations were identified in heterozygous state: 3 missense mutations (p.N370S, p.L444P, and p.D443N), and the splicing mutation IVS10+1G>T, which results in the in-frame exon-10 skipping. Molecular characterization of 2 additional rare variants, potentially interfering with splicing, suggested a neutral effect. GBA mutations were more frequent in PD (4.5%, RR = 7.2, CI = 3.3–15.3) and in Dementia with Lewy Bodies (DLB) (13.8%, RR = 21.9, CI = 6.8–70.7) than in controls (0.63%). but not in the other forms of parkinsonism such as Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP, 2%), and Corticobasal Degeneration (CBD, 0%). Considering only the PD group, GBA-carriers were younger at onset (52 ± 10 vs. 57 ± 10 years, P < 0.0001) and were more likely to have a positive family history of PD (34% vs. 20%, P < 0.001).
GBA dysfunction is relevant for synucleinopathies, such as PD and DLB, except for MSA, in which pathology involves oligodendrocytes, and the tauopathies PSP and CBD. The risk of developing DLB is three-fold higher than PD, suggesting a more aggressive phenotype.
•We screened a large case–control cohort with parkinsonism for common GBA mutations.•GBA mutations in the Italian population are a risk factor for Lewy Bodies Diseases (PD and DLB).•GBA mutations were not increased in the other forms of parkinsonism: PSP, CBD and MSA.•GBA dysfunction does not seem to be involved in MSA and tauopathies.