Mutations in the tail and rod domains of the neurofilament heavy‐chain gene increase the risk of ALS

Heather Marriott, Thomas P. Spargo, Ahmad Al Khleifat, Peter M Andersen, Nazli A. Başak, Johnathan Cooper‐Knock, Philippe Corcia, Philippe Couratier, Mamede de Carvalho, Vivian Drory, Marc Gotkine, John E. Landers, Russell McLaughlin, Jesús S. Mora Pardina, Karen E. Morrison, Susana Pinto, Christopher E. Shaw, Pamela J. Shaw, Vincenzo Silani, Nicola TicozziPhilip van Damme, Leonard H. van den Berg, Patrick Vourc'h, Markus Weber, Jan H. Veldink, Richard J. Dobson, Patrick Schwab, Ammar Al‐Chalabi, Alfredo Iacoangeli

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Abstract

Objective
Neurofilament heavy-chain gene (NEFH) variants are associated with multiple neurodegenerative diseases, however, their relationship with ALS has not been robustly explored. Still, NEFH is commonly included in genetic screening panels worldwide. We therefore aimed to determine if NEFH variants modify ALS risk.

Methods
Genetic data of 11,130 people with ALS and 7,416 controls from the literature and Project MinE were analysed. We performed meta-analyses of published case–control studies reporting NEFH variants, and variant analysis of NEFH in Project MinE whole-genome sequencing data.

Results
Fixed-effects meta-analysis found that rare (MAF <1%) missense variants in the tail domain of NEFH increase ALS risk (OR 4.55, 95% CI 2.13–9.71, p < 0.0001). In Project MinE, ultrarare NEFH variants increased ALS risk (OR 1.37 95% CI 1.14–1.63, p = 0.0007), with rod domain variants (mostly intronic) appearing to drive the association (OR 1.45 95% CI 1.18–1.77, pMadsen–Browning = 0.0007, pSKAT-O = 0.003). While in the tail domain, ultrarare (MAF <0.1%) pathogenic missense variants were also associated with higher risk of ALS (OR 1.94, 95% CI 0.86–4.37, pMadsen–Browning = 0.039), supporting the meta-analysis results. Finally, several tail in-frame deletions were also found to affect disease risk, however, both protective and pathogenic deletions were found in this domain, highlighting an intricate architecture that requires further investigation.

Interpretation
We showed that NEFH tail missense and in-frame deletion variants, and intronic rod variants are risk factors for ALS. However, they are not variants of large effect, and their functional impact needs to be clarified in further studies. Therefore, their inclusion in routine genetic screening panels should be reconsidered.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAnnals of Clinical and Translational Neurology
Early online date22 May 2024
DOIs
Publication statusEarly online date - 22 May 2024

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