More than 100 different heterozygous mutations in copper/zinc superoxide dismutase (SOD1) have been found in patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a fatal neurodegenerative disease. Uniquely, D90A-SOD1 has been identified in recessive, dominant and apparently sporadic pedigrees. The phenotype of homozygotes is stereotyped with an extended survival, whereas that of affected heterozygotes varies. The frequency of D90A-SOD1 is 50 times higher in Scandinavia (2.5%) than elsewhere, though ALS prevalence is not raised there. Our earlier study indicated separate founders for recessive and dominant/sporadic ALS and we proposed a disease-modifying factor linked to the recessive mutation. Here we have doubled our sample set and employed novel markers to characterise the mutation's origin and localise any modifying factor. Linkage disequilibrium analysis indicates that D90A homozygotes and heterozygotes share a rare haplotype and are all descended from a single ancient founder (alpha 0.974) c.895 generations ago. Homozygotes arose subsequently only c.63 generations ago (alpha 0.878). Recombination has reduced the region shared by recessive kindreds to 97-265 kb around SOD1, excluding all neighbouring genes. We propose that a cis-acting regulatory polymorphism has arisen close to D90A-SOD1 in the recessive founder, which decreases ALS susceptibility in heterozygotes and slows disease progression.
Copyright 2002 Wiley-Liss, Inc.