Objective: Since the discovery of mutations in the gene encoding Cu/Zn superoxide dismutase (SOD1) ten years ago, testing for SOD1 gene mutations has become a part of the investigation of patients with suspected motor neuron disease. We searched for novel SOD1 mutations and for clinical characteristics of patients with these mutations.
Methods: Analysis was made of patient files at the Neurogenetic DNA Diagnostic Laboratory at Massachusetts General Hospital. We also scrutinized available medical records and examined patients with the different SOD1 mutations.
Results: One hundred and forty eight (148) of 2045 amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) patients carried a disease-associated mutation in the SOD1 gene. The most prevalent was the A4V missense mutation, found in 41% of those patients. Sixteen novel exonic mutations (L8V, F20C, Q22L, H48R, T54R, S591, V87A, T88deltaTAD, A89T, V97M, S105deltaSL, V118L, D124G, G141X, G147R, 11515) were found, bringing the total number of SOD1 gene mutations in ALS to 105.
Conclusions: Mutations in the SOD1 gene are found both in sporadic and familial ALS cases without any definite predilection for any part of the gene. A common structural denominator for the 16 novel mutations or previously reported mutations is not obvious. Similarly, the nature of the putative acquired toxic function of mutant SOD1 remains unresolved. We conclude that patients with SOD1 mutations may infrequently show symptoms and signs unrelated to the motor systems, sometimes obscuring the diagnosis of ALS.