Inappropriate accumulation of the misfolded Z variant of alpha1-antitrypsin in the hepatocyte endoplasmic reticulum (ER) is a risk factor for the development of end-stage liver disease. However, the genetic and environmental factors that contribute to its etiology are poorly understood. ER mannosidase I (ERManI) is a quality control factor that plays a critical role in the sorting and targeting of misfolded glycoproteins for proteasome-mediated degradation. In this study, we tested whether genetic variations in the human ERManI gene influence the age at onset of end-stage liver disease in patients homozygous for the Z allele (ZZ). We sequenced all 13 exons in a group of unrelated Caucasian ZZ transplant recipients with different age at onset of the end-stage liver disease. Homozygosity for the minor A allele at 2484G/A (refSNP ID number rs4567) in the 3'-untranslated region was prevalent in the infant ZZ patients. Functional studies indicated that rs4567(A), but not rs4567(G), suppresses ERManI translation under ER stress conditions.
Conclusion: These findings suggest that the identified single-nucleotide polymorphism can accelerate the onset of the end-stage liver disease associated with alpha1-antitrypsin deficiency and underscore the contribution of biosynthetic quality control as a modifier of genetic disease.