The autophagy-lysosomal pathway (ALP) regulates cell homeostasis and plays a crucial role in human diseases, such as lysosomal storage disorders (LSDs) and common neurodegenerative diseases. Therefore, the identification of DNA sequence variations in genes involved in this pathway and their association with human diseases would have a significant impact on health. To this aim, we developed Lysoplex, a targeted next-generation sequencing (NGS) approach, which allowed us to obtain a uniform and accurate coding sequence coverage of a comprehensive set of 891 genes involved in lysosomal, endocytic, and autophagic pathways. Lysoplex was successfully validated on 14 different types of LSDs and then used to analyze 48 mutation-unknown patients with a clinical phenotype of neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis (NCL), a genetically heterogeneous subtype of LSD. Lysoplex allowed us to identify pathogenic mutations in 67% of patients, most of whom had been unsuccessfully analyzed by several sequencing approaches. In addition, in 3 patients, we found potential disease-causing variants in novel NCL candidate genes. We then compared the variant detection power of Lysoplex with data derived from public whole exome sequencing (WES) efforts. On average, a 50% higher number of validated amino acid changes and truncating variations per gene were identified. Overall, we identified 61 truncating sequence variations and 488 missense variations with a high probability to cause loss of function in a total of 316 genes. Interestingly, some loss-of-function variations of genes involved in the ALP pathway were found in homozygosity in the normal population, suggesting that their role is not essential. Thus, Lysoplex provided a comprehensive catalog of sequence variants in ALP genes and allows the assessment of their relevance in cell biology as well as their contribution to human disease.
Keywords: ALP, autophagy-lysosomal pathway; LSDs, lysosomal storage disorders; NCL, neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis; NGS, next-generation sequencing; WES, whole exome sequencing; WGS, whole genome sequencing.; autophagy; genetic variants; lysosomal storage disorders; neuronal ceroid lipofuscinoses; next-generation sequencing.