Mutations in RARS cause a hypomyelination disorder akin to Pelizaeus-Merzbacher disease

Eur J Hum Genet. 2017 Oct;25(10):1134-1141. doi: 10.1038/ejhg.2017.119. Epub 2017 Jul 26.


Pelizaeus-Merzbacher disease (PMD) is a rare Mendelian disorder characterised by central nervous system hypomyelination. PMD typically manifests in infancy or early childhood and is caused by mutations in proteolipid protein-1 (PLP1). However, variants in several other genes including gap junction protein gamma 2 (GJC2) can also cause a similar phenotype and are referred to PMD-like disease (PMLD). Whole-exome sequencing in two siblings presenting with clinical symptoms of PMD revealed a homozygous variant in the arginyl-tRNA synthetase (RARS) gene: NM_002887.3: c.[5A>G] p.(Asp2Gly). Subsequent screening of a PMD cohort without a genetic diagnosis identified an unrelated individual with novel compound heterozygous variants including a missense variant c.[1367C>T] p.(Ser456Leu) and a de novo deletion c.[1846_1847delTA] p.(Tyr616Leufs*6). Protein levels of RARS and the multi-tRNA synthetase complex into which it assembles were found to be significantly reduced by 80 and 90% by western blotting and Blue native-PAGE respectively using patient fibroblast extracts. As RARS is involved in protein synthesis whereby it attaches arginine to its cognate tRNA, patient cells were studied to determine their ability to proliferate with limiting amounts of this essential amino acid. Patient fibroblasts cultured in medium with limited arginine at 30 °C and 40 °C, showed a significant decrease in fibroblast proliferation (P<0.001) compared to control cells, suggestive of inefficiency of protein synthesis in the patient cells. Our functional studies provide further evidence that RARS is a PMD-causing gene.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Arginine-tRNA Ligase / genetics*
  • Arginine-tRNA Ligase / metabolism
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Child
  • Exome
  • Female
  • Fibroblasts / metabolism
  • Gene Deletion*
  • Heterozygote
  • Homozygote
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mutation, Missense*
  • Pelizaeus-Merzbacher Disease / diagnosis
  • Pelizaeus-Merzbacher Disease / genetics*


  • Arginine-tRNA Ligase