The SERPINA1 gene is highly polymorphic, with more than 100 variants described in databases. SERPINA1 encodes the alpha-1 antitrypsin (AAT) protein, and severe deficiency of AAT is a major contributor to pulmonary emphysema and liver diseases. In Spanish patients with AAT deficiency, we identified seven new variants of the SERPINA1 gene involving amino acid substitutions in different exons: PiSDonosti (S+Ser14Phe), PiTijarafe (Ile50Asn), PiSevilla (Ala58Asp), PiCadiz (Glu151Lys), PiTarragona (Phe227Cys), PiPuerto Real (Thr249Ala), and PiValencia (Lys328Glu). We examined the characteristics of these variants and the putative association with the disease. Mutant proteins were overexpressed in HEK293T cells, and AAT expression, polymerization, degradation, and secretion, as well as antielastase activity, were analyzed by periodic acid-Schiff staining, Western blotting, pulse-chase, and elastase inhibition assays. When overexpressed, S+S14F, I50N, A58D, F227C, and T249A variants formed intracellular polymers and did not secrete AAT protein. Both the E151K and K328E variants secreted AAT protein and did not form polymers, although K328E showed intracellular retention and reduced antielastase activity. We conclude that deficient variants may be more frequent than previously thought and that their discovery is possible only by the complete sequencing of the gene and subsequent functional characterization. Better knowledge of SERPINA1 variants would improve diagnosis and management of individuals with AAT deficiency.
Keywords: SERPINA1 novel variants; alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency; alpha-1 antitrypsin polymers; elastase.