The NGS technology for the identification of genes associated with the ALS. A systematic review

Eur J Clin Invest. 2020 May;50(5):e13228. doi: 10.1111/eci.13228. Epub 2020 May 19.


Background: More than 30 causative genes have been identified in familial and sporadic amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The next-generation sequencing (NGS) is a powerful and groundbreaking tool to identify disease-associated variants. Despite documented advantages of NGS, its diagnostic reliability needs to be addressed in order to use this technology for specific routine diagnosis.

Material and methods: Literature database was explored to identify studies comparing NGS and Sanger sequencing for the detection of variants causing ALS. We collected data about patients' characteristics, disease type and duration, NGS and Sanger properties.

Results: More than 200 bibliographic references were identified, of which only 14 studies matching our inclusion criteria. Only 2 out of 14 studies compared results of NGS analysis with the Sanger sequencing. Twelve studies screened causative genes associated to ALS using NGS technologies and confirmed the identified variants with Sanger sequencing. Overall, data about more 2,000 patients were analysed. The number of genes that were investigated in each study ranged from 1 to 32, the most frequent being FUS, OPTN, SETX and VCP. NGS identified already known mutations in 21 genes, and new or rare variants in 27 genes.

Conclusions: NGS seems to be a promising tool for the diagnosis of ALS in routine clinical practice. Its advantages are represented by an increased speed and a lowest sequencing cost, but patients' counselling could be problematic due to the discovery of frequent variants of unknown significance.

Keywords: amyothrophic lateral sclerosis; evidence; gene detection; next-generation sequencing; systematic review.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / genetics*
  • Cell Cycle Proteins / genetics
  • DNA Helicases / genetics
  • High-Throughput Nucleotide Sequencing*
  • Humans
  • Membrane Transport Proteins / genetics
  • Multifunctional Enzymes / genetics
  • RNA Helicases / genetics
  • RNA-Binding Protein FUS / genetics
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA*
  • Valosin Containing Protein / genetics


  • Cell Cycle Proteins
  • Membrane Transport Proteins
  • Multifunctional Enzymes
  • OPTN protein, human
  • RNA-Binding Protein FUS
  • SETX protein, human
  • DNA Helicases
  • RNA Helicases
  • VCP protein, human
  • Valosin Containing Protein