Bi-allelic variants in HOPS complex subunit VPS41 cause cerebellar ataxia and abnormal membrane trafficking

Brain. 2021 Apr 12;144(3):769-780. doi: 10.1093/brain/awaa459.


Membrane trafficking is a complex, essential process in eukaryotic cells responsible for protein transport and processing. Deficiencies in vacuolar protein sorting (VPS) proteins, key regulators of trafficking, cause abnormal intracellular segregation of macromolecules and organelles and are linked to human disease. VPS proteins function as part of complexes such as the homotypic fusion and vacuole protein sorting (HOPS) tethering complex, composed of VPS11, VPS16, VPS18, VPS33A, VPS39 and VPS41. The HOPS-specific subunit VPS41 has been reported to promote viability of dopaminergic neurons in Parkinson's disease but to date has not been linked to human disease. Here, we describe five unrelated families with nine affected individuals, all carrying homozygous variants in VPS41 that we show impact protein function. All affected individuals presented with a progressive neurodevelopmental disorder consisting of cognitive impairment, cerebellar atrophy/hypoplasia, motor dysfunction with ataxia and dystonia, and nystagmus. Zebrafish disease modelling supports the involvement of VPS41 dysfunction in the disorder, indicating lysosomal dysregulation throughout the brain and providing support for cerebellar and microglial abnormalities when vps41 was mutated. This provides the first example of human disease linked to the HOPS-specific subunit VPS41 and suggests the importance of HOPS complex activity for cerebellar function.

Keywords: VPS41; cerebellar ataxia; membrane trafficking; neurodevelopmental disorder; zebrafish disease modelling.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Cerebellar Ataxia / genetics*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease / genetics*
  • Genetic Variation
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neurodevelopmental Disorders / genetics*
  • Pedigree
  • Protein Transport / genetics*
  • Vesicular Transport Proteins / genetics*
  • Young Adult
  • Zebrafish


  • VPS41 protein, human
  • Vesicular Transport Proteins