Purpose: This study aimed to unravel the genetic factors underlying missing heritability in spinocerebellar ataxia type 17 (SCA17) caused by polyglutamine-encoding CAG/CAA repeat expansions in the TBP gene. Alleles with >49 CAG/CAA repeats are fully penetrant. Most patients, however, carry intermediate TBP41-49 alleles that show incomplete penetrance.
Methods: Using next-generation sequencing approaches, we investigated 40 SCA17/TBP41-54 index patients, their affected (n = 55) and unaffected (n = 51) relatives, and a cohort of patients with ataxia (n = 292).
Results: All except 1 (30/31) of the index cases with TBP41-46 alleles carried a heterozygous pathogenic variant in the STUB1 gene associated with spinocerebellar ataxias SCAR16 (autosomal recessive) and SCA48 (autosomal dominant). No STUB1 variant was found in patients carrying TBP47-54 alleles. TBP41-46 expansions and STUB1 variants cosegregate in all affected family members, whereas the presence of either TBP41-46 expansions or STUB1 variants individually was never associated with the disease.
Conclusion: Our data reveal an unexpected genetic interaction between STUB1 and TBP in the pathogenesis of SCA17 and raise questions on the existence of SCA48 as a monogenic disease with crucial implications for diagnosis and counseling. They provide a convincing explanation for the incomplete penetrance of intermediate TBP alleles and demonstrate a dual inheritance pattern for SCA17, which is a monogenic dominant disorder for TBP≥47 alleles and a digenic TBP/STUB1 disease (SCA17-DI) for intermediate expansions.
Keywords: CHIP; Digenic disease; Huntington disease-like phenotype; Polyglutamine; Spinocerebellar ataxia.
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