Aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases (ARSs) are essential enzymes that ligate tRNA molecules to cognate amino acids. Heterozygosity for missense variants or small in-frame deletions in six ARS genes causes dominant axonal peripheral neuropathy. These pathogenic variants reduce enzyme activity without significantly decreasing protein levels and reside in genes encoding homo-dimeric enzymes. These observations raise the possibility that neuropathy-associated ARS variants exert a dominant-negative effect, reducing overall ARS activity below a threshold required for peripheral nerve function. To test such variants for dominant-negative properties, we developed a humanized yeast assay to co-express pathogenic human alanyl-tRNA synthetase (AARS1) mutations with wild-type human AARS1. We show that multiple loss-of-function AARS1 mutations impair yeast growth through an interaction with wild-type AARS1, but that reducing this interaction rescues yeast growth. This suggests that neuropathy-associated AARS1 variants exert a dominant-negative effect, which supports a common, loss-of-function mechanism for ARS-mediated dominant peripheral neuropathy.
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