A SACS deletion variant in Great Pyrenees dogs causes autosomal recessive neuronal degeneration

Hum Genet. 2023 Nov;142(11):1587-1601. doi: 10.1007/s00439-023-02599-1. Epub 2023 Sep 27.


ARSACS (autosomal recessive spastic ataxia of Charlevoix-Saguenay) is a human neurological disorder characterized by progressive cerebellar ataxia and peripheral neuropathy. A recently recognized disorder in Great Pyrenees dogs is similarly characterized by widespread central nervous system degeneration leading to progressive cerebellar ataxia and spasticity, combined with peripheral neuropathy. Onset of clinical signs occurred in puppies as young as 4 months of age, with slow progression over several years. A multi-generation pedigree suggested an autosomal recessive mode of inheritance. Histopathology revealed consistent cerebellar Purkinje cell degeneration, neuronal degeneration in brainstem nuclei, widespread spinal cord white matter degeneration, ganglion cell degeneration, inappropriately thin myelin sheaths or fully demyelinated peripheral nerve fibers, and normal or only mild patterns of denervation atrophy in skeletal muscles. Genome-wide single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) genotype data was collected from 6 cases and 26 controls, where homozygosity mapping identified a 3.3 Mb region on CFA25 in which all cases were homozygous and all controls were either heterozygous or homozygous for alternate haplotypes. This region tagged the SACS gene where variants are known to cause ARSACS. Sanger sequencing of SACS in affected dogs identified a 4 bp deletion that causes a frame shift and truncates 343 amino acids from the C terminus of the encoded sacsin protein (p.Val4244AlafsTer32). Our clinical and histopathological descriptions of this canine disorder contribute to the description of human ARSACS and represents the first naturally occurring large animal model of this disorder.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cerebellar Ataxia*
  • Dogs
  • Heat-Shock Proteins / genetics
  • Mutation
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases*
  • Spinocerebellar Ataxias* / genetics
  • Spinocerebellar Ataxias* / pathology


  • Heat-Shock Proteins

Supplementary concepts

  • Spastic ataxia Charlevoix-Saguenay type