Epileptic encephalopathies are a group of childhood epilepsies that display high phenotypic and genetic heterogeneity. The recent, extensive use of next-generation sequencing has identified a large number of genes in epileptic encephalopathies, including UBA5 in which biallelic mutations were first described as pathogenic in 2016 (Colin E et al., Am J Hum Genet 99(3):695-703, 2016. Muona M et al., Am J Hum Genet 99(3):683-694, 2016). UBA5 encodes an activating enzyme for a post-translational modification mechanism known as ufmylation, and is the first gene from the ufmylation pathway that is linked to disease.
We sequenced the genomes of two sisters with early-onset epileptic encephalopathy along with their unaffected parents in an attempt to find a genetic cause for their condition. The sisters, born in 2004 and 2006, presented with infantile spasms at six months of age, which later progressed to recurrent, treatment-resistant seizures. We detected a compound heterozygous genotype in UBA5 in the sisters, a genotype not seen elsewhere in an Icelandic reference set of 30,067 individuals nor in public databases. One of the mutations, c.684G > A, is a paternally inherited exonic splicing mutation, occuring at the last nucleotide of exon 7 of UBA5. The mutation is predicted to disrupt the splice site, resulting in loss-of-function of one allele of UBA5. The second mutation is a maternally inherited missense mutation, p.Ala371Thr, previously reported as pathogenic when in compound heterozygosity with a loss-of-function mutation in UBA5 and is believed to produce a hypomorphic allele. Supportive of this, we have identified three adult Icelanders homozygous for the p.Ala371Thr mutation who show no signs of neurological disease.
We describe compound heterozygous mutations in the UBA5 gene in two sisters with early-onset epileptic encephalopathy. To our knowledge, this is the first description of mutations in UBA5 since the initial discovery that pathogenic biallelic variants in the gene cause early-onset epileptic encephalopathy. We further provide confirmatory evidence that p.Ala371Thr is a hypomorphic mutation, by presenting three adult homozygotes who show no signs of neurological disease.
Colin E, Daniel J, Ziegler A, Wakim J, Scrivo A, Haack TB, Khiati S, Denommé AS, Amati-Bonneau P, Charif M, Procaccio V, Reynier P, Aleck KA, Botto LD, Herper CL, Kaiser CS, Nabbout R, N'Guyen S, Mora-Lorca JA, Assmann B, Christ S, Meitinger T, Strom TM, Prokisch H; FREX Consortium, Miranda-Vizuete A, Hoffmann GF, Lenaers G, Bomont P, Liebau E, Bonneau D. Biallelic Variants in UBA5 Reveal that Disruption of the UFM1 Cascade Can Result in Early-Onset Encephalopathy. Am J Hum Genet. 2016 Sep 1;99(3):695-703.
Via whole-exome sequencing, we identified rare autosomal-recessive variants in UBA5 in five children from four unrelated families affected with a similar pattern of severe intellectual deficiency, microcephaly, movement disorders, and/or early-onset intractable epilepsy. UBA5 encodes the E1-activating enzyme of ubiquitin-fold modifier 1 (UFM1), a recently identified ubiquitin-like protein. Biochemical studies of mutant UBA5 proteins and studies in fibroblasts from affected individuals revealed that UBA5 mutations impair the process of ufmylation, resulting in an abnormal endoplasmic reticulum structure. In Caenorhabditis elegans, knockout of uba-5 and of human orthologous genes in the UFM1 cascade alter cholinergic, but not glutamatergic, neurotransmission. In addition, uba5 silencing in zebrafish decreased motility while inducing abnormal movements suggestive of seizures. These clinical, biochemical, and experimental findings support our finding of UBA5 mutations as a pathophysiological cause for early-onset encephalopathies due to abnormal protein ufmylation.
Muona M, Ishimura R, Laari A, Ichimura Y, Linnankivi T, Keski-Filppula R, Herva R, Rantala H, Paetau A, Pöyhönen M, Obata M, Uemura T, Karhu T, Bizen N, Takebayashi H, McKee S, Parker MJ, Akawi N, McRae J, Hurles ME; DDD Study, Kuismin O, Kurki MI, Anttonen AK, Tanaka K, Palotie A, Waguri S, Lehesjoki AE, Komatsu M. Biallelic Variants in UBA5 Link Dysfunctional UFM1 Ubiquitin-like Modifier Pathway to Severe Infantile-Onset Encephalopathy. Am J Hum Genet. 2016 Sep 1;99(3):683-694.
The ubiquitin fold modifier 1 (UFM1) cascade is a recently identified evolutionarily conserved ubiquitin-like modification system whose function and link to human disease have remained largely uncharacterized. By using exome sequencing in Finnish individuals with severe epileptic syndromes, we identified pathogenic compound heterozygous variants in UBA5, encoding an activating enzyme for UFM1, in two unrelated families. Two additional individuals with biallelic UBA5 variants were identified from the UK-based Deciphering Developmental Disorders study and one from the Northern Finland Intellectual Disability cohort. The affected individuals (n = 9) presented in early infancy with severe irritability, followed by dystonia and stagnation of development. Furthermore, the majority of individuals display postnatal microcephaly and epilepsy and develop spasticity. The affected individuals were compound heterozygous for a missense substitution, c.1111G>A (p.Ala371Thr; allele frequency of 0.28% in Europeans), and a nonsense variant or c.164G>A that encodes an amino acid substitution p.Arg55His, but also affects splicing by facilitating exon 2 skipping, thus also being in effect a loss-of-function allele. Using an in vitro thioester formation assay and cellular analyses, we show that the p.Ala371Thr variant is hypomorphic with attenuated ability to transfer the activated UFM1 to UFC1. Finally, we show that the CNS-specific knockout of Ufm1 in mice causes neonatal death accompanied by microcephaly and apoptosis in specific neurons, further suggesting that the UFM1 system is essential for CNS development and function. Taken together, our data imply that the combination of a hypomorphic p.Ala371Thr variant in trans with a loss-of-function allele in UBA5 underlies a severe infantile-onset encephalopathy.