Whole Exome Sequencing in Multi-Incident Families Identifies Novel Candidate Genes for Multiple Sclerosis

Julia Horjus, Tineke van Mourik-Banda, Marco A. P. Heerings, Marina Hakobjan, Ward de Witte, Dorothea J. Heersema, Anne J. Jansen, Eva M. M. Strijbis, Brigit A. de Jong, Astrid E. J. Slettenaar, Esther M. P. E. Zeinstra, Erwin L. J. Hoogervorst, Barbara Franke, Wiebe Kruijer, Peter J. Jongen, Leo J. Visser, Geert Poelmans

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Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a degenerative disease of the central nervous system in which auto-immunity-induced demyelination occurs. MS is thought to be caused by a complex interplay of environmental and genetic risk factors. While most genetic studies have focused on identifying common genetic variants for MS through genome-wide association studies, the objective of the present study was to identify rare genetic variants contributing to MS susceptibility. We used whole exome sequencing (WES) followed by co-segregation analyses in nine multi-incident families with two to four affected individuals. WES was performed in 31 family members with and without MS. After applying a suite of selection criteria, co-segregation analyses for a number of rare variants selected from the WES results were performed, adding 24 family members. This approach resulted in 12 exonic rare variants that showed acceptable co-segregation with MS within the nine families, implicating the genes MBP, PLK1, MECP2, MTMR7, TOX3, CPT1A, SORCS1, TRIM66, ITPR3, TTC28, CACNA1F, and PRAM1. Of these, three genes (MBP, MECP2, and CPT1A) have been previously reported as carrying MS-related rare variants. Six additional genes (MTMR7, TOX3, SORCS1, ITPR3, TTC28, and PRAM1) have also been implicated in MS through common genetic variants. The proteins encoded by all twelve genes containing rare variants interact in a molecular framework that points to biological processes involved in (de-/re-)myelination and auto-immunity. Our approach provides clues to possible molecular mechanisms underlying MS that should be studied further in cellular and/or animal models.
Original languageEnglish
Article number11461
JournalInternational journal of molecular sciences
Issue number19
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2022


  • genetics
  • multiple sclerosis (MS)
  • whole exome sequencing

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