Novel Machado-Joseph disease-modifying genes and pathways identified by whole-exome sequencing

Mafalda Raposo, Conceição Bettencourt, Ana Rosa Vieira Melo, Ana F. Ferreira, Isabel Alonso, Paulo Silva, João Vasconcelos, Teresa Kay, Maria Luiza Saraiva-Pereira, Marta D. Costa, Daniela Vilasboas-Campos, Bruno Filipe Bettencourt, Jácome Bruges-Armas, Henry Houlden, Peter Heutink, Laura Bannach Jardim, Jorge Sequeiros, Patrícia Maciel, Manuela Lima

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
59 Downloads (Pure)


Machado-Joseph disease (MJD/SCA3) is a neurodegenerative polyglutamine disorder exhibiting a wide spectrum of phenotypes. The abnormal size of the (CAG)n at ATXN3 explains ~55% of the age at onset variance, suggesting the involvement of other factors, namely genetic modifiers, whose identification remains limited. Our aim was to find novel genetic modifiers, analyse their epistatic effects and identify disease-modifying pathways contributing to MJD variable expressivity. We performed whole-exome sequencing in a discovery sample of four age at onset concordant and four discordant first-degree relative pairs of Azorean patients, to identify candidate variants which genotypes differed for each discordant pair but were shared in each concordant pair. Variants identified by this approach were then tested in an independent multi-origin cohort of 282 MJD patients. Whole-exome sequencing identified 233 candidate variants, from which 82 variants in 53 genes were prioritized for downstream analysis. Eighteen disease-modifying pathways were identified; two of the most enriched pathways were relevant for the nervous system, namely the neuregulin signaling and the agrin interactions at neuromuscular junction. Variants at PARD3, NFKB1, CHD5, ACTG1, CFAP57, DLGAP2, ITGB1, DIDO1 and CERS4 modulate age at onset in MJD, with those identified in CFAP57, ACTG1 and DIDO1 showing consistent effects across cohorts of different geographical origins. Network analyses of the nine novel MJD modifiers highlighted several important molecular interactions, including genes/proteins previously related with MJD pathogenesis, namely between ACTG1/APOE and VCP/ITGB1. We describe novel pathways, modifiers, and their interaction partners, providing a broad molecular portrait of age at onset modulation to be further exploited as new disease-modifying targets for MJD and related diseases.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105578
JournalNeurobiology of Disease
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2022


  • Age at onset
  • Genetic modifier
  • MJD
  • Polyglutamine disease
  • SCA3
  • Spinocerebellar ataxia


Dive into the research topics of 'Novel Machado-Joseph disease-modifying genes and pathways identified by whole-exome sequencing'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this