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UNC13A in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis: from genetic association to therapeutic target

Willemse, Sean W; Harley, Peter; van Eijk, Ruben PA; Demaegd, Koen C; Zelina, Pavol; Pasterkamp, R Jeroen; van Damme, Philip; ... van Es, Michael A; + view all (2023) UNC13A in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis: from genetic association to therapeutic target. Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry 10.1136/jnnp-2022-330504. (In press). Green open access

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Abstract

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a fatal neurodegenerative disease with limited treatment options and an incompletely understood pathophysiology. Although genomewide association studies (GWAS) have advanced our understanding of the disease, the precise manner in which risk polymorphisms contribute to disease pathogenesis remains unclear. Of relevance, GWAS have shown that a polymorphism (rs12608932) in the UNC13A gene is associated with risk for both ALS and frontotemporal dementia (FTD). Homozygosity for the C-allele at rs12608932 modifies the ALS phenotype, as these patients are more likely to have bulbar-onset disease, cognitive impairment and FTD at baseline as well as shorter survival. UNC13A is expressed in neuronal tissue and is involved in maintaining synaptic active zones, by enabling the priming and docking of synaptic vesicles. In the absence of functional TDP-43, risk variants in UNC13A lead to the inclusion of a cryptic exon in UNC13A messenger RNA, subsequently leading to nonsense mediated decay, with loss of functional protein. Depletion of UNC13A leads to impaired neurotransmission. Recent discoveries have identified UNC13A as a potential target for therapy development in ALS, with a confirmatory trial with lithium carbonate in UNC13A cases now underway and future approaches with antisense oligonucleotides currently under consideration. Considering UNC13A is a potent phenotypic modifier, it may also impact clinical trial outcomes. This present review describes the path from the initial discovery of UNC13A as a risk gene in ALS to the current therapeutic options being explored and how knowledge of its distinct phenotype needs to be taken into account in future trials.

Type: Article
Title: UNC13A in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis: from genetic association to therapeutic target
Location: England
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1136/jnnp-2022-330504
Language: English
Additional information: © Author(s) (or their employer(s)) 2023. Re-use permitted under CC BY-NC. No commercial re-use. See rights and permissions. Published by BMJ. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited, appropriate credit is given, any changes made indicated, and the use is non-commercial. See: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/.
Keywords: ALS, frontotemporal dementia, neurobiology, neurogenetics, neuromuscular
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology > Department of Neuromuscular Diseases
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10164625
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