Stiftung Tierärztliche Hochschule Hannover (TiHo)TiHo eLib

RALGAPA1 deletion in Belgian shepherd dogs with cerebellar ataxia

Several genetically distinct forms of cerebellar ataxia exist in Belgian shepherd dogs. We investigated a litter in which two puppies developed cerebellar ataxia. The clinical signs stabilized at around six weeks of age, but remained visible into adulthood. Combined linkage and homozygosity mapping delineated a 5.5 Mb critical interval. The comparison of whole-genome sequence data of one affected dog to 929 control genomes revealed a private homozygous ~4.8 kb deletion in the critical interval, Chr8:14,468,376_14,473,136del4761. The deletion comprises exon 35 of the RALGAPA1 gene, XM_038544497.1:c.6080-2893_6944+1003del. It is predicted to introduce a premature stop codon into the transcript, truncating ~23% of the wild-type open reading frame of the encoded Ral GTPase-activating protein catalytic subunit α 1, XP_038400425.1:(p.Val2027Glnfs*7). Genotypes at the deletion showed the expected co-segregation with the phenotype in the family. Genotyping additional ataxic Belgian shepherd dogs revealed three additional homozygous mutant dogs from a single litter, which had been euthanized at five weeks of age due to their severe clinical phenotype. Histopathology revealed cytoplasmic accumulation of granular material within cerebellar Purkinje cells. Genotyping a cohort of almost 900 Belgian shepherd dogs showed the expected genotype–phenotype association and a carrier frequency of 5% in the population. Human patients with loss-of-function variants in RALGAPA1 develop psychomotor disability and early-onset epilepsy. The available clinical and histopathological data, together with current knowledge about RALGAPA1 variants and their functional impact in other species, suggest the RALGAPA1 deletion is the likely causative defect for the observed phenotype in the affected dogs.

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