Lysosomal cholesterol accumulation contributes to the movement phenotypes associated with NUS1 haploinsufficiency

Purpose: Variants in NUS1 are associated with a congenital disorder of glycosylation, developmental and epileptic encephalopathies, and are possible contributors to Parkinson disease pathogenesis. How the diverse functions of the NUS1-encoded Nogo B receptor (NgBR) relate to these different phenotypes is largely unknown. We present three patients with de novo heterozygous variants in NUS1 that cause a complex movement disorder, define pathogenic mechanisms in cells and zebrafish, and identify possible therapy.

Methods: Comprehensive functional studies were performed using patient fibroblasts, and a zebrafish model mimicking NUS1 haploinsufficiency.

Results: We show that de novo NUS1 variants reduce NgBR and Niemann-Pick type C2 (NPC2) protein amount, impair dolichol biosynthesis, and cause lysosomal cholesterol accumulation. Reducing nus1 expression 50% in zebrafish embryos causes abnormal swim behaviors, cholesterol accumulation in the nervous system, and impaired turnover of lysosomal membrane proteins. Reduction of cholesterol buildup with 2-hydroxypropyl-ß-cyclodextrin significantly alleviates lysosomal proteolysis and motility defects.

Conclusion: Our results demonstrate that these NUS1 variants cause multiple lysosomal phenotypes in cells. We show that the movement deficits associated with nus1 reduction in zebrafish arise in part from defective efflux of cholesterol from lysosomes, suggesting that treatments targeting cholesterol accumulation could be therapeutic.

Seok-Ho Yu, Tong Wang, Kali Wiggins, Raymond J. Louie, Emilio F. Merino, Cindy Skinner, Maria B. Cassera, Kirsten Meagher, Paul Goldberg, Neggy Rismanchi, Dillon Chen, Michael J. Lyons, Heather Flanagan-Steet & Richard Steet. Genet Med. 2021 Mar 17. doi: 10.1038/s41436-021-01137-6.

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