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Mammalian prions are lethal pathogens composed of fibrillar assemblies of misfolded prion protein. Human prion diseases are rare and usually rapidly fatal neurodegenerative disorders, the most common being sporadic Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (sCJD). Variants in the gene that encodes prion protein ( PRNP ) are strong risk factors for sCJD, but although the condition has heritability similar to other neurodegenerative disorders, no other risk loci have yet been confirmed. By genome-wide association in European ancestry populations, we found three replicated loci (cases n=5208, within PRNP, STX6 , and GAL3ST1 ) and two further unreplicated loci were significant in gene-wide tests (within PDIA4, BMERB1 ). Exome sequencing in 407 sCJD cases, conditional and transcription analyses suggest that associations at PRNP and GAL3ST1 are likely to be caused by common variants that alter the protein sequence, whereas risk variants in STX6 and PDIA4 associate with increased expression of the major transcripts in disease-relevant brain regions. Alteration of STX6 expression does not modify prion propagation in a neuroblastoma cell model of mouse prion infection. We went on to analyse the proteins histologically in diseased tissue and examine the effects of risk variants on clinical phenotypes using deep longitudinal clinical cohort data. Risk SNPs in STX6 , a protein involved in the intracellular trafficking of proteins and vesicles, are shared with progressive supranuclear palsy, a neurodegenerative disease associated with the misfolded protein tau. We present the first evidence of statistically robust associations in sporadic human prion disease that implicate intracellular trafficking and sphingolipid metabolism.

Original publication

DOI

10.1101/2020.04.06.20055376

Type

Journal article

Publication Date

11/04/2020