A mutation in the Warburg syndrome gene, RAB3GAP1, causes a similar syndrome with polyneuropathy and neuronal vacuolation in Black Russian Terrier dogs

Tendai Mhlanga-Mutangadura, Gary S. Johnson, Robert D. Schnabel, Jeremy F. Taylor, Gayle C. Johnson, Martin L. Katz, G. Diane Shelton, Teresa E. Lever, Elizabeth Giuliano, Nicolas Granger, Jeremy Shomper, Dennis P. O'Brien*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

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An autosomal recessive disease of Black Russian Terriers was previously described as a juvenile-onset, laryngeal paralysis and polyneuropathy similar to Charcot Marie Tooth disease in humans. We found that in addition to an axonal neuropathy, affected dogs exhibit microphthalmia, cataracts, and miotic pupils. On histopathology, affected dogs exhibit a spongiform encephalopathy characterized by accumulations of abnormal, membrane-bound vacuoles of various sizes in neuronal cell bodies, axons and adrenal cells. DNA from an individual dog with this polyneuropathy with ocular abnormalities and neuronal vacuolation (POANV) was used to generate a whole genome sequence which contained a homozygous RAB3GAP1:c.743delC mutation that was absent from 73 control canine whole genome sequences. An additional 12 Black Russian Terriers with POANV were RAB3GAP1:c.743delC homozygotes. DNA samples from 249 Black Russian Terriers with no known signs of POANV were either heterozygotes or homozygous for the reference allele. Mutations in human RAB3GAP1 cause Warburg micro syndrome (WARBM), a severe developmental disorder characterized by abnormalities of the eye, genitals and nervous system including a predominantly axonal peripheral neuropathy. RAB3GAP1 encodes the catalytic subunit of a GTPase activator protein and guanine exchange factor for Rab3 and Rab18 respectively. Rab proteins are involved in membrane trafficking in the endoplasmic reticulum, axonal transport, autophagy and synaptic transmission. The neuronal vacuolation and membranous inclusions and vacuoles in axons seen in this canine disorder likely reflect alterations of these processes. Thus, this canine disease could serve as a model for WARBM and provide insight into its pathogenesis and treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)75-85
Number of pages11
JournalNeurobiology of Disease
Early online date25 Nov 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2016

Bibliographical note

Date of Acceptance: 18/11/2015


  • Canine
  • Endoplasmic reticulum
  • Martsolf syndrome
  • Membrane trafficking
  • Rab GTPase
  • Spongiform encephalopathy
  • Warburg micro syndrome

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