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The noncoding genome is substantially larger than the protein-coding genome but has been largely unexplored by genetic association studies. Here, we performed region-based rare variant association analysis of >25,000 variants in untranslated regions of 6,139 amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) whole genomes and the whole genomes of 70,403 non-ALS controls. We identified interleukin-18 receptor accessory protein (IL18RAP) 3' untranslated region (3'UTR) variants as significantly enriched in non-ALS genomes and associated with a fivefold reduced risk of developing ALS, and this was replicated in an independent cohort. These variants in the IL18RAP 3'UTR reduce mRNA stability and the binding of double-stranded RNA (dsRNA)-binding proteins. Finally, the variants of the IL18RAP 3'UTR confer a survival advantage for motor neurons because they dampen neurotoxicity of human induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC)-derived microglia bearing an ALS-associated expansion in C9orf72, and this depends on NF-κB signaling. This study reveals genetic variants that protect against ALS by reducing neuroinflammation and emphasizes the importance of noncoding genetic association studies.

Original publication

DOI

10.1038/s41593-022-01040-6

Type

Journal article

Journal

Nat Neurosci

Publication Date

04/2022

Volume

25

Pages

433 - 445

Keywords

3' Untranslated Regions, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, Humans, Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells, Interleukin-18 Receptor beta Subunit, Motor Neurons