Somatic Mutations in UBA1 and Severe Adult-Onset Autoinflammatory Disease
BACKGROUND:Adult-onset inflammatory syndromes often manifest with overlapping clinical features. Variants in ubiquitin-related genes, previously implicated in autoinflammatory disease, may define new disorders. METHODS:We analyzed peripheral-blood exome sequence data independent of clinical phenotype and inheritance pattern to identify deleterious mutations in ubiquitin-related genes. Sanger sequencing, immunoblotting, immunohistochemical testing, flow cytometry, and transcriptome and cytokine profiling were performed. CRISPR-Cas9-edited zebrafish were used as an in vivo model to assess gene function. RESULTS:lies on the X chromosome.) In such patients, an often fatal, treatment-refractory inflammatory syndrome develops in late adulthood, with fevers, cytopenias, characteristic vacuoles in myeloid and erythroid precursor cells, dysplastic bone marrow, neutrophilic cutaneous and pulmonary inflammation, chondritis, and vasculitis. Most of these 25 patients met clinical criteria for an inflammatory syndrome (relapsing polychondritis, Sweet's syndrome, polyarteritis nodosa, or giant-cell arteritis) or a hematologic condition (myelodysplastic syndrome or multiple myeloma) or both. Mutations were found in more than half the hematopoietic stem cells, including peripheral-blood myeloid cells but not lymphocytes or fibroblasts. Mutations affecting p.Met41 resulted in loss of the canonical cytoplasmic isoform of UBA1 and in expression of a novel, catalytically impaired isoform initiated at p.Met67. Mutant peripheral-blood cells showed decreased ubiquitylation and activated innate immune pathways. Knockout of the cytoplasmic UBA1 isoform homologue in zebrafish caused systemic inflammation. CONCLUSIONS:Using a genotype-driven approach, we identified a disorder that connects seemingly unrelated adult-onset inflammatory syndromes. We named this disorder the VEXAS (vacuoles, E1 enzyme, X-linked, autoinflammatory, somatic) syndrome. (Funded by the NIH Intramural Research Programs and the EU Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Program.).
Translation of cytoplasmic UBA1 contributes to VEXAS syndrome pathogenesis
Somatic mutations in UBA1 cause VEXAS (Vacuoles, E1 ubiquitin activating enzyme, X-linked, Autoinflammatory Somatic) syndrome, an adult-onset inflammatory disease with an overlap of hematologic manifestations. VEXAS syndrome is characterized by a high mortality rate and significant clinical heterogeneity. We sought to determine independent predictors of survival in VEXAS and to understand the mechanistic basis for these factors. We analyzed 83 patients with somatic pathogenic variants in UBA1 at p.Met41 (p.Met41Leu/Thr/Val), the start codon for translation of the cytoplasmic isoform of UBA1 (UBA1b). Patients with the p.Met41Val genotype were most likely to have an undifferentiated inflammatory syndrome. Multivariate analysis showed ear chondritis was associated with increased survival, while transfusion dependence and the p.Met41Val variant were independently associated with decreased survival. Using in vitro models and patient-derived cells, we demonstrate that p.Met41Val variant supports less UBA1b translation than either p.Met41Leu or p.Met41Thr, providing a molecular rationale for decreased survival. In addition, we show that these three canonical VEXAS variants produce more UBA1b than any of the six other possible single nucleotide variants within this codon. Finally, we report a patient, clinically diagnosed with VEXAS syndrome, with two novel mutations in UBA1 occurring in cis on the same allele. One mutation (c.121 A>T; p.Met41Leu) caused severely reduced translation of UBA1b in a reporter assay, but co-expression with the second mutation (c.119 G>C; p.Gly40Ala) rescued UBA1b levels to those of canonical mutations. We conclude that regulation of residual UBA1b translation is fundamental to the pathogenesis of VEXAS syndrome and contributes to disease prognosis.
Disorders of ubiquitylation: unchained inflammation
Ubiquitylation is an essential post-translational modification that regulates intracellular signalling networks by triggering proteasomal substrate degradation, changing the activity of substrates or mediating changes in proteins that interact with substrates. Hundreds of enzymes participate in reversible ubiquitylation of proteins, some acting globally and others targeting specific proteins. Ubiquitylation is essential for innate immune responses, as it facilitates rapid regulation of inflammatory pathways, thereby ensuring sufficient but not excessive responses. A growing number of inborn errors of immunity are attributed to dysregulated ubiquitylation. These genetic disorders exhibit broad clinical manifestations, ranging from susceptibility to infection to autoinflammatory and/or autoimmune features, lymphoproliferation and propensity to malignancy. Many autoinflammatory disorders result from disruption of components of the ubiquitylation machinery and lead to overactivation of innate immune cells. An understanding of the disorders of ubiquitylation in autoinflammatory diseases could enable the development of novel management strategies.
Early activation of inflammatory pathways in UBA1-mutated hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells in VEXAS
VEXAS (vacuoles, E1 enzyme, X-linked, autoinflammatory, somatic) syndrome is a pleiotropic, severe autoinflammatory disease caused by somatic mutations in the ubiquitin-like modifier activating enzyme 1 (UBA1) gene. To elucidate VEXAS pathophysiology, we performed transcriptome sequencing of single bone marrow mononuclear cells and hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells (HSPCs) from VEXAS patients. HSPCs are biased toward myeloid (granulocytic) differentiation, and against lymphoid differentiation in VEXAS. Activation of multiple inflammatory pathways (interferons and tumor necrosis factor alpha) occurs ontogenically early in primitive hematopoietic cells and particularly in the myeloid lineage in VEXAS, and inflammation is prominent in UBA1-mutated cells. Dysregulation in protein degradation likely leads to higher stress response in VEXAS HSPCs, which positively correlates with inflammation. TCR usage is restricted and there are increased cytotoxicity and IFN-γ signaling in T cells. In VEXAS syndrome, both aberrant inflammation and myeloid predominance appear intrinsic to hematopoietic stem cells mutated in UBA1.
A ubiquitin-based effector-to-inhibitor switch coordinates early brain, craniofacial, and skin development
The molecular mechanisms that coordinate patterning of the embryonic ectoderm into spatially distinct lineages to form the nervous system, epidermis, and neural crest-derived craniofacial structures are unclear. Here, biochemical disease-variant profiling reveals a posttranslational pathway that drives early ectodermal differentiation in the vertebrate head. The anteriorly expressed ubiquitin ligase CRL3-KLHL4 restricts signaling of the ubiquitous cytoskeletal regulator CDC42. This regulation relies on the CDC42-activating complex GIT1-βPIX, which CRL3-KLHL4 exploits as a substrate-specific co-adaptor to recognize and monoubiquitylate PAK1. Surprisingly, we find that ubiquitylation converts the canonical CDC42 effector PAK1 into a CDC42 inhibitor. Loss of CRL3-KLHL4 or a disease-associated KLHL4 variant reduce PAK1 ubiquitylation causing overactivation of CDC42 signaling and defective ectodermal patterning and neurulation. Thus, tissue-specific restriction of CDC42 signaling by a ubiquitin-based effector-to-inhibitor is essential for early face, brain, and skin formation, revealing how cell-fate and morphometric changes are coordinated to ensure faithful organ development.
Use of flow cytometric light scattering to recognize the characteristic vacuolated marrow cells in VEXAS syndrome
Spectrum of clonal hematopoiesis in VEXAS syndrome
VEXAS is caused by somatic mutations in UBA1 (UBA1mut) and characterized by heterogenous systemic auto-inflammation and progressive hematologic manifestations, meeting criteria for myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) and plasma cell dyscrasias. The landscape of myeloid-related gene mutations leading to typical clonal hematopoiesis (CH) in these patients is unknown. Retrospectively, we screened 80 VEXAS patients for CH in their peripheral blood (PB) and correlated findings with clinical outcomes in 77. UBA1mutwere most common at hotspot p.M41 (median variant allele frequency/VAF = 75%). Typical CH mutations co-occurred with UBA1mut in 60% of patients, mostly in DNMT3A and TET2, and were not associated with inflammatory or hematologic manifestations. In prospective single-cell proteogenomic sequencing (scDNA), UBA1mutwas the dominant clone, present mostly in branched clonal trajectories. Based on integrated bulk and scDNA analyses, clonality in VEXAS followed two major patterns: with either typical CH preceding UBA1mutselection in a clone (Pattern 1), or occurring as an UBA1mutsubclone or in independent clones (Pattern 2). VAF in PB differed markedly between DNMT3A and TET2 clones (median VAF of 25% vs 1%). DNMT3A and TET2 clones associated with hierarchies representing patterns 1 and 2, respectively. Overall survival for all patients was 60% at 10 years. Transfusion-dependent anemia, moderate thrombocytopenia, and typical CH mutations, each correlated with poor outcome. In VEXAS, UBA1mut cells are the primary cause of systemic inflammation and marrow failure, being a new molecularly defined somatic entity associated with MDS. VEXAS-associated MDS is distinct from classical MDS in its presentation and clinical course.
Novel somatic UBA1 variant in a patient with VEXAS syndrome
OBJECTIVE:Somatic mutations in UBA1 have recently been causally linked to a severe adult-onset inflammatory condition referred to as VEXAS (vacuoles, E1 enzyme, X-linked, autoinflammatory, somatic) syndrome. UBA1 is of fundamental importance to the modulation of ubiquitin homeostasis and to the majority of downstream ubiquitylation-dependent cellular processes. Direct sequencing analysis of exon 3 containing prevalent variants p.Met41Leu, p.Met41Val, and/or p.Met41Thr is usually used to confirm the disease associated mutations. METHODS:We studied clinical, biochemical and molecular genetic characteristics of a fifty-nine-year-old male with two-year history of arthritis, fever, night sweats, nonspecific skin rash, lymphadenopathy, and myelodysplastic syndrome with multilineage dysplasia. RESULTS:The mutational analysis revealed a hitherto undescribed sequence variant c.1430G>C in exon 14 (p.Gly477Ala) in UBA1 gene. In vitro enzymatic analyses showed that p.Gly477Ala led to both decreased E1 ubiquitin thioester formation and E2 enzyme charging. CONCLUSION/CONCLUSIONS:We herein report a case of a patient of European ancestry with clinical manifestations of VEXAS syndrome associated with a newly identified dysfunctional variant UBA1 enzyme. Due to insufficient response to various immunosuppressive treatments, allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation was performed, which resulted in significant improvement of clinical and laboratory manifestations of the disease.
VEXAS syndrome: A review of bone marrow aspirate and biopsies reporting myeloid and erythroid precursor vacuolation
Myeloid and erythroid precursor vacuolation is a common dysplastic finding associated with myeloid malignancies, toxins, drug, and nutritional deficiencies. It has been described as a core morphologic feature in VEXAS (vacuoles, E1 enzyme, X-linked, autoinflammatory, somatic) syndrome. We sought to determine the number of cases attributable to VEXAS syndrome in bone marrow biopsies and aspirates (BAMB) reporting myeloid precursor vacuolation. We reviewed 1318 individual BAMB reports from January 2020 to July 2021 where "vacuole(s)," "vacuolation," or "vacuolated" was reported. Bone marrow biopsies with vacuolation confined to blasts or those completed as routine workup prior to stem cell transplant or post induction chemotherapy for AML (acute myeloid leukemia) were excluded. Myeloid and erythroid precursor vacuolation was noted in 219 reports representing 210 patients. The most common etiology was myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) (38.6%), AML (16.7%), lymphoproliferative disorders and multiple myeloma (7.6%), drug or toxin exposure (5.2%) myeloproliferative neoplasm (MPN) or MPN/MDS overlap syndrome (4.3%). VEXAS syndrome was determined to be the etiology in 2.9% of patients. Two additional cases of VEXAS syndrome with bone marrow biopsies reported in the specified time frame did not explicitly report myeloid or erythroid precursor vacuolation but were identified based on clinical suspicion and repeat BAMB review. Myeloid and erythroid precursor vacuolation is a dysplastic feature attributable to VEXAS syndrome in at least 2.9% of cases. Standardized reporting of vacuolization, triaging of molecular sequencing and optimal treatment of this disorder are critical issues facing those seeing patients with suspected VEXAS syndrome.
Estimated Prevalence and Clinical Manifestations of UBA1 Variants Associated With VEXAS Syndrome in a Clinical Population
IMPORTANCE:VEXAS (vacuoles, E1-ubiquitin-activating enzyme, X-linked, autoinflammatory, somatic) syndrome is a disease with rheumatologic and hematologic features caused by somatic variants in UBA1. Pathogenic variants are associated with a broad spectrum of clinical manifestations. Knowledge of prevalence, penetrance, and clinical characteristics of this disease have been limited by ascertainment biases based on known phenotypes. OBJECTIVE:To determine the prevalence of pathogenic variants in UBA1 and associated clinical manifestations in an unselected population using a genomic ascertainment approach. DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS:This retrospective observational study evaluated UBA1 variants in exome data from 163 096 participants within the Geisinger MyCode Community Health Initiative. Clinical phenotypes were determined from Geisinger electronic health record data from January 1, 1996, to January 1, 2022. EXPOSURES:Exome sequencing was performed. MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES:Outcome measures included prevalence of somatic UBA1 variation; presence of rheumatologic, hematologic, pulmonary, dermatologic, and other findings in individuals with somatic UBA1 variation on review of the electronic health record; review of laboratory data; bone marrow biopsy pathology analysis; and in vitro enzymatic assays. RESULTS:In 163 096 participants (mean age, 52.8 years; 94% White; 61% women), 11 individuals harbored likely somatic variants at known pathogenic UBA1 positions, with 11 of 11 (100%) having clinical manifestations consistent with VEXAS syndrome (9 male, 2 female). A total of 5 of 11 individuals (45%) did not meet criteria for rheumatologic and/or hematologic diagnoses previously associated with VEXAS syndrome; however, all individuals had anemia (hemoglobin: mean, 7.8 g/dL; median, 7.5 g/dL), which was mostly macrocytic (10/11 [91%]) with concomitant thrombocytopenia (10/11 [91%]). Among the 11 patients identified, there was a pathogenic variant in 1 male participant prior to onset of VEXAS-related signs or symptoms and 2 female participants had disease with heterozygous variants. A previously unreported UBA1 variant (c.1861A>T; p.Ser621Cys) was found in a symptomatic patient, with in vitro data supporting a catalytic defect and pathogenicity. Together, disease-causing UBA1 variants were found in 1 in 13 591 unrelated individuals (95% CI, 1:7775-1:23 758), 1 in 4269 men older than 50 years (95% CI, 1:2319-1:7859), and 1 in 26 238 women older than 50 years (95% CI, 1:7196-1:147 669). CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE:This study provides an estimate of the prevalence and a description of the clinical manifestations of UBA1 variants associated with VEXAS syndrome within a single regional health system in the US. Additional studies are needed in unselected and genetically diverse populations to better define general population prevalence and phenotypic spectrum.