Whole Genome Sequencing of Giant Schnauzer Dogs with Progressive Retinal Atrophy Establishes NECAP1 as a Novel Candidate Gene for Retinal Degeneration

Hitti, R. J., Oliver, J. A. C., Schofield, E. C., Bauer, A., Kaukonen, M., Forman, O. P., Leeb, T., Lohi, H., Burmeister, L. M., Sargan, D. & Mellersh, C. S.
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Canine progressive retinal atrophies (PRA) are genetically heterogeneous diseases characterized by retinal degeneration and subsequent blindness. PRAs are untreatable and affect multiple dog breeds, significantly impacting welfare. Three out of seven Giant Schnauzer (GS) littermates presented with PRA around four years of age. We sought to identify the causal variant to improve our understanding of the aetiology of this form of PRA and to enable development of a DNA test. Whole genome sequencing of two PRA-affected full-siblings and both unaffected parents was performed. Variants were filtered based on those segregating appropriately for an autosomal recessive disorder and predicted to be deleterious. Successive filtering against 568 canine genomes identified a single nucleotide variant in the gene encoding NECAP endocytosis associated 1 (NECAP1): c.544G>A (p.Gly182Arg). Five thousand one hundred and thirty canids of 175 breeds, 10 cross-breeds and 3 wolves were genotyped for c.544G>A. Only the three PRA-affected GS were homozygous (allele frequency in GS, excluding proband family = 0.015). In addition, we identified heterozygotes belonging to Spitz and Dachshund varieties, demonstrating c.544G>A segregates in other breeds of German origin. This study, in parallel with the known retinal expression and role of NECAP1 in clathrin mediated endocytosis (CME) in synapses, presents NECAP1 as a novel candidate gene for retinal degeneration in dogs and other species.