Background: Focal and segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS) is a histologic pattern of injury that characterizes a wide spectrum of diseases. Many genetic causes have been identified in FSGS but even in families with comprehensive testing, a significant proportion remain unexplained.
Results: In one FSGS family with 6 affected relatives, we performed linkage analysis and whole exome sequencing (WES). Linkage analysis narrowed the disease gene(s) to within 3% of the genome. Whole exome sequencing revealed 5 heterozygous rare variants, which were sequenced in 11 relatives where DNA was available. Two of these variants, in LAMA2 and LOXL4, remained as candidates after segregation analysis and encode extracellular matrix proteins of the glomerulus. Renal biopsies showed classic segmental sclerosis/hyalinosis lesion on a background of mild mesangial hypercellularity. Examination of basement membranes with electron microscopy showed regions of dense mesangial matrix in one individual and wider glomerular basement membrane (GBM) thickness in two individuals compared to historic control averages.
Conclusions: Based on our findings, we postulate that the additive effect of digenic inheritance of heterozygous variants in LAMA2 and LOXL4 leads to adult-onset FSGS. Limitations to our study includes the absence of functional characterization to support pathogenicity. Alternatively, identification of additional FSGS cases with suspected deleterious variants in LAMA2 and LOXL4 will provide more evidence for disease causality. Thus, our report will be of interest to clinicians and genetic groups as sequencing in renal disease becomes more widespread. Overall, our results provide an example of more complicated genetic inheritance patterns that underlie glomerular disorders in unexplained families.