Biallelic pathogenic variants in the nuclear gene DARS2 (MIM# 610956), encoding the mitochondrial enzyme aspartyl-tRNA synthetase (MT-ASPRS) cause leukoencephalopathy with Brain Stem and Spinal Cord Involvement and Lactate Elevation (LBSL) (MIM# 611105), a neurometabolic disorder characterized by progressive ataxia, spasticity, developmental arrest or regression and characteristic brain MRI findings. Most patients exhibit a slowly progressive disease course with motor deterirartion that begins in childhood or adolescence, but can also occasionaly occur in adulthood. More severe LBSL presentations with atypical brain MRI findings have been recently described. Baker's yeast orthologue of DARS2, MSD1, is required for growth on oxidative carbon sources. A yeast with MSD1 knockout (msd1Δ) demonstrated a complete lack of oxidative growth which could be rescued by wild-type MSD1 but not MSD1 with pathogenic variants. Here we reported two siblings who exhibited developmental regression and ataxia with different age of onset and phenotypic severity. Exome sequencing revealed 2 compound heterozygous missense variants in DARS2: c.473A>T (p.Glu158Val) and c.829G>A (p.Glu277Lys); this variant combination has not been previously reported. The msd1Δ yeast transformed with plasmids expressing p.Glu259Lys, equivalent to human p.Glu277Lys, showed complete loss of oxidative growth and oxygen consumption, while the strain carrying p.Gln137Val, equivalent to human p.Glu158Val, showed a significant reduction of oxidative growth, but a residual ability to grow was retained. Structural analysis indicated that p.Glu158Val may interfere with protein binding of tRNAAsp, while p.Glu277Lys may impact both homodimerization and catalysis of MT-ASPRS. Our data illustrate the utility of yeast model and in silico analysis to determine pathogenicity of DARS2 variants, expand the genotypic spectrum and suggest intrafamilial variability in LBSL.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)260-267
Number of pages8
JournalMolecular genetics and metabolism
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2022


  • Aspartyl-tRNA synthetase
  • DARS2
  • Leukodystrophy
  • Leukoencephalopathy with brain stem and spinal cord involvement and lactate elevation
  • Mitochondrial disorder


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