Journal Article

Autosomal dominant congenital spinal muscular atrophy: a true form of spinal muscular atrophy caused by early loss of anterior horn cells

Emily C. Oates, Stephen Reddel, Michael L. Rodriguez, Luke C. Gandolfo, Melanie Bahlo, Simon H. Hawke, Shireen R. Lamandé, Nigel F. Clarke and Kathryn N. North

in Brain

Published on behalf of The Guarantors of Brain

Volume 135, issue 6, pages 1714-1723
Published in print June 2012 | ISSN: 0006-8950
Published online May 2012 | e-ISSN: 1460-2156 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/brain/aws108
Autosomal dominant congenital spinal muscular atrophy: a true form of spinal muscular atrophy caused by early loss of anterior horn cells

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Autosomal dominant congenital spinal muscular atrophy is characterized by predominantly lower limb weakness and wasting, and congenital or early-onset contractures of the hip, knee and ankle. Mutations in TRPV4, encoding a cation channel, have recently been identified in one large dominant congenital spinal muscular atrophy kindred, but the genetic basis of dominant congenital spinal muscular atrophy in many families remains unknown. It has been hypothesized that differences in the timing and site of anterior horn cell loss in the central nervous system account for the variations in clinical phenotype between different forms of spinal muscular atrophy, but there has been a lack of neuropathological data to support this concept in dominant congenital spinal muscular atrophy. We report clinical, electrophysiology, muscle magnetic resonance imaging and histopathology findings in a four generation family with typical dominant congenital spinal muscular atrophy features, without mutations in TRPV4, and in whom linkage to other known dominant neuropathy and spinal muscular atrophy genes has been excluded. The autopsy findings in the proband, who died at 14 months of age from an unrelated illness, provided a rare opportunity to study the neuropathological basis of dominant congenital spinal muscular atrophy. There was a reduction in anterior horn cell number in the lumbar and, to a lesser degree, the cervical spinal cord, and atrophy of the ventral nerve roots at these levels, in the absence of additional peripheral nerve pathology or abnormalities elsewhere along the neuraxis. Despite the young age of the child at the time of autopsy, there was no pathological evidence of ongoing loss or degeneration of anterior horn cells suggesting that anterior horn cell loss in dominant congenital spinal muscular atrophy occurs in early life, and is largely complete by the end of infancy. These findings confirm that dominant congenital spinal muscular atrophy is a true form of spinal muscular atrophy caused by a loss of anterior horn cells localized to lumbar and cervical regions early in development.

Keywords: spinal muscular atrophy; pathology; anterior horn cell; spinal cord; SMA

Journal Article.  5237 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Neurology ; Neuroscience

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